My detractors, and there are plenty, always want to know why I bother speaking out. Why, they want to know, can’t I just have my newfound opinions and leave everyone else alone. Why must I rock the boat and why must I declare what I do or no longer do, what I believe or no longer believe.
For starters I have always been outspoken, was never shy and rarely too intimidated to speak my mind. When my voice was used in defense of things or against things that fell in line with the thinking of my natural affinity group, my straight talk was appreciated. The opposition began when my thinking and I guess I, began to leave the reservation.
We are all conditioned, trained and educated in our youth by family, teachers and friends. We develop a value system and a moral code based on our experiences and relationships. Most of us, even after a period of youthful rebellion, return to the core of who we were taught to be. That’s human nature. We are comfortable with what and whom we know. These tribal inclinations are a good thing, they strengthen us personally and our community as a whole. In the process we build outer layers of affinity and kinship or as I have called it in previous posts, more hyphens to our identity.
My allegiance and love of the values and causes that I have been conditioned to confederate with has not changed, my views of them have. It’s an evolution borne of experience and frankly seeing too much bullshit. When I rhapsodize about God, Israel or politics it’s not just because I’m pissed off, it’s because I still give damn and I believe each and every one of us can and should make a difference.
I love Israel. I’m a devout Zionist; I speak and read a fluent Hebrew. My iTunes is 90% filled with Israeli artists. But Israel angers me to no end because she alienates diaspora Jews, particularly the youth for no good reason. The Israel I grew up with has given way to a country whose ministers call non-Orthodox denominations evil and whose Chief Rabbinate rejects diaspora conversions (even Orthodox ones). Should I not speak out? Should I just accept that tolerance has given way to political reality and therefore shut up?
I love Judaism. The fondest memories of my childhood all took place around a Shabbat or holiday table. The traditions, the songs, the meals, even going to Shul all hold a special place of warmth in my heart. I like to believe that in my own way I created those memories for my children as well. Yet I am angry with organized Judaism, particularly Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Judaism I grew up in has given way to fundamentalism, judgment and an obsessive focus on ritual observance. In the process we have lost tolerance, moderation and individualism. Am I to remain silent? Should I not shout out that often, material wealth is emphasized in our community more than ethics?
I am a political junkie with an eclectic if not malleable ideology. Yet the politics I grew up following, once a gentleman’s sport with unwritten rules of cordiality has given way to blood sport and intolerance of opposing views. Am I to let one side rage about issues of import and not respond in kind? Shall I become apathetic just because I believe all is lost?
I have opinions, often very strong ones. Many of them have been recently formed and do not conform to my tribal DNA. I have evolved, as has my worldview. I do not seek approval nor will I be intimidated into silence. My right to rant is the same as everyone else – and exercise that right I do, often to the chagrin of those closest to me. Technology has democratized thought and the more freedom we have to speak out the more the old forces seek to coalesce their hegemony over it. So why do I bother? Because apathy in my view, is not an option.