Tag Archives: antisemitism

New Orleans Diary: Weeks 13 and 14

7 Mar

Goal: Fuck the goal. I missed another week (I blame Mardi Gras) and now rather than writing on Fridays and also Mondays I am randomly posting on a Tuesday. Things are all out of whack. Also I don’t think anyone really reads these posts anyways so it’s become sort of like that thing about the tree. You know the thing: if a tree falls in the forrest and no one hears it does it make a sound? If my blog gets published and no one reads it do the words in fact form sentences? (I need to work on that but you get the picture.) So in summation I am just going to write when I want and not hold myself to any sort of schedule which is counter to the original purpose of this series (to force myself into a publishing schedule) but whatever. Fuck it.

Face Tattoos: There are a lot of face and head tattoos here. A lot. In April of 2004 I made out with a dude in Mexico who had a face tattoo. And one time when I was in the Poconos visiting The Aunties the craziest thing happened. We were walking through the parking lot towards the We-Is (local supermarket actually spelled Weis) when we found ourselves walking behind this guy who had his own face tattooed on the back of his head. But really. I know it was his own face because I ran around the front of him (by way of ducking behind cars because I figured someone with his own face tattooed on the back of his very own head was maybe scary) and confirmed. There he was in the front and the back. Very weird.  I’ve never really been the same.

As I was saying, there are a lot of face and head tattoos here. And I’ve been thinking about it and it seems like a face tattoo is a larger commitment than tattoos other places. Your face is the first thing people see. And usually the thing people remember you by. I mean, do you for sure, but it’s a commitment is all. Anyway. There are so many face and head tattoos that I almost don’t even notice them anymore. Back in Brooklyn there was one guy with face tattoos. He had some sort of tribal something or other that covered his whole face and whenever I saw him I thought to myself

Wow. That guy does not give a fuck.

I also thought to myself

That guy is on a whole lot of drugs.

Which had more to do with his style of walking and his glassy eyes than the face tattoos.

I got distracted. The point is that there are a lot of people with face tattoos here. I don’t know exactly where I was going with all this so I guess I will sum it up thusly: I have never seen more face tattoos in one place ever in my life.

White People Dreadlocks: There are so many White People Dreadlocks here it’s unbelievable. So many. I have to say that I try to stay away from their congregation areas as best I can. That might make me an asshole but it’s the truth. They all have pitbulls which normally would be like whatever but I think they have the pitbulls for protection so I don’t really want to fuck with them. Also I am pretty sure they are armed. Not the pitbulls, the people. As far as I can tell they spend a lot of time (all of their time maybe?) on the streets and the streets here are not safe and so I am certain that they have knives and things. I want nothing to do with knives unless they are being used to cook me food so if I believe someone has knives for reasons other than cooking me food I stay away.

Let me be more specific. Because this is what it really is. Yesterday as I was walking from one job to another I saw a White Boy Dreadlocks sitting on the street and he was holding a cardboard sign that said

I need a guitar

and I literally almost lost my shit. Like no, mother fucker, you need to chop off your culturally appropriative haircut, get a goddamn job, get out of my fucking way and buy your own guitar! Or call your fucking parents. I don’t know but give me a fucking break. Give me a break! You are white. You are male. You are able bodied. The system is built for you. If you need food that’s one thing but a guitar? You are on the street with a cardboard sign begging for a luxury item? Like, what, should I sit down next to you and hold up a sign that says

I need a plane ticket to India so I can fuck off for awhile

Or

I need to go out to Pesch for dinner

Or

I need a new computer.

No, asshole. What you need to go is get a fucking clue. Ugh that shit makes me so mad. It’s like, you can’t be all “woe is me I have no money” but also look at me I am so privileged and I am owed this thing that I want. I don’t only want it I need it and therefore I will have it and you will help me to buy it. The privilege is what gets me. And now I will stop being that old white lady yelling “get off my lawn!” at the neighbor’s kids.

Antisemitism: It is real and there is a lot of it here. I hear casual antisemitism at work on the regular. I am not going to really go into it because it is the same bullshit. You know, Jews are cheap, Jews run the government and the media, Jews are basically trying to take over the world. Nothing ground breaking there really. My favorite though is when one person makes an antisemitic comment like “oh you’re so cheap…you’re such a Jew” and the person next to them then starts discussing the first time she met a Jew and how the Jew was actually a lot nicer than she had expected! Little do they all know that their drinks were made by a Jew in person right then and there! That’s right, folks, that Sazerac was stirred by the horned devil herself! The Jewess! You sure you still want to drink that? I used the cheap whisky, you know, like a Jew would.

I don’t know, it’s crazy. It’s crazy in part because there has been such an uptick in open and unabashed antisemitism since SCROTUS took office. A friend of mine actually texted her dad to see whether the cemetery in which her grandparents were buried was one of the ones vandalized (it wasn’t). But that’s a real concern right now. Shit is fucked. It’s also crazy because I grew up in a very Jewish area. I am used to being around Jews all the time. I am used to feeling normal. But down here, and in this current political climate, I feel everything but. I have never been more aware of my Jewishness in my entire life. For the first time ever it actually feels like a liability. Which I suppose it always has been. That’s part of the fun of being a minority.

The other day a dude came into my bar. He was down from Philly, originally from Newark. We identified one another right away. It was the accent (or the lack of accent as he assured me), the look and just, I don’t know, the way. It took us about 30 seconds to get into what has been happening. I mentioned to him the antisemitism I have been experiencing since being down here and he just looked at me and said

Yup. Everyone hates us.

Just matter-of-fact. Just like that. And I was like, yeah, it’s true. He said what I have been thinking, what a friend of mine and I have been talking about for months. The fact that everyone hates us. It’s a quiet hatred, made louder recently, but it is always there. We thought we were safe. We’re not. And people make sure to make it known. Especially down here. And what can I do?

Conclusion: I should have posted about Mardi Gras and all that because it was really fun. Maybe I will save that for another week. This one took a somber turn and after all that it just doesn’t feel appropriate. I did, however, put on a lot of glitter. I think it probably entered my blood stream through my pores. I hope it did. We could all use a little more glitter these days.

We Spoke in Hushed Voices

20 Dec

Yesterday was the day of the electoral college vote. Yesterday was also the day I decided to go to the National World War II Memorial here in New Orleans. This was premeditated.

***

I have been somewhat quiet these past few weeks on issues outside of my observations of life here in New Orleans. I’ve been mulling over a number of different things, unable to really put into words what was happening around me, around all of us, and how it has been making me feel. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself – did you hear that, Libby Chamberlain? – and so I will use this space, my space, to share with you, if you care to listen, about what’s been happening in this confused brain of mine.

I have felt silenced.

I am not entirely sure why this is. Is it because Tr*mp was elected? Is it because of all of the hate that he unleashed in this country over the past 18 months, give or take? Is it because I left my comfortable, knowable home in Brooklyn and moved South? Is it because I realized, once again, the seemingly unending depths of misogyny that exist in this world? Is it because I am Jewish and, for the first time ever, I feel markedly unsafe in my own skin?

It is, in a lot of ways, that last one. Although the other ones are notable as well. I have lived a privileged life, all things considered, and so I do want to underscore all of this by stating that I do know it could be worse. I am 33 years old. I have been Jewish for every single one of those 33 years. And now is the first time I feel unsafe sitting in my own reality. This has not been true for a lot of people. And so before I continue, I just want to express my knowledge about my own privilege and express my sadness about the world that so many people have occupied their entire lives, and my respect for them for getting up day after day and moving forward, and keeping on, and for writing and speaking and sharing and singing and for simply living. Being afraid sucks. And so with that, here goes.

***

Yesterday I decided to go to the National World War II Museum because I recalled an article I read in The Washington Post following Richard Spencer’s Nazi-inspired speech in DC. In it was a statement put out by the Holocaust Museum following the conference which read, in part,

The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.

Just to give you an idea of what exactly is meant by that, here’s an excerpt from the Museum’s piece on the Nazi rise to power.

Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding orator who, by tapping into the anger and helplessness felt by a large number of voters, attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. Nazi electoral propaganda promised to pull Germany out of the Depression. The Nazis pledged to restore German cultural values, reverse the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, turn back the perceived threat of a Communist uprising, put the German people back to work, and restore Germany to its “rightful position” as a world power. Hitler and other Nazi propagandists were highly successful in directing the population’s anger and fear against the Jews; against the Marxists (Communists and Social Democrats); and against those the Nazis held responsible for signing both the armistice of November 1918 and the Versailles treaty, and for establishing the parliamentary republic.

Sound familiar? Because it should.

Words and propaganda were what brought the Nazi party into power in the 1930s; they were what created an environment in which an entire infrastructure could be built with the express purpose of shuttling people to work and, ultimately, their deaths; they were what emboldened a population to exterminate 11 million people. The words and propaganda of Hitler and his Nazi Party were what led Raphael Lemkin to coin the term used to describe what had been done to the Jews and other groups during World War II. He called it genocide.

The article from The Museum came out around the same time Jessy and I were in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 3/4 the way through our drive to New Orleans. We had spent a lot of time sitting in the car, in our Airbnbs and hotel rooms, walking through national parks all the while talking about the election, what it meant, how we felt, what world we were living in. It had all been sort of academic. Analyses of things we had read and heard, fears we had about how empowered some people suddenly felt to disempower others, how groups that had existed only in the deepest recesses of the Internet were suddenly mainstays of the news. But then, our first night in Chattanooga as we sat at the bar eating dinner and having a much needed glass of wine, it all became suddenly more real. I looked up at the screen and on CNN during primetime I saw the Nazi salute. And then I saw it again and again and again as it was played and replayed. And I watched as the hosts talked it down, rationalized it, normalized it, tried to make it less that what it is: an expression of unbridled hatred and antisemitism and an embracing of all that the Nazis stood for and did in the 1930s and 1940s. And it made me wonder. Have we forgotten our own past? Do we owe nothing to the 11+ million people lost?

There is a word that is used often when talking about the Nazi era. It is Gleichshaltung and is translated from the German as “coordination” but more often refers to the act, politically speaking, of getting in line.The political theorist Hanna Arendt, who escaped Germany in 1933 explained it well in one of her last interviews. She said,

The problem, the personal problem, was not what our enemies did, but what our friends did. Friends ‘coordinated’ or got in line.

Shawn Hamilton expannded on this idea in his article published by The Huffington Post.

People rejected the uglier aspects of Nazism but gave ground in ways that ultimately made it successful. They conceded premises to faulty arguments. They rejected the “facts” of propaganda, but not the impressions of it. The new paradigm of authoritarianism was so disorienting that they simply could not see it for what it was, let alone confront it.

This is what scares me. Every time an act of hatred or violence is talked down, is normalized or excused, those acts, and the people that carried them out, are empowered. The problem is that when we make concessions for the small things, we are accepting the larger message. Remember: before there were the camps, there were the words. The words prepared people to accept that which would previously have seemed unimaginable. In his book, Germany: Jekyll and Hyde, Sebastian Haffner said,

Outside of Germany people often wonder at the palpable fraudulence of Nazi propaganda, the stupid incredible exaggerations, the ludicrous reticences concerning what is generally known. Who can be convinced by it? They ask. The answer is that it is not meant to convince but to impress.

It is not meant to convince, but to impress.

From where we sit in our discussions of history and in the comfort of our homes, Nazi propaganda seems utterly insane. How could this have come to pass? How could people have swallowed their morals, their ethics, their humanity and gotten behind such a hateful, murderous regime? A solution to all their problems. We are living it right now. We are seeing it again. Otherwise decent people willing to accept this lie of why we are where we are, and who specifically made it come to pass. And to then hold those people accountable for something which was not their doing. As Hamilton points out, it is not illegal immigration that is to blame for the downfall of the white working class, it is mechanization, globalization, the disempowerment of unions. Blaming immigrants is demagoguery, not reality. And deporting immigrants will not bring those jobs back. Those jobs are gone. But continuing to propagate this argument, continuing to excuse those who stand by it through silence or the ballot box, can only prepare us for words to become action.

***

Yesterday I went to the National World War II Museum because the Holocaust Museum is in Washington, DC and I am here in New Orleans. I went there because I wanted to be in a place where I was free to remember, to grow teary and tired, to educate myself. I know there was more to World War II than The Holocaust. But I needed to be in a place that actively recognized that The Holocaust happened, that was just steeped in an acknowledgment of what humans are capable of doing, of what we can grow accustomed to, of what we normalize. And I wanted to be angry. I wanted to be angry about all the lives lost and angry that, all these years later, all these lessons later, all these deaths later that we could still, as humans, Gleichshaltung. That we could, again, fall in line behind the propaganda. But instead of feeling angry, I felt physically ill when I saw a few swastikas on the side of the airplane of a Tuskegee Airman who had, as the tour guide explained to us, had “a few German kills.” Those swastikas almost made me vomit because all of a sudden they don’t feel like a relic of the past anymore, they are a part of our present.

Tearful I turned to a woman in the group who stood next to me. A woman who had family who had fought in all the wars starting with World War I. A woman who had traveled down from New Jersey with her family to enjoy New Orleans, to visit this museum and to remember. And, in hushed tones, we talked. We talked about Tr*mp and the election; about racism and sexism and antisemitism; we talked about our fears for the future of this country; we talked about all the lies, the propaganda and how people were just eating them up. It was good to have an ear, to have a conversation with someone who was feeling some of the things I was feeling. But still, we spoke quietly. And today I am forced to ask myself why.

2016: My Year So Far

14 Jan

A few things have happened since I last posted on this blog.

(1) It became the New Year! 

That’s right. It is now, and has been for the past 2 weeks, the year 2016. It’s kind of wild, right? Do you all remember Y2K? That time when everyone was certain that computers, despite their abilities to do all sorts of crazy things, would not be able to comprehend the fact that the year section of the date line would all of a sudden read 00? We were pretty sure the world was going to end. Well, some people were, anyway. Some smart people, as it turns out. I was pretty sure we would all be okay despite my not knowing anything about technology. I was right. All that being said can we agree that (a) we are happy that the world didn’t end but at the same time (b) it has been a pretty fucked up 16 years and 14 days? And things are only going to get more fucked up from here, I am afraid. So let’s brace ourselves, friends, for the rest of our lives.

(2) I went to Puerto Rico with my friend Dee and it was great!

It was kind of a last minute thing. Basically, Dee said she was going to Puerto Rico, I said I was jealous, and she said, “well, why don’t you come?” And so I did. That is one of the perks of my job. As long as I can get my shifts covered (and of course can afford it) I can more or less do what I want. The downside of all that is that I am oftentimes unable to sleep because I feel as though my life has no meaning. So, you know, there is always a trade-off. (This does not, of course, detract from the fact that I have the most kickass friends in the universe who invite me to join them on all kinds of incredible adventures.)

(3) I decided to reread Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America”* and holy shit.

Oh my god. So for the record when I started rereading the book I was totally PMSing and when that happens I get more teary than normal. And if you know me, like really know me, then you know I am tearier than the average bear. Not that I cry a lot, but I just get really emotional about the state of the world. It is such a fucked up place and we do really horrible things to one another. Anyway, so the book. Have you read it? Because you really should. It is basically about what would have happened if Charles A. Lindbergh had defeated FDR in his third bid for the presidency and kept the United States out of World War II. Lindbergh, if you recall, was the first person to do a solo transatlantic flight and also his first son was kidnapped from his crib and murdered, causing Charles and his wife to go into voluntary exile in Europe. Anyway, in real life Lindbergh eventually came back and, as it turns out, was very busy impregnating women the world over. In Roth’s book, his (real life) beliefs in isolationism and anti-semitism led him to become a Nazi sympathizer and almost co-conspirator which, as you can imagine, led to some really fucked up situation for the Jews in the United States since he was the president. It was very upsetting. Not only because I am Jewish and still sort of believe that everyone (okay not everyone but a lot of people) secretly and also not-so-secretly hate the Jews, but also because the hysteria brought about by Lindbergh’s rhetoric reminded me very much of what is happening in the United States right now with Trump and his anti-Muslim sentiments. It’s really scary and against what supposedly makes America, well, America. I really don’t like the idea that to some people the slogan “Make America Great Again” means let’s deport all the brown people. And I especially don’t like the idea that there are a lot more people who believe that than I had originally thought and that Trump has cleared them all out from under their rocks! Well, anyway, read the book. It made me cry on the train and this really nice man in a 3-piece suit saw me looking all upset, touched my leg and said it would “all be okay” before he exited at Jay Street. I thought that was a little to optimistic from where I was sitting but his heart was in the right place. Thanks man in the 3-piece suit. You’re swell.

(4) I have further solidified my status as crotchety old person.

But for real. So I came home from running errands yesterday and I noticed that my downstairs neighbors had, at some point in time, received something in a box, emptied the contents of the box and then disposed of the box. No big deal, right? Wrong! Because you know what they didn’t do? They didn’t take the bubble wrap out of the box nor did they break the box down and put it in a bag with all their other paper recycling. They simply carried the box down the stairs and dumped it on the ground right in front of the paper recycling bin that is conveniently located for us to dispose of our things in a reasonable fashion. And here’s the thing. We don’t live in some doorman building or like one of those places where you pay a maintenance fee. We live in a regular building with regular people where we pay regular rent and we take care of regular things, like our garbage, ourselves. But not my downstairs neighbors, no sir. They are too special to break down their boxes and dispose of the bubble wrap (or jump on the bubble wrap and then dispose of it, like we do in my house). And that is what is wrong with this city nowadays. People think they are too good to do things themselves and so they make someone else, who is not getting paid to do those things, do it for them. Entitlement. Man, it’s the pits.

(5) I have an infected hangnail on the thumb of my right hand and it really hurts.

I don’t feel the need to expand on that. It just hurts. I don’t think I will have to have it amputated if that’s what you were worried about. Because last night when I couldn’t sleep because I felt like my life had no meaning I also kept thinking about what would happen if I had to get my thumb amputated. Nothing good except that maybe, maybe, I would get to be a guest on Ellen which as we all know is my one life goal.

Okay, that’s it. Here’s to the many more exciting things 2016 has to bring.

*Wordpress changed the way the blogging feature works which sucks on so many levels. One of those levels is that the option to underline no longer exists. What if I want to underline and book title, according to the rules taught to me in grade school. Or what if I want to bold and underline something in order to bring double attention to an important point? I can’t do those things. Fuck you, WordPress.

Donald Trump is kind of our fault

5 Oct

I have actually written about Donald Trump on this blog not once, but twice. The first time was right after he tweeted that Kate Middleton shouldn’t be sunbathing in the nude and that she only had herself to blame” for the photos that spread like wildfire on the internet. What he forget to mention, of course, was the fact that she and Prince William were at some super secluded chalet somewhere in the woods and some asshole paparazzi with a crazy telephoto lens took her photograph from so far away that she would have appeared more like a spot in the distance to the unaided eye rather than someone flaunting her nudity for the world to see. That’s basically the same thing as if a Peeping Tom who took a woman’s photo while she was in the shower through her curtains using some sort of crazy perv camera and then saying that maybe if that woman had purchased curtains that were impenetrable by x-ray beams then she wouldn’t have had her photo taken and so basically it was her fault. Not the dude who bought the camera. No, of course not. But the woman who did not protect herself from every potential breach of privacy regardless the likelihood. I also would like to say for the record that women, and men for that matter, should be able to sunbathe nude with the reasonable expectation that no one photographs them and then distributes said photographs to “news” organizations. Also, to take it one step further, and I know this is going to sound crazy, but if these organizations would stop being dicks and refuse to purchase nonconsensual nude photos then maybe assholes like the photographer in this story wouldn’t purchase cameras with telephoto lenses, or whatever they are called, to steal images of people. A girl can dream.

The second post I wrote was 2 days later on the same topic only this time Trump made it worse.  He was able to make it worse because Fox “News” invited him onto “Fox and Friends” to elaborate on his tweet because obviously 140 characters worth of misogyny was not nearly enough. He made sure to tell people that obviously he liked Kate Middleton (which I am sure made her feel oodles better because anyone who is anyone wants Donald Trump to think favorably of them) but went on to say that exposing yourself when famous is just asking for trouble because if someone stands to make money off of your nudity then of course that’s precisely what they should do. Not, you know, be a decent human being. And then to make matters worse he commented on how someone had posted a picture of Prince Harry’s dick online and rather than be consistent and be like “well it’s his own fault for exposing himself” he said that Harry’s security detail fucked up. Photos of a naked female? The woman’s fault. Photos of a naked man? His security detail.

So anyway, when I wrote about Donald Trump the other two times it was like, ugh, why won’t this clown shut the fuck up?! And now? A few years later? Dude is leading in the presidential polls! Where are we living? Opposite land?! And it’s like, I really don’t want to give him any more credibility by taking him seriously enough to even write about him (even though not many people read this blog but whatever) but I am just so dumbfounded. Like, for real. This shit is bonkers.

So I just got back from traveling through Vietnam, Laos and Thailand with my friend Carrie and during our trip numerous people, finding out that I am American, asked me what the deal was with Donald Trump. And I mean, how do you even answer a question like that? Because what IS the deal? So far what he has done is insult practically everyone, make a mockery of our political system and reawaken all the rabidly racist, sexist, antisemitic groups in this country all while taking absolutely zero responsibility for the impacts of his words. I mean, seriously, the person leading the polls is someone who refers to himself as The Donald. THE DONALD! WHAT IS THAT?! It’s like, fuck! We have this guy who is all on about his money and whatever and he has filed for bankruptcy like 100 times. And he makes duck face always. And his hair is stupid. And he is still angry about something (entirely accurate) that Rosie O’Donnell said in 2006. I mean, imagine this dude as president. Actually, maybe don’t because I just did and it made me really sad. Also, angry.

I just don’t understand how this dude has said and done all the fucked up shit that he has said and done and he is still relevant. Actually relevant! He released both Lindsey Graham and Jorge Ramos’ private cell phone numbers; he said John McCain is not a war hero; he made lame ass comments about Megyn Kelly’s period; and, just, his hair. And while I am on about his hair, I am just going to copy/paste this quote from Vanity Fair here:

“In this 2002 photograph, Trump has changed his hair color to ‘Burnt-Cheetos Auburn.’ As well, the conventional hairsprays and salon products of years past appear to have given way to rubber cement and snot.”

I don’t know. I know that for a time, and maybe even still right now, some people thought this whole thing was funny. But it wasn’t funny, it isn’t funny, and it won’t even be funny when a few years in the future we look back and say, “hey, remember that time that poor excuse for a human being ran for president and actually led the polls for kind of a while?” Cuz the way I see it, this is just emblematic of the fact that our country is very sick. Very, very sick. I mean, look at what is happening. We have people shooting up schools, churches, parking lots and movie theaters damned near every day. We can’t pass meaningful gun control policy after a bunch of kindergardeners were murdered and a racist fuck opened fire in a church during worship. We have a somewhat sizeable portion of the population that still believes, despite the presence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that our president was not born here. We have a bunch of overpaid white dudes trying to defund a woman’s health organization because they want to legislate what happens inside of our bodies and they simultaneously want government to mind its own business. We have some asshole raising the price on AIDS medication because his personal enrichment matters more than the lives of millions of people worldwide. I could continue but it’s just too damn early and shit is too damn fucked up.

Shit is bad. People keep saying that we will reach some sort of breaking point but I just don’t even know. We refuse to deal with the institutionalized problems within our country that keep the status quo. And we refuse to acknowledge that the American Dream is becoming less and less real and trying to “Make America Great Again,” as fucking Donald Trump says, is going to do absolute shit if all we care about is money and keeping the disempowered where they are. Donald Trump’s ascension, and his staying power, is significantly less surprising when we take the state of our country into account and realize that our population is kept intentionally ignorant about the reality of our political situation and that the lives of anyone other than the rich and famous are simply unimportant. It is all a game of being the coolest kid on the block and, unfortunately, some dude who regularly launches ad hominem attacks from his Twitter account is in the lead. This isn’t funny. It’s fucked.