The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Midterm Elections
How many of you thought The Sound Of Music ended right after the wedding?
I’ve seen the movie six times. When I was younger, my parents would stop the tape right before the Nazis show up. I just saw the full film for the first time ever. What stuck with me was not the moments of fear when the family was trying to escape, but instead, a brief moment of dialogue between two characters.
As most of you know, the story depicts Captain Von Trapp as a proud Austrian who is keenly aware of the danger from the rising Nazi party. On the other hand, Max Detweiler, the Captain’s friend, is a party animal who lives for the moment. He notices the shifting winds, but doesn’t think anything will affect him personally.
Max, speaking about the trends of nationalism: "What's going to happen's going to happen. Just make sure it doesn't happen to you."
Captain Von Trapp: "Max. Don't you ever say that again."
Max: "You know I have no political convictions. Can I help it if other people do?"
Captain Von Trapp: "Oh yes, you can help it. You have to help it."
This past Saturday, 11 people died in a Pittsburgh place of worship, the Tree Of Life Synagogue.
Maybe I cope by tying real tragedies to fictional stories of hope. Maybe it’s more of a way of making the world make sense than a true coping method. But whatever the case, when I think of Saturday’s deaths, and the protests surrounding Donald Trump’s visit, I think of this dialogue from The Sound Of Music.
What you do matters - only the citizens of a nation or country can change it, not its managers. And our country is in need of changing. There’s a difference between thinking kind thoughts and taking definite action to ensure the safety of others.
Max isn’t evil. He doubts the effect he can have, and doesn't want to face how much he actually cares, but is loyal to his friends when it really counts. Yet, his Peter Pan-like naïveté is dangerous when it causes one to ignore the oncoming threat of fascism . It’s not a coincidence that the filmmakers made Max Jewish. Any student of history knows that when the movie ends, as the Von Trapp family escapes, Max will not be so lucky.
We need to end our country’s march toward White Christian Nationalism. We need to end gun violence and the NRA’s death grip on our collective psyches.
Saturday's attack on the Tree Of Life synagogue was tragic and it was political. The shooter wanted to murder Jewish people. That was his plan. If your very existence is politicized, you don’t get to stop being political. The Jews need to remain political to survive, even in the time of grief. No matter how much we all deserve a break from our political climate, we’re not going to get it. So what are we going to do with our time here, on this Earth, in this country?
We’re going to unify and matter.
Remember Liesl’s Nazi-youth boyfriend, Rolfe?
The distinction between Max and Rolfe is that Max cares about personal relationships with people, not the societal rules. Rolfe wants to be a part of something bigger, he wants a strong country-wide father figure to lead him to a better place.
I’ve always wondered, if we can have fictional Draco Malfoys and Prince Zukos, and we can pity them and wonder when they’ll start heading on the right path, why don’t we do that with real people more often? I pity white supremacists. Especially young white supremacists, doing only what they’ve been taught. I’m not saying I like these people - I’m just saying, there are degrees and degrees of hypnotism and cruelty between Rolfe and Hitler himself. We shouldn’t be grateful that he isn’t as bad as Hitler, but we should be aware that sometimes all it takes to sway a confused soul is a kind word or good example. “You could never be one of them.” Another quote from Captain Von Trapp. Maybe he said that because Rolfe doesn’t really know what he’s in for. Rolfe could represent the followers who are enabling Trump - they don’t really grasp what they are in for.
So what to do about the Rolfes of the real world?
The answer is not “be kind” (although I do love pushing the power of kindness), or “ignore them,” or “fight back,” as you would with a common bully.
The answer here, is take them out. Not kill them. Of course not. Take them out…of office, of power, redefine their comfort zone.
We will truly carve something better out of our time here. Move past humanity’s record of ignorance and militance.
For the love of the god that some believe in and some don’t, please vote on November 6th, 2018 (and every election after, too, but hey, baby steps).
Paraphrasing the words of Captain Von Trapp, we have to.