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The Plumber and the Laureate

A collision of memory and amnesia in America and abroad.

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It induces a specifically historical brand of sadness to have two stories cross your path in the same day that not only besmirch the magnitude of the Holocaust (and all genocide for that matter) in frustratingly different ways, but also embody the same cavalier amnesia about suffering. Yesterday out of Toledo (the Buckeye Toledo, not the Spanish Toledo whose vibrant population of Jews were ruthlessly expelled or killed) came news of this campaign ad from Joe the Plumber, this dull scapegoating penny we can’t seem to get ourselves rid of.

In the ad, we watch Mr. Wurzelbacher load a shotgun and, while some casual country jangle plays, he narrates this moronic synopsis of the entire Armenian genocide:

“In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armainians [sic], unable to defend themselves, were exterminated.”

The camera pans to a profile of him, James Hetfield sunglasses on and ears covered by firing range headphones. His goatee resembling a toilet seat cover for his dribbling speaking hole, he looks into the distance and raises his shotgun. As he effortlessly pumps buckshot into apples and tomatoes, Mr. Wurzelbacher (above the sounds of his twelve-gauge releasing) narrates the history of the Holocaust thusly:

“In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated.”

Last shot of Joe. Facing the camera. Blindness-inducing shades and deafness-providing headphones both on, shotgun in hand. The plumber-in-name-only smiles, nary a trace of irony.

“I love America.”

Not here, the Plumber seems to be saying, in a tone of voice that usually precedes the metal crack of a beer can opening. Well, what about where it did happen? In Hungary, for example, where it was reported that Elie Wiesel returned the Grand Cross Order of Merit, the country’s highest honor, after a number of Hungarian lawmakers publicly honored Jozyef Nyiro, a fascist and a Nazi supporter during World War II, in a memorial service last month.

During the war, Wiesel’s parents and sister (and 500,000 other Jews) were sent to their deaths by the very same coterie of Hungarian officials to which Nyiro belonged.

“I do not wish to be associated in any way with such activities,” Wiesel said of the blanching of history by contemporary Hungarian authorities. In an article, Wiesel also warily cited the hard right-shifting polity in Hungary as another reason he chose to return the prize.

Like Wiesel, very few of us wish to be associated in any way with such gross and reductive distortions of history, be they out of ignorance, political ambition, or old-fashioned, half-buried malice. And while some are loathe to give these voices attention, they don’t shout any less just because we tire of listening to them.

‘Joe the Plumber’ Claims Gun Control Caused the Holocaust [HuffPo]

Wiesel Returns Hungary’s Highest Honor [JTA]


Meet Europe’s New Fascists [Tablet]

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LarryInIowa says:

So his reference to the Holocause was bad why?  Because you like gun control?  Because the Jews were disarmed and he mentioned it?  Would it have been ok if he was Jewish? 

jcarpenter says:

Surely the Republicans are vetting Joe the Plumber for v.p. nominee  as we speak . . . .

PhillipNagle says:

I agree with Joe, an armed populance is the first defense against genocide.  If it weren’t for NY illegal anti gun laws, the Crown Heights Pogrom would never have happened. 

jouesdeveau says:

As a Jew, I think all Jews (male and female) should learn to shoot. I certainly do NOT think that Jews armed with hand held weapons would have prevented the Holocaust. But it would have raised the price of taking Jewish lives. More importantly, it would have served as a reminder for the generations to come that taking the life of someone bent on killing you is a good thing. Finally, it would remind us all of the skill and courage of many young men and women today who learn to shoot so that they can use their skills to protect us and our liberal democracies. They deserve not our pity and condescension, but our respect and admiration.

dansblog says:

Speaking of wildly inappropriate comparisons with the Holocaust, Adam, why is a gun control opponent who argues (incorrectly, in your view–and mine as well, as a matter of fact) that “gun rights” are an important bulwark against genocide, even slightly comparable to actual supporters of the Nazi genocide? And why do you reserve your greatest vitriol (“his goatee resembling a toilet seat cover for his dribbling speaking hole”) not for the actual Nazi supporters, but for the guy whose approach to fighting Nazis you (and I) happen to disagree with?

bobschwalbaum says:

I’ve been following TABLET now for several months and had difficulties trying to pin down your politcal proclivities
Your hatchet job on JOE and gun control was truly vile.

yevka says:

@jcarpenter, doubtless they are. They’re as desperate as they are despicable.

Endyr says:

EVERY JEW a .22 . It is clear and compelling that while the gun confiscation in Germany did not cause the Holocaust, it certainly facilitated it to a large extent. Blaming Joe for pointing this out is like blaming Dr King for pointing out that it was democrats who made it illegal to teach blacks in the south to read during reconstruction (and made it illegal for blacks to own firearms).

There is no substitute for personal protection, firearm ownership and familiarity in its use is the single best way to ensure one’s personal safety. Live in the idealogical la-la land if you like, but THIS Jew will not die for lack of shooting back. There is no Constitutional requirement for law enforcement to protect the individual citizen in the US, it’s the biggest misunderstanding of circumstances ever perpetrated.

The idiocy of “gun control” never ceases to amaze me.


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The Plumber and the Laureate

A collision of memory and amnesia in America and abroad.

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