- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008


In remembrance of Sydney Pollack

I was fortunate to meet Sydney Pollack a few years ago when I started a research project looking at Hollywood´s impact on world cultures (“Filmmaker Pollack dies of cancer at 73,” Nation, Tuesday). He was willing to see me because I knew someone in his family. More precisely, my brother knew his niece from their time together at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church. This tenuous connection was enough to get Mr. Pollack to pull out all the stops in helping me. He offered to introduce me to anyone he knew in Hollywood, which was, of course, everyone.

A couple of years later, Mr. Pollack graciously accepted my invitation to come to the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and to talk about “film and politics.” While I suspect that the real reason Mr. Pollack accepted my invitation was because he loved Washington (and he loved flying his Citation X jet anywhere), he gave our students the best possible introduction to appreciating the art of film. He also gave us his time to help Filmfest DC, which co-sponsored the event, and he offered Filmfest the use of his personal copy of “Havana” as part of our discussion about the politics of film. He came to Washington at his own expense and only asked, very politely, if he could invite a couple of friends to dinner with us - friends who had been active in lobbying Congress to help fight colorization of classic films.

I next saw Mr. Pollack when he was filming his thriller “The Interpreter.” Mr. Pollack invited me to the set, in the garden of the United Nations, and I got a chance to watch him practice his art. He was as genial and unpretentious managing the set as he was talking to the crowds in Washington. His rare expressions of exasperation were mainly directed at himself: “If only I were a better artist!” I heard him mutter as the sun set in New York. The actors, even those with a reputation for difficulty, like Sean Penn, clearly loved and respected him. So did everyone else.

Like most people in Hollywood, Mr. Pollack was politically progressive, but his films were hardly political in the conventional sense. “Havana,” which we showed at Filmfest DC, made as much of a statement about pre-Castro Cuba as “Casablanca” did about World War II. That is, politics formed the context within which human beings interacted. The central stories were always about the people, not the causes.

Mr. Pollack was next scheduled to come to Washington last year to receive a special award from Tony Gittens, executive director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, for his contributions to Filmfest. At the last minute, he had to cancel because his wife, Claire, was gravely ill and her doctors thought her condition was precarious enough to make it a bad idea to leave California. Even so, he called me every few hours to let me know how she was doing and whether she might be likely to improve enough to permit him to travel.

Mr. Pollack’s films were always about people, both in the narrative and in the audience. That is, the effect of the film was always to guide the audience in the discovery of its own humanity. Mr. Pollack’s most important contribution was to show us that in a world not noted for its decency, decency was all around. With Mr. Pollack nearby, decency was not hard to find.


Professor of political science and

international affairs

George Washington University


Fairfax illegal-immigration debacle

Fairfax county officials have stated publicly that they are handling the illegal immigration problem via rigorous enforcement of zoning regulations regarding crowding and illegal business activity (“Amnesty before the Senate - again,” Editorial, May 21). I can state categorically that they are doing nothing of the sort.

I live in a neighborhood where a recently purchased residence with 10 people and six cars is openly operating a construction business and boarding house out of a small, single-family home. A heavy diesel truck and construction scaffolding are stored on the grass in the front yard. The neighborhood is subjected to extensive early-morning idling of the truck, clattering scaffolding and equipment, slamming car doors, extensive idling of noisy cars and sport utility vehicles, etc. as early as 4:15 a.m. This occurs six and sometimes seven days a week. Noisy cars are idled for 15 to 20 minutes even in warm weather. Attempts to reason with the occupants result in “no speak English” or open hostility and belligerence.

I have complained repeatedly to Fairfax zoning authorities, beginning in February, and no action has been taken as of the end of May. My only response was an e-mail telling me that the address would be added to a “list of problem homes.”

When political ideology holds the interests of foreign scofflaws above the clearly stated interests of the overwhelming majority of the voting electorate, democracy has failed. If foreign scofflaws can pick and choose which laws they will honor, the rule of law in our society is on the brink.

This country is less than 10 years away from a massive wave of urban immigration riots if decisive action to halt the invasion across our southern border and repatriate the millions already here is not taken. Democracy has become subservient to an extremist political ideology of disinheriting native-born Americans through massive, uncontrolled immigration of cheap, uneducated labor. Democracy has failed in Fairfax County.



The reality of appeasement

In his article “Much ado about Munich” (Commentary, Tuesday), Edwin M. Yoder Jr. resurrects an old canard, namely the idea that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s pushing through the Munich Pact was in reality just a ploy to provide time for British rearmament. That, however, was just a self-serving evasion. Among his inner circle, Chamberlain expressed his belief that he had achieved a lasting peace. After meeting Adolf Hitler in Munich, he wrote to his sister that he felt that Hitler was a man whose word could be trusted. When former Air Secretary Lord Swinton stated that his support of the government was based on buying more time, Chamberlain replied: “But don’t you see? I have brought back peace.”

The rearmament argument also rings hollow. After Munich, Chamberlain refused to allow British aircraft production levels to reach those of Germany for fear of antagonizing Germany. He argued that there was no need for an expanded army, because, in his view, it would never be required. The “edge” that saved England in the Battle of Britain was the fact that it was an island.

Mr. Yoder’s plea that we take into consideration British losses suffered in World War I is ill-founded. It was the British who had helped create the German menace by supporting German expansion aims throughout the 1920s and 1930s. They had warned the French against mounting a forceful reaction to the remilitarization of the Rhineland; they had officially recognized the incorporation of Austria into Germany only two weeks after its seizure by Germany. It would be unseemly to absolve them of a mess of their own making.

The British policy of appeasement started with allowing Benito Mussolini to take Abyssinia, allowing Hitler to remilitarize the Rhineland, and allowing him to incorporate Austria into Germany (the Anschluss). Unfortunately, appeasement did not end with Munich. As late as Aug. 30, 1939, just five days before both Britain and France declared war on Germany, the British were pressing Poland to give in to Hitler’s demands regarding Danzig and the Polish Corridor. Even after the Germans invaded Poland, Chamberlain declared war only because to do otherwise would have caused a revolt in his own party.

The truth of the matter is that Chamberlain was a mediocrity who shamefully sold out a stalwart friend in the mistaken belief, common in England at the time, that “nations become contented and pacific, once their claims are met.” The only real democracy in central Europe had been sold out to the most despicable regime in history by a man who didn’t even realize until after the fact that all of the Czech defensive fortifications lay in the territory he had just signed away to Germany. He threw away the last good chance to stop Hitler.





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