Friday, November 26, 2004

Things That Remind Me How Bad & How Good We Can Be

Being the Friday after Thanksgiving and something of a vacaction, I took advantage and spent some time this morning to watch an episode of NOVA that I had waiting for my on the Tivo. It was about the Great Escape, a story about Allied airmen imprisoned at Stalag-Luft III during World War II escaping from the prison camp. A fascinating story to be certain, but there are many of those from WWII. What got me choked up was some of the comments of the soldiers there.

Toward the end of the episode some of the men who had stayed behind in the camp (76 escaped in one night via tunnel) they talk about how the Great Escape greatly annoyed Hitler, so much that he ordered that all the escapees be executed (in violation of Geneva Convention rules). His advisors talked him down to 50. Compared to what the Jews , Gypsies, and homosexuals suffered this isn't much, but there is a reminder that really stuck me about how cruel we can be to each other.

Some of the prisoners, now old men, talk about there being rules to these things, and when people are lined up and shot it isn't fair. I'll agree with that, but there is so much that isn't fair about war this didn't strike me. What struck me was when one of the men who had been left behind was talking about one of the executed airmen, one of his bunkmates. He said he felt sad because the man who died never got to see his child, and his child never got to meet him. His comment is what really hit home for me. My heart is wrenched when I think about how it would be if I died before Alexandra arrived, how much we would both miss in our lives. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.

I thought about what horrible things we people do to each other when we make enemies of each other. Its so deeply saddening when we think about people as those who just want to be happy. They have mothers, fathers, brother, sisters, wives, children. They care about where their next meal is coming from. They want to be able to enjoy a sunny day, or have a walk and enjoy the company of friends. Then to hear about human life being so disregarded in concentration camps, or summarily executed for what people believed was their duty. These things about humankind so frustrate and trouble me.

Then there are things that are uplifting. I was thankful that one occured alomst within the same minute of the talk about the escapees being executed. The Luftwaffe captain that ran the camp was so horrified when he heard what happened that he allowed his prisoners to build a memorial outside the prison camp to the men who died. The idea that even in war that we can realize the suffering and humanity of those we fight and respect them is what makes me think that sometimes we can overcome the things that seperate us most and recognize the things we have in common.

There are probably millions of stories like that, I just wish I heard more of them.


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