Evan Tucker

The End of the Jewish Era

I don’t know how I got it into my head as a litle kid that I could be like Leonard Bernstein or Vladimir Horowitz, but at 6, that notion was definitely there and impossible to dislodge. All you had to do to understand how I got it was turn on PBS and you’d see the two of them, or Itzhak Perlman, or Isaac Stern, or Beverly Sills, or (gulp) James Levine, or one of a couple dozen other famous Jewish classical musicians and you see right away that representation on a screen matters every bit as much as intersectionalists say it does.

The problem is the other side of that coin everyone wants to forget these days: representations are the ultimate poisoned chalice, the devil luring young people into the siren song of promises that never materialize. No matter how good you get, no matter how hard you work, it’s all luck. It’s all who falls backwards into the right mentor, the critic who’s there for when you fill in for the main act, a recording executive who feels generous that day. Everybody wants the option for success but nobody wants to think of what goes into that success: the premature surrender of childhood and innocence, the lives subordinated to the goal – not just the life of the celebrity but the celebrity’s family and all their handlers, the lifelong identity as a product more than a person, the anxiety of failing to deliver the product that people pay to experience, and the withdrawal of approval and love that follows. People think they can domesticate celebrity, people think they can make the circumstances around celebrity better, but the value comes from the scarcity: if you make the circumstances around celebrity better, celebrities cease to be celebrities. The whole reason celebrities exist is because humans need god replacements: a space for us to behave irrationally and gossip like peasants about which knight is hooking up with which lady. If they’re just like everybody else, they’re boring, and if we’ve figured out how to make their lives better before figuring out how to make our own better, then celebrities truly will be better than the rest of us….

I suspect among Jewish guys I was only extraordinary in that regard for having chosen that career path having been born in the 1980s, when most of my peers had no idea who they were. Immature as I remain at 41, I was a prematurely mature little shit, watching videotapes of PBS Great Performances of the New York Philharmonic and Public Theater when most kids were playing with GI Joe and Barbie.

But if you were watching during that period, you couldn’t help but notice the utter disproportionality of successful Jews in the arts, and I didn’t grow up wanting to be a Jew, I just grew up with the notion that the world’s most successful people were Jews. If you wanted to be a movie director, there was Spielberg, if you wanted to be a comedian, there was Seinfeld, if you wanted to be a rockstar, there was Dylan, if you wanted to be a painter, there still was Chagall (though let’s face it, our novelists slightly underperformed..), if you wanted to be known throughout the world as a great figure of the arts, that just seemed like a legitimate career option. And if your longings to succeed stretched beyond the realm of the arts, there were equivalent men of science, academia, business, visionaries of every field. The only realms that seemed closed to us were US President and… ahem… athletes.

How distant that period seems now. The hunger to achieve success in that stratosphere is long gone among Jews. Now we have Drake, and…, and as the hunger to achieve success goes, so do the avenues for those who want to achieve it.

Jews never counted among minorities, Jews never counted among whites. We exist, as we always have, in that neither region of the model minority who needs no leg up, and soon, as the only people neither white nor of color, we may be the only people with positions are so insecure that we are mistrusted by every side of the world’s discourse, ‘court Jews’ taken only as accepted members so long as our politics line up with yours, told that we simply have to wait our turn like everybody else, but relegated as ever before in Jewish history to the line’s back.

It is still too painful and too dangerous to wade into these waters. I will but I’m just not ready yet, but the rage in me boils no less than those who try to be less impartial or nuanced, and if this fury courses through me, how much worse must it be for Jews who try not to see it from the goyim’s point of view.

Not that it matters to anyone but us, but we Jews have no avenue for our rage in America. After the same brief sojourn into prosperity we had everywhere else, we are the same dancing monkeys existing on your whims, back to existing amid the terror that one day your fury at us will be far greater than the fury of any Israeli military.

About the Author
Evan Tucker, alias A C Charlap, is a writer and musician residing in Baltimore. He is currently composing music for all 150 Biblical Tehillim. A Jewish Music Apollo Project - because "They have Messiah, we have I Have a Little Dreidel." He is currently on #17. Evan also has a podcast called 'It's Not Even Past - A History of the Distant Present' which is a way of relating current events to history and history to current events. Most importantly, he is also currently working on a podcast called Tales from the Old New Land, fictional stories from the whole of Jewish History. The podcast is currently being retooled, but it will return.
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