Monday, November 25, 2013

Not Us...No, Not Us!

Judgement at Nuremberg, is one of my all time favorite movies. Burt Lancaster is riveting as Nazi judge Dr. Ernst Janning. It is a meaningful performance among many meaningful performances: Spencer Tracey, Maxmillian Schell, Marlene Dietrich and Richard Widmark. 

Lancaster's speech here is also is a masterpiece. It defines the difference between nationalism and patriotism. It is a narrative regarding what people will do when frightened often enough and long enough to believe they need a scapegoat to blame and restore them to their former 'glory'. It serves as a lamentable apologetic for those so desperate for power that they will abandon all standards of human decency, every shred of compassion, every sense of right and wrong, until they consider human life expendable.

When I watched 'Judgement...' last week, I was reminded of all of this. An I thought about us. I thought about the insanity of all of the gun violence we're experiencing in this country. How there are people who still believe the lives of the innocent victims - pick them - are acceptable collateral damage in defense of an out dated interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. 

I thought about the ugliness with which we talk about one another. Oh, now we do it in side-bar conversations. Or we hide behind the thick curtain of the blogasphere, or other modes of social media that allow us to trade our real names for 'anonymous'. 

I thought about how indifference toward the poor has turned to outright irrationality if not hostility. We don't want the poor to have sex or birth control. If they have children, we feel no need to educate, feed, or see that they are adequately housed. We believe that each person should receive a return from our taxes commensurate with what we've paid (when in actuality, most people who feel that way, come from the poorest states, where federal support far outweighs what they pay in taxes. Those states, by the way, are primarily southern). We forget that many of the people held in so little regard by so many, paid taxes, fought for their country, reared children and suffered some illness - for which, by the way - we believe we have no reason to provide them with any for of health care. 

We are more sophisticated than the Ernst Jannings of the world. No silver tongued orator will be able to sweep us off of our feet and lead us down some prime rose path. We listen to people who tell us what we want to hear on radio, or television. We have our fears and apprehensions confirmed in blog posts and in conversations with neighbors in gerrymandered districts. 

We can't be fooled...

Not yet...

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