(Also published in the Huffington Post) Are these times too absurd to address issues rationally? Are we in times so serious and fragile that it is inappropriate to make light of them? Is resistance to threat our only choice, or can this be a time to renew principles and practices that remind us of our shared humanity? Wisdom is not about final answers but about a willingness to engage and a capacity to discern what is needed in the moment. Collective wisdom is about how we do this together.
Seeking wisdom is also about listening, especially from within — to sense what is right action, what wounds may need to be addressed, what relationships help us navigate turbulent times. For me, it is also about finding a creative edge, pushing me to the brink of psychological comfort. In a few weeks, I will be announcing public programs that I will be co-convening involving collective wisdom practices and sacred leadership. However, I also feel a compelling need to address the collective shadow, finding ways to walk a fine line between reason and absurdity, collective danger and collective awakening.
I woke up recently with a startling question: What would Adolf Hitler think of contemporary times and particularly of our new president? Initially, the writing was dark and amplified some of my personal fears. The absurdity of my own premise was not being realized. A colleague reminded me that my readers would consciously or unconsciously understand that Hitler self-destructed, as has every dictator, tyrant, autocrat, despot, and authoritarian ruler. Of course, not immediately and not without devastating consequences, but the nature of malignant narcissism, a central feature of the despot’s personality, is not a recipe for organizational competence, let alone social cohesion.
And so I am publishing my rendition of fake news – a transmission from the netherworld in which an unrepentant but lonely Hitler seeks to become Trump’s advisor. I hope readers will find in it both satire’s cutting edge and just enough absurdity to be able to step back and take a deep breath.
NEWS FLASH: Guy Triskowitz, a 28-year-old man living in Queens, New York, reports that Adolf Hitler is using him as a channel to communicate with Donald Trump. Here is a written transcript of that initial transmission.
[Hitler speaking to Trump through the medium of Triskowitz]
All your talk of “America first” and the bad deals that administrations made before you caused me to salivate. As some of your advisors might know, I embraced the first stanza of lyrics written for what became our national anthem, lyrics written to a Joseph Haydn melody. Like your America First campaign, these words lit me up: [singing] Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, Über alles in der Welt, Wenn es stets zu Schutz und Trutze, Brüderlich zusammenhält. (“Germany, Germany above all else, Above all else in the world, when, for protection and defense, it always stands brotherly together.”)
You see, I believed that after World War I, we were forced to make some really bad deals. Terrible. The worst. They make your trade policy with China look like a holiday cruise with apple strudel. So we wanted to make things right, but here’s the point, Herr Drumpf, if I might remind you of your German ancestry. We sometimes can get carried away. Move quickly, but don’t start bonfires you can’t control.
Donald, I want to get back into the game. I’ve been lingering in the netherworld far too long. Sometimes it gets very boring here. You might know Mussolini, for example. He was a fiery orator in front of crowds, but when you’re around him as much as I’ve been, you realize just how repetitive he gets. It’s mind numbing.
I offer you experience and credibility — no one had the vision of world domination quite like I did. “You can’t touch this,” as your M.C. Hammer might say. I want to be your advisor, but quite selfishly, I want to recall the happier times.
I remember, as if it were yesterday, walking through the burned-out gut of the German parliament building — the Reichstag fire. It was February 1933, long before my true intentions became known or my exclusionary principles became genocidal. I looked around and declared, “This is a God-given signal! If this fire, as I believe, turns out to be the handiwork of Communists, then there is nothing that shall stop us now crushing out this murder pest with an iron fist.” Of course, it is true that some of my own people had been involved with the arson, but more important is that the right people (Communists) should be punished. I guess you can say this is an alternative fact, but more to the point, it is not about facts at all but rather about defying those who oppose you in the most hostile way possible.
In any case, I was furious. I felt my eyes bulging out of my head, and in this state of rage I saw my right-hand man, Capt. Goering, coming toward me. He had many of the same endearing qualities as your chief strategist, Steve Bannon. And like your man Bannon, he believed that his beloved country faced an existential threat. Goering was flushed and excited. “This is undoubtedly the work of Communists,” he told me, and I knew he was the man to take care of business. When his mind was made up, he could make up anything. “We have succeeded in arresting one of the incendiaries,” he told me, and the rest, you might say, is history.
You see, Goering was not your run-of-the-mill political stooge. He understood strategy better than most, and the more power he accumulated, the greater his reach and the more sour his mood. Just as your Bannon was promoted to the National Security Council’s principals committee, Goering was my choice to be the senior commander of the unified armed forces of Germany. For Goering it was the communists and Jews who represented the existential threat; for Bannon, it’s Islam and expansionist China. Well, maybe the Jews too, if you can find a way to work around your son-in-law. In any case, what makes these men brothers is not only their hypernationalism, but also their inclination toward apocalypticism, which is difficult to say three times quickly.
In any case, all this talk of a new political order, the need to get rid of the rot at the center, and achieving the high ideals of the Judeo-Christian way — minus the Judeo, of course — reminds me of my frothy chats with Goering and that master illusionist Goebbels. Has your Kellyanne Conway studied him, or is it all just natural to her? Stephen Miller is also good but does not have Goebbels’s charm.
Oh, those happy times, going on and on about the need for disruption and building a new world order, and great art, and ridding the masses of even their desire for truth. I still smile thinking of these things — but we also made some mistakes. I’m not afraid to admit it. We might have hurried a bit too much.
Possibly this is what is behind your Kellyanne Conway reporting about a Bowling Green massacre that never happened or your Sean Spicer confusing Atlanta with Orlando when discussing the threat of terror attacks. Donald, you of all people should know this. Your people should never be in a position to admit that lies were spoken. Lies must be constructed so they are resilient and reflect emotional truths that are resonant with your base of support.
Repeating lies should make them stronger, like your statement about how New Hampshire would have gone Republican if not for the busloads of Islamic terrorists flooding into Nashua and voting multiple times. Admitting that you misspoke makes you and all your senior advisors look weak. Never look weak. I know so many things. I can help. We are yin and yang without the yin. We are flags whipping in the tempest, announcing the coming upheaval. And I am lonely.
There are so many things we share, including being the target of unfair accusations. I was told that I was prone to distraction. How dare they? I hope you get through the Flynn thing. It’s hot down here. How about those New England Patriots!
In any case, I will be talking to you from time to time, and I don’t want to sound too critical. After all, you did neglect to name the Jews in your Holocaust memorial speech, a choice that stirred many of us here in this netherworld.