This image, of student protester, Benno Ohnesorg, in slain in 1967, West Germany, by a West German police officer, was one of the images of the cold war that stuck with me. The woman hovering above the poor head shot fellow looks like an angel from one of those paintings at a war memorial cradling a slain soldier. He had been protesting the state visit of the Shah of Iran. The officer, Karl Heinz-Kurras (pictured) was exonerated. The picture is from Heinz-Kurras’ East German Communist party membership card (NY Times article). He was a member of the East German security apparatus, or Stasi -this being uncovered just this past week.
Benno Ohnesorg became the focal point of a lot of activism and social change, but also the beacon for Red Army terrorists. We don’t know if Heinz-Kurras was acting on orders or it was an accident.
The news of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination will be another flashpoint in our endless culture war. The far right will probably link this event to some chess move from the left to create a martyr. Certainly we are headed that way from all of the tweets and blog entries I’ve had the stomach to review today, because he is being made into a martyr. I wonder if Dr. Tiller (picture below) had any choice in this.
The abortion question is the one issue that threatens our democracy more than anything else because terrorists have acted on their fanaticism. This is our battle -we are in a death match with ignorance. It’s the twenty first century versus the 11th century.
Our battle is lost in big ways and little. The big ways have to do with the dilution of excellence, diminishing of expectations and standards, and the coarsening of discourse. The little ways have to do with the choices we make -football practice over violin practice, watching American Idol versus thinking, and buying crap, lots of it.
The descendants do descend -I see perfectly well mannered and literate seniors accompanied by less educated and less mannered children and even worse grandchildren. If the greatest generation is on the wane, we are living in a post-Periclean age of reduction. The barbarians are inside the gate. They are us.
If we are to get past this, we need to focus on educating, getting people literate in science and the arts. If George Tiller is to become a martyr, let him become a martyr for modernity and the 21st century.