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MACRO-AGGRESSIONS…

…AND, OF COURSE, TRIGGER WARNINGS


I spend considerable time in hotel rooms, eighty days a year on average. This past month, I spent ten days back east, in three different hotels.  The first, a chain franchise, the second and third five-star hotels.

Three hotel experiences, with one shared element—the toilet paper dispenser.

Gone is the traditional spindle, with the internal spring mechanism on a hollow dowel, whose projections at either end fit into holes in the wall mounted dispenser.

The replacement is a single, L shaped bar, usually functional, often decorative, in chrome or bronze.

All three of these hotels, and many others at which I have stayed, now feature these far simpler and more elegant non mechanical solutions.

These dispensers are fine, if you happen to be right handed, as most of you are.

For those of us of the left handed persuasion, however, they are an annoyance, a difficulty, a puzzlement.  For us, that toilet paper often goes flying off the open end of the bar by an unfortunate flick of the left wrist.

This makes this appliance, by modern terms of entitlement, if you’ll pardon the expression, culturally appropriated as the expression might be, a micro aggression.  This is just one more reminder of my minority status, a left handed person whose needs are dismissed and unacknowledged by the right handed majority, another aspect of my daily life in which I am expected to accommodate that majority, a majority to which I bear a strong resemblance, absent of that left handed thing.

And when I think of a minority’s need for social accommodation, for a means to deal with the way that majority considers me and those like me, and I seek a metaphor, not to insult those of you who picked up on where I might be heading here and don’t need that illuminating tip, I often think of my fellow Jews.

Despite the oftentimes tiresome assumption that we of the tribe can hide in plain sight, this is all too often not the case. Certainly not these days, considering the long-anticipated return to general and socially acceptable antipathy to me and my fellow tribeswomen and men, I often think of Jews with no trigger whatsoever.

To be clear, such thinking is part and parcel of that accommodation, metaphorically speaking. And, to be abundantly clear, I think of Jews as we, as they, actually are, as opposed to the millennia old but still metastasizing image of shadowy manipulator, of concealed power in the service of whatever scares the living shit out of the under informed, projected onto us, and onto them.

Two random, and far from unusual, nor the only, personal instances of this cultural expectation of accommodation on the part of those not among the Chosen are as follows.

A colleague, a man of an ethnic minority of his own, blithely ran over his allotted time on a convention day of presentation, eating fifteen minutes out of my allotted hour.  He neither apologized, nor acknowledged that he might have overstepped the bounds of collegial behavior, but rather, bemusedly indicated my miffed reaction was understandable, based on, and I quote, “That natural Jewish entitled selfishness.”

He was further astonished by my suggestion he go fuck himself.  He was mystified by my reaction to what he felt, no, knew, was a common truth about Jews.  I will briefly and silently congratulate myself for not pointing out some of the cliches universally believed about his ethnicity.  That was my accommodation in this case, and I don’t regret skipping that beat.

A neighbor, an acquaintance of long standing, has spent an inordinate amount of time in the two decades plus we’ve known each other making allegedly comical comments and observations about Jews in general, and about me in the particular.  This fellow is one of those men who’s got a lot to say about others’ over sensitivity—“Snowflakes,” “Libtards,” that sort of thing.  I had long made it clear that I wasn’t amused by his “just kidding” bullshit, and had simply become inured to it.  We have mutual friends, and mutual interests, which meant, like it or not, we interacted.

A few months back, at a table full of men, he offered unsolicited advice to an issue I had mentioned, an issue that I had in no way indicated I needed any help with.  I suggested he mind his own business, and he exploded at what he clearly identified as an affrontery, calling me a dick, revealing a snowflake level of over sensitivity that he’d hidden under a bushel.  Clearly being told to mind his own business trumped two decades of Jew baiting.  Talk about your white privilege.

Needless to say, both these mooks are dead to me. And many more.

And speaking of the dead, I was born five years after the abruptly ended/before the completed mission of mass murder of European Jews.  In the 1950s, that accommodation I mention above manifested itself in a grim, near universal, near silent whisper, the horrific scale of the experience leaving those old enough to comprehend it speechless.  The only acknowledgment visible to us were Yahrzeit candles, contained in tumblers, which were the Jewish equivalent, not to be reductive, but to be completely honest, of jelly glasses.

Trust me on this.

Of course, there were the occasional importuning outbursts of begging from the United Jewish Appeal and the like, but that tribal accommodation, which had manifested itself for millennia by heads kept down and hope that the Cossacks of whatever time and place we might find ourselves in would rape and pillage elsewhere, was the baseline of daily behavior—the ethnic equivalent of avoiding eye contact with a predator—kept us shtum.

That Mel Brooks joke of the Jewish parents coming to visit, but having no need to come inside from the teeming rain, has a disturbing measure of truth buried in its comic absurdity. “Make no trouble, and trouble may not find you” was a credo for all too many of us.

Philip Roth’s THE FACTS, an anecdotal autobiography which points to the real-life experiences that inform much of his early fiction, offers insight into how Jews of the generations before his made that accommodation, and how that accommodation began to evolve through his to inform mine.

It wasn’t until the late 1950s/early 1960s that the mass murder became an actual conversation piece, a part of the historical record to be reckoned with…and American Jews like those in my family looked at our lives and the lives of others who had lost entire families with an introspection that was new, and, to be clear, troublesome.

We examined our American lives, and compared them to the lives of those who’d become Israelis, and although we might have seemed, to gentile eyes, to be the same—Jews, right?—we’re actually talking about two different species with similar historic origins.

To backtrack just the slightest bit, that different species thing played out even without considering Israel and its Jews, in all their defensive, hostile and frequently arrogant glory and vainglory, and we American Jews.  Those of my family who were exterminated were victims of the roundups by the Einsatzgruppen, the euphemistically identified action groups, the death squads, slaughtered en masse and dumped into trenches they’d helpfully dug themselves.

These peasants had been ghettoized and brutalized for centuries, and died without hope at the hands of what were simply the latest iteration of the Cossacks who’d made their lives hell for those centuries, this time with a final solution delivered with the most modern technology to date.

To be clear, we in my family, and those of us descended from Eastern European peasant stock, had no identification with those urbane and sophisticated German Jews, smug archetypes of that accommodation I mention, who had realized too late that despite their assumptions of being German first and Jews second, the world had other ideas.

You’d think they might have learned something from the Dreyfus affair, but no.  Not this crowd.

An Alfred Uhry drama—not the better-known DRIVING MISS DAISY, from which the Southern fried Yiddishkeit had been leached for general audiences—but LAST NIGHT OF BALLYHOO, addresses the hostility between those two sets of Jews, East and West, not to mention the self-loathing behind the accommodation which acts itself out as assimilation by this family of third Generation Jewish Atlantans.  Suffice to say, these Jews who’d been in the US since Georgia was in the Confederacy refer to the Northerner as, and I kid you not, ‘The Kike.”

For the uninitiated or perhaps confused among you, think of the English and the Irish, Italians and Sicilians, Australians and New Zealanders, and the undercurrent of simmering hostility that exists between those apparently similar peoples and so many others, and you have a picture of the suspicion, disdain and occasional genuine outright distaste between these two apparently homogeneous streams of what is, for better or worse, my tribe.

Anecdotally, my ancient maternal grandmother, a daughter of the Pale, took me by my arm when I was barely five years old, and gave me the only words of advice she ever shared with me.  This was, and I quote, “When you go out into the world, the only thing to hate and fear more than a German is a German Jew.”

I kid you not.  Five years old.

Clearly, this sort of thing stays with you.

And there’s a lingering part of me that believes that that ancient and toothless 4’11” kitchen witch, a lifelong Democratic Socialist, a premature anti-fascist, who lost everyone left behind in Poland to the mechanism of mass murder, might very well have harbored the thought that some of those German Jews might have had it coming.

All of which is to say that, despite the overweening, one size fits all aggrievement policies of Identitarianism, in which racial, ethnic, and social determinism trumps actual life and life experience in a tidal wave of lumping in the lumpenproletariat by a self-styled morally performative cadre of often guilt ridden and clueless elitist ninnies, there’s a lot of air between people who might, on superficial observation, be members of the same posse, despite the reductive bullshit of the “Speaking as a…” crowd.

And, to point at the title of David Baddiel’s brilliant and sobering book, for all the identity politics, all that intersectionality, Jews don’t count.

In my case, despite assumptions to the contrary, for example, I loathe CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, a wildly popular television series that everybody just loves, a show that to my mind plays into every miserably cliched belief about Jews borne by gentiles.  I regard it with perhaps not quite the distaste Grandma had for the Galiziana, but in the same neighborhood, if you catch my drift.

And, in another case, as much as I despise that shithead and her “…Jewish Space Laser…” idiocy, I am appalled at the speed with which this was commodified by some entrepreneurial wiseacre with logoed lasers and cloisonne pins.  Call me crazy, but in a culture as willfully ignorant as ours, there are enough shitheads out there, left and right, who identify this as proof.

Remember, as per George S. Kaufman, “Satire is what closes on Saturday night.” And that was from a long-lost time before irony was surgically removed from our understanding of reality, before we defined our rights as what we felt like doing, and that free speech only applied to whatever us is using it.

As the memory of that mass murder recedes from memory, it is well on its way to become, rather than a historical truth, a defensive folk tale, told by a people who have been used for millennia as a shining example of untrustworthiness.  Cultural amnesia, a side effect and symptom of historical incuriosity, has simply remade the story into what will soon be identified as a self-serving lie.

I say this without a scintilla of doubt.

Add to this a number of generations raised on Star Wars and comic book movies, numbingly schooled by an increasingly simplistic narrative bereft of nuance, simpleminded repetitions of noble victims and evil oppressors, and we find ourselves in a perfect storm of bullshit.

This stew of misbegotten beliefs and assumptions is how Jews are so easily recruited to serve as so all-purpose a swarm of villains for all the other tribes out there, running from godless communists to guileful capitalists, and any other catch all to delight those who are not us.

And, speaking for had it coming, there have always been those Americans who were and remain convinced that the Jews had and have it coming.  They are, the thinking goes, Jews, after all.

Guilty.

I have had more experiences than I care to mention, as noted in the few examples above, with individuals who express typically bigoted and two dimensionally damning beliefs about Jews, who are then nonplussed and flummoxed by my objections to their remarks, as opposed to accepting their points of view as the expressions of inviolable truth and simple common sense they believe they are.

No offense, of course.  I am presumed to be, and I quote, “One of the good ones.”

Fuck that.  Offense taken.  I am not now nor have I ever been one of the good ones, believe you me.

And, as we are universally subsumed by endemic cultural amnesia, along with a selective but all too deep incuriosity about the past except, of course, as a pageant of shared ignorance, the sort of misunderstandings expressed by John Blutarski—“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”—have now conquered the national landscape, we now have a number of generations of Americans who are the perfect representation of the Dunning Kruger effect brought to daily civic and national life.

In the name of that amnesia, we have right wing knuckleheads doing their damnedest to obfuscate and downright deny what are basic common truths about our history, preferring a comic book version of the past, while left wing knuckleheads abase themselves in hair shirt guilt for being unable to travel back in time to shape up their grandparents and those ancient’s misbegotten ideas.

So, from two perspectives, we find ourselves in a present at war over a past with little notion of how to prepare for an uncertain future.

And, as irony, nuance and honest self-awareness with its accompanying self-reflection have been sucked from the culture and its grasp of reality, magical thinking has become the ordure of the day.

I have to assume that the embrace of victim culture is what undergirds the rush to claim universal sister and brotherhood with rapists and murderers of children in so reductive a good guys /bad guys comic book narrative. That insipid need to have someone to root for, which has reduced much of modern popular culture into anodyne nonsense, now finds itself in self-dramatizing performative morality, applying the simplistic moral solutions of melodrama to the complex bafflement of reality.

Of course, despite the death of irony as noted, the heroic victims these weaponizers of fragility have rushed to embrace as brothers and sisters in a war for the oppressed against the oppressors would murder any number of these easily manipulated nitwits and suckers given any chance at all—or, at the very least, deploy them as human shields.

Or, of course, for the queers in the crowd, defenestration.

And yes, there are Jews among them.  As there are Jews who have embraced right wing ideology to a tragicomical degree.  Identifying with the aggressor is just another aspect of that majority demanded accommodation.

Let’s call it Shmuckholm Syndrome.

And to make a further joke of all this, the only thing I have in common with those above is were both ashamed they’re Jewish.

Ah, that New York sense of humor, right?

And now, after all the digressive, autobiographical pedantry above, the buried Lede.

Maya Angelou’s quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” has been put to use as a headline over photographs of authoritarian fascists, including the current Republican front runner and criminal defendant.

As MS Angelou strongly suggests I do, I believe this wholeheartedly.

By the same token, those who use their bullhorns to shout “Globalize the Intifada—” which is to say eliminate world Jewry by Jihad—are showing me exactly who they are, as well.

If you believe the former but reject the latter, it’s all too likely that you are a fool, a hypocrite, or, despite rebranding with the identitarian friendly beard of anti-Zionism, simply an antisemite who needs to be honest with themselves and the world in that regard.

Accommodation, at least for me, is over and done.

Trust me on this.

As ever, I remain,

Howard Victor Chaykin, a Prince…but in no way of the JAP persuasion.

 

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