Monday, March 21, 2005

Holocaust Kitsch Redux

I try to avoid raw meat feeding frenzies like the Terri Schiavo spectacle, esp when the state gets involved. It's so fucking degraded, so utterly hypocritical that I'm forced to go into my backyard and start whacking the trees with a baseball bat (a show the neighbors love). Dozens of bloggers have weighed in on the sickening display (Lindsay Beyerstein lays it down in typically fine fashion -- here & here), so I won't go into the particulars, most of which you all probably know by now. But there's one element of the Schiavo Show that I do wanna touch on -- the comparison of her plight to Auschwitz.

Yes friends, to some, this family's personal hell is on the same level as a Nazi death camp. I've seen the "Auschwitz" sign held up in front of the cameras a few times, and to my knowledge, no one in the media or in the political world has criticized this stupid and deranged equation. It's Holocaust Kitsch for the Theocratic Crowd. And, apart from the cynical use of genocide for religio-political purposes, it's a terribly insensitive image to flash in the faces of Schiavo's family and close friends. They have enough to deal with, and I seriously doubt that they welcome the inclusion of European death machines from the middle-20th century.

But the feelings and needs of the Schiavo family are way down on the rightwing hit list. Swinging this poor woman's listless body around for political gain is all that matters, and when someone as corrupt and vile as Tom DeLay is in on the action (lecturing others on moral behavior, no less), one's gullet can barely keep down the bile.

Where have all these "pro-life" people been when it comes to Iraq? Countless Iraqi dead and the climbing death & mangled toll among American troops don't seem to excite them much. And if the tussle over Terri Schiavo (who is, at this writing, still alive) is comparable to Auschwitz, then what the fuck is the meatgrinder in Iraq? I suspect that if antiwar protesters kept waving "Buchenwald" placards in front of Army recruiting offices, corp media yakkers would find something critical to say. The ongoing media tumult over Ward Churchill's "little Eichmanns" crack is evidence of that.

Years ago, in the mid-80s, I was walking near the Capitol in DC when I came across a fairly large group of "pro-lifers" planting cardboard tombstones in the ground, chanting and praying for all the dead children who never saw the light of day. Spent about 20 mins watching them. Then a couple of women came up to me and offered pamphlets and buttons.

"No thanks," I said, waving my hand. "But I'm curious -- what's your position on all the dead children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua?"

The women didn't blink. One piped up, "We're against abortion in every country."

"I'm not talking about abortion," I responded. "I'm talking about your and my tax dollars being used to slaughter children in Central America. What is the 'pro-life' position on that?"

They looked at each other. The same woman then said, "We're focused on stopping abortion. We don't have a position on Central America."

"You don't!" I laughed at them. "You mean to tell me that once a kid is born, death squads can invade his or her village and wipe them out, and you don't take a position on that! What kind of 'pro-lifers' are you?"

A few of their comrades yelled for them to get back to planting fake tombstones. "We have to go. But we'll pray for you."

I thanked them. They seemed sincere in their stupidity. As I look back, there clearly was a humane impulse they were trying to tap, but the politics of "life" distorted whatever true and decent desire they possessed.

I don't have an answer for the Terri Schiavo case. I feel for those involved, but ultimately, it's none of my business. And judging from a new ABC News poll, a healthy majority of Americans feel the same way. Sometimes the Beltway bastards overreach enough to knock average citizens out of their consumerist/patriotic haze. It doesn't last long, but at least an opening exists. There may be hope yet. Maybe.

UPDATE: Via Majikthise. By fucking with the separation of powers, DeLay and Co. are making the Schiavo saga our business. Clearly, this is not over.

UPDATE 2: Matthew Yglesias digs up more Schiavo-related hypocrisy & cynicism, as well as a class angle.