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Odd Sensations

Gibson’s effect. Abe Foxman reconsidered. The Memogate mess. Borderline tempers. Plus more.

2.25.04

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CERTAIN CONCERNS
Re: Jeremy Lott's The Passion and the Fury:

I wonder if conservatives are having a defensive, circle-the-wagons reaction to criticism of this film. I haven't seen it and am not planning to, because I can't stomach that kind of violence. But according to descriptions, the film does show "the Jews" in a particularly bad light while going much softer on Pilate. I don't think horrible violence is at the core of Christianity, but this film puts it there -- for millions of viewers. Conservatives rightly decry "sensationalist" media; is that a concern here, too? Will this film have a healthy effect on viewers, especially young, impressionable ones? Is a spiritual message compatible with so much gore?
-- P. David Hornik
Jerusalem

In reference to Mr. Lott's "The Passion and the Fury," I must make a small, but key, correction.

Mr. Lott states that Mel Gibson practices a schismatic "pre-Vatican II Catholicism." Interesting word, schism. When used in relation to the Catholic Church, it refers specifically to those who deny the Pope as Heir to the Chair of St. Peter, to those who deny the Bishop of Rome is the theological leader of the Church. By definition, Lutherans, Anglicans, Baptists, Congregationalists, etc., are guilty of schism.

Yet, since we all, in an ecumenical spirit, are trying to get along, Lutherans and Anglicans and everyone else, including those deemed doctrinally to be pagan, i.e. Buddhists and Hindu, smile alongside the current Catholic leadership and are called friends, while those Catholics who look upon the pastoral, non-dogmatically binding council called Vatican II as a significant error and refuse to alter the Faith as it was practiced for 1900+ years are called schismatic.

Based on the above, which is all easily verifiable with open source information, you can deduce that pre-Vatican II Catholics are not schismatic. The use of the word "schism" is one that ignorant (literal sense, not pejorative) reporters and many current Catholic leaders (among whom are many who have so demonstrated their fitness for their positions with various felony acts, including the protection of child-abusing clergy and vehicular manslaughter (ex-Bishop of Phoenix)) use to discredit traditional Catholics. Much in the same way that established Jewish religious leaders and Roman officials had to discredit that rebellious carpenter's son, so do current Catholic leaders need to find ways to hold on to their positions, for both religious and political reasons. Now, Gibson is certainly not Jesus, but the situation bears similarity.

A learned man once stated, "The floor of hell is littered with the skulls of bishops." As they, the bishops, were human, that is likely true. In their humanity, their pride and wrath led past clergy, as it does the current incumbency, to protect their positions by debasing critics. Harsher treatment is generally leveled at those critics whose critique cuts deepest, cutting deepest for the reason that the critique is correct.

Today, Gibson is a critic, a believing critic. But our definitions are clear: he is not schismatic.

Thank you for your time.
-- M.C. Tritle

Jeremy Lott's piece depicting the Passion controversy as a conflict between elitists and secularists vs. religious ordinary folk is belied by his inclusion of concerns emanating from Abe Foxman and the ADL. Lott states:

"Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League isn't going to care that the line in which some members of the rabble accept collective responsibility for the death of Jesus of Nazareth (the passages in the synoptic Gospels which draw charges of blatant anti-Semitism) was removed from the subtitles, or that Gibson publicly disavows Jew hatred, or that this is a work of art, for God's sake. Gibson practices a schismatic 'pre-Vatican II Catholicism,' and he's made a movie about the death of Christ, so it must be anti-Semitic, QED."

First of all, Foxman is hardly secularist and the ADL over the past several years has been anything but leftist in its politics. Foxman himself is a Holocaust survivor, sheltered by Christians, who regained his Jewish identity later in life and remains an observant, deeply religious Jew. His fears regarding a movie such as Gibson's are not born of secular disconnect from religious America, but from his own historically based and morally driven fears of anti-Semitism as a Jew who survived Hitler's attempt at annihilation of his people. Foxman's position is all the more understandable given the current resurgent anti-Semitism world-wide.

Second, Foxman and the ADL have made great strides in recent years in building bridges with the conservative/evangelical Christian community. Notably, Foxman appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes talking about his increasingly close relationship with Gary Bauer, and Ralph Reed recently spoke at national ADL convention on that growing partnership. Indeed, the ADL, like other Jewish organizations, has welcomed and nurtured closer ties with the Christian community on a number of issues, perhaps most prominently support for the State of Israel, but others as well (for example, the ADL has taken a measured view of affirmative action and has been supportive, along with conservative Christians, of both a tough foreign policy and strong national security domestic policy with respect to fighting terror).

Third, Foxman doesn't extrapolate Gibson's "pre-Vatican II Catholicism" as the centerpiece of his criticism, but focuses instead on the movie itself. The movie portrays an ominously seductive figure, presumably Satan, standing among Jewish priests. It also illustrates the priests as petty, vengeful and vicious, and the Jewish population as supportive of those priests. Pilate and some of the Roman centurions are contrastingly shown as tormented and sensitive. These are touches born of Gibson's artistic options, not out of faithfulness to history or the gospels. They are justifiable areas for criticism from those who have legitimate concerns that the film might fuel anti-Semitic sentiments and even those who question Gibson's motives, which by the way, Foxman and the ADL do not.

Jeremy Lott is not alone is transforming the debate over The Passion into a right vs. left political debate. Conservatives Peggy Noonan, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Michael Medved and others have sounded the religious vs. secular trumpet, while dismissing as leftist politics any possibility of anti-Semitic effect, if not intent. Foxman, in my view, has taken the more honest approach, and has put his considerable moral capital on the line to fight against potential bigotry, not religion. To say that he represents "secularist" or "elitist" views diminishes his lifetime of fighting against the cancer of anti-Semitism and too casually dismisses the potential for "art" to impact the minds of its consumers. Perhaps the Passion will not in fact create the problems that concern Foxman and the ADL. I am certain that they, as the rest of us, including those who support Gibson, would be most relieved if this were the case, but to dismiss Foxman's concerns out of hand is too easy, and is not an honest appraisal of either his motives or the legitimacy of his concerns.
-- Jeffrey Stillman

MINDING MEMOGATE
Re: Paul M. Weyrich's Let's See the Memo:

Somebody clue me in: What prevents Miranda from discussing what he knows with the Justice Department or with anyone else? I'm not asking this rhetorically, I am genuinely curious about the dynamic at work here.
-- Mark Stoffel
Arlington, Virginia

Amen! It's past time that the Senate Republicans take the gloves off and give a public airing and to demand accountability of the outrageous and potentially criminal activities of some influential Democratic party senators shown in these memos.

At the end of the day, ultimately it is the TRUTH that matters. I believe the large majority of Americans would be shocked by the memos' contents and would weigh-in heavily in favor that they should be have been released. You know for a fact, if the roles were reversed, this would be a major public scandal already!

Thank you for your article on this subject. Hopefully public pressure like this will help give some of the skittish Republicans some backbone.
-- Robert Kenney

Let me suggest why Republicans aren't making a first-class issue out of this, Paul: they haven't got a shred of confidence in the system that would try them for their "illegal activities" on the judiciary (i.e. the media).

More than anyone, senators on that committee know how deeply lawyers and courts have been corrupted (from both sides). If abortion clinics want certain judges, don't you think anti-abortion groups want certain judges?

I'm tired of being naive (after 53 years) and I think I understand the difference between interpreting and creating law. The problem is the right wants to interpret law and the left wants to create law in the courts since they know they can't get their laws passed in legislative bodies.

But that means that senators on the right must then be massacred in the media (the propaganda arm of the left in this country), the first step in "proving" how wrong the right is in this country.

Patience, Paul. You keep writing this type of article to educate us and we will continue to see through the lack of action on the right. But that doesn't make it any easier to watch.
-- Stu Margrey

Why not file a FOIA demand to have the memos released?
-- Richard McEnroe

MOVED AND UNMOVED
Re: Brandon Crocker's The Immigration Things (Part II):

As a callow youth in the '50's I supplemented my GI Bill at college by summer work in the green pea harvest near Walla Walla, Washington. There I became acquainted with the Braceros; Mexicans and Bahaman blacks, who lived in barracks, were fed cafeteria-style, were paid by the growers through the U.S. Government which deducted a reasonable room-and-board fee, and could have a portion of their wages sent back home to their dependents on a regular basis.

The work done by the Braceros was the hot dusty job of pitching piles of green pea vines into a viner, a machine which separated the peas from the vines and pea-pods and put them in boxes. Braceros also loaded the boxes of fresh peas into "box trucks" for transport to the freezer plant in Walla Walla. Driving the box trucks was primo summer work for a college student, paying $18 for a 12-hour shift. The Braceros were paid significantly less, and worked significantly harder. As any delay in harvesting green peas meant that they would be too mature to qualify as grade A and would therefore be canned rather than "Fresh Frozen," the operation went on 24/7. The Bahamians worked night shifts and the Mexicans worked days.

Anyone who wanted work doing what the Braceros did could report at the pickup station where the crew trucks loaded up to go to the pea fields. No Braceros were selected until all "Anglos" were chosen. Usually these workers were homeless men who would work one shift, get their pay, and head for the fortified wine rack at the market.

I was pretty much politically unaware in those days, and haven't a clue as to why the Bracero Project ceased. Rumor has it that Caesar Chavez's unionization of grape pickers in California was the final blow, but I don't know if that is true. I moved to San Diego in 1958 with my new diploma, and as I recall, there was little if any "immigrant problem" at that time. It seems to me that Bush's plan is a return to the Bracero days, and if so would go a long way toward alleviating the problem.

But if so, there won't be any Braceros pitching pea vines into a viner. Harvesting peas back in the '50s was much more labor intensive. First, one man driving a swather would cut the vines and deposit them in a long swath. Then a loader would follow pulled by a tractor with one man driving and one man running the loader. It would pick up the swath and throw it into a truck on the run. The truck driver would drive to the viners and dump the load, and the Braceros would pitch them into the viners. Finally, the vines sans peas were thrown out the back and pushed into piles by a bulldozer. Then a spreader would fill up with vines and spread them over the harvested field for fertilizer.

Nowadays a "Combine," a mobile Swather/Loader/Viner, does all that with one operator. Whereas the operation up to where the Braceros were used paid four "Anglos" a relatively high wage, the Combine operator does the work of those four and one Bracero plus the bulldozer and spreader operators as well. But he doesn't get paid as much as the sum of all those other wages would be today, and his one job replaces seven.

And the Democrats wonder why the higher productivity of the employers during this recovery doesn't result in jobs? It's the American Way!
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

What a coincidence of miraculous proportion! That the subject article is presented by a gentleman named Crock-er. There is no question in my mind that his article is a crock.

He has waxed enthusiastically about how union influence has led to misrepresentation of the number of illegal immigrants arriving after the President's proposal. Of course we all know that it is absolutely impossible that the President's announced plan would have anything to do with an increase in illegal immigration. Perish the thought. If anything, surely the illegals would be aghast at an opportunity to enter the U.S. informally and avoid any kind of punishment. No doubt they would stay away in droves.

I notice he also avoids or attempts to ignore any suggestion of amnesty in the President's plan. I wonder what part of Alice's Wonderland Mr. Crocker inhabits? My advice to him is please don't give up his real estate day job.
-- Les Arbo
Pass Christian, Mississippi

In his article, Mr. Crocker, like so many of those who pass for conservatives or rightists today, says that mass deportation or nothing automatically means nothing. Why? Neither he nor any of his similar-minded globalist conservatives (a true oxymoron for the 21st century) ever explains why this should be the case. As a practical matter, a concerted effort at deportation which quickly eliminates 3-5% of the illegals in our midst, would provide a clear signal of seriousness and generate an exodus of the rest. The only citizens who might be "inconvenienced" by this are those whose commitment to globalism and multiculturalism far exceeds their commitment to the United States of America -- and many of them belong in jail for employing or sheltering illegals. A clear majority of the public wants those people deported, and the claim that the sight of illegals being arrested and expelled would somehow cause them to rethink their position shows how out-of-touch such scribblers are with public sentiment (a national day of celebration may be the actual result) -- and if there are minor children who may be considered American citizens involved, then either they go with their parents' and become citizens of their country, or they are adopted by Americans or placed in orphanages (yes, orphanages -- a new social expenditure we can live with).

The tolerance for, and especially celebration of, illegal immigration and illegal aliens has created a rapidly expanding fissure in American society, and amongst the bulk of the non-leftist citizenry. The vast majority of the over-30, $30-100K income and heavily Caucasian (along with some blacks and many Asians) middle class has finally had it with this travesty that violates their -- and their country's -- interests. Unless he not only renounces his amnesty proposal but apologizes for even considering it, this will prove to be the issue that costs Bush the Presidency. It offers the clearest evidence yet that the differences between Bush and Kerry are overwhelmingly rhetorical and minimally substantive -- and why vote for the one who lies and hides his commitment to globalism and multiculturalism the most, when the practical result is no different.
-- Peter Jacobs

STUCK ON SAWYER
Re: George Neumayr's Mel's Maligners:

Thanks for a superb article which I've only just read. I saw Diane Sawyer try to do the same number this morning on the Romanian actress who plays Mary, but the actress actually seemed to stop Diane in her tracks -- largely because she was Jewish (therefore credible, as Mr. Gibson, to Diane's way of thinking, was not) and set Diane straight on what the movie was actually about. It also helped that the actress was lively and talkative and didn't let Diane get many nasty comments in edgewise.

Diane kept trying to bait her, pointing out that her (the actress's) father was a Holocaust survivor, so wasn't he appalled by the implications of anti-Semitism in the film? The actress handled that nicely, only admitting that her father provided a parental critique of her acting.

I've got to ask, though: What the hell happened to Diane since her days as a loyal friend to and supporter of Nixon? Was it by assimilation through sitting at ABC all these years that she acquired the requisite leftie take on everything?
-- Bonnie Bird

Thanks for outing a shallow hypocrite (liberal hero Diane Sawyer) for what she is -- a disingenuous critic who acts as prosecutor, judge and jury for anyone daring not to be a liberal.

Please keep up the good work-- it helps me not to give up when I read someone with still a grip on reality. And sanity.
-- Pete Redshaw

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