Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Great Dictator?

If a man is successful in what he sets out to do, there is a very strong possibility that he is good at that particular thing. Is this so, even if that man is Hitler?

My sixteen-year-old son was walking home with friends, and their conversation turned to history. My son pointed out that Hitler was, although thoroughly evil, a powerful public speaker and an effective political tactician. He was met with dropped jaws. "No he wasn't," an outraged friend of his said. "How could you say something good about Hitler?"

This is what we have done to our kids. The public-shaming culture we have created has sent kids the message that certain things are not okay to say. Everything, outside of threats or evil puropse statements, should be okay to say, right?

My son told me the story above because he walked into the room while my younger son and I were watching an old Star Trek episode. He was stopped dead in his tracks by Captain Kirk in a Gestapo uniform. (He was in disguise, of course.)

Kirk had discovered that his old Academy history professor had gone to a planet and had set up a Nazi-based government. The man had not been evil; he simply thought the chaotic, war-entrenched planet needed the efficiency of the Nazi state, minus the evil, to pull it together. This, of course, was an acknowledgement of the producers and writers that Hitler's government was, if nothing else, organized an efficient. As it must be, however, the show concludes that this was a bad idea: the government turns evil when foul operators use drugs on the history professor and use him as a Hitleresque figurehead in order to achive their own racist and power-hungry goals. Kirk wins, though, and the good guys get control again.

But what occurred to me is that this episode never would have gotten made today. Why not? Because everyone is "watching" everyone else. Because you can't "say something good about Hitler" no matter what the final message is; even if you are simply setting him up higher to knock him down for a longer, more splat-worthy fall.

Ideas don't get time or space to develop, anymore -- they are presented as tweets and sound bytes on the spot and judged and click-condenmed before the coffee cup leaves the lips; before the brows have a chance to lower to their default positions.

If you read this and think I am in any way depending Adolf Hitler, you are part of the problem. For more perspective: Charles Manson may have been the most evil person to have ever lived, but, if he was good at checkers, he was good at checkers, for cryin' out loud.

God pity the fool -- my son, in this case -- who says that Hitler, if nothing else, was a crafty political maneuverer. He will be silenced within a second by the myriad mouse clicks of the world; thereby, any chance of using the recognition of the evil Nazi's strengths to prevent other people from using the same strengths in the future is negated.


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