Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Loathe though I might be ...

... to pile on the Mel Gibson story du jour I can't resist this Washington Post op-ed by Eugene (no relation to the Bishop of New Hampshire whose name is not and never has been Eugene in spite of all the published errata indicating same) Robinson:

Booze and Bigotry
Mel Gibson: It Wasn't Just the Tequila Talking
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, August 1, 2006; Page A17

Let's not cut Mel Gibson even the tiniest bit of slack over the ugly tirade he inflicted on the sheriff's deputy who pulled him over in his Lexus as he roared drunkenly down the Pacific Coast Highway at nearly twice the speed limit.

If anyone missed the story over the weekend, although I don't know how that would be possible, Gibson was obnoxious, belligerent and self-important when the arresting officer pulled him over. In other words, just your average traffic stop in Malibu -- until Gibson proceeded to blame the ills and injustices of the world, presumably including his own immediate predicament, on the Jews.

"[Expletive] Jews," Gibson said, according to a copy of the arrest report posted on the entertainment news Web site TMZ.com and later confirmed by the Los Angeles Times. "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." To the officer, he demanded: "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson's defense is one of diminished capacity. He admitted in a statement released Saturday that he had been drinking that evening and shouldn't have been driving. He "profoundly" regrets his "horrific relapse" into the "disease of alcoholism," Gibson said. "I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable."

Well, I'm sorry about his relapse, too, but I just don't buy the idea that a little tequila, or even a lot of tequila, can somehow turn an unbiased person into a raging anti-Semite -- or a racist, or a homophobe or a bigot of any kind, for that matter. Alcohol removes inhibitions, allowing all kinds of opinions to escape uncensored. But you can't blame alcohol for forming and nurturing those opinions in the first place.

Gibson's rant sounds to me like classic anti-Semitism that goes beyond the country club, "not our sort of people" brand of casual bigotry. He seems well on the way toward some sort of full-blown "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" conspiracy theory of Jewish world domination. If you were in Gibson's situation, no matter how inebriated or embarrassed, I doubt your first question would be whether the cop who pulled you over was a Jew. I hope not, at least.

You will recall that when Gibson's epic film "The Passion of the Christ" was criticized by some viewers for portraying Jews as scheming, hook-nosed stereotypes, Gibson replied that he was only seeking historical accuracy. You'll also recall that when asked about his father's claim that the Holocaust was mostly "fiction," Gibson acknowledged that some Jews did die in concentration camps but stopped short of directly repudiating dear old Dad.

He did flatly deny being anti-Semitic, however, telling Diane Sawyer in a 2004 interview that "to be anti-Semitic is to be un-Christian, and I'm not." Now the only question is whether his lack of self-awareness is truly pathological or whether he was just lying. I don't think anyone could describe his performance the other night as particularly Christian, or particularly civilized.

It was timely, though.

The Web site that broke the story alleges that higher-ups in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department wanted to sanitize the report of Gibson's arrest because his anti-Semitic remarks would be "inflammatory" given the war in the Middle East. Officials of the department deny any thought was given to a coverup and say they will conduct an investigation.

The Gibson episode comes as the state of Israel continues an assault on southern Lebanon that I am convinced is brutal, disproportionate and counterproductive. The Bush administration was wrong to give Israel the green light to launch such a massive military campaign and is wrong to let Israel stall before agreeing to a proper cease-fire.
More than 500 Lebanese civilians already have been killed.

Like everything that happens in the Middle East, Israel's war on Hezbollah has provoked strong feelings. After the tragic mistaken attack on Qana in which 57 civilians died, most of them children, I believe more strongly than ever that this war is a disaster for all concerned. It's madness, and it must stop.

But we shouldn't forget that Israel exists for a reason. The Mel Gibson episode is a useful reminder that pure anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past -- that there are still people who believe Jews are evil or all-powerful or whatever, and for whom Jewishness itself is an unforgivable sin. That's amazing in this day and age but, then again, there are still people who believe that the color of a person's skin tells them everything they need to know.


Bateau Master said...

We have a drunk man spouting off hateful things. He hurts himself, his family, and his future by his actions.

We have a man that issues an apology, a real apology, not an "I'm sorry f any were offended by my words" piece of politic drivel.

And we have a brother in Christ who has fallen, but who is calling his sin - "sin" and apparently taking steps to change and engage those he most offended by his words.

QUESTION: What’s the Christian thing to do?

Despite his politics not meshing with yours, let’s resist what Eugene Robinson could not, and wish Mel soberness and peace, and welcome him back into the fold.


Thanks, Hugo, for that perspective. It's helpful ... and ... I'll admit I still don't "get it" -- it's hard for me to understand where that kind of venom comes from ... conscious or unconscious, drunk or sober.

As for posting the piece itself, I still think it is worth comment -- maybe because I'm struggling myself with 100% support of Israel's right to exist and defend itself against very real threats ... including the kind of deep seated anti-Semitism the Gibson incident points to ... and believing what is happening in Lebanon right now is unconscionable.

(Let's also note the op-ed was written before Gibson's apology yesterday -- an first step in the "amendment of life" department.)

Anonymous said...

And with all due respect to Hugo, I think we are missing the point when we debate whether or not Gibson believed what he said in a drunken stupor. The fact of the matter is that he spewed forth anti-semetic remarks. Incapacity is not an excuse. It may explain WHY he said them. But there's no justification for those words in any context. Whether or not Gibson believes what he said is irrelevant. He said them. They were made public (right or wrongfully so) and he must live with that. And we hold him accountable to make the proper amends ...whether sponsored by AA or public opinion.

W said...

indicentally, it has been reported that Gibson made anti-Semitic AND sexist remarks, although it doesn't say what the alleged sexist remarks were: http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/Movies/08/01/gibson.dui/index.html

hugo, I'm not a recovering alcoholic, and I almost never presume to tell people what they themselves believe. however, I have to ask, how would you know what you unconsciously believe? after all, it is called the unconscious for a reason. on some level, we are all racist, sexist, etc. some of us more so, some of us less. as pointed out, alcohol does reduce inhibitions. that Gibson chose to immediately speak of the Jews upon his arrest, coupled with the portrayal of the Jews in POTC, tells me that he probably does bear the Jews some animosity on some level, probably unconscious. I hope it is just the alcoholism speaking, but we all have prejudices like that to some extent.

and so, the Christian thing to do is to pray for his recovery, that of all alcoholics, and for freedom from prejudice for Gibson, myself, and all of us.