Saturday, February 14, 2009


Jane Hamsher: DC Journalists Love GOP Obstructionists, But Americans Don't!

There appears to be a pretty big gap between what DC journalists think Americans think, and what Americans actually think. No better example of this can be found than the "winners" and "losers" that DC media are proclaiming in the wake of the passage of the stimulus bill, and what DailyKos/Research 2000 polling on the subject indicates. Read more at Huffington Post
We're as sick as our secrets...
THE READER is a film that will not stop haunting me. I often think about moral dilemmas, but this one is a puzzle. Below is my analysis of what I consider the best film of the year. Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen it yet, please do not read the review. But first a few items:

"Some of the poorest people in the world will never know the name Barbara Lee, yet owe their lives to her determination in the fight against AIDS. Her sense of justice — and injustice — runs about as deep as it's possible to go." - Bono, lead singer of U2 and cofounder of the anti-poverty organization ONE.

On Monday February 16, 2009, Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee will be the guest on the Basham and Cornell Radio Show at 8 am Pacific Time on AM 1230 KLAV in Las Vegas.

Lee gained national attention in 2001 as the only member of congress to vote "No" on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), stating that she voted no not because she opposed military action but because she believed the AUMF, as written, granted overly-broad powers to wage war to the president at a time when the facts regarding the situation were not yet clear.

Lee is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and was the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Her new book is titled “Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks for Me.”

Ad: From the Las Vegas Review Journal

Basham and Cornell Radio Show at 8 am Pacific Time on AM 1230 KLAV in Las Vegas and simulcast worldwide on the web.

THE READER ... a review by Lydia Cornell

"There's an often-heard saying in the recovery community: “We're as sick as our secrets.” Over the years, I have met many people in abusive situations who have paid a great price to eventually extricate themselves from the vicious cycle of manipulation and recrimination. Sexual and physical abuse, in particular, scars the victim deeply. Often the victims falsely blame themselves. Recovery from abuse involves breaking the conspiracy of silence and deception perpetrated by abusers. Only the truth, however painful, can really set us free. Secrecy keeps us chained to our abusers.

At the heart of the ‘twelve steps’, in Step Four and Five, is the willingness to break the power of secrecy by admitting to God, yourself, and another person the exact nature of how you have wronged other people. Until we can open up and get such things off our chest, we are still stuck with guilt, recrimination, and self-doubt. We really are as sick as our secrets." The Rev. Ed Hird

If Hanna Schmitz, played by Kate Winslet, hadn't been so ashamed of not being able to read, she wouldn’t have preyed upon weaker people and manipulated them. Of course her pathology would have manifested in other ways — which goes along with my theory that many of us are controlled by our ancient wounds, our "woundedness" — and this perverts itself in devious ways. Our low self-esteem, our feeling "less than" others — results in various kinds of retaliation such as gun-shootings on school campuses.

There is another level of subconscious political jealousy going on here: Hanna was uneducated, and of a lower class than the very Jews in her prison camps, who had learned to read.

Hitler had brainwashed the Hitler Youth into believing that Jews were the ones taking away German’s rights, money and education. But to begin with, the mere fact that "not being able to read” is her deepest shame – deeper than murder – makes her a peculiar brand of sociopath. She blindly follows the party line, like any authoritarian follower. She either believed that Jews were less than human beings — or she didn't even think about it, as her indoctrination would confirm.

Is Hanna a sociopath? A pedophile/rapist? A cold-hearted narcissist? I was considering how I would feel about a loved one who had once been a Nazi prison guard and had allowed women to burn alive in a church. What if Hanna had been one of my relatives, who thought nothing of murdering Muslims and abortion doctors because she was brainwashed listening to Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter or Michael Savage or Mark Levin (or Lou Dobbs) all day on right wing hate radio – and had been convinced that abortion is a sin and crime, and that she was doing the right thing in killing live human doctors in order to save innocent fetuses — and you had no idea of this years earlier?

Hana represents Germany itself. Survivor guilt and all the bad feelings toward Germany are contained in her resigned expression. In other words, Hanna represents all Germans, Christians and death-camp guards who were just there following orders without thinking too deeply. Germany itself is culpable for being so passive as a nation – in not stopping this evil. The boys’ family, everyone was responsible, not just a few guards.

The film reminds us that all the German people knew what was happening, yet they did nothing to stop Hitler. Even the Christian churches were complict. Except for a few courageous souls who hid Jews, protested or fled —  the German people were all guilty. This was their shame.

Again, we are only as sick as our secrets. Here is why "The Reader" is so profound to me:

1. If Hanna hadn’t has such shame about not being able to read, she wouldn’t have preyed on weaker people and manipulated them. Her shame ultimately did her in. If not for her secret, she wouldn’t have taken the boy under her wing. She did everything for self-serving interest of “being read to.” (Side note: Later, it would be one thing if the books he was sending to her in prison were books of the Holocaust or Anne Frank – or books that would make her sympathetic to the Jews whom she had killed, but he was reading her some very bourgeouise books.)
2. This is a striking character flaw of the alcoholic, who is ego-riddled: the tendency to hide a bad motive under a good motive. All for selfish interests.
3. Her shame ultimately did her in. But to begin with , not being able to read, being her deepest shame and longing – the only way she can live with herself and maintain the secret (either secret) is to remain aloof and cold. You must keep your distance from people if you want to keep your secrets.

But again, the author makes a point: everyone was doing it; everyone In Germany, especially the Christians in whose church we were meeting in.

The only way she could live with herelf was to be cold and aloof; to cut hersef off from human emotion. She could only move forward with the bad habits of the past, the survival habits. We don’t change that easily. It takes a while for our mind to match our actions. Old habits die hard. Okay, so let’s say Hanna shut a part of herself off from feeling the horrors of her past. Let’s say she has tried to numb herself, convince herself she was obeying orders, doing the right thing.

Why is she any more guilty than every other German during the war?

The grown-up lover played by Ralph Fiennes, was also guilty of judging Hanna. He did not freely forgive. Instead of redemption, he judged her. He had a chance to do what Christ did, and forgive her, love her, heal her. That’s all anyone ever needs anyway. We are all judging each other, but do we really know what kind of background or childhood the person has been through?

We are all judging each other, but what do we really know?

Ralph Fiennes couldn’t forgive he and wouldn’t hug her. In prison, when she was an old woman, he asked her accusingly , “What did you learn?”

“I learned to read.” She said very coldly after saying it didn’t matter what she said because "the dead were already dead." She showed no heart or feelings after 20 years in prison.

Ralf Fiennes stiffened; he judged her. He got up to leave and she tried to make a gesture to hug him but he withdrew his affection. By pulling away from her, he sealed her fate. The way she reached out with her shoulder in such small subtle moves, was humbling on her part. It was “acquiescence.”

Now, questions:

“I learned to read” she said, very coldly, without any remorse or compassion.
a. Did Hanna actually gain a conscience? Did she read any deep books on this -- or just bourgeiouse fluff?
b. Could she have deliberately said this to test him?

Okay – some choices:
A. His rebuff of her hug shows her that there was no purpose in life for her. She would be worse off in the normal, non-prison world. Everyone would hate her.

*** B. She loved him. Her love for him, their love — and his rebuff — ultimately made her see herself clearly – that she couldn’t live with herself. LOVE HEALED HER HEART. It made her see her crimes clearly because they caused her lover to hate her. She woke up and was able to kill herself as her final gesture of love. This action of killing herself was a gift to her lover. It validated him in the real world too. It made all his actions seem noble. By knowing him, she was changed and awakened.

Killing herself was her first and only selfless act: it was proof that she had learned by his love, that he had served a purpose and had not lived his life in vain. It was also a way to free his soul. And she knew it was the only way she could live anymore — without secrets, totally "seen."

C. Love had made her become whole, but ashamed, perhaps for the first time ever in real life. Perhaps she had never been loved or trusted to do the right thing before this man came into her life and messed up the compartments she had so neatly kept separate.

Perhaps as a Hitler Youth, she had never seen the world through another lens. She had her life kept in separate parts, pushing down feelings and conscience and moral certitude. Pushing down the truth and intuition. (As many neocons do.) That’s how she coped with life: her job as a guard was to protect prisoners from escaping; to prevent chaos at all costs. The German efficiency. Moral choices had no place here. Emotion and morality had no overlap. This was always respected in her youth and at work. She was so honest in the trial because she had nothing to hide. These were the facts and the laws of the time. You do not disobey orders.

Who knows? She may have been on of the Hitler Youth that ratted and turned on their parents.

But here’s the rub: "I think the big question in the book is how is it possible to love your parents, your pastors, your teachers or, indeed in the circumstance used in the book, your lover who has been involved in such a terrible past, whether as a direct perpetrator or as a bystander? How is it possible to love?" Daldry explains. "We were trying to be very clear about the degrees of her moral illiteracy, whether it is the relationship with a minor or what she was engaged in in the [concentration] camps. We tried to keep her ambiguous, not totally understood or understandable; but obviously we were very concerned about how to calibrate the sympathy towards her without ever allowing her to get off the hook."

Winslet believes the film neither condemns nor condones the Hanna Schmitz character, which puts the viewer in the position of deciding.

"We didn't want to give answers," notes Winslet. "We only wanted to ask questions and have an audience walk away questioning everything and possibly questioning their own morals if, even for one split second, they felt any empathy for Hanna Schmitz. I knew it wasn't my job to try to make an audience sympathize with her or humanize her or warm her up. I had to make her a person. I had to make her real."

But it makes one wonder: where was her moral conscience and heart? Why and how could it have been so hardened? How could she have locked those women in the church – and still gone to the church in the country and not be bothered by her conscience? Separate compartments.

On their country bike ride, “Love saves a soul.” Hana admitted she loved him. “Only love can save you.”

* Hitler Youth indoctrination made her cold, unfeeling, robotic, German
* It is possible, this cold aloofness is her way of being the counterpart or opposite to love.
* Because she has never felt love, or been treated with love, she doesn't know love.
* Out at the country church, Hanna sits down to hear the beautiful voices of children singing, never once letting on that she has another separate compartment where she puts "dead church people." She has not allowed her two sides to merge here.

We are all guilty – all of Germany is guilty – Do not judge one another. By Him judging her at the end, he has her fate in his hands. He is being the guard at that point. He has the power to end her life or make her live with his own brand of shame. He has manipulated her with reading gifts, just to try to get her to redeem herself and say she’s sorry. He was manipulative too – she was his first love. He kept hoping to save her, hoping she was redeemable. The moment she disappointed him by not answering the way he wanted, he closed the door on Love and withdrew his love. He judged her, He was not compassionate toward her.

NO MATTER how much Hanna “deserved” her fate and guilt and shame – it is still not the Christ idea - "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The ultimate loving end to the circle of life would be to forgive your fellow man. He should not have had to force Hanna to take that test. To break the cycle of the Holocaust, he should have simply loved her. His love would have saved her life. But he couldn’t forgive her. He was not God and did not know the depth of her shame. But he demanded her to have the same sense of shame and regret he would have. He demanded her to have learned the lesson on his timetable and in his style. If he had wanted her to realize her sin, I wonder why he recorded so many tapings of frivolous books for her to listen to.

So, were as sick as our secrets. The Ralph Fiennes character breaks the cycle of secrets. With his daughter, he is guilty of being equally secretive, which could be fatal to them both. His secret shame of having been lovers with this Nazi guard has kept him distant and locked off from his daughter. He finally takes her to Hanna's grave and tells her the whole story.

We must not hold ourselves above others and separate from others in the human race -- because we are all ONE. Love is our unifying principle. We all have love as our true source, but we have forgotten. Love created us and we are here to love and accept ourselves and transfer that love and acceptance to others.

I just have to congratulate ROBERT PLANT (photo below; in his heyday he was beyond gorgeous) ALISON KRAUSS and COLDPLAY for their Grammy wins. I have always loved Robert Plant, and Coldplay is my favorite!! I'm also glad Adele won for her brilliant "Chasing Pavements." Have you seen Adele's heart-wrenching video?


Photo: Jim Hillis and me

Full Circle: My good friend Jim Hillis was in town last week. Once a male model, he's still stunning — and you can read some of his brilliant pieces on He's a humanitarian and amazing human being, who was in town to help a few homeless women get their benefits and restore their dignity. His partner Tommy is also a total sweetheart!