Sunday, January 4, 2009

Elephant Stories II: Brownshirts

I'm ahead of my boss at work tonight. I've edited all the stories and proofed all the pages. Now I have to wait for him to layout and print out the last two. I could go home and come back, but instead I think I will continue the post I ended so abruptly last night.

Last night, I was just warming up to tell you a few things I'd discovered in-- or as a result of-- Water for Elephants. But then my friend Renee showed up with a German film called Run Lola Run, Swedish glogg and several forms of licorice.
Renee is a devotee of Northern Europe after spending a semester in Finland earlier this year, and she supports my Swedish habit.

She is always full of interesting, eclectic notions. For example, this time she talked about human zoos (a fin de siecle traveling show of human ethnological "specimens"), which she'd learned about recently by watching the new Brad Pitt flick, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Illustration of a "human zoo."
(Is there no end to our shameful history? And when I say "our" I mean our whole species)

Renee also talked about the amount of lipstick the average woman swallows in a lifetime (more than four pounds, apparently). I would never think of challenging her to a Trivial Pursuit game, and I really think she needs her own blog.
Run Lola Run was good, with an innovative rhetorical structure that made me feel half as if I were playing a video game as I watched it.
And the glogg (umlaut over the o but I don't know how to type that...), pronounced [glug], was good if a bit overly sweet. Glogg is a Swedish drink, traditionally drunk at Juletide; it's warmed, spiced red wine with raisins and sliced almonds floating in it.
But last night, I was about to tell you about Brownshirts, which I couldn't help but ponder as I watched Lola run through the streets of contemporary Berlin.

Brownshirts is a reference to some more shameful human history. The events in Water for Elephants take place in the 1930s, before people in the U.S. had really quite grasped what was going on in Europe. The narrator compares some thugs he encounters to Brownshirts.

But who were the Brownshirts?

Nazi precursors to the dreaded SS, the Brownshirts had their heyday when Hitler's whole program was just warming up. Sturmabteilung, the original storm troopers, were thugs that hung around intimidating protesters, trashing voting booths, and bullying opposition as Hitler rose to power.
"Brownshirt tactics," to this day, is a pejorative term that political parties use to disparage one another's actions. It refers to shutting down and shutting up those who hold opposing views; i.e., political fighting through intimidation.

OK, you learn something new every day, don't you? Some bad, some good and some ugly.
As an example of the good (so I leave you on a pleasant note), this morning I heard a lovely and beautiful song at church. It's called "Gather Us In." I'm sorry, but I was unable to find a representation of it anywhere on the internet that wasn't thoroughly objectionable, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Apparently, it only sounds good when sung by the Grace Good Shepherd Lutheran Church of McKinleyville on a Sunday morning in early January.


Kristen said...

Yep, Indie, I sure do often learn new and *curious* things while I read your blog :) In fact, I find myself opening your blog with same excitement I feel when I open a new magazine--the anticipation of expanding my conceptual world! You are a true journalist and teacher--conveyer of truth with a bit of wit ;)

Love Your Way Today!

Anonymous said...

Brown shirts were practical. The dried blood of the victims did not show up on them. The color of dried blood perfectly matched the color of the brown shirts.