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Thursday, August 03, 2006
Mel, Your Foot is In Your Mouth

We have to face the music: conservative culture hero Mel Gibson is an anti-semite. Thankfully, anti-Semites are becoming few and far in between (and not running governments as they were prone to do in Europe).

Here's what happened:
Gibson became agitated after he was stopped on Pacific Coast Highway and told he was to be detained for drunk driving Friday morning in Malibu. The actor began swearing uncontrollably. Gibson repeatedly said, "My life is f****d."

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

Christopher Hitchens, font of wisdom on most topics except for religious belief, had this to say:
I think that the difference between the blood-alcohol levels—and indeed the speed limits—that occasioned the booking are insufficient to explain the expletives (as Gibson has since claimed in a typically self-pitying and verbose statement put out by his publicist). One does not abruptly decide, between the first and second vodka, or the ticks of the indicator of velocity, that the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are valid after all...

[I]t has been obvious for some time to the most meager intelligence that he is sick to his empty core with Jew-hatred. This is not just proved by his twistedly homoerotic spank-movie The Passion of the Christ, even though that ghastly production did focus obsessively on the one passage in the one of the four Gospels that tries to convict the Jewish people en masse of the hysterical charge of Christ-killing or "deicide." It is [also] validated by his fealty to his earthly father, a crackpot who belongs to a Catholic splinter group of which our Mel is a member. This group more or less lives off the stench of medieval anti-Semitism.

Hitchens, more or less, has it exactly right. A person never says, or really does, anything drunk that they would not have done while sober. The famous two-beer queers, or the intoxicated anti-semites, were always already that way in the first place with the alcohol being a lubricant to help work it out.

Hitchens, however, gets it wrong when he suggests that the problem is the religious belief and not the sick twisted mind of Gibson. Repudiating the (apparently misinformed) doctrine bequeathed to Moses that "sins of the fathers should descend to later generations", Hitchens neither wants to hold Gibson accountable for the beliefs of his father nor wishes Gibson to hold Jews responsible for deicide. The doctrine of generational transmissive guilt, while given to Moses, was revoked, by God, to either Jeremiah or Ezekiel making God a lot more progressive than Hitchens by at least a few thousand years. More importantly, though, Hitchens needs to make this about Gibson's religious beliefs, as opposed to his individual bigotries, to paint the crime in an overly large brush and thereby tar all of his enemies. (It comes with being a contrarian.) Given that most Christians have renounced anti-semitism as an organizing principle, particularly in America, Hitchens' philippic teeters uncomfortably into the illogic of the intoxicated, whether by extreme prejudice, madness, or alcohol.

Mel Gibson released the following statement in response:
There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark. I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a DUI charge.

I am a public person, and when I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena. As a result, I must assume personal responsibility for my words and apologize directly to those who have been hurt and offended by those words.

The tenets of what I profess to believe necessitate that I exercise charity and tolerance as a way of life. Every human being is God's child, and if I wish to honor my God I have to honor his children. But please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot. Hatred of any kind goes against my faith.

I'm not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one on one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing.

I have begun an ongoing program of recovery and what I am now realizing is that I cannot do it alone. I am in the process of understanding where those vicious words came from during that drunken display, and I am asking the Jewish community, whom I have personally offended, to help me on my journey through recovery. Again, I am reaching out to the Jewish community for its help. I know there will be many in that community who will want nothing to do with me, and that would be understandable. But I pray that that door is not forever closed.

This is not about a film. Nor is it about artistic license. This is about real life and recognizing the consequences hurtful words can have. Its about existing in harmony in a world that seems to have gone mad.

This apology is notable in several respects. First, Gibson acknowledges that words are more than just sound and emphasizes his commitments as a democratic citizen to increase 'harmony' in a discordant multicultural society. Second, Mel, rightfully, testifies that bigotry and hatred of all kinds find neither refugee nor origin within the gospel of Jesus Christ. While he has not yet recognized that 'all of God's creatures' includes also homosexuals, this public admission is a strong step forward in defending the cosmopolitan and universal appeal of the gospel. As Paul wrote: "the gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe." Third, Gibson pledges to offer us more than an apology, more than a song of convenient contrition, and requests forgiveness as well as partners on a journey of healing. If he is sincere, then this is the true Christian way.

Hitchens, however, is not willing to extend this grace:
Those who endorsed his previous obscene blockbuster are obliged to say something now or be ignored ever after. But this should not be yet another spectacle of the "offensive" and the "inappropriate," swiftly succeeded by rehab and repentance and perhaps—who knows?—a joint press conference with Elie Wiesel. Gibson did not "misspeak"; indeed according to many trustworthy reports, he nearly copped the customary celebrity "get out of jail free" card and had his remarks stricken from the record. (When will the sheriffs decide to release the evidence?) No, he spoke his "mind," and in case anyone wants to burble about political correctness, it should be added that he spoke this way because of his religion, not just his warped personality. Let him keep the fortune he made from a pogrom movie, and let him by all means continue to sponsor his Latin Mass sectarian church in Malibu, where sinners are thick on the ground. But there was another touch of in vino veritas when he tearfully told the cops that "my life is f---ed," and this inadvertent truth ought to be remembered in all charity as the last words we ever want to hear from him.

The recognition of a life being "f---ed" is the first step toward repentance and salvation in my tradition. If Mel is sincere, then we should let him demonstrate him working out his own salvation with fear and trembling.

One last detail, he is working on a movie about the Holocaust. Unless his repentance is sincere and he is cured of Jew-hatred, this movie will be a disaster. Some have expressed uncomfortability with a (known) anti-Semite making a movie about something so central to modern Jewish identity.

Let Mel Gibson make his movie. At the worst, it will be a denial of the Holocaust. A film denying the Holocaust will be quickly condemned by every reasonable person so it will do no harm. Moreover, it would be odd, ironic, and hypocritical for Americans to prevent/ outlaw Holocaust-denial while simultaneously affirming the right of Europe newspapers to offend Muslims with cartoons about the Prophet. Having castigated Muslims for their response, we too should allow the same freedom concerning matters of sensitive importance to us on pain of consistency.