Thursday, December 17, 2015

Snoopy and the Red Baron: Virtue, Respect, and Nostalgia

I am told their is a new Peanuts movie out.  I guess at some point I will get around to watching it but I hadn't really paid that much attention.  It's not that I am not without nostalgia, it is just that I am not willing to pay for it.

Then I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal.  The Red Baron is remembered in America but after the legacy of World War II, which rendered the idea of a "war hero" oxymoronic, forgotten in Germany.

Dog lovers can visit Red Baron Beagles, a Danish kennel. And in the town where Von Richthofen grew up, now on Polish soil, there is a Red Baron Foundation, a Richthofen Museum and a Hotel Red Baron. 
Manfred von Richthofen was the most lethal airman in the Great War, with 80 confirmed downings over 20 months. America’s top ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, posted 26 aerial victories in nine months. 
The Baron
Von Richthofen and his Fighter Squadron 1 were so dominant in air combat that they brazenly painted their planes in yellow, purple and blue, largely for easy identification in combat. They became known as the Flying Circus. 
One of several planes Von Richthofen flew was a bright red Fokker DR.1 triplane that was highly maneuverable in dogfights. The aircraft and its hue became forever linked with the pilot, who wasn’t actually a baron. His German title, Freiherr, has no exact English translation.Von Richthofen’s skill and his decision on at least one occasion not to shoot an adversary whose gun had jammed earned him comparisons to chivalrous warriors of a bygone era and burnished his image. 
He “is very like an English public school boy of good family,” reads the introduction to the British translation of his autobiography, published shortly before he was shot down and killed in April 1918. British pilots, the foreword suggests, “would be quite pleased after the war to sit at a table with him and compare notes over cigarettes and liquors.” 
In 1965, cartoonist Charles Schulz brought the late ace back to life as Snoopy’s nemesis, immortalized by the phrase, “Curse you, Red Baron.”

All I had to do was see the headline and, while I had not heard the song since I last played the LP something like thirty-years ago, I could still sing every word and every note right up until the last half of the last verse.

Jesus called us to "love our enemies."  I am not sure that is possible.  I'd question whether or not it is good or a true virtue to love all enemies or at all times.  It is possible to respect them.  It is incumbent to treat them as human beings, fellow travelers, sisters and brothers imbued with the same spark of rationality and frailty.  Moreover, it is within our power to be the kind of a human being, marked by virtue and excellence, who is respected by other men and women striving for virtue, even by those who curse our success, even as Snoopy cursed the Red Baron.

I think my Grandma Nadine bought that Irish Rovers LP for me.  I wonder if my Mom still has it stored somewhere?  That would be some nostalgia that could hold my attention.

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