Saturday, March 6, 2010
Here is my letter to the editor of The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles in response to the article, Ultimate Revenge, about Inglorious Basterds.
You can also read what I wrote about it previously on this blog.
While Danielle Berrin’s article covered many perspectives on Inglorious Basterds, she did not discuss what I believe to be the fundamental problem with the revenge fantasy film. As I blogged at www.educationandcommemoration.blogspot.com, though the acts depicted in the film may be profoundly fulfilling, they reduce Jews to the level of the Nazis. And they contradict one of Judaism’s most basic principles.
Look, I’d like to think given the weapons and the opportunity I would ravage my way up the hierarchy of Nazis until I got to Hitler himself. And when I got to him, I’d make him suffer 6 million deaths. There’s this great skin-peeling torture I read about from Manchuria that seems to have been invented for him alone. And I get that Inglorious Basterds is just a movie, something that can exist as a mental detour from what we really believe.
But taking that detour slows me on my journey to where I really want to be. Judaism doesn’t teach me that being a yid is to indulge my id-ish impulses. It challenges me to overcome them. Judaism tells me I can only draw closer to God by directing my attention away from my impulses and fantasies, and towards right action. That’s part of what it means to be a member of a nation of priests.
We should of course fight threats today as forcefully as possible and with force when necessary. Judaism didn’t survive the Holocaust to be debased or stripped of its core beliefs. L’havdil, living after the Holocaust obligates me to strive towards Judaism’s highest values, simply because that, for me, is -- ultimately -- the sweetest revenge.