Saturday, January 20, 2018

Arrival: Chinese Influence on American Culture

I just finished watching the film Arrival for a second time. It is a very thoughtful and imaginative film.  A friend said it was slow, but that slowness is really a French influence.  I looked up the director, Denis Villeneaue, and found that he is French Canadian.  The author of the science fiction novella upon which the film is based, Ted Chiang, is Chinese American.  His parents were born in China , he was born in New York state, and he made a nice contribution to our American culture with his story, Story of Your Life, upon which the movie was based.

Story of Your Life received  the Best Novella of 1999 Nebula Award.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Teaching the Holocaust

I have noticed a rise in antisemitism.  I am wondering if we are doing an adequate job of teaching our children about the Holocaust.  When I was in high school we watched the film Night and Fog.  That film left a life-long impression on me.  One has to see the images to begin to understand the Holocaust.  Reading statistics does not make an impression, does not make an impact.

I looked to see what my son learned about the Holocaust.  I looked at the AP World History Exam prep book from Princeton Review.  The copy I had saved (2014) gave 5 cm. length of text to the Holocaust.  This same book gave 9 cm length of text to the Rwanda massacre.  The statistics were 800,000 dead in Rwanda compared to 6 million Jews and 6 million non-Jews dead in the Holocaust.  The obvious impression is that the Holocaust is less important because it is farther in the past.  The newer atrocity had twice as much coverage as the Holocaust.

I purchased a copy of Night and Fog recently from Amazon.  The documentary is only 40 minutes long.  Neither my wife nor my college-age son were willing to watch it.  Some of the scenes are ghastly, but the most jarring scenes were probably only 15 minutes at the end of the film.  Because the film is only 40 minutes long, it can fit into a school class.  I think I saw the film in my freshman or sophomore year of high school.  Just based on my experience, you might consider purchasing a copy of the Night and Fog film and sitting with your child during his freshman or sophomore year of high school to watch the film together.  Images are the only way to begin to comprehend the horror of the Holocaust.

To understand the Holocaust as an adult, I watched a 6 part documentary from the BBC on Netflix, Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'.  This film is hard to watch.  I did not cry when I watched Night and Fog, but I cried a number of times while watching this BBC documentary on Auschwitz.  We cannot let all this suffering be forgotten.  We dishonor the dead if we do not remember them.

Even with almost 5 hours of film in the Auschwitz documentary, I still did not pick up on the difference between Auschwitz and Treblinka.  Also on Netflix is the documentary Death Camp Treblinka, Survivor Stories.  It is 58 minutes long and I surprised to learn how very different Treblinka was from Auschwitz.  From my perspective, as an adult, I found this film worth watching.

How could this horror have happened?  Were the masterminds of death madmen?  No.  They were highly educated Germans, many of them lawyers.  A small segment within the documentary Auschwitz: The Nazis and the 'Final Solution', portrayed the meeting organized by the SS to plan the Holocaust.  This meeting has been portrayed in a full length film, Conspiracy starring Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci.  There was a scene where the SS general leading the meeting asked the lawyers to raise their hands.  More than half of those planning the Holocaust were lawyers.  The Germans were probably the most educated people in Europe, but university education does not impart morality or conscience.

Could this happen again?  I can imagine Marxists rounding up both Christians and Jews for execution.  Martin Luther King said, "... the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."  If that were so, then Marxism would have dried up and blown away, but it has not.  Every year, more Americans are drawn towards Marxism.  Remember Joseph Stalin killed more people than Adolph Hitler.  Remember what George Orwell said in his novel, 1984:  "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

I believe everyone should understand the horror of the Holocaust, perhaps by watching Night and Fog around the age of 14 or 15.  I have mentioned other films that adults can watch to try to understand the Holocaust.  Films must be used because it is the imagery that makes the emotional connection.  If people do not understand the Holocaust, they cannot understand the need for a Jewish state, the importance of Israel.