“I believe it. I believe it.”
And so goes one of the most famous lines in a movie from my childhood, “Stalag 17,” made by director Billy Wilder and starring William Holden .
Funny thing about Hollywood’s movies made back in the golden age of the silver screen: They were written well, acted brilliantly and censored to the hilt.
In other words, anything that had to do with sexuality — which included childbirth and how you get there — had to be subtle, practically unmentioned and about as obtuse as possible, lest we jeopardize the morality of an entire country.
What’s so great about writing, directing and acting out screenplays is that if you don’t like the way it sounds, looks or feels, you can always do it over. Rewrite and re-shoot and viola, a new reality courtesy of Hollywood.
The scene I remember takes place in a Nazi prisoner of war camp in which American prisoners are doing their best to escape. There is a rat among them, and therein lies the plot. Somewhere deep within that plot is a human reaction to the horrific conditions of being an American confined to German hospitality during World War II. One soldier who was captured and sent to the camp has been a prisoner for well over a year. He gets a letter from home — from his wife — who loves him, misses him and who keeps the home fires burning while he is fighting Nazi fire in Europe and the hopelessness of being a POW.
You won’t believe it, she writes him, but I found a baby on our doorstep and I have kept it. She looks just like me. You won’t believe it, she says again.
When I saw the movie I was much younger, but even then I could count. So when the prisoner retorts into the air surrounding the letter he is holding that of course he believes it — that their new baby, who looks just like his wife and who, obviously, was conceived and born while he was a guest of the Nazis — why would he ever question her or the science of conception and reproduction?
That’s what you get to do in the movies. It is an alternate reality that may or may not resemble real life but can be rewritten until the director gets exactly what he wants — not necessarily what is reflective of reality. In the movies you can ignore facts, even make them up if they make the audience feel better.
But what about real life? What about now?
A recent poll of Americans shows that an overwhelming majority of voters — independents and Democrats — do not believe President Donald Trump and his “fake news” rants when it comes to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. They have accepted and believe what every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded beyond any doubt — that the Russians interfered with and, it appears with each advancing day, affected the outcome of the presidential race.
Notice that I haven’t said that Republicans also believe what our intelligence agencies conclude is true. That is because they don’t!
Fully 85 percent of Republicans believe President Trump when he says any suggestion that people in, around and within his campaign collaborated, colluded or connected with Russians to interfere with our democratic, fair and free elections is false and fake.
Admittedly, I believe the polling was done before Donald Jr.’s emails were released — which prove that is exactly what happened — but I would bet all of Trump’s money that the polls haven’t moved.
And that is what is so baffling to me.
It is easier to believe that a baby can take over a year to be born than it is to believe that the Russians did not interfere in our elections to help Donald Trump win the White House. And that Trump’s friends, associates and/or family were up to their elbows in that effort.
I don’t know if what happened is criminal, yet. That is what the special counsel will determine. Criminal or not — maybe the Trump team really is just incompetent and stupid — what we are watching in real time couldn’t even be conceived of in the minds of Hollywood’s most creative writers.
But, beyond all of this, what is criminal to me is that practically every Republican voter and elected official believes it is OK and patriotically American to just accept what Trump says even though what he says is now totally and demonstrably untrue.
“I believe it” is a line that belongs in the movies. It allows a hopeless prisoner to cling to a fantasy that will keep his family together. It affects only his family.
There is no place for that kind of fantasy in real life. In real life, the Russians are not our friends; they are our enemies, and they will do all they can to undermine this great democracy of ours. They have been trying to do just that ever since Nikita Khrushchev promised to defeat the United States by burying us from within. Russia seems to be getting much closer to doing just that, and I am at a loss why most Republicans are content to let that happen.
I remember a time when the Republican Party stood as a bulwark against any attack on our country by the Russians. Now they can’t even stand up to the truth.
Maybe backbones only exist in the movies.
As an American, I am ashamed to say I am starting to believe that!
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.