I am not dumb.
I understand why people are upset with Helen Thomas; why people—Jewish and non-Jewish—took offense to her remarks that Jews in Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany and Poland; why the president called her remarks “offense” and agreeing that her resignation yesterday was the right thing.
But I don’t agree. Not entirely Not with the uproar and not with the demonization. People in this country are allowed to have opinions, even if they’re not popular or especially elegant. Helen Thomas did not wish for the death of all Jews, or damn them to an eternity in hell. She stated the opinion that Israel shouldn’t exist as a nation. (That said, her follow-up thoughts on “go home” to Germany and Poland were really, really dumb. And ugly). I don’t agree with her take. Not even remotely. But I do understand the thinking behind it (I’m Jewish, remember), and I don’t believe every single person who thinks Israel was unfairly founded is a beast.
It’s interesting what we decide offends us, and who we deem offense. As my friend Mike Lewis just noted, guys like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh sling opinions that make Thomas’ thoughts seem mild. And yet, because they’re loud and obnoxious, we choose to either applaud or ignore the words, sans real controversy.
Was Thomas wrong? Yes, yes, yes. But did she deserve her fate? No.
Personally, I like what Norman Lear had to say:
I am a jew. I love what we hope as a culture we are really about. I love Jewishness. But then, the way I think of Jewishness, I love Italian-ness, Irish-ness and all the other nesses, too. What we all intend, at least what our cultures and religions say we all intend, is good.
Among them is forgiveness. As journalist Helen Thomas leaves the national stage after her 50-year run, it’s time to forgive that now ancient hatched-faced whippersnapper, whose just being there delighted us for so many years. I will never forgive her offensive last words per se, but rest well, Ms. Thomas, on the billions of other words and on the 90 years it took to say them.