h1

ce que nous pensons nous savons

30/12/2007

It is amazing what we think we know.

Our perspectives have been tainted, but some questions remain: to what extent…and in what way?

No doubt the media has changed the way we look at just about anything, particularly with regard to those who in some way seek the limelight. The sexual orientation and recreational preferences of an elected official are afforded more attention than the same circumstances would be when attached to a person who lives her/his life outside the Beltway.

Likewise…this situation regarding Will Smith has been bothering me. Those who live in the public eye have a greater responsibility to monitor their words and overcome their prejudices, the results of the opposite being apparent in stories such as the Mel Gibson DUI encounter. The words came loud and clear from Gibson’s own mouth: he clearly harbors anti-Jewish sentiment.

Unfortunately, I believe that incident further tainted our perspectives when approaching Will Smith’s comments to the Scottish Daily Record: “Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’ I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good.’ ” The media has since had a field day with the conclusion that Smith is at best naively convinced of everyone’s inherent goodness and at worst a supporter of the Jewish Holocaust.

Let’s just pause for a second, rewind, and repeat what Smith said (emphasis mine): “Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’ I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good.’

Wait. So, Smith did not say “I think Hitler was working to do good.” Oh whew, that was confusing for a second.

Returning to regularly scheduled program…

I am Jewish. Gibson’s anti-Jewish comments incensed me and caused me to lose all respect for him despite his many career successes. I believe that he shirked his responsibility to maintain his reputation as a role model, one adopted peripherally by all those who choose to lead public lives. However, the frenzy surrounding Smith’s recent comments is completely misplaced in an effort to criminalize an unpopular opinion.

I personally agree with Smith’s statement. Does that mean that I believe the Holocaust was justified and that the deaths of six million Jews, with whom I have chosen to identify, was for the good? Of course not – it simply illustrates what is already widely known about Hitler, that he was psychotic. How else does one explain the systematic murder of Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, blacks, homosexuals and other “impure” peoples, unless to say that it is the result of pure evil?

Smith later followed up his comments with a similar sentiment. Smart for him, that he would choose to confront those who perverted his words to sell more copies, and good of him in the first place to express what I’m sure he realized would be an unpopular idea.

What have we learned from all of this? Check the facts. Pay attention to context. And, though common law is both popular and useful in some situations, be sure that situations are analogically similar enough to indicate that a similar judgment be passed. Also, and more importantly, while it is crucial to recognize and confront bigotry and hatred in its myriad forms, there are enough instances of both in the world without searching for hidden meanings in plain statements. Rather than castigate the good, we should be on our guard and always seek the truth.

The truth will set you free.

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