Monday, December 29, 2008

Die Sonne Scheint Noch (The Sun Still Shines)

I went to see Valkyrie the other day, starring Tom Cruise, which is about the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and became completely intrigued with the knowledge that there were many Germans, even those of elevated rank in the military and political spheres, who were completely against Hitler and his fascist ideals and harsh brutality. You never hear about these unsung heroes who went against their own country's leader, and risk their lives to stop Hitler from destroying Europe, and Germany in particular.

Germany is a beautiful country, rich in culture and heritage, steeped in centuries of history dating back to Germanic and Barbarian tribes who first inhabited the region. The people are proud and have been for a long time. There is no question that Germany was made vulnerable after World War I. Their pride was tarnished, their country devestated and their people poor and desperate for the power and pride they once owned. Hitler was able to manipulate the masses, and used their zest for pride to launch himself into the center of the politics in Berlin, and ultimately becoming their dictator. You cannot blame the German people for believing they found an answer in Hitler, but you can blame them for still supporting him (or at least pretending to support him) when neighbors of different races and ethnicities and religions were stripped of their homes, rights, and lives. But there were still few who dared to lift their voices up and be heard, or at least attempted to take action when action was most needed.

Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg

"Valkyrie" is centered around Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who should be (and is, especially in Germany) heralded as a hero today, and his attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler by planting a bomb inside of a briefing room at the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's high security military compound. Stauffenberg wasn't alone in the conspiracy. He was a part of a resistance group that's goal was to initiate a coup that would overthrow the Nazi regime. While Stauffenberg and others like him were unsuccessful in their attempts, it is at least concerting to know that Germans were trying to make a difference. Many were against Hitler's extermination policies, while others saw him as essentially the enemy to none other than Germany herself. These Germans felt that Hitler had perverted the traditions and principles of the German race. Stauffenberg himself could not imagine his children growing up under the regime of Hitler. Today, we can not even begin to imagine what the world would be like had Hitler never been defeated.

Hans Scholl, Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst

A passive resistance group, the White Rose, was lead by four Munich students and their professor. One of the students was Sophie Scholl, who outwardly protested Hitler's regime. Her and her fellow members distributed leaflets imploring others to outwardly, but peacefully, protest the Nazis. The crew was caught distributing leaflets at the University of Munich and were executed by guillotine. Her last words were "Die Sonne scheint noch" (the sun still shines) - and her ending speech was: "How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go. But what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

In the movie Valkyrie, General Trescow says to Colonel Stauffenberg: "God promised Abraham that he would not destroy Sodom if he could find ten righteous men... I have a feeling that for Germany it may come down to one." Someone, even the smallest person, had to stand up to Hitler even if it meant defeat. This should be a warning to us today to not allow another Hitler to take over through means of manipulation and fear. We should all be willing to stand united against another potential catastrophe to ever occur again.

It could have happened anywhere, and has already and still does today. When I think of Germany I do not want images of swastikas and concentration camps to fill my mind, but they always will. Hitler destroyed his country's image forever. No one will ever see Germany any different ever again, which is very sad in my opinion. Germany's dark past will follow it into oblivion, like an individual's shadow. Hitler did not love Germany. Hitler destroyed Germany, and that is exactly why the resistance sought to end his rule long before Europe (and especially Germany) had been ravaged by war.

We have to be on our guards. We must learn from the past. Another Hitler could rise amongst us, and can manipulate us to think that things will improve when in reality things will just fall apart. This can even happen in America. How do you know it is not already happening? If it does, what will you do to stop it?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Truth About Nature

I live in a house that sits back off the road just outside the city limits. The property used to be a working farm. We still grow things like corn, tomatoes, okra, green beans, and squash, among other vegetables, but the soil is so infertile in places that most of the terrain is useless. However, the woods behind us still grow and the wildlife within those woods is ever present. I feel much more in tune with nature here than I ever had while growing up in a middle-class suburbian neighborhood in the backyard of Washington, D.C. But there is still something that separates me from the wild here. Well, for one, it could be this wall that sits just behind me and the window that is shut to the cold rainy night. I don't venture into those woods very often during the colder seasons. I mostly like to traverse back towards our creek in the middle of summer in search for turtles and frogs, and perhaps even wade into the water that's only knee-high deep. As much as I enjoy hiking and camping I never once stayed a night in a tent in those once-quiet woods. Now, I do not even enjoy walking down into the woods on trails that members of my family have blazed through towards the creek, because a few of our neighbors seem to think its fun to shoot guns all day at God knows what.

I've heard the scream of a bobcat from my bedroom which faces the woods and it terrified me to the core. And once I saw a flock of wild turkeys emerging from the woods and rounding our pond to reach their next destination. We have wild heron fly across our front yard and stop at our pond to search for fish to eat. Deer leap across our yard in the dark of night, and very rarely in the early morning (and we also see them dead on the side of the road). And of course, its the season for Canadian Geese to also stop by, and torment our dogs, of whom they have no qualms about chasing off with their rude beaks. We call them "Canadian Tourists" because they act just like tourists coming down from Ontario and Quebec, who lay out in bikinis and swimming trunks at Wrightsville or Carolina Beach in the middle of winter, while the rest of us walk by, bundled up and puzzled at their indifference to the biting wind coming off the sea. The geese have no problems lounging around on our pond when it is below freezing and the pond is partially frozen. I love where I live, and I love how quiet it is at nighttime. Sometimes when I am here alone I can become a little uneasy. The woods are peaceful, yet daunting at the same time. What beauty does it hold but also what danger hides within? Nature is something I am inherently facinated with. Nature knows no boundaries. These woods would one day overtake us if we didn't work hard to keep it in its place. We have to labor intensively to make sure our vegetables grow in the summer. The bugs come, and the early rot comes, and the weeds threaten to snuff the life out of everything we work so hard to grow. My aunt had a terrible run-in with summer storms this past year. Her corn had grown high and she was excited about the harvest, but a strong storm with a tumultous downdraft blew her stocks over. She and my boyfriend had to labor for hours to get some of them to stand back up, and some they had to tie to stakes just to give them a chance.

Nature knows no boundaries. Nature does not play by any rules.

I want to be in Nature and experience it every day of my life, but I worry. Nature is something that you cannot trust. You can never expect Nature to give you the answer, and Nature does not always provide. Nature is also unpredictable.

Thank goodness Nature also has a pattern. We know that when the wind begins to blow harder and the sky turns black, it is going to storm. Therefore, we also know that it would be wise to take shelter. People have studied Nature long enough to see the signs of a coming drought, and we've harnessed technology to predict the weather. We can tell when a hurricane is coming a week or so in advance.

But there are some things about Nature we will never be able to predict or control. There are things that can destroy everything we know. I am sheltered from nature by these walls and that window as I sit and type this, but when it comes to Nature, am I ever really safe? A tornado could overtake this house and destroy everything, and there would be nothing any of us could do to stop it.

I am not suggesting that humans be disdainful of Nature, because Nature is what governs this entire planet. We should have a love for Nature and the fruits of Nature. We should also be respectful of Nature as well. Nature won't always reciprocate our appreciation, but at least we could come away with a different perspective.

We should fear Nature when it demands to be feared. We should love Nature when it longs to be loved.

Merry Christmas

Tomorrow: My Favorite Bearded Fellows