Friday, July 10, 2015 8:58 PM
Having heard the news about the Confederate flag being removed from public display—and having just watched the movie “Woman In Gold”, I am struck by just how slow and incomplete justice can be. The movie tells of a story I remember seeing in the news when it happened—and it struck me then how many years the “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” had been separated from its rightful owners. The Nazis looted the painting from the childhood home of the late Austrian-American, Maria Altmann, in 1938—and it was not returned to her (the last surviving family member) until 2004, 66 years later.
The movie ends with an afterward: over 100,000 pieces of art looted by the Nazis during the war have not yet been returned to their rightful owners. If the movie’s story is anything to go by, that number may remain correct for decades—it’s not easier to right an old wrong, it’s harder.
America still struggles with pockets of institutionalized racism, such as the reports from Ferguson, MO where, for the two years studied, African-Americans accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests, where whites were one-third of the population—and that the fines from those traffic tickets provided the bulk of the town’s revenue. Taking down the Confederate flag is an important gesture—but it is sad that the south has taken this long to separate their history from their heritage. Slavery may be the history of the south, but I hope it is not considered their heritage—at least not the average southerner’s.
There’s a naiveté to the evil of the Nazis and the Confederacy—the evil that remains today is less visible. Police persecution, payday loans, and fine collection services are just a few of the more intricate and therefore invisible ways in which we commit modern American bigotry. The convoluted restitution protocols for European victims of Nazi looting are likewise Byzantine to the point of opacity. But our modern world is full to bursting with intricate evils that maintain the status quo, deferring justice wherever the pile of gold is high enough to cast a shadow in which rot can thrive.
This is a downer post, I know, but it’s been a downer day and I can only work with the materials provided. Gustav Klimt’s portrait, ‘Woman In Gold’, is used for my video’s title card, but the other works by Klimt used in the video are just whatever I could steal off the internet—they are not part of the movie’s story—or at least not that I know of. They’re just beautiful, so I stole them.