Not all Nazis murdered Jews.
Not all Nazis believed in the extermination of those deemed undesirable.
Not all of them tossed Jewish children into fire pits or gas chambers.
Nazis took up arms, and others silently or indirectly supported the cause, for a variety of reasons, maybe out of a sense of national pride.
It's misleading to equate their motivations and the ugliness of the Holocaust.
No serious person makes that kind of argument in defense of ancestors who fought alongside Hitler.
But members of the S.C. General Assembly, nostalgic Confederate groups, the governor of Virginia and university officials use a similar rationale to downplay the causes and lingering effects of the Civil War.
It is a peculiar display of mental gymnastics given that they all walk on ground stained by the blood of slaves. That line of reasoning will likely only grow more vociferous, as the Myrtle Beach City Council considers whether to get into the Confederate flag fight, and as we get closer to the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession in December.
I understand the reflex to explain away evil committed by those we admire, family members or revered ancestors.
I live it every day. My oldest brother has been in prison since 1982 for murdering a man by stabbing him dozens of times.
I haven't stopped loving him, haven't forgotten the days when he became my first real-life hero, the man who kept the bullies away.
I see the whole of him in ways others can't.
But I don't try to lessen the impact of the murder by insisting that others not forget mitigating factors, that he grew up in poverty and lived with an alcoholic father who for years beat him and his mother.
Because he killed a man. And 28 years later that man's family still mourns, is still angry.
I don't blame them for viewing him as a monster even though I will forever see him as my brother, a man who made a horrible mistake.
I would never build a shrine to him that would remind them of the horror he brought into their lives.
But that's not the route Confederate sympathizers have taken. They treat myth as fact to mitigate their own pain while thinking little of the pain of others.
That's why they commit themselves to mental gymnastics to explain away the role slavery played in that God-forsaken war.
State legislators in 1860 said secession and war came in response to "an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slave holding States to the institution of slavery."
Members of Morgan's Confederate Brigade declared in 1862 that "any man who pretends to believe that this is not a war for the emancipation of the blacks ... is either a fool or a liar," according to historian Chandra Manning.
Confederate President Jefferson Davis said a "persistent and organized system of the hostile measures against the rights of the owners of Slaves in the Southern states" prompted the South to act. Vice President Alexander Stephens said the Confederacy was the first country established upon the foundation that blacks were inferior and needed to be subjugated to whites and that "this was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution."
Former Confederate soldiers founded the Ku Klux Klan, which unleashed decades of lynchings and other forms of intimidation on blacks from the end of Reconstruction through 20th-century Jim Crow and is one of the primary causes of modern-day economic and other inequalities.
Those facts have been ignored by many, prompting U.S. News & World Report to declare "The North had won the war, but by 1900, it was apparent that the South had won the peace."
That's why the Statehouse grounds are a veritable memorial to the Confederacy, no matter the pain it causes or the wounds it keeps fresh.
I understand why the U.S. and state flags fly there. They represent us all through good and evil times. The Confederate flag never has and never will.
We must forge a better compromise to stop the flag's presence from undermining the state's vital tourism market.
But the facts shouldn't be washed away in the process.