A good piece here about Ken Burns’ series on the Holocaust. It’s an engrossing, compelling and thorough (and thoroughly depressing, given the subject matter) series in many ways, and of a high quality that we expect from Burns. But it is oh, so, political. Which trivializes its topic, in a very real and unnecessary manner:
Just as important, The U.S. and the Holocaust concludes by noting the passage of more liberal immigration laws in the 1960s and then showing a montage, including protests about the collapse of security at America’s southern border; former President Donald Trump’s demand that a border wall be built; the 2017 neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia; the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; and finally, the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. We hear warnings from talking heads that America’s thin veneer of civilization could, like Germany’s, collapse more quickly than we think—a not-so-subtle nod in the direction of the contemporary Democratic Party’s pose as the defenders of democracy against their Republican opponents.
So ham-handed. I have no objection on pointing out how few Jews the United States allowed in – Canada was even worse. We should all know this and be ashamed. It’s the partisanship and the attempt to link what happened then with current headlines that bothers me. Bari Weiss very firmly – and diplomatically – challenges Burns at her podcast/interview here. I like the way she is making him uncomfortable about his misuse of history. But she is too gentle when he insists he is not being political in his selected montage of American bigotry and antisemitism (all Republicans). What she could have asked was, “Ok, if that is the case, then why not include, in your montage, one of Ilhan Omar’s many antisemitic comments?” Regardless, her interview with him is excellent and not only for the moments in which she lets him know she is not impressed.