Can we ignore this?

It wasn’t until I was 22 that I experienced words of anti-Semitism and even then they were overheard. 

I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant in Chicago.  Two middle-aged businessmen at the next booth were talking and one of them said, and then he tried to Jew me down.

I remember being more shocked than called to action.  Then I considered what to do.  I know what I’d do now but back then, in the late seventies, I weighed the options and chose the path of least resistance, which was to ignore it. 

I’m talking diva level ignoring

After all, it wasn’t my conversation and I’d be starting something in the middle of a public place that likely would escalate and certainly wouldn’t solve anything.  Clearly, those guys were idiots. 

These days, I’d give them a what for and say something like,

Can you clarify that for THIS Jew? 

…in other words

Or, well, perhaps something wittier, and hopefully something wiser.

Decades have come and gone and over the years I’ve personally heard and experienced a lot more anti-gay stuff than Jew-hating comments.  Nevertheless, Nazism is on the rise and once again we Jews, whether practicing or not, have once again been thrust into the social forefront of populations of people to be hated.

My Hebrew school teachers tried to warn me back in the sixties but being a kid living in the boroughs of New York City you didn’t get a lot of swastikas, Jew me down invectives or public physical pummeling.

Only a twenty-something born and bred in New York City could be surprised to hear something anti-Semitic said out loud in the late seventies.  It just wouldn’t happen in MY neighborhood. 

More likely I might have heard some invective about the Blacks.

Um yikes

Not from any of my friends (Note:  I can swear to that) but from the mouths of some of their parents, grandparents or random group of that groups’ friends.

Of course, this was a problem but at the time I was sure the world was changing.  I used to get into knock down, drag out fights with elders whenever I heard them say something I considered even vaguely, and certainly outwardly, racist.  I didn’t hear it often but enough to be enraged, enough to call them out on what I considered their ignorance, stupidity and offensiveness.

Yeah, wouldn’t you have liked to have known me as a 12, 15 or 18 year old?  I’m speaking to every adult reading this who has a relative that…well, you know.

This shirt feels right

Anyway, here we are well into the 2000s and the shit talk ignorance once spoken quietly or privately in most major cities, though a lot more vocally in rural areas, especially in the south and Midwest, has gone viral.

Check that.

Instead it’s become part of the public discourse.

We actually have global music stars, billionaires and former presidents openly and proudly spouting stuff teenage me would have gone apoplectic on. 

So naïve and dangerous are the ways in which the teenage mind operates.  And yet, how well-served would society be if it occasionally spent a little more time (Note: Or any time) occasionally listening to the outbursts of kids who haven’t yet learned how to lie or remain silent about what they really think as craftily as their elders.

I know a feel people who could benefit from this..

This is not a problem as 2022 sputters to its much awaited conclusion (Note:  For this Chair, anyway.  It was a terrible year as 12-month periods go).    Social media and global interconnectivity (Note: Whether we like it or not) has made it impossible to hide the rot and emboldened the rotten.

That being the case, we all get to be unruly teenagers daily, if we so chose.  Though like young people learn, constant angry verbiage gets tiring and after a while all you want to do is tune out (Note:  Take your choice of vices), rock ‘n roll (Note: See previous note) or have sex and do drugs (Note: See previous note once again).

Or, when you get to a certain point in life…ahem,..simply go to sleep.

Real 2020 and 2021 vibes

Though one of the few things Hebrew school taught me is that when you see Jewish stars and swastikas being merged together, it’s no time for sleep.

Rather, it’s time to speak.  And fight.  A lot.

I like coming-of-age movies about young Jewish boys as much as the next Jewish person.  Heck, I even wrote one back in the day.  (Note:  Google Family Prayers).

However, the way new films like Armageddon Time and The Fabelmans show us what it’s like to experience Jew hating (Note: And they do it far better than I did in my movie, since I don’t recall any Jewish trash talking as a boy), now comes across as positively quaint.

More on this scene in a later post… I’m sure

Time for, as Woody Allen once stated in Annie Hall, bricks and baseball bats because a satirical piece in the Times doesn’t cut it with Nazis.

Right, I know, we’re not supposed to quote him anymore, but, well, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Or am I jumping the…gun…I mean, shark…before it’s bad enough for what he proposed way back in 1977?

I mean, how bad does it have to get and how does a lifelong pacifist like me, who thus far has only fought back with words, weaponize for this?

Justin Timberlake – “What Goes Around… Comes Around”

The Way It Is

Did you have a good Thanksgiving holiday weekend?  I did. 

We had a small group of family and friends over for the first time in three years for turkey day.  I cooked and, gotta say, it was one of those meals where everything went right.

The bird cooked perfectly and I barely basted it.  The roasted sweet potatoes with apple, honey and maple syrup, was fantastic.  Cornbread stuffing made separately worked really well.  Roasted brussels sprouts felt perfect.  Even the green salad with pomegranate seeds was a standout, not to mention the homemade corn bread I made in my spare time, as well as the excellent cranberry sauce my sister-in-law made.

Ina approved!

It wasn’t all good news, though.

There were 22 people killed and 44 injured in seven mass shootings over Thanksgiving week.  That’s an average of one a day, for those who are now too overwhelmed or saddened or stumped to think about it. 

Of course, I thought about it.  But there was food to buy, cooking to get done and timing and plating to figure out, culminating with me watching some of the new Broadway musicals on NBC’s Thanksgiving Day parade (Note: Ugh, don’t bother.  And yes we’re speaking to you, Some Like it Hot!) on that all too treacherous morning of the big meal.

Don’t even get me started on this

Well, treacherous is a relative term.  Obviously.

But it’s not like the five that died and dozens more who were injured four days prior at that beloved Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ party spot, Club Q, thought a few hours of their partying prior to Thanksgiving was particularly dangerous either. 

And even though I’ve never actually been inside a Wal-Mart (Note:  Yeah, that’s correct), it’s safe to imagine that the six human beings blown to bits by a disgruntled employee would never have imagined in their wildest dreams that being in that location would prove to be the most treacherous place on earth for them two days later.

Sigh.

The great intellectual and writer, the late Susan Sontag, published a devastating short story, The Way We Live Now, back in the mid-eighties.  It described in snippets of conversation that felt casual and gossipy but were anything but, the new normal that the AIDS epidemic in NYC had wrought.

Life would never return to the naive everyday-ness that we had previously dared to intermittently consider to be treacherous. In fact, most of what we considered pre mid-eighties treacherousness would be considered quaint, and then some, from then there on.

Nothing about Ms. Sontag’s prose was melodramatic, studied or even particularly special at the time.  But that’s what made it unique. She was merely reporting the conversational facts of deterioration, disease and death as if they were an itemized prep list of thoughts, tasks and snarky tidbits one could encounter before, during and after a typical Thanksgiving holiday dinner.

A must read (click the pic for the link)

In essence, she was telling us we would grow used to anything if we had to because even with the grotesquely awful there were plans to be executed, events to attend to and meals certainly to be made.  What was going on outside was awful but, well, we’d just have to modify.  Amid the medicines, hospital visits and funeral plans, the rest of us would still get hungry.  Right?  After all, there was nothing we could do about it, anyway. 

Having lived through the dreadful beginning and middle of AIDS as death sentence in the eighties and nineties, I can’t help but feel a familiarity of those times to the way we live now – in 2022.

It’s not that gun proliferation and violence is a new virus in our midst, the way AIDS was back then.  It’s that it has begun to metastasize in a scarily virulent way.

The new normal

There have so far been 606 mass shootings in the US in 2022, as opposed to 610 in total in 2020 and 690 last year (an all-time high).  We could still be #1 by the time this year is out but no matter where we fall, or fail, we will certainly be competitive with the worst of the worst before 2023 rings in.

There are now more guns that people in the US. (Note: 393 million guns to be exact), the majority of which are owned by white men, who are more than likely to identify as rural and Republican.

No, I’m not racial profiling.  Here is an exhaustive story from CNN in June. 

And a front-page story in the NY Times this weekend casually chronicled the latest trend in a new kind of non-verbal public discourse – the armed demonstrator.

This should not be normal

Sure, it’s our right to carry a weapon if we have a permit.  But in June in the US we had an average of one armed demonstration per day.  What this means is that packin’ right wing protestors, sometimes led by the Proud Boys or Oath Keeper members,  routinely show up at public events in places like Phoenix or Nashville carrying sidearms, long guns or other such paraphernalia because…they can.

If it scares you, well maybe you should be scared.  Or not.  Our freedom, your choice.  Or, well, perhaps it’s both.

It’s worth noting lots of these events also seem to happen around abortion clinics, or gatherings sponsored by the LGBTQ community.  Sometimes they’re even near places where people vote.  Or where certain other minority groups choose to congregate. 

This feels right to me

This is not surprising since 10 states have extremely lax laws regarding firearms, allowing pretty much any gun owner the legal right to carry a weapon in a crowd, a government building or even restaurant serving Thanksgiving dinner. 

So if you found yourself in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia or Washington over the holiday and made it out alive and unscathed, consider yourself one lucky dude, dudette or non-binary celebrant.

I myself felt relatively safe in Los Angeles this week, despite all you maybe have heard about our uptick in crime.   They might have guns, sure, but they’re not free to carry them anywhere.  At least not by law.

… and I’m never leaving

Besides, they’re mostly looking for Rolex watches and I was never big on expensive jewelry.

But that’s the way I, and we, live now.   At least here.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Because it was exactly six months prior to Thanksgiving that 19 small children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX and the only thing that changed were the lives of their relatives and friends.

Lana Del Rey – “Looking for America”