Otto Ohlendorf stood tall in the courtroom in Nuremburg. His demeaner was as cold and unflinching as always during his trial for crimes against humanity. He easily recounted every detail of the murder of nearly a million people under his watch. After all, his conscience was relatively clear. “Befehl ist Befehl,” he told the court, “Orders are orders.”
More roundly translated, this has come to us as the famous “I was just following orders” defense. It didn’t work for Ohlendorf. He was convicted and hung for his crimes.
Workers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) today may feel that they are simply doing their job, that they are simply following orders. However, in the process of doing so they are violating the terms of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, which as a signed treaty is also a violation of US law.
When in doubt, you can always talk about the weather in polite Minnesota conversation. Days like today, when we are expected to have yet another big winter storm and the potential for Olympic Ice Dancing on the roads, it’s a topic you can count on. It’s not controversial but it provides a nearly endless supply of entertainment much like driving a flaming bus through a wall of televisions, at least in the sense that it’s likely to be lethal.
Many of us learn to be fascinated by the weather in ways that seek awkward and geeky to people in other parts of the nation. That’s a shame because a hard study of weather is a form of meditation that can clear your mind like no other form. Plus, it’s on teevee. Here in the middle of a vast continent we are at the mercy of whatever blows our way. It’s something that everyone can talk about – even if no one does anything about it.