Sunday, November 16, 2008

On another note - No Subtitles part II

No Subtitles the documentary about cinematographers Laslo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond deals a lot with their escape from Hungary during the 1956 uprising. The two were film students in Budapest at that time and as the Russian tanks rolled in and the attempt at freedom was eventually quashed they filmed what they saw and participated in.

As the uprising was quashed the two escaped to Vienna, smuggling the film out with them.

It was noted that those involved in the attempt at freedom in Hungary expected the West and particularly the United States to come to their aid. That expectation - that hope - went unfulfilled.

Tragically for those in Hungary the Eisenhower administration had encouraged such an uprising and paid all kinds of lip service to freedom and overthrowing dictatorial regimes, etc. But it was all rhetoric because the reality was that the United States was in no position to do anything. Eisenhower believed the risk of such an intervention was a widening war in Europe and a global nuclear conflagration.

As I watched the documentary I remembered those days. I was 10 years old, but the memory of the news footage and the reports is still vivid. And in remembering, I thought of a recent similar kind of event. The invasion of the Republic of Georgia, again by Russian tanks. In that case there was no uprising by Georgians to overthrow their government and there are a lot of differences between what happened this summer and that summer over forty years ago, but what was similar was a lot of bold talk by a US administration and political leaders, with the knowledge that the rhetoric could not and would not be backed up with action. Just as in 1956 (though for somewhat different reasons) the US was powerless to back up its words.

The tragedy then as now? Those that hear the words, the encouragement and act in the belief that the words will be backed up do so and then have the rug pulled out from underneath them.

Georgia in 2008 is different than Hungary in 1956, but the callous arrogance of those that hold out hope where they know none will be is despicable.

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