Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Janet Langhart Cohen & William S. Cohen Meet Anne Frank & Emmett Till

In a narrative element that raises coincidence and irony to the level of perversion and farce, on the day of the antisemitic gunman's attack on the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., which took the life of an African-American security guard, a premier was scheduled to open there later that evening of Janet Langhart Cohen's one-act, two-character drama, Anne and Emmett, whose literary device---a thematic pairing of Jewish victimization with the African-American experience of bigotry---was itself neatly twinned in a parallel reality that day. Too neatly, in my opinion.

But there are unforeseen consequences rippling out from the parable, and the moral remains up for grabs. It would be ironic indeed, if the boy whose mother demanded an open casket, saying "Let the people see what I have seen. I think everybody needs to know what had happened to Emmett Till," were to meet the black man in the closed casket, who had learned the secret Obama way to get ahead.

And the closed casket is the perfect symbol for all the missing millions of dead, like Irit Shitrit, or the Auschwitz millions, revised downward not by deniers, but by the Jewish custodians of "memory."

Counting the not-dead even has its own parallel in the not-counting of the actually dead, like the hundreds from the 3/7 Cavalry, the Ghost Troops lost in the 2003 Battle for Baghdad.

Of course it doesn't help that here is a short play written for minors by a non-playwright, to be performed in a non-theater, or that it first appeared in a book co-written by a half-black and a half-Jew
"Originally published in the book “Love in Black and White: A Memoir of Race, Religion, and Romance,” written by Langhart Cohen and her husband, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, “Anne and Emmett” tells the story of a beyond-the-grave meeting of its two titular characters: Anne Frank, a 13-year-old German Jewish girl who hid from Nazis until she was sent to a concentration camp and died at age 15, and Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American from Chicago who was kidnapped, beaten and murdered on a trip to Mississippi in 1955." The Bay State Banner April 17, 2008 — Vol. 43, No. 36
Or how about a Secretary of "Defense," who can see the gunman get out of his car and then hear the gunfire, but without witnessing the event? Then he is suddenly inside the building escaping up stairs, while helping others to escape?
"Secretary Cohen, did you know immediately that they were gunshots?"
"I did. I'd arrived much earlier and had come up to try and make contact with Janet, who was scheduled to arrive momentarily, so I was on the phone to get a radio signal on the phone, to touch base with her in the car. At that point I noticed that there was a car parked---it seemed to be out in the middle of the street and an older man getting out of the car but I didn't pay much attention to him because I was on the phone. And then a few seconds later I heard the gunshots, it was pretty clear that they were gunshots. So, Arthur Berger, one of the chief executives at the museum, he and I were together, about five feet apart, and we were about 30 or 40 feet away from where the shots were ringing out. And we just ducked as low as we could and went up a set of stairs to get up to the second level."

"Describe the scene around you."

"Well, it was fairly chaotic as we went up the stairs, we didn't know if people were going to be following us up, or if there were more than one gunman. And as we approached the stairs. there was a group of people who had just completed their tour of the museum, so they were on their way out, and they wanted to go down those stairs, and to leave the building, but we were able to stop them, saying, "don't go there, it's too dangerous."
CBS Early Show June 11, 2009 Video
Former Defense Secretary William Cohen and his wife describe the scene at the Holocaust Museum as the shooting happened and it became a crime scene.
What a horrible idea for a play! Anne Frank died in a concentration camp of typhoid, more a victim of Allied bombing and systemic deprivation than of antisemitism. A better parallel to Emmett Till would be any of the nine million Germans who died of enforced starvation as the war ended.

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