Entering into the age of Trump, it is interesting to note that there are several movies that I believe are must see films. One of them is the wonderful movie Loving which tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving. Their marriage and Supreme Court case brought an end to the anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Another is Denial, a movie based on a court case in England that put an end to ability of holocaust deniers to sue for libel.
Loving, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, is a powerful and moving film. Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up in the rural unincorporated town of Central Point, Virginia. They met in high school, spent time together, and eventually, when Mildred became pregnant, decided to marry. But this was the 1950’s and Mildred was African American and Richard was white. Virginia had anti-miscegenation laws which made their marriage illegal. How did these two young people get beyond Jim Crow and fall in love? Well that had a lot to with Central Point VA.
Today many people say they “don’t see color,” but I have always felt that is a cop out that allows people to hide their racism. Richard and Mildred saw beyond color. They understood the reality of the world of segregation that they lived in, but they saw beyond those laws. By growing up in an integrated community they were able to see beyond the social construct of race to reality of their love.
Denial tells the story of Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish history and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1996 Ms. Lipstadt, along with Penguin Books, was sued for libel in England by David Irving, an anti-Semite and holocaust denier whom she wrote about in a book. Irving lost the libel suit because Lipstadt’s and Penguin’s lawyer proved that Irving really was a racist and anti-Semite. Irving went on to be banned by countries around the world for promoting Nazism and racism. During the past 2 years we have seen the rise of the “big lie” in campaign for president. We have also witnessed a change in this country. One that is trying to normalize racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism and xenophobia. We have seen a return to openness of groups like the KKK and Neo-Nazi’s around the country. We need to stand up and actively fight against this racism. We need to look for the “big lie” and take it on.
To me Denial is an important movie because its central argument revolves around the idea of the “big lie.” The libel laws in England require that a writer prove that their claims are true, rather than having the subject prove that they are false, as the law in the United States is written. So Lipstadt’s lawyers had to prove that Irving manipulated the facts of history, omitting some events and lying about others to support his view of history. At the end of the film there is a scene where Lipstadt is talking to students and basically says that it is important for everyone to pay attention to what people say and to stand up to the lies that are put out to justify political stands and campaigns.
Ms. Lipstadt is consistent in her view of the Holocaust. She has criticized those who use the Holocaust to justify Israel’s position in relation to Palestine saying:
“…the 'hysteria' and 'neuroses' of many Jews and Israelis who compare the current situation in Europe and in the Middle East to the Holocaust era. 'People go nuts here, they go nuts. There's no nuance, there’s no middle ground, it’s taking any shade of grey and stomping on it. There are no voices of calm, there are no voices of reason, not in this country, not in Israel.”
Chemi Shalev, 'Top Holocaust scholar blasts 'Holocaust-abuse' by U.S., Israeli politicians.' at Haaretz, 16 December 2011.
Today, in the United States, we have entered to era of the big lie, the little lie, lie about the lie. Politicians of both parties will say and do whatever they feel will get them into power. Yes, some sides will lie more than others, and our President Elect lied more than any politician in recent history. In attempting to “normalize” Trump, we now have major news organizations accepting the lies and racism put out by him and his advisors. We must always be ready to find the truth. We cannot just wait and see what Trump does out of “respect for the office.” History has shown us that workers must take on racism and fascism. We cannot sit back and wait. We have seen Trump’s politics.
We also must hold the media to account. We cannot allow them to normalize the racism and fascism that is bubbling up. We cannot accept Steve Bannon in to White House. We cannot accept racists like Jeff Sessions or Rudy Giuliani. We cannot accept the registration of Muslims, and certainly not the use of Japanese internment camps from World War II to justify it. We cannot accept the attack on undocumented workers. We must be active in the fightback against the growing tide of lies and fascism.