Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rep. Klein changes his mind

Rep. Klein has changed his mind. On Friday, March 23rd, he voted in the House of Representatives to set a timetable for getting out of Iraq, while on February 22nd, at a town meeting here in South Florida, he said that a timetable was a bad idea, and he won’t vote for one. So, he has changed his mind.
O.K., big deal, politicians change their minds all the time; it shouldn’t surprise us. This time I was surprised, because he changed his mind probably for the not-so-usual reasons. Usually, politicians change their minds when somebody comes along with a big wad of money, and says how easy it would be, just this once, to be reasonable, to be realistic, and to get along by going along.
Maybe money changed hands this time, too, but I prefer to think that a civics miracle happened. Enough people, ordinary people without wads of cash to give away, emailed him and phoned him to tell him to vote for the deadline. Now, as a result, maybe, just maybe, the killing will end sooner than later.
I’m particularly gratified by this outcome after watching “Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961) last night on our local PBS station here in south Florida. Set in 1948, in Nuremberg, Germany, Spencer Tracy is Dan Haywood, a smalltime judge from Maine, charged with presiding over the trial of four important German judges charged with crimes against humanity. To us viewers, it’s clear that they are guilty as charged, but all but one of them, Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), protest that they were only doing what was best for Germany: they were being reasonable, realistic, and getting along by going along. As we watched the movie, we recognized familiar themes repeating themselves now, most notably in Guantánamo: Detention without charges, torture, defendants denied representation, secret trials, secret evidence, and summary judgments. All these things happened in Hitler’s Germany; all these things are happening now in Mr. Bush’s America during Mr. Bush’s war. History is being repeated, but maybe, just maybe, for once we “Good Germans” are not always averting our eyes and willing ourselves not to know. Rep. Klein changed his mind. Did that just happen by itself or did we help him stand up and be counted?

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