I am back home, finally, and starting to feel somewhat like myself again. I'll write more about that later.
Two things for locals:
and Heather Dale are performing at Brandeis tonight
! Doors at 6, show at 7.
* We will have an open-house election-results-viewing tomorrow evening. If you can't take the agita of watching alone, feel free to come over. BYOB. We are currently low on B.
One of the Florida-family things that is so tremendously painful for me is the casual racism.
I could not talk about it while I was there. Not even a casual comment on Twitter. Because I was in survival mode and I had to be calm and poised and not losing my shit all over everyone. And even talking about it a little would have uncorked all of that anger and distress.
My tactic for dealing with family racism this time was polite incomprehension. "I've never heard that about $GROUP/$RACE. Where does that expression come from?" "No, I'm linguistically interested." "Actually, that's not a real thing." "No, I'm not being difficult, I'm being precise." Like, I'm being precise when I want to make it absolutely clear that we're talking about a racist caricature of black people or Muslims, just so I know we're all on the same page. I want to be really clear about the words coming out of your mouth.
So that was most of my week.
And Saturday Dad's driving me to the hair salon, and we're talking about politics because it's a battleground state and 85% of every day is spent talking about politics. Dad is a lifelong Democrat. He voted for Obama last time, and will be voting for him again later that day. He agrees that Obama has been an excellent president.
"But, y'know, I'm not a fan of black people in general."
He tosses this out just as a natural part of the conversation. Like he expects me to nod in agreement or say "oh, yeah, I know" or "me either", and then just sail on.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath.
"Dad? Why would you say something like that?"
"Well, you know!"
"I really, really don't know. Help me understand."
"Like gang members. Thugs."
"But there are white gang members too. There are all kinds of gang members. That's not exclusively a black thing, and most black people aren't
"Well, but that's what you see -"
"Then you should change where you look."
And this went on a little, with me trying to explain the socioeconomic pressures that lead to gangs, and reminding Dad that Bernie Madoff was a white guy, et cetera, all the time struggling for composure, and him calling me difficult. "Why do you care about this?" he said, seeming honestly baffled.
Oh, god. I care about this because you hurt my friends when you say things like this, even when no one's listening. You hurt me
. You hurt my heart. You smash it into flinders as I struggle to find a way to rationalize the terrible things you believe about people you have not met and will never meet, who you regard as less than you
, and I don't understand. I don't understand.
The Jews got this too, you know, this being regarded as subhuman, this hatred and discrimination, which is why I struggle so much with trying to understand when Jews do
this, when they think this. There seem to be two paths the recently-destigmatized take - the zero-sum path where they turn on someone else and dehumanize them, and the path where they understand
And my dad is on that first path and it hurts my heart. I want him to have been better. I want him to be better. I want him to do better.
There is a principle in Judaism called tikkun olam
- healing the world, repairing the world, fixing its broken pieces for the good of all. And this, this awful zero-sum path - this is not tikkun olam
. I am not all that religious, as Jews go, but this is a concept that is at the core of me.
Flavia Dzodan said "my feminism will be intersectional, or it will be shit."
I say that my Judaism, my life, will have tikkun olam
or it will be shit.
What is it worth if we hate other people? What is it worth if we don't help people, regardless of their differences from us? What is it worth if we refuse to see, to hear, to understand other people?
If you do these things, if you dehumanize other people - if you saw people just a few days ago with the numbers on their arms and you turn around and dehumanize other people
- you are not a good Jew and you are not a good person, and I don't understand. I don't understand how you can be that way and I am trying so hard to understand so I can help, because I don't want you to be that way. I don't want anyone to be that way.
I want to repair the world. So should they.
Sometimes they hurt my heart.