20 November 2008

A Past Alive In This Week's Headlines

This week, I've seen two news stories that illustrate how, even with all of what is going on in the world, people are fascinated with parts of the past that somehow remain a source of fascination:
1.) Pirates off Somalia
Granted, these aren't the sort of dashing Johnny Depp pirates we might envision when we hear the word, but these guys are the real deal. After all, the open sea is a very, very lonely place, and it wouldn't take much for even a small gang of armed men to take over a ship many, many times bigger than the one they left from. This week, however, the pirates upped the ante by taking over an oil tanker full of crude oil – a first in any part of the world. From what I've read, the oil tanker's crew are being treated well, as most hostages taken by these pirates seem to be well cared for. However, I can see this changing, and I'll give you a historical example as to why.
In the First World War, and in parts of the Second, German U-Boat crews would often surface and give warnings to the crew of the ships they were going to sink. They would give them time to take to the lifeboats, and would sometimes even radio in a distress signal to make sure help arrived.
However, as the war went on, the merchant ships became more and more heavily armed, and would often attack a submarine that surfaced top attack it. So, with this in mind, the submarines would attack without warning, and the whole idea of helping the crew of the sunken ship went by the wayside. So will it be with these pirates. The more heavily armed the opposition becomes, the worse the victims will be treated by their captors. I'm not saying that these pirates don't deserve what they get, but people should read the writing that's already dripping from the wall: this is just the beginning, and pity the poor crews who may find themselves as "guests" of the pirates in the future.
2.) Hitler HAD only got one ball.
The British newspaper Sun reported this week that a former Imperial German Army medic confessed to a priest, shortly before he died, that he treated then-Corporal Hitler for World War One injuries that resulted in the loss of one of his testicles. It serves as confirmation for what the English thought for years (as evidenced by the nursery rhyme "Hitler has only got one ball/ The other is hanging on the wall") What makes this interesting is that Hitler has been dead for (checks calendar) 63 years now. It is interesting to me how much a character of fascination he remains to people. I admit; I'm one of them.
Now, let me put this out in front: there is a vast difference between being "interested" in something and "actively condoning it." But that said, Hitler remains very much an enigma even after all of the books I've read about him and Nazi Germany. Usually, evil is somewhat simple to explain away: Saddam Hussein and Josef Stalin were simply bad men who took it out on others. But for some reason, Hitler remains an aloof and detached historical figure. I suppose it makes sense; the people who were closest to him said they never really got to know Hitler as a man, so why should we find any sort of insight through second- and third-hand accounts?

The past, contrary to what some think, is more than musty pages on a library shelf or a dusty exhibit in a museum. It's alive - as these stories illustrate. Pirates remind us that, despite our technical mastery of the world around us, problems from the era of Julius Caesar still remain. Hitler's one ball medic confession reminds us that memory serves us better than we think; we remember that the actions of one man can ripple across both the world and the ages.
Even if he's only got one nut.

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