If you’ve read as much about the rise of Nazism in Germany and much of the rest of Europe as I have, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to read Silvano Arieti’s “The Parnas: A Scene from the Holocaust,” you might spend some hours of your day thinking about the psychological ailment known as Lycanthropy.
Lycanthropy is, literally, when humans turn into wolves, or sometimes dogs, or sometimes, like Odysseus’ men before Circe, pigs. Lycanthropy is not some Georgian weirdness. It’s not me speaking in metaphor. It’s when humans turn into wolves.
It’s an ailment rare but well-documented in psychological annals. Arieti writes about it as a psychiatrist and a Jew in WWII Italy where he is confronted by a snarling, salivating wolf in a Nazi uniform, formerly a human. If you think this is bullshit, consider the enduring mythology around werewolves. Or accounts of Lycanthropy in the Torah, Daniel 4 specifically, as when Nebuchadbnezzar’s “dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall drive you from men, and make you eat grass like oxen…”
It is also believed that King Tiridates III of Armenia suffered from Lycanthropy. He was said to be cured by Gregory the Illuminator. As a sign of his gratitude, Tiridates proclaimed Christianity Armenia’s state religion, making Armenia the first Christian state.
In my lifetime I remember early on seeing these photographs--and wondering, even at the age of eight or nine, are humans human? Are those dogs attacking men? Or wolves? Or wolfmen?
Some years later, My Lai happened. When Lt. Calley, later pardoned by Richard Nixon, bayonetted children, tossed them into the air, and impaled them once again on bayonets.
I suppose the simple question about Lycanthropy is not whether or not it is a real disorder, but whether or not an entire society--a culture--can turn Lycanthropic under the right malign stressors.
That seems to be the lesson from the Trump administration. To be charitable, it might not be the evil he himself does--he's a bloated buffoon after all, but rather the evil he unleashes.
This seems to be what's happening in America and around the world. Evil unbounded, unchecked, unloosed. And unstopped.
We have met the enemy.
And he is us.
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