Saturday, October 30

OSAMA'S ABSENTEE BALLOT



Who will benefit from Osama's latest video?

Republicans point out that a disastrous Pentagon briefing regarding missing explosives in Iraq will now be forgotten; that a fabulous cock-up during a Bush rally in New Hampshire where the confetti cannon prematurely ejaculated--quite a metaphor for an adminisitration that has repeatedly gone off half-cocked--will also be hidden by Osama's shadow.

So, what of it? Democrats will say the video of the on-the-lamb Terror King just proves Bush didn't get his man.

On the other hand, easily spooked "Security Moms" in America might want to keep the devil they know and vote for Bush.

Like everything in this election, voters will be split.

Republican strategists will say that Osama doesn't want Bush elected. He mocks Bush! A vote against Osama is a vote for Bush!

Dems will show the obvious double-think: Osama knows that mocking Bush helps him. Osama is also voting for the devil he knows--George W. Bush.

Democrats are appropriately nervous about anything that might throw off their clear momentum. The "undecideds", it is commonly understood, usually break against the incumbent.

Is that the way it will be now? After Osama? Will they break for Bush?

I say Kerry. Why him?

Because Americans are divided on this too: unhappy about Osama being at large, but angry at Osama insulting their commander-in-chief, with some persuaded to vote for the very Bush Osama mocks.

Many others, alone in that voting booth, will acknowledge that while Bush is a man of action, his confetti cannon was aimed away from Osama on Iraq; and that yes, on 9/11, Bush really was reading a book about a talking goat to school kids.

It seems Osama and filmmaker Michael Moore both agree about the feckless fact of Bush's dithering on that fateful day.

Politics, indeed, makes for strange bedfellows.

Monday, October 25

VALLEY OF THE NAZI DOLLS

Retailers and hobby shops that sell historical Nazi dolls, marketed to adult collectors, are under fire from the Jewish community. These figures are like G.I. Joe, but cost around $90, and feature accurate reproductions of their appearance on the battlefield.

But taste can't be legislated. Moreover, one person's atrocity is another kid's war game. The much-respected Jewish periodical Commentary points out America's genocidal exploits against its Native population. And while Canada's record was far less murderous, the results were the same. That never stoped kids from playing Cowboys and Indians, did it?

What is the real problem with these Nazi dolls? A blatant death camp scene is one thing--but historical models, model airplanes and dioramas featuring Allied Forces against the Germans or Japanese are standard hobby shop fare. The uniforms and equipment are reproduced with an exactness to an unbelievably arcane degree: spring 1944 camouflage Yugoslavia, etc.

The whole teapot tempest arose when an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor came across a Totenkopf SS doll, representing a combat division that fought the Allies in Normandy. He was offended.

I'm offended by many things too. But I'm not trying to tell others what to do, what to buy, and what to sell.

Were the Native Americans offended by Western movies? What about publishing? Hundreds of titles are released concerning Hitler and the Third Reich every year. Does that make every bookstore owner a Nazi? What about the A&E network? If it wasn't for interest in Hitler, they wouldn't have any programming. It seems every other show on the channel has Adolf Hitler as its star.

Publishers know that any book with a Swastika on the cover will sell. Just look at Philip Roth's latest novel, The Plot Against America.

New York intellectual Susan Sontag once wrote an essay called "Fascinating Fascism" where she talks about the iconography of tyrannical power and its application to sexual fetishism.

Black leather Gestapo-wear, indeed: "Please whip me Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S., I've been so very bad."

While I applaud Holocaust survivors everywhere, enough of this politically correct over-sensitivity. Do blacks protest Civil War dolls and reenactments? Remember, the good side won that war too.

Why not buy a Nazi doll and assume representational revenge by making an "Abu Ghraib" scene. Pull their pants down. Take a picture, even.

Far more insidious is the real incitement and de-sensitizing aspects of computer games like Grand Theft Auto. Now there's a social problem. Many Jewish kids, unfortunately, play that game too. Bad taste is an equal opportunity player.

We live in a world of questionable taste. We live in a world with exaggerated cultural narrative representations of darkness and evil where Nazi-esque images, like Captain America's nemesis "The Red Skull", literally take on comic book dimensions.

So, perhaps we arrive at not just "insensitivity", but the nature of identification.

God himself would be a castrated angel without the horns and goathead below him. For the Devil is the contrast required to appreciate the victors.

I maintain the real devil is the ignorance that would seek to ban historical representations and of those who hold that their own approaches to catastrophic historical events be viscerally understood by others. That's just not going to happen. Jewish grandkids of Holocaust survivors can be historically impudent, too.

If you're not an Armenian, you may not be aware of the Turks. Should you be? Of course. In the abstract, at least.

It's in the abstract, away from the real smell of cordite and death camps and blood, where we return.

Nazi dolls--like books, war movies and model tanks--stimulate discussion of these awful days past, and of the great wins and sacrifices made for civilization, including the Holocaust.

If all we did 50 years ago was beat a bunch of pansies, what kind of victory would it have been?

[NOTE: The pictured figure of Erwin Rommel is sold at the Silver Snail on Queen St. W. Wasn't he killed by Hitler, too?]

Friday, October 15

THE COZIEST CAUSE

A trio of self-anointed feminist activists has called upon Canada to sponsor a resolution at the U.N. calling for the condemnation of anti-Semitism.

Why? Are people implying that virtue can be legislated? What about racism in general?

Jews represent one per cent of America, and the rest of the country--aided and abetted by demagogic Christian fundamentalists--are given the impression that Islam is a vile belief system.

If the mainstream press, virtually at any point since 9/11, replaced the word "Muslims" with "Jews", many would understand the pervasive, un-admitted, arch-bias that exists.

The real goal is to make the distinctions between Osama and peace-loving Muslims; between Palestinians who want statehood, and those can't see beyond their hate. Hell, America can't even make qualifications about who attacked them: Was it Iraq, Osama, or Arabs in general?

While the Jews in Canada, and all of us along with them, lament ethnic vandalism, it should be remembered that Jews have never been safer and have never received so much support. (Military and economic integration between the U.S. and Israel is absolute.)

Moreover, it remains hard for many--like Aboriginal people for example--to feel the pain of Jews who are, probably, the most successful ethnic group in North America. How many CEOs are Aboriginal? How many, for that matter, are Portuguese?

Worse still, is that many Jews, consciously or not, use anti-Semitism and its spectre as a club to deflect critisism of Israel, as if any hint of such thing must really be veiled bigotry.

So what is the reality? The reality is that in order to guard Jewish votes in the American election there has been not a whiff of Israeli policy discussion. Ariel Sharon has operated carte blanche.

Personally, I believe Israel's long-term security interests are not served by this approach. Indeed, much of what exists as anti-Semitism today should be subsumed as anti-Westernism. I don't blame Israel for this lack of leadership. It is an American problem as the region is an American protectorate.

When people proclaim that in fighting anti-Semitism they are, by extension, defending everyone, and that anti-Semitism itself is universalized to represent all bigotry, the question must be asked: Why posit an ethnic focus at all? It is disingenous to claim universality when it is predicated upon ethnic partisanship.

If we are to make a universal plea, let's start with Aboriginals who are subjected to much more prejudice--more than African-Canadians.

Jews are never refused a job anymore because they are Jews. Can the same be said for all other groups?

Is anti-Semitism overrated? Let's just say that, in our society, I cannot think of a safer, cozier, more conventional cause. Today, with a strong, vibrant and influential Jewish community able to hire feminist activists like Irshad Manji for redundant speaking engagements, it makes anti-Semitism as a cause celebre, a cause du jour, even more attractive.