Monday, August 21, 2006

Who Do You Hate Today?

Hate has been in the news a lot lately, involving actors, politicians, and a civil rights leader turned company man. There is much Mel Gibson, George Allen, and Andrew Young have in common – wealth, fame, and, as they say, “issues”.

Andrew Young’s defense of Wal-Mart driving out “mom and pop” business was a somewhat different kettle of fish. His rant against the succession of “mom and pop” business owners who ripped off black folk – Jews, Koreans, and now Arabs – was an attempt at defending Wal-Mart’s destruction of those businesses in poor areas. His perception that those businesses charged more in those areas than in others may have merit – although it has nothing to do with the ethnicity of those owners and more to do with the nature of running a small business, especially in a high crime area. The other difference, of course, is that he paid an immediate price for his remarks – he had to resign his position in embarrassment.

George and Mel are different. Senator Allen appears on the hot list as a potential VP candidate. He has even higher aspirations than that. His statements regarding a young man taping his speech on behalf of the Webb campaign were particularly repugnant. Much has been made of his use of the “macaca”, which has been used as a racial slur. His latest excuse was that he was combining the word “Mohawk” (a hairstyle the young man didn’t have) with the word “caca” and doing it badly. Now we can discuss whether any grown man who publicly uses the word “caca” to describe anything in public is someone we want running the country, but this is a painfully strained explanation. I don’t know where he got that word from, unless he has become such an expert in international racial slurs that he can calmly insert a French one into his speeches. That would speak well to his sense of internationalism, if not to his application of same. More important to me (and to his fitness for office) was his following that up by saying “welcome to America and the real world of Virginia” to him. The assumption that someone who looks foreign (i.e., not white) is not an American is utterly disgusting. That this guy actually attended the University of Virginia and actually was raised in VA (unlike Senator Allen, who worshipped the Confederacy from California), makes this even dumber. In a decent world, no man with that point of view, willingly stated openly to an all white audience, would be able to win a Senate race. Let’s see how the good citizens of the Commonwealth react to this.

The Passion of the Mel: for the record, since some of you may not be able to guess it from my name, I am Jewish. And I think Mel Gibson is an anti-semite. Being drunk is not an excuse. Being drunk doesn’t make you say things you don’t believe, it makes you say things you wouldn’t dare say when you were sober – it removes your social censorship mechanism. When Deputy Mee actually dared put the cuffs on a belligerent drunk, Mel immediately knew why – he must be a Jew, since no Christian would cuff Mel Gibson, self-styled owner of Malibu. Now Mel, and his friends, say that he has good, close friends who are Jewish – so how could he be an anti-semite? Hell, he probably has lawyers who are Jewish, maybe even an agent or two. But it is not how he feels about a specific Jew that makes him an anti-semite, it is how he feels about The Jews.

Mel, when sober, apologized for his anti-semitic I guess we’re supposed to believe he doesn’t believe Jews cause all the wars in the world. I don’t buy it. He believes that and lots of other stuff he wouldn’t say publicly. Does that make Mel Gibson a horrible human being? Did George Allen’s rant make him one? How about Andrew Young? The dirty little truth is that most people harbor some prejudice within them. It is not having that prejudice that is the problem, it is acting on it that is the problem. For years Jews have known that anti-semitism lurks below the surface and I’m confident blacks know it about racism. In Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth described his father as talking Neanderthal and voting Democratic. Had you listened to my father at the dinner table, you would have thought he was Archie Bunker. Yet he not only voted Democratic, in Democratic primaries, he voted liberal – he voted for Herman Badillo (a Puerto Rican) in a mayoral primary for that reason. It is important to differentiate between those who have racist attitudes and those who let them govern their actions. We know what is in our hearts, we know what is in our minds, and if those things are wrong, we must be especially careful about what we say and what we do. If you are George Allen who feels the way he feels, you do not have a noose hanging from your office tree, do not oppose the Martin Luther King Birthday holiday, and do not say things which insult non-white campaign workers. If you are Mel Gibson, you are careful with how you portray Jews in your biblical epic. If someone asks you about your Holocaust-denying father’s views, you don’t refuse to answer. As a famous Jew once said “by their deeds shall ye know them”. We have seen Mel and George’s deeds and you would have to be blind to not know what they are.


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