by Bradley R. Smith
(Excerpted from Break His Bones)
The bedroom door clicks, opens slowly and I sit up in the dark in a frozen blaze of fear. It's Alicia. A moment before she must have been in bed beside me. Now she has her robe on and is in the doorway.
In Spanish I say: "Where are you going?"
"To the sofa," she says. "Sleeping with you is like being in a bed full of restless donkeys."
I'm awake now and I turn on the light. Maybe I'll read something. I can't focus my attention on any of the titles on the night stand. There's been some new telephone threats, some of them by a repeater who says he's going to shoot Marisol and Paloma as well as myself. Threats to shoot me are old hat, but men calling up to say they will murder the kids is a new wrinkle.
The essay I run as an advertisement in student newspapers on university campuses is making the Hillel rabbis crazy: "The Holocaust Controversy: The Case for Open Debate." It kicked off at Michigan then went to Duke, Cornell, Northern Illinois and Rutgers. Before I'm finished it'll be in a dozen others. Last April I published an earlier version of the article in the Daily Northwestern. It's about 4,000 words. It's beautiful. The rabbis are furious. They don't have much influence among Jews at large but on university campuses they know how to put the fear of G-d into the Gentiles. On every campus where there's a significant number of Jewish students there's a Hillel, usually with a rabbi fronting it. Wherever Holocaust revisionism rears its point of view the furious Hillel rabbis are there to crush it. They think they're back in the Garden, jousting with the serpent.
Hillel is the campus mouthpiece for B'nai B'rith. It monitors public debate on American campuses from a Zionist perspective. It's the leading private Jewish intelligence agency on college campuses dedicated to serving what it believes are Jewish goals, mistakenly. Preaching against hate while working as censors, the rabbis agitate against a free exchange of ideas. They don't understand that what's hateful is to deny others the right to reveal what they truly think and feel. The rabbis convince me that they have broad political agendas but no spiritual one. The Hillel rabbis have become the Jimmy Swaggarts of the Holocaust. Ignorant of what they profess to be experts in, sweaty with self-righteousness and bad faith, ever ready to crush the right to freely exchange ideas which is the ideal that a free society turns upon. What a disaster these rabbis are for American Jews. How many Jewish kids are going to be sacrificed in order to condemn the unbelievers? Sex isn't the achilles heel of these kosher evangelicals. Pride is, and a lust to control the thoughts of others. They're turning the Holocaust story into a Jewish cult, complete with an immense crank literature of infallible texts, crazy miracles, saintly eye-witness tales of miraculous escapes from nazi devils and all of it protected by taboos and media witch trials that condemn as heretics those of us who no longer believe what we no longer believe.
The rabbis act like they believe they're living in a culture foreign to them, pressing Jewish students and others into the service of a cult committed to the overturn of American idealism. Rabbis who work to destroy those who argue for open debate on the Holocaust texts represent a New Inquisition. These Jewish Torquemadas have the media rack waiting for all who disagree with them about the truthfulness and historical accuracy of their sacred Holocaust texts. Revisionist theory is on the Hillel index of forbidden thought. In 20th century America the rabbis believe the proper punishment for expressions of doubt about what the rabbis believe is public disgrace and financial ruin.
With guys like me, the Hillel rabbis have an insoluble problem. Disgrace means nothing to me and I have no money. I've been disgraced now for years. As a man of action, I accept disgrace. As a pragmatist, I accept poverty. The rabbis, full of their lust for dominion, don't understand that inwardly they're trapped. They don't understand yet that I'm here to help free them, to help point the way for them to a new freshness of spirit. In the old days some Jews felt in their bones that pride goeth before a fall. Today the rabbis have no sense of that. They've put all their eggs in one basket. Influence means everything to them, liberty nothing. They're living in another, psychologically more primitive era. They remember the ghettos of Eastern Europe but haven't yet opened their eyes to the wonderful vistas in America of liberty and free thought. I'm going to help fix this for them. I'm going straight ahead exposing the Holocaust story for what it is. I've accepted the responsibility for helping our rabbis, no matter what their religious background, no matter what profession they follow, to get a hard look at American idealism. That's how men of action put it together. I'm a door through which unassimilated rabbis will come to the real America. Hallelujah!
Doctor Franklyn is here to check Mother's vital signs. She's only half conscious. Her mouth is hanging open, her eyelids half closed with the eyeballs rolled up in her head. He gives her a couple injections then we step into the kitchen where he says she might die today.
"She looks like she might," he says.
"She has no fever though."
"I gave her three Tylenol. I didn't think it was enough so I gave her two tablespoons of liquid Tylenol too."
"If you give her too much you can damage her liver."
"The truth is, I gave her three tablespoons of liquid Tylenol. I could have blown her liver right out of there."
"I'm not sure what you want me to do if there's a crisis."
"Nothing heroic. I'm ready for her to ease on out of this affair. I'm ready."
"I'm not suggesting we let her die."
"No. I understand. Don't worry."
"It has to happen some time."
"Now's a good time," I say.
I tell Alicia what Doctor Franklyn said about how Mother looks like she might die today. Alicia doesn't say anything but after a moment tears roll down her cheeks. Later this morning I see Marisol sitting at Mother's bedside holding her hand and crying. Mother is unconscious. Later Alicia is frowning grotesquely and crying while she helps Paloma trim the Christmas tree. Paloma wants to know why her mommy is sad. Alicia distracts her with a box of decorations, the tears dripping off her nose. For my part, I feel pretty good but I need some shut-eye.
It's 4am and I'm sitting on the toilet with a bad stomach. I've been up with Mother most of the night. I feel a sudden surge of anxiety. Why? I realize thought is recalling a passage from a biography of Gandhi. Gandhi's father was sick and Gandhi was nursing him attentively. One afternoon he began thinking about his wife and after a while he got up from his father's bedside and went to his wife and gave her a tumble and when he returned to his father the old man was dead. It wasn't too long after that that Gandhi gave up sex entirely. I finish in the bathroom hurriedly and go to Mother's bedside. She's resting comfortably. She's all right.
All the women in the house are sick. Marisol has the flu and Paloma and Alicia have colds while Mother is prostrate. Dante carelessly left out of his poem that level of Hell where one man is doomed to live alone with four sick women spanning three generations.
One dark cloudy morning in the Mekong I was hiking through the countryside with a young man from Saigon. We passed mud and brick forts with little guard towers with Vietnamese boys standing guard in them with red kerchiefs tied around their throats. Beau Geste in the tropics. We walked the narrow roads through the paddies, crossed canals, passed villages, women working the fields, men sitting on canal banks beneath coconut and banana trees repairing fishing nets. The men greeted us with loud rough shouts as if they were pissed. That's how farmers greet each other in the Mekong.
The sky got thicker and darker and the thunder began to roll. We asked permission to enter a farm house. Inside, the modest room was clean and tidy. The storm broke with a roar. Two or three workers came in drenched and laughing from the paddies. A couple women came in from the lean-to kitchen at the side of the house. We sat on the mat and chatted and watched through the one wide window opening as the rain poured down, obliterating the view of the canal only a few yards away. Suddenly a wind came up and blew the rain inside the house. Two of the women went out in the pouring blowing rain to remove the sticks propping up the woven shutter over the window opening. They laughed as the wind blew the shutter out of their hands. They were already drenched. Their drenched clothes clung to their strong bodies. Their hair blew in strings over their laughing faces. They looked at me when they laughed. The rain splashed on their white teeth. Inside the room, warm and dry, I shivered watching the two drenched laughing bodies. The men in the room laughed with me. They were probably the husbands.
Older people were in the room too. With the shutter down closing off the room to the blowing storm, someone set about heating water on a brazier. A little food appeared. The storm thundered and poured down on the roof. We chatted about this and that. I happened to look at the back of the room and for the first time saw the tiny old woman lying on the mat on her side, her temple resting on a polished mahogany pillow, watching us silently. She was immaculately dressed in a simple lavender sheath dress. I could see the swell of her little hip. They never lose that line. It's structural. The old woman was dying, someone told me. I glanced at her again. Her grey hair was immaculately combed. Her dress was immaculate. The mat she lay on and her pillow were immaculate and she was perfectly still. Our eyes met and I nodded once. Her eyes didn't leave mine but there was no recognition in them. I turned back to the others.
Mother is 90 years old now. She has multiple sclerosis and hasn't been able to walk for about 25 years. She lost control of her bladder and bowels years ago. We use a sling with a lift to get her from the bed to her wheel chair. She hardly eats any more but when she did still eat there was shit everywhere. She'd soil her sheets while she was asleep, sometimes two or three times during a day and night. She'd soil the floor while we were transferring her from the chair to the bed and back again. One time she dumped on Marisol's bare foot. Marisol didn't know what hit her.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "But there it was. It was hot. It was confusing. What the hell is that, you know? Afterwards I thought, now I've experienced everything."
"I don't think so," I said.
Sometimes when I'm cleaning Mother I recall the tiny old Vietnamese woman who was dying so immaculately in the little thatched house surrounded by rice paddies in the Mekong Delta during a war that was out of control and how much care her family must have been giving her and in that respect how, in their hearts, they must have been immaculate themselves.
Reporters want to know how I feel about the fact that I am condemned so harshly by so many professors and so many men and women in the Jewish community. Scores of articles, interviews and opinion-page pieces condemning me as a racist, anti-Semite and hater. Editorial writers for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and who knows how many other papers have all indulged themselves with condemning me. I find the attention interesting and encouraging. A reporter for the New York Times writes that my wife has to clean houses to help me make ends meet. Jews write me letters saying that's what I deserve, a wife who's a cleaning woman.
I accept the ridicule, the charges of being a hater, the contempt. That's part of what the work is. Bringing those charges against me publicly is the first halting step taken in my direction by those who most need to be in better relationship with me. It's been suggested that my sensibilities have been coarsened over the years by the anger others feel toward me and that that's why I'm not much bothered by being a target for it. I believe such attacks make me more sensitive not less, particularly toward Jews. It isn't the acceptance of anger that coarsens sensibilities, but the rejection of it. Any rejection of relationship is stasis. Acceptance is action.
Five years ago there were very few in the Holocaust Lobby who felt they had to condemn me personally for my views. Revisionism didn't count and I didn't count. The outrage that's being expressed over the Campus Project is one sign that the game is starting to play itself out in the theater of public life. That the contest is joined. All the forces of the Lobby are being brought to bear to stop the project. The difference between myself and those who condemn me is that I look forward to the play. I'm not angry with the other players. I'm just happy that the curtain is going up at last. I await the unfolding of the dramatic line with eager attention. I don't much care who wins and loses. With me, the play itself is the thing.
Sitting on the sofa tonight watching Oliver Stone's The Doors. Jim Morrison needed to feel a passion in his life. He was very young and very talented and he seems to have mistaken stimulation for passion, which is what the very young often do. Nevertheless, the film makes me aware that I have no passion for the work I'm doing. The job has my attention, it keeps me busy day and night, it's worthwhile work but I have no passion for it. It's the contest as much as anything that keeps me going. The odds. It's a million to one I won't be able to accomplish anything significant in exposing the Holocaust story for what it is. There's something about those odds that excites me. There's something boyish in that excitement like there was something boyish in Morrison's talk about needing to risk death. The difference is that Morrison was a boy when he talked like that and I'm 64 years old.
A young man calls from Los Angeles asking about the scandal I've set off at the University of Michigan. News travels fast. He sounds incredulous. Tonight I dream that he appears at our window and peers in at us at the dinner table. He's a little Jewish guy with a big hooked nose and snaggled teeth. I invite him in, introduce him to everyone and put a place for him at the table. We talk about many things but don't get around to the Holocaust story. Later he says: "When you invited me in--that was heavy." When I wake, thought recalls the Admiral Peary advertisement soliciting companions to trek to the South Pole: "Wanted: A few good men. High risk. Low pay." That's the kind of advertisement I need to place in the newspapers. Needed: A few good Jews. High risk. No pay whatever.
It's 2am and I can't sleep. I've been too busy spreading the good news about holocaust revisionism to do much walking and when I don't exercise I sleep poorly. I put on my long sleeved padded jacket and lie on the sofa under a blanket with Andrew Harvey's The Hidden Journey. Harvey is an Englishman born in India who's become a Hindu religioso. He's been spiritually awakened through sitting darshan with a young Hindu woman called Ma. She's an interesting religious phenomenon in that she doesn't preach and has no rules. That's my kind of religion. While you sit she takes your face in her hands and peers into your eyes in silence and if you're receptive, light and radical understanding begin to flood your daily life.
One night while walking on the beach at Pondicherry Harvey heard a voice speak out of the darkness: "You can not transform what you have not blessed." After a moment the voice said: "You can never transform what first you have not accepted and blessed."
The words strike a deep note in me. I'm not sure why. I think once more about how useless it is to search and how valuable it is to be aware of where you are and to remain open. Everything is coming to you all the time. Then thought recalls how Jesus taught that it's a virtue to love our enemies and I see the relationship between that idea and the necessity to accept and bless what you want to see transformed. I've got to bless the Hillel rabbis and dismiss my contempt for them. Not them, but their behavior. Turning the other cheek is not an act of meekness in the face of societal brutality. It's an act of courage directed at the inner life. It's a concept of radical cooperation. It's only a gesture but it stands on rock. The rabbis, literally, know not what they're doing. They can't help themselves.
When the rabbis denounce me as their enemy, sometimes I return the favor. I have a clever talent for that sort of thing. Later I always regret having used it. There's a time in life when every one of us is blessed, while those who age and look for enemies and avoid painful truths and disseminate falsehoods are already burdened with a terrible weight. Maybe I can be counted among such people; certainly the Hillel rabbis can. From this night on, while I will not accept their bad behavior, I am going to accept them as men and women and bless them with my good will, my patience and my radical cooperation.