Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Anti-Semitic Pole Bans Jews from His Guesthouse

Piotr Rybak has hung a sign outside his guesthouse in Poland saying that entry is forbidden to "Jews, Commies, and all Thieves and Traitors to Poland." 

Read more about this Polish anti-Semite here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/27/polish-authorities-urged-act-far-right-activist-bans-jews-guesthouse/

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Disney Pixar's New Film "Coco" and Bieganski

Disney / Pixar has a new movie, "Coco," and it is going to be huge. It will be considered for an Academy Award for best picture. It will rake in huge sums. 

Yesterday, Adrian Molina, the writer and director of "Coco" was on WNYC's Leonard Lopate radio show. 

Molina, in virtually every sentence, said something like, "Our goal was to create a Mexican movie. We hired only Mexican or Latino actors. We strove to honor indigenous Mexican traditions. We had to interview six hundred children to find a worthy Mexican child. All the music is inflected with Mexican sounds. We had to be sure to use Spanish, because Spanish is more beautiful than English..."

And on and on and on and on.

"Coco" is a nationalist project.

In recent days, the world has been discussing Poland's recent Independence Day march. The world recoils from POLISH nationalism, insisting that it is an evil threat to world peace.

"Coco," a MEXICAN nationalist product, will be hailed and feted.

BTW, the nonsense about needing Mexicans to play the characters in an animated film. Benjamin Bratt, as his last name implies, is of Northern European, largely German ancestry. His mother is from Peru.

Peru is over four thousand miles from Mexico. That's greater than the distance from New York to London. That's TWICE THE DISTANCE from New York City to Mexico City.

There is no cultural similarity between the Incas and the Aztecs. The one thing they have in common -- both the Inca Empire and the Aztec Empire were defeated by tiny numbers of Europeans fighting with local, Native American Indian troops who were eager to see oppressive Native American empires fall.

I'm not protesting "Coco"'s nationalism. I'm not protesting the hiring of Mexican or Hispanic actors. I'm merely mentioning the painful and destructive double standards that elevates one ethnicity, Mexicans, and denigrates another, Poles. This is the dynamic I describe in my book "Bieganski: the Brute Polak Stereotype." 

You can hear the Leonard Lopate show interview with "Coco" creator Adrian Molina here: http://www.wnyc.org/story/coco

Site says that "whites" should not review "Coco." Only Hispanics should review "Coco." http://remezcla.com/lists/film/latino-film-critics-review-pixar-coco/

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Southern Poverty Law Center Condemns Poland's Independence Day March. Jacek Miedlar's Antisemitic Speech

The Southern Poverty Law Center has condemned Poland's Independence Day March, as has "Tell Mama," a pro-Muslim group in the UK. 

Tell Mama included an excerpt from the speech by Jacek Miedlar:

"The fact that there can be synagogues here, on our Polish soil, the fact that Jews can revel in Talmudic hate inside them, is only a result of our tolerance bordering on lack of caution. Let them know that the streets are ours! Dear football fans, dear patriots, be merciless! Be radical in your fight against evil, against falsehood, against injustice, against lawlessness, against the destruction of Polish justice system and against Talmudism. We are at a war between good and evil and no Jewish Marxist horde will take away our flag or trample on Christ’s cross."

These words are indefensible. 

Read the SPLC condemnation here: https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/11/15/white-nationalist-and-anti-muslim-sentiment-prevail-polands-independence-day-march

Read the Tell Mama condemnation here: https://tellmamauk.org/jayda-fransen-shares-platform-friendship-with-firebrand-antisemitic-former-priest-jacek-miedlar/

You can see some of Miedlar's speech here: 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Douglas Murray: Poland Remembers

Douglas Murray, British author of The Strange Death of Europe, says that Poland remembers. 

Poland's Allegedly "Nazi" March. Photos

Lukasz sent these in. I have no idea how representational they are. 

Bieganski Threatens World Peace: Jan Tomasz Gross in The New York Times

On Thursday, November 16, the New York Times ran a racist, anti-Polish piece by Jan Tomasz Gross.

Gross resorts to racist stereotyping in addressing Poland's resistance to the Islamization of Europe.

This is especially ironic given that Jan Tomasz Gross *appears to be* condemning racism.

But he is resorting to racism.

We all know why many people think that unvetted and unchecked immigration of Muslims into Europe should be stopped.

Terrorism, like the Bataclan.

Birth rates. European women have rights, and can delay having, or even decline to have, children.

Gender apartheid strips Muslim women of rights. In Islam, given the example of Mohammed, who married his favorite wife, Aisha, when he was over fifty and she was six, there is no age of consent. Females can be married off quite young. Men are allowed four wives and an infinite number of sex slaves. For these reasons, Muslims are statistically more likely to have many children than non-Muslims.

Western Europe's immigration policies have created seismic change and social instability. Women are less safe. Homosexuals are less safe. Jews are less safe.

Anyone who cares about social stability will question whether or not mass, unvetted and unchecked immigration is a good idea.

Jan Tomasz Gross declines to note these obvious roots for Poles' focus on Islam.

Rather, Jan Tomasz Gross plays the racism card. Poles qua Poles are guilty, disgusting, racists. It is in their blood. It is in their history. Gross misrepresents Polish history by presenting only one side – the racist side. Shame.

Poles are terminally stained by the unforgiveable sin of racism.

I have frequently defended Gross on this page, and I will defend him again. He has produced important scholarship.

In this New York Times piece, Gross is nothing but a racist.


There's more.

The solution to the nationalism and scapegoating of Muslims going on in Poland and in the US today is *not* to demonize Poles – or Americans.

The solution can be found on the left.

The left has gone too far. It expresses contempt for its perceived enemies. It rides roughshod over mainstream culture.

This has happened before. A terrifying example can be found in the excesses of the Versailles Treaty.

If you push people too far, they push back. Solution? Stop pushing people too far.

Want to weaken racists, xenophobes, and chauvinists in Poland – and in the US?

Stop pushing people too far. Work for the change you want to see in a respectful way, rather than in an arrogant, high-handed, contemptuous way.  

Brief clips from Gross' NYT piece below. You can read the whole thing here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/16/opinion/poland-pure-blood-march.html

"Tens of thousands of people -- many of them young men with crew cuts, but some parents with children, too -- flocked to the Polish capital to celebrate Independence Day in a march organized in part by two neo-fascist organizations. They waved white and red Polish flags, they brandished burning torches, and they wore 'white power' symbols. They carried banners declaring, 'Death to enemies of the homeland,' and screamed, 'Sieg Heil!' and 'Ku Klux Klan!'"

Gross goes on to say that "we are witnessing a resurgence of fascism in Poland."

"…Ever since the Law and Justice Party won both the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, Poland has been undergoing a disturbing political transformation…Two years ago, the party bet that latching onto the refugee crisis in Europe would give it purchase…"

The governing party, he says, is using the threat of Islamization as is occurring in Western Europe to radicalize Poles into violent xenophobia and dangerous, primitive nationalism.

"Poles," Gross writes, "couldn't tell a Muslim or a Buddhist from Jesus."

Their attitude toward Muslims, Gross insists, "springs primarily from a deep pool of ethnic-cum-religious hatred, which is indigenous to Poland and has historically been aimed at Jews."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Blogger: Poland is Unsafe for Non-Poles,. Muslims, and Homosexuals



A blog alleges that Poland is unsafe for non-Poles, Muslims, and homosexuals. 

Read the blog here

My thought, fwiw: the blogger is conflating many different things. Homophobia is not the same as resistance to Islamization. Beating up someone because the person is speaking German is a bad thing to do but to understand it one must understand Poland's recent history. 

Conflating hostility to homosexuals, Germans, and Muslims obscures rather than clarifies. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

SNL: He's a Polak, Dumb As a Box of Rocks

About the three minute mark. Saturday Night Live, November 4, 2017, a skit of Sarah Huckabee Sanders commenting that a Polak is dumb as a box of rocks. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Leon Wieseltier, Harvey Weinstein, and Bieganski

Source: Vanity Fair 
Leon Wieseltier, Harvey Weinstein, and Bieganski

In a previous post I mentioned that The Tablet, a Jewish magazine, had identified Harvey Weinstein's sexual predation as being informed by his Jewish identity. That Tablet article caused an uproar and the author was forced to apologize for it.

I think the question should be asked and answered. Heaven knows enough people conflate German identity with mass murder. Me, I don't see the connection. Rwandans, Cambodians, Russians, Muslims, Comanches, are all capable of real or attempted genocides.

OTOH, Germans carried out their genocide in a typically German way. All that obsessive documentation, for example, is very German. Photos. Bills of lading. Rwandans didn't keep such scrupulous records of the bloated corpses they sent down the Kagera River into Lake Victoria.

In other words, crimes are universal and human but various identity groups can put their own spin on crimes.

Bieganski is the Brute Polak Stereotype. It is a cultural creation, not a reflection of reality. It is supported by performances.

I witnessed this particular performance many times. A purveyor of the Bieganski stereotype would announce, "I am a virtuous person, and the seal of my virtue is six million dead Jews. You, a Polish Catholic, are terminally filthy, and the seal of your filth-as-identity is those same six million dead Jews. You, therefore, cannot argue when I smear you as being a stereotypical brute."

An example of this dynamic. I was invited to a dinner party in Berkeley. My white, wealthy, Nordic hostess was not Jewish. One of the guests, Neal, was. Over dinner, apropos de rien, Neal told a series of offensive Polak jokes. I protested. He immediately blurted out, "Poles were never lynched." An interesting thing to say, given that lynching was, significantly, a white supremacist crime against blacks, also given that Poles suffered under Mikhail Muraviev, aka "The Hangman," who did indeed hang Poles. But Neal's message was clear. He was Jewish. He suffered. His virtue status trumped mine. My job, as a Polak, was to shut up and take his abuse.

There's a species of huffy outrage that some not all purveyors of the Bieganski stereotype perform when elevating their own words above any critique, and lowering all Polish Catholics below any human respect or sympathy.

The Slate article, "'There’s This Gap Between Your Values and Lived Reality' Former New Republic editor Franklin Foer on Processing and Learning from the Leon Wieselter Sexual Harassment Allegations," reports that everyone knew that Leon Wieseltier was a pig, a serial violator of women. Everyone allowed him to do the disgusting things he did. The article said that Wieseltier's piggery was an "open secret." They didn't just allow Wieseltier to abuse women. They elevated Wieseltier to the status of a modern-day prophet. You can read the article here.

Wieseltier is a child of Holocaust survivors. People feel guilty and sad about the Holocaust. People let Holocaust survivors' children get away with a lot of guff and nonsense. I've witnessed this in real life.

I think that that guilt helps fuel the Bieganski stereotype. I write about this process in my book Bieganski. Jews are popularly understood as victims. Polish Catholics are not popularly understood as victims. When John Guzlowski was interviewed on the Leonard Lopate Show, Lopate's first question for John was, paraphrase, "You write poetry about your Polish Catholics parents' experience of being persecuted by the Nazis. But the Nazis didn't persecute Polish Catholics, did they?"

So, ignorant people playing a weird psychological game say, "Jews are victims; we must accord them virtue and not judge their excesses; Polish Catholics are not victims; we must allow them no quarter."

Of course not everyone does this, and not everyone who does do this does this in all circumstances. Too many people ready to sympathize with Jews and dehumanize Poles in relation to the Holocaust or any aspect of Catholic history, are perfectly willing to throw Jews under the bus when it comes to the mere existence of the state of Israel. Muslims' status as symbols of suffering and virtue trumps Jews' status for many liberals.

I think that something similar happens in the US with African Americans. I think that's part of the point of the play "Six Degrees of Separation." A black con artist is able to fleece rich white liberals by pretending to be Sidney Poitier's son. The liberals never expose this young man to the kind of basic questions you would ask a white stranger who invades your home and pretends to be a celebrity's son.

I think it's possible that Wieseltier got away with being a pig, and not just a pig but a holier-than-thou, Jews are too good to speak to Polish Catholics, purveyor of the Bieganski stereotype at least partly because he is the son of Holocaust survivors, and people paved his way with their own guilt and internal psychological games. The game being, "If I am indulgent of the son of Holocaust survivors, I am less guilty."

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Leon Wieseltier and Jesus and Judaism

A Theological Debate by Eduard Frankfort source
Leon Wieseltier has recently been in the news as an alleged sexual harasser.

Below is an account of hearing him, and others, speak at the Nextbook Conference, "What's He Doing Here? Jesus in Jewish Culture." held at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan on April 29, 2007.

I wrote this as a letter to a friend.

I was eager to attend because of Jewish informants' astounding reactions to me when I did my dissertation research on Polish-Jewish relations. I interviewed a lot of Jewish people. I was trying to discover their stereotypes of Poles and Jews. As part of those interviews, their feelings about Jesus came out. I did not elicit this; none of my questions referred to Jesus. I did not expect this.

In one mind-blowing encounter, I asked a twenty-something Jewish girl one question (I think it was the purposely vague, "I'm asking my informants if they have any preconceptions of what constitutes Jewish identity"), and she talked for three hours, non-stop, in a monologue that was fascinating and made me laugh and cry and would, with minimal editing, make a fantastic novella. Her topic: her envy of, and attraction to, things Christian. She fell in love with a Christian boy, and accompanied him to church, and loved church and Christianity (and yet voiced no desire to convert) and it was driving her parents crazy. This one-woman-show was all the more fascinating because she wasn't an obviously intellectual, poetic or deep person. She spoke in kitchen-sink vocabulary, noun-verb-noun sentences about all the big issues -- love, death, God, family, loyalty, identity, prejudice -- as she worked them out through the narrative of her upcoming wedding. Whether a rabbi or a priest would officiate, whether the reception would be kosher, what toasts would be offered: all these decisions carried the same weight as the decisions of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Other informants expressed rage. A rabbi told a thorny, squirmy tale of an attempt at conversion made on her by someone using "Jews for Jesus" documents. A smiling man told of growing up in Canada singing Christmas carols, along with his other Jewish classmates. A man who was the son of a Holocaust survivor who beat him to the point where he had to be removed from the home said that he envied Catholic kids because they had the beneficent image of Mary, the Madonna, to pray to, while he grew up in a world with no loving images.

My response to these accounts is not triumphalistic. I don't try to convert people. My lack of a desire to convert others, one might conclude, is based in post Vatican Two political correctness. That's not the case. My lack of a desire to convert others is rooted in an Eastern European peasant worldview.

When I was very young, my mother and her friend Dave would sit around the kitchen table and talk for hours. I learned that he worshipped on Saturday, while we worshipped on Sunday. I could see that my mother was very comfortable -- no, happy -- with Dave. I never saw her interact with my father with the warmth, spontaneity, and enthusiasm the way she shared with Dave: talking, laughing, relaxing, telling the kind of "in-jokes" and stories that rendered them, in some sense, a couple. They reenacted the Old Country together. My mother never made any attempt to change Dave's religion. Too, like a lot of Eastern European peasant women, my mother worked in Jewish households. As a live-in domestic servant, she raised a couple of Jewish kids. At home with us, she occasionally spoke Yiddish, and cooked Jewish foods. We, reliably, had matzo every Passover, and matzah brie. Jews were like any other element of the landscape that you don't think of changing…

I really liked the panel by Stephen Greenblatt, Robert Pinsky, and Ed Hirsch, but the rest of the day felt like leftovers, to me. I felt that both presenters and audience members were falling back on easy, unexamined postures: Jews are victims; Anti-Semitism is a bad thing; Christians are arrogant and self-deluded; Jews are the lone correctives in Christians' hegemonic self-delusion. Jesus was barely mentioned. Jesus' appeal was barely mentioned.

Did we spend a beautiful late April Sunday indoors just to hear platitudes? Yes, anti-Semitism is a bad thing, but does anyone anyone takes seriously really think otherwise? And, Christian hegemony? Have these folks read Michelle Goldberg or listened to the Howard Stern show?

Demographics: my guestimate: most conference attendees were women over fifty-five. Slightly less than half seemed male; one could almost count those under fifty-five on both hands. Why wasn't this topic appealing to younger people, or more appealing to men? I don't know, but I wonder if those demographics, if correct, had any impact on the intellectual / spiritual risk-taking going on. Very few people seemed Christian (seemed Christian -- self identified as Christian, or wore Christian symbols, or were wearing lederhosen and/or dirndls, or responded appropriately when offered the secret Christian handshake.) Most seemed Jewish. (Self identified as Jewish, wore Jewish symbols, spontaneously burst into show-stopping numbers from "Fiddler on the Roof.") I wonder if the lack of non-Jews had an impact on the risk-taking going on.

I would have liked a conference where there were impassioned hallway debates, rather than just endless, comfortable, head nodding. But, then, I've been trained in martial arts.

One more global comment. As has happened before when I've been in largely Jewish settings, I overheard some astoundingly ugly statements about Christians. At one talk, a woman behind me was going on and on about how STUPID and INSENSITIVE and SELF-ABSORBED and DESTRUCTIVE Christians are. I finally had to turn around and, as subtly as I could, get a peek at the source of this uncut hostility. As it happens, the woman saying these things was large, ungainly, with a long nose, several facial warts, and lots of make-up. I had the thought I've had before. If I were someone like Claude Lanzmann or Marian Marzynski, I would, at such a moment, whip out my camera, and start filming. I would use lighting and editing to highlight the worst in this woman, without ever offering any context that would aid in understanding of her hostility, or would aid to viewer to regard her with compassion or note shared humanity. And I realized, yet again, how different the mind of a Claude Lanzmann or Marian Marzynski is from anyone who has any ethics, or who wants to work for healing, rather than more pain.

The first talk I attended was "A Passion for Waiting: Messianism and the Jews," given by Leon Wieseltier and James Carroll. I looked at them up on the stage, mere feet from me, and . . . What can I say. The fundamental lies Carroll tells about Poland in Constantine's Sword; Wieseltier's refusal to so much as converse with Polish people. Wieseltier's dismissal of Adam Michnik, one of my heroes, a man whose shoes Wieseltier is not fit to untie. I sat and stared at them and . . . I wished that, sometimes, the world worked according to the rules of working class people. I wished I could go up on that stage, and say to them, Carroll first, "Let's step outside, and settle this mano-a-mano."

Wieseltier and Carroll were gasbags. I wondered if narcissism, not the love of money, is not the foundation of all evil. Anything either one ever said about Poland he said, not to say something about Poland, but to advance himself one step further toward fame, and, even, just mere attention.

Leon Wieseltier's main point, as far as I can make out: Jews and Christians are different. Jews are better. Christians are an apocalyptic people, uncomfortable with the world, ready to blow it up. Jews are mellow and at peace with the world as it is. This is all made clear when one compares the Jewish approach to Messianism, and the Christian. Jews don't want to remake the world. The Messiah is not a big feature of Judaism. Christians are bummed out because after Jesus' life nothing changed (sic, and !!!), and so they have to want to blow up the world to prove that something changed after Jesus' life. Jews don't want the Messiah to come. To prove these point, Wieseltier read an exchange between debaters in Medieval Spain.

Wieseltier also said that Jesus was not Jewish. Jesus was an ex-Jew, Wieseltier insisted. I suppose he could have gone farther, and insisted that he had DNA evidence to prove that Jesus was Swedish . . .

Needless to say, as he spoke, one example after another flooded my brain, from the story of Noah, very firmly fixed in Jewish scripture, in which God erases the world because he is so uncomfortable with it, to Moses, to verses from Jewish scripture like "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain," and "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them," not to mention the disgust with the world expressed in a verse like, "Babylon, may the Lord bless everyone who beats your children against the rocks!" Then there are the East European Jewish compensatory folktales in which Jews report that after the Messiah comes Polish princesses will be scrubbing Jewish floors, to the Baal Shem Tov meeting the messiah, to Sabbatai Zvi, to the full-page ads in the New York Times suggesting that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the messiah . . . In other words, there is ample evidence that Wieseltier is incorrect, and that Messianism and a desire to remake the world has a long and rich history in Jewish culture.

Also, Wieseltier's point that Jews qua Jews resist redemption wasn't convincing. Augustine famously said, "not yet," in a prayer to God. Constantine didn't want to be baptized till he was on his deathbed. We all resist God. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here. In short, Wieseltier was wrong. Jews and Christians aren't different. Jews and Christians are more importantly alike than different. I tried to say that at the end of his talk, but the well-groomed young lady with the nametag and the microphone would not let me have it.

Wieseltier's association of Christianity with apocalyptic thought is every bit a function of American popular culture, and the Tim LaHaye / Jerry Jenkins Left Behind series of novels (in which the anti-Christ is an Eastern Europe named Carpathia -- gotta love it) and not a reflection of Christianity. For example, Catholics don't interpret the Apocalypse as something that is about to happen, but a coded message about what has already happened. "666" is not the mark of a coming anti-Christ, but code for Nero. The analog to Wieseltier's approach would be to comment on Judaism by analyzing Madonna's relationship to Kabbalah.

I don't think that James Carroll had a main idea. I can report that he was wearing very shiny, very expensive looking, burgundy-colored leather shoes, just like the pope wears. Well, I guess if they won't let him be pope, he can skewer popes in print.

Carroll sat back in his chair. He conceded every point Wieseltier made, almost before W. made it. Carroll apologized, he effaced himself, he said Christianity had been bad, bad, bad. And, yet, he seemed in firm control of the conversation, and almost triumphalistic in his assumed humility. Wieseltier seemed to be racing to catch up. I can't account for this. At first I assumed that Carroll must be taller, but when they both stood, that didn't seem to be the case.

I have to wonder if post-Holocaust political correctness on the part of Christians is not the cause of Carroll's apparent dominance? In a world where the strong must constantly apologize, does constantly apologizing make one appear strong? And does the cocksureness displayed by Wieseltier make one appear to be on the defensive? Dunno.

Carroll told a Martin Buber anecdote. The messiah appeared. Jews and Christians, in order to find support for their own positions, asked him if he had ever been here before. The messiah, to be diplomatic, replied, "I don't remember." Carroll then said that Jews and Christians should concentrate on what they have in common, like a concern for social justice. Maybe that's what made Carroll seem in control? His reaching out a hand to Wieseltier and offering comradeship, and his refusal to play one-up-man-ship? The one time Carroll took a firm stance in opposition was when a woman in the audience said, paraphrase, "You are exceptional. The rest of those Christians are a bunch of anti-Semitic loons; therefore, what you are saying does not count." Carroll was firm. He said, paraphrase, "No, I am not exceptional, I am representational. Mainstream Christians have rejected anti-Semitism and reach out to Jews in comradeship." I admired this. I admired Carroll's taking a stand, and taking a stand that lessened his own stature. He could have presented himself as a wunderkind among benighted Christians.

Next I attended Jonathan Wilson's talk, "Jesus' Pale Face, the Haunting of Marc Chagall." Wilson was very charming, but, after his talk, I had a "where's the beef?" reaction. Chagall painted a lot of crucifixion scenes; when asked why it was important to be in Palestine, Chagall responded, "To walk in the steps of Jesus," but Chagall remained Jewish. Okay. No news there. I wonder if there wasn't some deep and heavy subtext we were avoiding?

Finally, I attended "Why I Think About Jesus," a panel discussion by Stephen Greenblatt, the most successful English professor in the world, Robert Pinsky, and Edward Hirsch, a poet who is current president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

I met Pinsky, briefly, when I was a graduate student at Berkeley. I don't remember the event. I don't remember what either one of us said. I didn't realize, at the time, how famous or important he was. He was nice to me in a genuine way that I have never forgotten. When I've seen him on TV in the intervening years, I have whispered a silent prayer that God would bless him in all his endeavors.

Given that Stephen Greenblatt is America's most successful English professor, I expected him to have horns and a tail, and be surrounded by sulfurous fumes. Because English professors, and academics in general, are such lowlifes, if he was the most successful one, he'd have to be the lowest of the low.

In fact, though, this panel was great. Each member was smart, and interesting, and ethical, and admirable, and even understandable. No jargon, no elitism, no posturing. Genuinely earnest efforts to communicate important ideas. I was thrilled. It was one of those rare, gratifying moments when people live up to their own press and you have hope for the future of humanity.

I tried to take notes during this talk, as I had during the previous talks. I didn't take any notes, I was just so interested in what was being said :-). So, I have no notes. :-( Everything I wrote below is "As I remember it."

Greenblatt spoke first. He talked about the ubiquity of anti-Semitic and/or Christian imagery in Western civilization. He mentioned TS Eliot's poem "Gerontion" and showed slides of abstract art that appeared divorced from Christianity at first but contained Christian references. Greenblatt also talked about how Protestants and Catholics have gone at each other's throats with murderous fury. He said that Protestants and Catholics are entirely capable of seeing, and treating, each other as "The Other" in a most profound way. He implied, if I understood him correctly, that Protestants' and Catholics' othering of each other has echoes today in people's othering of Islam -- or maybe Muslims' othering of non-Muslims?

I felt a huge appreciation for Greenblatt's statements about tensions between Protestants and Catholics. Here's why: There are people who insist, wrongly, that anti-Semitism is rooted in Christian theology. The US is one of the most Christian nations that has ever existed, and yet Jews are, significantly, safe here. If Christian theology were the root of anti-Semitism, that would not be the case. The difference is that Jews don't occupy the Middleman Minority position here that they occupied so paradigmatically in Poland. I never forget that Polish peasants, who could and did commit atrocities against Jews, were also quite happy to commit atrocities against upper class Polish Catholics. As Stanislaw Wyspianski's upper class character says in The Wedding: "They sawed my grandfather in half. But we have forgotten all of that." Those who see anti-Semitism as rooted in Christian theology insist that the Holocaust could not have happened without two thousand years of Christian theology preparing the groundwork. This is a very flattering interpretation of humanity. In fact we can kill with much less preparation. The fastest genocide in history took place in Rwanda, using primitive weapons like machetes. Interahamwe hatemongers were able to whip Hutus into a murderous rage against Tutsis and non-genocidal Hutus with just a few months, not two thousand years, of radio broadcasts.

Greenblatt's comments struck me as an ethical and courageous attempt to talk about hate as hate, not as "hate against me/mine." And he was trying to do this in a post 9-11 world where hate recruits new, ignorant troops everyday. I admired his efforts.

Robert Pinsky spoke next and I really wish I had had a tape recording going during his talk. He correctly pointed out, paraphrase, "We are talking about anti-Semitism, not Jesus." So Pinsky talked about Jesus. He read a poem about a, as he put it, "Stephen King" Jesus, one who performs spiteful miracles that screw people over. I felt that this stacked the deck. If the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were a Stephen King Jesus, we wouldn't have been sitting in that room. It is because the Jesus of the Gospels is such a new and compelling figure, someone who does things that are both stunningly new and stunningly right, a man who lives by the dictates that decide good poetry, that we care.

But then Pinsky talked about Dante, and I loved what he said, and I wish I had a transcription. He said, as I remember it, that Dante said that hell and evil are absence. That's why hell is cold. It is the absence of light, of warmth, of God. Pinsky said, again, as I remember it, that more harm is done to people by what they do to themselves than by what others do to them. As an example, he cited Dante stewing over his own misfortunes. I think Pinsky said that he got this insight from the Talmud, but that it meshes with Dante's Christian worldview (?). He said that the greatest sin is despair. He said that these spiritual truths found in the Divine Comedy are true to Dante because they are Christian, but they are true to him, to Pinsky, because they are true. Again, all as I remember it.

See, to me, the reverse is also true. "These Christian teachings are valuable because they are universally, spiritually true" is true in reverse: "These teachings are Christian because they are universally true." Which is one reason I am a Christian.

Ed Hirsch did a very good job of moderating this panel. I loved his facial expression. While Leon Wieseltier's facial expression was smug and unmovable, Hirsch looked as if he were trying to figure things out, and to live up to the gravity of the questions at hand, not as if he had the final answer. He looked as if he might hear something he wasn't expecting, might be moved, might change his mind. Lovely.

During the question and answer session, the man sitting directly behind me, who had been bad mouthing Christians and Poles before the panel commenced, spoke. He said, paraphrase, "You all seem so self-confident and calm. I've never met Jews like you. The world is full of violent anti-Semites. How can you be so calm in the face of the ubiquity of Christianity in Western civilization? This isn't POLAND!!!"

There it was. That word. That one word. That word that can make me cry; that word that is like a curse. Poland.

"This isn't POLAND!!! You don't know what it's like to live your life under constant threat! I once was critical of a Christian text in school, and I was given a C minus!"

This man did not have a microphone as he spoke. People in the back asked that the question be repeated. Stephen Greenblatt, I think, repeated it, thus, "The speaker received a C minus in school and is bitter." He wasn't being mean; this was said in a jocular way.

The man behind me was fuming. "How can you be so glib! You don't know what the horrible POLES are doing! There is a church in Sandomierz that contains a mural that depicts Jews in a blood libel! I have tried to have the mural removed, and the bishop sent me a rude letter! This is very close to Kielce, where Jews were murdered after a blood libel!"

Another man in the back of the room spoke. He said, as I remember it, that he had read TS Eliot, and other authors, including Celine and Ezra Pound, and he refused to read them any more! That they were a bunch of anti-Semitic creeps and he'd show them by refusing to read their works! After this man spoke, there was a burst of angry, defiant, applause. I cringed. I cringed after the applause of the people approving of not reading ideologically impure poetry in a way that I hadn't cringed after the mention of the sins of the Polaks.

I was in awe of, and fascinated by, the reaction of the men -- the poets -- onstage. I felt as if they were in my position. As if they were being made ashamed not because, like me, they were Polish Catholics; obviously, they were not, but they had something in common with me. They had a dirty little secret. I am a Polish Catholic; that's my dirty little secret.

Their dirty little secret is that they had read, and enjoyed, poetry written by goyim, and that, according to the suffering man behind me who had accused them of being too self-confident, they had not suffered enough. I say that they felt like me, as if they were in my position, because they had the looks on their faces that I've seen Poles assume in such environments. Dignified, refusing to back down, unapologetic, and yet aware of the volatility of the situation at hand. As if they had entire essays' worth of words backed up in their brains, poised just behind their eyes, but that they would not unleash them, because to be so defensive would not be seemly in such a setting.

I don't remember Stephen Greenblatt's exact words, but he said something, as I remember it, about the importance of not giving in to censorship. He spoke with authority, in "take no prisoners" mode. At that point, another clique of defiant applause broke out, this burst of applause in defiance of the previous burst of applause that approved of censorship, and I joined in this new burst of applause.

I wanted to stand up and shout at that man, "Buddy, look at me. I am a woman. A woman, get it? If I stopped imbibing ideologically tainted art, the only thing I could read would be Andrea Dworkin. And what a dreary world that would be." I also wanted to say, "People who identify themselves as ideologically pure, and establishing ideologically pure art, have a dismal track record. Further, the ideologically pure, by advancing the Ralph Nader candidacy in 2000, gave us the Bush administration. 'Nuff said."

And, after that statement by Stephen Greenblatt, the gentlemen onstage -- because they were truly gentlemen in this -- declined to comment further. I clapped wildly. They weren't going to rise to the bait, they weren't going to be made ashamed of liking poetry. I felt that I was joining in their victory vicariously as a Polish Catholic. Why? Because poetry is beautiful, and tainted by this world, and these poets refused not to love it, or even apologize for it. Because Polishness is beautiful, and tainted by this world, and this Polak refuses not to love it, or even apologize for it.

After the panel concluded, I rose, turned around, faced the man who had received the C minus, stuck out my hand, and said, "Hi. My name is Danusha Goska and I am a Polish Catholic. I am sorry for the bad things that happened to you, and I am sorry about that mural. Here is my email address [I handed him a piece of paper with my email address.] Please contact me telling me how I can help in its removal. Also, I can put you in contact with people working on Polish-Jewish relations. Please contact me for that, as well."

I could have said, but did not, "You know, those people who maintain that mural in Sandomierz are bastards, and there is no excuse for them, and I hope we can defeat them permanently. But just this morning, two men -- Leon Wieseltier and James Carroll -- who lie about, and monger hatred for, Poles and Poland, took this very stage. And they are showered with plaudits, money, and respect. Won't it be a beautiful day when you join me in defeating them?"

And I could have said, "I know about atrocities like the mural you mention. But you and I both know that Poland has always been a place of philo-Semitism as well as anti-Semitism, a place where Jews have their best allies. Why not mention to this crowd, so ready to be outraged by your words, that you are not alone in your efforts, that there is a thriving Polish-Jewish dialogue going on?"

Didn't say that.

It's been a week. He's not contacted me.

I asked the man's name. "Jakov," he said, no last name. And he gave me no way to contact him.

After the panel was over, fans went onstage to chat with the panel members. I heard someone say, "We were killed in the name of Jesus!" or words to that affect. I wanted so badly to talk about that, to talk about the science and paganism behind Nazism. Nazism was not Christian; if it were, they couldn't have mass murdered Christians like Poles and Gypsies. I wanted to talk about convents who, in the name of Christ, protected Jews. And so much more. But there was no space for that, and I'm an old woman, who has tasted too much frustration. After telling the panelists how very good I thought they were, I, once again, gave up, and began my solitary walk home.

As I was walking back on Fifth Avenue toward Port Authority, I heard a voice call out, "I am catching up to you!" it was Jakov. He's short, and thin-skinned, and blue-eyed. He didn't get those blue eyes in the Levant; he is related to me, however distantly. As we walked, he talked about how horribly Polish people have treated him. I wanted to say, (but, again, did not), "Jakov, please. The Scientific Method demands that you do a controlled study. Don't just tell me how horribly Poles treat Jews. Talk to me about how horribly Poles treat Poles, and how horribly Poles treat their own bodies. We are talking about a people who drink liter bottles of vodka in one sitting, who smoke like chimneys, who can't unite to achieve any concrete goal. There are wounds there, Jakov. These people are wounded, as are you, if you'd notice it, and the cure is not to keep a running score of how much you've been hurt. The cure is, actually, for all of us to follow the teachings of the Jewish guy about whom we just attended a conference."

Ooooooh well.

If I hear from Jakov, I'll let you know.

Times of Israel Blogger Sheldon Kirshner Reviews Bieganski

Sheldon Kirshner, a Times of Israel blogger, has reviewed Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype. You can read Kirshner's review here

Thank you to Jerzy Pankiewicz for altering me to this review.