Missing Heroes, Mislaid Guns, Misquoted President

By | April 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

People judge us by what we say. But they could also judge us by what we leave out. Often omissions can be quite revealing about what we hold dear ‒ or what we don’t. 


The missing couple on the “Titanic.”
The film “Titanic” is now being re-released in 3D to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the great ship. The tragedy is even more dramatic in 3D. The film runs 3 hours and 14 minutes. A variety of fictional stories are told, in addition to the actual sinking. But in all that time, with all that fictional dialogue, one very real, very dramatic, story is omitted.
Isidor and Ida Straus were among the wealthy passengers in First Class. Isidor Straus was born in Germany and immigrated to America at the age of nine. His family opened a small store, and slowly he and his brother worked their way up in the world. Eventually they became owners of Macy’s department store. He and his wife Ida had seven children. They booked passage on the “Titanic’s” maiden voyage with their infant grandson, but the baby caught cold and fortunately remained behind.
When the ship struck the iceberg, the inadequate lifeboats were loaded “women and children first.” In those days, continuation of the family ‒ and the nation ‒ took precedence over selfishness and physical strength. The elderly couple approached an unfilled lifeboat with Mrs. Straus’s maid, Ellen Bird. The officer in charge was willing to let all of them board, but Mr. Straus refused as long as women had not yet boarded.
The officer then asked Mrs. Straus to board. According to witnesses, she turned to her husband and said:

We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go.

Miss Bird did board, survived, and verified Mrs. Straus’s courage and devotion. The couple was last seen sitting together in deck chairs. Isidor’s body was recovered; he is buried in the Bronx. Ida’s body was never recovered.
A plaque commemorating their devotion was displayed in Macy’s Manhattan store until recently, when it was removed during a renovation. This demonstrates yet again that change does not necessarily mean improvement.
This moving and well-documented episode was depicted in the 1953 Hollywood film “Titanic,” and also in the 1958 British film “A Night to Remember.” But it was omitted from the current film. Some claim that a scene lasting a few seconds and showing an elderly couple in bed represented the Strauses. People in bed are not role models and transmit no ideals. But a man who refuses to be saved before women are saved, and a woman who refuses to be saved if her husband is not saved, are role models and do transmit ideals ‒ the ideals of courage and loyalty.
Why, in 3 hours and 14 minutes, was there no time for this meaningful scene? Why was there plenty of time for fictional scenes of cowardice and disloyalty, but no time for this real lesson in courage and loyalty? What changed in Hollywood in the last generation? What changed in us? Was there reluctance to show nobility by wealthy people? Was there reluctance to emphasize the sanctity of marriage as a commitment that endures until death, and perhaps beyond? 


The missing guns during World War II.
The film “Schindler’s List” recalls the actions of German businessman Oskar Schindler, a serial adulterer, a heavy drinker, and a member of the Nazi Party. But during World War II, Schindler became an unexpected hero. He recruited about 1200 Jews to work in his factory, making mess kits for the German army. The people he saved now have over 6000 descendants.
Schindler claimed that “his” Jews were doing essential work, thus saving them from deportation to death camps. Schindler risked arrest at any time. Still, he could always claim that “his” Jews were necessary to the war effort.
But there was one action that Schindler could not explain away. There was one action that, if discovered, would have doomed him to certain death, probably by torture. Schindler obtained guns and smuggled them to “his” Jews, so they could defend themselves if the SS saw through his deceptions.
After I saw the film I was motivated to read the book. Only then did I learn about the guns. Only then did I understand the full implications of Schindler’s courage. But I did not recall seeing this episode in the film, so I watched a videotape. The scene wasn’t there.
Why, in 3 hours and 15 minutes, was there no time for this important scene? Was the episode considered unimportant, though it surely would have meant Schindler’s death if it were discovered? Or was the episode considered politically incorrect? Were guns considered so repulsive that they were unsuitable even for those who faced the gas chambers of Auschwitz? Did “gun control” trump “never again”? To Hollywood, is self-defense wrong, even in the most extreme cases? 


The missing invocation of God.
In the film “Pearl Harbor,” Jon Voigt gave a fine performance as President Roosevelt asking Congress for a declaration of war against Japan in the “Day of Infamy” speech. The screen version followed the actual speech, but with a major omission. Roosevelt declared:

With confidence in our armed forces − with the unbounded determination of our people − we will gain the inevitable triumph − so help us God.

But in the film, the last four words were omitted. The film was filled with fictitious episodes, some dramatic, others unrealistic or even silly. But in 2 hours and 3 minutes, there was no time for “So help us God.” Why? Did it detract from the drama? No, it was very dramatic. Was it irrelevant? No, it was entirely appropriate for a respected leader to ask for God’s help in an hour of danger.
So what was the problem with those four words? Or rather, what was the problem with that one word? When people are frightened of dying, or of their loved ones dying, many call upon God. The screenwriters apparently would not do so − fine. But why pretend that others wouldn’t? Why does Hollywood show a myriad of scenes of death and dying, but the dying never pray, and those around them never pray over them?
Why try to construct an artificial world where nobody is religious? Why not depict the real world as dramatically as possible? Is an agenda more important than an accurate and dramatic film? Or is it simply an example of the decline of civilization? Watch a DVD of the older film “Tora Tora Tora,” and then watch a DVD of the more recent film “Pearl Harbor.” Contrast how well each film follows the historical events, and the depth of thought required on the part of the audience. Then I dare you to tell me that things haven’t gone downhill.
Is this deterioration due to dumbing down of our educational system? Or is the cause a more deep-rooted decline, one involving moral values? The liberal elite, exemplified by the educational system, the media, and Hollywood, no longer teach young Americans that marriage is a lifelong commitment to be honored, that the right to life necessarily includes a right to self-defense, or that calling on God in times of trouble is normal, even praiseworthy. And we are poorer for it ‒ poorer morally, poorer intellectually, and now poorer economically as well.
We can live ‒ no, just exist ‒ in a world bereft of the devoted Strauses, devoid of Schindler’s bravest act, and impoverished by the alteration of Roosevelt’s inspiring speech. But how long can we survive the trials and difficulties that will inevitably come our way, without something firm to hold onto? Not long, I fear. And we certainly won’t get it from liberals, in Hollywood or elsewhere.
But what will we get? We will get a mountain of regulations. We will get a tax code that occupies 3.8 million words, over four times the length of the complete works of Shakespeare. We will get a health-care act that fills 2700 pages, plus an expected 8 pages of regulations for each page of law, for a total of 21,600 pages.
What did we expect? We shredded the moral values that helped former generations control themselves. We devalued marriage, we denigrated the right to life, and we demoted God to a curse word. Those who no longer control themselves should expect to be controlled by others ‒ in this case, by a host of unelected, faceless bureaucrats, armed with a mountain of unintelligible regulations which the bureaucrats interpret to suit their own whims. We brought it on ourselves.
Hollywood specifically, and liberals in general, belittle “old-fashioned” values. But this doesn’t mean that these values are no longer needed. Quite the contrary.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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