Edelweiss, Edelweiss every morning you greet me. Small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me. Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever. Edelweiss, Edelweiss: bless my homeland forever.
When considering one of the most beloved musicals of all time – The Sound of Music – this song is not necessarily the obvious choice. It is a gentle and simple melody, almost childlike in its clarity. Yet its lyrics and placement within the play make it plain that there is a much deeper meaning.
When this song is sung at the end of the musical, it is during the music competition in which the Von Trapp family is competing. They are about to make a run for the border. But first, the Captain shares this song with the crowd, who boisterously joins in.
It would appear that this song is meant to represent a national anthem. The Captain calls it “a love song” for his homeland: to all the very best it had been, was, and could be. All of these things that are in direct opposition to the work and dogma of the Third Reich, who was already taking over Austria at the time.
The Captain was commanded to return to the Navy as a part of the Nazi military – something he could not do in good conscience. But to stand against such power was likely a death sentence for he and his family. So they ran in order that they might stand with the opposing side.
It is an incredibly difficult thing to watch the country one loves descend into the grip of fear, persecution, hatred. To see atrocities committed with little to no answer. To listen to incitements of violence from leaders. To watch friends and neighbors fear for their lives simply for being who they are.
But here is what is even harder: to admit that even a nation with the seemingly best of intentions has already been living with hate, fear, and oppression literally built into our system. That the symptoms of evil have been in our midst from the very beginning. That there is a long road ahead to even begin to become all that we have hoped and dreamed.
The Nazis did not take power overnight. They came into a system that was already rife with discord, hostility, and abhorrence and took advantage. The majority of the people of Germany and the countries around it who gave in so easily were so afraid of confronting their inner demons, that they remained silent when blatant abuse became commonplace.
I grew up with a great love for all the very best that our own nation can be. I then learned that we have been our own worst enemies from the very beginning and created systems that let hate, enslavement, and fear run rampant. It was heartbreaking. It still is.
But, like Captain Von Trapp, I too have a great love for the land of my birth. I have hope in all that it can still become. And I pray, that you will join me in actively doing the difficult work in front of us. The labor that is necessary so that the dream will never die. So that it may become the reality. So that will finally see ourselves become the best version of who we can be.