Monday, October 29, 2018

Jews may not like life more than you do, but they talk about it more

Babylonian lion (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
     You know what's a primary Jewish value?
     Being alive.
     I hope I'm not spilling the beans here. Revealing some deep rabbinic secret. 
     But it's true.
     We like being alive. It's important to us. I can't say whether Jews like living more than gentiles, since I'm not gentile. I would assume everybody likes life equally. So maybe it's just that Jews make a bigger deal of it—"To life! To life! L'Chaim!" We talk about it more, perhaps because there's always somebody trying to kill us.
     Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. Razed Jerusalem and took the Jews into captivity, more than 2,500 years ago. Various caesars. About 1500 years worth of Christian leaders. Assorted Russian czars. Don't forget Hitler, and his pal Stalin. After the formation of Israel, the Arab states. When they failed, the PLO and periodic freelance Muslim terrorists, cheered on by half the sophomores around the world.
     Let's not forget home-grown American haters, like the guy who murdered 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday.
     That didn't happen in a vacuum, but two years into the administration of Donald Trump, our own miniature Mussolini who uses prejudice of all kinds to stir up and distract his base.
     "I am a nationalist," Trump said. Actually, what he said was "I am a white nationalist" but the "white" is unvoiced, like the "p" in "psalm." And if you didn't hear it, his far right supporters certainly did.
     Still. Mass shootings happen so frequently in the United States now—at churches, schools, music concerts, workplaces—that I don't feel inclined to join the chorus connecting this one to the anti-Semitism that Trump winks at. (Jews are the "globalists" that Trump refers to. Hitler called them "internationalists." And people claim there is no progress)

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  2. My take on Trump and anti-Semitism is that he's like Joe McCarthy, the demagogue he most closely resembles IMO. McCarthy wasn't personally anti-Semitic; he relied heavily on a Jewish chief of staff, Roy Cohn (who went on to become Trump's mentor). But McCarthy's attitude toward the anti-Semites who inevitably gravitated toward his bandwagon was, hey, you do you.

    1. To me, it hardly matters whether Trump is anti-Semitic or not. Given how valueless he is, I would guess anti-Semitism is just another belief he doesn't hold, but is willing to use if it draws in the dupes.

    2. What I am most sure about Trump is his amorality.

  3. There's a story in the New Yorker by Janet Malcolm that just arrived in today's mail about her journey from Europe to Brooklyn in 1939 along with her mother and father that would be lovely at any time, but is especially poignant because of the horrors of the past few days. She says, "We were among the small number of Jews who escaped the fate of the rest by pure dumb luck, as a few random insects escape a poison spray."


  4. Anti-Semitism is always bad but sometimes complicated and not always lethal. My best friend in junior high school was Jewish, and my parents were friendly with his family, as they were with other small business people they associated with. Yet they sometimes associated the appearance of supermarket chains that threatened the viability of their 'Ma and Pa' grocery store with rich Jews. My uncles, who took their politics from Colonel McCormack's tribune hoped that my sister, when she went to the University of Wisconsin, would not be influenced by all the left-wing New York Jews who were thought to infest the Madison campus.



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