Monday, March 7, 2011

When Hate Comes In Waves

Deb: What in the name of God is going on? Mel Gibson? Biting the hand that feeds you, Mel? Charlie Sheen? Yes, Charlie, it was anti-Semitic! John Gallianno? You love Hitler, do you, John?

Beyond my incomprehension that this is going on. I guess what really upsets me is the media response. There are tons of columns discussing the sordid ravings that are Charlie’s life and his addictions, and the details of his “Goddesses”. There is a lot of coverage about Gallianno and who will replace him at the House of Dior. Even more articles about Mel and the ponderings as to his future in Hollywood.

But where is the media outrage about the common denominator: anti-Semitism?

I am constantly struck––and always have been since I was a child––by the beauty and art and influence the Jewish race has brought to this world. Frankly, I am loath to think what we would be without them. Even Christmas––and of course we all see the irony in that––would be less joyful without the myriad of Christmas anthems penned by our Jewish brothers. I am not going to start a list here naming all the Jews who have enriched our lives, because this blog would have to be a hundred pages long. For me, off the top of my head, my life would be less fabulous without Chagal, Paul Newman, Woody Allen, Sally Field, Leonard Bernstein, Jack Benny, and Groucho, just to name a few. This is a teeny little sample of ONLY the well-known people from the Jewish community who have touched my soul.

When I was a little girl, my Dad, a passionate lover of the Jewish people, took pride in pointing out numerous Jewish people whom he loved and admired. My house was a lesson in racial harmony thanks to my parents and they would sing the praises of Negro (it was the 50’s and 60’s) and Jewish accomplishments louder, knowing that it needed to be louder. My Dad loved pointing out when I would admire someone aloud, “He’s Jewish, you know”.

Recently, much to my chagrin, I have had more and more occasion to visit hospitals. The one common thread throughout each and every hospital is the list of Jewish donors. And I am not speaking of Jewish hospitals alone. I am talking about every clinic, and every single hospital I am in. The selflessness of this community is saving the lives of so many people, some anti-Semites among them, I’m sure.

I have pondered this often, as many smarter people before me have, and I have no answers. Okay, maybe I’m grasping at straws, but is it the “chosen people” thing? Sounds silly I know, but are others jealous of this age-old label? Do they envy their accomplishments? Jealous of their ability to rise above centuries of sickening tragic circumstances? What? They exemplify the human spirit and yet they are punished for it again and again. I don’t know. I’m only ever left with questions.

Mr. Sheen, Mr. Galliano and Mr. Gibson, shame on you. I hope you are being ostracized. You deserve to be. It is not my business how you harm yourselves, but shut your racist mouths! And as for the media, speak the frig up! Fill our papers and our news and our heads with the shocking news that this type of thing is happening everywhere and all the time. It is our right to know the extent of it and it is our duty to show our disgust and disdain.

After all they have done for this world, it’s the very least we can do.

Barbara: Deb, I am as shocked and taken aback and, frankly, confused as you are after these series of unbelievable public remarks. Honestly, I wish we had no need to discuss racism at all anymore. But it seems that in the modern world of 2011, we still do.

The very idea of identifying people’s faiths when faith has nothing to do with the discussion at hand makes me really uncomfortable. If we’re talking about religion specifically and how it affects people’s lives, then of course religious background might be pertinent. But if we’re using religion to randomly insult and dismiss people, it’s just ludicrous and demeaning to us all.

So why racism in general and anti-Semitism specifically? Why target a whole group of people who have done nothing to hurt you? What purpose does it serve?

My first guess is that these outbursts come from a toxic kneejerk impulse to blame someone else for their own problems, to find a scapegoat. I mean, come on, how is Judaism relevant to train wrecks like Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson? Did Chuck Lorre interrupt his set and force everyone to memorize the Torah? Did he divide his cast and crew between the “chosen” and the “un-chosen”? I don’t know Mr. Lorre—he might be the asshole some people say he is––but I’m gonna go out on a limb here (*sarcastic eye-roll*) and suggest his faith has nothing to do with how he behaves. Even less so the demure diners in that French restaurant sitting next to a hate-spewing John Galliano. Hats off to the grace of the innocent victims here: they didn’t sink to the same vile depths as their attackers to retaliate. No, they did what our parents always tell us to do: ignore them and they will go away. Or, better yet, post it to Youtube.

I think it’s time now for us to join hands with people everywhere in solidarity, not mouth off about the incidental things that keep us apart. Hate a specific person if you must, Mr. Sheen, but for godssake, for God’s sake, don’t blame the Messenger. 


  1. I couldn't agree more (with YOU, not with Charlie Sheen et al, in case that was unclear...). The notion that someone's faith or ethnicity or mother or bath towel preference or any such silly qualifier a) puts them in a category like the ones these people are setting up; and b) makes them and everyone else in said category a criminal/murderer/crook/nose picker/whatever-else-they-accuse-them-of is so demented that I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that people actually believe it.

    Though in the case of Charlie Sheen I suspect he must have disconnected a large joint - like the one connecting his brain to the rest of his body (including his mouth).

  2. Oh, man... I, too wish the media would castrate these idiots. I think maybe what these yahoos envy is the sense of belonging. I'm a mutt, racially speaking, and at times go out of the way to point out I am 'a little of this' or 'a little of that' but those don't really give me an identity. I think the Jewish people, largely because of persecution, have had to stick together--stick up for each other--even when they don't KNOW each other, and those of us without that security back-up envy it, and forget that it was borne of need. My college boyfriend was Jewish, so I learned a fair bit, but what struck me was people didn't have to believe the FAITH part... it was ethnicity... yet the ethnicity didn't get 'watered down' because of the faith part (meaning couples who were one Jew, one not, raised kids Jewish... because it was rich culture, not BOUND with believing the faith piece). So instead of getting watered down like 1/4 Norsisima me, a kid with a Jewish grandparent is a Jewish kid, with full 'rights' of identity.

    Does that makes sense? Anyway... I don't think these haters 'get it'--they don't know why they hate. But that is what i think is behind it.

  3. I totally agree with you girls! I'm doing my udergrad work on Christian Studies and am often shocked by the atrocities people commit in the name of religion. Especially when you consider that Christianity wouldn't exist without it's Jewish roots. Maybe someday we'll get to a place where true tolerance and respect for any belief system exist in the world, but I don't see it happening in the near future.

  4. I just feel like now days the media puts so much on faith and how people act and things like that. I honstly think that the reason the people are acting out like Charlie Sheen is because they want attention and don't know how to get it.

    I really think that Charlie Sheen has been messed up in the head and needs to have to have some sence knocked into him but maby that's just me.

  5. Yes Cruella, they are looking for scapegoats aren't they? I wish they WOULD take it out on the bathtowel. So true Hart, ethnicity is the key. Faith has nothing to do with it in the grand scheme really. Ruth you are right and the really weird thing is that now Charlie Sheen has come out and said he is Jewish! Huh. Lyndsie I agree, he needs detox, therapy and a big old reality pill. Honestly I think it is very sad. He is sick and needs help. Just don't lash out where it's not applicable Charlie. Cheap shots.

  6. beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
    thank you ladies.
    I wil definitely be sharing this with my jewish friends.

    hit it out of the ball park again!
    so much love.

  8. There is a lyrical ease with which this blog is written. Even though the subject matter in this particular entry is one that sparks strident and sometimes hostile tirades; the relaxing motion of the words softens all the ugliness. Thank you, ladies. I am looking forward to reading backward through your earlier posts. And of course forward as you meander through the myriad reasons for writing.
    BTW, in the Talmud, the commentaries are not unlike blogging. It's all about interpretation. What I call POV.

  9. Thanks for joining the discussion today, everybody. Definitely food for thought.

    Geppetto's Daughter -- welcome! And thanks for your kind words. How do I love this: "in the Talmud, the commentaries are not unlike blogging. It's all about interpretation. What I call POV." I have never heard that before and it is just killer-good!

  10. Deb and Barb, Judiaism is a religion not a race as mentioned in your opening. I think the Jews are picked on because they are visible in business and film. We are a strong people who allowed different categories of Jewish people to live together, reform, conservative and orthodox. We all can worship how we want and trying to convert people is frowned upon. We collectively help others and are very philanthropic. I think it comes from being the underdog and rising up. The "chosen" people only comes up while studying the religion and not really proselytized. Also, it is more about tradition than religion.

  11. How right you ladies are. You don't hear anyone in mainstream media using the term anti-semetic calling these remarks "disparaging comments" instead. Why not call a horses ass a horses ass?

  12. Thanks Hollye and Amy for the support! Geppetto's Daughter WELCOME and I would like to second what Barb said-I loved the Talmud/blogging reference. Madge you are right about the show biz Jew ratio. I was using the chosen people more as an illustration as I tried to grasp the Jews as targets. And yes I have many Jewish friends who are so proud to be Jewish and yet couldn't be less religious. Thanks for your great comments. Erin I laughed at horses ass a horses ass. YES! I guess it would be what we might call hoof IN mouth disease! :-)

  13. I am so much in agreement with you. I feel eternally grateful to have been raised by parents who did not talk about hating people and enhancing bigotry. To the contrary, my blind father used to say that we who can see are the ones who are handicapped because we judge by what we see. I am now writing about this in my own book of memoirs. It is profound how the influence begins so young, at the dinner table, in small, apparently, "meaningless" comments that are mouthed in daily lives, and what is on TV, where hours of the day are wasted on "news" media hype. I appreciate all of you very much.

  14. Your father's words are wonderfully true Cheryl. Yes, how those "meaningless" comments weave their way into who we become. Will you publish your memoirs?

  15. I was shocked by this omission as well. Also, by the fact someone on another blog post about Sheen commented something like, "Why is it that when people tell about the Jews, they are branded 'mentally ill'? Ho-Hum."

    My mother, who was born in 1921, was very poor and lived on the streets of East London. Sometime about age 13, she was picked up by a Jewish family and taken home to work for them. They gave her warm clothes (she wore a cardigan's sleeves over her legs to keep warm and begged for the crumbs from a bakery at the end of the day, picking out the flies' wings...getting emotional over this as I type). So anyway, she worked for them for many years. When I was growing up, I heard many wonderful stories about the Jews, as well as a lot of Jewish expressions. My mother always said they were hardworking and kind people and I have always found it so. That hard work has led to many things of beauty in the arts, literature, fashion, etc. I currently have a Jewish client and am reminded by some of his expressions of those my mother used. I cannot understand anti-semitism and never will.

  16. Oh, Rosina, that is such a touching story. Thank god your mom was taken in by such wonderful people! Thank you for sharing thin. xo

  17. Yes, Deb, I am going to publish my memoirs. I'm still working on them. Thanks for asking.

  18. Barb: Huge fan. <3
    Deb: You're cool, too, and funny!

    Anyway, gushing aside. ;)

    I think we've gotten to the point where the only reason remarks like this get the attention they do is because public figures are the ones saying them. For example, being a huge fan of Don Imus (if you read my linked page, you'll see it's a satire of a character he used to have on his program), I can appreciate equal opportunity offenses being make in comedic jest versus being made in an actual malicious manner. If you recall the Imus incident, and ever listen to his program, he believes that what happened to him is what should have happened but also that context is important. I couldn't agree more.

    As for Mr. Sheen, he's a butt - pure and simple. Because of who he is, he knows his remarks will get increased visibility. Does he really feel the way he says he does? I doubt it. Does he hate Lorre? Probably. Doesn't mean he wants to put him in a gas chamber.

    As for Mel Gibson, he's a hypocrite. As a strong follower of Christianity, though still a sinner, I think it's safe to conclude that Mel, as with Charlie, is a troubled individual with another case of verbal diarrhea.

    With regard to John Gallianno, I believe the case is the same as with the first two. Some asshole trying to shoot his mouth off to get his five minutes.

    Overall, I think we're too sensitive as a society and as a world. These awful events that occurred not even a hundred years ago shouldn't be trivialized by a TMZ article because some moron can't keep his trap shut. The outrage should be directed at the oppression that still continues. Your International Women's Day video of Judi Dench and Daniel Craig makes my point. (Wonderful video, by the way!)

  19. Lion, welcome! And thanks for your thoughts.

    I agree with your comments about CS -- I really think he's mouthing off (and everyone is listening, fascinated) without thinking. But both Mel and John G have histories of anti-Semitic remarks, so therein lies the rub. I think their inebriated states unleash their truth. And that's what's hard to understand. Why lump people together by religion, race, or sex and diminish them, ever? Your comment about trivializing these events through TMZ like reporting? SO AGREE! I also totally agree that satire or comedy have completely different "rules" and are great forums for discussion.

    Will check out your link, etc. Thanks!


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