Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Was Opa a Nazi?"

Via Mary (who tells me a Cree connection sent it her way) -- another Menno prone to voicing squiffy ruminations wonders: "Was Opa a Nazi?"

Ms. Klassen concludes, "It’s more likely [Opa] had come to understand his own position in the world as neither German, Russian nor Canadian. In Russia, he had learned that he wasn’t a Russian; in Canada, he learned that he wasn’t Canadian. And sitting by his shortwave radio, he eventually decided that he wasn’t German either. And the only label left to him was that of Mennonite." A lonely spot to find oneself in, to be sure.
Fortunately, the sunsets are to die for.
I'm grateful to her for posting this -- the question has an unfortunate piquancy, given the past week's headlines and social media caterwauling.

Speaking of which, this video of Arnold Schwarzenegger's address to the President is making the rounds.

I find his performance cogent and punchy -- and surprisingly moving, as well. It is perhaps worth remembering there was a time when the MSM and social media were not so gentle with Mr. Schwarzenegger. A right-wing upstart in the Land of the Left who almost certainly had designs on the White House, it was rumoured he had a script for a pro-Nazi film he was keen to see made. Then there was this ongoing business of sexual entitlement. And so on. Today, his is the voice of moral clarity.

I'm wondering who or what has changed, but perhaps that's a thread none of us is keen to follow.


paul bowman said...

You might think I had this in back of mind, today, as I was finding a point to pull my own post to a close on, but I hadn’t read it. Funny.

My dad’s dad was one of three brothers in a German Brethren family (no longer German-speaking, immigration to America dating to mid-18th-century). My grandfather, the oldest, was born to a different mother than the younger two and came under the influence of her brothers, urban Social-Gospel reformers in a different tradition altogether. He had left home and was hitting his 30s when the war came, and went to England with the Army in an office job. (After the war, he and my grandmother, Lutheran by upbringing, settled on the big Baptist church in town, inconspicuous and content.) His youngest brother, by contrast, reached 18 at the height of the war and entered Civilian Service as a conscientious objector — something I only learned a few years ago. He’s still around, a very durable fellow after a lifetime of farm work, but I haven’t seen him in quite a while. He’s not much of a talker. These days, I would be pretty interested to know what came into his decision to go the objector route. Don’t know what I’d be likely to get out of him.

Darrell Reimer said...

I was raised among COs, who were given a yearly pulpit at church. Their stories were uniformly boring, but peppered with the sort of arcana that sticks to the memory's ribs fifty years later (ask me about sourdough sometime -- or cheese curds). I had the impression these fellows were keen to finish their (boring) mandated tasks so they could hurry on to their (boring) chosen occupations.

I also had two Great Uncles who enlisted, a matter of no small controversy at the time. They both returned home, and my impression is they were generally deferred to with greater respect than the kids who shlepped off to the forestation fields. Go fucking figure.

Joel Swagman said...

I just watch the Schwarzenegger video (I had seen it referenced on twitter before, but never sat down to watch the whole thing.)

It is, I agree, very moving.

As for how to account for Schwarzenegger's own history, besides the obvious answer of opportunism, a million possible explanations spring to mind.
People are constantly changing. Even older people sometimes radically change their politics. (Ramsey Clark is a classic example)

Also, I believe there's been research done into how much beliefs are shaped by your identity in your social group.
It could be that when Arnold saw the opportunity to fulfill the role as the sane voice of reason against fascism, this became his identity.

Darrell Reimer said...

I hope not to be cynical about this. Certainly this was a golden opportunity for Schwarzenegger, who's always been dogged by questions about his silence re: Nazi history. Next to this guy he comes off looking like a saint. Just about anyone doles.

Darrell Reimer said...

I should add: if I'm jaundiced about anything in this equation it's the media and the collective tendency to reach for low hanging fruit. "Nazi Arnold" leaned on heaps of speculation, and the man's silence. That we now exist in a climate where we daily announce our moral certitude with the boldest statements possible is hardly surprising.

paul bowman said...

I can imagine a church that celebrates conscientious objectors, but it is hard to relate — hard to imagine feeling at home in one (not that I feel anything like at home in a big Catholic parish in Queens!). Until age 11, I was raised in a church with the Stars & Stripes on a tall pole capped by an eagle at one end of the platform in front, and the ‘Christian Flag’ at the other. (When we went to Germany, we went to an American church that rented German church space on Sunday afternoons. Don’t recall any flags being in that building, funny …) Bears mentioning that a number of folks in the Maryland church worked at the same very secure facility at Ft. Meade, 20 min. drive away, where my dad did. But I don’t think the flag at front is an unusual thing to find in American evangelical sanctuaries.

Darrell Reimer said...

You'll find the national flag at the front of Canadian evangelical sanctuaries as well -- including, increasingly, evangelical Mennonite sanctuaries. I suspect the habit of giving over the pulpit to COs is becoming somewhat rare in those churches.

paul bowman said...

Oh, that is interesting!