The thought of doing a year-in-review episode is not particularly stimulating. In fact, it sounds incredibly dull to me. Nope, I’m definitely not in the mood for that.
But what am I in the mood to write about?
At this very moment, I am in the final stages of not one, but two new novels. Both have strong women protagonists. Both are about women who take charge of their own lives as best they can, given one lives at the end of the 12th century and the other lives in the beginning of the 21st century. Two radically different characters facing radically different circumstances, yet they are, in so many ways, sisters under the skin. The really nice part about creating characters is that they can give voice and life to things I think and feel but may never say out loud myself. I am constantly aware of the world in which each lives, but people have not changed in basic, fundamental ways since the beginning of humanoid history. To that end, I would say the woman of 1189 is not nearly as different from the one in 2009 as one might think. Obviously, they are the products of very different societal worlds, yet, if you prick them, will both not bleed the same kind of blood?
Why talk about this now?
As we skid into a new decade, we of modern times have photos, films, recordings, and a whole lotta ephemera to remember the Roaring 20s of the 20th century, a time of speakeasies and silk stockings, flappers and flamboyance, champagne and the Charleston. This was also a time of massive immigration, crushing poverty, and the birth of organized crime. Idyllic, it was not, although most people remember the novels and the movies of that epoch rather than the reality. Fantasy is like that.
Reality, however, has its own place in the conversation. One cannot forget that out of the maelstrom of that roar came the crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression here and the rise of Nazism in Germany. As Isaac Newton used to say, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I think that’s true across the board. There is always a response, a “re-action” to counter the initial action. And I don’t think the last few years will go unanswered.
In and around St. Albans, Vermont, signs with this message were posted on telephone poles around the town:
IT’S OKAY TO BE ANTI- SEMITIC
Really? Is it okay?
One might think this is the perfect place to have one of those equal but opposite reactions discussions, right?
Only, I don’t think there is going to be one any time soon. See, there are lots of people who think this is nothing more than a passing phase, the real anti-Semitism isn’t really happening. These are the same people who think a 60%+ increase in hate crimes directed specifically at Jews is not a real problem. Yet. They think Muslims are more likely to experience discrimination than Jews. Or central Asian immigrants. Or central African immigrants. But Jews aren’t a major classification of immigrant these days. Bottom line, Jew-hatred is directed toward people who have been in the United States legally for a long time.
Jew-hating is safe. Just ask Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib….if you can get past all the people protesting the rounding up of Uyghur Muslims in China or the sexual slavery and trafficking of women taken by ISIS. Or the murder of Rohingya of Myanmar.
Wait? You’ve not seen those massive protests against the mistreatment and abuse of fellow Muslims?
Neither have I. Going after mass murderers of Muslims isn’t nearly as unifying as hating Jews for being Jews, especially Jews who are okay with Jews living in our own homeland. Besides, you can get so many more people, not just Muslims, to hate Jews that it makes it all worth while.
Honestly, I don’t know what to do with the signs and the attacks and the rest of it. I just have trouble grokking that in the 21st century people have not progressed past scapegoating Jews. How is that possible ? One would think with our increased knowledge and sophistication We, the People of Earth woulda already learned that demographic hatred is not only stupid, it’s pointless. Making Jews go away isn’t going to make you instantly rich. It’s not going to make you appear smart. It’s not going to help you invent a new vaccine. And it’s not going to get you a Nobel Prize in Physics.
Is there a safe place left in the world to go? Israel is not terribly safe. European Jews are leaving in droves for other parts. New Zealand? South Africa? Canada? The moon? Mars? Yeah, running away isn’t much of an answer, but when does running away become escaping? There is a difference between the two.
What do I tell the grandkiddies about people who hate us because we are us? For the moment, they are too young to understand any of this. But having them sit in my lap has certainly changed how I look past them to the world these days. Yes, I want to leave a cleaner, cooler planet. Yes, I want to leave a place where there is art and music. Yes, I want them to inherit a space where it’s okay to sing and dance whether it’s in Hebrew, English, Vulcan, or Klingon. I just want them to sing with freedom in their voices and joy in their hearts.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, once said
1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis’. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so. Indeed, I suspect that there are very few people or institutions unaffected by these last months of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty.
27 years later, I can say I finally understand her intent, if not in 1992 terms, in light of this past year. This has been an annus horribils when hatred and violence were in, civility and respect were out. Not exactly statesman-like behavior.
While I don’t think either side of the political divide is blameless in this reduction of common good, having a president who mocks the disabled, lies brashly, tweets incoherent nonsense, and sucks up to tyrants is not helping the cause. Anyone’s cause. Once upon a time, we looked to our imperfect leaders to be at least some sort of role model. That status quo may be gone for the moment, but it is not forgotten. I can only hope this year will bring some movement toward a restoration of humanity, civility, and dignity. When we allow hatred to thrive, it’s not a reflection of the haters, it’s a reflection of our values, our ethics, our morals, our mores, our behavior, our expectations.
In no uncertain terms, it’s a giant selfie; it’s the ultimate reflection of all of us.