Thursday, January 27, 2005

Blah, Blah, Blah, Racism, Blah,etc

I remember the day after I watched Saving Private Ryan, which is in fact one of my all time favorite movies (1. Ben Hur, 2. Small Soldiers 3. The Apostle 4. Spy Game 5. Saving Private Ryan), I remember having a discussion with a bunch of people about the movie. I ended up making a comment that I have often reflected on. I said the move was far too "anti-German." What on earth did I mean and why did I say that? In retrospect, I think the question is, what was I reacting to?

I see the Holocaust as one of the most horrible tragedies in the modern history, so the idea was not that such movies shouldn't be shown to remind us. I think what bothered me was the self righteousness as we sit down and condemn "those Germans" in that "only the German mind can come up with such attrocities" attitude. But the fact is that the horrors of the Holocaust were visited and multiplied on people here in the United States everyday for centuries and all that's been swept under the rug. No one wants to talk about a day in the life of the slave, or old Black women left out in the forest to die because they had outlived their usefulness. This happened to Frederick Douglass' grandmother, who had raised all the slave children on that plantation and had even raise her master from the time he was a baby ON HER MILK. When she was too old, the took her out to the woods and left her there to die. We can multiply these stories.

My point is that there is a reason that such horrors could have taken place on this soil and yet the memory of centuries of this has vanished or has been heavily sanitized. Very few movies on slavery make it to the general public relative to its place in US history. And then I think of Amistad (I will say that Speilberg has stepped up to the plate), but there again, it was the Portuguese who were the bad guys.

The Jews have learned a lesson of the centuries and that is that if humans were capable of doing stuff like that in the past, it can and probably will happen again. They've endured centuries of this stuff has have many other groups. And the way attrocities happen is that the regular sweet apple pie person becomes complacent as the gradual erosion of the humanity of a group occurs and then before we know it we are not appalled at things that should outrage us. An example is the torture issue going on right now. How we've descended to this point where the POTUS advocates torture and half the country is arguing for it with him is unbelievable.

This is why we have to keep sounding the alarm on hate. It is not pleasant subject, but it is fatal when ignored especially because it is ALWAYS lurking beneath the surface. (And what makes the Holocaust particularly chilling was that it happened among "enlightened" Westerners.)

The other important thing is that race hate issues are not issues for "dialogue." Balance and "exchange of idea" and all that crap are deadly. A newsman once said, that the average between the truth and lie is a lie. I say this because you have people who feel that they're immune from the race charge because they are "balanced." These were the regular, balanced well meaning folks who took the via media between "the negroes are human" and "the negroes are beasts of burden," and sought middle ground.

Just before Frederick Douglass died he was asked what we all should keep doing. He replied, "agitate!"

Again, this particular discussion and context is narrow because there are other voices like the Natives, Latinos and Asians that have important warnings for us all. I let them speak with their voices.


Blogger Talmida said...

I'm really in no position to comment on race, Ono, but I have to say I'm a bit disappointed that your top 5 does not include The Princess Bride.

Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles.

What more could you ask for?


6:56 PM  

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