T'other night Dear Wife and I were usher and usherette for the Vineyard Playhouse production of the play "Fly" about the Tuskeegee Airmen. It was a "pre-production" "work-in-progress" but it seemed pretty polished to me. Da author was in da house and I chatted with him a little after the show. More cool was that there was an actual Tuskeegee Airman in the audience--he lives on the island--and I chatted with him a little also. He looked about 60, but must be closer to 90. I forget his name, sorry.
I told him that my own old man was a bombadier/navigator on one of them ole bomber planes, which he was, and the guy started asking me about his unit and what he did and so forth and I had to say I had no idea. My father got his commission in July 1945 an didn't serve overseas. The only thing good he has to say about wartime service in the Army Air Corps was that it was easy to get rides if you hitch hiked in uniform. He made a few round trips from Chicago to New Jersey.
Too bad our own Chuckles was not around back in those days. Perhaps his testimony about the racial inferiority of Africans would have been just enough to get the program cancelled--which it very nearly was.
A few weeks ago a certain fellow prominent around these parts made a post in the hole about how great it was that the US military could go in any place it wanted and make the people there "our bitches". Which I thought a rather fascistic thing to say. There was some discussion in the comments about what was meant by the expression to turn people into bitches, and the gist of it seemed to be that to make people your bitch is to so terrorize them that they'll do whatever you tell them to do, even if it means their own destruction--which it's OK to lay upon them, in turn, because they're no longer people but mere bitches.
By which criterion, of course, the greatest bitches in history must have been the European Jews who walked into the gas chambers, escorted and guided by other Jews. Right before the aforementioned post was made about how great it is to be able to turn people into bitches, I had finished reading Primo Levi's last book, The Drowned and the Saved. From Wikipedia:
The Drowned and the Saved is a book of essays on life in the Nazi Vernichtungslager (extermination camps) by Italian-Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, drawing on his personal experience as an inmate of Auschwitz.
Whereas If This is a Man was autobiographical The Drowned and the Saved is an attempt at an analytical approach. The problem of the fallibility of memory, the techniques used by the Nazis to break the will of prisoners, the use of language in the camps and the nature of violence are all studied.
A good part of the book has to do with the establishment of a master/bitch dynamic and how the Nazis got so good at it. It's a good book.
Anyway, a day or two later there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about the military situation in Afghanistan. Seems that "we" have not in fact made the Taliban there our bitches at all. It's pretty much a stalemate, like in the trenches of WW1. Oh well, even the Wehrmacht had its comeuppance, so it's not surprising that even the mighty U.S. Marines fall short as bitchmasters.
Speaking of Jews and Bitchitude
Last week I rented and watched Defiance (from IMDB)
Plot: Jewish brothers in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe escape into the Belarussian forests, where they join Russian resistance fighters and endeavor to build a village in order to protect themselves and about 1,000 Jewish non-combatants.
Based on the true story of the Bielski partisans in Poland/Belarus.
I liked the movie well enough. It's a fascinating story and was competently staged and acted. But I found it hard to get past the fact that everybody spoke English.
I don't speak Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Polish or Russian, so if the movie had been made with actors speaking in the languages that were actually spoken by the people the story is about, much of the impact would have been lost on me. But on the other hand the movie would have not seemed so fake, and I'm sure that at least some of the social complexities, interactions, and power relationships implicit in the languages would have come through.
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