|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."