polonofobia in artjan peczkis|Sunday, September 20, 2015
Historical accuracy for the classroom? Forget it! Art Spiegelman makes no effort to correct the falsifications of history in MAUS in this METAMAUS volume. Instead, Spiegelman advances the following lame exculpations for his anti-Polish bigotry:
MAUS IS ONLY SEMI-FICTION AND BIOGRAPHY
So what. Malicious fiction is still malicious! People tend to form their opinions according to what they read, regardless of its genre. The anti-Polish bias, and falsifications in MAUS, make it unacceptable in the classroom--especially in view of the impressionable children and teenagers, and even low-information adults.
Merely the fact that MAUS is "about the Jews" does not entitle Spiegelman to so grossly falsify the history of other peoples (Poles in this case), especially in view of the low-information of most of his readers.
In his MAUS, Spiegelman shows Poles hanging a surviving Jew for coming to reclaim his property. The reader is misled to believe that this was something normative. It was not. The reader is not told that this happened to a small fraction of 1% of Jewish returnees, that Poles were in crushing poverty and in a desperate housing shortage situation, during and immediately after WWII. Nor is the reader told that, during this same time, a civil war was going on in Poland. During this time, in which several hundred Jews were being killed by Poles out of various motives, Jews collaborating with the Soviets were murdering tens of thousands of Poles.
NOT ONLY POLES ARE ANIMALS. ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE ANIMALS
Art Spiegelman would have us believe that the portrayal of Poles as pigs is innocuous, because, after all, Germans are cats and Jews are mice. Polonophobe Art Spiegelman is speaking with a forked tongue. The pig has an intense and emotional abominable connotation, in Jewish thinking and history, in a way that other non-kosher animals, such as the cat and mouse, and even the horse and camel, do not. Please click on, and read my detailed review, of The Essential Talmud.
Now go beyond Jewish religion. Consider everyday life. As everyone with the most elementary knowledge of English knows, "You pig!" is incomparably more pejorative than "You cat" or "You mouse!" Don't believe me? Ask any child.
SPIEGELMAN IS MERELY COPYING NAZI MOTIFS FOR HIS COMIC
False. The Nazis had no singular, fixed image for any particular group that they despised. By Spiegelman's own admission (p. 115), the Nazis also depicted Jews as poison mushrooms. (p. 115). The Nazis seldom, if ever, portrayed themselves as cats. (Did they EVER?)
POLES SUFFERED TOO, BUT DID NOT REALLY SUFFER
By Spiegelman's own admission (p. 121, 124, 129), Poles suffered greatly under the Nazis. However, he also acknowledges that he made his choice of Poles-as-pigs in order to put the Poles "outside the food chain" relative to the Nazis. (p. 129). The Poles, in Spiegelman's own words, were "witnesses". (p. 129)(a variant of the more commonly used term, "bystanders".) Clearly, and apart from the strong Judeocentric bias, Spiegelman and his MAUS are functionally in denial about the fact and magnitude of Polish suffering under the Germans. (See first comment). His portrayal of Poles as well-fed pigs is thus a grotesque travesty of historical fact.
THE MASS MURDER OF JEWS IS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN THE MASS MURDER OF POLES
Art Spiegelman rationalizes the imagery of mice (Jews) and Poles (pigs) on the "fact" that Jews were subject to extermination, while Poles were to be exploited and "worked to death", but not exterminated. (pp. 121-122). This, too, is contrived. Death is death, whether you are an animal slaughtered for food, or you are an animal killed for eating the farmer's grain. Besides, whether you are a mouse on the farm, or whether you are a pig on the farm, you have no inherent right to live, and you remain alive only as long as the farmer chooses to let you live, or has not yet gotten around to killing you.
The experiences of the Poles and Jews, though different, overlapped considerably. The Nazis had utilitarian as well as exterminatory attitudes towards the Jews. Thus, large numbers of Jews were forced laborers in the camps and ghettos, being slowly worked to death in a utilitarian manner. The Jews had no monopoly as victims of genocide. The Germans exterminated the bulk of Poland's intelligentsia, and Poles in general were to be largely exterminated had the Germans won the war. (See first comment).
THE CHARACTERS IN MAUS ARE COMPLEX ONES
Irrelevant. A complex pig is still a pig!
Now consider Spiegelman's own assessment of how readers tend to perceive the main characters of the MAUS comics. He comments, "Even in the way they're drawn, the cats have the most human of the faces. The mice have the most abstracted and the least physiologically human representation: the nose is at the bottom, the eyes are at the midway point, and there's no room for that mouth. The pigs have those unsightly snouts." (p. 128). Clearly, by Spiegelman's own tacit admission, the Germans come out more favorably than the Poles, even though the Germans are the ones that had murdered 5-6 million Jews. This smells of the historical revisionism (e. g., the falsehood about "Polish death camps") that shifts the blame for the Holocaust away from the Germans--where it belongs--and onto the Poles.
"POLES ARE THE PROBLEM"
When all else fails, Spiegelman resorts to blame-the-victim tactics by accusing Poles of being the problem--about there being "something deeply problematic about the Polish ability to assimilate the past." (p. 124). What if someone were to turn this around by suggesting that there is "something deeply problematic" about the arrogance in Jewish thinking and conduct--as exhibited by Spiegelman?
SPIEGELMAN AS A HEROIC ICONOCLAST
Art Spiegelman thinks himself a hero. He takes delight in offending Poles, fancying himself some kind of hero for being an iconoclast and breaker of taboos (p. 124). To validate the fact that he is a hero, Spiegelman should instead attack a group that, unlike the Poles, has the political power to bite back effectively. Let us see him try that. I am waiting, but not holding my breath.
SPIEGELMAN FINALLY ADMITS THE OBVIOUS: HE IS AN UNRECONSTRUCTED POLONOPHOBE
Finally, Spiegelman divulges his ACTUAL reasons for calling Poles pigs. It is bashing Poles, pure and simple. With reference to his father's attitude towards Poles, he quips, "`So my metaphor [mice to be killed outright, and pigs to be exploited and eaten] was somehow able to hold that particular vantage point while still somehow acknowledging my father's dubious opinion of Poles as a group.'" (p. 122). This is bigoted, collectivist thinking, like saying that it is all right to portray Jews as crooks just because some Jews are crooks.
Evidently, bigotry is always wrong--unless, of course, the targets of the bigotry are Christians or Poles.
Polonophobe Art Spiegelman adds that, "`And considering the bad relations between Poles and Jews for the last hundred years in Poland, it seemed right to use a non-Kosher animal.'" (p. 125). Spiegelman is completely one-sided, with the usual selective memory about past Polish anti-Semitism. He is predictably silent about the privileges Jews also had in Poland, as well as the Jewish share of wrongs in the poisoning of Polish-Jewish relations. (See first comment).
TURNING THE TABLES: A COUNTER-MAUS (I CALL MUNGO, THE GERMAN WORD FOR MONGOOSE)
Let us see how Art Spiegelman and his fans, would like my proposed Counter-MAUS cartoon below. How well would it "fly" in the American classroom and in Holocaust education?
This alternative cartoon of mine is more historically accurate than the original MAUS. If readers find it offensive, then it is no more so than the Poles-as-pigs in the original MAUS.
The Counter-MAUS cartoon, MUNGO, features the following: clean rats, dirty rats, snakes, and mongooses. The dirty rats help the snakes find and eat clean rats, and then the snakes eat the dirty rats. All along, the mongooses are fighting and killing some of the snakes, and this theme emphasizes Poland's heroic resistance against the Nazi German conquerors and occupants of Poland.
In this proposed Counter-MAUS cartoon, the snakes are the Germans. The mongooses are the Poles. The dirty rats are those Jews (such as the JUDENRAETE and part of the Jewish Ghetto Police) that collaborated with the Germans. The clean rats are the multitudes of innocent Jews who became victims of the Germans.
I do not believe in censorship. MAUS should not be removed from the classroom. Instead, my proposed Counter-MAUS cartoon, MUNGO (the German word for mongoose), should be given equal time in the classroom whenever MAUS is used. It is only fair.
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