“Shhht! Keep your voice down!”
“Why? Why should I keep my voice down? You always go about doing whatever you want, writing posts here and there as if you’re a real writer, throwing ink on any old page that gives you the briefest of empty spaces, and you’re telling me to keep my voice down?”
“Shut up, will you,” he hissed. His back was hunched over and he was holding his hands up to either side of his face. The waitress serving the other table kept a professional demeanor. He hated stuff like this.
“Why do you keep saying it’s Hitler? When will this stop? It’s clear that Mao’s worse,” she snorted.
“Look, Hitler is responsible for…”
“Responsible?” she questioned, raising her voice. “What’s so ‘responsible’ about killing by fiat that makes it more nasty than killing by famine?”
“Look, the nature of a totalitarian state is that it…”
“What I object to is that you automatically treat me like an inferior! You know nothing, your reading of history is limited, any use of reliable sources is nowhere to be seen, and every time we try to talk about this, you curl up in a ball and just hope it goes away,” she yelled. “Is this why you can’t finish your thesis?”
“Hey,” he complained, jolting up, actually hurt. “Look, reliable statistics about government mass murder are tough to come by,” he mumbled, “and any body of research is going to be biased toward its source material. Hitler is worse because of the quality of the deaths — a war of racial extermination — not the quantity of the deaths.”
“Just ’cause you translated three original primary documents for your thesis doesn’t redeem you for trying to ‘value’ or ‘measure’ a death. I’ve seen the blatant lies you’ve spouted on-air!”
“Hey, you can’t use that Fox interview against me!” he retorted, catching himself off balance. “You know my professor got me that. I couldn’t say no. I had to speak. Hitler was responsible for 11 or 12 million noncombatant deaths. All of Stalinism — gulags, Great Terror, famine — killed only 6 or 9 million noncombatants. Mao’s only in the running because of famine, not extermination. If he had been in charge of Cambodia, say, he would have only been a Pol Pot, something like 1.5 to 3 million dead, but because he was in charge of China, his slaughter reigned over about 18 percent of the world. His numbers were easy. Famine’s easy. Hitler, however, is clearly — morally — worse.”
“That’s bull shit,” she retorted. “Mao’s Great Leap Forward killed around 43 million people, all told.”
“And after that,” he continued, “it just trails off with the likes of Ceauçescu, Zhivkov, Husák, Marcos, Duvalier, Amin, Mengistu, the Shah or Bokassa. Minor league stuff, they are,” he nodded, reassuring himself of his correctness.
“You know what? That’s exactly what Hitler would have said!” she yelled, pushing away the table and storming out of the restaurant.
He sighed, alone, sheepishly.
“But then again” he sighed. Barely audible.
She turned back before she hit the door, “What?” Drawn back by the mere whisper from his lips. The matter was no matter, but his voice was her pull. Back again she asked with tearful eyes, “what…? Man, say what you need, and get on with it, because I will be gone forever with one false word.”
He started to discuss with himself,
“But then again, people die.”
“All people die.”
“Those you love, those you hate. Everyone, everywhere.”
“They all die”
“They need not help from despots and bafoons, nor tyrants and psychopaths.”
“They die on their own, beloved or alone.”
“They expire, dwindle…, woodless…, fire.”
He continued in his head on and on, she never heard a word of it. He was right in some ways, and in many ways wrong. But he could have saved her, if she had heard just… one… last… thing…