Inglorious Basterd

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie Inglorious Basterds, (2009), Quentin Tarantino. It’s an alternate history story about an assassination plot on Adolf Hitler that succeeded. In actual history, none of the assassination attempts on Hitler’s life succeeded.

According to history, Hitler committed suicide in Berlin while hiding in his underground bunker on April 30, 1945. According to several of my former patients, Adolf Hitler was alive and well living in a compound somewhere in South America run by the US Government with John F. Kennedy.

That was back in the 1990’s. Given the passage of time, I’m thinking both Hitler and JFK have to have gotten dead by now…

My former patients who spoke of this claimed that they had been kidnapped by an unknown agency of the government, probably the CIA, and taken to the top secret South American compound to participate in a double top secret drug test. Once the testing was over, they were returned to the US, and, of course, no one believed their story afterwards.

You’re going to have to decide which of those two versions of history you want to believe. I find the latter credible simply because more than one stark-raving mad lunatic told me the same story. My question to them was this: Was Elvis in the compound, too?

None of my former patients had seen Elvis, but they had heard he was there at one time. He either escaped or was set free after the government was done experimenting on him.

* * * *

I get a chuckle out of the Facebook posts that compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, mostly because there’s nothing to compare.

The Adolf was a puppet master with a twisted agenda whereas The Donald is merely a puppet who has no idea what the hell he’s doing.

You’re probably wondering where the hell I’m going with this. You’re not the only one. This is either going to be an illuminating and entertaining post, or it’ll end up being the worst thing ever written by anyone.

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Have you ever heard of The Trolley Problem? It’s a thought experiment in ethics. The general form of the problem is this:

You see a runaway trolley moving toward five tied-up (or otherwise incapacitated) people lying on the tracks. You are standing next to a lever that controls a switch. If you pull the lever, the trolley will be redirected onto a side track and the five people on the main track will be saved. However, there is a single person lying on the side track. You have two choices:

  1. Do nothing and allow the trolley to kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Which is the most ethical choice?

* * * *

There’s a similar problem called the Killing Baby Hitler Test. If you had a time machine, would you go back in time and kill infant Adolf Hitler? This was a question I debated with a few of my co-workers one night when we were bored.

I was working with a couple of nurses, Randy Easter and Russ Bacon. Randy was kind of a spacey dude. Now that I think about it, everyone I’ve ever known named Randy has been kind of spacey.

Randy was the guy who initiated the debate. He was taking a course on Ethics. If I remember correctly I told him, “Personally, I don’t have any ethics or morals, but I’ve always admired people who do.”

Little Known Fact About The Killing Baby Hitler Test: it’s a test designed to figure out how much of a psychopath you are. I’m guessing The Trolley Problem serves much the same purpose.

I’ve previously written about the hazards of time travel to change the course of history. One of my former patients, Forrest Gump’s Smarter Brother, needed a time machine to go back and fix some horrendous deed he had committed in his youth.

I finally convinced FGSB that if he went back in time to fix something, he’d end up creating even worse problems in the future. He decided he didn’t want make things even worse, and finally stopped asking to use the time machine he knew the government had installed in the basement of the Minneapolis VAMC.

If my theory about time travel is correct, we can flush this whole thought experiment down the toilet. If you knew killing Baby Hitler would only result in someone worse than Hitler, why bother?

There are other considerations. Killing Baby Hitler might prevent the Holocaust, but it probably wouldn’t have prevented World War II. And there’s this: Hitler wasn’t the only twisted sister governing a nation at that time. And there’s also this: you’re not going back in time to kill grown up, evil men. You’re going back in time to kill babies.

Apparently, that makes a difference.

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If you don’t know anything about World War II, you might want to brush up on your history before you read this. If you really want to understand the causes of WWII, you should start by reading about the end of World War I, which was without a doubt the most significant event of the Twentieth Century.

You also have to factor in the rise of Fascism in not only Germany, but in Spain and Italy. You have to consider the imperial designs of the military government of Japan. Plus a shitload of other socioeconomic and cultural factors far too numerous to mention in this hopefully short blog.

When you take all of those things into consideration, killing Baby Hitler probably doesn’t accomplish much of anything. From my point of view at the time of this discussion, if you were willing to go back in time to kill Hitler, why stop there? Why not kill all of the crazy motherfuckers who started the war?

Hitler didn’t rise to power in a vacuum, and he had a bunch of equally unbalanced assholes in his Inner Circle. Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Rudolf Hess. Any one of those guys were equal to Der Führer in terms of political ambitions and mental instability. Clearly, they needed killing as much as their boss. And that was just the tip of the iceberg in Germany. Seriously. Most of the highest ranking Nazis were batshit crazy.

Japan was an equal dilemma of who do you start killing and how deep do you go? Hideki Tojo was the Supreme Military Leader who started his country on the road to ruin, so he clearly needed to got dead, and probably most of his high command, too. The Japanese weren’t just crazy, they were fanatically crazy.

The Japanese army is responsible for the Nanking Massacre, the Bataan Death March, and a thousand other war crimes and petty misdeameanors. What scale do you use to compare atrocities? Are those events lesser than the Holocaust?

But wait, there’s more.

Benito Mussolini was the fascist dictator of Italy during WWII. He was Hitler’s ally during the war, and that might be reason enough to kill his ass. Beyond that, I’m sure he did some hinky shit to secure power. But I’ve always looked at Mussolini as if he were a caricature. And if he had been stupid enough to start the war, it wouldn’t have lasted a year.

The Italian army in WWII was nothing like the Roman legions of old in terms of fighting ability. I’m not sure the Italian army won a single battle, let alone helped win a global war. A troop of determined Girl Scouts could probably have defeated the Italian army. When the Allies invaded Italy, they didn’t battle Italians. They fought against the Germans.

Therefore, I failed to see the need to enact retroactive birth control on Il Duce. He probably would have self destructed if left to his own devices.

Maybe that makes me less of a psychopath, but I’m not done.

Joseph Stalin was the psychotic despotic leader of Communist USSR, and depending on whom you talk to, he might have been worse than Hitler. So killing him to death certainly fell into my criteria for saving humanity. The fact that he was our ally during WWII shows you just how desperate the situation was.

Stalin’s paranoia is legendary. He saw almost everyone who worked for him as a political rival. His solution to this problem was brutally simple. He had pretty much everyone around him executed. More than once.

There’s a story that one of Stalin’s aides handed him a sheet of paper with a long list of names on it. Stalin looked it over, and put a check mark in the corner, then handed it back to his aide without saying a word.

The aide was too afraid to ask what the check mark meant, so he ordered everyone on the list to be executed. You know, just in cases.

So, yes. I would have killed Baby Stalin, too.

And what about the Allied leaders? Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had to know that they were dealing with the devil in the form of Joseph Stalin. Does that make them also culpable for his crimes? Shouldn’t they also be considered for time traveling justice? Or was the fact that they were fighting the evil Nazis enough to make blind Justice look the other way?

Why stop with WWII? You have a time machine. You could stop any number of assholes all throughout history. The problem with this problem is it never ends. Once you start down this path you have a seemingly never ending list of sanctioned murders you can commit, all for the sake of preventing others from being killed to death.

* * * *

I’m pretty sure I flunked the Are You A Psychopath Test conducted by my spacey co-worker in the middle of the night almost thirty years ago. Or, I passed it in so many flying colors that I’m an off the chart psychopath of unprecedented depth. If the Minneapolis VAMC really had a time machine in the basement, Randy probably would’ve felt compelled to have me locked up for the good of humanity.

And then I would have had to kill him, too. Probably. I’m not sure I would have actually killed anyone back then. It was just a question we debated to stay awake, and I took the most provocative stance I could. Randy and Russ were stunned by my responses. It was worth it just to see the looks on their faces.

And yet…

Part of me thinks that Young Idealist Me really would have killed all of the baby future Nazis, all of the baby Japanese future fanatics, and Baby Stalin if I had been given the means and the opportunity. The Me that argued for doing it didn’t have any qualms about the details. My only question was how I’d get away with it, even with a time machine.

And, would I be paid for my efforts as the savior of some of humanity. Hey, I was on a fair amount of drugs back then. And I liked to drink. A guy’s gotta make a living.

The reverse is also possible. You could conceivably save the lives of people who would have otherwise been lost. Anne Frank. Mahatma Gandhi. I’d add John F. Kennedy, but he might not have been killed after all…

That scenario is also probably some sort of kooky test designed to figure out some aspect of the human personality. Clearly, there are people who have way too much idle time on their hands…

With age comes wisdom. I hope that’s actually true. I’d answer that question much differently now. And I’d probably be willing to go back in time to prevent Young Me from killing a bunch of babies who would grow up to be responsible for the deaths of millions of people.

Everything happens for a reason.

That’s the only reason I need now to let history stand pat. And now you have a better idea of why I want to stay outside of my mind.