Mom, “Why is Captain von Trapp crying?”
I remember asking my mother that question like it was yesterday. I was only eight years old and watching The Sound of Music for the first time.
What I was really asking her was, “Mom, why do I want to cry?” It was the seventies and boys were routinely ridiculed for crying, so I opted for a golf ball in my throat instead. I think that’s why it was so confusing and unsettling to see a man—especially one as masculine as Captain von Trapp, with tears in his eyes.
My mother explained that he was sad because the Nazis had invaded his country and rather than join their evil cause, he was going to flee with his family. The song, Edelweiss, was the national anthem of Austria and singing it was tantamount to treason under the new Nazi rule. I still didn’t fully understand, but it made a very deep impression on my young mind just the same.
In the movie, at the point when Captain von Trapp begins to cry, his new wife, Maria, and the children join him on stage. Then the audience joins in the song as well. The Nazis in the audience know they are outnumbered and know they can’t cause a scene so they simply sit there and stew in their own toxic hatred—their lips puckered into something resembling a cat’s ass.
Last night, hearing a crowd direct racist chants at a Muslim woman of color, I began to understand what Captain von Trapp was feeling. Like Captain von Trapp, I cried. I cried for the people who are suffering right now because of Trump’s immoral policies. I cried for my son who is growing up in these dark times. I cried for the people chanting because their hearts and minds have been so poisoned by a toxic ideology. But mostly I cried because I realized just how much I love The United States and how often I have taken it for granted.
For all of our challenges and the considerable list of sins of which we as a country are guilty, there is still something so beautiful about being an American. About living in a country where, at our core, we strive to bend the arc of the moral universe a little more quickly toward justice.
So tonight, I’m making a conscious choice. I’m going to focus on the folks singing Edelweiss rather than the snarling Nazis. In the end, the Nazis failed and I believe that this darkness will