Below are thoughts and feelings of mine that have been brought forth by current events. My expressions below are solely my own, I do not claim these experiences to be anyone else’s or claim to speak for everyone with similar backgrounds or feelings.
Pretty much since the election I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts together. I feel like I’m being torn in a million directions. I wake up every day praying that this is an episode of The Twilight Zone, or a really fucked up dream I’m having and not reality. But I know it’s real. I’ve always known it was real. Growing up Jewish in Arizona was a constant reminder of my otherness while being within the Jewish community was a constant reminder of how much we’re hated solely based on that otherness. The weird thing about never knowing what it’s like to go to your place of worship or day school without security and metal detectors, or that when school gets cut because there was a bomb threat at the JCC or a swastika tagged on one of the synagogues in town, is that these things are not normal. And yet, by the time I was a young child they were completely normalized.
Maybe it didn’t seem so bad because I’ve had a complicated relationship with my Jewish identity so siding with people who were suspect felt easier. Or because that insecurity balanced out with my white privilege. When people didn’t know my heritage, I definitely benefitted, and still mostly benefit, from that. That’s the lie of assimilation, though. There’s something off-white about living in America while having a Jewish background. (Obviously, for Jews of color it’s a whole other ballgame). Once that part of my identity was known I became “nice for a Jew” and “pretty for a Jew” but I most certainly was not nice or pretty enough to make me human enough to open up the minds of those bestowing compliments to me with their backhand. It would be me; alone, trying to toe the line between making a good and diplomatic impression while also denying a part of myself and any emotional reactions to people and instead, making sure to accommodate their feelings. I didn’t realize how small I was making myself in these situations. And how much responsibility I was shouldering that wasn’t my business to shoulder at all.
One time in high school, a bunch of us choir buddies were asked to sing at one of our friend’s churches. We went, sang a song about Jesus, nailed it (sry, too soon?) and then were forced to listen to this preacher sermonize about how non-Christian people are going to hell. At which point I turned and looked at my friend (an Iranian Zoroastrian) and we both just rolled our eyes because we were so used to this treatment by people toward us. Fucking jaded as fuck from this shit by 17 years old. I think the girl who asked us to go apologized after. I really don’t remember. At this point, and honestly since the dawn of time, apologies are not enough.
Being nice is not enough. There are no “both sides” to this equation. It’s not ok to tell people being brutalized that they need to identify or compromise with their abusers. It is not my job to hold your people accountable. Or hold your hand through your discomfort. White Christian folk, it’s yours. If I had been at that service today, I would have just gotten up and walked out. I don’t have the tolerance my younger self had for bullshit and no one’s fuckery is entitled to my time and space. It is not my job to constantly try to prove my worth to people who already believe I’m worthless and taking up space that belong to them. All I know, without a doubt, is that my life is more important than White Christian Feelings™. The lives of my friends and family and all the various communities we are members of: POC communities, LGBTQ+, immigrant, Indigenous, Muslim, etc. are more important than White Christian Feelings™. If YOU have feelings it is YOUR job to go to a therapist and work on them and not culturally appropriate the use of tiki torches by using them to throw a tantrum while waving Confederate and Nazi flags, ramming your cars through crowds of people, and beating the shit out of peaceful protestors.
I try to be a good person. I know that majorities of people in this country are also trying to be good people. But, I’m going to level with you white Christian folks. I don’t trust you. I also have a lot of resentment toward you. If you’re hurt by me saying that, I don’t care. It’s taken me a very long time to admit this. It’s taken an incredible amount of work to unpack and uncondition myself to the idea that I’m a bad person for feeling this way and for not seeing the “many sides.” But, you don’t deserve my trust. You’re not entitled to anything from anybody. Once again, YOUR problem. Tough titties, bro.
When I started seeing images of the gathering of angry white men with torches on Friday night, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be able to participate in the onslaught of coverage of what was happening in Charlottesville, VA. I was right. The moment I opened Facebook and saw image after image and article after article of the Pasty Wasps Boys parade screaming anti-Semitic slurs, racist drivel, and throwing their arms up in Sieg Heil to Fuhrer Trump I found my breath catch in my throat. Those images turned into the countless hours of footage of the Nazis and their methodical tactics to exterminate our families shown to us every year to make sure we never forgot. The shots of piles of dead bodies found and photographed by the liberators morphed in my head from unknown members of the tribe to my parents and my siblings. Lifeless forms hanging from trees became my friends who dare to be themselves; worship who they wish to worship, love who they love, celebrating being black as fuck (Talia, I am living for you and your InstaStories right now and forever and always). It took me almost a full twenty-four hours and a hiatus from social media to get the panic attacks to stop.
Never again. Our communities make a point to pass down the atrocities we faced so we can make sure these things never happen again to anyone. Why don’t you learn what has happened to us? How is it that our heritage, which is intertwined with yours, weighs so heavily on only our hearts?
Do you not have hearts?
What exactly is wrong with you.
Here’s a collection of other things that have been swirling around in my brainhole:
- Have we past the point of no return for democracy in this country? I’m afraid of staying in this country until it’s too late. I’m afraid of leaving this country that I love and have so much hope for and not knowing if I’ll have more confidence in my survival instincts at the end of it or live with feeling like a coward for the rest of my life. Then again, some of my family made it here in time. Others were murdered and dumped in a grave they were forced to dig themselves.
-I was in Israel with my family in June and I remember I had a moment while sitting on the roof of the hotel we were staying at in Jerusalem with my dad. I remember feeling very quiet and comfortable. I thought of a conversation I had had with my aunt a few weeks prior when she had said that when she went to Israel for the first time 30 some years ago it amazed her that she was in a place where everyone was Jewish. Then, it clicked. I realized that despite the fact that Jerusalem and much of Israel is religiously diverse and that there is still a hugely unsettling political environment present there, that I was in a place where Judaism was accepted. It was a norm. I was in a place where I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone no matter what my actual beliefs, practices or lack thereof are. That’s when I thought, “Wow. This is what it must feel like to be a White Christian back home.”
- I love this country. Maybe, more accurately, I love the concept of this country. I’m a 6th generation American. Which means that my lineage has been here almost as long as this country has been the United States of America. Which also means my lineage has been oppressed while actively engaging in and benefitting from the oppression of others. Immigrants were able to come and build a life for themselves as a result of the genocide of hundreds of millions of First Nations people. My five-times great grandfather fought in the Civil War against the Union. He was not allowed to fight with his fellow southerners and instead was in a separate infantry specifically for Jews. Everything about this sucks. I can only guess that this relative was doing what he felt was right, as way to assimilate, get closer to the American Dream, I’ll never know. Here’s what I do know: The Confederacy lost, as they should have. State’s rights my ass. And failure is a good thing. Failure means things have the potential to be better. It gives us a chance to sit back, deal with our filth, and clean it out. Something this country still hasn’t done.
#ImmigrantsWeGetThe Job Done