Debating the Hunt

I want what I want when I want it and HOW I want it.

Well, sorry.  That’s not how it happens.

This weekend I binged the first three episodes of the wildly imaginative and riveting new Amazon series, Hunters.  In it, Al Pacino plays a wealthy NYC Holocaust survivor who leads a secret ragtag band of avengers out to exterminate a small organized army of Nazis and pro Hitler youth bent on creating a Fourth Reich.

Think X-Men meets Inglorious Bastards told through the eyes of a Gen X’er in the late 1970s.

Sounds good to me!

Mixing fact and fiction, as dramatists are wont to do, Hunters is a crazy ride through a cross-section of imagined superhero type adventures (Note: Sans supernatural powers) and serious, sometimes gruesome reinventions of Holocaust atrocities.  The latter are quite difficult to look at and yet impossible to look away from.

As a somewhat diminutive Jewish boy from NYC who also felt powerless in my younger days, especially when it came to Nazis and bullies, I found myself LOVING every moment of Hunters, especially for the dramatic and sweet comic revenge the series offered.

Still, this hasn’t stopped its inevitable condemnation from a large and loud group of detractors.

Twitter 2020

Those include any number of Jewish groups who’ve chastised the series and its creators for inventing Nazi cruelties in a reimagined Grand Guignol type setting.  The same type of setting many of them also applauded in the above-mentioned, and Oscar-winning, Tarantino film.

Other virulent critics and social media observers were a lot more Guignol in their characterization, dismissing the entire affair as Jewsploitation.

One organization, dedicated to preserving the site of the Auschwitz camps as a memorial and preemptive warning for future generations, even called it dangerous foolishness.

It is on Amazon Prime, not PBS. #getagrip #wait #amibeingtooharsh?

Never mind the series’ 31-year old creator and show runner, David Weil, is the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and used his grandmother’s stories as a jumping off point for many of the ideas in the program.

Now taste is taste and certainly no one is obligated to love, like or even tolerate something if it is not to their sensibilities.

On the same token, one can safely assume that none of us, critics or boosters alike, are fans of the Holocaust or disagree that the return to power of Nazis and a new Fourth Reich would be a heinous, dangerous thing.

I think we’re all on the same page here

In other words, we are all in 100% in agreement on the overriding need of getting the word out on that specific dramatic message.  It’s simply the means by which we get there that we disagree on.

Another way to put it is that when it comes to the most important stuff, we are all on the SAME team, if not page.

You might see where I’m going here.  But in case you don’t, here goes:

I believe the United States is right now on the verge of our own modern day Holocaust: of democracy, our core values, our safety and our liberties.

I believe the determining factor on which way it goes will be whether we reelect Donald J. Trump to the presidency later this year.

I believe the overwhelming majority of Democrats, and more Republicans than many of us imagine, agree on this. Certainly the majority of registered voters in the country agree.  As they did in the last election.

Get your surfboard #bluewave2020

Yet here’s what I’ve witnessed among my own intimate group of fellow friends, associates and Americans, many of them Democrats, in the last few weeks:

– The condemnation of comedian John Mulaney by numerous like-minded Dems for daring to say he’d like to play Pete Buttigieg if they ever made a film about the candidate’s life. (Note: FYI, Mulaney has not even endorsed Buttigieg).

– A massive social media backlash against show biz icon Bette Midler for tweeting that Mike Bloomberg is our best choice to dethrone Trump. (Note: Several fans screamed that they’re done with her forever even though Midler has been a vociferous and almost daily anti-Trump voice on Twitter for over a year).

Do NOT come for our Bette!

– Very personal rantings from a bunch of close male friends against Elizabeth Warren because she dared to confront Mike Bloomberg very directly about his past treatment of women during the last two presidential debates and, as the logic goes, ruined his chance of election.

– The vow to SIT OUT the election entirely and NOT VOTE from a powerful small group of wealthy Dem donors I know if Bernie Sanders winds up being our party nominee.

– The vow to NEVER VOTE for any moderate Democratic nominee – especially Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and, yeah, Bloomberg – from any number of younger Dems that I know.

You’ll only get real talk from the Chair

– The thorough CONFUSION of many of the people closest to me on which Democratic candidate to vote for in the primary due to the fear that if the if they choose the person they TRULY SUPPORT they are wasting their vote because that person CAN’T WIN or WONT BE THE NOMINEE and they will thus unwittingly help nominate another candidate they loathe, dislike or generally would be quite reluctant to vote for.

Talk about SELF-SEWING American discord according to Russia’s plan.

Not to be scolding, but, well, now is the time for us all to grow the f-ck up.

What this means is: vote for whomever you REALLY want in the primary.  ANYONE.  And then unite behind the major party candidate your party nominates in order to rid our country of the Nazi in OUR House.

Yeah I said it

This might seem like hyperbole but in my mind it’s not.

This might seem like a difficult choice to make but if you don’t overcomplicate it, it isn’t.

See, on the big issues of Reichs and Nazi-like behavior, the objectives that unite as are pretty simple and a lot stronger than any which divide us.

Or should be.

Blondie – “One Way or Another” (Live)

Same Old Song?

Turner Classic Movies had Judy Garland Day last week and, being a gay man of a certain age, I couldn’t resist tuning in at one point to this 24-hour Judy film fest.

Don’t judge me.

But of all of the choices available who knew that it would be a 1961 dour melodrama about four German judges being tried before a postwar military tribunal for their collaboration with Hitler and the Third Reich, Judgment at Nuremberg, that would hit me like a ton of bricks.

I can think of at least five other Judy films that would have been more enjoyable. (Note: Okay — A Star Is Born, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In St. Louis, Easter Parade and I Could Go On Singing). Though none that could be more timely.

Realistically, this is how I wish I felt about today’s political climate.

In hindsight I should have predicted it. Like the currently much lauded, breakthrough post apocalyptic Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale (which is about to once again become a multi Emmy winner for its superb second season), you can’t go wrong in 2018 watching a story about a country of people who enable a rabid white nationalist political regime to persecute, maim and/or kill anyone they deem to be a subversive OTHER.

Unless all you want to do is escape and put your _____ in the sand.   In which case, you are not only wrong but veering towards the same sheep-like behavior portrayed by some of your fellow countrymen in that movie, that series and no doubt countless other ____________s about to come out on other platforms that will be, at least thematically, very much like them.

Whether we call it the Nazis, the power brokers of Gilead or simply Trumpism – it’s all the same thing. A regime that wants to demonize anyone outside of a select group of people they don’t judge ‘ideal’ – whether they be Jews, the non-religious or Mexican/Middle Eastern immigrants – in order to rouse a base of loyal voters whose lives they promise to improve and whose country they vow to protect and/or rebuild.

I’m gonna go ahead and add “Crippling Insecurity” to the YES column #tinyhands

This strategy is always advanced with promises to put the people of said country FIRST, declarations that said country is GREAT and proclamations that the rest of the world is NO BETTER morally than they are and usually quite INFERIOR.

Yeah, I don’t like comparing any regime, especially America’s current regime, to the Nazis. But the argument being advanced is not how successful the regime is at achieving their goals or to what ends they will get to go in order to achieve them. Instead, it’s the philosophy and the strategy.

The degree to how far they get to go – well, this is up to their subjects… er….citizenry. In other words – THIS IS UP TO US.

BRB

Again, the comparison seemed a bit reach-y. Until too many lines from Judy’s Nazi film, for which she was nominated as Oscar’s best supporting actress that year along with several other cast members in their own categories, began to ring a bell.

— It started when Marlene Dietrich’s upper crust German woman says of Hitler:

He was in awe of nobility but he hated it.

— Then it continued when Montgomery Clift’s ordinary German man recalled the times he was MOCKED by LEADERS of the power class for speaking in a way that seemed slow even when he demonstrated the ability to understand logic.

I’m with Meryl — this still makes my blood boil

— It continued when Judy’s youngish German woman recalled how her best friend, a 65 year old Jewish man, was laughed at and held up to mockery by the PUBLIC at his trial simply because he was A JEW. The charges were violating the new law outlawing A JEW having sex with A GERMAN ARYAN (Judy), a charge he was found guilty of and put to death for even though, as it turned out, it never happened.

–Then there was Marlene’s defense of herself and the German people over Americans condemning her after the war:

Listen to me, there are things that happenedon BOTH SIDES.

ummmm… WHAT?

— Which all finally led to one of the four judges on trial, eloquently played by Burt Lancaster, exposing the lies he and his fellow Germans told themselves about Hitler and the Third Reich:

We say – what difference does it make – our country is at stake – Hitler (He) will be gone after a while. Things denied to US as a democracy are open to us now…. And then one day we looked around and saw what was going to be a passing phase had become a way of life.

Yes, all of these lines were indeed written – by the great screenwriter Abby Mann – but they were based on actual transcripts and stories he culled from the real Nuremberg trials right after the end of WWII.

.. and with a cast like this to make it come to life.

They were not his thoughts he put into his characters’ mouths so much as a distillation of real sentences and opinions and ideas of the time.

Though perhaps knowing there would be a portion of their audience that still might think they were being too polemic or had gone a bit too far, the filmmakers’ “movie trial” included 5-10 minutes of REAL NEWSREEL FOOTAGE of thousands of actual naked Jewish corpses – as well as others barely alive and starving – to back up their words.

This along with clips and still photos of the real crematoriums, featuring close ups of the popular German oven manufacturer that built them. In addition to historical maps indicating the dozens of specific towns with concentration camps hidden among a significant percentage of German citizenry who either supported Hitler because he was doing some good things or because it was easier to turn a blind eye to the whole ugly mess just because.

It’s difficult to face the truths, or potential truths, of any world, especially our own, but in the end it’s far uglier not to.

or you know, truth becomes relative. #stillcantbelievethishappened

As Spencer Tracy’s presiding American judge lets us know at the end of Judgment at Nuremberg in a way only a presiding American judge played by Spencer Tracy could truly make work:

A country is what it stands for – when it’s the most difficult. We stand for justice, truth and the value of a single human being.

Or to put it in 2018 parlance: There’s a reason why Sen. John McCain, who died on Saturday, chose Barack Obama and George W. Bush, a former Democratic president and a former Republican president, to deliver the eulogies at his Capitol Hill memorial service this week rather than the current sitting President of Trumpism.

 

Freedom of (Hate) Speech

When I was in journalism grad school at Chicago’s Northwestern University in 1977, thirty members of the American Nazi Party wanted to march in Skokie – a nearby town of 70,000 in which more than half were Jewish and approximately 5,000 were Holocaust survivors.

There was a big to do and some years later, through court cases and a lot of soul searching among liberals and the ACLU, they did get to hold their march. But most everyone knew what the Nazis were up to. They wanted to hold a group of people they hated as hostages of the first amendment – challenging them to turn their backs on the equality and freedoms they espoused by not allowing their tormenters to taunt and goosestep right before them in their backyards.

This kind of childish bull crap happens every so often when hate-speaking racists get frustrated or empowered enough with their own irrelevance and see a road through which they can satisfy their own rotting inner core by spewing their venom outwards into the crowd that they believe are somehow suppressing their rarefied ways of life.

An important asterisk

In a nutshell, this is what’s going on right now with best-selling right wing author, lawyer, media personality and full-time liberal hater Ann Coulter and her campaign to speak – or perhaps not to speak but to raise hell about it – at the American university in the country best known for championing these freedoms since the turbulent 1960s – UC Berkeley.

Bill Maher recently excoriated the administrators at Berkeley for inviting, then disinviting, and then re-inviting Ms. Coulter to campus amid massive protests from students on both sides of the political spectrum espousing either outcome. So did any number of right wing politicians and wags on Twitter – calling the kids on campus the kind of names you hear from bullies in grade school. I won’t repeat them here but they bring to mind every dumb, desperate insult you’ve ever heard about any group. Instead, I will repeat the phrase ex Law and Order actor and stand up comic Richard Belzer once used to describe Ms. Coulter to Mr. Maher when he also excoriated her on Mr. Maher’s own show years before for airing her rancid rants in the segment just before his – A fascist party doll.

Prepare for the avalanche #brrrrr

You see, I have the freedom to do this without retribution here because this is MY BLOG. Just as the students and administrators of Berkeley have the right to ban Ms. Coulter or anyone else they like since the school is THEIR CAMPUS.

Since it is not public property, like the streets of Skokie, Berkeley is not subject to the same rules of public assembly as a village or town is.   In essence, they can invite and/or disinvite anyone they like. Much like me – a gay, Jew – could be banned from the Eagle Scout meetings Attorney General Jeff Sessions used to attend in Alabama in 1964 when he was 18 and that sort of stuff wouldn’t have even been questioned. You can’t tell an Eagle or Boy Scout what to do. They’re part of a private organization. You can only publicly shame them and force them to accept you.

Cue “All By Myself”

This is, in essence, what is going on now. I can’t claim a portal into Ms. Coulter’s brain – thank her Lord, however you imagine HER/HIM/IT to be – but if past is prologue she has ZERO interest in any sort of give and take intellectual discourse a college campus tries to foster. She is a renowned bomb thrower who delights primarily in provoking the other side by racist generalities and fiery, and very personal, bon mot bombs aimed at any sort of liberal hero, particularly those who have publicly come out against her.

A different kind of “Regan” #couldnthelpmyself

Exactly the same thing can be said of younger and renowned Twitter-banned alt right “pundit” Milo Yiannopoulos – who tried the same thing at Berkeley some months prior, with similar controversial results.

Now if I had my way I’d just let the two of them speak their heads off and picket them. After all, this is so far still the kind of America where we honor dissent – no matter how hateful, nasty and misguided.

On the other hand, if I were just angry enough, I might support the argument that if their intent is to just put on a hate show that just incites violence they are the equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded movie theatre.

A more accurate representation of my feelings

There are a myriad of public speakers one can get to “perform” at an institution of higher learning for educational purposes and if we truly want to view extreme right wing viewpoints maybe going after Rupert Murdoch or one of his two sons co-running the 21st Century Fox (Note: A misnomer for a 21st century liberal like me if I’ve ever heard one) empire might be a better first, second or third choice.

Still, it’s up to right wing student groups to get who they like so I might be convinced – or trade Coulter with, let’s say, hmmmm – is there an ultra Liberal Ann or Milo? I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Maher is not quite categorical enough and even liberal provocateur Michael Moore reaches out to the other side. Heck, his last film – Michael Moore in Trumpland – was entirely about that.

We don’t exactly have a 2017 Hanoi Jane.. do we?

And that is the point.

Do not masquerade immature name-calling and hate speak and insulting generalizations about whole swaths of the population as some post modern performance art that will show the truth about hypocritical liberals, lazy thinking millenials and their one-sided institutions of higher learning.   You can’t claim you’re the pretend Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central when the mood hits you and in the same breath appear on cable news shows as a serious purveyor of facts.

A talk that exists primarily to garner yourself publicity and verbally assault various minority ethnic groups in the name of free speech is not what I wish for my students or their intellectual futures. Though certainly they’re free to indulge in it. Like they occasionally do with the Kardashians, Top Ramen and Pizza Hut.