Dear Jim, Midnight and Bee,
I have avoided the political threads like poison.
This discussion of facism is rather "out there" from my personal perspective.
I come from a small town in Northern Wisconsin and there are mostly Scandanavian Lutherans mixed with a few German/Irish Catholics. The Chevy dealer was Catholic; the Ford dealer was Protestant. Guess who bought what?
One set of my grandparents were born in Germany before the war, immigrated. and didn't need to deal with the political reality during the 30's and 40's. I wonder now about relatives who stayed there and how they survived the war and perhaps, participated in it.
For those who are wondering about the choices that we make, I offer you one of my favorite poems:
(In memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
martyred at Flossenbürg, April 9, 1945)
He told us we were free to choose
But, children as we were, we thought---
"Paternal Love will only use
Force in the last resort
On those too bumptious to repent."
Accustomed to religious dread,
It never crossed our minds He meant
Exactly what He said.
Perhaps He frowns, perhaps He grieves,
But it seems idle to discuss
If anger or compassion leaves
The bigger bangs to us.
What reverence is rightly paid
To a Divinity so odd
He lets the Adam whom He made
Perform the Acts of God?
It might be jolly if we felt
Awe at this Universal Man
(When kings were local, people knelt);
Some try to, but who can?
The self-observed observing Mind
We meet when we observe at all
Is not alariming or unkind
But utterly banal.
Though instruments at Its command
Make wish and counterwish come true,
It clearly cannot understand
What It can clearly do.
Since the analogies are rot
Our senses based belief upon,
We have no means of learning what
Is really going on,
And must put up with having learned
All proofs or disproofs that we tender
Of His existence are returned
Unopened to the sender.
Now, did He really break the seal
And rise again? We dare not say;
But conscious unbelievers feel
Quite sure of Judgement Day.
Meanwhile, a silence on the cross,
As dead as we shall ever be,
Speaks of some total gain or loss,
And you and I are free
To guess from the insulted face
Just what Appearances He saves
By suffering in a public place
A death reserved for slaves.
1958 (W. H. Auden)
It seems to me that Dietrich (who I understand knelt naked before his hanging-a week before Hitler put his own gun to his head) prefigures the self-same public figure who challenges our humanity.
Prior to 911, my faith was strong, my soul secure. I put a sign out in our yard back in 1991, saying, "Stop the War!"
I remember my embarrassment in February of that year, as I skied for the first time across the northern part of our state, and heard the positive news reports of the charge into Iraq. We re-hydrated at a bar and watched our conquering troops. Who can argue with triumph?
A decade then raised its head, and we were asked, "Who will you tolerate?" "What degree of danger will you tolerate in the new September 11th environment?" Who is a fascist? Who is a victim? How do we escape this terrible reality?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a complex preacher- with relatives, presbyterian by nature- who faced with the awful choice to participate in a death threat, agreed to ponder the act of killing Hitler, and still further more acted upon it.
The image of him, naked on his knees, in his cell prior to his hanging, both haunts and ecourages me.
I cheer on our troops; I pray for our future.