Monday, November 17, 2003

Hitler's secretary is luminous for now, for later 

recently i've had trouble being able to finish my feelings/thoughts for the film BLIND SPOT: Hitler's Secretary. the few friends who have cut me off in mid-sentence are Jewish, and of course i stopped, not wanting to be insensitive to their feelings. still, i just wish they had let me continue, so they could hear what i've felt and discovered from this woman's story, and how different the world could be if we begin to see "monsters" like Hitler as people gone wrong, instead of demons for which there can be no discussion around.

the first time i ever thought about this idea of seeing Hitler as more than just a demon, is from reading Gloria Steinem's book REVOLUTION FROM WITHIN. Steinem's book on self esteem reaches back to interviews with Hitler's sisters, and the abuse he had experienced as a boy at the hand of their father. that was not just an argument for cause, it was also an argument that we need to look at these "monsters" and i mean REALLY look at them, as hard as it might be to do so, to help prevent more terror. and also, in a way, to look closely at ourselves. Hitler was elected to power after all.

but Steinem's study aside, this documentary with Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary, has nothing to do with cause, it has to do with result, with Hitler after he had taken power and launched a war. but at the same time, coming out of her decades of silence, Traudl is helping us to piece together our own missing sections to the puzzle, pieces, frankly, i wasn't even willing to consider were missing. i'm not that interested in thinking of Hitler as being nice at times, to certain people. it's much easier to only refer to his feverish speeches to the attention of thousands before him and millions more listening on the radio.

one of the amazing things Traudl does in the beginning, is talk about only having seen Hitler in newsreels and newspapers, a very black and white portrait. then, for her interview for the job as secretary, he walks in the room, and it's really as though we're with her at that point, also having only ever experienced Hitler in black and white footage, suddenly walking into a room in full living color.

this is a woman who was with him during some of the most critical days of his falling empire, letting us in on such things as how Hitler would never permit casualty reports from the front to be discussed in his presence. and how whenever he traveled by train in Germany, he demanded that the shades be pulled so he wouldn't have to see the devastation.

recently Frank Sherlock told me of a report that the media is forbidden to take photographs or film footage of American soldier's coffins being shipped back for burial. it makes sense that if you want a nation to support (or in Hitler's case for himself to be able to continue to support) a war with such fragile foundations, it's important to hide the worst of the results. what can be more damaging to a campaign of war than coffins draped with flags, dead young men inside, coming home?

Hitler pulled the shade down. our government pulls it down for us. denial keeps a drunken steady gaze and places everyone in harms way.

we're not so many years from Walter Cronkite walking the jungle floor of Vietnam with a microphone, presenting live-footage to televisions in the states, looking into the camera and telling us that America is in a war it canNOT win. it's reported that president Johnson said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America." it's not so many years since Vietnam, but it might as well be a hundred years when you look at the vast difference of the coverage the media is giving this new war. in many ways it's better than the coverage of Granada, which was a virtual media blackout. then there was Desert Storm, where American reporters were arrested for going off on their own with local guides in search of the real story.

the footage we see on the news (American) these nights at least has footage of life in the streets of Iraq, but not nearly the coverage that the Germans and the Brits are showing their own audiences. just last night there was footage of LIVID parents of dead British soldiers who are preparing to meet Bush on his visit to London coming up. what an inspiring bout of anger being televised. some parents are REFUSING to meet Bush at all, and the ones who will be meeting him have said that they want to see this killer of their children face-to-face. what would happen if one of these mothers SPITS on Bush?!!! what could he possibly do to her? her son or daughter has just been sent home in a coffin. man oh man am i hoping someone spits on him!

the internet and public television works around the quiet blackout, if you're interested in looking into it, though i'm sure you already know this. the anger of the British parents, and the tens of thousands who are getting ready to take to the streets of London to protest Bush's arrival should lift our spirits. anger is such a motivating FORCE if we allow it!

somehow i've lost my way with talking about Hitler's secretary. okay, back to it. hmm, i'm especially interested in her talking about what he was like in person, his kindness. it's almost painful to hear really, but that's why it's so painfully important to give an ear to it. because it is real, he was this other person we don't hear about. he wasn't JUST the man at the microphone thrashing his arms in the air shouting his anti-Semitic speeches to the world. it's important i point out that Traudl Junge NEVER condones Hitler or his decisions, she simply wants to tell the truth. and it's the truth which can change us, and if we let it, can change how we view many many aspects of this world from how we've seen it in the past.

just recently, a good friend of mine in London was present for a series of public experiments. a paid actor would stand on a box in different parks throughout the day with a microphone, making some sensible arguments at first, then, he would soon launch into a tirade of racist remarks to the crowd. my friend Jo says that it was amazing to watch the crowd stand there, listening, saying and doing nothing in response. once in a while there'd be one person, maybe two, but Jo says that for the most part the man would go on making his racist comments uninterrupted, even after escalating in both volume and content.

there's so much work we need to do. i love when Hassen turns to me and shakes her head and says this. it always feels like a combination of slight weariness, mixed with a tremendous sense of determination, and belief in the human neighbors we have, that we can get the love out. BLIND SPOT, i'm convinced, is essential viewing. i'm glad that this woman has finally come forward with her story. the story is now mixed with her long years of contemplation, and her wisdom, which gives hope that we can change the brutal direction of the future.


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