Saturday, August 31, 2019

How Blessed We Are To Live In A Decent And Democratic Age Where Such Things Could Not Possibly Occur


To be honest, it's hard to understand why anyone still supports Trump-- and nearly 40% of voters do. But it always makes me ill to read that Jews do. Not many, but some. I've always been fascinated that there were actually Jews who voted for Hitler. Something like 24% of Jews voted for Trump. Far fewer Jews voted for Republicans in 2018 but there really should be no Jews-- other than Sheldon Adelson-- who vote for him in 2020. My grandmother used to tell me Jews valued education more than other groups so they were "smarter." (Roland, my closest friend, teaches school in Compton and he says Latinx immigrant families value education more than any other group, although you always hear how much Chinese families do and Indian families and...)

Same for gays, right? Latinx? women?

Anyway, Jews shouldn't be voting for fascists. If if they're not Einstein, how smart do you have be to understand how dangerous that is? Yesterday, the New Yorker published a film review by Anthony Lane that, for the most obvious of reasons, caught my attention: The Hour Of Reckoning Descends In Mr. Klein. It is about a restored version of the 1976 film, Mr. Klein, by Joseph Losey, starring Alain Delon (as Monsieur Klein).

Klein is a Jewish name. I was shocked when I found out that my father, for business purposes when I was a child, used the name Kent. The Mr. Klein, Robert Klein, living in German-occupied Paris, played by Delon, is a Roman Catholic from Alsace, and something of a passive anti-Semite. Lane explains that Klein is "an art dealer who lives in style on the Rue du Bac, on the Left Bank. His apartment is stacked with pictures, and he himself is a kind of objet d’art, lounging in a sumptuous robe with green and gold stripes as if posing for a portrait. Outside, he wears a well-cut suit, with an overcoat and a hat, which he lightly tips, as etiquette demands, to those he greets. He might easily have slipped from the pages of Proust, and it’s only proper that Delon went on to play the Baron de Charlus, one of Proust’s most formidable characters, in Swann in Love (1984). As for Losey, he toiled in vain, for years, to refashion In Search of Lost Time for the cinema."
If Proustian manners persist, in the era of Mr. Klein, they resemble elegant clothes draped over a sickly body. Folks still frequent the cabaret, relaxing with cocktails or champagne, but the audience is dotted with German officers, in uniform, and the entertainment features an actor masked as a cartoon Jew, who lurches offstage to much applause. Klein is there, too, with his girlfriend, Jeanine (Juliet Berto), doing his smiling best to enjoy the show.

This urge to accommodate oneself to new conditions, however unsavory, and perhaps-- should the opportunity arise-- to take advantage of them is visible throughout the film, and all the more galling for being couched in courtesy. Witness Klein, at the start, doing business with a Jewish customer who wants to sell a seventeenth-century Dutch painting, presumably in readiness for leaving France while he still can. A little haggling ensues, and Klein gets the painting for a pittance. (Its subject is a gentleman, clad in black, holding up a flask that contains a golden liquid. Could it be urine? Is he another monitor of the human species?) Though Klein would never put the matter so crudely, he is reaping a tidy profit from the persecuted. He floats above their woes.

Not for long. One day, a copy of a Jewish newspaper is left at his door. Klein is dismayed, and he presents himself at the offices of the paper, calmly explaining that, as a non-Jew, he should not have received it. Proceeding to the Préfecture de Police, he learns that there is a second Robert Klein: a welcome relief for our hero, for what is more easily resolved than a case of mistaken identity? The trouble is that he is now a figure of interest to the authorities. His very attempt at clarification has trapped him in the machinery of state, the workings of which the film invites us to watch-- the long black Citroëns sliding out of police headquarters, in convoy, or the wall-size map of Paris on which the corralling of undesirables can be plotted, district by district, when the hour of reckoning descends.

Like Orson Welles, Losey was a Wisconsin boy who spent much of his adult life in exile. What drove him abroad, in 1951, was the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the accusation-- quite correct, not that he or anyone else deserved to be blacklisted, let alone hounded out-- that he had Communist sympathies. (In 1935, he went to Russia, and attended a parade in Red Square. “The old boy up there was Uncle Joe,” he recalled. “It was impossible to think of him as other than warm, lovely.”) In common with many of those who profess a revolutionary faith in the betterment of mankind, Losey could be mean and difficult toward individual souls, and his rancor was compounded by ill health. On his birthday, during the shooting of Mr. Klein, his asthma was so bad that Delon had to blow out the candles on the cake.

The miracle of the film is that Losey had the imaginative guts to probe his own fears and failings. To have one’s mail opened by the F.B.I., as he did in America, is to be schooled in paranoia-- ideal training for the creation of Klein. The governing theme of the tale, Losey claimed, was indifference, “the inhumanity of the French towards sections of their own people.” Hence the vital presence of Delon, one of the most pitiless of stars. Because he is a natural hunter, notably as the assassin in Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967), it’s deeply discomfiting to see him dwindle and pale, for once, into the hunted. So caustic, in fact, is the atmosphere of Mr. Klein that his beauty seems to peel away, a loss unthinkable to the audiences who swooned over him in The Leopard (1963). Klein has no eyes for anyone but himself and his alter ego, and those eyes are the color of a winter sea.

He is hardly the first person, it must be said, to fall victim to a predatory glitch. “Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning.” So runs the first line of The Trial, lit by Kafka’s terrible clairvoyance. Hitchcock, of course, preferred the comedy of errors, and the bellboy at the Plaza, in North by Northwest (1959)-- who calls out for “George Kaplan” and gets Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) instead, thus unleashing the rest of the story-- foreshadows the page, in Losey’s film, who strolls among the diners at La Coupole, in Paris, exclaiming “Robert Klein!” But which Klein is being summoned to the telephone? Could both be at the restaurant? It’s no surprise when our Klein, like Thornhill, decides to turn detective, and to pursue his other self.

Sleuthing takes him to a number of destinations. One is a seedy refuge in Pigalle, with rat droppings on the floor and a lone bullet, left in a drawer; another is a château in the countryside, with snow on the ground and a highborn family in residence. The lady of the house (Jeanne Moreau), we gather, is the lover of the second Klein, though she confuses the issue by visiting the bedroom of the first. Our man also travels to Strasbourg to see his aging father (Louis Seigner), whose outrage at the suggestion of Jewish blood in the family’s veins is all too revealing. “We’ve been French and Catholic since Louis XIV!” he cries out. (Losey offered the part of the father to Fellini. No luck.) Strewn across the film are a handful of clues, which lead us to suspect that the other Klein is a member of the Resistance-- that he is as brave and as principled as Delon’s Klein is slippery, suave, and hollow. In one haunting sequence, the two of them speak on the phone. Yet I continue to wonder, viewing the movie again, if the gallant Klein truly exists, or if the art-loving, morally compromised Klein merely needs him to exist. Maybe we all dream of a better half, who could somehow atone for our sins.

So do we actually see the double, face to face? Never. The closest we get is a glimpse of a hand, supposedly his, raised aloft and waving, like that of a drowning man, in a crowd that is swept along at a Paris velodrome. By now, it matters not a jot, in the bureaucracy of terror, which Klein is which, for the roundup of Jews is under way, and the trains are waiting. One of the final images, in Losey’s icy labyrinth of a film, is of children being forcibly torn from their parents by officers of the law. How blessed we are to live in a decent and democratic age where such things could not possibly occur.

If Biden is elected-- God forbid-- he will pardon Trump and his family instantly-- you know... so the country can move on (to nothing). Let's hope he, at least, doesn't pardon Stephen Miller.

Moving a little closer to home, I came across a post This is How Holocausts Happen, How Nations Lose Their Humanity by John Pavlovitz yesterday that I want to share. "Populations don’t become monstrous overnight," he wrote. "Nations don’t abandon humanity in a single moment... generational human rights atrocities don’t form in an instant or in a vacuum. Corporate sickness is never sudden. There is always a slow, deliberate, almost imperceptible pattern:
The metamorphosis of a people, begins with an opportunistic leader who understands the power of weaponized fear, who feeds them a steady diet of the things that terrify them: misinformation, fake emergencies, and abject lies all designed to create an urgency in them and to make them feel hopelessly assailed.

He or she creates for these emotionally-vulnerable people a necessary enemy; an encroaching threat to tangibly embody the nightmares they have made in their heads—someone to go to war against, to take back their country from—someone he or she can save them from.

The manipulator begins to dehumanize and vilify this group with otherizing language, with ever more caricatured stereotypes, with phony statistics and manufactured stories and edited news; painting the picture of human beings they begin to see as less than human.

Finally, on top of the terror and the untruths and the ghost stories, they wield the greatest weapon people have in the arsenal of systemic discrimination: religion. They wield faith. so as to actually make those they manipulate believe that their mission is not just important or right, but holy-- that they are being obedient to God while eradicating human beings.

In that state of frantic, perpetually terrorized self-righteousness, they begin to allow everything. They begin to justify all manners of cruelty, all denials of care, all acts of violence—because they are purifying and protection their divinely-curated country.

Once this happens; once ordinary, rational, decent, even compassionate people begin to lose their ability to see the humanity in front of them-- it’s too late to help them see clearly.

This is how holocausts happen... These are the first steps down a road that at the beginning seems unthinkable.

...We have every historic ingredient in place to abandon the best of ourselves and to become something monstrous, something History records as yet another shocking failure of the center.
How does it turn out? Or how does John think it will turn out? It's a lot easier to go to his website and read the whole post that is to teach yourself French to understand all the subtitles in Mr. Klein.

You think Republicans aren't instinctively as anti-Semitic as they are xenophobic, racist and anti-everybody else? Forget it! Yesterday's NY Post ran a story about how the Rockland County GOP GOP plotted to scare voters with the idea of a Jewish take-over... with this ad:
Numerous Rockland County Republican elected officials in February previewed the controversial video put out by the party that critics have branded as anti-Semitic for warning of a “takeover” by the Hasidic Jewish community, The Post has learned.

The early look at the digital attack ad-- some six months before its public release-- shows that the targeting of the ultra-orthodox community was a well-thought-out, deliberate strategy, sources said.

No one in the room objected to it, a GOP source who attended the February meeting told The Post.

“The video was introduced by Lawrence Garvey [the county GOP leader] and played in front of a room of 20-35 people. The entire video was played with Ed Day [the Rockland County executive] there,” the source said.

“We were told we are raising money for the county legislators’ races and unveiling a strategy and we saw the video then. I thought it was a bad strategy,” the source said.

But the source didn’t raise an objection at the time.

The GOP’s “A Storm is Brewing” video blames Hasidic Jews for housing over-development in the suburban county.

“Aaron Wieder [a Rockland County legislator]and his Ramapo bloc are plotting a takeover,” it says.

The caption of the video also says: “The stakes have never been higher. The future of our County, our communities, and our homes hangs in the balance of this year.

“If they win, we lose!”

The Rockland County GOP took down the video Thursday following a firestorm of criticism-- including from the Republican Jewish Coalition, state Attorney General Letitia James and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“This video is absolutely despicable. It is pure anti-Semitism, and should be immediately taken down. The Rockland County Republican Party is an embarrassment and has no place associating itself with our party,” the RJC said in a tweet.

County Executive Day on Friday denied he had anything to do with the video.

“This is not my video and it was not my place to approve or disapprove of anything produced by the Rockland County Republican Committee,” Day said in a statement.

“I have already issued a clear, unequivocal response to this video, answered numerous inquiries from my constituents and in point of fact, played an integral role in making sure it was taken down.”

But sources point out that campaign literature and ads that Day put out for his 2017 re-election campaign included the same language used in the discredited party video.

“Now those who threatened our way of life have registered thousands of new voters looking to takeover Rockland and undo the work we’ve done. A STORM IS COMING ….,” the Day 2017 campaign piece said.

One of Day’s ads in that race warned, “A Storm is Brewing in Rockland.”

Rockland County Dems said the video ad posted on Facebook was just the latest anti-Jewish smear by Republicans.

[All three of the spectacular illustrations on this page were created by award-winning artist and frequent DWT contributor Nancy Ohanian and can be purchased through her website.]

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At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One wonders how long it will be before armbands of a certain style become a normal part of the approved Republican wardrobe.

At 7:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They choose Chinese-made red hats instead of arm bands.

"Populations don’t become monstrous overnight, Nations don’t abandon humanity in a single moment... generational human rights atrocities don’t form in an instant or in a vacuum. Corporate sickness is never sudden. There is always a slow, deliberate, almost imperceptible pattern..."

The population must be monstrous to begin with. To *ACT* monstrous, it only takes a message from the top that it is ok to do so. The pious Christians will be first to act monstrous. The rest always follow.

And it all devolved in Germany RELATIVELY overnight. It has taken longer in our shithole.

The single enabling factor is the dearth of a contravening force against the devolution. There were competing social inertias in both examples (and probably in all such examples) at first that existed in a sort of stasis that suppressed the worst urges of those pious Christians' simmering hatreds. Once the authorities and churches signal that no consequences will be felt, it frees up the pious Christian haters to ACT on their evil.

When the opposition is either suppressed or just shoves both thumbs up their asses (as in this shithole's case), the evil becomes resonant -- feeding on itself -- like the cartoon snowball rolling down the mountainside.

One must then ask whether such devolutions as these are always inevitable given religion and the seemingly infinite capacity for evil among earthly humans. Humanity seems to vacillate in spasms of evil that overtake all spasms of altruism. Always happens.
Would not a sentient species trend toward altruism as a survival reflex if nothing else?

May humanity finally realize its own potential very soon... and just kill itself -- to remove from the earth the evolutionary mistake that we truly are.


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