When I saw the "Dead Monkey" cartoon in the New York Post, I confess I didn't think it was a racist attack on Obama.
However, I have to thank all the African Americans and their leaders out there who brought the issue up and insisted that they have an apology from the New York Post because it could be interpreted that way.
Why would I say such a thing? Don't I have a sense of humor? Don't I understand that the cartoonist did really mean to make the cartoon racist?
Well, I do have a sense of humor, and I do understand that it may not have been the cartoonist's INTENTION to make a racist comment, and that we should give the cartoonist the benefit of the doubt.
However, I also understand that if you are a member of a minority group, and you let something like that go by without making a stink about it, you may just find yourself up to your neck in stink before you know it.
It is much better to demand respect, demand apologies, and be on the alert. When you have been hurt, when you have been trampled upon, and when you have faced hatred and oppression, a sense of humor is nice but it won't get you a job or save you from a hate-filled mob at the end of the slipperly slope that is baseless hatred.
Now, saying that, I must bring up the latest set of cartoons by the same cartoonist at the NY Post--Mr. Sean Delones.
The cartoon for March 12th featured Bernie Madoff standing before a judge with a devil's tail protruding from his backside; and the most recent cartoon, for March 15th, features Ruth Madoff standing before a door denying she has hidden any money while, in the foreground, her home is carpeted and furnished entirely with money. The only thing not made of money in her home is the cat.
Now, one can say that this is simply an attack on Bernie Madoff, and that he has done a terrible evil so, of course, he would be portrayed as a devil. And, one could say that Ruth Madoff is probably being used to protect his assets for his family rather than turning them over to help his victims. But the story doesn't end there, does it?
We all know that Bernie Madoff's Jewishness is a very outward component of his public identity (and, in fact, is one reason why he is such a disappointing embarassment to most of us). His crime was a crime of association, and his associates trusted him BECAUSE he, like most of them, is Jewish. Madoff, like it or not, is a representative Jew--especially to those who want to hate Jews.
Now, most of us are aware that Jews have been portrayed as devils and as greedy money-grubbing cravens by anti-Semites throughout history.
It is a common and very dangerous stereotype, especially during an economic downturn.
Hitler used these very same images to gain sympathy for his cause in destroying the Jews. The Spanish Inquisition, the British purge, and the Russian Pogroms all had their basis in these dangerous images of Jews as devils or as greedy businessmen.
They are dangerous images, images that can lead to death for Jews around the world, and we shouldn't let even one of them pass with the idea that we should "have a sense of humor" or "give the cartoonist the benefit of the doubt."
Do you know that the ADL has just completed a study that shows that over 1/3 of Europeans blame Jews for the world financial crisis? That isn't a study from 1938, that is a study completed just weeks ago!
So, what do Jews say about the latest comic creations of Sean Delonas?
There has been an overwhelming silence on the issue.
I think the silence is even more deadly than the implication of these cartoons. We have forgotten how to be careful of our image. We have forgotten how to demand respect. We have forgotten how to protect ourselves from the overwhelming hate that is sweeping the nation--with our name on it.
We can really learn something from African American leaders in the US, and we had better learn that lesson fast before we start to lose our jobs, our opportunities, and our lives under the overwhelming stench of negative, hateful, and dangerous Anti-Semitism.
I pray it's not too late.