Huckleberry Finn vs. Günther Grass
This is a review of Michael Berube's new book. Inside the review is a paragraph which I find that I completely agree with:
And I haven't really been able to get my act together and write that 5-page rant I've been holding in on why I'm upset about the treatment Grass has been getting, so that quote will have to stand for it.(...) He also advances his theory on why it sucks to teach things like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because of what he calls the Schindler Effect, where everyone in the audience automatically assumes they’d be a member of the tiny minority of people with the sense and bravery to stand up against an injustice the rest of the community supports. Everyone believes he is Oscar Schindler or Huck Finn claiming that he’d rather go to hell than turn Jim over. Most of us are good Germans, of course, which is why I watched with ill-concealed irritation the people scrambling to condemn Gunther Grass, of all people, for being a teenaged solider in the SS. Choosing to go to hell isn’t as easy as you’d think it is, or else a lot of the people getting high on their horse would be sitting in jail right now for refusing to pay taxes to support the war in Iraq.
Ok, then, in brief:
My point was that the fact that all these blowhards are shocked, shocked at the fact that Grass has been hiding his past (and for so long!) just goes to show that nobody ever understood what he was saying, and that despite it all, Germany hasn't done anything to get the war out in the light. It has become the great repressed trauma of the collective unconscious of Germany. Despite 60 years of separation, nobody's looked back and understood that Grass' point was precisely that anyone, even him, can be moved by a pervasive totalitarian ideology. It was easy to take sides against Germany in the US or the UK, but it was very difficult in Germany. That's the lesson that failed to be taken from the trauma of the war. We let the populists turn the war into a story of good vs evil, and that mindset is lodged in the minds of everyone, and we see the payoff of it all over the world, and perhaps most spectacularly in the American political mind.