11 Nov '15     home | previous

Historical Perspective and Baby Hitler

No surprise! Jeb Bush is surpassed as a thinker by the comedian Stephen Colbert. Running for President, someone asked Bush whether, if he could go back in time, he would kill the baby Hitler. "Hell yeah," answered Jeb.

The question assumes that the evil that Hitler did was inherent in him as an infant. Colbert jumped on Bush's answer, saying that if he (Colbert) could he too would travel back in time of Baby Hitler but that he "wouldn't kill young Adolf."

I would take him from his parents and raise him with love. Hear me out, hear me out, okay? I would give Hitler a safe, supportive home — (but) all the while, I would watch him like a hawk.

I wouldn't let him join anything where they have to wear a uniform — no Cub Scouts, no Little League, definitely no marching band. Most importantly, I would teach Baby Hitler that we do not solve our problems.

Putting all the comedy aside, an interesting question is what would have happened if Hitler had never been born or survived as a child. Germany would have still had its raging anti-Semitism, its angry patriots who believed that their country had been stabbed-in-the-back at the end of World War One. Germany would still have had its super-nationalists and fascists. Stalin would have been in power in Moscow, and Germany would have had its middle class and aristocratic anti-communists, and Germany would have had its politicians warning common folks of the Communist menace. And Germany would have had its President Hindenburg determined not to select a Social Democrat as a chancellor. Hitler was not the only person in Germany who thought the way he did. If he were, he would not have been able to launch his aggressions or his genocides.

If Jeb Bush had more historical perspective, he would have dismissed the question – as politicians occasionally do when asked hypotheticals. How nice it would be if our next president was someone whose thoughts were grounded in a context of history.

Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.