Commentary: History

Film and Television History

Interview in Spain with regard to the proposed Abraham Lincoln Battalion project.

Asked some questions by Spanish journalist Toni Garcia, I replied in writing. Some respondents have replied to me with various translations of my answers that do not entirely comport with the language that I used or the facts I intended to convey.  I’m not suggesting any willful intent by Mr. Garcia to simplify or deconstruct my own words, only that perhaps translation is sometimes problematic. So to be clear I am going leave the entire text of my replies right here: —–Original Message—– From: Toni Garcia To: David Simon Sent: Mon, Apr 9, 2018 12:57 pm Subject: A few questions (and if there’s anything you wanna add) David! thanks a lot. You can’t imagine how it’s been with this news around here, people got crazy… I’d love to publish asap, so when you have a minute, tomorrow is also ok. Thanks! So, a few questions: 1) Anything you can reveal from the plot? I guess there is not a script yet. It will generally follow the...

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History Politics

Old faces and fresh dishonor

  Save for the image of a six-year-old Hungarian girl which I do not possess — these are the photographs of 10 of the 11 members of my family who did not escape from Europe in the critical prewar years, when the path for refugees fleeing fascism narrowed, then disappeared. Fear of these people — their otherness, their politics, their faith — was sufficient to close borders and deny safe passage to America and elsewhere. The first six photos are an extended family on my mother’s side lost at Auschwitz, the last four a branch of my father’s clan slain in the woods outside the city of Slonim, in what is now Belarus. The facelessness of the hundreds of thousands fleeing our time’s great cruelty is in some basic way part of their undoing. In their anonymity, the Syrian refugees running from Assad or the Islamic State appear in our political discourse as mere numbers, abstract and enormous. Save for the occasional photograph of a child’s body on a...

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History

The banality of ideology

There’s a fine essay up on the New York Times website reflecting on Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and the new film about that seminal moment in our understanding of the human capacity for evil. Having read Ms. Arendt once when I was in high school, and then again some twenty-odd years later, I’ve always been at a loss to explain the uncivil meltdown of the New York intelligentsia when it comes to her work. Roger Berkowitz, the essay’s author, is entirely correct in noting that there has been a rush to imply — without real cause — that Ms. Arendt’s assessment of Eichmann and his role in the Holocaust was dismissive or exculpatory, that she was in any way marginalizing his fundamental responsibility. The “banality of evil” was not a phrase created to suggest a mere clerk following orders, but of a man conceding all deeper moral thought to the demands of ideology. He was, indeed, as Ms. Arendt argues, a committed...

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History

A family history as microcosm and our national divide.

My father passed away three years ago. As a kind of prolonged Kaddish for him, I have been gathering the family history — tales that he knew, but I never asked enough about when he was alive. It’s been a labor of love, and of reflection, and I am not yet sure of the overall purpose. But it has connected me to the past in delicate ways. Certainly, ancestor-worship is, for me, a much more solid religious pillar than anything rooted in theology at this point. Anyway, on this Memorial Day, and in that spirit, I gather the following photographs together: A forestry major at N.C. State, Murray Lebowitz was my mother’s first cousin. He left college and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps a week after Pearl Harbor.  He was killed when his bomber crashed into the sea after take off from Guadalcanal on a flight to bomb Japanese positions on the New Guinea coast in April 1943.   His body, and those of his fellow crew members, was not recovered. ____________________   My uncle on...

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