Fragments: Another Ordinary Life

Published: 2012-01-01

This document is part of the Smith's Report periodical.
Use this menu to find more documents that are part of this periodical.

*** When the Occupy Wall Street movement burst onto the television screens last September I was sympathetic with the outrage and contempt that was being expressed for the greed that is so evident in the “one” percent of American culture. At the same time there was no evident plan to do anything other than protest against greed. In the first instance, greed is pretty much a moral issue, not a political one. And then greed is not limited to the one percent among us. It is present in every “percent” of the species, varying with the individual but there it is.

One day I came across the fact, if it is a fact, that while one percent of Americans are millionaires, about 50 percent of the U.S. Congress are millionaires. Could that be one reason, or even the primary reason, the U.S. Congress is corrupt? They’re rich? Reflecting on that question appears to have caused the brain to recall reading a little book titled Signing Their Lives Away. It refers to the men who signed the American Declaration of Independence.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners. A number were preachers. They were among the wealthy of their time. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing that the penalty would be death if they were captured. I have also read recently that George Washington was perhaps the richest man in the “nation.” His wealth consisted of his ownership of most of the state of Virginia. Yet. . . .

Are there a couple or three ironies here? Are the rich really the problem?

*** Frank Kermode was a highly regarded British literary critic who I used to read when I had time (before revisionism) for stuff like English literature . Mr. Kermode died last year and I came across an appreciation of him by Charles Rosen in the June 09 2011 issue of The New York Review of Books. Referencing Kermode’s observations on such matters as the Gospels, Mark Twain, Shakespeare and Henry James he suggests that Kermode’s primary insight was that the “interpretation” of such works “ is always a way of telling a new story.”

Rosen writes: “Interpreters are insiders and outsiders. The insiders belong to an elite, generally protected by an institution like a church or an academy, or by a consensus of scholarly opinion, which gives them authority, and they are presumed to possess the art of divination. The elite have privileges and constraints. ‘Perhaps the most important of these,’ Kermode says, ‘are the right to affirm and the obligation to accept, the superiority of intent over manifest sense.”

About this time you might imagine where my brain has gone. Are these not exactly the methods used to protect and further orthodoxy with regard to the Holocaust story?

“The manifest sense is the literal one we all grasp; the latent sense is the spiritual meaning, the secret that must be revealed by interpretation. This is true on the simplest level; there is naturally no point to an interpretation that tells us only what we all know already, what inescapably and instantly strikes the eye. An interpretation must either uncover or create a secret. For Kermode, the very existence of a text inspires interpretation, and therefore engenders secrecy.”

And then there is the photograph, the document, the court testimony, the account by guys and gals who survive or remain. It all inspires interpretation, engenders secrecy. A way of “telling a new story.”

*** It’s occurred to me more than once that it would be interesting to report on what I published here “ten years ago this month.” I would suppose that one month it will be more interesting than the next, but then that’s the way it is with life itself, not just Smith’s Report.

In SR 87 there were short pieces on The Auschwitz “Death March,” “Zyclon B and Lice,” “Holocaust Studies: Parody vs. Reality,” and “Sobibor,” with particularly sound observations by Ralph Marquardt and David Thomas, two men who are no longer with me, unfortunately.

The lead article is titled “Moderated Discussion Forums Produce High Traffic on CODOHWeb.” Here I was just waking up to the value of discussion forums on the Web. I wrote: “When I thought about CODOHWeb, in my mind’s eye I actually saw the image of a great library. Something stationary, static, waiting for people to climb its broad steps. It was as if my imagination were being directed by my vocabulary. I understood the outreach concept of the World Wide Web without really absorbing it. Slowly, over the past two years, as I have been searching for fresh tactics to forward this work, I have grown increasingly conscious of how “dynamic” CODOHWeb is, how it is in one place on the Internet, and how in another it “reaches out” in ways that have been just below my level of awareness.”

That was ten years ago this month. Since then I have become fully aware of the unique significance of the CODOH Forum.

And then there was an entry about Irv Rubin, then the national leader of the Jewish Defense League, which in those days was a formidable and physically dangerous antagonist for revisionists.

Following is the full SR text:

“On 11 December Jewish Defense League (JDL) chairman Irv Rubin and another JDL member, Earl Krugel, were arrested and booked on charges of conspiracy to destroy a building by means of an explosive, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, and possession of a destructive device related to a crime of violence, which carries a 30-year sentence.

“The targets allegedly were the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and the office of freshman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Rubin and Krugel were arrested on 11 December after the last component of the bomb – explosive powder – was delivered to Krugel’s home, according to U.S. Attorney John Gordon said. Other bomb components and weapons were seized at the home. It was not immediately clear when the alleged plot began or what prompted it. In court papers, authorities quoted Krugel as saying during a meeting that Arabs “needed a wake-up call.”

“I can understand that.

Rubin’s attorney, Peter Morris, said his client had nothing to do with the explosives. ‘It seems to us that, given the timing … the government’s action is part of an over-reaction to the Sept. 11 events.’

“It’s possible that Rubin will have to feed Krugel to the dogs. Rubin’s wife, Shelley, said her husband and Earl ‘are completely innocent of anything [she probably means “everything”]. They are law-abiding, good people.”

“When I was still in Hollywood and making noise on the radio –that was in the early 1990’s before the internet exploded all over theplace – Rubin used to ring me up to browbeat me. We frequented the same parts of town, especially Fairfax Avenue, a Jewish part of town where years before I had had a bookstore. I kind of liked talking to Rube. He’s a bully, but he had a sense of humor. He kept challenging me to meet him ‘anywhere I wanted’. In those days I was getting death threats, there had been attempts to break into my office on Hollywood Boulevard, and I would tell Irv that I would like to get together– but for the moment would have to take a rain check.

“One night about 11pm I drove over to Kantor’s, my favorite Jewish delicatessen on Fairfax Avenue, which was maybe four blocks down the street from where I’d had my first bookstore. I was going to take some strudel home for my mother. It must have been a Saturday night. When I got to Kantor’s I parked the car in the lot next door, walked around to the front entrance where I stepped inside to the long glass counter. The moment I arrived at the place where the pastries were I saw Irv Rubin himself at a nearby table with three cronies. They were laughing, passing the time of night, a little rowdy.

“I made an exceptionally agile, smooth, free-flowing U-turn and walked out of Kantor’s Delicatessen to the sidewalk, continued around to the parking lot where I got in my car and pulled out onto Fairfax Avenue. Mother wouldn’t get her classic Kantor’s strudel that night. She would have to settle for a doughnut.

“Recently a mutual friend of Rubin and myself, a Jewish fellow from Romania who now lives in West Los Angeles, informed me that Rubin would like to debate me. Our friend had suggested such a debate several times but Rubin had always said no. Now I was told he had changed his mind. I thought that was interesting but I did not jump at the opportunity. I’m too old to fight, too old to run, and when Rubin gets within shouting distance of a Holocaust revisionist he has a difficult time keeping it together. Now it looks like the Arabs have put Rubin in an unusually bad mood. I’ll have to find some other way to amuse myself.”

*** A few months after Irv Rubin’s arrest with Earl Krugel for allegedly planning to blow up some Muslims, Irv Rubin was either murdered or committed suicide while in jail. I remember I was not pleased when I heard the news. Irv was full of passion, humor and bad ideas. He was a professional Jew, in maybe the worst sense of that phrase. He had no respect for the great ideals of Western culture. But all that being said, he was a guy you could laugh with. I had laughed with him more than once on the telephone. I was wary of him, but I liked him.

*** Carlos Porter and I were talking about a story in Axel Munthe’s The Story of San Michelle where the coffins of two bodies were confused, or swapped, in the most surprising literary device either of us has read. In the one coffin, when it was opened, the author saw a Russian general with his eyes wide open. This brought Carlos to make a number of interesting observations that may be particularly relevant now that the academic activists are shifting their attention from alleged gas chambers to the shootings and mass burials on the Eastern front.

“The general's eyes would only be open if he wasn't quite dead when he was buried, woke up, and then died. These cases are usually complete legend, although it is possible. Most cases of ‘live burial’ are due to convulsions of the dead body caused by expanding gases in the corpse. The pressure of the gases is so great it can turn a completely dead body upside down or push the intestines out of the rectum. This is the reason for the horrible expressions often seen on the faces of exhumed corpses, people who died and were buried normally.

“Myself, I prefer the idea of cremation. Did you know that for open air cremation you have to cut the tendons inside the knee and elbow? Otherwise the tendons are shortened by the heat and the corpses curl up. You think they're alive. Did anybody ever describe this in any Hoaxoco$t yarn? It happens all the time in real life.

“The Holohoaxers sometimes claim people were tossed into the crematory ovens while still alive. With the doors closed you can't see what's going on inside an oven. Not true with a funeral pyre. So far as I know, not that many people were still alive in the funeral pyres. But it is claimed that some were. But with all the funeral pyre stories, where are those that tell of bodies curling” up? In real life, it would happen quite often.

“Ever see a photo of somebody burnt alive in a car accident? They are almost always found in the so-called "pugilist position." Hunched over, arms bent, fists clenched, knees bent. This is because of the heat shortening the tendons, causing them to contract.

“Sorry to dwell on this stuff.

“Merry Christmas.”

That’s okay, Carlos.

I’m reminded of something I read maybe fifty years ago. If I remember the story correctly, Bernard Shaw’s mother had died and it was decided she would be cremated. Shaw wanted to view the process. Apparently there were facilities in London (Dublin?) that allowed that. You can watch it today in Mexico. In any event, during the cremation process, while Shaw looked on, his mother sat up, to some consternation on the part of her very sophisticated son.

*** Dreamed of a pyramidal form in the center of a body of water. It’s the kind of single-image dream that, upon awaking, I might sense has some deep significance for me.

Shortly afterward I dreamed that if I were to have a problem with the new knee that Dr. Mercer installed a couple months ago that I should mix parmesan cheese with the medicine I had been given. I have accepted the fact that I will find no deep significance in the parmesan cheese dream.

*** Today I found a scratchpad with one note written on it. The note read: “In a single moment I became a question unto myself. Augustine.” And then there was one more word: “Saroyan.” St. Augustine and Saroyan. What was the connection? It took only a moment for the brain to put it together.

It was maybe 1953 and I was 23 years old. I had been discharged from the army and was living in my childhood bedroom in my parent’s house in South-Central Los Angeles. The brain was full of images of Korea, the beautiful mountains, the rice paddies, the thatched-roofed villages and the dead and torn up bodies. The brain wouldn’t let it go. It was as if it couldn’t. I had begun to write about it. It was difficult to get it right.

One quiet, desperate, Sunday afternoon I drove to the beach at Playa Del Rey and parked the car at the edge of the road and looked out over the sand and the blue ocean. A breeze was blowing off the water and I rolled down the windows so it could blow through the car. It was a nice afternoon but inside I could feel it coming up and I didn’t know what it was or what to do about it.

I had a couple paperback books with me. I decided to start the one by William Saroyan. The first story was called “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.” The young man in the story was a writer. He must have been about my own age. The only thing important to him was the writing. He lived alone in a rented room and wrote every day but he couldn’t get any money for his stories. He couldn’t pay the rent on his room and most of the time he didn’t have money for food.

That day he was walking around the neighborhood looking in all the café windows. He was weak and hungry but he was happy because he was living the life of a writer and not the ordinary life of the others. He walked slowly and uncertainly back to his room and collapsed on the bed. He grew delirious with hunger. He had already been delirious with that other hunger, the hunger to be true to himself, and now the room began to whirl in a hunger delirium. It was a wonderful story.

Then the young writer died. I was stunned. He had starved himself to death on principle! He had died for his art! It had never occurred to me it was possible to do that. No one had told me that writing could be that important. Were you supposed to find that out on your own? Everything seemed to be up to the writer. You had to decide for yourself. You could take the writing however far you wanted. I had never thought about it but I recognized it the moment I saw it. I wanted to take it all the way. I wanted to risk death for the writing.

The wind had come up considerably. It blew off the top of the blue ocean and across the white sand and through the rolled down windows of the car. I sat on the front seat behind the steering wheel in a kind of elevated stupor, the pages of Saroyan’s book still open, its pages fluttering in my hands. I felt the tears going sideways across my face. That’s how hard the wind was blowing.

“In a single moment I became a question unto myself. Augustine.”

When I made that note earlier this year, I don’t recall when or where, I then added the one word. “Saroyan.” The brain had made a connection with a moment in my life that had occurred close to sixty years before. It was suggesting that that afternoon when I first read the story about the writer who died for his art that I had somehow become a question unto myself.

The full text of this story is online here: 

Rabbi David Wolpe

Rabbi David Wolpe

David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Wolpe has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and at Hunter College. Today at UCLA he teaches modern Jewish religious thought. Wolpe is a regular contributor to The Jewish Week, The Jerusalem Post, The Los Angeles Times. He frequently is featured on documentaries on Biblical topics produced by A&E Networks, The Biography Channel, History Channel, and History Channel International. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN and CBS This Morning

Wolpe's most recent book, Why Faith Matters, is both an answer to books about atheism and a recounting of his battle with illness (he has undergone surgery for a brain tumor and chemotherapy for lymphoma). In 2008 and 2009, he had public debates with Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Roger Cohen, and Indian yogi and mystic Sadhguru, among others. In 2008 he was named the No.1 Pulpit Rabbi in America by Newsweek magazine.

On Passover 2001, Wolpe told his congregation that "the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all." Casting doubt on the historicity of the Exodus during the holiday that commemorates it brought condemnation from congregants and several rabbis (especially Orthodox Rabbis).

Now, in an article for The Washington Post, Rabbi Wolpe has responded to the accusation made by actress Susan Sarandon that “the Pope is a Nazi,” suggesting that she should apologize.

So we’re talking about a real guy here. Still, addressing the Sarandan quote, our rabbi wrote in part:

“It is always worth remembering the basics. What is a Nazi?

“A Nazi is someone who herded people into concentration camps, dashed babies against brick ovens, put the babies’ parents inside those ovens, turned gas on in mock showers to suffocate people, thought other races inferior, barely human, worthy of contempt, slavery and death and literally planned world domination. A Nazi is someone who belonged to a party that began a war enveloping the entire globe and resulting in the death of countless millions of people. That is a Nazi.”

Imagine how a real guy, and this rabbi is a real guy, can be such a sophisticate on all kinds of adult matters, but when it comes to the Jewish Holocaust tales he falls into a flaming pit of dark ignorance and bad faith that is so commonplace among the lettered and unlettered alike on these matters. His brain understands the gas chamber-German brutality concepts exactly as the Industry has peddled them, on the level exhibited in so many of Stephen Spielberg’s corrupt “eye-witness” videos.

*** About a week after you have this news letter to hand we will begin addressing students and faculty on those campuses nation-wide where Stephen Spielberg’s documentary The Last Days, is made available to students as if even the wackiest survivor testimonies about Germans are to be accepted as unquestionable truth.

Occurs to me only now that perhaps we will find a way to keep Rabbi David Wolper and his associates updated on these matters. They will probably much appreciate it. Eh?


Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Bradley R. Smith
Title: Fragments: Another Ordinary Life
Sources: Smith’s Report, no. 188, January 2012, p. 3f., 14-16
Published: 2012-01-01
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 1, 2015, 5:23 a.m.
Last revision:
Appears In: