“In Ohio, amid the row crops and rolling hills, the Olive Gardens and Steak ’n Shakes, Mr. Hovater’s presence can make hardly a ripple. He is the Nazi sympathizer next door, polite and low-key at a time the old boundaries of accepted political activity can seem alarmingly in flux.” — New York Times, 11/25/17
Adolf Hitler’s brain floats in a jar attached to a Roomba, making its way down an aisle in the local Bed, Bath & Beyond. We’ve been perusing their selection for a good forty-five minutes, but according to the small speaker system duct taped to the robotic vacuum, it just isn’t what it used to be.
“These cotton sheets look pretty scratchy. Not that I’d mind, but y’know, the ol’ ball and chain back home might disagree,” it says, referring to his new fiancée, Maegan, a veterinary school student. “Oh, and it looks like these were made by a bunch of Mexicans. Hard pass.”
Most of the customers milling throughout the store wouldn’t know by first glance, but the brain suspended in a green, mysterious life-sustaining concoction isn’t just any brain, it’s the mind responsible for birthing some pretty unconventional political theories.
“Yeah, the neighbors were a bit surprised when they learned that I’m Hitler’s brain in a jar,” it says later that afternoon over a cup of coffee at its and Maegan’s unassuming split level house at the end of a picturesque cul-de-sac. I help pour the mug — fair trade Bolivian, two spoons of sugar, no cream — into the open top and watch as it somehow dissipates into the mixture. “But, hey, look. I pay my taxes, I keep the noise down, I switch the Roomba out for a riding mower once a month, so live and let live, right?”
Hitler’s brain in a jar doesn’t expect people like the mayor to necessarily adopt his suggestions made at last month’s town hall, but it thinks it’s certainly a step in the right direction that she let an unattached organ voice its concerns over the recent acceptance of a family of Sudanese refugees.
“She and the others there were very respectful of my time, and seemed to really take my thoughts into consideration,” it says, the jar top screwed back on and the family cat, Belle, purring atop the lid.
“Tell the Jewish reporter what you said afterwards,” Maegan coaxes Hitler’s brain. It selects a prerecorded laugh from the voice terminal.
“Well, a couple people came up to me later that night and said they might consider voting for another candidate next year, if the right one came along…”
For many, the revelation that Hitler’s brain survived World War II through a mixture of unethical fringe science and dark arts, only to make its way to the American Midwest and build a new, quiet life for itself might be a bit of a surprise. But, in a way, this immigrant’s story of reinvention is the most American of tales, an exemplary pull-yourself-up-from-your-bootstraps journey that resonates down to our societal bedrock.
“Look, everyone always says that the United States is a nation of tolerance for all. To some extent, I agree,” Hitler’s brain says as we sit in its study, the Roomba facing a computer where Hitler’s brain runs its blog, mostly writing posts about the supposed Zionist Occupational Government alongside canning tips. “But isn’t it a bit hypocritical to not extend those same feelings to my intolerance?”
It’s a conundrum that many have been forced to grapple with in recent months — does this country have an obligation to hold its citizens accountable for hateful and potentially disastrous philosophies, or does it leave those same citizens to their own devices, hoping that they will return the favor?
Hitler’s brain in a jar says that, like everyone else, it also has hopes for the future, but right now its focused on the little things – putting together the wedding registry, planting a few heirloom tomatoes, and catching up on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
“It’s a damn good show,” it says.