Thursday, January 20th | 19 Shevat 5782

March 8, 2011 7:51 pm

Portman’s Bold Attack on an Anti-Semite and Huckabee’s Untimely Critique

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


Actress Natalie Portman. Photo: Erik Vanden.

Just as I was about to write a column praising Natalie Portman for attacking racist John Galliano, along comes Mike Huckabee to attack her as a unmarried-and-pregnant-negative-role-model. There’s a time for everything, Mike. And this was the wrong time. But before I respond to Mr. Huckabee – man for whom I have much respect – let me first tell you why Ms. Portman elicited my praise.

Our world constantly excuses evil. The Hitlers and Stalins of this world are spoken of as ‘sick,’ as if they committed their evil out of delusion and mental illness. That’s how you now hear people speaking about Gaddafi – he’s a weirdo, he’s high as a kite – instead of calling him what he really is, evil and cruel to the core.

Over the past two weeks Hilary Clinton and President Obama have been saying that Muammar Gaddafi has ‘lost the legitimacy to rule,’ surely, the most painfully laughable phrase uttered by a Secretary of State and President of the United States in recent memory. Er.. he only now lost the legitimacy to rule?  And while he tortured and imprisoned political opponents for forty years and blew up airliners and discotheques he had legitimacy to rule? President Obama, who shook Gaddafi’s hand in Italy, has this Messianic hang-up where he believes that he can somehow transform brutal killers like Gaddafi into upstanding citizens instead of boldly declaring them to be the evil killers they are.

About five years ago I wrote a column that said that although most of my close friends are staunch liberals, I myself could never embrace liberalism because it refuses to hate evil. And the inability of the two most powerful people in the United States to get up and say ‘Gaddafi is, was, and always will be a despot’ is sad proof of my earlier conviction.

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So it was with glee that I read Ms. Portman’s courageous statement in the wake of John Galliano exposing himself as a Jew-hater. When Mel Gibson made a film depicting Jews as Christ-killers, Hollywood, and the Jews of Hollywood – with the notable exception of my former agent Ari Emanuel – excused him and continued to work with him. Even after he got drunk and called us ‘F-ing Jews’ who incite all the world’s wars, Hollywood still cast him in films. It wasn’t until we discovered that he also hates women, African-Americans, and Lord knows who else that he was finally shunned.

But this time when a famed designer, an ‘artist,’ made his admiration for Hitler known (was it all those stylish SS uniforms that caught your eye, John?) a leading actress who had just won an Academy award told him to go to hell. Saying she was ‘shocked and disgusted,’ she declared herself proud to be Jewish. Party on Natalie!

So perhaps Mr. Huckabee should have thought twice before choosing this particular moment to attack a Hollywood hero who stood up to evil.

Not that Huckabee doesn’t have an important overall point. It is disconcerting that few in Hollywood seem to believe that children should be brought into the world amid the security of marriage and surely our stars of the big screen would agree that most children love to see Mom and Dad as husband and wife.

But having said this, Ms. Portman is quite simply the wrong target. Mr. Huckabee’s ire ought to be directed toward the men who are the real problem.

Once there was a code of honor among men to treat women with commitment and respect. If you lived with a woman and wanted to have a child with her you granted her the ultimate compliment of publicly declaring your love and commitment to her by making her your wife. Marriage is a where a man selects one woman and simultaneously deselects every other woman on earth, thereby establishing the object of his love as the one and only.

Today, however, there is a broken code of male honor. Men treat women casually and hedge their bets. And why not? If you can have a woman commit to you without having to reciprocate the whole marriage thing seems a bit gratuitous.

This is a regular mistake made by social conservatives. Last week Richard Land, the head of the Southern Baptists, published a column in the Wall Street Journal enjoining religious conservatives not to give up the fight on abortion, the most divisive of all social issues in America. But why can’t we find language that is actually unifying? Both the left and the right agree that respect for women is a paramount virtue. Yet, most abortions are the product of men having relations with women whom they don’t love, impregnating them, and abandoning them. Abortion thrives in a society that has witnessed the end of love and the rise of the uncommitted relationships. Yes, women have to learn to respect themselves but more importantly parents and schools must inculcate within men a desire to be gentlemen again.

So instead of beating an endless drum on abortion, why not focus on the real problem. Is there anyone of any political persuasion who would condone men using women and disappearing from their lives?

Granted, men who have a child with a woman in a serious relationship, like Portmans’ beau, Benjamin Millepied, are not in this category and indeed he is her fiancé. Still, there are way too many men who leave the picture as soon as the woman is pregnant.

In his comments Huckabee himself acknowledged that it’s the men who are the problem, which makes his attack on Portman even more curious. “You know, right now, 75 percent of black kids in this country are born out of wedlock,” he said. “61 percent of Hispanic kids — across the board, 41 percent of all live births in America are out of wedlock births. And the cost of that is simply staggering.” But it’s not the women who are abandoning these kids, Mike, but the men.

And the same applies to so many of these recent racist tirades, nearly all of which are being committed by broken and messed up men.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 25 books and has recently published “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life,” and “Honoring the Child Spirit: Inspiration and Learning from Our Children.” Follow him Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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