I herewith propose that we all cease using the name Hitler to describe anything but the man who bore that name. It has been in vogue recently to label as Hitler, particularly politicians, or make other references such as drawing toothbrush mustaches on posters . Obviously, any time someone drops the H-bomb (no, not the real one--the Hitler one) that name dropper does not like or value or respect the person to whom the appellation is applied.
Perhaps you have heard or seen some of these recent references--applied to the current president. Now, my personal politics aside, I have a very specific reason to making this proposal--referring to someone as a present Hitler cheapens the reference (overuse of anything will do that). And, more significantly, it diminishes the horror that Hitler inflicted on the world. Certainly within modern memory, Hitler occupies a place of horror almost unmatched. I know what you're thinking...what about Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Ze-Dong?
Fair enough--these people are the monsters of modern memory, along with a few others you can name. But, I think it makes the point--we are cheapening truly horrific actions when we label a political leader with whom we disagree as Hitler. NO. I am sorry--only Hitler was Hitler.
OK--so what about movies. We went to see a gripping political thriller today--and the connection to monsters is not tenuous. We saw Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer. Now, I don't know what you think of personal Polanski's actions of the late 1970s. It is not that sordid history that is the connection to the monster label. Rather, it is the subject matter of the movie The Ghost Writer.
The movie deals with a fictional British prime minister who is writing his memoirs. Played with surprising acting skill by Pierce Brosnan, the prime minister Adam Lang is being accused of having engaged in illegal activities in turning suspected terrorists over to the CIA for torture. The first ghost writer turns up dead, and a second writer is hired--never named, this ghost writer is played by Ian McEwen.
There are two women in the prime minister's life--his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) and his loyal staff person and mistress (Kim Catrall). They give conflicting advice to Adam Lang, as he puzzles what to do when he is faced with being charged with war crimes. Meanwhile, the ghost writer keeps plugging away, trying to draw out details of the prime minister's life that go beyond the deadly prose of the first draft of the memoirs.
If you remember that this is a political thriller, and that it is directed by Polanski (remember Chinatown--my daughter, my sister, my daughter, my sister), you will be prepared for some first rate twists and turns. And just when you think all the twists and turns have happened, the ending holds several more surprises.
I don't for a minute suggest that there is a corollary between actions by the above named monsters (Hitler et al.) and fictional characters named Adam Lang, who is clearly a thinly disguised Tony Blair. But I would suggest that when we forget our humanity, when we adopt the tools that we long considered immoral (water-boarding), when we sit silently by while our politicians lie and deceive us (and I do not mean the present U.S. president), then we have made it easy for even decent leaders to become monsters.