Saturday, November 29, 2008

Danusha Goska

Dr. Danusha Goska is a writer whose essays, fiction, and poetry have addressed a broad range of topics and have touched many readers. She has written about the complex vision and personality of Pope John Paul II, Polish folk art, the Golem myth, the Holocaust, Polish romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz, Islam and Terror, and Spirituality and Ecology. She's also a writer who is deeply committed to uncovering and analyzing the truths that are hidden in popular culture. Her essays have told us important things about such pop culture icons as Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra, and Melvyn Douglas. Many of these essays are available at her website. She is also the author of a novel, Love Me More: An Addict's Diary.

The work that is most important to her has only been seen, however, in bits and pieces. For the last two decades, she has devoted much of her energy to a book-length study of the stereotypical ways in which Poles are often seen. Her study is is entitled "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish Jewish Relations, and American Popular Culture." The chapter called "The Necessity of 'Bieganski': A Shamed and Horrified World Seeks a Scapegoat" appeared in an award-winning number of the journal Polin: A Study of Polish Jewery. A review of this article in the journal Shofar described her work as "groundbreaking."

She has started a blog devoted to her work on "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture" and other issues. You can see her blog by clicking here.

8 comments:

Ira Rifkin said...

For the record, contrary to the above claim by Mr. Guzlowski, I did not insist that Poles are worse anti-Semites than German Nazis. Rather, I stated that my Jewish father-in-law's family considered Poland more anti-Semitic than Nazi Germany. Nor, in my 2006 review of "Fear" by Jan T. Gross did I claim that Poles ingested anti-Semitism with their mother's milk, as Mr. Guzlowski also misstated. Rather, I was quoting the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. Mr. Guzlowski is free to interpret my opinions as he perceives them, but not to distort the actual words I wrote.

Danusha Goska said...

Good morning Mr. Rifkin. I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving.

Your post, above, is, alas, factually incorrect. You wrote:

"contrary to the above claim by Mr. Guzlowski...Mr. Guzlowski also misstated...Mr. Guzlowski is free to interpret my opinions as he perceives them, but not to distort the actual words I wrote."

John Guzlowski made no claim about you, Mr. Rifkin. John did not interpret your opinions. John did not distort anything you wrote. All of that is clear from John's post.

Rather, John quoted material written by me.

That, again, is clear from John's post.

Your complaint is with me, not with John, and I am here to attempt to work for your satisfaction, and for greater clarity and communication.

You are mentioned in passing as part of a longer piece. The mention of you is very brief. This is the entire mention of you:

"In a review of Jan Tomasz Gross' Fear, Ira Rifkin, writing in Baltimore's Jewish Times weekly, insists that Poles are worse anti-Semites than German Nazis, and that Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother's milk. He approvingly quotes Gross' formulation of Poles as afflicted with a "'medieval prejudice' born of vile Christian fantasies about Jews" (Rifkin)."

Your entire article is no longer online, but the article can be purchased, and the intro is visible on the web.

"My father—in—law comes from a Polish Jewish family that moved to Germany. After Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi rampage, the family decided to flee Germany immediately.The only question was where to go.Five of the siblings went to Palestine; the eldest son and parents made it to America. Not for a second did they contemplate returning to Poland, a nation they considered even more anti—Semitic than Nazi Germany.Former Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir once..."

Here is a link to that material:

http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_action=list&p_topdoc=31

Your complaint:

"I did not insist that Poles are worse anti-Semites than German Nazis. Rather, I stated that my Jewish father-in-law's family considered Poland more anti-Semitic than Nazi Germany. Nor, in my 2006 review of "Fear" by Jan T. Gross did I claim that Poles ingested anti-Semitism with their mother's milk ... I was quoting the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir."

It is not clear from your post, or from the full text of your review, how your attribution of these quotes to others makes them quotes with which you disagree, or which depart from your reading of the situation, or from your review of Gross' book. Most importantly for the point I was trying to make, there is no indication that these quotes are quotes you want your reader to disagree with. Rather, the impression is that you want your reader to agree with the quotes. Why? Because you do nothing to refute or even to interrogate them.

Writers often defer to authorities to give their positions weight. When an author begins an article with a quote from someone who is meant to know more about a topic, that is customarily because the author wants the reader to respect that quote. An example. A television advertisement may say, "Doctors recommend that you take medicine X." Or "Reviewers say you should see movie Y."

In any case, if these are quotes with which you disagree, if these are quotes you wanted your reader to disagree with, and if you make that clear in your article, thank you in advance for your providing evidence of that. On the basis of that evidence, clarifying comments can be added to the material quoted here, or reference to your article can be deleted entirely, again, on the basis of your clarification.

Thank you, and have a great day.

Danusha Goska

Danusha Goska said...

Mr. Rifkin, I want to refer to your piece in a way that meets your needs. I'd like to propose the following change. Please let me know if it works for you.

The following text, as it now stands, the text to which you object:

"In a review of Jan Tomasz Gross' Fear, Ira Rifkin, writing in Baltimore's Jewish Times weekly, insists that Poles are worse anti-Semites than German Nazis, and that Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother's milk. He approvingly quotes Gross' formulation of Poles as afflicted with a "'medieval prejudice' born of vile Christian fantasies about Jews" (Rifkin)."

Can be changed to:

"In a review of Jan Tomasz Gross' Fear, Ira Rifkin, writing in Baltimore's Jewish Times weekly, opens with an anecdote whose point is that Poles were worse anti-Semites than German Nazis; he repeats the quote that Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother's milk. He approvingly quotes Gross' formulation of Poles as afflicted with a "'medieval prejudice' born of vile Christian fantasies about Jews" (Rifkin)."

Please let me know if this change works for you.

Again, we are talking about an unpublished manuscript, that may never be read by anyone outside of you and me, but it is important to be accurate in any case.

Thank you for your input, and have a great day.

Ira Rifkin said...

John:
You suggest the following change:
"In a review of Jan Tomasz Gross' Fear, Ira Rifkin, writing in Baltimore's Jewish Times weekly, opens with an anecdote whose point is that Poles were worse anti-Semites than German Nazis; he repeats the quote that Poles imbibe anti-Semitism with their mother's milk. He approvingly quotes Gross' formulation of Poles as afflicted with a "'medieval prejudice' born of vile Christian fantasies about Jews" (Rifkin)."
My response:
The way you have it above still extrapolates in a way that makes it a blanket statement about Polish anti-Semitism rather than it being the opinion of one man talking about his family. I also think it would impart clearer context to the mother's milk reference if you attributed its origin to Shamir, who I believe was born in Poland.
Thanks for your interest in accuracy.

As for Danusha's comments, I'll say only that I believe the history of Polish anti-Semitism is all too clear, and I recognize that today's Poland is not the Poland of the mid-20th century.

John Guzlowski said...

Hi, Ira,

Let me say first that the statement you attribute to me is not my statement. I am quoting from Dr. Goska's text.

Your statement that "the history of Polish anti-Semitism is clear" is the kind of blanket statement that isn't supported by the historic record. It implies--whether intentionally or unintentionally--that all Poles were anti-Semites.

I'm sure you don't mean to say
that.

Danusha Goska said...

Mr. Rifkin, I get the impression that you are continuing to confuse my posts with John Guzlowski's posts.

I don't speak for John and he doesn't speak for me. I think it's important to distinguish who is posting what.

Mr. Rifkin, given the ongoing confusion here, I'd like to suggest that you contact me directly. My email address is dgoska a t yahoo.

Thank you.

Dicale said...

Given that Mr. Rifkin is so confused about who wrote what, it is perhaps not so surprising that he suggests that the history of Polish anti-Semitism is all too clear and pretty much leaves it at that.

I would like to know if Mr. Rifkin agrees with his Jewish father-in- law and with the late Yitzhak Shamir in their blanket assessment of Poles. He certainly does not offer anything to refute their statements.

Danusha Goska said...

JFTR, I'll report that Mr. Rifkin never did contact me at the email address provided.