“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”
= Isaiah 5:20-21
More than anything else in my life right now, there are two things I want for year 37. …..Y’know… aside from a more healthy stomach, a lower weight, better control of my mental health, the new prosperity of my romantic life to continue, my father’s health to improve, my 98-year-old Bubbie to retain the mental faculties she still has, my mother to not be and feel responsible for so many of us, to stop worrying that other people in my family might exhibit signs of my mental health issues, the willpower to always keep a clean apartment, the guts to bike in something other than the pleasantest weather, the ability to go out and socialize without pigging out, the ability to consistently practice the violin, the ability to finish one book at a time without starting ten others, the decisiveness to choose one language to learn on duolingo rather than four, the ability to complete more compositions than four a year, the courage to resume my giant idea of a meganovel about Jewish History, ….
…but aside from those 16 wishes, there are two things in my life I would most like to happen above all else:
I would like some people in my life to believe less antisemitic ideas, and some people in my life to believe less racist ideas.
It’s a big ask. But I can’t have much influence on the world, not even powerful people have much over that, but I hopefully can have a little bit of influence over people in my life, and since, as they say, the personal is political, perhaps getting people you know and love, and oneself too, to change our behavior is at least a very little bit less than impossible.
But in order for it to happen, both groups, really three groups rather than two, will have to acknowledge some very very difficult truths within themselves. I can do my best to be compassionate to those who believe them, but for the ideas themselves, it makes no sense to sugarcoat a turd, and the comments that follow will, in all likelihood, feel quite personal to those who believe in the ideas at which I’m directing them.
Believing a few antisemitic or racist ideas does not mean that the person who expresses such ideas is inherently an antisemite or a racist. No person has a single, fixed personality within them, each of us has a thousand facets to our personality, any one of which can appear at any moment, and all thousand of which are constantly evolving. People can, in a moment of anger or contempt, be entirely antisemitic for five minutes, then go about their lives without an antisemitic neuron in their brain for the next six months.
So there is no such thing, at least no such thing in a properly Jewish disquisition, as a person who is entirely one thing or entirely its opposite. There is always a Yetzer HaTov, the impulse to good, and the Yetzer HaRa, the impulse to evil. Ergo, that probably means that it’s technically impossible to be an antisemite 100% of the time in 100% of one’s actions. It is also impossible to be an antisemite or a racist 0% of the time in 0% of one’s actions. It’s probably not even desirable to make the elimination of antisemitism and racism a goal in our lives.
The cliche is true: all of us carry the capacity for evil within us, but the more we believe that our cause is the good one, and their cause is the evil one, the more capacity we develop to believe that we can perpetrate evil in the cause of good – and a further paradox is that sometimes even that is possible, but the line between waging war for good and waging war for evil is so thin that in the heat of the moment it becomes invisible. The more we believe in our own virtue, the more we can justify any wicked thing we do because it is we, the virtuous, who do it.
So when legislators like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her new caucus can’t even let a simple resolution to condemn antisemitism pass without attaching a hundred other bigotries to it, she is, most certainly, being antisemitic. Try explaining to any Jew who hasn’t drank the AOC kool-aid that it doesn’t marginalize Jewish suffering to say that while Black Lives Matter is so important that the statement “All Lives Matter” is inherently racist, a simple resolution condemning antisemitism can’t be passed without attaching every other form of bigotry to it. I will venture any amount of dirty capitalist Jew money that you can’t do it. There are 1000 examples from history of how the Soviet Union marginalized Jewish suffering with the claim that ‘other people suffered too,’ half of which involved implicating Soviet Jews as suspected Zionists, meanwhile all the evidence points to the fact that had Stalin lived a few months longer, he’d have finished the project of ridding Europe of Jews that Hitler began. You can try to explain it any way you like, you can even call yourself ‘Social Democrat’ and claim that your version is the kinder gentler form of revolutionary murder, but no successful social democracy ever happened so far in the entire history of socialism without the heavy backing of the American military and American capital; all the others either ended with the most ruthless revolutionaries killing of the more idealistic pacifists; or it ended with the plutocrats overthrowing the socialists, resuming the rule they viewed as theirs by natural right, and twice as ruthless as they ever were. Murder is not a virus in socialism, murder is as much the feature in socialism as slavery is the feature in plutocracy. And the fact is screaming at us that we are present at the creation of a new chapter in the now long and proud history of left-wing antisemitism, emerging in America from a swamp of blood formed from Marxism’s more than 100,000,000 mutilated corpses. The fact that after the 20th century, any form of left-wing radicalism can be advocated for without its supporters being as vilified in polite company as Trumpist fellow travellers to neo-Nazis is an abomination. A different generation than this, perhaps a better generation, would vilify socialists the same way we vilify bigots.