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"Boycotts and Paranoia"

     Fundamentalists in Oklahoma City persuaded the local police
to confiscate all copies of the video of THE TIN DRUM, based on
the award-winning, novel by Gunter Grass, now regarded as a
classic.  The action of the story takes place in Danzig, home
town of one of our writers, Eva Krutein.  
     The fundamentalists called it child pornography.  The TV
news showed a clip from an interview with the head of the
Oklahoma City ACLU, whose home had been raided by cops, who got
his name from the video rental outfit, where he had rented the
copy of THE TIN DRUM, which they took out of his VCR and away to
the safety of police headquarters.
     All that helped me decide which video to rent next, but when
I requested it at "LOCAL VIDEO RENTAL", the manager told me it
had been "pulled."  "How did Oklahoma fundies get to you so
quickly?" I asked.
     "I have instructions from corporate headquarters to pull
it," he said.
     Well, the author of THIS'LL KILL YA: THE LAST WORD ON
CENSORSHIP  refused to be daunted.  I called our locally-
owned, arty-weirdness video place.  "Put me on your waiting list
for THE TIN DRUM," I said.
     "What waiting list?"
     "Surely there is one," I said.
     "Not that I know of.  Let me look," she said.  "No.  We 
have it here.  Shall I reserve it for you?"
     So I went down to Alphaville, and rented it, telling the
manager that I couldn't get it at "LOCAL VIDEO RENTAL".  She wasn't
surprised.  "They are owned by an extreme right-wing group of
fundamentalists.  They censor, that is, clip things out of, every
video they rent."  That I didn't know.  So, should our family
     While I pondered all that, we looked at THE TIN DRUM.  It
could hardly be called child pornography -- the protagonist is
not a child but a dwarf.  The sex is of little interest.  What is
of concern to extreme right-wingers, or ought to be from their
own point of view, is the revelation of where Naziism comes from.
     The disease of Naziism comes to the surface of a diseased
people.  The moral bankruptcy of World War I "caused it." 
Poverty, misery, lack of culture, grossness, cruelty,
intellectual laziness and cowardice -- it's all laid out in that
not-at-all-pleasant-to-watch story.  The current crop of Nazis
don't want us to see this film, because it reveals what kind of
people Nazis really are too clearly.  The whole business reminds
me of how capitalists hate Karl Marx, because he explained
capitalism clearly.
     So, what to do about "LOCAL VIDEO RENTAL"?  My boycott lasted less
than a week.  A grandson, who needed entertainment that I
couldn't provide, came visiting.  Alphaville had very little of
interest to him.  At "LOCAL VIDEO RENTAL", we found full-length cartoons
and one of that series in which a mad scientist shrinks the wrong
thing -- we all got some good laughs.
     There are boycotts and boycotts, I notice.
     For more than a year I refused to drink milk, except from a
local dairy whose proprietor assured me that her company did not
use and would not be using BGH [Bovine Growth Hormone].  Her
assurance was a violation of law, I was told by the PR spokesman
of our large corporate dairy.  Monsanto has persuaded the FDA to
make it illegal for dairies to assert to customers that BGH was
not used in the production of milk.
     Our family has not been inside a Wendy's for more than ten
years, ever since that kind-looking old owner in the ads gave
millions of dollars to the contras for the purpose of murdering
nurses and teachers and co-op managers in Nicaragua.
     Our family believes in a boycott of Chinese products,
because they use prison labor in the state-run factories, but now
we find the same thing is starting up here, and we can have no
real effect on the practice, in either case.
     We don't buy Nike shoes, because of the exploitation of
third world labor, but deep down we wonder if Reebok is much
     We don't go to Smith's and Furr's, because they have two
sets of announced prices for groceries, the lower price reserved
for those who submit to computerized scrutiny of their buying
habits, through the use of "frequent shopper cards."  See Zelda's
current political cause. 
     We don't like the way Walmart destroys small-town commerce,
but feel like dumbbells paying for toilet paper anywhere else.
     We have a list of restaurants where we will not be
returning.  The steak was spoiled at that Sizzler, and they knew
it before they served it, saying that the freezer had been on the
blink for days.  That piece of curled wire found in that
enchilada at Little Anita's did not result in a new plateful of
dinner, nor a comment like, "No charge for that, Sir, and we're
terribly sorry."  No explanation for the half-hour wait, standing
beside the hostess, reservations in hand, looking out across a
Seagull restaurant 2/3 empty.  If we live long enough, and
preserve this elephant-like memory, there won't be any place left
to go.
     What should we do?  Cultivate the art of forgetting? or the
art of not noticing?  Deliberately not learn from experience? 
Leave off thinking?
     This last is from the best line in a great
politically aware movie, THE OFFICIAL STORY, Argentina's dirty
little war against itself -- the woman wonders where the husband
found the baby girl they adopted some years ago, and he doesn't
want to tell her, so he commands her, "Deja de pensar."
* * *
Copyright © 1997 Harry Willson

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