The Most Frustrating Thing About Anti-Semitism Is What It's Based On: NOTHING

I’ve said here before that I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust — in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore just 20 years after the camps were liberated. Many survivors lived in my community. I can tell you from experience — it’s damned hard for a little kid to wrap his young mind around that much hatred for who he is when, as far as he knows — he’s done nothing to deserve it.

The Nazis didn’t invent anti-Semitism, of course, they merely industrialized it — finding ways to make money off the hatred via forced labor and even body parts. If Spain had had similar technology at its disposal, I’m sure the Spanish Inquisition would have been even ghastlier and more gruesome & cruel than it was.

In between the Spanish Inquisition (well before it too) all the way up to the Holocaust, anti-Semitism saw plenty of other outlets — pogroms and other mass murders of Jews often when the Christians decided they didn’t want to pay back the money the Jews had loaned them. The church made it hard for anyone other than Jews to lend money. Follow that? The Church made it illegal for anyone except Jews to lend money — though the Church also understood that the lending & borrowing of money was essential to the Church’s economic survival. Massive churches don’t pay for themselves to be built — or kept up.

The Church made anti-Semitism part of its economic strategy. In a perverse way, it was genius.

But where did the Church’s Jew-hatred start?

Jesus — if he existed in any way as the person we think he was — did not invent Christianity. He was born, lived and died a Jew. Back in the 1970’s, Bible scholar Robert Funk put together The Jesus Seminar — a group of about 50 critical biblical scholars and 100 laymen who wanted to tease out a historical Jesus from the Gospels. That Jesus taught a very simple message: Do Unto Others.

He also taught that one did not need a temple or its high priests to speak to Yahweh (the God character’s actual name). One could go to “the father” directly.

So where did a “church” come from? Where did Christianity come from? That’d be Paul — the former Saul of Tarses. If Saul never has his moment on the road too Damascus, Christianity never gets invented — because Paul’s the guy who invented Christianity.

The bulk of the NT is Paul’s work — his epistles to the far flung churches HE was nurturing and encouraging. But encouraging to do & believe what? What was Paul selling? Paul tried hard to sell his version of Jesus to the Jewish community except they weren’t interested. Paul never met Jesus. Never heard his voice or heard his teachings directly. But Paul did have an agenda — and after the Jewish community rejected him (and what he was selling), he turned his attention to the Helenized-Roman Gentile world.

Paul needed to sell Jesus as The Messiah. And Paul’s Messiah (here’s Paul’s genius) was the answer to “But what do we do about death?” Paul promised that belief in Jesus would allow the believer to live forever. This was all based on a strange re-imagining of strange Jewish mythology. To justify Jesus being the Messiah, Paul and the early Church fathers (picking up the myth-making where Paul left off) created a hodgepodge of texts and documents that told a muddled, confused story.

It wasn’t until the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) that the church itself tried to make sense of its own confounding, contradictory story. That’s the problem: IT WAS ALWAYS A STORY.

It’s a little like having your tribe be hated because of something Ron Weasley said in the Harry Potter books.

Jews have had the damnedest time defending themselves against anti-Semitism because it’s impossible to argue against bullshit. Bullshit always have the luxury of being bullshit. It never has to worry about being true or real. It never has to justify itself. It never even has to defend itself. It just falls apart and blows away.

It’s a strange experience to have another person look you in the eye and insist that you and your tribe are evil and deserve to be hated, tortured, killed and reviled because of a story. Even stranger? Knowing the person looking at you with all that hate knows less about their own religion than you do.

99% of Christian churches only ever treat Jesus as a mascot anyway. He’s Ronald McDonald selling forgiveness for your sins instead of Big Macs. Jesus — if he could rise from the dead — would never stop being disgusted by what Paul did in Jesus’ name to Jesus’ own tribe.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust

According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road… Historically, it never ends well for Jews.

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated.  In my brain, those camps never went away.

I grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have made my community so horrified that they couldn’t bear to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. As my community tends to do, we made it a teachable moment. From a young age, I was told about this tragedy and shown images that burned into my mind forever. I don’t regret that for a second. I needed to remember these lessons – forever.

I have always been grateful to Hebrew school for making me the atheist I am today — and for giving me a stone, cold accurate view of the world — and my place in it because of my tribe.

There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. You can’t cram peoples’ heads with that much bullshit and expect the bullshit not to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram a nonsense, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads that actually runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger) — don’t be surprised when the nonsense becomes the message.

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust

According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road…

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated.  In my brain, those camps never went away.

I grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have made my community so horrified that they couldn’t bear to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. As my community tends to do, we made it a teachable moment. From a young age, I was told about this tragedy and shown images that burned into my mind forever. I don’t regret that for a second. I needed to remember these lessons – forever.

I have always been grateful to Hebrew school for making me the atheist I am today — and for giving me a stone, cold accurate view of the world — and my place in it because of my tribe.

There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. You can’t cram peoples’ heads with that much bullshit and expect the bullshit not to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram a nonsense, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads that actually runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger) — don’t be surprised when the nonsense becomes the message.

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it.

Maya Angelou Had It SOOOOOO Right – When People Tell You Who They Are…

If you want me to be your friend — but, the fact is, you hate Jews on sight — I’m not seeing a future for our relationship regardless of how much you tell me MY being Jewish isn’t an issue for you. That’s not the point, right? You’re an anti-Semite. It’s who you are.

I feel the same way about Religionistas. If you tell me up front (and thanks for being honest) that the whole basis for your belief system — the foundational core of why you do what you do — is based on a fiction (in other words, you’ve bought into the story instead of its point) — then I’m not inclined to take ANYTHING you say seriously. Why would I?

If you honestly believe — and insist on its veracity — that a sky creature had reproductive sexual relations with a female “virgin” who then bore a man-god who, at the last second gets repurposed with dying for all of humanity’s sins (if that wasn’t his purpose from the start then what’s the issue with him dying — since that was his whole mission in the first place?) but rises from the dead to “prove” that by “following him” you, too, can live forever… see where I’m going? That’s a whole lot of preposterous to accept as real.

It’s Magical Thinking. Magical Thinking is great when you’re five and you’re trying to decide what soda to have with your hamburger. It doesn’t work as well when you’re an adult and you’re sending women to prison because you don’t understand even the basics of biology — because you prefer Magical Thinking to science.

When you turn around then and tell us that you don’t believe in climate change — we get the context.

The same applies to Trump supporters. Yeah, yeah — bamboozlement. Lots and lots of bamboozlement — Russian propaganda and Trumpian pomposity — gobbled up and shit back at us by our own News Media. But lots of people got it. Lots of people saw this from the outset for what it was — a treasonous coup d’etat.

Donald Trump has never been shy about telling us who he is. The onus is on us for refusing to listen to him. All those people who thought Trump would “pivot”? Magical Thinking. All those people who still think Trump is a great potus? The very worst kind of Magical Thinking — Authoritarian Magical Thinking.

Anyone still saying they’d vote for Trump? They’re telling us something. Anyone not disgusted to their neutrons & electrons by Trump? They’re telling us something, too.

Let’s do ourselves a kindness — and believe them.

The WORST Thing About Anti-Semitism Is How IRRATIONAL It Is…

A Thought Experiment:  You walk into a room.  Another person enters and punches you – hard.  You ask — “What was that for?”  And the other person responds “Because you killed my god”.  Being a RATIONAL person who doesn’t want to get punched again — and who doesn’t want to resort to violence yourself — what’s your response?

There is no response.  The moment you engage with that conversation, it wins — because YOU have to agree that its made-up bullshit could be true — otherwise, why are you arguing with them?  Everything after — ‘But that’s not true…’ is a waste of time.

Want to know why Jew Hatred has lasted as long as it has?  Because who can argue with someone who, to put it another way, thinks HARRY POTTER IS REAL?  How can you argue with someone who clearly BELIEVES IN MAGIC?  How can you argue with someone so confounded by the very texts they claim to ‘believe in’?  How can you argue with people who are confounded by those texts because the INSTITUTION that assembled them and shaped them and crafted them into a particular narrative had that very hostility toward the Mother Religion in mind?

You can’t.

Instead you get vilified.  You get re-imagined as something you aren’t.  You get to be “We hate Jews cos Jews killed Jesus”.

What was it Marx said about religion being the opiate of the people?  He had that dead wrong.  If only it were an opiate that medicated people or narcotized them.  It’s much more like meth or angel dust.  It gets brains hopped up on something almost entirely artificial.

There are great, meaningful, profound lessons to be taken from the assembled texts of the Old and New Testaments.  Why is it religious people seem to take NONE of those lessons away with them?  The whole reason Jesus’ message still resonates today — even in the minds of an atheist — is because it’s so essential to living a good life:  “DO UNTO OTHERS”.  But not only simple enough for even a troglodyte to grasp — “DO UNTO OTHERS” is ‘actionable’.  it’s not some airy-fairy abstract notion of ‘goodness’, it’s a simple proposition:  “How do YOU wish to be treated?  Then treat every other person exactly that way.”

Boom.  The genius that evolved at the very tail end of the Genesis through Book of Revelations story — its takeaway theme.  The whole point of the exercise.

Except it was never about Jesus or the Jews or their message.  Why on earth do you call it ‘Christianity’ anyway?  Paul (the former Saul of Tarsus) is really the faith’s ‘inventor’.  Paul’s the guy who broke with Jesus’ family — because they were happy being Jews while Paul had other ideas.  That’s Paul, by the way, who (just going by the story here) never met Jesus ever.  Or heard his voice.  Or heard his message.

But it was Paul who ‘spread Jesus’ message’.  Except — looking over the sales materials — all the letters and epistles Paul sent to the nascent congregations of non-Jews that were flickering to life all over the Roman Empire — Paul was spreading Paul’s message a lot more than he was spreading Jesus’.

Jesus (it was never his name — just like ‘god’ is not Yahweh’s name — it’s his job description) was born, lived his whole life as and died A Jew.  If you called him a Christian to his face, he wouldn’t know what you were talking about.  And if you told the Actual Jesus (if he ever really was) what YOU now believed because YOU believed in HIM — He’d be stunned.  And he’d think you were insane.  Because very little of what YOU believe is what HE believed.

Paul started out needing to deify Jesus.  Paul traveled in messianic times.  To make his case that Jesus was a more real deal than any of the others, he needed to conform Jesus’ story to the pre-existing Hebrew mythology — all those texts we now call the Old Testament.  The messiah story had rules — and if Jesus was going to be the messiah, he had to fit into the rules.  He had to be connected to King David.  He had to be prophesied.  He had to be born in a certain place under certain conditions.

Paul broke with Jesus’ family because they didn’t want to go there.  They didn’t want or need to be part of another religion because they were perfectly happy being Jews — as Jesus had been.

If Jesus was an actual person, he existed in a world that ‘had rules’.  It worked a certain way and didn’t work in lots of other ways.  The temple hierarchy, for instance, behaved one particular way and not in a lot of other ways.  Paul (or ‘the school of Paul’) — not having been there — and having an agenda — described the scene as he needed it to be and not as it was.

Paul’s bottom line was this:  He needed a reason for Jesus’ deification — a purpose that accepting the faith would accomplish:  Salvation.  From Death.  If Jesus could be resurrected, so can you.

None of that came from Jesus.  The idea of  ‘A Church’ certainly never came from Jesus.  As I read the texts, Jesus wasn’t all that ‘down’ with the Institution.  His whole deal — as I read what JESUS SAID (and not all the other drivel put into his mouth by ‘the apostles’ — check out The Jesus Seminar — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar — it was a group of 50 bible scholars and 100 laymen, founded in 1985 with the mission of discerning, if they could, an actual human Jesus from the texts), was you can have a direct relationship with the deity; you don’t need a temple or a church (or the institution inside them) to do it.  In other words, to create a church around Jesus is to, right off the bat, do the OPPOSITE of Jesus.

But, what would Paul know?

Virtually everything about the story of Jesus’ death is a fiction.  It’s no more real than Harry Potter.  There are facts and then there’s bullshit.  To hate Jews because they ‘killed Jesus’ is bullshit.

To KILL THEM because of it?

There are no words that can adequately describe it.  Maybe one:  “ANTISEMITISM”.

 

 

 

I Grew Up In The Holocaust’s Shadow

I grew up in the 1960’s in a mostly upper middle class Jewish suburb in northwest Baltimore.  Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that the area — and its Junior & Senior High Schools — were known as ‘Kikesville’, get it?

World War II ended 14 years before I was born.  By the time I started attending Hebrew School (beginning when I was 6) , the War was 20 years in the World’s rear view mirror.  Most of the War’s visible impacts were long gone.  But the scars — they were all still fresh for lots of people.  Jews, for instance.

The generation that had been alive during this atrocity now had to inform the next generation that this thing had happened.  They needed to tell us because even though the true horror was over, a new ideal had been born from the ashes falling over places like Auschwitz and Dachau and Buchenwald and Treblinka.  Jews would never ever go like lambs to the slaughter again.  That began with KNOWING that it happened and could always happen again.

It began early — knowing.  Keep in mind — these monsters killed children with not an iota of conscience.  It became important for Jewish children to understand that they could never be completely safe in this world.  You need to have that notion instilled early.  If you don’t learn it early enough, you’ll be surprised or disappointed or crushed when someone you care about or who you thought cared about you turns out to be one of them: A Jew-Hater.

Expect to be hated.  Have a plan — either to calm the situation down or run for the border — already in mind.

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The image that first got inside my head was this one.  Jews being arrested in the Warsaw Ghetto, sometime in April or May 1943.  I saw that kid with his arms up — his terrified eyes screaming ‘What’d we do?  Why us?’  Ironically — though a number of people in this iconic photo have been identified — along with their fate — the boy in the middle — the boy who kind of epitomized how I identified as a Jew — THAT boy’s fate is unknown.

Like a lot of young Jews my age, I identified with that boy.  He was me.

The Warsaw Ghetto — as terrible a place as it was — also was the site of the biggest (not the only) active Jewish Resistance.  From January to April 1943, the Germans were fired on and killed when they entered the Ghetto.  They fired back, of course — in the end, they wiped the Ghetto off the map —

Warsaw_Ghetto_destroyed_by_Germans,_1945

That’s what’s left of the Warsaw Ghetto — 1945.  400,000 Jews were transported out.  The Germans killed 35,000 Jews while starvation and disease killed 83,000.

The Will to Fight Back was born in that place.

When I see people like THIS in America — I know where it leads.

What’s truly horrifying — I absolutely believed as I was growing up that my parents and my community were nuts for shoving the Holocaust down our throats.  The World my generation was going to re-imagine would never allow such a thing to happen in the future.  There’s a reason we don’t let stupid children run things: they’re stupid.  And they’re children.

It truly hurts sto see swastikas here and know it’s not an anomaly.  It’s who this country is and always has been.

Lesson keeps getting learned:  Don’t get too comfortable here.  Don’t get too comfortable anywhere…

You live in a shadow.

If Bullshit Had A ‘Hall Of Fame’…

Bullshit comes with being Human.  We don’t know yet if Bullshit comes with being sentient; do other animals capable of conscious thought LIE to each other when necessary?  Why would we assume they didn’t?

I’m just saying — Lying and Bullshit seem so natural to us that it could be an organic outgrown of having a ‘sense of self’, an imperative to protect that ‘self’ from harm, and an impulse to alter the Truth in order to protect from harm.

Lie to a dog — about whether or not you’ll give it a treat — and you’ll see a mind grappling with bullshit.  Ever watch a Nature Program where a pack of wild dogs hunt?  It’s all about deception — that’s the nature of setting a trap:  the trapped think safety lies in one direction when it doesn’t.  It’s the creation of a legitimate fear for a bullshit reason (‘Run THIS way not THAT or you’ll get eaten).  Next thing you know — you’re eaten.

Bullshit is powerful stuff used on the fly.

It’s even MORE powerful when given time to ‘cure’ like concrete.  Just like concrete, as BULLSHIT hardens, it becomes more difficult to destroy.  After a while — if it continues to stand, it becomes foundational — a thing that’s always been so it must be true…

Today’s Featured Player – “THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION”…

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First published in Russia in 1903, the ‘Protocols’ want you to believe that a bunch of Jews got together and — having already planned World Domination — decided to get it all down in writing (bad writing).  It ain’t even a good story.

If you really want to hate another group of people, please, Anti-Semites, have a little self-respect.  Just go and hate.  Don’t try to embellish with nonsense like this — it’s ‘unbecoming’…

C’mon, Jew-Haters — if you’re really THAT into hating Jews, why would you need an excuse?  Isn’t your capacity to hate good enough for you?  You need Bullshit Reasons for hating?

Chrissakes — don’t tell me even Bigotry has been wrecked by the Age of Trump…