Thursday, February 26, 2004

Mitch Albom on Mel Gibson and his father

There is a Hebrew saying: ma'aseh avot siman l'banim -- the actions of the father is a sign for the children. Otherwise stated as "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Here is Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom on Mel Gibson and his father's anti-Semitic views:

"The son must refute father's hateful rants"

My sister married a wonderful guy. His father was a Hungarian Jew. During World War II, he and his eight brothers and sisters were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps. Some were killed in gas chambers. Others were put on a boat that was deliberately sunk. By the war's end, my brother-in-law's father was the only one left. For years, his wife would find bread stuffed under his pillow, a habit from Nazi starvation.

Every now and then some nut case says the Holocaust was faked. Usually, you dismiss him as pathetic.

Last week, however, a man named Hutton Gibson told a national radio host that the Holocaust never happened, that there were no concentration camps, only "work camps," and that Jews basically made the whole thing up.

Hutton Gibson is Mel Gibson's father.

So this nut case must be addressed.

From Auschwitz to Brooklyn?

He must be addressed because his son has made a movie called "The Passion of the Christ" depicting Jesus' last hours. There are fears the movie will stoke anti-Semitism. I have not seen the film yet -- it opens this week -- so I can pass no judgment on it. But I have heard his father. And he needs no movie to spew hatred.

Jews "are after one world religion and one world government" Hutton Gibson declared. He said Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who is Jewish, should be hung. He said Holocaust museums were "a gimmick to collect money."

In fact, he called the entire Holocaust "fiction." He said Jews weren't killed, "they simply got up and left! They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney and Los Angeles. They have to . . . go where's there's money."

That would be news to my brother-in-law's aunt, another Holocaust survivor who, thanks to Nazi experiments, was left sterile, unable to have children. She still bears a Nazi number burned into her arm.

I suppose Hutton Gibson would call that "a tattoo she got in the Bronx."

Now the elder Gibson is not new to this stuff. He writes books and magazine articles denying the Holocaust and scorching the Jewish faith.

And I am not saying Mel Gibson believes what his father does.

But he needs to say so himself.

A time for action

Instead, to date, Gibson has refused to fully refute his father. He acknowledges the Holocaust, but says, "Nothing can drive a wedge between me and my blood. He's my father. I love him."

That's fine. But denying hatred does not cancel love. By his own doing, Gibson has put himself on a stage where he has new obligations. He's not promoting a "Lethal Weapon" movie here, where he's a crazed cop who swears and drinks and sleeps with women (all pretty non-Christian stuff, by the way).

No. He has made a deeply religious movie, a lightning rod for Christians and Jews, one he claims was inspired by his faith, including "going back to the things I was raised with."

One presumes his father did some of that raising.

Mel Gibson insists he is not anti-Semitic. He can prove it by declaring his father's words are wrong. How would Gibson feel if his father had been gassed, shot or hung in Auschwitz or Dachau, instead of his luckier fate, enjoying a good, long life hurling insults at others?

The reason Nazism existed is because people lived in denial. If you visit the site of concentration camps today, you will be astounded by how close neighborhoods were to the gates. Yet no one did anything -- even as innocent people were murdered a stone's throw away.

No one asked Mel Gibson to become a spokesman on faith. He did that himself. Now that he has hopped on center stage, he can't simply hear what he wants. He has an obligation to publicly shoot down his father's words.

After all, Gibson said he made his movie because he could no longer deny his faith. Imagine someone denying your existence.

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