I guess admitting to a left-wing, stereotypically bleeding heart liberal that you’ve never seen “”Schindler’s List” and have no intention of seeing it is a lot like saying you enjoy clubbing baby seals just to watch them twitch as their blood soaks the dazzling white snow beneath their cute, gaping heads. It’s just not something you do if you want to avoid a lecture.
“”But you have to see it,” she told me. “”Spielberg has so much to say about compassion and humanity, and Neeson was born to play that role. It’s time you stopped watching make believe horror and see something that deals with real life horrors.”
Years ago, when Spielberg’s Oscar plea first came out, I wrote a column for some publication (I believe it was in Redding, CA) with the premise that Schindler wasn’t a hero, he was your boss. I painted him as a Nazi (joined the party in 1939, I believe) who somehow found it within himself to buck the system. I also called him an opportunistic, greedy, exploitive capitalist. Far from a hero, I said he wasn’t much better than the owner of your local Wendy’s.
As to be expected, people’s reactions were less than favorable.
I’ll admit to never seeing the film. I don’t see movies just because other people say they are good. I see films because I want to see them. I saw no compelling reason (and still see no reason) to see “”Schindler’s List.” I know about the man. I know about his deeds. Why would I need to see Spielberg’s version of him?
Schindler was not a hero. He used Jews as slave labor in his enamelware and ammunitions factory, and really didn’t have any moral conflicts about any of that in the beginning. A change of heart doesn’t alter his previous actions. People have to be responsible for what they’ve done. You can forgive them, but you should never forget, and you shouldn’t paint someone as a hero because he or she started acting human. Heroes don’t use slave labor to begin with, and they sure as hell don’t join organizations spouting hate as means of government. Sheep do that. Idiots do that. Greedy capitalists do that (as long as there is a buck to be made). Evil people with evil intentions do that. Heroes don’t. Suddenly changing your mind and putting yourself at risk does not make you a hero. It only means you realized what an ass you were being.
The one thing that Schindler’s apologists seem to have forgotten is that people have free will. As a person, you can decide not to obey orders, even if it means you will be punished. That’s a choice you can make. If you obey, it can be understood that you agree with what you are being told. If that’s the case, your actions make sense and are open to criticism. If you obey and don’t agree, not only are your actions open to criticism, but your entire nature is suspect as you are either a coward or too complacent. (Granted, there are times when it comes down to a more personal level, say that you either do as you are told or your family dies. There are exceptions to every rule, obviously. In the case of Schindler, however, it has to be remembered that nobody forced him to use slave labor. The man was exploitive by nature. He saw Jews as a cheap source of labor. There was no coercion involved.) People should never blindly obey because they shouldn’t trust authority. That’s what lets things like the Holocaust happen. Authority should be questioned, and it should be made to justify itself. If the only justification it has is force, that’s no justification at all, and that authority should be dismantled immediately or, at the very least, disobeyed.
Schindler was not a hero. He was a Nazi, and he bears responsibility for all the things the Nazis did. It doesn’t matter that good came from it. (He saved about 1,100 Jews on his end. No small feat, but he should have never been exploiting them in the first place.) What matters is why he ever sided with the Nazis in the first place. He can be praised, but it should be with a healthy dose of skepticism, and the term “”hero” should never be used. “”A man who tried to make amends for his despicable actions” is a far more accurate phrase, and I would have no problem agreeing with that.
If you aren’t fighting the system every step of the way, you’re helping keep it in place. There’s nothing glorious about that, and anyone who thinks differently needs to be reminded of what being a Nazi meant, what they believed, and what they did. A few good deeds does not erase evil actions that should have never happened in the first place. It only solidifies how wrong they were to begin with.
Posted on March 28, 2007 in Blogs by Excess Hollywood
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