I remember going to see the 1973 re-release of The Sound of Music in the theater as a child. I had a fleeting familiarity with the story-a family of singers who fled the Nazis by walking over the Alps. I thought and hoped the movie would be a chase through the wilderness. Initially disappointed that it was not the wilderness adventure, I still thoroughly enjoyed it for what it was.
Watching The Sound of Music on TV became a yearly event in my house growing up. It remains a great musical and tale, even if it is highly unhistorical. Do read Maria von Trapp’s The Story of the Trapp Family Singers for a wonderful story steeped in the Catholic culture of this family.
Several weeks ago, when we watched the movie as a family on VHS, my wife and I saw the movie in a new light, as an allegory for what is and has been happening in these United States for the past few years. Four characters in the movie (some fictional) illustrate four types of Americans and our country’s increasingly inevitable path to depravity.
Herr Zeller (played by Ben Wright) is an Austrian apologist for the Third Reich and enthusiastically welcomes the Nazi takeover.
Max Detweiler (played by Richard Haydn) is a friend of the von Trapp family, musical talent scout and apolitical. He doesn’t particularly like the Nazis but is keen on avoiding bloodshed and confrontation.
Captain Georg von Trapp (played by Christopher Plummer) is a retired Austrian naval hero and adamantly opposed to the Nazis.
Rolfe (played by Daniel Truhitte) is a young Austrian caught up in the new order.
All these men are Austrian, but each respond differently to the Nazi takeover of Austria. Herr Zeller facilitates it; Max Detweiler watches it, as first with distaste, but cooperates with it as inevitable*; Captain von Trapp resists it and finally flees in order to avoid cooperation; Rolfe joins the takeover, believing the lies and promises that a ‘new order’ will bring to society.
In America today we have these four characters: those who would destroy the moral order and force all others to accept the destruction; those who watch at first with disapproval or indifference, but then capitulate; those who resist and are increasingly the subject of marginalization and ridicule; and those young people who believe the lies, possibly because their teachers and even their parents belong to one of the first two groups.
I don’t tend to pessimism, but I think we have passed the crossroads. The new path is being chosen at an increasingly alarming rate. The time for penance is here. (It has been here for some time, but too many of us have ignored it.) The time for suffering is just around the corner.
Each of us must decide who we are in this cultural war and reform our life accordingly. If we don’t actively choose resistance in our words and deeds, we will become Max Detweiler, if we haven’t already, and our youth will become Rolfe.
This is a call to arms-or more accurately, a call to get on our knees. Our only recourse is prayer, penance, and Christian action; that is to say, personal holiness. It is always the same, but it can’t be restated too often.
*Max Detweiler does, in the end, facilitate the von Trapps’ escape, but his overall character is one of capitulation. I don’t think the viewer is expected to view this act as permanent conversion on Max’s part to become an Austrian patriot.
Oremus pro invicem!