Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stuart Has Words on "Breaking Bad Karma"

As anyone who participates here knows there is always the chance that I will front page a comment. The comment below by Stuart is thoughtful and deserves to be front paged. His topic is this exceedingly unfortunate piece by pop culture writer Anna Breslaw at The Tablet entitled, "Breaking Bad Karma," wherein she suggests that Holocaust survivors are actually "villains masquerading as victims."

She claims that Holocaust survivors are Judenscheisse, if you can possibly imagine.


I read that piece. I found it interesting. (don't get all pissed off yet, I also found it appalling.)

I'm not familiar with the AMC series. Not sure I've ever heard of it. But the storyline seems to share the same dark genesis as both Weeds and The Big C (showtime series). Survival through some catastrophic tragedy allows people to justify every bad shitty thing they do the rest of their lives.

True? Not in my experience. And the author's lede notwithstanding, my experience would most often lead me to think about the holocaust survivors I've known. Why does my experience bring me to the exact opposite conclusion of the author? I suspect it's because I'm somewhere around 30 years older than the author. I haven't known a handful of old and soon to be dead holocaust survivors. I've known dozens, maybe scores, some of them with vivid memories, that were only 15 or 20 years older than me. As an adult, some of them were almost my contemporaries. I grew up surrounded by a handful of surviors.

If there was any common thread among their personalities, other than them being survivors, it never occurred to me before. And as I've thought about it for the last 30 minutes, still nothing is apparent. They were jerks and they were angels. Ordinary and extraordinary. Frugal and spendthrifts. Loyal and untrustworthy. Some of them talked freely about their experiences. And some never at all.

My most recent personal interaction with a survivor was at the 1st seder this year. The mother of a friend, and purely coincidentally a friend of my mother, I've known her for more than 30 years. She's old now, recently suffered a stroke. At close to 90 and very fragile, sex is still one of her favorite discussion topics. Until that night a few months ago, I had never once heard her mention what she went through. She talked about it for a few tearful minutes. Her daughter, sitting next to her, with her jaw dropping at what her mother was sharing, had never once heard her mother mention a single experience from the 18 months she spent in a concentration camp.

Does the author's age excuse the appalling broad brush she uses to paint holocaust survivors? Hardly. Or for that matter, even labeling them with "extreme will to live". I suspect most that she has had contact with were very young during the holocaust. And probably survived because of their youth, and quite possibly the extreme desires of parents and other adults around them to keep them alive, as much as anything they did themselves.

Interesting that she's estranged from her father. I wonder whose fault that is.


  1. I think what most commentators find truly disturbing is less the fact that some young Jewish anti-Semite wrote the damn thing, calling Holocaust survivors Judenscheisse, but that Tablet actually ran the piece.

    Tablet has a good reputation which they have now seriously sullied. This episode certainly tarnishes that magazine in a very, very serious manner.

    Even more importantly, tho, it also says something about progressive-left sensibilities on such matters. Tablet is a "progressive Zionist" magazine, after all.

    1. I have to confess, I don't know anything about tablet. And I have no motivation to defend "progressive Zionism", not being a card carrying member.

      The piece is disturbing, but as I think you know, I'm in favor of discussing alternate views. I think the more important point is not that it was published in a "progressive Zionist" magazine (I'll take your word for it), it's that the piece has recieved harsh criticism from the readers. I didn't read all the comments, but haven't come across any that were supportive of the author's POV. Even ignoring the ad hominem and non-substative responses, it provides evidence that her views are not consistent with progressive zionism.

    2. I actually agree with that.

      Her views are emphatically not consistent with progressive Zionism. I have no question about that in my mind.

      The question then becomes, tho, why is it that we find this kind of material mainly on the left and, in this case, the Jewish left?

      That's one of my fundamental questions.

      btw, MT Weekly ( accepted my piece for publication on this story. I just found out a few minutes ago.

      I guess it's going to run sometime next week.

    3. Mike,

      I'm glad (though not surprised) to hear that your article was accepted for publication.

      You didn't just lift what Stuart wrote, did you? Because it's a damn fine piece of writing. :-)

    4. The truth is, puzz,

      I was intending to steal much of Stuart's ideas, but was simply too lazy to do so and therefore just yammered my own yammering.

      It's just quicker and easier that way.

  2. Additionally....

    The part that I found interesting was her "tragedy begets evil" thesis. It makes for good fiction, but she provides nothing but highly offensive anectdotal evidence. Dexter is fictional. Elijah Price, as played by Samuel L. Jackson in Unbreakable, was a fictional character. As are the characters descibed by the author, and in the fiction pieces I mentioned in my comment. Storylines that I'm drawn to in fiction. But it's a dynamic that seems to be an anomoly in real life.