Herb Strentz reflects on the state of politics after seeing a production of the musical Cabaret in Des Moines.
The lyrics opening the first three verses of the song are pleasant, pastoral, reassuring:
Verse 1: The sun on the meadow is summery warm
The stag in the forest runs free
Verse 2: The branch of the linden is leafy and green
The Rhine gives its gold to the sea
Verse 3: ¬The babe in his cradle is closing his eyes
The blossom embraces the bee
So why is what follows downright terrifying?
Verse 1: But gather together to greet the storm
Tomorrow belongs to me
Verse 2: But somewhere a glory awaits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me
Verse 3: But soon, says a whisper Arise, arise,
Tomorrow belongs to me!
What follows is terrifying because the words “Tomorrow belongs to me” are sung with conviction and intimidation by a kid, a kid assumed to be a member of the Hitler Youth in the Berlin of the 1930s.
At least that was the case almost 50 years ago in the film of the musical Cabaret In 1972.
And that was the case the other night in the well-done Des Moines Community Playhouse production of Cabaret — even though the proclamation was made by adults singing, in essence, that tomorrow belonged to the Nazis, as depicted in the Nazi/Swastika banner that unfurled behind them.
In 1972, the impact of the song was worsened by fears of President Richard Nixon and national division over the war in Vietnam. In 2021, the impact is worsened by the Trumpian politics of the day and national division over just about everything.
While it is said that those who don’t remember the past are condemned to relive it, the same may be true of those who do remember.
Other thoughts of the day:
Might it get worse? Maybe for President Joe Biden, but maybe not for the country. It always got worse for us with Trump, day after day. Any Biden stumble is remedied by “He’s not Trump.”
Perhaps, taking a page from another president’s playbook, Biden could have lessened criticism of the Afghanistan exit by wrapping the White House in a big banner: “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.”
Maybe that would have helped his approval rating in Iowa, which has sunk to 31 percent, according to the latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register and Mediacom. (Although, for some of us, the “He’s not Trump” factor will always keep Biden’s approval in positive territory.)
About the same time, The Economist magazine reported that U.S. child poverty was 41 percent below normal in July, and it looked like Biden would make good on his pledge that by year’s end we will have witnessed “the largest ever one-year decrease in child poverty in the history of the United States.” Apparently that has not registered in Iowa.
Monkey business: The recent SpaceX flight by civilians, not astronauts, was a fitting commemoration of an event nearly 60 years ago — an anniversary that escaped notice in the coverage of the heralded flight. Enos the chimpanzee had a similar amateur rocket adventure in November 1961.
Blue state blues: Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s decisive victory in the September 14 recall election, California seems so “blue” one might think it’s unnecessary for Democrats to campaign there, or futile for Republicans to do so. Hah! Two of the worst Trump sycophants in the U.S. House of Representatives are Minority leader Kevin McCarthy and David Nunes. They represent California’s 23rd and 22nd districts, in the San Joaquin Valley.
Looking on the bright side, a California friend hopes that since the state is losing a Congressional seat for the coming decade, new district lines might force either McCarthy or Nunes out. More likely, the two will continue in office — reminders of the death grip such Republicans have on our nation’s fate, whether from “blue” states or from “red” ones like Iowa.
Tomorrow belongs to …?
Herb Strentz was dean of the Drake School of Journalism from 1975 to 1988 and professor there until retirement in 2004. He was executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council from its founding in 1976 to 2000.
Top image: A member of the Hitler Youth in 1933. Photo from the German Federal Archive, available via Wikimedia Commons.