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Saturday, April 30, 2005

"It is no excuse to be young"

Tonight I saw "Downfall," a movie about the final days of the Third Reich - Hitler and his associates huddled in his bunker awaiting the last minutes when they commit suicide to avoid the unflinching judgment of the rest of the world. This movie was really not funny at all.

But it was just about as wrenching and exhausting as any war movie I've seen. I didn't realize it would go into the lives of those in the midst of the hell in Berlin - civilians, children, doctors, secretaries - in addition to being a kind of Third Rech "West Wing." ("Der Westen Wing, fraulein?") It had a lot to do with the banality of evil - the young men and women doing administrative tasks for the Nazis and enabling them to carry out their work. It made me think of our new Pope, who I am rooting for, and his own brief involvement in Hitler Youth, and it was troubling.

There were also the clearly evil people, who showed glimpses of normality and compassion and even charisma at times: Hitler, whose first appearance on the screen was more jarring than I thought it would be (an icon of evil, he is, truly); Eva Braun, his fucking wackjob of a mistress; and the calm and hideous Frau Goebbels, who killed 6 of her own kids rather than allow them to live in a world sans Nazism. And many others, people who were just doing their jobs.

(Adolf and Eva - naked and unashamed, passing the forbidden fruit between them, not yet thrown from the garden to create their own flawed line - the snake lying curled below them.)

War movies always make me think of how I would do in a combat situation. I assume I would die early in the skirmish, and probably in a stupid way. Like I would mistakenly eat a grenade or something. But maybe that would boost morale for the other guys, I don't know. "This is for Kip!" my fellow soldiers would scream as they stormed the foxhole/rice paddy/mountainous cave region du jour. 'Kip' would be my combat nickname.

I did think, though, about what I would be willing to die for in a war. I came up with two lists:

Beliefs/Ideologies I would die for:
-Democracy
-Catholicism

Beliefs/Ideologies I would not die for:
-Constitutional Monarchy
-The Metric System
-Parliamentary Procedure
-Daylight Savings Time

I'm sure these lists will grow with time. But this movie was amazing, and a reminder of the troubled times we have endured and the questions we face now. I think - I hope - there will always be things worth dying for, but how can anyone be asked to do the dying? Or for that matter, the killing.

That's enough for now. This movie is hard to process.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Okay, that's more like it. Looks like you put some thought into this one, did a little soul-searching, maybe even spell-checked it. Keep it up, and keep thos "Dunn-acdotes" coming!

PS. When are you going to unveil your column: "Dunn'tcha hate it when......?"