Friday, July 9, 2010

Mouthy Mel Makes More Mortals Mad


Mel Gibson is at it again. He hasn't offended enough people by offending the Jews, he has to add African-Americans and women into the mix. By telling the mother of his child that "You're an embarrassment to me. You look like a f***ing pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n***ers, it will be your fault."

For those of you living in a cave, that is offensive to African-Americans firstly because of the "n" word and secondly because it implies that they are more likely to gang-rape a woman than any other group. It is offensive to women because it implies that women bring rape (a crime of violence again ALL women and NOT a crime of sexual attraction) upon themselves.

So, thanks to Mouthy Mel's mouthing off, I decided to dig up an old article I wrote a number of years ago (6?) about "The Passion etc." produced by Mouthy Mel. Here, for your reading enjoyment, is my article entitled "What do Jews Want?":
The stage is totally dark. A small spot light pinpoints in on the haggard face of a man. He isn't moving. His head is hanging down, limp against his chest. The light stays there for a few moments. Gradually the man's eyes open. They are bloodshot and you can see tears forming in the corners. Suddenly, you hear a cracking sound, like a whip, then the sound of leather against flesh and the man's face contorts. Finally, the light opens to reveal a torture chamber, the man hanging from the ceiling by his arms from slightly rusted but strong iron shackles. The man wielding the whip is wearing Catholic cleric's clothing.

Is the scene being depicted some bizarre alternative universe? Is this Shakespeare gone mad? No. This is my vision for a movie that tells the truth, the truth about the Christian love that Mel Gibson is just perpetuating. This is my vision for a movie about medieval European history through the lens of Jewish suffering.

As a student of Sephardic history, I have read many books, fiction and non-fiction, about the atrocities of the Spanish (and Portuguese) Inquisition. As a "yeshiva girl" through the end of high-school, I learned a version of world history I would never have learned in the New Jersey or even the New York public school system. I learned that the Crusades, far from being a "noble" war for G-d, were a slaughterfest. Jewish men were murdered and Jewish women were raped in the name of the Christian god.

I am the student who gave my college art history professor a different perspective on the scene from the Arch of Titus that depicts the Romans removing and defiling the Temple Menorah and other vessels after their "glorious victory" over the Jews of Jerusalem (which we commemorate in the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, Tisha B'Av). To her credit, she gave my version of the story full credit on the final.

So I am quite nicely aware of how historic perspective can come into play. And, though I haven't seen Mel Gibson's Passion, I can tell you right now, the issue, from my perspective, isn't whether or not the movie itself or even Mr. Gibson is anti-Semitic. The issue to me is the effect the movie will have on the average person.

This movie is simply a modernized retooling of the medieval passion plays. These plays were popular around Easter time throughout Europe. And these plays inculcated generations of Christians with a hatred for their local Jewish population that often led to pogroms and led to the biggest and most organized pogrom of the 20th Century ? the Holocaust. Christians, im"passion"ed by these plays, saw Jews as disciples of the devil, the incarnate of evil. We all know that G-d has given us the job of destroying evil in this world. But, in order to destroy evil, we must know what evil is.

Right now, evil is the lie of hatred. Evil is the lie that all evil stems from Jews. Evil is deception. Pope John XXIII, a very brave and loving man, told the Christian world through Vatican II, that Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus. Mel Gibson sees this change in policy as inconsistent. I don't. I see it as the Vatican finally acknowledging publicly something it had known for centuries, but found easier to bury because of their anti-Jewish agenda. It was a lot easier for Christian clerics to keep their congregants from exploring Judaism by telling them that Jews were evil incarnate than to justify their own theological positions. Pope John Paul II recently apologized to Jews for centuries of persecution. Pope John XXIII, for his vision and courage, realized that a lot of that persecution can be traced directly to the belief that Jews killed Jesus.

Mr. Gibson's movie, in its haste to blame the Jews and exonerate the Romans, ignores simple historical evidence. The Jews never used crucifixion as a form of execution. The Jews were not in political control of the area at the time. And the Romans had a history of brutality. And they did use crucifixion as a means of execution.

Oh, and by the way, the Gospels were written as missionary tracts. They weren't too terribly concerned with truth, justice or the American way, so to speak. They needed to tell a story and they did. And they needed to make us the "bad guys". The book of Matthew was written specifically to convert Jews. It takes verses from the Tanakh out of context, mistranslates others, and creates others out of "whole cloth". It is designed to convince Jews that the prophets predicted Jesus' life and death.

So that brings us back to my vision. My vision awaits a producer, one who is acquainted with the real truth or is willing to learn it, one who is bold enough to depict it. Do people want to see the truth? I'm not quite sure. But we'll never know until it's out there for them.

* The title of this article is a take off on the only Mel Gibson movie I ever saw, "What Do Women Want?
Adar 16, 5764 / 09 March 04