Sell-by Date

Labels give us the information we need to enact our prejudices immediately. Having been on the receiving end of great cruelty by “conservatives,” for example, I’m immediately cautious of anyone bearing that brand. A strange confession, perhaps, from someone who grew up in that camp. I struggle to remind myself that a label’s not a person. For example, I had a very good education at Grove City College, a conservative school. It wasn’t uniformly that way, of course. Now having a better sense of higher education politics I can see how this might happen—how a school committed to a doctrine might inadvertently challenge that view in the name of education. Quite a few things swayed me to broaden my view as a religion major at Grove City. One of those collegiate experiences was watching Cabaret.

Enough time has passed that I can’t recall the exact context of the film. I suspect it was a weekend entertainment required by some humanities intro course. For a kid from the sticks, seeing a ménage à trois on the big screen made a deep impression when I’d always thought of the world in binary terms. The larger message of the film was not lost on me, however, that those who are prejudiced will always find ways of expressing their hatred, if society will let them. Last night I watched Cabaret again. As a movie it hasn’t aged a day. Society, however, seems to have regressed back to those days when a Nazi could stand and proudly sing at a social gathering and others, distressed by economic hardship, would willingly  overlook the evil that lay in plain sight in the hope of change.

Back when the film was made I suspect the Vietnam War was on the public mind. We thought we’d safely gotten beyond the fascist threat. In the scene where the boarding house residents are complaining about conspiracies between “Jewish bankers and Communists” it became clear that people fall for the same tactics time and again. Rumors, fear, and economic disappointment are a dangerous combination in a democracy. The players have changed but the fact of fascism hasn’t. We can see it being enacted plainly, as it has been every day since 11/9. Accommodation is more deadly than conservatism. As the story opens Nazis aren’t welcome at the Cabaret. By the end they predominate there. Their hateful agenda had been accommodated, normalized by the press. And who can forget the song that could well be the anthem of the current administration, “Money Makes the World Go Round”? There’s an accurate label for that, I’m sure.

7 responses to “Sell-by Date

  1. David Longstreet

    I too went to GCC 1971-75 … survived …. the quality of teaching was very good but smart enough to recognize the ideology which I resent… Too many students would have voted for the idiot in the white house…. They taught me one thing … I learned how to think and this is the very tool I use every day to critique the narrow perspective… Much of it comes from the Kuyper Christian worldview non-sense of Devos and friends…. Segregation 101 ….

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    • Thanks, David! One of the strange factors at play in a place like GCC (81-85 for me) is that it was (can’t say for the present) a great place to learn to think. Classes were challenging and made you defend your outlook. Critical thinking is the enemy of the bizarre ideology that has taken over this country. The value in schools like Grove City was that they promoted actual thinking. I’ve run into schools since then who believe their mission is indoctrination, which is the very opposite of education.

      Thanks for the comment!

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  2. Yet another excellent article, Steve…..

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  3. Reblogged this on karengentle7man and commented:
    Sects and Violence in the Ancient World

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: karengentle7man

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