Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

A facebook meme. I had to think about this, what constitutes a "guilty" pleasure, because on the one hand, I feel vaguely guilty a great deal of the time about most things (so Jewish). On the other hand, I'm old enough to be unashamed of my slightly shameful predilections.

1. Overpriced pedicures. At the all-pink salon, where they bring tea in rosy pink cups or, in the evenings, a pink cocktail. Having my feet dominated by Iris, whose deceptively fine hands bring on a sort of twilight sleep of deep delight.

2. Taylor Swift. But I have to listen on my headphones. Guiltily weeping.

3. Lindor truffles. Sucked not chewed.

4. Bingeing on those pithy-yet-specious list articles all over the internet: "6 surefire ways to get your man to give up his soul to you," "8 unmistakeable signs that you're a psychopath," "12 ways to get out of a speeding ticket." I like my world reduced to lists.

5. Being a pathological fantasist.

6. Lingerie catalogs

7. Memorizing complex rap lyrics and rapping along. Alone in the car. Latest "achievement": DMX's Get It on the Floor ("you motherfuckers wonder why I start shit")

8. Taking selfies. Using filters.

9. Lottery daydreams

10. Writing micro erotic
creative nonfiction.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Zionist Girl

The term Zionist Girl puts me in mind immediately of the sturdy rosy-cheeked antiHolocaust antivictim of the early Palestine Propaganda posters.

But when I got called that in a "conversation" (I use this word loosely, very) on facebook, it wasn't meant fondly, nostalgically, as a compliment, or even a matter-of-fact description; rather, it was offered as a scathing indictment, as sneering as any indictment could be.

A "friend" of mine (and again I use this word loosely, very) posted a speech of Mandela's about the wickedness of Israeli policy toward Palestinians. Said friend likes to post a great deal about Israeli Apartheid. I had held my tongue, but finally commented, one short paragraph, uttering that fateful word, the word that never fails to unleash the hellhounds of anti-Israel absolutism: "antisemitic." (let me add, I really won't weigh in on whether or not I think Mandela was antisemitic, I wouldn't have the energy; it was the repeated and pointed posting of anti-Jewish State material that seemed suspect). Anyway, there followed a virtual firestorm of anger toward me.

The immediate reply to my comment was typical: "anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic."

To which I say: anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic. Except when it does.

A German chick called me "stupid," after which ad hominem attack I left the conversation. But being the compulsive person that I am, I snuck back to the scene under cover of the deepest night to see how the thread unfolded.

It was not so much an unfolding as a foaming-mouthed effigy burning. Having never before been burned in effigy (or called a Zionist Girl, or, for that matter, been called Girl much at all recently--that went out at the same time as "Miss" was replaced by "Ma'am," but that's a whole other story of heartache), my interest was greatly piqued.

The discussion can be boiled down handily: "That Zionist Girl can't handle the truth of Israeli Apartheid. She is racist. She is ignorant. And she left the conversation because she can't defend the indefensible." There were several people agreeing on these talking points. Angry people.

First let me say, this isn't exactly about specific Israeli politics, only tangentially. Or symbolically.

The problem is:

a lone Jew speaking up in a hostile crowd of people who are angry at the Jewish State and not just its policies but, I would argue, its very existence. The problem is that surge of intense disgust/ire that passes for discussion. The problem is the rapidity with which this discussion degenerates into an attack on that lone Eponymous Jew. The problem is tone and meta-message. The problem is a lack of self-awareness in the angry mob.

The thread, after I left it, was notable for one glaring characteristic: a repeated use of the words "Jew" and "Jewish," coupled with the words "racist" and "fascist" in a simmering and barely contained group rage. The term "Zionist," opaquely layered, quite obviously, with the word "Jew."

People get exercised on social media sites all the time. But this felt different, it felt more significant and far more threatening than anything I have experienced before. It left me nearly shaking, teary-eyed and scared.

There is a real darkness in that moment when you realize you are the only one of your Kind in a group, when that group calls you by the name of your Kind, and that name is spoken like a curse. That darkness presses in on you. You can feel it in your very bones. It isn't paranoia and it isn't over-sensitivity. It's a truth that can only be known in the feeling of it, a truth as old as old mass graves and charred prayerbooks. And even older still.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Merry Christmas, Ya Big Jew

It's that time of year once again. Time for the passionate arguments over denominational Solstice holiday greetings. Sympathy seems to run low when The Dreaded Other demands "special treatment."

Facebook is always a place to gauge the social temperature, and popular memes specifically are the thermometer. I am unsurprised this year to see a jokey flow chart posted and reposted all over my wall, which I will summarize: "Don't be a fucking bitch, accept whatever holiday greeting is offered, and accept it nicely."

I suppose this meme is aimed at two distinct groups: on the one hand, those hardcore Christians (a specific group of them) who balk at the idea of kowtowing to Muslims/Jews/Atheists/Pagans/assorted Freaks who don't celebrate Christmas, and offering a non-denominational holiday greeting. On the other hand, those very Outsiders who don't celebrate Christmas and want a nondenominational holiday greeting.

The problem with this frightening demand for a universal standardized Christian greeting is that now, perhaps understandably, there is a backlash against any requirement of special consideration, hence the exasperated tone of the meme.

Yet I must point out that there is a big difference between those who would insist that their Christian belief system take precedence, and those who simply want it acknowledged that we are not all practicing Christians.

In the wake of this incredibly hubristic movement to coerce obeisance (even if only tacit) to a single religion, desire for a universal nondenominational holiday greeting has become tiring to many, another demand made on them as they try to suck whatever joy they can out of the various festivals of lights.

So I'm going to come right out and say what's on my mind. Please, religious Christians, don't make me accept your Christian greeting, for I'm not Christian. And please, kind but weary friends, don't make me accept just any old holiday wish on the grounds that "come on, the offerant was well-meaning and for goodness sake, enough already."

So, no, I don't live in a country with a national religion. No, I do not celebrate Christmas. Yes, I am Other. Yes, I'm asking for special treatment and yes, I am an inconvenience.

Sometimes expression of tolerance is inconvenient: it requires thought, it requires awareness, and even vigilance.

I am a big Jew who just doesn't want to hear the words: "Merry Christmas," over and over. I don't want to be gracious. I don't want to accept the spirit or the sentiment behind it, willy-nilly.

Then again, I'm not a total bitch, and I do wish you well. May the Winter Solstice bring light and warmth and longer days to us all.