"Hitler Was A Great Man"
Don't be alarmed, this story will not convince you Hitler was a great man, that's what my grandmother tried to do.
I grew up amongst people that were called "fascisti", these people were led by a man named Benito Mussolini at their inception. When I came to America, I had never seen or known anything else. I was in America and noticed the differen't people who all came together to live. I was told America had a nickname, "the melting pot". I understood that to mean that I too was part of this melting pot. A melting pot of ideas, beliefs, and people.
When I became a teen, I returned to the fascisti, I had no choice really, because that's what part of my family was. They were fascisti. Having received some of my education in the United States, I learned more about the fascisti and their ways, the nationalism and the corporate government philosophy.
I did not make a decision that the fascisti were bad people from what I learned in America, I only learned about them more. When I returned to the nest, sort of speak, I began to ask my grandmother, in a non-confrontational way, all about Mussolini and the fascisti. She would tell me stories about the glory days, the height of the fascisti. She would tell me about all the wonderfull things Benito had done for the Italian people. He built schools, roads, hospitals, he was a hero and the movement would return and I would be part of this. I asked her what happened to this movement. She told me that people were not ready to become part of such a great philosophy and it was not the time. She mentioned that although Benito said the 20th century would be the century of fascism and Italian strength, she said the forces against him were too great because people feared his vision.
I asked her how Hitler played a part in this, she said, with a tear rolling down her face and pausing for a moment, "Hitler was a great man". This shocked me a little, I had always known her to love Mussolini, she had a picture of him up on the wall that I remember looking at every day I came home from school. The photo was like a family member's picture. It was just there, amongst other pictures, sort of like that uncle you see once in awhile. Next to his picture, was a picture of my grandfather, dressed in all black, "black shirts" as they were called in those days. There were also the pictures of my uncles, all in blackshirts. This gave me a sense of pride that I was included amongst such great "men". In fact, looking through some of my father's old clothes one day, I found his black shirt that he wore as a youth...indeed I put it on and my grandmother took a picture. When she took my picture, she was crying. I didn't understand this and I asked her why she was crying. She just hugged me and that was that.
My grandmother told me that Hitler was the strength, but Mussolini was the vision. She started to wheep and this was another moment that I asked her why. She told me what made Hitler a great man. He, actually his troops, would come to town and my grandmother would feed them, give them shelter, and wash their clothes. "Why did you do this?", I asked in a naive way. "It was my duty", she proclaimed, "this is what makes the fascisti so strong, we are loyal to each other against all enemies", her tears were drying up and I saw in her eyes something I had never seen before that time. It was confusing, but what I saw in her eyes, that were no longer filled with sorrow, was rage.
Immediately she told me more about the "gifts" they would bring to her, the gifts that helped her and our family. These gifts ranged from food, to clothing, to trinkets like jewelry and silverware. "Where did they get these things", I asked. She told me that this was property justly taken from the evil that the fascisti wanted to rid the world of. She said these were not "spoils of war" as the communist would have you believe, but property that was stolen from the rightfull owners and that the fascisti were just giving it back to the people it was stolen from in the first place. I said, "but silverware was not yours, was it?". She explained that indeed the actual fork was not, but the silver was, as well as the gold, it belonged to the people. The food and clothes were not stolen property she explained, but taken from the enemy, to feed the good people.(the fascisti)
During this conversation, she got angry, very angry...this surprised me having seen her crying minutes before. I asked her why she was upset. "THEY KILLED HIM!", she yelled, as she pointed to the picture of Benito on the wall. "Who killed him?" I said, "The communist scum and the american trash, they drug his body through the streets like animals". Again, this shocked me, I said, "but grandma, I am American"...she said, very angry and loud, "NO, YOU ARE NOT, YOU ARE FASCISTI! YOU WILL ALWAYS BE FASCISTI!". She said that my father was a traitor, that he turned his back on her and he denounced his heritage and that I shouldn't fall into this liberal trap of individualism.
I was a little scared at this point, I had never seen my grandmother like this. I wanted to know so badly about her experience that I could not help to ask her about the other stuff Hitler had done. I asked her, "but what about all the jews he killed?". She says, "you are young, you have lived in America, you have been lied to by the liberals who think all people can live together as one, you cannot live with animals or you will become one". She pleaded with me to not be fooled by the Americans, the communists, or anyone who was not fascisti. She said that America was poisoning my mind, that the American people did not have culture or a history to be proud of, she told me America was built on lies. Why else would white people mix with black people if they were not animals, why else would gay people be allowed to kiss in public, why else would jews be held in high status in America if it wasn't built on liberal lies.
I told her that I did not know any communists or jews, she said, "you live in America, they are all communists". Finally I got the courage and said, "they are not all communists and they are not all jews", she said, "you see how they have poisoned you, the liberals will take over your country like they did Germany and Italy, but don't worry, the fascisti will rise again and you are fascisti".
Many of these conversations took place over the years, as I grew older and would visit her, the stories became repetitive, more transparent, and less descriptive. The bad people were out to get her(and the fascisti) and the world was filled with liars that tried to ruin a great man's name.
My grandmother passed away recently and I had a chance to speak to her once again before she died. I said, "grandma, I love you, I have always loved you, and always will", I did not need to hear about the communists or fascisti anymore, those days were long gone. During this last visit, she said something that I did not expect, even as I held her hand and professed my love to her, she still had one thing in her mind, we were, in her eyes, fascisti after all. "You remember all the things I have taught you, the things your father does not understand anymore because the communists have blinded him", I could only nod in agreement as she layed in what would be her death bed.
"I see great things in your country, the American people understand how the individual has hurt them, they understand now why the philosophy of Mussolini is needed and what the liberals and communists are trying to do. I told you the fascisti would rise again, I told you that you would always be fascisti, your president has the vision of our great Mussolini, he has the power he needs without Hitler by his side. I know I will die soon, but I will die knowing you will know everything I have taught you was true, you will rise because your are fascisti. Your president is a great man."
I don't think I will ever understand how she went from warning me about Americans, to telling me the Americans are good people. I am still trying to understand how for so many years, even after the fall of the fascisti, the nazis, and the fall of communism in eastern Europe, she died thinking, "Hitler was a great man". Maybe one day I will come to know how someone could live their life with so much hate, yet be filled with so much love, and believe something so dearly, when there was evidence to the contrary.
Perhaps she was right...Hitler, Mussolini, and our president are indeed great men.
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