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Another 'Enlightenment thru Entertainment' Dharma-Inspired Movie Review :
The Success of Operation 'Valkyrie'
The film ‘Valkyrie’ retells the last of some fifteen failed attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler by his own soldiers. As Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who played the key role of the assassin proclaimed, ‘We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler's Germany.’ As he put it, he was simply answering his conscience – ‘I'm a soldier, but in serving my country, I have betrayed my conscience.’ Aren’t the real traitors of the country (and the other affected nations) those failed to listen to their hearts? Perhaps so, but what about the stakes at hand? It’s all too easy to feel compelled to follow the leadership of powerful and wrathful villains, especially when the safety of one’s family is at stake. Perhaps it takes a heroic family to stand behind every hero(ine), the members of which are willing to risk their lives for the bigger picture of saving many other lives.
'What makes you think you're stronger than the very momentum of history?’ What makes us think we have the power to halt great evil? Well, it shouldn’t be so much of doubting our ability to do so, but more of asking how we can contribute to doing what simply has to be done. Not necessarily by killing though. This is the challenge every practising Bodhisattva faces – how to save as many as possible, including the perpetrators of evil, from their own evil. Every Bodhisattva in practice, who cannot read others’ minds has to take risks when seeking allies. Stauffenberg takes the risk of shortlisting ‘generals’ for Operation Valkyrie, the plot to kill Hitler before he kills many more. The risks he takes are huge because he was fighting against the strong tide of mass ignorance and submissive obedience. But Edmund Burke said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ And the darkness in history has always been turned around by a few brave men and women – who tried their best to urge the masses to do the same.
A messenger, especially in times of war is never ‘just a messenger’. In the radio centre where telegraph messages were received and broadcasted, the ones in control faced the dilemma when they received conflicting messages - those transmitted by Hitler’s loyal men and those from Operation Valkyrie – which could further or end the war. They had to decide whether to forward all messages impartially or to take a side. This scene reminds us of the tremendous power of the media, of how difficult it is to remain truly neutral to spread the uncensored truth, while not turning a blind eye to conscience. Everyone who facilitates mass-communication has to choose between unquestioning following of instructions versus personal mindful reflection before taking action.
The shadow of evil in times of war often looms much larger than we can imagine. As such, Operation Valkyrie required the setting up of a shadow government to counter it. Taking out Hitler alone would not solve the problem if his key henchmen retained the command and control to perpetuate his deluded ideals. The operation had to contain them too. This is reminiscent of how Mara, the personification of evil, has his many minions all over the place. The truth is, as long as we are not on the side of good, we already are Mara’s minions, or are susceptible to becoming them – even if passive ones!
Which side do you take? Does it bear any shame? Time to repent and make a switch perhaps? As the words on the German Resistance Memorial of Berlin says in tribute, ‘You did not bear the shame, you resisted, sacrificing your life for freedom, justice, and honour.’ Watching the reenactment of Operation Valkyrie, I couldn’t help but think that it was somewhat successful despite failing, because the operation was a worthy attempt to subdue evil. Most of all, it succeeds in inspiring all future generations whenever they recall the selflessness involved. (Hitler committed suicide nine months later when Berlin was surrounded.)
- Shen Shi'an