National Amnesia - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1923215

National Amnesia

I have just come back from eight magic days of traveling with my 13-year-old California granddaughter to show her Vienna, the beauty of Salzerkammergut, the historic charms of Salzburg.

We listened to the excellent voices at the Vienna State Opera, saw the Klimt collection at the Belvedere, the Quattro Cento at the Kunsthistorische Museum, the current Munch exhibit at the Albertina. We walked in the Vienna Woods, rode the giant Ferris wheel, ate Kaiserschmarrn with plum sauce at Demel.

On an inside wall of the Karlskirche, we saw a wall plaque that exhorted us to remember and honor “the brave young people who sacrificed their blood and gave their lives from 1939 to 1945 to free Austria.” Free Austria? In World War II, as in World War I, Austria fought on the side of the Germans — against the French, British and Americans, losing both times. National amnesia? A victimhood fantasy?

All of the above, but also this:

On Sunday, we attended Sunday Mass at the architectural gem that is the chapel of the Imperial Castle, where we heard the Vienna Choir Boys. Thereafter, we also listened to the priest’s sermon. Here’s what he said, translated and paraphrased:

“In Austria, I can easily explain principles by using as illustration our major national sport: soccer. Think about the goalie. He stands between the soccer ball and the two posts of the goal. … If he stays rigidly in the middle of the goal posts, the ball will pass him by either on the right or on the left.”

How’s that for situational morality? So much for right and wrong.

No situational morality for us, the exceptional Americans. Our founding fathers said that all men are created equal.

Of course, bunches of those founding fathers owned Black men and Black women and Black children as their personal property. That changed with Lincoln’s freeing of slaves in 1865, didn’t it? Well, we did lynch a lot of Black men and Black boys.

But we never burned books.

Today, some of us exceptional American parents storm into school meetings to get some books off the shelves to protect our children.

We also never moved people into concentration camps.

Well, we had to drive Japanese American citizens out of their homes and businesses on the West Coast for national security.

Don’t get the wrong idea about Austrians. There is the Hundertwasser Museum, which shows this artist-architect’s vision of humanity, his pleading for people stepping humbly into nature and minimizing the intrusion by their houses, their homes.

As we exceptional Americans insist on the myth of our country’s “color-blindness,” let us remember the words Hundertwasser said: “He who forgets his past has no future.”

Evelyn Konrad

Attorney at law