One rainy saturday morning I decided to scrap my list of chores and go to a movie. I soon found myself in a theater watching Following the Fuhrer, a film about the Third Reich. In this, his second film on Hitler’s Germany, directed Erwin Leiser tried to recreate everyday life. In between familiar news clips he spliced small, dramatized vignettes of life in Germany.
The film explores the thick gray border between what will com clear to later history and what actually happens in everyday life. Now, looking back, the evils of Nazism loom large, and film footage of bombing runs, mass rallies, and concentration camps document that evil. But at the time ordinary German citizens responded to those evils with small, quotidian choices made in a fog of confusion.
As I walked home I reflected. We do not like to think of evil as banal; we prefer our evil characters larger than life, like Adolf Hitler. Because of Hitler,we can take a kind of perverse comfort in the knowledge that someone is worse than we are; and thus, ironically, his horrible extremism may tempt us to discount our own lesser forms of intolerance or idolatry.
My thoughts turned closer toward home, to the United States. What will come clear to filmmakers who, forty years from now, will rummage through news clips of our time? Will we be a shining beacon of freedom? Will we go down in history primarily as the civilization whose weapons made possible the abolition of all humanity? How will our million abortions a year look a few decades from now? Our own materialism and decadence?
Then, as my thought turned inward and i wondered how an Erwin Leiser of the twenty-first century would splice together scenes from my life with news clips of these confusing times, I felt a sense of helplessness and doom such as I have not felt since the 1960s
Arriving home, I took out a piece of leftover pizza from a cardboard box in the refrigerator and heated it in the microwave. Then I decided to do my list of Saturday chores after all. I spent the rest of the afternoon pressing flexible caulking around the windows in my house.
I was just Wondering(144-48)