The media are abuzz with accounts of the fallout from the drunken words of Mel Gibson, possibly also said during an attack of mania (he's bipolar). These words are more than just an expression of dislike of Jews, but a reprise of a theme of political anti-Semitism, namely that it's the Jews who are responsible for war.
Unpleasant stuff, to be sure, and probably reflective of some real obsessions of Gibson's, as Christopher Hitchens, militantly anti-religious as he is, gleefully points out. Nevertheless, let's hold off the tarring and feathering for a minute or so.
Lately, some have shown a strange penchant for being more concerned with words than with actions. Witness the silly foofaraw about Mitt Romney's use of the term "tar baby," to refer, via one of the Uncle Remus stories, to a situation which, once touched makes escape impossible, or the exile of sports commentators who have ruminated unlearnedly, and not necessarily unkindly, on the uneven ethnic distribution of various forms of athletic talent.
And remember, Gibson's words became public only accidentally, because of the arrest incident. In spite of the hysteria of the annoying Abe Foxman, and the disdain of some critics, Gibson's film on the crucifixion made Mel rich, but led to no pogroms. Pace annoying Abe, that wasn't really the point.
Like Dennis Prager, I'm more concerned about what people do, such as shooting up the Jewish Federation in Seattle, than what they say, or even what their private sentiments are, especially when they have never made intentional public statements in the same vein. The classic example is Nixon, who spouted anti-Jewish sentiment in his office, ugly to be sure, but although he never got more than a tiny fraction of Jewish votes, appointed the first Jewish Secretary of State and rearmed Israel during the 1973 war. There are many others, including Harry Truman and H. L. Mencken.
Now some want to make Gibson kneel in the snow, like Henry IV. He apologized. He's a sinner, like all of us, and acknowledes it. Forgiveness is mandatory, as is continued wariness. One need not like him, or his movies, but let's move on. There are bigger problems.
On another note, if he's really bipolar ("He has made it known that from an early age he suffered from being manic depressive, but through his strong faith and appropriate medicines he has been able to overcome these shortcomings to attain the heights of stardom" as stated here) I doubt conventional rehab will help. Lithium might.
UPDATE: Added "bipolar" quote and link.