Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Preserving My Place in History

So prior to publication, Brooklyn Hasidic newspaper Der Zeitung photo-shopped Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason, a White House counterterrorism staffer, out of the iconic picture taken in the White House situation room, of top U.S. officials viewing the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

The small, ultra-Orthodox paper released a statement Monday apologizing if the edited image "was seen as offensive," but said it was following Jewish modesty laws when it made the decision to delete Clinton and Tomason.

It’s only an historical record after all. And those pantsuits. Really.

As it turns out, there is no Jewish law mandating the removal of normally-clothed women from pictures like this. Must have been force of habit.

Jewish Week writer Rabbi Jason Miller voiced his criticism of the editing asking, "Is it really better to misrepresent the truth and deceive people than to see a photo of a modestly clothed Secretary of State?" Evidently so.

It’s hard to imagine that in 2011, in the United States of America, a mindset still exists even in a tiny corner of our nation, which would simply eliminate women.

I’m curious about how this denial of women’s participation in historic events has manifested itself over time. Did they censor photos of Christa McAuliffe, for example? No? Sally Ride? NASA could muddle along well enough without them.

Hey, what about Golda Meir? Thank goodness she covered up. Otherwise how would Israeli history have played out? Indira Gandhi? Margaret Thatcher…?

Is Der Zeitung’s editing offensive? Oh yes. Offensive and archaic. Offensive and egocentric. Offensive and ridiculous.

I can’t help thinking about the women in that community. They know, don’t they, that the men around them see their presence as extraneous and irrelevant to any central issue. It seems the men are embarrassed by the presence of women. Or maybe the presence of women is vague in their thinking, if they think of women at all.

Then again, I can conjure up of lots of moments I’d like to edit out of history. Maybe photos of bin Laden himself, even though he always dressed modestly. It would be as if he never existed! Nothing offensive about that. I like the idea.

Just like in “Back to the Future,” we could change history, and thereby improve the present, by pretending that bin Laden never existed. Let’s go back and wipe his dreadful face out of the record. Let’s remove every mention of OBL and his hideous organization. How long would it take before he actually didn’t exist? If there’s no institutional memory, there’s no OBL.

I’m guessing my movie reference might be lost on the staff at Der Zeitung. It must be problematic finding a movie to watch with so few choices and so little variety in the all-male category. “Band of Brothers.” “Saving Private Ryan.” “The Hurt Locker.” “Apocalypse Now.” All good movies, but wouldn’t one tire of war?

Still, the idea grows on me. I think I’ll prepare a list of candidates for elimination so historians can get to work. Off the top of my head - Hosni Mubarak, Idi Amin. Hitler, of course! Top of the list. How great would the world be without them and their legacies!

We could put John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and their ilk on the wipeout list. We won’t ever have to look at their ugly mugs or think of their pox on our sunny days.

Those are the truly dark entries, but we could have some fun with this. Why not?

Snooky, Paris Hilton? They must go! Hooray! Their tasteless and immodest shenanigans shall forevermore be eliminated! (I see that I probably would fit in with Der Zeitung on some of this.)

I never liked Phyllis Schlafly. OMG! Madeline Murray O’Hare. Gone baby gone! And God Bless America!

I know, I know. Someone’s going to come along and disagree with my list. Who gets to decide? Who gets to be the “taste police,” or the “modesty police?” In some places, it’s just a bunch of self-appointed men!

You may recall my resolution earlier this year to make the world a better place, but I concede a balanced system of accountability is probably appropriate.

We’ll have to form an inclusive committee: Women and men, liberals and conservatives, Giants and A’s.

Otherwise, some men might just get together and decide to eliminate all the women from key roles, like the role of Editor in Chief of World History.

Then where would I be?