Today's post title might seem a little odd, but I couldn't help myself. I love joining words and names together in creative ways. It was simply too irresistable to pass up, especially on a day like today. What happened today in history, you ask? Why, the world's most evil tyrant was born: Adolf Hitler. It's hard to imagine how different our world would be today if he hadn't been born. The map of Europe would probably look different. Six million Jews wouldn't have perished. Israel might not have been created. Even the Middle East might've looked different.
And speaking of Hitler, since Pope John Paul II died a few years ago, Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany was selected as the successor (over a Brazilian bishop, whom the Catholic Church should have chosen just for history's sake). He chose Gregory XVI for his official papal name. Though I'm not Catholic, Pope John Paul II was pope for so long, even today, it's hard for me to realize that he's gone. I can't get used to the new guy as pope. No matter what he does, he'll never fill the shoes of the last pope. In fact, what would the 1980s be without Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev?
One thing disturbing about the current pope was his participation as a Hitler Youth. While it's easy to claim that he had no choice in the matter, conformity and compliance to something that goes against what you believe is hardly the mark of a true leader. And who knows how much of what he was taught was ingrained in him, even if he didn't agree with everything he was taught? He could still retain some of what he was indoctrinated with. And his history as one of the more conservative cardinals seems to hint at his easy comfort with fascist tendencies.
The American media seems to be on a lovefest with the Pope's visit to the U.S. To me, he's just an archaic reminder of a corrupt church that is so far removed from the Christ they claim to be the uninterrupted organization he started on earth. Did Jesus wear silly outfits or ride around in an armored Mercedes "Popemobile" (or "Christmobile")? Of course, these are different times...what with crazy terrorists and easy access to semi-automatic weapons. But, it galls me that people claim that the pope is in the equivalent spot that Jesus would occupy if he were alive on earth today. Somehow, I think Jesus would shun the wealth and power of the Catholic Church in favour of wandering the streets among the downtrodden, humble and simple. He is the opposite of the materialistic Catholic Church (which took wealth from poor countries and built many cathedrals through slave labour).
Moving on from Pope Benedict, I come next to Benedict Arnold, infamous in American history for betraying the Revolution. In fact, not much was taught about him other than that he was a traitor. In history books, that's all he was known for. Which is a shame, because I finally watched the film "Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor" starring Aidan Quinn as the notorious patriot-turned-loyalist and Kelsey Grammar as George Washington. This movie came out in 2002 and has been in my netflix queue for years. Since I won't be able to see HBO's "John Adams" mini-series until it's on DVD, I decided to watch other films about our Revolutionary War figures. The movie was made for the Arts and Entertainment cable network, so the quality is less than what HBO or a major film production would be. However, it was still pretty good.
What struck me most is that Benedict Arnold was a hero who helped the patriots win key early battles at Saratoga and on Lake Champlain. He even tried to overtake Canada (which only consisted of Montreal and Quebec at the time), as the Americans had hoped it would become the 14th colony to join the rebellion against the British Empire. These days, Canadians joke about Quebec's constant desire for independence would render Canada as the 51st state (not that that's a bad thing!). What caused Benedict Arnold to switch sides were several factors...such as Congress not willing to back pay what he's due, the loss of his shipping business, the promotion of Horatio Gates over him, and his second wife's loyalist tendencies. She apparently told him that the patriots had no chance of winning and if he backed the wrong side, he'd be hung as a traitor. If he switched to the loyalist (royalist), the King would most likely name him as "Viceroy of America." Ego got the better of him and he made arrangements to keep weapons under lock and key at the fortress of West Point (now known as the military academy for the U.S. Army) on the Hudson River. He planned to have General Washington caught unaware at his home when the British moved in for the surprise attack. If the British gained control of the entire Hudson River, it would've most likely ended the Revolution because New England was east of the Hudson and considered the most rebellious. It would've chopped off the head of the American colonies, separating New England from the other colonies.
By divine providence, the patriots captured a British officer (John Andre) who had in his possession a safe passage letter signed by Benedict Arnold. When the message was delivered to General Washington, the treasonous plot was discovered, but Arnold had escaped to the British ship waiting on the Hudson River. The most interesting thing about the whole deal is that Benedict Arnold lived the rest of his days in England, where he was never fully trusted by the British. I guess that's the moral of the history: nobody trusts a traitor, even those on the side you end up joining. He apparently died an unhappy man and was dressed in the bluecoat of the American patriots shortly before he died. Had he not betrayed the patriots, he most likely would've been one of the heroes of our Revolution.
Lastly, we move from Benedict Arnold to Arnold Schwarzenegger, undoubtedly the Republicans wet dream of a presidential candidate. All I can say is thank God for the foresight of the Founding Fathers to not allow foreign born citizens the chance to run for president. Though that might change someday, it requires an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is one of the most difficult things to change (requiring 2/3rds of the state legislatures to approve--or is it 3/4ths?).
I'm no fan of him because I think the way he came into the governor's office is disturbing. He has personal ties to Enron and it was Enron's manipulation of energy in California that caused the crisis of rolling black outs, high rates, and ultimately a huge dissatisfaction of Governor Gray Davis, who had won reelection by a comfortable margin in 2002. The Republican Party in California has the poor strategy of nominating only the most religiously conservative Republican nominee for Governor, guranteeing a loss each time. Arnold Schwarzenegger could never hope to win the nomination of the Republican party through a primary process in which mostly evangelical and cultural conservatives have a heavy impact. His best way of acquiring office was through a ballot initiative created by progressives called a recall. Ironically, Schwarzenegger was in a 1990 movie called "Total Recall." Coincidence?
It's grossly unfair to blame Governor Gray Davis for the energy crisis that was manipulated by Enron. It wasn't known then, but Enron was in deep financial crisis and shuffled money around to hide their losses from auditors. They saw that the best way to bring in money was to manipulate energy in California to raise rates. Governor Davis might not have been the best governor, but he won a clear majority in his reelection and he wasn't caught doing anything illegal nor was he incompetent. Why he paid the price when more incompetent leaders remain in office (cough, cough, Bush, Cheney, cough, cough) is baffling. But the recall election became such a farce with well over a hundred candidates, including Gary Coleman and Arianna Huffington, a porn star, a college student, and anyone else with money for the filing fee and the ego's need for attention.
So, that's how Schwarzenegger was able to accomplish his dream of becoming governor of Cah-LEE-forn-yah. His fellow Austrians cheered his accomplishment as local boy who made good in America (though a few years later, they removed his name from a sports arena when he wouldn't do away with the death penalty). What's overlooked was that a young Schwarzenegger praised Adolf Hitler as a person he admired. His own father was a member of the Nazi Party and became a member of the SS (Secret Police). Considering the Nazi ideal of superhuman strength, it's no wonder that the steroid-enhanced musclehead like Schwarzenegger is a fan. And despite his liberal cultural views and Democratic wife (Maria Shriver, daughter of JFK's sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver), he is the most popular Republican politician today. If he was born in America, he most likely would've run for president this year. Perhaps if they can get the Constitution changed in time for 2012 or 2016, he might run. But I hope not. The last thing we need is a Nazi-admiring, sexually-harassing, B-actor with a horrible accent as leader of the free world.