Saturday, June 12, 2010

Turning Tide

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while; I felt really crummy all last week, and I had a lot to catch up on before I could blog, like finishing my second application for disability through Social Security (that's a whole other post). I have a third segment to write about my emotional recovery in OA-H.O.W., but I feel like there's a more timely and urgent matter that I want to write about: what I see as a gradual increase in socially acceptable anti-Semitism. 

I grew up in Memphis, Tenn. -- not the most progressive city on the continent -- but felt quite sheltered from any anti-Semitism. I heard of the yeshiva bochurs [male students at a Jewish school] on their way home from synagogue one Friday night being beaten by a gang of thugs just because they were Jewish. The worst thing I ever experienced was some redneck yelling something derogatory out his truck window when I was walking to synagogue. Thankfully, I considered myself very sheltered from anti-Semitism. I'm not one to see things in that light, anyway. Whenever I encountered some difficult person, my great aunt Bettye would say, "Maybe s/he is anti-Semitic," as if this was the most rational explanation for their behavior, as opposed to having a bad day, not liking me because I was a twit, etc. I found her response slightly amusing, a holdover from the unenlightened World War II era she grew up in.

Two big news events this week have put chinks in my armor that lets me rest safely in the delusion that anti-Semitism is uncommon and certainly not socially acceptable. Most recently, the Helen Thomas incident, in which the White House correspondent said that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and go "home" to Germany and Poland. Right, cuz that worked so well after WWII when Jews were greeted with pogroms and mobs to celebrate their homecoming to those countries. Apparently, Thomas' feelings about Israel were well known to conservatives reading different media than I do; I had never encountered this side of her personality, partly because she's been pretty irrelevant as a news correspondent for the past decade or so, and partly because the Liberal media I consume never said a word against her. In fact, Thomas' remarks cited above only garnered mainstream attention when she resigned as a result of the reaction to her comments. I dreaded the inevitable apologist letters that were printed in "The Washington Post." 

This would be a good place to state that I have no illusions that Israel is saintly or blameless when it comes to handling Palestinians or anything else. It's tough to be civil to a population that considers your destruction a religious mandate, and there are many situations where I think, "That was crummy; the Israeli government could've handled that better."

The second thing that has raised my anti-Semitism antennae, is, of course, the flotilla fiasco [If you'd like to see a video summarizing the event, click here. Disclaimer: the music on this clip sucks beyond belief, so mute your speakers.] It has been painful to watch the public and the media buy this charade hook, line, and sinker. The flotilla organizers (a radical Islamist group suspected of terrorist activity and known to fund Hamas) staged this to deliberately provoke and antagonize Israel. When the media descriptions of this vessel said things like it was "carrying humanitarian aid," I knew it was bad; I watched a video depicting the content of the flotilla, and last I heard, bombs, knives, sharpened sticks, and TNT were not humanitarian aid. Granted, there were humanitarian items on the boat, which Israel astoundingly still delivered to Gaza. This blows my mind. I can't spend all night debunking the numerous pieces of misleading propaganda about the flotilla that dominate the mainstream media, but you should educate yourself, perhaps starting with the links above. Seeing the jaded, misinformed descriptions what happened on the flotilla is depressing, and definitely contribute to my feelings that anti-Semitism is on the rise in mainstream America. And then I read Charles Krauthammer's column last week, "Those Troublesome Jews," and it hit me hard.

As if I needed any more ammunition, I found the unedited version of an intro to the "I.S.R.A.E.L. Attack" video game on the Comedy Central Web site, which began, "You lied to me, Jew producer!" The acronym stands for Intelligent Smart Robot Animation Eraser Lady. And this from the network that pussed out over depictions of Muhammad. The fact that Comedy Central incessantly pisses on Christians is the only thing that makes me think that the video game is part of their general irreverence as opposed to a specific attack on Jews or Judaism.

I can definitely get scared and paranoid, so I asked two very optimistic, rational, grounded people if my instincts about the upswing in anti-Semitism were off-base, and both confirmed what I've been feeling. I see a situation developing in which anyone who defends Israel's right to exist and right to protect and defend itself (which includes things like enforcing blockades, which are totally legal, btw), will soon be branded intolerant and ass-backwards. We've definitely seen this in the Washington, D.C., area, where anyone who objects to gay marriage is automatically labeled a "homophobe" or "hate-monger." As enthused as I am personally about the recent legalization of gay unions here, I still understand some people's objections to it, and I think they have the right to feel that way and civilly express their opinions without others assuming hateful things, or calling them names. 

I had a friend who believed that Jews needed to always keep updated passports close at hand so they could flee America when its good graces ran out. I found that shocking then, and I don't want to believe it now, but I can see that he's onto something. One important lesson that I've taken from the last couple of weeks is that I need to make a serious effort to vary my media. Getting all of my news from "The Washington Post," is very limiting. I don't need to read conservative or libertarian blogs every day, but I need to check in a few times a week to keep some perspective, and check some facts. 

It took me two days to write this post.