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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cat Ballou and Israel


One of my favorite movies growing up was "Cat Ballou" with Jane Fonda. I never thought about Jane Fonda's politics; I was very young and I loved the movie. And I still love the movie. I just recently watched it on video. And I enjoyed it as much this time as I had the dozens of previous times (probably none since the 1980s or so until this recent viewing).

I have discovered in my life that oftentimes when I reread something, or see a movie or TV show again, or re-experience something I've already experienced in the past, I discover something new. This was true during this viewing of "Cat Ballou".

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of seeing "Cat Ballou" (which Lee Marvin won an Oscar for), "Cat Ballou" takes place in the late 19th Century, when the trains are beginning to get popular. Catherine Ballou has just graduated college and is coming back home to her father. Frank Ballou owns a spread that the railroad is trying to buy. Since he won't sell, he's being harassed and, finally, shortly after Catherine comes home and hires three incompetents to protect him, he's murdered. The rest of the movie shows Cat Ballou, queen of her newly formed bandit gang, trying to find a way to avenge her father's death, and accidentally killing the head of the railroad. She is captured and sentenced to death.

One of the things I always liked about the movie was interludes narrated and punctuated the action with Nat King Cole (right before his death from lung cancer at 45 -- the movie was released after his death) and Stubby Kaye playing banjos and singing "The Ballad of Cat Ballou". In this ballad, the balladeers sing a song about Cat, but, though she was a young woman looking to protect her father and then avenge his death, the ballad portrays her as "evil through and through..."

This jumped out at me in a way it never did when I saw this movie in my tweens and teens. This, to me, represented Israel.

For those of us with consciences, we can't harm anyone without it bothering us. But one thing that makes harming anyone easier is demonizing them. The people of "Wolf City, Wyoming", where "Cat Ballou" takes place, needed to see her as a demon in order to be able to celebrate and revel in the "hanging of Cat Ballou..."

So, too, it is with Israel. In order for the world to condemn Israel's every move, every terrorist killed to protect someone, every Jewish "settler" murdered with knives, bombs and missiles, every home built for a family dispossessed by Arik Sharon's army from their homes in the freely destroyed and repopulated Gush Katif (known to the world as "Gaza"), every helping hand extended by Israel to places like Haiti, Chile and other countries needing medical or technological assistance people need to demonize Israel and "settlers". "Settlers", by the way, are just people, families, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and grandchildren, who just want to live their lives in peace, just want to send their children to school, raise them to be good people.

It's easy to demonize Israel, people have been demonizing Jews for millennia. This is nothing new. It makes things nice and neat -- all it takes, people think, is for Israel to move out of Judea and Samaria (known throughout the world as the "West Bank") and suddenly, the world will be at peace.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. What it takes for peace in the Middle East is for the hundreds of millions of Arab-Muslims to realize that their enemy isn't Israel, that demonizing and hating Jews isn't going to solve their life problems. Their problems are caused by leaders who want them to focus their negative energy on Israel and not on them, not on their lack of leadership ability, not on their corruption, not on their stealing from their own people. It will take a leader in Israel who is willing to fight, willing to protect Israel's people and guests from harm, willing to risk censure from our enemy nations, the nations who are also, by the way, the enemies of freedom worldwide, the enemies of women, of gays, of non-Muslims, of children.

Please, G-d, send us such a leader. Or give Bibi the strength to be that leader.

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Strong Biblical Women
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