Friday, February 26, 2016

A Conversation With Hitler About Donald Trump

There's a great deal of anxiety out there among my fellow Americans about the rise of Donald Trump as a political force.  Sure, Trump's buffoonery was amusing for a while, and his ability to stir endless gossip and buzz with one outrage after another kept us all entertained.

But now it's getting more serious.  The Grand Old Party has courted it's "base" so long that it's become debased, a caricature of conservatism.  It's fertile ground for a demagogue, and Trump is that man.
His willingness to tap into the dark recesses of resentment and anger, his profanity, and his seeming obliviousness to common decency?  His teasing around the edges of violence?  They stir deep fears of the rise of fascism, of the beginning of a dark and monstrous chapter in American history.

"This is just what it must have been like in Germany when Hitler was on the rise," or so goes the refrain.

But is it?  How would we know?

Fortunately, as a level eight Presbyterian pastor with advanced training, I had a way to find out.  In addition to my classes in hermeneutics and exegesis and ecclesiology, my passing through the Crucible of Endless Process and my signing of the mystic Book of Obligation permits me to travel to Hell once a year to chat with one of the souls there.

I figured, why not just ask Hitler himself what he thinks of this whole mess?

So I performed the necessary rites and rituals, invoked the necessary seraphic protections, and, being Presbyterian, filled out my HT-7603b form in quadruplicate.  One copy to Presbytery, one to the General Assembly Office of Infernal Relations, one for Limbo customs, and one for my records.

Prepped and ready, I descended into hell.

I passed through customs in Limbo, which is run by the same folks who oversee Miami-Dade International Airport.  That finally accomplished, I transited to the lowest plane of Hell.  It had been a while since I'd been to the Pit, so I spent a few minutes chatting with the archdaemon overseeing Hitler's eternal fate and intertorment counseling sessions.  Gaelbog the Rectifier is actually pretty chill by demonic standards, and we talked shop and about our shared love of role playing games for a while.  After the requisite pleasantries, I was permitted to enter the interfolded pocket of multiversal reality where Hitler's soul resides.

I found myself by the side of a road, just outside of the Polish town of Lodz.  It was the fall of 1928, and the sun was bright in a cool afternoon sky.  Gaelbog had told me who to look for, and there she was:  Hala Goldberg, tall, slender, and birdy, with an easy laugh and big brown eyes.

She was in her twenties, and in less than a decade would die in a frozen ditch outside of Lodz, bleeding out from a gunshot with her dead daughter in her arms.  Once completed, it will be the sixteen thousand, four hundred and seventy fourth full life that the soul of Adolph Hitler will have been obligated to live out in its entirety.  It's what all of hell is like, actually.  None of this "fire and brimstone" stuff.  You just have to live every life you've directly touched, feeling and knowing everything that soul knew.   It's set up exactly the same way as heaven, truth be told.

Hitler has another sixty seven million, four hundred and ninety two thousand, six hundred and four full lives to go.

"Adolph," I said, loudly, and she looked momentarily startled as I spoke the Word of Unveiling.  The breeze stilled as time froze, and her face shifted, and there he was.  He was utterly exhausted, his soul worn and frayed with the suffering of thousands of lives.

"What," he said, the word a long juddering sigh.  "What do you want?"

"I'd like to ask you about Donald Trump," I said.

"Oh."  His eyes rolled in her head.  "HIM."

"So, well, is he like you?  I mean, we're getting worried up there."

There was a reluctant pause, and a deep inhalation of breath.  I could see him thinking.  "I suppose, yes, I suppose it would be good to have a moment."  He squatted down on her haunches, set down her basket, and motioned me closer.

"The answer is yes, and the answer is no."

"You're going to need to unpack that, Adoph," I said.

He gave me a glare, a flash of the old blind fury. Then it faded, and the weariness returned.  "Of course."

"Yes, because he taps much of the same darkness.  The fear and anger of a people who do not understand what is happening to them, and why they are struggling.  He gives them a story, a sweet lie that speaks in their voice, stirs them with his anger.  And then there is distorted pride in nation, a bright clear falseness of nation.  He talks of violence, encourages violence, teases violence.  He mocks and belittles, finds enemies everywhere.  He celebrates war, war as if it is a beautiful thing."  Hitler snorted.  "This from a man who has never known combat, who has no martial prowess, who imagines war is just a business deal."

"And he is only passion, just raw emotion, the purity of it."  He looked at me, a strange hunger still glimmering beneath the existential fatigue.  "I remember it.  It is so strong, the fire of a moment's passion.  So intoxicating.  So certain.  I...was deceived."  He looked away, and fell silent.

"You said, yes and no," I said.  "Why no?"

He laughed, or, rather, made a short sobbing bark that may have been a laugh.

"Because he's AMERICAN," Hitler spat.  The young woman's face twisted with his unhidden disgust.  "Pride in the Volk?  What pride can a mongrel, upstart, decadent culture have in their Volksgeist, when they have no such thing?"

"Well, we..."

"Silence!  You asked me a question.  Let me answer it, and get back to my..."  He giggled, giddily, the brown eyes strangely bright.

"I WAS Germany.  I WAS Austria. I was the Father of the Fatherland.  Pure and noble and...I...I...let myself...become...."

The voice faltered, choking on the words.

"...all that was proud and wrong about those cultures. Their darkness.  Their shadow.  He is American.  The shadow you cast is not the same.  We had a vision, of the Thousand Year Reich.  He has a vision of his own ego.  He is nothing but bluster and ignorance, greed and devouring selfishness, the profane violence of sprawling appetite and unchecked libido."

She stood, slowly, until she was ramrod straight.  "We brought order and PURITY.  He?  He brings chaos and fragmentation.  Undisciplined, unfocused, his followers a RABBLE.  Can you imagine them, lined up in perfect order, banners perfectly aligned, every boot perfectly polished and moving as one?  They can't even spell.  They disgust me."

"So what's going to happen?  If, you know, he wins?"

"If he wins?"  The mask of the young woman's face contorted.  "I can't tell you that.  You know I can't tell you that.  It will not be the same.  It will be American.  Your story, not mine.  Perhaps you should ask Andy Jackson, as he forever walks the Trail of Tears."

"Can you tell me if..."

The woman's hand moved to my lips, silencing me.

"Please.  No more.  I have...I have so far to go.  So much to...endure."  Her eyes brimmed with his tears, and he placed her hand to her chest.  "I didn't know.  We want a daughter, so much, so much, she and I.  I can't believe...that...she will...I just didn't know how much this would hurt.  And it goes on and on and..."  He looked at me, one last time.

"And what happens in your time?  It isn't up to me, what happens."

She took up the basket, and the breeze rose again and played through her hair.

"It is up to you."   And he faded away, and the young woman walked on, wondering at the wetness on her face.

Hell is a hard place to visit.  It is worse still if you choose to live there.