Like most decent people, The Free Agent was brought up never to deface property. One cannot, however, live in New York without appreciating a certain frisson of anarchistic thrill at the sight of a particularly subversive graffito. It is a tradition that goes back at least to ancient Rome, when frenzied fan girls were known to record their sexual fantasies concerning gladiators on the walls of the Coliseum.
Likewise, there is a strong tradition in the New York subways of defacing movie posters by scratching out eyes, scribbling on beards, glasses, uni-brows, and in The FA’s home turf of Brooklyn, of sketching the male, ahem, wedding tackle, protruding from the lips of particularly handsome leading men. While this is an affront to people who make movies and spend money to advertise them, Ryan Reynolds, for example, has not raised his voice to take personal offense at his picture’s defacement.
Which brings The Free Agent to the lawsuit against her beloved Hippy Week. The gentleman who owns the local sports franchise, the Injuns, is suing for malicious intent he believes motivated a recent cover story. In addition to three factual errors he believes the story contains, part of the owner’s lawsuit claims that the cover illustration:
As the saying goes, “get three Jews together and you get four opinions”, and each side has lined up rabbis to support their interpretation of the picture. Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, to whom the owner later promised any proceeds he may win from the suit, sees clear evidence of Hippy Week’s intention to ignite an American Holocaust. It is, “inappropriate and unacceptable when a symbol like this – associated with virulent anti-Semitism going back to the Middle Ages, deployed by the genocidal Nazi regime, by Soviet propagandists and even in 2011 by those who still seek to demonize Jews today – is used on the front cover of a publication in our Nation’s Capital against a member of the Jewish community.” (The article did not mention the owner is Jewish.)
On the home turf, Washington Rabbi Danny Zemel sees what The Free Agent sees, run-of-the-mill defacement of the exact nature in which an Injun fan would delight. “I don’t think this is anti-Semitic. I think it’s highly juvenile.” Zemel said, also noting the absence of stereotypical details like a long beard, hat or hooked nose.
It all depends where you start from. The Free Agent’s friend, Nude Eel, sees “everything is anti-Semitic until proven otherwise,” but was then unable to elaborate on evidence he would accept to prove the negative. And perhaps he was having The FA on a bit.
In a day when thoughts can be crimes, and in this case, when the actual existence of Hippy Week could be threatened (it will probably win, but could go under fighting the war), it’s important to extend to others the toleration and presumption of benevolence we want for ourselves.
After all, this is the man who passionately defends his team’s name against, and dismisses the opinions of, people who think it’s racist.