|Metropolitan Museum of Art|
My immediate response — I kid you not, I did this, first thing — was to consult “The Canterbury Tales.” Because there is something positively medieval to Burke’s remarks. Clannishness is such an old accusation to fling at Jews and illustrates the circular logic of bigotry: You exclude a people from society, wall them up in a ghetto, then denounce them for sticking together.
One trick of racism — and this doesn’t get mentioned enough — is to attack specific groups for doing what all people do. When somebody accuses Jews of being fond of money, I retort, “As opposed to ... what? All those people who aren’t?” Every single ethnic, religious and social group will at times interact among themselves and exclude outsiders.
Jews stick together, just like Presbyterians, Lithuanians and Rotarians do. Yiddish was once a unifying tongue, now simply being Jewish is a language that Jews speak.
When I first had coffee with Rahm Emanuel, he started talking about Hanukkah, which was approaching. It confused me for a moment, because I didn’t know why the mayor would bring it up.
Then it dawned on me, with some horror, “Ohhh, it’s because we’re both Jews. He wants me to bond with him as a fellow Jew.” I couldn’t have been more aghast had he put his hand on my knee.
Accusations of prejudice fall into two broad categories. Complaints about actual harm that is suffered because of intolerance: hurtful remarks hurled, housing denied, police blithely killing people like yourself. Those are real evils that are legitimately decried.
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