Helen Thomas: An Anti-Semitic Remark … or Old and Wise?

© AP

In the wake of the 89-year-old journalist’s comments, Mr. wOw takes a look at infamous moments in bigotry.

Mr. wOw doesn’t want to wade too deep into the political aspects of Helen Thomas’s now-infamous remarks – made after a White House celebration of National Jewish Month, which she attended. (The mid-East situation is tragic, complicated and I fear insoluble.) Thomas, caught aside by a blogger with a camera, was asked what she thought of Israel (this was prior to the Gaza ship incident). She said, “They should get the hell out of Palestine. They are occupying, you know. It’s not Poland or Germany.” “Where should they go?” asked the blogger. “Back to Germany or Poland or America or someplace.” Ok-kay! Grotesquely insensitive in the extreme, considering what happened to millions of Jews in Germany and Poland. But is it anti-Semitic or just anti-the-Israeli-stance-in-the-mid-East? Thomas’s views on Israel are well known and documented. She is of Lebanese heritage. Mr. wOw veers toward the latter; though, of course I don’t know Miss Thomas’s heart of darkness, if she has one.

What has disturbed me over the past few days are, first of all, the vicious comments about her age – 89. “Oh, well, senile!” Really? She seems pretty sharp to me, and perhaps the only effect of her age is to speak her mind fully. Why waste time and parse words? Ageism sucks. Every 80-plus person I know is vital. Mentally and physically. Now Helen has been dropped by the agency that arranges her speaking engagements and the drumbeat is on to fire her. Really?!

Let me ponder this. Glenn Beck says the president of the United States is a “racist.” He’s still working. Don Imus refers to teenage sportswomen as “nappy-headed hos.” He’s still working. Since the election of Barack Obama I have heard rhetoric about him that is downright seditious and dangerous. All who speak thus are still working. Mel Gibson rants that he hates Jews because they are “the cause of all wars.” He is still working — and how! He produced “Apocalypto,” released by Touchstone. He starred in “Edge of Darkness,” released by Warner Bros, and BBC Films. “The “Beaver” (directed by Jodie Foster) will be distributed in the U.S. by Summit Films. “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” has no studio affiliation yet. Mel tends to produce his own films through Icon and then they are released through a major studio. And he has about three movies in development. Gee, you think there are no offended Jews at Warner Bros., BBC, Touchstone and Summit? I guess everybody gives him a pass because he ain’t 89 and brings in gazillions of dollars. Oh, and his drunkenness matters not a whit. In fact, I take his remarks far more seriously because he was drunk.

If Helen Thomas deserves to lose her job, so do these guys. And I can’t – because I’d prefer not to be sued – mention the not-so-veiled anti-Semitism I often see displayed by a variety of cable yakkers. These people often talk about “supporting Israel.” My feeling is they have very little use for Jews who inhabit Israel. Often they are big Christians. Full of love. Yeah.

Helen Thomas spoke her mind. She took her foot and massaged her larynx with it. You might hope she had choked to death on it. But this is America, still. Maybe the country that Sarah Palin and Rand Paul and tea-partyers “want back” believe differently, but I still cherish the country where the right to free speech, no matter how offensive, doesn’t get you canned or banned. These days, especially, there’s plenty of outlet for opinion and outrage.

I’m tired of this new and growing trend to instantly call for people to be fired and cast into outer darkness as soon as they talk out of turn or don’t live up to somebody’s moral “standard.” It seems, well – distinctly un-American.

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