Some Thoughts on Easter and Easter Films

© 2021 Jim Spence - My two favorite movies shown around Easter time are Ben-Hur and the Ten Commandments. Both stories reflect an aspect of human history that is inescapable. I am speaking of slavery. In Ben-Hur, the good guy, Juda Ben-Hur owns slaves. In the Ten Commandments, the Egyptian pharaoh owned slaves. 

Many generations ago Africans were captured by other Africans in Western Africa and sold into slavery. They were sold to Arabs in the Middle East, and also to Europeans. Many of these victims were transported to the U.S.

Mercifully, slavery ended in America in 1865 after the death of nearly 600,00 Union soldiers. Fast forward seventy-six years and there were calls on Franklin Roosevelt to desegregate the U.S. military. FDR never made that happen. However, after incarcerating all Japanese Americans, he did lead an effort to mobilize a generation of Americans. American sacrifice and commitment to freedom saved the world from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. But it was Harry Truman who desegregated the military.

There are takeaways from all of this. Change comes slowly. More important, 21st Century Americans bear no responsibility for 19th Century slavery or 20th Century segregation, any more than 21st Century Germans and Japanese should be held responsible for the actions of Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tojo.

Oddly, the shift towards growing anti-Americanism around the world has been pronounced in recent years. The trend began about the same time the Marshall Plan funds were done being expended.

When I was in grade school in the early 1960’s JFK'S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France when Charles De Gaulle decided to pull France out of NATO. The consummate politician sensing inexplicable anti-American sentiment within the French population, De Gaulle told Rusk he wanted all U.S. military out of France as soon as possible. The Democrat Rusk responded, "Does that include those who are buried here?" Reportedly, De Gaulle was speechless.

Rusk would be an anachronism today. Democrats simply don’t say those sort of things anymore. Instead they feel more comfortable joining the globalists in engaging in endless searches to find sins that 21st Century Americans can be required to apologize for. We Americans, particularly white men, are all somehow to be held responsible for the actions of our great, great, great, great, grandparents.

At a professional conference in France early in 2005, there were a number of international engineers, including French and American participants. During a break, one of the French engineers drew attention to himself and asked, "Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What does he intend to do, bomb them?" 

An American engineer offered the sobering explanation. "Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people. They are nuclear powered so they can supply emergency electrical power to heavily damaged shore facilities. They have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day so first responders and others can assist victims. They can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day. They carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and the injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships. How many does France have?" There was no response or further explanation required.

Defending America is unfashionable, but the aspirations of would-be immigrants to come to our nation belies the characterization that America is unfair to people of color. Still, it is more fashionable to search for American sins than acknowledge any of the positives.

A  U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included admirals from the U.S., British, Canadian, Australian, and French navies. During a cocktail reception, a group of officers that included personnel from most of the countries was engaged in conversation in English. When a lull in the discussion materialized, a visibly irritated French admiral complained that, whereas continental Europeans all learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, "Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?" 

Without hesitating, an American Admiral replied, "Maybe it's because hundreds of thousands if not millions of Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans died arranging it… you wouldn't have to speak German." The group conversation resumed in English.

I’m a huge tennis fan. I haven’t watched a French Open in nearly twenty years. This story comes to mind. Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83 at the time, arrived in Paris by plane several years ago. At French Customs, it took him a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag. 

"You have been to France before, monsieur?" the annoyed customs officer asked the old man.

 Mr. Whiting nodded acknowledging that he had been to France once before.

"Then you should know enough to have your passport ready," the bureaucrat said admonishingly.

Whiting scratched his head and said, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it." 

"Impossible,” the Frenchman retorted while shaking his head vehemently. “Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France!" 

The old American smiled as he gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained the circumstances, ''Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in June of 1944, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to." The conversation ended and Mr. Whiting was allowed to enter the country. 

There are several points here. Twenty year old American boys who landed at Normandy in 1944 would be 97 years old today. No American should dare claim credit the sacrifices they made. Twenty year old union soldiers who died in the Civil War would be 160 years old today. No American should dare claim credit for the sacrifices they made. CONVERSELY, and this is critical, NO American should be required to take the blame for what those long since dead did or didn’t do. We are all just human beings who are responsible for what WE DO in the present.

One of the greatest Americans ever, Thomas Sowell, a man who has lived the American dream asked the following question last summer: “Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”

It was a rhetorical question. The answer is YES.

Happy Easter!