Sorry, No, Not quite

My dear friend, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, and who is also a Jewish lesbian married to a blonde, native-born German woman both she and I and my husband adore, told me to write about this.

Not that I wouldn’t have.

The this is one of thousands of takeaways I had the day after watching the hours-long live stream of what now looks like approximately 5000 (mostly) White domestic terrorists storming the doors of Capitol Hill more than a week ago.

But first a Quick Recap of Their Mission:

To HANG MIKE PENCE!, kidnap and/or murder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and stop the count of the Electoral College votes that were about to ratify Joe Biden as our new president.

All so they could ultimately… keep Donald J. Trump in the White House?

Still… trying… to… understand

Yeah, as crazy, unlikely and run-on-of-a-sentence-and-scheme all of the above would seem, especially to friends of mine who died in the eighties and nineties, every bit of it is true.  

What is also true is the cornucopia of crazy among the crowd.  A veritable live basket of the very same metaphorical deplorables that Hillary Clinton got castigated for calling out, say, some 1000 years ago at this point.

She won’t say “I told you so” but we know… we know.

You had the conspiracy theorists and the racists.  The amateur militia men and women playing dress-up, as well as the real-life former, present or retired men and women of the military and/or law enforcement who decided, well, enough is enough with the rule of law they’d spent most of their lives defending. There are some things that are simply worth dying and defacing for.

There were also the tourists there for a good time taking selfies, the scatological freaks who wanted to relieve themselves somewhere in the Capitol Rotunda so they’d have a story to tell their grandchildren (Note: What other reason COULD there be???), as well as any number of regular people that like to blow off steam at massive Trump rallies, especially ones where he says he’s going to fight along with them but fails to deliver on his promise (Note:  Are there any other kind?)

Easy to identify because they have a uniform

And then, somewhere in this very large and very motley group, because why wouldn’t they be, were the Jew haters.

Now I’m not saying there weren’t haters of many other stripes and colors worth noting.  But with so much hate boiling over so many in the US citizenry these days it’s surprising that I, Jew that I am, wouldn’t take this for granted. 

For when it comes to attempted executions and hate-filled rhetoric in a White nationalist revolution, we Jewish people have a permanent place on the menu.

No need… we know how this goes.

It’s like I know it, and yet, I sometimes forget, what with all my other offensive identities during the Trump years.  These include:

  1. A gay man from New York
  2. Who lives in Hollywood
  3. And alternately works as both a screenwriter AND as a college professor
  4. After being trained as a journalist and starting out as a reporter, nee member of the fake media
  5. A person who is and always will be a liberal Democrat, NEVER hesitates to share that with anyone and is ALWAYS up for an argument
My own version of a Golden Ticket!

Any one of these could probably get me trampled, pummeled, kidnapped or killed at any Trump event.  But add Jew to the mix at an insurrection and, well… it’s practically overkill.

So when I got a glimpse at the photo now seen round the world of the Jew-hating Trump supporter wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words CAMP AUSCHWITZ (Note: the renowned Nazi concentration camp) along with the sub-heading, WORK BRINGS FREEDOM, the English translation of the expression tacked right above the gate of the camp that tens of thousands of Jews entered but never exited from, is it any wonder all I could think of to do was roll my eyes and sigh,

Really, is THAT the best you can do?????

Full Miranda moment

It’s not that the man and his outerwear are not disgusting and outrageous but the truth is that just felt soooooo 1950s, standing there in a sweatshirt that was just that plain dumb and that plain uninspired. 

Where did you buy that, at the Third Reich outlet store in Boise?  Or Alexandria?  Is it poly cotton or all polyester?  Like we don’t know what you’re trying to do.

Sure there’s an element (well more than an element) of danger about it, but there’s not as much safety to be had these days as there used to be.  The key is to speak out to the imminent threat but to do so in a way, and with the folks and at the time, it will be the most effective… and most worth it.

It made me think of the incident writer-humorist Fran Lebowitz recently recounted in the great seven-episode limited Netflix documentary series her friend Martin Scorsese just directed about her, Pretend It’s A City.

Maybe the only person they’d hate more than me

Sometime in the eighties or nineties there became renewed interest in Nazi propagandist filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, whose fetishized images of the Third Reich and Hitler in such technically innovative films like Triumph of the Will and Olympia, began to be rediscovered and re-examined in light of her talents as a female filmmaking pioneer.

So much so that Ms. Riefenstahl had traveled to New York City, where a member of the artist crowd Fran knew invited her to a small dinner party he was planning to have with, um Leni, in attendance.

I have no interest in having dinner with her, Fran (LEBOWITZ) cuttingly replied.  And when he tried to get her to admit Leni was a great artist and how could she blah, blah, blah, she reiterated –

I. HAVE. NO. INTEREST. IN. HAVING. DINNER. WITH. HER.

It needed to be repeated #icant

It’s like arguing Hitler was a brilliant politician and for that reason alone he’d be worth a chat.

Or if Trump manages to avoid jail in his post-presidency and somewhere down-the-line he tries to get re-examined and re-invited back into mainstream acceptance, well maybe we can learn something from being in his presence again that we couldn’t discern on our own.

Can you even imagine?

Though one can’t help but wonder what would that inevitable dinner party look like?  Who would attend?  It certainly wouldn’t be any of the types just seen barnstorming Capitol Hill.  They are not how you rehabilitate an image.  They are simply an inconvenient truth.

Speaking of which, Trump’s alternative fact master, the very nimble though not a smidge more sincere Kellyanne Conway, proved this as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night,the first stop on her mainstream rehabilitation tour.

Revealing it has been 8-9 months since she’s done a TV interview, to which Mr. Maher politely thanked her for choosing him because she had soooo many choices, the two paired for a cutesy old friends fest of polite jabs, fun times (Note: Remember that red, white and blue suit KCon wore to Trump’s inauguration – Bill loved it!) and gentle political banter.

Nope… no thank you… please go now.

Not only was it off-brand for the usually prickly Mr. Maher, it felt like the first step towards another type of revisionist history.  This would be a 21st century version of rehabilitation for yet another woman who, for reasons only truly known to herself, chose to employ her talent to promote a white male sociopathic political leader intent on bending the world to His Will and taking down anyone, and any country, including his own, in his way.

There should be no dinner parties, no Dancing with the Stars appearances and certainly no intellectual reexamination of anyone from those patently obvious end times we’ve just barely managed to live through.

Never forget this shanda

Instead we might consider justice through a series of trials for all those culpable like they did in Ms. Riefenstahl’s days, as well as the re-adoption of that age old, timeless slogan Never Again as we all attempt to pick up the pieces of our country and truly soldier on.

I know that’s this Jew’s plan.

The Chicks – “Not Ready to Make Nice”

Check out the Chair’s newest project, Pod From a Chair , now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

We’re all uncomfortable

If you refuse to watch art from people you in some way disapprove of, only Tom Hanks and Julie Andrews are left.   

-– The Chair

Make me watch Forrest Gump or The Ladykillers again and I’d probably punch you in the face.

Not to mention, Hawaii and the 1980 remake of Little Miss Marker would be a very tough slog.  (Note: Sorry, Jules).

And truly, if you’re going to watch some classic films why not simply go to the acknowledged mainstream top of the list choices.  Perhaps Chinatown or even… ROSEMARY’S BABY?????????

What’d’ya say Mrs. Mulwray?

Uh, oh.  Both films were directed by Roman Polanski and Mr. Polanski is best known these days by a new generation of filmgoers as the man who had sex with an underage girl and fled the U.S. before he could be properly punished for it.

Rightly or wrongly – and it’s not either one – this issue came up recently in a writing class when we were analyzing story elements of a classic sequence in Rosemary’s Baby where the lead character is raped by….

Well, who did it is not important for the subject of this discussion.  The pertinent part was the past deeds of this director and how much his personal actions influence what a viewer now sees or can’t see in the piece of art being offered to us.

This film still kind of says it all #ugh #uncomfortable

My knee jerk reaction is that we must separate the art from the artist and realize that times change, truth reveals itself in increments and people who live in glass houses, which means ALL of us, shouldn’t throw stones.

On the other hand, to NOT acknowledge that the personal is not only political but pertinent and influential, is to ignore the extreme cultural moments we are living through these days. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody but I’m not so sure I want to support ANYTHING director Bryan Singer does/did again.

As a gay guy, I’ve heard about his penchant for younger men for years and the fabled parties where they gathered with him (Note: Or were gathered up for him).  On the other hand, I was never there and certainly never saw him doing anything inappropriate with a 15 or 17 year old boy elsewhere so who was I to judge?  What is my responsibility?  And does it mean he shouldn’t direct Millennium Films’ upcoming big budget remake of Red Sonja?

I’m with Randy #10yearoldmemes #stillapplies

The Sundance Film Festival this week previewed the upcoming 4-hour HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, which chronicles in painstaking detail Michael Jackson’s sexual relationships with pre and early adolescent young boys when he was in his thirties.

British filmmaker Dan Reed is a respected documentarian and by all accounts the personal testimony of Jackson’s victims, their families, and the similarity and specificity of details make it as devastating to watch as the current Lifetime series Surviving R. Kelly, which centers on that singer/songwriter/producer’s longtime sexual abuse of numerous underage women.

I have not felt comfortable with Mr. Jackson’s music for DECADES given that we were close in age as I watched him parade to endless premieres and show biz photo ops in the eighties and nineties in the company of  9, 11, 13 and 15 year olds boys, sometimes two or three at a time and occasionally strangely holding hands with the odd one as he spoke of playful sleepovers at his dreamy playground of a ranch.

This picture REALLY makes me uncomfortable

I remember thinking to myself, what would someone my age conceivably EVER be doing with those boys overnight and, if it wasn’t overtly sexual, could it EVER conceivably be appropriate, even with their parents’ approval?  What I concluded then and now was that it could not and, hence, I never was able to listen to or watch Mr. Jackson in the same way ever again.

I have no proof and I’m not faulting anyone who jams out to Billie Jean or who will forever see him as the King of Pop.  But there was and is something so questionable in my mind about Mr. Jackson’s personal life that sucks the goodness and fun and joy out of anything I could possibly see or hear him do.  Even the famed Motown anniversary moonwalk – the younger, gentler version of what he left behind – leaves me at best sad for all concerned when viewed in the context of the entirety of his life.

This brings me no joy #notaseasyas123

One teaching colleague of mine recently shared the difficulty of talking to college students about Miramax/Harvey Weinstein when recounting the history of the Hollywood independent film movement.  It’s not that you don’t do it, but how do get them to appreciate what that studio accomplished without the stench?   And how do you write a book about the history of television in the last century and not give The Cosby Show its due?  That’s a topic someone else very close to me (Note: VERY) is dealing with at the moment.

Can we just talk about Denise Huxtable and noone else?

To say nothing of Louis CK  and his recent jokes about the students of Parkland or Woody Allen movies in general.   How do I look at Annie Hall these days?

As a baby boomer I can only speak to Annie Hall, one of my favorite films of all time, and confess that it will forever make me laugh because I am able to block out all reality and focus in on the joy it brought me throughout my life.  Yes, I am that strong or that weak where these feelings overwhelm everything else past and present and take me back to a time when it at least FELT like we were all a lot more innocent and unsullied by the realities of a hopelessly stained contemporary world.

Of course, that is/was a fantasy in itself but at the very least it got me through my twenties and thirties.  Though when you shove Manhattan in my face now  and I’m forced to watch Woody with Mariel Hemingway’s 17 year-old character, (Note: As happened several months ago on cable TV) it’s cringe worthy.  Meaning denial only works in certain cases and, in this case,  I suddenly froze up and couldn’t help but turn away.

Can I hold on to this?

So yeah, in this light I totally get some of my students’ aversion to Rosemary’s Baby and Mr. Polanski.   How many of us Jews interested in movies have ever had a tough time with academic articles fetishizing the filmmaking talent of Adolph Hitler’s favorite director, Leni Riefenstahl?  (Note: Whose Triumph of the Will is coincidentally used as a bittersweet punch line in said Annie Hall)

Perhaps the answer is a film festival featuring Triumph of the Will, Rosemary’s Baby Annie Hall and maybe…oh…Cosby in Uptown Saturday Night?   We can also add in Kevin Spacey ‘s Oscar winning performance in American Beauty and two of Singer’s X-Men movies for good measure.

The audience at this film festival

But how many of us would go?   Not as many as would watch any one of the six in the privacy of our own homes and keep it a secret.

Michael Jackson – “Bad”