a breath of scandal

it seems there are a lot of people unhappy about the choice of the new pope. the uk's times online had an article on his chequered past as a member of the hitler youth. reading the facts and his responses, i can understand excusing his brief and unwanted membership.

unfortunately, the same courtesy hasn't been extended to other people with less direct connections to this horrific time in history. underground bands such as blood axis have been branded with the same stigma narrowly escaped by the new pope due to their usage of symbols such as the kruckenkreuz, also known as the crutch cross or jerusalem cross. if you search for info on this, most everything that comes up refers to it being fascist or nazi-related, when it was essentially a christian symbol. it was also used in seventeenth century alchemy and chemistry to mean crucible or acid, but its use by the church predates and outlasts that. as a recent example, above is a picture of pope john paul II receiving the jerusalem cross. further delving reveals that, "if anything, it is an anti-nazi symbol," as claimed by the christian falangist party, a pro-israeli political party who explain their reasoning in using it as their logo.

the supposed fascist/nazi connection comes largely from its use by engelbert dollfuss, chancellor of austria prior to world war II. dollfuss believed the kruckenkreuz, a christian symbol, would show austria to be better than the third reich because the latter had rejected christianity. the wiesenthal museum of tolerance website says that "austrian jews regarded dollfuss as their protector despite his anti-semitism, because of his strong opposition to nazism. in 1933 dolfuss was murdered in an attempted nazi putsch."

in one of the most popular american musicals, the sound of music, the character of captain von trapp wears the kruckenkreuz around his neck, and displays the austrian flag. when a swastika flag is hung on his door later, he tears it down - clearly a rejection of nazism. in all the mentions of this musical i've heard over the years, i've never known about this, or of any mention of it as sympathetic to fascism.

i just realized today is both hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the shootings at columbine high school. that coincidence was used to connect the dots when CDs of KMFDM and marilyn manson were found in the shooters' rooms, and the media tried to pull nefarious intent from their music and use of graphic symbols. its true that these and other bands say and do other things that allow people to point their fingers, but none of this is conclusive evidence for conviction in the ongoing public trials of opinion.

the bottom line is that people choose who they're going to go after and who gets the benefit of the doubt. the pope is in a much better position to directly influence opinions and major policies than a bunch of musicians. perhaps now that a german and former hitler youth resides in the papacy, christians and other protest groups will have to re-think their ignorant boycotts of artists exploring the ambiguity or original power of "tainted" symbols. yeah. and maybe blood axis will play a big show with death in june at the vatican.

the title of this post comes from a 1960 film set in austria.