Thursday, August 24, 2006

The answer is (d).

Günter Grass is a bad man because:

a) He was a member of the Waffen SS.

b) He kept his membership in the Waffen SS hidden.

c) The revelation of his membership in the Waffen SS
is intended to bolster sales of his recent memoir.

d) None of the above, hence he is not a bad man.

Critics of Grass are all atwitter over one or more of these three skewed versions of the story.

To begin with, Grass was a mere seventeen upon entering the Waffen SS. A boy of seventeen should possess all of the exuberance and zeal required to play the sort of role that Grass might have played in the Waffen SS, except that he didn't play the role. He was finished with them rather quickly, ostensibly without killing a single person. At the time, were these facts kept hidden? No, they would have been known to acquaintances and family members of Grass. The public at large would not have cared, because Grass would have been a younger, unknown version of his current famous self. At what point did the fact of his uncommitted involvement in the Waffen SS become "hidden"? It did not turn into a secret, it turned into a memory. The memory, in turn, became a means to an end, which, of course, has turned out to be the epic canon of Günter Grass. He is a man who has attempted to come to terms with his own personal memory in addition to the collective memory of an entire nation, and has, in fact, succeeded. So why, as the moral compass for his country's post-war Kampf, should he be reduced to what has lately been deemed as hypocritical and false? He has been very forthright about his position from the very beginning of his career proper, and his opinions certainly must stem from that what was witnessed in those earlier wartorn years. So there is no secret. Nothing is hidden. Everything we need to know has been written on a page, and is indeed, written on his face. Should we not laud him for his efforts and his courage and his commitment? Or should we just call him a monster without examining the travails of a man's life within an uneasy and overly scrutinized country a little more closely?

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