I received a comment the other day in response to my March 13th post featuring Paul Celan’s poem “Death Fugue.” It said something to the effect of “Hitler was great! You stink! Your blog sucks!”
The Hitler remark surprised me. It is somewhat amazing to me, although I don’t know why, that some 66 years later, this man’s name and legacy lives on. Yet, it does and today there are neo-Nazi’s all over the place. Fortunately, in small numbers: Yesterday, about 30 people showed up for a neo-Nazi rally in Claremont, California, just east of Los Angeles. Between 300 and 500 counterdemonstrators rallied nearby.
But neo-Nazi’s are not the only hate-groups out there, and sadly, according to what I have recently read, California has more hate groups than any other state.
When I was a kid, we used to play army. Actually, we played World War II and we fought Nazi’s. Let me tell you, in the annuals of kids playing army, few have ever been better set up than we were. Armed with Mattel sub-machine guns and outfitted with helmet liners, canteens, belts and other stuff we got at an army surplus store. We dug a three-man foxhole in the back yard and used an old filing cabinet a neighbor had dumped in his back yard for a tank.
Our school in Wichita, Kansas had swastikas carved on the corners near the top. Obviously, it was built before the Nazi’s turned the swastika around and used it as their symbol. We thought having swastikas on our school was kind of cool. In fact, we thought Nazi’s were kinda cool. I mean we knew they were the bad guys, although I don’t think we truly appreciated the evil they perpetrated. But you have to understand that the Nazi’s had neater looking weapons and uniforms than the Allies did. The SS and the Gestapo dressed in black, and there is nothing cooler than a black trench coat. Not to mention movies: the Nazi’s were without a doubt the greatest villains of all time. I mean those accents alone: “Ve have vays of making you talk.”
But in the end they weren’t as cool as our guys, because they were the good guys. When we played army, I was always Sgt. Rock (“Our Army at War” comics), my friend Dwight was Sgt. Fury (“and His Howling Commandos!” from Marvel) and my little brother was Sgt. Saunders (TV’s “Combat). We were tough. We were ready for action. We were cool.
Then one day, we decided there were better things to do than play army. There were Beatles records to listen to and girls to think about, the latter being a full-time endeavor by itself.
When I was in college I had a job where I worked next to a Holocaust survivor. I could not help but notice the number tattooed on her arm. Since then, I’ve read books. I’ve met more survivors. I know full well the evil the Nazi’s did.
So now, I have been an adult for a very long time and I don’t like swastikas. Whenever I step into a Buddhist temple and see them, I feel uncomfortable. I know the swastika is an ancient symbol meant to denote good luck, but seeing them displayed in a Buddhist setting seems to me, considering modern history, insensitive. They’re not necessary. They don’t have to be there. I wonder how Jewish people feel when they walk in and see them.
World War II was a classic battle between good and evil: one of the few times in history when war was justified. Yet, at the outset, the majority of Americans were reluctant to get involved. The idea of war literally had to be sold to the American public. Pearl Harbor sealed the deal. Ironically, after the war it seemed as though the U.S. was chomping at the bit to wage war.
President Barack Obama has received some flak for his reluctance to involve the United States military in yet another Middle East conflict. I support that reluctance. Critics say that Obama’s hesitation is a sign of weakness. I say it is a sign of strength.
Nazi’s do not always wear the same uniform. Sometimes they wear robes, sometimes business suits. Hitlers do not always sport Chaplin-like mustaches. Sometimes they wear a beard, or they are clean shaven, or they might wear funky headgear. They may not even call themselves Nazi’s. In the world today, we have more than a few little Hitlers. Their message is always the same: hate.
Unfortunately, the United States helped put some of them in power and kept them there. Getting rid of these guys is not so simple. It’s not black and white. Regardless of what our role in the past might have been, I agree with the notion that we don’t always need to take the lead and bear the heaviest brunt in taking them out. As it appears now, we are already overextended, so I think it is prudent to be cautious.
I am confident that Barack Obama personally has no use for dictators like Gadhafi. As far as I am concerned, our president is one of the good guys. I wish more people believed that. I am reassured to know that even in the face of great evil Obama is not as cavalier about sending American troops into harm’s way as some past presidents have been.
I’m not crazy about the No-Fly Zone. Not too crazy about Tomahawk cruise missiles being fired. At the same time, like everyone else, I have a strong suspicion that Ghadafi is crazy and he’s killing people, so perhaps it is the only way.
Still I wonder . . . is this some collective karma that keeps repeating itself or is it only history? How many times do we have to keep repeating this exercise . . .
Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.
– George Orwell
Hitler and Mussolini were only the primary spokesmen for the attitude of domination and craving for power that are in the heart of almost everyone. Until the source is cleared, there will always be confusion and hate, wars and class antagonisms.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti