Saturday, December 10

Munich Through a Glass, and Darkly

I have no apologies to make for writing about a film that I have not seen. It is not possible for me to have seen it, as it is not yet in the theaters. Nevertheless it is already creeping into the cultural bloodstream to do its work, for good or ill. The reviewers are already telling us how we are supposed to feel about it. The members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are no doubt getting their pointy heads greased in preparation for the great Awards ritual - the only institution in America that Hollywood hasn't draped with its spit. And the people who are in charge of Steven Spielberg's reputation (I estimate that they number no less than 250, not counting the file clerks) are spinning, spinning, spinning behind the scenes, like so many busy little spiders.

So the tentacles are already creeping around our throats even as I write this, and I see no reason why I should stand still for it just because I haven't yet paid for the privilege of going into a theater and seeing everything that I love, respect, and revere dragged through pig shit by a bunch of cretins. Now maybe that won't happen, but before it does, I am here to state exactly how much crap I am willing to take from the great Steven Spielberg on this particular occasion, and how important the subject of Munich 1972 is to me. That being the subject which he and his associates have chosen to represent on the big boob-screen.

I will admit to having been a Steven Spielberg fan since my rug-monkey days, when I saw his very first film: the made-for-television classic Duel. I saw this film again not long ago and I was surprised to find that it was really as good as I remembered it from my childhood. Like Moby Dick, it has a kind of straight-to-the-gut symbolism that can symbolize anything you like. I was also greatly impressed by Saving Private Ryan, in spite of the feeble story line. It's the only movie I've ever gone to see in a theater twice.

In fact, I engaged in extensive on-line discussion of Ryan on AOL, and I know for a fact that Steven Spielberg read one of my posts, because it appeared in Dreamworks' book Now You Know. [Steven, if you should ever happen to read this post - perhaps having had it forwarded to you by one of your attorneys - let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on whatever cunning maneuvers it took to get a perfect shot of Karen Allen's pubic plumage into Raiders of the Lost Ark. Think of the happiness you brought to children all over the world. If you were standing right in front of me now, I would hug you just for that.]

I was not so impressed by AI, which is like an indoctrination film for Bladerunners. It definitely made me want to shoot robots. But enough about my appreciation of Spielberg, which is, in a word, mixed. Mixed with childhood memories and Karen Allen's pubic hair, among other things.

It's very typical that I should have vivid memories of a Spielberg film I saw as a child, while I cannot remember exactly when the real-life tragedy of Munich crept into my awareness. But I recall talking about it with several of my friends at school, as if it were something that had happened in our own town. It was long after the event, because the surviving perpetrators had already been set free. That was, to us, somehow worse than the murderous deed itself. In fact, it was because of the release that the deaths of those Israeli athletes were magnified so that they affected us as if we had known them.

This was something that we discussed among ourselves, as small boys discuss things. I don't recall any adult, any teacher or parent, commenting on the tragedy. That's why the enormity of it loomed so large to us. Children have an acute sense of injustice that adults learn to give up. Adults put things into "perspective"; they economize on their feelings and spare less of them for the people on the other side of the world. Those murdered Israelis were certainly nothing to do with us, as adults would understand it. I didn't know any Jews except for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - and, of course, the King of Kings. Israel I knew only from Sunday School. Israel was where all the heavy stuff went down, back in the olden days. I didn't even know that country was still around.

We didn't need to know any of those things, and it was just as well we didn't know. With no "perspective" to dull it down, we faced the awful spectacle of a murder in which the murderers were celebrated as heroes while the world stood idly by. That made the crime not only immediate, but personal. It was a personal attack on our fundamental understanding of right and wrong, a crime against our entire universe. And we instinctively, inescapably understood something that adult minds might have dismissed: We understood that those terrorists would gladly kill our own mothers and fathers, and we knew how we would feel if someone was celebrated as a hero for doing exactly that. While the grown-up world stood by and let it happen.

Any effort by Israel to redress this situation would have meet with our complete approval. In fact, we would have regarded it as a personal vindication, just as the crime of Munich was personal. It would have set our own world right, and to a child the idea that the world is not right is truly terrifying. The idea that adults (who supposedly run things) don't give a damn is even worse. Vengeance may be inferior to justice, but it is infinitely superior to no justice at all.

So this is how I understood Munich as a child. What superior understanding does adult experience bring? In particular, the allegedly adult understanding of scriptwriter Tony Kushner, who recently said of New Orleans: "It’s the America the Republican Party has been working hard to establish over the last 30 years: no infrastructure, no social safety net, everybody carrying a gun." Perhaps having felt that he was displaying an insufficient degree of moral idiocy to qualify as an Academy Award-winning scriptwriter, he added: "The South for 30 years has been voting to protect the rights of the unborn rather than voting to build levees."

Kushner's views on Israel are equally fashionable among the Spinal Tap intellectuals who inhabit the Land of Tinsel and Illicit Substances. And those who go to see his plays, which are proof that English-language theater is deader than Eugene O'Neill's balls. On the subject of Israel, there is not enough room to do Kushner the injustice he deserves.

This is the individual that Steven Spielberg has stuffed with cash and turned loose on a profoundly formative event of my life. This arrogant bag of gas with the intelligence of a Donald Duck Pez Dispenser will now stomp through a moral minefield of my youth in his Size Twelves, giggling all the way. This glutton at the slop-trough of Leftist Dribblethink is going to tell the whole world what to think about Munich. The Munich that happened to me, all those years ago, and changed me in ways that I can only half-remember now. If it loomed so large to the boy that I was then, I can only imagine how deep are the scars of those who knew and loved the slain athletes. And the scars of their nation, which suffered not only their loss but the most bitter mockery imaginable, in the face of the entire world.

You'd think this wounded memory would be treated with some respect. Not with a Hollywood lecture on how to acquiesce in the face of evil, by telling ourselves we had it coming. Surely the great Steven Spielberg is not going to do that to us, after all we've done for him.

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