David Mamet Capitulates
Updated: Mar 22
I grew up in the New York world of classical music surrounded by the harmonies of Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn played by Lenny, Isaac, Lukas, and Aaron. Besides these giants of classical music I was also acquainted with old Jewish doctors who would come to dinner and afterwards break out their fiddles and cellos and play trios and quartets with my father, a pianist and my mother, a cellist. Being Jewish was synonymous with being intellectual, musical and medical and I wanted to be a doctor myself. Of course I loved Leon Uris’s Exodus and danced with many young ladies to the theme song of that nation-building thriller and could hardly wait to work on a Kibbutz and perhaps shoot Arab malefactors myself. But that was then and this is now.
I suspect like many of your fans and friends I was deeply troubled by your treatise on conservatism, Secret Knowledge. I had anticipated a modestly embarrassed reflection somewhat like many of us liberals feel when we are robbed or when we drive through Ghetto neighborhoods past corner drug dealers pants hung low Simian glares at us beneath side-wise straight-brimmed baseball caps or when we are assaulted by insistent pan-handling or when we can’t make ourselves understood when ordering a Subway sandwich because we don’t speak Spanish. It is only natural that such things bring about a difficult self-examination testing the sincerity of our liberal thinking expounded by that ridiculously film, Falling Down. We are all that guy now and then.
Instead you have capitulated to the comforters, the academes, the wrong-headed neon brights. It is like you have chosen Robert Bork as your legal adviser. If one wants to be a happy, selfish, well-off, libertarian arsehole Mr. Bork is the perfect legal paragon for all one’s golfing, hedge funds and Ferraris. You cite repeatedly Professor Hayek whose history you well know is thick with unsympathetic conservative theories such as the principal one you mention of there being only enough resources for one decision; war or great society, energy or wilderness, business or minimum wage etc. And of course when it comes to Israel you take the unarguable but stupid (especially to us atheists) path of the Talmud and Old Testament as the basis for your contumely toward the Palestinians.
The fact of the matter is that shit happens with inexorable democracy and for one reason or another some people suffer while other people play; sometimes whole nations are expunged or re-located, sometimes disappearing altogether just like 99% of the species in the animal kingdom (not to mention most Native Americans). Looking briefly at the history of Semites one sees a long and bloody series of shifts from one oasis and beach in the Levant to another with highly varying and subjective degrees of responsibility for one slaughter or genocide or malefaction. Suffice it to say that at some point a lot of Jews abandoned, left, fled the Fertile Crescent and settled variously elsewhere, like all of us. This is paramount to remember Mr. Mamet, ALL of us are displaced in one way or another. Are we going to fight forever to re-settle the Iroquois, the Apaches and the Comanches? Must we fight forever so that Hindus can return to Pakistan? Must we keep strapping nitroglycerin to our bodies so that one group can get back what another group took? Here in the United States it seems like the Mexicans are taking back a great deal of what they lost in 1845 rather peaceably in spite of our monster wall.
You know in your heart of hearts, whatever that means, the history of Palestine, the history of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people), the Holocaust and the development of modern Israel. Are you really prepared to say that the Palestinians have no right to try to save the state they had before 1917 or 1948? For whatever number of reasons the Jews mostly left the land we call Israel a long, long time ago; does it matter why or who might have pushed them out? Does it matter to you who or why the land your house is on in Los Angeles once belonged to Mexico? Should we really give a damn what happened in Kosovo 700 years ago? Should we give Manhattan back to the Iroquois? Silly questions perhaps but then again not so silly if we want to move ahead in the world. The fact remains that in the early part of the Twentieth Century Palestinians had a state of their own (or so they thought) and they welcomed returning Jews notwithstanding Mr. Balfour’s generosity. The fact is that in the latter part of the Twentieth Century Jews have proceeded to do to Palestinians much of what has been done to them with Old Testament sincerity.
Let us be absolutely frank Mr. Mamet; if level heads prevailed there could be a very successful agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Agree to the borders set in 1967, give the Palestinians a 100-meter-wide corridor between the West Bank and Gaza, help the Palestinians get back on their feet and celebrate a post-modern amicability that could be a model for the rest of the fucked-up world. But this can NEVER happen as long as the Israelis keep putting up walls and building mini cities (and calling them “settlements”) on Palestinian land.
As you are comfortably ensconced on your sofa of conservative conceit let me share with you the words of somebody I think you will admit is well worth listening to.
What it means to be a Liberal. Leonard Bernstein.
I want to re-define the word liberal, not run from it, nor cower defensively at its insulting abuse, but proudly to clarify it, even at the expense of being a bit didactic. The word derives from the Latin liber, meaning free (it also means a book, and also ones child, both of which are also good things to have around.)
From the word liberal, we derive the word “liberty,” which is what the civilized world has been struggling for throughout its history — whether through reform or revolution, including our own American Revolution. George Washington was revolutionary, as were Jefferson and Franklin. They and the other founders strove for liberty above all. All these forefathers were therefore liberals.
A liberal is a man or woman or child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright and infinite future. What can possibly be wrong with that? Only this: that the word has been debased, defamed and totally misused by power interests that have sought even greater authoritarian power.
Liberal is a word soiled by the greedy, reactionary, backward-looking impulse toward tyranny.
Here are just two out of, alas, dozens in our own America and in our own century: First, the hateful Red scare invented and perpetrated by William Randolph Hearst in the first decades of the century and magnified through his countless newspapers and magazines into a panic in which everyone with a beard was probably a Bolshevik with a bomb in his pocket — aimed at you, and in which merely reading a Russian novel rendered you suspect and possibly treasonous.
The second example, even more hateful and infinitely more dangerous, was the rise of McCarthyism in the 50’s — a rise so steady and so strong that only a prolonged television hearing could expose the despicable junior senator from Wisconsin for the power-greedy psychopath he was. This is arguably the closest we have come to tyranny.
Tyranny? In our free, beautiful, democratic republic? Yes. It is possible and even probable, which is why we must constantly guard against it. Tyranny assumes many forms. To tax the factory worker and the outright poor so that the rich can get richer is tyranny.
To call for war at the drop of a pipeline (while secretly dealing for hostages); to teach jingoistic slogans about armaments and Star Wars; to prescribe the weapons industry for the health of our doped-up credit card economy; to spend a dizzying percentage of the budget on arms at the expense of schools, hospitals, cultural pursuits, caring for the infirm and homeless — these are all forms of tyranny.
Who fought to free the slaves? Liberals. Who succeeded in abolishing the poll tax? Liberals. Who fought for civil rights, women’s rights, free public education? Liberals. Who stood guard and still stands guard against sweatshops, child labor, racism, bigotry? Lovers of freedom and enemies of tyranny: Liberals.
I dreamed all this and wrote it down. And I dreamed I heard (the Democratic candidate) say: “I’m proud to be called a liberal. I am neither a Red nor an anarchist, nor do I have a bomb in my pocket.
“I love my country — so much, in fact, that I am putting all my energies into seeing it to a better day, a more tranquil night, a shining and limitless future. And I abide by the words of that splendid liberal Thomas Jefferson that are inscribed on his monument in Washington: ‘I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.'” I, too, am a liberal.
October 1988 Leonard Bernstein
Make no mistake about it, I LOVE ISRAEL and were the sultans and ayatollahs to seriously threaten her existence I would sign up in a heartbeat and march from the Negev to the Golan barefoot if thats what it took. I can’t wait to get back to Israel. But enough is enough awready, you know what I’m saying? Stop the settlements, stop the petulance, stop the bullying, stop twisting history. Give peace a chance.