Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Who in the name of all Hell is Anders Behring Breivik?
We know he's a killer of scores of teenagers at a political summer camp.
We know he's a bomber of government buildings in the evil and foul tradition of Timothy McVeigh.
We know he's a plagiarist from the Unibomber.
But who *is* he? What *is* he?
Let's start out by saying what he -- or the foul spirit that inhabits him -- is not.
He is not a Christian.
He is not a Republican.
He is not a conservative.
He is not associated with or working with the "Tea Party" in the United States.
He is not in any way, shape or form associated with any aspect of the conservative right wing in the United States.
But what is he then?
We know him, we know his type. Two generations ago, he was as common as acid rain.
He is the Blond Beast.
Fair, perhaps, in the exterior; blond, blue eyed, charming, attractive to women. Cultured and intelligent. Perhaps even musical. His photos show him to be an almost obscenely good looking man.
The Nazis, who created an entire army of them, called them "uebermenschen." They were given jet black uniforms, firearms, and a license to kill, and entire club to belong to--the Schultzstaffl, the "SS", the monsters who destroyed European Jewry and a whole slew of other innocents besides.
Hundreds of thousands of Anders Breiviks ran rampant through Europe for seven years of hell, killing at will while enjoying high culture in their free time.
I never thought I'd see the day of his reappearance. But here he is, a rebuke to the concept that humanity is purely good.
Anders Behring Breivik is what he is:
A Nazi and a traitor to his nation.
He is nothing new. We just haven't seen his type around for a while--outside of Srebrenica, that is.
Let him be tried for treason against the Norwegian crown and let him face the same penalty of his spiritual forefather.
And as for his claim that he is a Christian, let us use the same language to him that was said of the killer at the Cave of the Patriarchs: Sensible Christianity spits you out. You are not one of us.
May God not forgive you, Anders Breivik, for you surely knew what you were doing.
Let him be consigned to the forgotten, and may his name blacken our consciousness no more.
NOTE: My unconscious must really not like the name of this man, which was misspelled in the first iteration of this post.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
...that is, until guerilla graffitists got ahold of it.
THIS is proof we won the Cold War!
Superman, the Mask, Captain America, Santa Claus, Ronald McDonald.... superheroes who TRULY defeated the old system.
It is, however, my duty to report that they did eventually remove the paint from the monument. Alas.
Anyway, this also gives me an excuse to unearth one of my all time favorite Youtube vids, the Leningrad Cowboys' 1993 Helsinki concert....a video that proves that the thousands of Americans who died in Korea, Vietnam, and other anti-Communist brush wars between 1945 and 1992 did not die in vain.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
....discovered by our friends at Hubble. Temporarily called "P4" it joins Chaeron, Nix and Hydra. It supposedly orbits Pluto about once every 30 to 31 days.
Or does it?
PS. How is Pluto not a planet if it has 4x the number of moons we do?
I say we should restore it to planet status.... under the principle of starry decisis.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
* Coffee is getting so expensive that border agents caught a guy trying to smuggle 5 pounds of Folgers buried inside a ton of cocaine.
* According to a new study, American fathers are spending more than twice the amount of time with their children than they used to in years past. Experts say it’s due to a sweeping new trend called “unemployment.”
* A new report found that Social Security made $6 billion in overpayments in 2009. Which explains how my 80 year old mother can afford spinning rims for her Rascal Scooter.
* If there is no God, who pops up the next kleenex?
* President Obama urged more foreign countries to start investing in the U.S. economy. The president of Mexico was like, “The people of Mexico are with you. Literally, they’re already there with you.”
* Don't brood. Get on with living and loving. You don't have forever.
* I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt with 'Guess' on it. I said, Implants?
* I just read that more companies are bringing back jobs to the U.S. that have been outsourced to other countries for years. So the next time you call tech support, you might actually get someone who speaks perfect English — and knows nothing about computers.
* A senior al-Qaida leader was arrested in Afghanistan and he was disguised as a woman. Police became suspicious after he was seen stoning himself.
* Arnold Schwarzenegger is laying low in Europe. He was in his homeland of Austria, and he said he misses schnitzel. By the way, schnitzel is the name of his Austrian lovechild.
* If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. - Chinese Proverb
* Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. - Chinese Proverb
* During tourist season in Detroit, the limit is that you can only kill two tourists for the entire season!.
* Hurricanes are like women : when they come, they're wet and wild, but when they leave they take your house and car.
* Cindy Lauper turned 58 years old yesterday. You can tell she’s getting up there — her new song is called “Girls Just Wanna Have a Quiet Evening at Home Watching Lifetime.”
* You are getting old when you enjoy remembering things more than doing them.
* Experts say that because of higher gas prices, fewer families will travel the 4th of July weekend. That’s a shame. I can’t imagine growing up without an 18-hour ride through the desert with my father who’s too cheap to turn the air conditioning on.
* Lawmakers here in New York have proposed a new program to teach teenagers about the dangers of sexting. Seriously? How about a program to teach New York lawmakers about the dangers of sexting?
* The New leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a doctor by trade. He’s a terrorist and a doctor. If his name pops up on your list of recommended physicians, change your HMO. That is a bad sign.
* A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.
* Bachmann didn’t know John Wayne Gacy was from her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. The town is about the size of the Wayans family. (The next-most famous person from that town is the guy that grew the biggest pumpkin at the town fair.)
* President Obama announced this week that he is going to start sending out his own messages personally on Twitter. And today Anthony Weiner said, “It’s a trap, don’t do it!” But President Obama’s tweets are a little different than Anthony Weiner’s. When Obama sends out pictures of something obscene, it’s the unemployment numbers.
* According to new polls, 66 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. But the good news is, gas is so expensive and traffic is so bad that we won’t get there for a long time.
* Marriage is give and take. You'd better give it to her or she will take it anyway.
* The Pope tweeted yesterday. If you had told me the Pope tweeted five years ago, I would have said, “Why? Does he think he’s a bird?”
* My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.
* NBC has apologized for editing out the words “under God” from its coverage of the U.S. Open. They’re also apologizing for Brian Williams signing off with “Hail Satan.”
* If we are what we eat; I'm cheap, fast, and easy.
* President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have agreed to play a round of golf together. Imagine the two of them at the end of that golf game? Boehner will be crying over his score and Obama will be giving three explanations as to why his score is actually better than it appears.
* I Have The Body Of A God... Buddha.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
A choice to pursue a Quest.
That quest is not, for most of us, the final resting place of the most Holy Grail....
....nor is it at the bidding of the most wise and all knowing among us.
It is, instead, a quest for resources... which is to say, The Big Bucks.
And the more of the Big Bucks the Big Bucks are worth, the more we want them.
Ultimately this search is symbolized by what some call The Most Fabulous Object In The World.
Some warn us against it.
....but we pursue it anyway, and one day it is offered to us, sometimes, with by the most charming of people, perhaps with our own parents' most hearty approval.....
....but we always, always find out who is behind it.
Which of course brings us to the most recent Harry Potter movie.
As you know, Harry finds himself growing up a rather unlucky fellow, having a rather unpleasant taskmaster seeking his doom, destruction, obliteration, and oh, by the way, his early demise.
(I don't exactly think this is a spoiler.) (In other news, the Titanic sinks at the end of Titanic.)
...and Harry himself winds up owning Voldemort's wand, the Deathstick, the Elder Wand, the Most Powerful Wand Ever Created.
In the words of his best friend, Ron Weasley: "It's the Deathstick! The most powerful wand ever made! With it you'd be INVINCIBLE!"
And what is Harry's reaction?
First, let's study what he didn't do.
Isuldur, in Lord of the Rings, faces a similar choice. He, too, had just defeated the Big Bad and obtained The Most Fabulous Object In The World.
He has a chance to drop it into the Fire.....
...but against wiser advice decides to keep it anyway.
This decision Does Not End Well.
Actually this is probably a good thing, as the manufacturers of the Ring declined to include a list of possible side effects on the outside of the package.
Anyway. So Harry has the Deathstick.
And down the shards of the wand go into the green valley below.*
And Harry then goes home, gets married, raises his kids, and lives happily ever after.
Harry, in short, decides he doesn't feel like being a big guy in a bar who is going to spend the rest of his life fighting aggressive little weenies who want to prove their masculinity--or in his case fighting minor dark wizards who want to take away the Deathstick. So he decides, "Screw it." Breaks it in half and drops it off a bridge into the valley, very Frodo-like. Or, morelike, very much like Isuldur should have when he had the chance, but didn't.
It may not, however, be what is good for us.
Takes a lot to know the difference.
And this is why I like Harry Potter.
*In so doing Jo Rowling, with a throwaway joke, closes off an entire series of painfully obvious sequels. After all, the only possible outcome would be what he does here, throwing the Rin... I mean the Deathstick into the Fires of Mount Do... I mean disposing of the shards irretrievably.
I'm reminded of a line from Casablanca, Louis to Rick. How extravagant you are, J.K., throwing away plot lines like that. One day they may be scarce.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
From The Blaze:
The piece is part of the City of Marquette Arts and Culture Center’s “What’s in a Name?” July exhibit. Housed in the lower level of the city public library, the exhibition is slated to run through July 29.
The center provides gallery space for six to 12 exhibits per year, with artists sometimes waiting more than a year to show their work. Nikke Nason, the arts administration director, said the center is financed through the city’s general fund.
I'm not a big fan of The Blaze--and I've always found its founding godfather He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named revolting--but if taxpayers are paying for the above, I want a refund on my taxes.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Today is the Eleventh of July, the 16th Anniversary of the Fall of Srebrenica in the Bosnian War, and the beginning of the weeklong bloodbath that followed. In remembrance, I rerun this article which I first ran in January.
Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and may Light Perpetual shine upon them.
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
-- George Orwell, 1984
My memory says: I did that. My pride says: I could not have done that, and remains inexorable. Eventually-- memory gives in.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
On Christmas day, I was granted the honor of having an old essay of mine, entitled A Srebrenica Christmas, reprinted in The American Thinker. It recounted the story of how, when I was in Bosnia during Christmas of the year 2000, a group of soldiers I knew brought a load of Christmas toys to be dropped off at an orphanage outside our headquarters in Tuzla. This particular, multiethnic orphanage was chosen because here, some 95 children, including some orphaned by the Srebrenica massacre, were being raised. We did the same the following year.
A very happy and heartwarming event, it was, and the comments I received from readers pleased me. I was glad to have written something that gave a bit of sparkle to the season.
But then it started, as I should have expected. Vicious attacks from Serb massacre apologists began to appear in my in-box denying anything had happened and that the Bosnian Muslims had deserved every bit of it--classic doublethink. Most were anonymous rants, generally consisting of absurd conspiracy theories purporting to explain away the horrors of July 1995. I unhesitatingly deleted them upon identification; for life is too short to argue with crazy people.
But one message I received was of a different order: it contained an essay by one Julia Gorin, a blogger who has tried to make a name for herself as a 'Defender of Serbia' when not doing stand up comedy (true story). Her quite unhappy response to my post appeared a couple days after Christmas.
What she had to say was not all that important; she is just another pro-Serb, anti-Bosnian Muslim partisan regurgitating baseless slanders she heard from bitter folks of the old country (an old country it appears she has never seen). Normally, I would have simply disregarded this misguided young woman and consigned her to the same deletionland as the other ranters... had it not been for one part of her letter that was not her own.
In the course of her post she'd shared an Email she had gotten from a personage of much greater prominence: Ms. Doris Wise Montrose, President of the Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors in Los Angeles, California.
Ms. Montrose had apparently read my essay, and contacted Ms. Gorin for an explanation. Ms. Gorin claimed that Ms. Montrose "asked for my assessment because she didn’t trust the content and was confused as to what it was doing on one of her favorite sites."
Ms. Montrose's response to Ms. Goren read as follows:
I suspected the article was BS and that’s why I asked you about it. I found it at AT b/c it’s one of the sites I visit very often. I don’t know if you are considering responding to this article but why not write an entire article and submit it to Thomas Lifson? That’s what I would like to see. This is fraudulent narrative passing as fact b/c this narrative gets so much more attention. A lot like the other BS narrative called the Palestinian narrative. .... Doris
Given the seriousness of the charge -- given that Ms. Montrose was quoted by Ms.Gorin calling my essay "B/S" and a "fraudulent narrative" -- a response is imperative: not to Ms. Gorin, whom I do not view as rating an answer, but to Ms. Montrose. Given her status as the head of a Holocaust survivor's group, hers is too serious an allegation to ignore.
I thus sent the following letter. (Warning: it's lengthy.)
Law Offices of
Richard L. Kent, Esq.
January 3, 2011
Ms. Doris Wise Montrose
President, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors
20058 Ventura Blvd., #198
Woodland Hills, CA 91364 Email: email@example.com
Dear Ms. Montrose:
I am bound by honor to write today in response a statement made by yourself to one Julia Gorin, and published by her in her blog, concerning an essay I wrote some ten years ago. That article, entitled "A Srebrenica Christmas," was reprinted in The American Thinker this past Christmas day. In your comments to Ms. Gorin, you seemed to indicate that you thought that my article was "B/S" (to use the term attributed to you).
It appears from your comments that you are not familiar with the historicity of the Srebrenica massacre, the reality of which has been established for over fifteen years by means of investigatory resources of all the major nations of Europe and North America, the work of thousands of investigators and judicial personnel, as well as testimony of hundreds of eye witnesses closely examined and cross-examined in open court.
It is a historical certainty a great war crime occurred at Srebrenica in July 1995: the organized and planned murder of some 5000 to 6000 captured male Bosniac civilians and militia and the killing of an additional 2000 to 3000 unarmed individuals fleeing captivity, as well as the forced expulsion ("ethnic cleansing," to use an odious phrase) of 18,000 or so women and children from the town. The killers were members of the Bosnian Serb Army, known as the Army of Republika Srpska ("VRS"), Fifth Army (the "Drina Corps") plus a unit from RS Ministry of Interior. The VRS army commanders and the national leadership of the wartime RS, including its President, Radovan Karadžić and Drina Corps commander General Radko Mladić, were criminally responsible for the Srebrenica crime.
Furthermore, many of the dead were videotaped as captured alive. Many dead were found blindfolded with hands tied. Neither were battle casualties. And their disinterment by backhoe and reburial to secondary graves under highways testify that the RS authorities knew of the profound evil they had done.
There have been extensive efforts to bring those responsible for this great crime to justice. Over a dozen officials now serve long sentences for their actions in the Srebrenica, some serving life terms. Others await judgment, including Karadžić, who ordered the crime, and Mladić, who oversaw it. And Slobodan Milošević himself died in prison at the Hague while standing trial.
So how am I qualified to say that Srebrenica occurred? This: I was an American peacekeeper in Bosnia for just under two and a half years, from January 2000 to May 2002. I was Deputy Political Advisor to the Commanding General of Multinational Division (North), the US headquarters on 'Eagle Base' near Tuzla, Bosnia from October 2000.
I was sent to Bosnia by the U.S. Government as a peacekeeper: which is to say, you sent me, and the work I did there is of the same general nature as yours: to bear witness, to never forget, and to give effect to the phrase, "Never Again." However, my work like yours went beyond remembrance only.
At the time I took this assignment in 1999 I had some background in the local history but was a "tabula rasa" as I have no family connections to the region. My previous career in the defense world and on Capitol Hill (working for the GOP) plus my then-new law degree all served as preparation for this work. I was directed to learn the truth so that I could advise the US command.
Over the course of my time there, I had full active access to all official US documents on the subject. I traveled extensively through all parts of Bosnia but especially in the US sector and met with scores of people of all nationalities. I interfaced extensively with the investigators from the International Committee on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Finally, from October 2000 to the spring of 2002, among other duties, I helped to organize a cemetery for the Srebrenica dead-–the same cemetery you see on TV every July 11th when Srebrenica is in the news–-so my work directly applied to the aftermath of the massacre.
I am here to speak the truth: and that truth is that the Srebrenica massacre is an actual event: a crime of world historical importance for it showed that WW2 style atrocities are still possible even in Europe today. It was, as the UN, the World Court, and the ICTY found, a war crime, a mass slaughter in contravention to the laws and customs of war–a crime against all humanity. It was so serious a matter to the government of the Netherlands (whose troops failed to prevent the slaughter) that, when their report on the subject was published in April 2002, the entire Dutch government resigned. Furthermore, on November 10, 2004, RS President Dragan Čavić publicly admitted what had happened at Srebrenica and apologized.
The Srebrenica massacre as history is firmly established. Furthermore the ICTY, affirmed by the World Court, has found the events there to constitute an act of "genocide" under the terms of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by which the parties were bound. The Convention, art 2., defines genocide, as "...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [or] (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
That the victims were almost entirely Bosniac has been irrefutably established by DNA identification of most of the dead and there is no doubt they were shot because they were Bosniac. There is also no question that shooting them constitutes "serious bodily harm." The shootings were "deliberately inflict[ed]." And the children (and their mothers) there were forcibly transferred out of the region to make the Srebrenica region Bosniac-free. Therefore, as a legal matter genocide has been established by judicial finding. While one must not call it "the same as the Holocaust" (a claim I don't make for many reasons) the fact that genocide happened at Srebrenica as a legal matter is not a matter of mere opinion.
To suppose that the massacre never occurred would require that we also suppose that thousands of US peacekeepers, hundreds of ICTY and ICMP investigators, the UN, World Court, the EU, the US government under three Presidents of both parties, even Secretary of State Clinton, all cooperated in grand conspiracy. This is political fantasy, "grassy knollism" or "9/11 trutherism" for a new decade.
I acknowledge that the Srebrenica Bosniacs often raided their besiegers in the years prior to the fall of Srebrenica. Those were acts of war. Investigation shows that the number of Serbian dead in the region 1992-1995 from those were approximately 580, including some 120 civilians–not the "3000" often claimed. Furthermore, these raids are irrelevant as regards the criminal nature of the massacre. The VRS had a positive duty not to murder these men once the city fell. History shows they chose to do differently.
There are indeed those who wish you to believe that Srebrenica "never happened," and even if it did, "they had it coming." They do not wish the truth to be known and understood. I believe that if you take the time to examine the historical record you will not number yourself among them.
I wish to point out those children at the Lukavac orphanage who are in fact children of Srebrenica are like you: survivors of and the offspring of victims of genocide (albeit, yes, of a much different scale). Your sympathy should go to them, not to their fathers' killers.
I went to Bosnia as a result of having learned of the Holocaust in my youth. I agree with you from the bottom of my heart: "'Never Again' must," indeed, "remain more than a mere slogan" both for the children of Israel and for all humanity. This message I wholeheartedly accepted as a child when I learned of the Holocaust, and by unlikely circumstance, was able to put into practice in a very small way as a man.
Certain Srebrenica atrocity apologists would pretend that Serbia is like Israel since "our mutual enemies are Muslims." Don't fall for it. Serbia is not Israel and Srebrenica is not, say, Jenin. I am a full-throated supporter of Israel as a Jewish state, and know well the difference between the two. Jenin was no war crime. The same must not be said of Srebrenica.
I have examined your web site and agree with you that Israel and the Jewish people get a profoundly raw deal in this world and that the state of Israel is under grave threat. With you, as a friend, I tremble for Israel. But to speak the truth of Srebrenica is not to oppose your cause: truth is not a zero sum game.
I invite you to learn the truth on this matter for yourself. I suggest you begin with an excellent video on the events associated with the fall of Srebrenica, to be found on Youtube in a program entitled "A Cry From The Grave." While dated (for instance, the number of Serbs killed at Kravica on January 7 1993 is now known to be 35 soldiers plus 11 civilians) it remains an excellent record of the Srebrenica crime. I have been to almost all the sites shown in that program, have met some of those giving testimony in the film. I believe that it is accurate (95%+) "beyond a reasonable doubt."
I also recommend the classic Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica by David Rohde as an introduction to the subject. Wikipedia is also a surprisingly solid source (moreso than usual). And of course the ICTY website icty.org itself, being judicial evidence, is the gold standard for reliable information as to what occurred. For the larger political background of the war, I suggest a five hour BBC series, "The Death of Yugoslavia," also on Youtube.
To conclude, let me paraphrase the immortal Ron Ridenhour: something rather dark and bloody occurred at Srebrenica in July 1995. It constituted a violation of the laws and customs of war, a crime against humanity and, by law, genocide, so found by a tribunal recognized as fully legitimate by the United States and after many thousands of hours of investigation by a hundreds of multinational investigators.
Given the status you hold in the community at large I respectfully request you reconsider your words and withdraw them, for "B/S" Srebrenica was not. Neither was my article on the children. Truth is easily determined if you look. I urge you to investigate this issue on your own. Don't take the word of a highly interested ethnic partisan who as far as I know has never been anywhere near Bosnia.
/Richard L. Kent/
Richard L. Kent, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
Former Deputy Political Advisor to the Commanding General, Multinational Division (North),
Peace Stabilization Force (SFOR), Tuzla, Bosnia, 2000-2002
Government institutions, like most humans, have a reflexive reaction to the exposure of internal corruption and wrongdoing: No matter how transparent the effort, their first response is to lie, conceal and cover up. Also like human beings, once an institution has embraced a particular lie in support of a particular coverup, it will forever proclaim its innocence.
--Ron Ridenhour, first reporter of the My Lai atrocity, Los Angeles Times, 1993
I offer and request you, the reader, to take an hour or so out of your life and watch the following TV documentary on the Srebrenica Massacre. It is entitled A Cry From The Grave, and it is in 11 parts.
I urge you to watch it and learn the truth of what happened at Srebrenica. Warning: Not Safe for Work and not for the squeamish.
Part 1 is below.
The other parts follow:
Friday, July 8, 2011
Hans Schöll, Sophie Schöll, Christoph Probst, 1942
SOPHIE'S CHOICE: CHRISTOPH PROBST & THE SCHÖLL SIBLINGS
Note: This was first posted on this blog a couple of years back. Its juxtaposition next to that of St. Thomas More two days ago is not a coincidence. Stay tuned. For more about the Tattered Remnants click here.
"We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!" - Motto of the White Rose Movement (Munich, 1942-1943)
I first learned of "The White Rose" movement in my teens, when reading one volume of a lurid, British-made multi volume paperback picture book series on the Second World War, which was then specifically marketed to teenaged males with an unhealthy interest in Nazi Germany: it was entitled "Hitler’s War Volume 24: Resistance In Nazi Europe" or some such. Bright red cover, lots of swastikas, endless garish black and white photographs of barbed wire and prisoners, etc etc. Very un-PC.
I can still remember vividly the book's laconic description of the execution of the leaders of The White Rose circle. Hans and Sophie Schöll, two college students, were arrested by the Gestapo for distributing anti-Nazi leaflets on the campus of the University of Munich in February, 1943, only two weeks after the destruction of the Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Their friend and co-conspirator, Christoph Probst, was arrested shortly thereafter. "They were convicted after a show trial and sentenced to death; they were executed the same day. Sophie went first, beheaded in the city prison. Next went her brother. As the blade fell, Hans Schöll shouted, ‘Es leibe die Frieheit!’ (Long live freedom!) Probst followed."
And that was all I ever knew of the White Rose.
I recently encountered a movie in the foreign language section of the our local video shop--in German, with English subtitles. It was entitled "Sophie Schöll: Die Letze Täge" ("Sophie Schöll: The Final Days"), a 2005 German language film starring Julia Jentsch.
(I suppose that I should say 'spoiler alert' here; however, it's like saying 'spoiler alert' before reviewing Titanic. The ship sinks; the girl dies; if you don't know that going in, why are you even watching the movie?)
I have to admit I was a little suspicious of the movie before I started it. From what I read, Hans, not Sophie, had been the leader of the Rose, under the direction of their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber (who was eventually also executed for his involvement, along with a number of others).
Sophie was a junior partner in the White Rose, notable only because she was the only woman actually executed therefor (the other women involved all went to prison). To make her the chief martyr in the story when she was not the leader struck me as somehow attempting to romanticize a horror.
I thought it possible that they were emphasizing her participation for some ideological reason or, worse, as a marketing tool. And to some extent I was right: Sophie had been a very pretty girl with a winsome manner, and Julia Jentsch, the actress portraying her, is very shapely; the movie took advantage of this by showing her in various stages of undress that, while not nudity, still struck me as a little .... unseemly, given the subject matter.
But. How little I knew about Sophie Schöll.
It seems that the transcripts of both the Gestapo investigation and the trial itself had been in the hands of the East German Stasi from the end of the war. In 1990, they were recovered from Stasi archives. Although the transcripts themselves are as yet unpublished, the script writers were given access to them -- and they used it as the basis of the film. Almost every single word in the movie is drawn from the historical record. They took exacting pains to make the movie almost a picture perfect reproduction of that dark time of the winter of 1943.
The portrait of this eminently intelligent, deeply faithful young woman so revealed is stunning. The Nazis, in executing this young woman, barely 21 years old, clearly killed not merely a martyr and a saint, but also a first class intellect and a most gifted philosophical mind.
The only comparison I can draw to her battle of wits with her Gestapo interrogator is to A Man for All Seasons, another story of a Christian soul beheaded for "treason." But while St. Thomas More was in the flower of his manhood when he died, a trained attorney of the highest order and fully capable of self defense, this girl was barely out of her teens: and yet she argued valiantly, first in defense of her friends, and then in defense of her ideas, in a stream of oratory that would have done St. Thomas proud.
The movie begins with Sophie and her best friend, Geselle, singing a Billie Holliday song as it plays on the grammaphone: the volume turned down, not to not disturb the neighbors, but rather to avoid the neighbors reporting them to the secret police.
As one reviewer put it: "This is not a period piece, but a horror film." Indeed. Who can imagine being put in a camp merely for listening to jazz? But that was the reality of the day.
Then Sophie leaves her friend’s apartment and joins her circle of friends, the White Rose, as they prepare leaflets for distribution – by mailing them to public persons (bar owners, barbers, doctors, folks who would come in contact with many people). When it is discovered that wartime shortages have made envelopes scarce, the decision is taken to distribute the flyers on campus.
Sophie and Hans volunteer: the scene where they are surreptitiously placing the flyers in the lecture hall atrium was amusingly familiar to this old univerity radical. But it was also an exercise in shaming the proud. Now this was courage! Never once did any of us face the headsman for publishing our (now rather embarrassingly) trivial opinions on campus; we were merely ridiculed.
Naturally the pair are caught; a janitor sees them and turns them in–-both out of loyalty to his Nazi regime, and out of annoyance at having to clean up the leaflets.
At first she resists the interrogation, trying to convince the Gestapo policeman interviewing her that she was just an innocent bystander going home to get her laundry.
Eventually, after her mask breaks and she admits that she helped write and distribute the leaflets, it becomes clear that her fate is sealed. The group’s efforts to shield one another –- in particular their fellow Christoph Probst, whose wife had just had a child –- were a failure.
The heart of the movie, indeed the heart of the entire incident, is her interrogation by the Gestapo functionary, one Inspector Robert Mohr. Mohr, it must be said, was not explicitly a monster; at no point was the girl tortured physically, as you might expect (another inmate at the jail later wrote that "he was actually relatively humane by Gestapo standards"). In point of fact, his actions are not unlike that of Pilate; he tries very hard to give Sophie an out, to allow her to denounce her brother's actions as misguided and as such to avoid execution.
He was, nevertheless, a pathetic functionary. He could not see beyond the end of his nose, beyond obedience. The Nazis, he said, had made him, taken him from his old job as a low level border policeman and made him Somebody. "I owe loyalty to the Party and to the Fuhrer," he says, in an argument (essentially, loyalty by bribery -- 'Stay Bought!') that would be repeated in various forms by everyone confronting the White Rose.
Her answer rang to the heavens. Because the German people are not mere slaves to the party. They don’t want victory. They want peace -– compassion –- empathy! Hitler cannot win this war. He can only prolong it. Somebody must take the first step back to sanity. No. Someone must say ‘no.’ We were merely the first.
And again: when Mohr asserts that the retarded children executed by the Reich were "unworthy of life," her answer is immediate and sharp: "Jede Leben ist kostbar!" Every life is precious! "Nobody knows what goes through the mind of the mentally ill." This, a lesson we have now forgotten.
When we think of the Nazis, we often think of them as a sort of cartoon character--the dreaded "SS Colonel Von Sippenhaft" You know, monacle, stiff right arm, robotic characteristics, the kind of Nazis one finds in the Indiana Jones movies.
The reality is far more prosaic, depressing, and terrifying. Inspector Mohr was, truly, much more typical of most Nazis: a pathetic droid, perhaps well meaning sometimes, but certainly not enough to deter him from committing horrors beyond imagination, and then forgetting having done any such thing. As Nietzsche put it: "My memory says, 'I did this.' My pride says, 'I did not do this.' Eventually, pride prevails."
In the end, Mohr clearly fails in his attempt to get the girl to renounce her actions; appropriately, he signals his abjuration of further responsibility by washing his hands.
Next follows a trial scene that can only be described as something out of a nightmare. The Nazis were still reeling from the surrender at Stalingrad only two weeks earlier, and were terrified of a dolchstoss, a ‘stab in the back’ (that is, a revolt) from the folks back home of the sort that led to the collapse in November 1918. They decided to pull out all stops and make public examples of these three.
They accordingly sent to Munich their most demonic prosecutor: one Roland Freisler, "President of the People’s Court", who must have be the source of the stereotype of the evil overbearing Nazi. He it was who sentenced the July 20 Hitler assassins to death by piano wire the following year; he it was who, I am pleased to report, was killed during an American bombing raid on Berlin in 1945.
Resplendent in a blood red robe, he sat on the bench and screamed at them. The trial (if you can call it that) of the three leafleteers by Freisler essentially consisted of each of the three being berated by a shrieking hysteric. (I should also add that the court-appointed weasel they called a "defense attorney" made this sometime court-appointed defense attorney's stomach turn.)
The first of the three, Probst, having three children for whom he was responsible, tried to escape the death penalty through self abasement. (To tell the truth, watching him beg for his life was one of the most painful parts of the movie.) Hans came next, holding himself up well – he was, after all, both a combat veteran and only a few semesters short of his MD and more than held his own against Freisler.
But it was Sophie, the last of the three, who shone like the sun. "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare express themselves as we did...Are we to be an outcast nation, forever scorned by the peoples of the world?"
There is a moment in the movie that will always haunt me: Sophie standing before her prosecutor, her judge, her useless defense attorney: Nazis before her, Nazis behind, she glows like an angel before the faceless lemures that presume to judge her.
It is an Ecce Homo moment, where an unarmed prophet confronts armed sheep. Moments like this resound through history. We see Moses before Pharaoh, and Daniel outside of the lion's den; we see it with John the Baptist, in his dungeon, looking up at the weeping Herod who begs him to let himself be released. We see Thomas More before his royal judges, or Gandhi before General Smuts, asking for a shilling for a ride home. We see Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow before the Soviets, or any of a thousand saints and heroes through history whose "guilt" shines like a beacon to all mankind as they are "judged" by mindless authoritarians unworthy to unloosen their sandals.
For their courage, Sophie Schöll, along with her brother Hans Schöll and Christoph Probst, were given the ultimate punishment that the Nazis could give forth: death by guillotine.
They were executed the same day. As "citizens" of the Reich, they was granted certain small comforts denied most Nazi victims: they allowed Sophie and Hans to see their parents for a few minutes, before the execution. And when her father looked into her eyes and said, "You did the right thing. I am proud of you," the gratitude in her eyes in response, and the stiffening of her spine, showed how much it meant.
It was made clear that these two youths were not merely made heroes: they were raised to be heroes by parents who knew what they were doing. Their martyrdoms redounded to the full credit of their parents, who deserve to share in their glory. (I wish I could take credit for this insight, but I found it in a review of the movie somewhere or other on the Web. Nevertheless it bears repeating.)
So, then, let her parents, too, be remembered as Tattered Remnants: their names were Robert and Magdalena Scholl. (Robert was mayor of the city when he was driven from office for refusal to become a Nazi; he and Magdalena bore much suffering in their own right. They also lost a third child in the war: Werner, who went missing in action in June 1944, and a fourth child, Thilde, had died in infancy.)
As Sophie was led away (by two executioners dressed, most incongruously, in top hats and tails, looking like funeral directors), her last words expressed her hope both in the future and in the Christ she clearly adored. "The Sun is still shining!" she said as they took her to meet her God.
The final scene was filmed in the very room in which the real Sophie was executed, using the very guillotine that brought the real Sophie to her death, a room, perversely, now used as part of the Munich city morgue.
I have compared Sophie’s self-defense to Thomas More’s. I should however note that not all is parallel between the two cases. More’s dilemma was that he could neither lie in his self defense (by signing the King’s loyalty oath) nor could he speak the truth lest he die for it: hence his ‘prophecy by silence.’ Anything he said would have been used against him, so he did not speak. ‘But Man God made to serve Him wittily, in the tangles of the mind!’ His enemy Thomas Cromwell got around this by the simple expedient of finding a toady willing to lie under oath about More.
Sophie, on the other had, did not hesitate to lie, and lie quite convincingly at first, to avoid execution for her involvement with the White Rose. She almost managed to talk her way into release. Nevertheless, the time came when her facade broke and she was forced to admit the truth to Inspector Mohr: "Yes, I did it. And I’m proud of it."
While More did everything he could to avoid martyrdom, after a certain point it became clear that Sophie was actively embracing it. (More did, too, but only after it became clear that his execution was inevitable.) I do not know whether daring the Devil to crucify you is morally permissible, but I daresay it’s very, very risky, and not just to your flesh.
Inspector Mohr, himself an actual historical personage, is also an interesting character in his own right. He clearly comes to respect this young woman, and not merely because she is pretty. But he cannot understand her involvement, her active choice of death over loyalty to her people. What could possibly have perverted this admirable Aryan girl, he wonders, to turn away from the Volk? The possibility that she was motivated, not by racial loyalty, but by loyalty to the higher ideal we used to call Man, seems never to have occurred to him. And yet, in spite of his acting as an agent of her destruction, his admiration for this girl became clearly manifest, both in the interrogation room and in her final minutes, when he came to silently salute her prior to her execution.
Sophie Schöll, aged 21 when she died, now has more than 100 schools named after her in the new united Germany; she and her brother have a square named for them at the University; another, Professor-Huber-Platz, is named for their mentor. Sophie's small but significant place in history seems secure. To paraphrase M. Scott Peck, she, like Christ, was raised on a crosstree by the Evil One, and this was allowed by God so that we might see her from afar.
Sophie and Hans and Christoph are, in the words of blogger Jeannette Pryor, "the patron saints of the independent media". I would indeed nominate them at the very least as the patron saints of bloggers (along with St. Joan of Arc).
At the end of another excellent German-language movie concerning the period, Der Untergang ("Downfall"), about the final collapse of the Nazi regime, there is a film clip of an aged woman, remembering. Her name is Traudl Junge, and she was a young woman during the Nazizeit; she had been Hitler's personal secretary and typist. That movie closes with a quote which is as magnificent a tribute to Sophie as can be spoken:
I was shocked, deeply shocked, by what I heard from the Nuremberg trials, but I was satisfied that I had no personal responsibility, and I could not trace what happened to the Jews and other races to anything I had personally done.... not until many years later, when I was walking past the memorial to Sophie Schöll--I saw that she and I were born in the very same year, and she was executed the same month I began to work for the Fuhrer, and it struck me, that I could have found things out, that I should have found things out, if I really had tried.
Allow me also to recommend that you examine this article on the subject: The Line.
I should note that others were later executed for their participation in the White Rose.* However, the Scholl siblings and Probst are the most prominent. Of the three, there is a reason I list the most obscure first. I mentioned that Christoph Probst’s attempt to save his own life (for the sake of his children) through self abasement was painful to watch. Nevertheless, it should be said that history records that his demeanor at his own execution was as courageous as those of his friends.
ADDENDUM: ON CHRISTOPH PROBST
Anyone who might consider themselves martyr material ("she thought she might make a martyr if they killed her quickly" - Flannery O'Connor) should consider Cristoph Probst as both a warning and as an example. As we discussed above, he attempted to avoid execution by invoking his children and, in essence, begging Roland Friesler for mercy. But there was no mercy, there and then, to be had.
Perhaps he debased his martyrdom somewhat by begging as he did. Perhaps: but he had three children to raise and raising them remained his responsibility. But history remembers that even Thomas More did his best to dodge martyrdom. There is no sin in wanting to live, particularly when one has the responsibility of parenthood at hand.
He was conditionally baptized shortly before his execution and accepted into the Catholic Church. His last words were said to be, "Now my death will be easy and joyful."
When the time came, he still went to his death with his head held high. He too is seen from afar. His sacrifice was not in vain. And his name, too, is remembered with honor: Probststraße runs near the Geschwestern-Schöll-Platz in Munich.
*Other members of the White Rose were executed later, including Alexander Schmorell and Prof. Kurt Huber who were beheaded on 13 July 1943, Willi Graf who died on 12 October 1943, as well as others. Still other members of the group were sentenced to prison.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
I'm disgusted by some of the lawyers that have done this, and I can tell you that my colleagues from coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television and talking about cases that they don't know a damn thing about. And don't have the experience to back up their words or the law to do it.
Now you learned a lesson, and we appreciate the jury and those of you that have been objective and professional. We like it. Others, we're going to be talking to again. Thank you very much."
- Cheney Mason, one of Casey Anthony's defense attorneys said at a press conference after the verdict was announced.
Remember: it is better for a hundred guilty to go free than a single innocent to be convicted.
* Last week President Obama has released 30 million barrels of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. He said it was in response to what he called a real emergency: his poll numbers.
* A new study shows that only 35 percent of fourth-graders know the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. When he heard this, Joe Biden said, “How are they supposed to know about something that happened 20 years ago.”
* “Santa Claus has the right idea: visit people once a year”
* Apparently, a pipe with marijuana in it was found buried in Shakespeare’s garden. That’s amazing. Shakespeare had a garden?
* They told me if I voted for Sarah Palin we'd have a complete moron as VP. They were right. I did. And we do.
* President Obama said today he's not concerned about a double dip recession. He's more concerned the recovery we're in is not creating enough jobs. In fact, do you know what you call a recovery that isn't creating enough jobs? A recession.
* Rod Blagojevich was convicted of extortion, wire fraud, bribery, and criminal abuse of styling mousse.
* Former Pizza Hut executive Mike Rawlings was just elected as the next mayor of Dallas. I don’t know why he went with such a large city. He could’ve gotten a much better deal with two medium cities.
* Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake a whole relationship.
* A tea party group is running a summer camp for kids. It’s the only camp where the kids sit around a bonfire and hear scary stories about taxing the richest 2 percent.
* According to reports, poor financial decisions with a Chicago brokerage firm cost Al-Qaida over $20 million in investments. Why are we risking the lives of our Navy SEALs? Send in Bernie Madoff. He will take care of these people. In five minutes they will be broke.
* Donald Trump and Sarah Palin had pizza together last week. When the waitress asked if they want extra toppings, Trump said, “No thanks, my hair is fine.”
* Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
* Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your kids.
* Do you get dad a tie, slippers, or what? What do you get for a guy that only leaves the house to go to the liquor store?
* The U.S. Cardinals said they are going to develop a code of ethics to help them deal with the sexual abuse scandal. Wait a minute, I thought their already was a code of ethics, it's called the Bible.
* Now they show you how detergents take out bloodstains, a pretty violent image there. I think if you've got a T-shirt with a bloodstain all over it, maybe laundry isn't your biggest problem. Maybe you should get rid of the body before you do the wash.
* Do you want me to accept you as you are, or do you want me to lie to myself and try to like you?
* The FBI has arrested the criminal who was the inspiration for the movie “The Departed.” The FBI is now looking for whoever’s responsible for the last five Katherine Heigl movies. They have shoot-to-kill orders.
* The worst thing to me about summer is all the reruns on TV. Like today I was watching and they had this old episode where Lindsay Lohan goes to court for probation violations. I think the show was called "The News." I’ve seen that one like 10 times now. I’m tired of it.
* I don’t know if you heard, astronaut Buzz Aldrin is getting divorced. Apparently, he just needed some space!
* The state of Alaska released more than 24,000 emails written by Sarah Palin when she was governor. How does someone that doesn’t read write that much?
* If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button.
* President Obama will be in New York tonight for a fundraiser at the Broadway musical “Sister Act.” Meanwhile, Sarah Palin will be in town to do some hunting at “The Lion King.” (Amazing how fast she can field dress a donkey!)
* The juice is back on, no electricity last night and again this afternoon and all our wires are underground!
* Life: a sexually transmitted disease.
* Hugh Hefner’s wedding has been called off. I guess he didn’t want to be tied down with one woman for the rest of his weeks
* If it’s done right, Mother’s Day is just a rehearsal for Father’s Day.
* I don't think you are a fool, but what's my opinion compared to that of thousands of others.
* "Sometimes I wake up grumpy; Other times I let her sleep"
Monday, July 4, 2011
A rerun from two years ago, but still cool.
I admit I am very fond of the John Adams miniseries.... and of John Adams himself, ... even if he was obnoxious and disliked.
Particularly because he was obnoxious and disliked. Visionaries often are.