By BONNIE ERBE
Thanks for the apology, Mel. But on behalf of my people, most if not all of us don’t accept. Yes, your words, deeds and thoughts were "despicable." But we all know in vino, veritas. Drunken tirades are filled with truths that sobriety gives bigots the control and presence of mind to mask.
You may be sorry that you let loose and were caught saying what you said, but we all know you meant every word.
By now most of the Western Hemisphere has heard that actor-director Mel Gibson was arrested for drunken driving late last week and proceeded to throw a major-league temper tantrum. He resisted arrest while hurling a slew of invectives at the arresting officer who recorded an audio version of the entire incident. In breaking the story, the Web site TMZ.com detailed Gibson’s four-lettered and anti-Semitic rant at the arresting officer that included such idiocies as, "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Right! Now that I think of it, the Jews did launch the Crusades, World War I and World War II.
Get a grip, Mel!
It gets worse. TMZ.com also reports that the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department initially suppressed details of Gibson’s intemperate behavior, perhaps due to the cozy relationship Gibson maintained with some department brass.
Gibson’s public-relations operation was smart to issue an immediate and self-disparaging apology. But who could forget that this incident took place a short two-and-a-half years after the release of Gibson’s anti-Semitic chef d’oevre, "The Passion of the Christ"? Given that, a Gibson apology, no matter how self-deprecating, will hardly suffice. What those of us smited by his remarks really deserve is an apology from all of Gibson’s likeminded apologists.
Let’s start with one of the apologists-in-chief __Peggy Noonan. In December 2003, she wrote in OpinionJournal.com: "The movie has been accused of being harsh toward Jews, and Mr. Gibson, the film’s director, has been accused of anti-Semitism. This summer a group of scholars associated with the U.S. Bishops Council obtained an apparently stolen copy of an early draft of the script and came forward to denounce it as scripturally incorrect and potentially injurious of Christian-Jewish relations. Mr. Gibson protested, and the bishops more or less fled the scene, but the damage was done."
Noonan went on to say that the pope (John Paul II) gave Gibson’s admirers an unexpected Christmas present, unofficially endorsing a preview copy of the movie he viewed in his private chambers, with the reaction, "It is as it was."
Self-described "Catholic columnist" Matt Abbott on renewamerica.us wrote in the spring of 2004: "But is ‘The Passion of the Christ’ anti-Semitic? Not according to ‘Vatican II’ Catholic Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See’s press office, who said that the film is ‘a cinematographic transcription of the Gospels. If it were anti-Semitic, the Gospels would also be so.’ Indeed. And that is the consensus of the vast majority of Catholics and Protestants."
Actually, "Passion" came darned close to reversing 40 years of improved Catholic-Jewish relations fostered by Vatican II. In 1965, the bishops of Vatican II declared that Jews had not been rejected or cursed by God, a radical change following centuries of anti-Semitic church doctrine in which Catholics still offered Good Friday prayers for "the perfidious Jews." Would Gibson’s flick have won the approval of true Vatican II Catholics? No.
Why? At a minimum, Gibson’s movie inflamed long-charred embers of anger between the two groups that Vatican II bishops were quick to wet down.
Perhaps if Gibson wanted to make unimpeachable amends to the Jewish people, he would renounce his father’s harebrained pronouncements on the Holocaust. His father claimed it never happened. Or Gibson could use the hundreds of millions of dollars his "Passion" reputedly earned him in profits to improve Catholic-Jewish relations. Or maybe, just maybe, he’d do us the biggest favor possible and disappear back into the hate-infested netherworld from which he emanated.
(Bonnie Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail bonnieerbe(at)CompuServe.com.)