JoshBerglund19, CC 2.0
Source: JoshBerglund19, CC 2.0

This is the latest of my short-short stories embedding a life lesson.

Gail was almost perfect: beautiful, strong, brilliant—and she let everyone know it. So, from childhood, people respected but hated her. She became even more polarizing when she developed political views and a mercurial temperament that offended the intelligentsia. Yet her talents got her all the way to the U.S. presidency, although she vied with Donald Trump as the most hated person ever elected.

Gail had a love-hate relationship with herself, with the hate part exacerbated during her presidency. Every morning, she’d be awakened by attacks in the New York Times. She’d get into her office to learn she was been sued by yet another activist group. She started most days already furious. Gail’s term was almost over and she had accomplished little. Indeed, her major accomplishment was to polarize the nation even further.

As her presidency was about to end, China’s president, Lin Fung, a modern-day Hitler, preternaturally charismatic and ruthless, was ever more threatening of a nuclear attack against the U.S. Nothing infuriated Gail more.

Gail weighed options with her cabinet: yet more negotiation, a tougher embargo, a conventional weapons attack, a nuclear attack, or the CIA assassinating the one-of-a-kind Lin. Privately, Gail decided to reject those in favor of assassinating Lin herself. Gail figured that a CIA attempt could, like so many “secrets” during her presidency, get leaked to the press, which could cause a nuclear World War III. But if Gail could assassinate Lin, the blame might go less to the U.S. and more to the volatile Gail, doing a perhaps world-saving act—All possible replacements for Lin would be far less dangerous than that nuclear Hitler.

But also in Gail’s private thoughts, she knew it was unclear whether she’d have the courage to kill Lin. And if she chickened out at the moment of truth, she felt her wisest course would be to commit suicide—After all, despite being president, despite being brilliant and beautiful, she was hated. She’d leave the presidency in ignominy to live a life without power but with horrific public opinion and legacy. She thought, “Better to kill myself so at least I’ll be remembered as a martyr for ridding the world's of its most evil person."

So Gail requested a private meeting with Lin. Gail told her cabinet and Lin, “Our issues are so important, so sensitive that I want the meeting without the usual entourages. Lin and I will meet privately in the Oval Office.” And Lin agreed. And at the right moment, Gail pulled out her pistol, shot Lin, and then herself.

The New York Times’ obituary read, “Despite Gail’s lifetime of hubris, politics, and temperament that we find anathema, just as we would have praised FDR for killing Hitler, and especially doing it herself thereby reducing blowback to the nation, we must, as we bury her, praise her..

The takeaway

Do you think Gail killing Lin was ethical?

How do you feel about Gail having committed suicide?

Have you been too-often hubristic?

Have you aimed for a big-enough goal?

An easy way to find more of my short-short stories is to Google "Nemko short-short."

Dr. Nemko’s nine books are available. You can reach career and personal coach Marty Nemko at

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