My mother died eight years ago at the ripe old age of 92. She had a vibrant and exciting life. Over her lifetime she mingled with both the rich and powerful. She knew a wide range of people from Bing Crosby to D. K. Ludwig. She had met Presidents and Prime Ministers. She personally knew both poverty and wealth. She had lived through both war and peace. She was well educated and well read.
Yet, for all her worldliness, for all the people she knew and counted as friends both black, white, Christian and Jew she was a both a racist and a anti-Semite. When she was young and raising us she kept these beliefs very much to herself. I think down deep inside somewhere she knew she was wrong and made a very conscious not to pass these ideas onto her children.
Given the above where did the racism and anti-Semitism come from? I think they came from being born in 191O, raised by her German immigrant grandparents in the Kentucky and Missouri. These beliefs were set in her mind from a very early age and she was never able to exorcise them as the world changed dramatically around her. So she erected a firewall, she kept these thoughts to herself in public and treated everyone with respect. This is what I saw and how I was raised, thankfully.
However as she got older the firewall would occasionally get breached when speaking with people with whom she felt comfortable. And the older she got the more frequently these breaches would occur. I even heard her defend Hitler once in her late eighties – to say I was stunned would be an understatement. So stunned that I could not even get passed the declarative WTF?!
What does all this have to do with Helen Thomas?
I look at Helen Thomas the same way I look at my Mom. As the daughter of Lebanese immigrants I think certain ideas about Israel and Israeli Jews where set in Helen’s mind long, long ago. I think she knew it was wrong and kept those feeling very much to herself and in check behind a firewall. Her career would have been short lived had she not. However at 89 the firewall she erected got breached.
A sad end to a brilliant career, but it was time.
(One man’s opinion for what it’s worth.)