Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pirate double feature

Bad movies and popular fiction over the last century or two may want you to think of all pirates as being crazed Englishmen, with or without heavy layers of mascara...but some of the most notable pirates in history were Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 (or their descendants) seeking revenge for the Inquisition, or seizing booty as funds to buy safe passage for still more expelled Spanish Jews. From Jewishjournal.com:

One such pirate was Moses Cohen Henriques, who helped plan one of history's largest heists against Spain. In 1628, Henriques set sail with Dutch West India Co. Admiral Piet Hein, whose own hatred of Spain was fueled by four years spent as a galley slave aboard a Spanish ship. Henriques and Hein boarded Spanish ships off Cuba and seized shipments of New World gold and silver worth in today's dollars about the same as Disney's total box office for "Dead Man's Chest."


Another Sephardic pirate played a pivotal role in American history. In the book "Jews on the Frontier" (Rachelle Simon, 1991), Rabbi I. Harold Sharfman recounts the tale of Sephardic Jewish pirate Jean Lafitte, whose Conversos grandmother and mother fled Spain for France in 1765, after his maternal grandfather was put to death by the Inquisition for "Judaizing."

Referred to as The Corsair, Lafitte went on to establish a pirate kingdom in the swamps of New Orleans, and led more than 1,000 men during the War of 1812. After being run out of New Orleans in 1817, Lafitte re-established his kingdom on the island of Galveston, Texas, which was known as Campeche. During Mexico's fight for independence, revolutionaries encouraged Lafitte to attack Spanish ships and keep the booty.

But in the 1958 film "The Buccaneer," starring Yul Brynner as Lafitte, any mention of the pirate's Jewish heritage was stripped away.

If the prospect of Jewish pirates conjures up images from a Mel Brooks movie, or possibly the voice of Jackie Mason saying "What, you want I should collect pieces of eight?" while an elderly Jewish bubbe admonishes "By you, you're a pirate...by me, you're a pirate...but by a pirate, are you a pirate?" that's only natural. But, see, it's also part of the problem. That sort of thing is a beloved part of Jewish heritage...but the editing of popular culture to remove Jewishness from any other historical context besides humor and Holocaust survivors deprives Jewish people of the full opportunity to be, you know, people.

Someday I'd like to write an action story about a Jewish pirate. Might be interesting to have a pirate story with some motivation beyond saying "Arrr, Jim-boy! Avast, ye swabs!" And yes, there'd be Jewish humor in it...but he'd also be a swashbuckling action hero of the high seas who was totally cool and menacing.

I mean, everybody realizes both Kirk and Spock were Jewish, right?

And speaking of piracy, Engadget reports that the Diebold AccuVote-TS machine can be opened with a key from an ordinary hotel minibar. This article includes links to instructions on what the vote pirate can do once the machine is open.

Now that it's been revealed how insecure and easily compromised these machines are, how pathetically simple it is for any corupt official to hijack an election using these voting machines...part of me is almost hoping we'll see a massive, coordinated effort to subvert an election. Can you see how simple it would be for a few dozen vote hackers to synchronize their efforts and insert an obviously fraudulent name -- Mickey Mouse or Jack Kirby or Jean Lafitte -- never seen by the voters, but magically "elected" by an overwhelming majority as Governor or Senator? I wonder if anything short of this would send the message to everyone that voting machines controlled by a private company with insufficient security and which leave no verifiable paper trail are nothing short of a license to end democracy. If vote pirates struck at Diebold and opened them to the public humiliation they so richly deserve, at least the problem couldn't be ignored anymore.

And of course, a side benefit would be the public humiliation of an administration which claims to venerate the concept of "security" but does absolutely nothing to ensure the security of our most sacred rights and principles. Times like these may call for outrageous gestures to expose the sanctimony and hypocrisy of those in power. In other words, it sounds like a job for the pirates!

1 comment:

  1. This. Is. Awesome! Jewish pirate movie! Double extra cool points!

    Hey, is Johnny Depp Jewish? I don't think he is.


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