March 28, 2014

Sopranos and the genocidal hit parade

I'm just rewatching The Sopranos. I'm on season 4 episode 3 at a point where the Italians, Tony Soprano's people, want to make anti-Columbus Day demonstrations "go away".  It's round about 33 minutes in.

Tony Soprano asks his long-time Jewish friend, Heshy, for help thwarting the anti-Columbus Day demo, and Heshy has asked Tony, "what's wrong with free speech?"  The guy almost out of shot is Reuben, a native Cuban, who joins in with Heshy,  "They wiped out almost all of my people.....They were Taíno Indians who got raped by Columbus and the Conquistadors."

So Reuben is against Columbus because he nearly wiped out all of his people.  But why is Heshy with Reuben?  Let him explain. "I have sympathy for the red man......Jews, because of their history, have common cause with the oppressed.  Some Indians were deliberately given blankets tainted with smallpox."

Heshy and Reuben also agree that the European settlers invented bioterrorism but then Reuben oversteps it:

Reuben - Christopher Columbus was no better than Adolf Hitler.
Heshy    - Back up - Hitler? -
Reuben - Yeah. I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Heshy    - You're talking out of your ass. Columbus and Hitler? You're trivializing the Holocaust.
Frankly, Reuben, if you got that kind of covert anti-Semitism I'd like you to leave my house.
Reuben -  Anti-Semitism? -
Heshy    - That's right.
Reuben -  Fuck you, too, my man!
Reuben slopes off and Heshy decides he will help these knights of Columbus after all.

So what have we learned?  As it happens, Heshy's insistence that the genocide of the Americas was trivial when compared to the holocaust wasn't the only example of racism in the conversation.  But Heshy is Jewish, he claims this is why he sides with the oppressed but when it comes to the hit parade of genocide he so resents any challenge to the number one spot he accords to Jews he decides to support Columbus Day after all.


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