You might say that Mel Gibson has had a Trent Lott moment.
Gibson, the movie star and producer of "The Passion of the Christ" _ suddenly under a national spotlight, drunk and spewing anti-Semitic epithets _ reminded me of Lott's moment of undoing at a 100th birthday party for then-Sen. Strom Thurmond.
Of course, as was the case with Lott, C-SPAN was not covering Gibson's pronouncements at that early-morning hour in Malibu. But there are similarities in the incidents and the lessons to be learned.
Perhaps it was the intoxicating company of old friends, and the comfort of a room in the Senate where he has spent so many years, that allowed Lott to drop his guard and wax nostalgic on national television about one of the more racist moments in American history.
Sure, it bothered me that the Mississippi Republican could be so clueless. But what really bothered me was that we were trying to do something important and I knew that Lott's remarks would set us back.
Conservatives, black and white, were making headway getting an important new message to black citizens. Increasing numbers of blacks were beginning to understand that dependence on big government programs was not going to fix their plight. But the message of throwing off the government yoke, of taking on more personal responsibility, was being carried by the Republican Party.
Many blacks, although getting and buying into this message, were still uncomfortable in making a leap away from where they had been politically all their lives, and over to a party that for them was suspect. I knew that the thoughtless, racist-sounding remarks from the then-Senate GOP leader would fuel the fires of doubt among these blacks.
And, of course, black liberals made hay as Lott groveled on BET, fighting to hold on to his leadership post. The left easily conflated a wayward senator with a conservative message of his party. The result was damaged credibility for important principles crucial for addressing black poverty and social breakdown.
Does Mel Gibson dislike Jews? Seems little doubt about it.
However, given the realities with which Jews must contend in today's crazy world, I'd doubt that it provides much relief having identified another confused anti-Semite, even if in this case it happens to be a now-contrite movie star.
We live in a world with 1.7 billion Muslims living in 56 Islamic countries, with control over a good portion of the world's oil resources, who have managed to give credibility to a line of reasoning that unrest in the Middle East is because of Israel. They somehow cannot adjust to the existence of a single tiny Jewish country in a world with a grand total of 13 million Jews, a little less than half of whom live in that country.
More absurd, and outrageous, is that this line of reasoning has traction in Europe, where anti-Semitism is rampant. The European Union refuses to classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. All this coming from a part of the world where less then a century ago 6 million Jews were murdered for the crime of existing.
A movie star, who produced a film about Christ, revealing his personal anti-Semitic demons in a drunken stupor, makes for great press. Clearly, the man has problems that he needs to address. But liberals will want to equate a troubled man with an important message, and this is where we need to be aware and cautious.
A violinist who butchers Mozart speaks to the musician and not the composer. It is pointlessness and nihilism that trouble today's world, not faith and traditional values. The West suffers from rampant meaninglessness. The East from fanatics dressing politics up as religion to give easy answers to their people who have hard work to do to build their backward societies.
It is not an accident that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment finds such a welcome home among Europeans, who have largely abandoned their Christian roots and have become almost totally secularized.
In our own back yard the Gibson incident might provoke Americans to wonder how it is that someone who has everything that constitutes the American materialistic dream needs to blow his brains out with alcohol.
The consensus seems to be that "The Passion of the Christ" was not an anti-Semitic film. Regardless, we should wake up. Many films coming out of Hollywood do hurt our children and society. The endless, mindless exploitive garbage _ filled with gratuitous sex and violence, laced with liberal cultural messages _ makes the film industry rich.
Whether it's Mel Gibson or Trent Lott, let's not allow one individual's shortcomings and personal problems to divert our attention from where the real villains and problems of our society, and in the world, reside.