Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Patriotism

Samuel Johnson said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

I’m inclined to agree with the caveat that the word means many things to many people in the same way Christianity or Socialism does.

To my mind, a true patriot is someone like Marlene Dietrich.  When Hitler came to power, she was living abroad. Some years later she was approached by Nazi officials promising whatever she wanted if she would only return. (And people do make such concessions, consider Klaus Mann’s brilliant Mephisto.) During a wartime interview she said, “Boys, don’t sacrifice yourselves. The war is crap and Hitler’s an idiot.”

During her 1960 tour of Germany she was spat upon by a woman who shouted,  “I hate this woman! She betrayed Germany in the war.”

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, her body was reburied in Berlin next to her mother as was the wish in her will. In 1993 her grave was desecrated.

Listen to her sing.  And remember:

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7 thoughts on “Patriotism

  1. Thanks Tom. Sung in the way only she can. What a treat. I never knew her grave was desecrated and didn’t know that part of her story. Thanks again.

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  2. To a degree, I can understand the animus against Dietrich (which is not the same thing as saying I approve or agree with it), because nobody likes a traitor, even if it’s for the right reasons (take, for example, the public ambivalence surrounding Edward Snowden). Moreover, Dietrich’s actions would have reminded the majority of Germans who supported the war that they had a choice, and nobody likes to have his failings exposed. In defense of the average German, however, it was a great deal easier for Dietrich to leave.

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  3. As you know everything is how we define things. To my mind at least neither Dietrich nor Snowden was/is a traitor rather the Nazis betrayed Germany and the NSA has betrayed the US.
    No, not everybody had the means to leave. However, for those who stayed certain choices could have been made and in some cases were. If they did not have the strength for active resistance at least passive then. Not having ever lived under a fascist regime I can only imagine the difficulties involved. Cooperation would certainly always seem to be the safest choice.

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  4. For some reason, her singing style reminds me of Nina Simone.

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