Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 22, 2017 • 6:30 am

It’s Wednesday, February 22, 2017: remember that there  are but 28 days in this month. The temperatures remain high in Chicago, and today we may hit another record: a high of 71° F (22° C) is predicted. It’s another triple-header food holiday: National Cook a Sweet Potato Day, National Margarita Day, and National Cherry Pie Day. I doubt I’ll partake of any of these, though I do have a homemade cherry pie in my freezer. For Episcopalians in the U.S., it’s the Feast Day of Eric Liddell, the “muscular Christian” portrayed in the movie Chariots of Fire. 

News of the day: once again the judiciary has blocked regressive Republican policy: a federal judge in Texas ruled that the state could not withhold funding from Planned Parenthood.

On February 22, 1943, three members of the White Rose resistance group, Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst, were executed in Nazi Germany for treason: they had been caught distributing anti-Nazi leaflets. They died bravely on the guillotine. Here is the unspeakably sad last scene from the German movie “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,” when the 21 year old Sophie says goodbye to her brother and Christoph, is given a one-minute trial, and then immediately taken to the guillotine. Note: while there’s no blood, there is a scene at the very end when she’s put into the apparatus. Her reported last words were these:

“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

Here’s the real Sophie; imagine the bravery it took to stand up to the Nazis at that time:


And do you remember this day in 1980, when the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviet Union hockey team at the winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York by a score of  4–3? I and millions of Americans were watching that game (even though I’m not a hockey fan); it was a political as well as sporting event, and the Soviet’s defeat was called “the miracle on ice.” The USA were huge underdogs in that game, but won, and went on to secure the gold medal by defeating Finland.  Here are the last two minutes, with the famous “Do you believe in miracles?” comment by Al Michaels. I remember this well:

Notables born on this day include George Washington (1732), Frédéric Chopin (1810), Robert Baden-Powell (1857), Olave Baden-Powell (1889, these two founded the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, respectively), Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892), Edward Gorey (1925), and Ted Kennedy (1932). Those who died on this day include geologist Charles Lyell (1875, Darwin’s pal), Kasturba Gandhi (1944), Oskar Kokoschka (1980), Andy Warhol (1987), Chuck Jones (2002), and Charlotte Dawson (2014).  Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Cyrus are nosing about:

Cyrus: Come on! What have you found there?
Hili: I’m checking to see what you were sniffing here.
In Polish:
Cyrus: Chodź już, co tam znalazłaś?
Hili: Sprawdzam coś tu obwąchiwał.

46 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

    1. It has not snowed in Chicago since Dec 18. And the temperature has been in the 60sF (16C) for a week – getting up to 70F as Jerry pointed out.

  1. Washington’s birthday and we learn more about the man, all the time. Doubtful that most Americans understand his impact or his roll in creating the form and government we have. What we would have without Washington is impossible to say.

    1. During his administration, Adams leaned toward a more British style government run by aristocrats and some thought making Washington a king would work best. Jefferson leaned toward a more radical democratic approach. Washington tactfully straddled the two views. When Adams took over Jefferson resisted strongly. When Jefferson finally got his chance in the White House, he sold off some of the gold and silver accouterments Adams had accumulated and received guests in his slippers.

      1. If Washington intercepts a redcoat’s musket ball sometime during the conflict, perhaps the Revolution collapses and British rule is reimposed. America subsequently moves gradually and peacefully to self-government within the British Empire just as Canada, Australia and New Zealand did, and with a local variant of the Parliamentary System. The French Louisiana Territory is absorbed after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. Slavery is abolished early in the 19th century and there is no Civil War. Westward expansion is achieved in an orderly and relatively humane fashion, as in Canada, and with the Native American population protected by the troopers of the Royal American Mounted Police. In 2017 the Pax Britannica bestrides the world, humanity basks in a golden age of democracy, learning and humanist values, and the neutered Christian churches are reduced to an irrelevant, powerless rump. Fantasy, I know, but it doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

        1. Right there at the first I could see your imagination but it quickly headed for more unlikely ground. Staying within the British Empire seems likely and then very possibly breaking off in parts with the Northeast staying with Britain the longest. The removal of slavery is unlikely until such time in the south that it would become an uneconomical and bankrupt idea. My guess is this would happen late in the 19th century.

          In any case, the United States as we know it today, would not exist.

          1. If the US was under British rule, the removal of slavery probably would have taken place sooner (although perhaps resulting in a similar revolt to the civil war that actually took place). After all, the British were the first nation to abolish slavery, even sending its navy out onto the seas to intercept and destroy slave ships.

            It’s funny, people act like the west was responsible for all slavery in the world, but the fact is that slavery was a staple of civilization since the beginning, until the west gradually ground it almost to a halt. I say “almost” because it still takes place today in some places that are the very opposites of the west.

            The west didn’t start slavery, but it was the part of the world that attempted to stomp it out.

            1. Assuming the Colonies had stayed with Britain I don’t think that means they would have had any more success in eliminating slavery in them. The fact that Britain made slavery illegal in Britain…so what. It was illegal in the Northern States as well. It did not do anything to the Southern States where it was a fact of life. Do you really think Britain would have gone to war with the Colonies again over Slavery?

              1. Only because Britain was essentially going to war on the high seas against other countries over slavery. That’s what brings up the possibility. They were taking their ships as far as Africa to hunt down slavers. They got pretty crazy about it. It was awesome

              2. Strange since they nearly at one point sided with the South in separating, mostly because of the cotton. Recognition of the Confederacy by Britain was a constant worry by the North for a time.

          2. In any case, the United States as we know it today, would not exist.

            Nor, I suspect, would Australia. AFAIUI, “transportation” in 1760 meant “to America.” When the colonies rebelled, Britain needed to either develop a concept of domestic imprisonment for reform, or to find a new prison colony. Cue Australia in general and Sydney in particular.

        2. Richard Dreyfuss and Harry Turtledove published an alternative history novel entitled “The Two Georges.” Its premise is that George Washington and George III reached an agreement in which to end the Revolution and the colonies remained in the British Empire. The book speculates on how America might look today if such an event had actually taken place.

        3. But what about American exceptionalism? Under your scenario, how do you get Trump? We’d be just another Western democracy exhibiting enlightenment powers. Where’s the bravado and rugged individuality that leads to a place like Texas, and wars of opportunity? We’d need a new name for the bible belt.

          1. We’d need a new name for the bible belt.

            What’s wrong with “the Mid-Continental Seaway”? Once we get the warming going full-speed, it’ll be increasingly accurate.

              1. Wars will be fought (probably literally) over which side is the Palestinian side and which is the Israeli side.
                No humour in this post, I’m afraid.

        4. Slavery is abolished early in the 19th century and there is no Civil War.

          It was touch and go as to whether Britain would enter the Civil War on the side of the South, since the cotton trade was so important to them. It’s hard to say which way the influence would have gone if the plantation owners were British citizens.

      2. Yes, Jefferson was the opposition party – really just a continuation of what had already developed after the Constitutional Convention. The Federalists (Hamilton’s Party) and the Anti-federalists, later to become Jefferson’s (democratic-republicans).

        Adams was really the only Federalist President as Washington believed parties were disgusting and not good and proper government. However, Washington was certainly a Constitutionalist and a true 18th century man.

    2. Personally I hope it was an onion roll that he had while forming our country and government.

      I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist!

  2. I often wonder if I would have the courage of someone like Sophie Scholl: to put my life on the line for what I know is right, in the face of likely eventual execution and without anything close to certitude that I would make a difference. If I’m honest with myself, I have to say no. 99.9% of people wouldn’t be that brave, and I can’t imagine I would be among that exceedingly small minority. It’s easy to be brave and speak up in a country like the US, but how would any of us fare in Nazi Germany? It’s an important thing to ponder every once in a while, for many reasons.

    On the subject of the Miracle on Ice: as a hockey fan and player, I can’t possibly tell you all how many times I’ve watched that game. Somehow, you can feel the importance of it through every moment, no matter how many times you’ve seen it before. My biggest question has always been whether the Russians would have lost if Tikhonov (the USSR coach) didn’t replace Tretiak in the second period. If Tretiak had played the entire game, it’s very likely the USSR would have won. It was an enormous blunder on Tikhonov’s part.

    1. An ice hockey fan, too, who has never played and can barely hold Self up upon two razor – thin blades, let alone, perform the mind – blowing work of said such players, BJ, I as well recall That Game ! My third baby boy was only nearing five months of age and himself down upon a terribly, terribly cold (northern Midwest in February) linoleum floor; but we all (the other two were 18 months old and 41 months old) could not leave off viewing that screen.

      At its final buzzer those Three Babes, now men, do not remember The Feeling; but O my, I so do ! Kinda like last early November’s Feeling after Our Cubbies took the World Series ! That Same One ! I rode it out quite a mighty far stretch — The Feeling !

      And this as Cherry Pie Day ? could this ‘ne be connected to the (Geo) Washington DC president who mythically did not (apparently) use “alternative facts” to LIE about truly important stuffs such as … … chopping down such trees ? !


      1. I wasn’t even born yet when the game was played, but it still hasn’t stopped me from seeing it too many times to count because of my hockey loving self.

    2. Somehow I’m reminded of a coin-op hockey game a local (to my parents) bowling alley used to have. For some reason, it was a mixed US/Canada vs. USSR game, and I remember wondering about that. Someone once told me it was because cold war victories sometimes require collaboration or something. (It was only later I read about the Miracle on Ice and (from earlier) Paul Henderson.)

  3. Strictly speaking Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouting movement including the Girl Guides. Olave Baden-Powell became the head of the Girl Guides but not till several years after it started (the first head was his sister Agnes). The Girl Guides own founding story has girls (as in under 18) demanding to be scouts like the boys and Robert Baden-Powell acceding to their demand by setting up a separate organization (Guides though in the US Juliette Gordon Low, who was a friend of Baden-Powell and had been involved in Guiding in England, decided to use Girl Scouts instead of Guides). Girl Scouts and Guides call February 22 “Thinking Day” as it is a day to think and learn about their fellow girl scouts and guides around the world.

  4. Wow, the Sophie Scholl is unbelievable.

    Re the USA win in hockey. I’m Canadian, but apparently wasn’t issued the Canadian “hockey gene” in my make up. I can not find myself moved by hockey at all. My dad and brothers are hockey fanatics though.

      1. Really an excellent film. Those Soviet players were absolute machines. And boy, when they showed up in the NHL, even though none of them were in their primes, they changed the face of how the best players in the world played the game (specifically by the collection of them on the Red Wings in the mid-90s).

      2. Thank George. I appreciate the recommendation.

        Though…not having an interest in hockey, it’s hard to get motivated to watch a movie about hockey. Human interest story or otherwise.

        Maybe some day for a plane ride….

    1. A Canadian who doesn’t love hockey?

      You’re a traitor to your country and your heritage. Normally I would make a joke about how the Canadian hockey police should kidnap you and execute you in public, but PCC(E) just had to include Sophie Scholl in today’s post and render my planned joke too distasteful to make.

  5. When I was still teaching high school, I used to show the Sophie Scholl film as part of History class, when we studied WW11 and the Holocaust. The students were always engrossed, most of them being not that far in age from Sophie. It stimulated great discussion, sometimes around the point “Would I have been brave enough?”, but mostly about the fragility of democracy and how it must be defended and guarded.

    Lately, I have been seeing, on Facebook, comments by some of those same students, about the Trump “situation” and am greatly heartened by what they are saying. Some lessons they have learned well!

    1. So, educative mission satisfactorily fulfilled and teacher’s political views adequately reproduced by students?

    2. As I said in my post above, I think it’s easy for us all to speak up in our society today, but very few (and I mean like .01%) of us would have that kind of courage in a place like Nazi Germany.

  6. The scene just before the execution of Sophie Scholl is not her trial, which is shown earlier in the movie, it is more like a recordation of the process of execution – she is told that her sentence is confirmed, and the executioners are told to proceed, and the time of her entry into the execution chamber and time of actual execution are written down – which is why one of the pair at the table looks at his watch. Perhaps a German speaker could confirm.
    While what the White Rose did would probably not have resulted in death sentences in an Allied country during the war, I’m sure it would have been treated as sedition.
    In a Catholic cathedral in one of the river cities in Germany (I forget where), there is a stained glass window – post-war, obviously – that our guide pointed out as a real oddity in that it contained a picture of Sophie Scholl: odd not only because it is usually saints that are depicted, but Scholl was Lutheran. The same window, the guide noted, also contained two other people not traditionally represented in Catholic church windows, but I forget who they were.

    1. The trial scene is quite riveting, with Roland Freisler, President of the People’s Court, (and fucking maniac) screaming at the prisoners. Actual footage of him on Youtube is scary-fascinating. In a movie on his life, I have the perfect actor: Steven Miller.

  7. Thank you for telling about Sophie, Hans and Christoph again. Their courage and beauty should never be forgotten.
    After about 2 years of Hili Dialogues I am beginning to understand a little of Polish language. Thank you! But the spelling continues to be formidable.

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