"The problem here is a totalitarian uniformity, a cult-like mentality such that even allies are enemies if they fail to follow the Exact Party Line. " - Phyllis Chesler

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Being A Jew

Before I sit down to write my promised blog post on race as I see it, I wanted to give you a little about me. If you're new here and haven't read the top part of this page, you should know that I am Jewish.

I used to have more liberal thoughts on dating and felt very strongly for most of my younger life that it didn't matter what religion or race/color someone was, that people were people and you love who you love. OK it is true you love you love who you love but here's my experience that has changed me and made me the person I am today.

I loved with every fiber of my being a Mexican man. Loved him more than I could ever imagine I could ever love another human being. In fact that relationship taught me what love feels like to me, real love. I thought I loved others before and I probably did. But this man I loved unconditionally. And for those of you who knew me when, you really know that sentence is true.

I have always prided myself on being the kind of person who lived her morals and values and was pretty relentless in that, watching others talk bullshit but never live the talk.

And so I ended up knowing him through a very interesting channel and falling madly deeply in love. I never thought of him as My Mexican. Here's the thing most of you really do not get. You are probably insulted by that last sentence but it is the truth and so it stands. To him I was his Jew and the Gringa. And he wasn't the only one either.

I really think this is lost on most younger Americans and possible many Canadians too as our cultures are very similar. We're very idealistic and we think everything revolves around us and how we think life should be. And most of us really have no clue how the rest of the world truly lives. I don't mean visiting another place and eating their food and touring around. I mean immersing ourselves into other cultures, sort of hiding into the background and really listening to them when they think we aren't listening. Because the truth is most other cultures have big issues with being polite, which many of us in our culture would label as lying.

Quick example into the Mexican and South American Culture. Many people from those places will say yes to a request of yours because it would be impolite to say no and they feel very obligated. Someone who grew up in the same country would never even ask what we would see as no big deal to ask, never getting into this position. The fallout is that either that person never shows up to the said event or place and later you hear such apologes about why they couldn't get there, when they never had any intent to go in the first place or the person is quite resentful and you can tell with how they treat you during that time. I have experienced this many many times and it bothered me so much because I didn't realize this was what was happening. It had to be pointed out to me.

Now this is not a judgement, it is just something that is. Once you understand it you can decide to accept or not but you know how to behave with people from those other cultures and it makes your own life much happier. I can tell you for me, this was hard because in this country it is a huge value to be a strong woman and feel and act empowered. It's such a big part of who I am. So to ask for something is so natural to me, but to someone outside of this country while I was getting the polite answer, the action didn't match and it infuriated me. I didn't understand. It just wasn't viewed in the same way. We weren't "playing the same game."

So back to the original point. We have a very idealistic way of looking at life, especially our youth. Me included in that, at least for most of my life.

But in spending so much time with The Plant (the Mexican I loved) I got a very private glimpse into a world most of you will never truly see. It bothered me to no end to hear myself be refered to as the Gringa while he took calls from fellow Mexicans including his good friends back home. No amount of explaining or being upset was going to change this either. It bothered me that when describing others he would refer to them as the French girl, the black guy etc...And I know I was la Judea.

Before you write to me that that is only one person...which is the typical liberal response, which I could in and of itself blast into smithereens as it really is such an empty response, I will tell you he wasn't the only Mexican I ever had a relationship with nor the only man from a Spanish speaking culture I ever dated. I have a history of dating hispanic men not from my country. And I'll divulge now, which will probably shock you later when I write about race etc... that a couple have even been here illegally. Each and every time I experienced the same thing with regard to being La Judea and listening to how they spoke about other people. These cultures think nothing of it and they cannot understand why we get ourselves in such a twist about this stuff.

So you see it really is only in this country that I am even considered White. Which the correct term is caucasion. Which is why I say race/color. And so for future posts you'll understand when I purposely write the word color, you'll understand rather than attack. Because mostly, our anger at all these supposed racists statements really come from lack of understanding and our own ignornance which make us project onto others our anger, where we start to call people racist when in fact what is being said, or the action we witness truly had nothing to do with race at all.

As a Jew I have the unique ability to blend in and hear truly racists anti-semetic rants. It's usually a shock to the offending person to know he was just caught. I have had people tell me I am going to hell, and people in my own neighborhood where I live today rant about the cheap jews this or that, and this is a neighborhood with many observant Jews. Let's just say I have heard many a thing because people think I am Italian and not Jewish. And you see right there, that tells it all.

Why am I telling you this? I am telling you this because when I do finally find my way to writing that piece on race, which is going to take me some time, I want you to , or at least hope that you realize that although you might be reading things that you find shocking or just didn't expect to read from me, you realize I am no Jesse Helmes or for that matter no Sharpton, who I feel is extremely divisive and a true racist.

Here's a video that I think touches on the many points I just made in my post today. I ask that you watch the following video with an open mind and a new eye. Leave your personal knee jerk reactions behind. Watch it full through. LISTEN to what the company's CEO says about his company and adverstising.


Candid Carrie said...

Dearest Lauren,

I am constantly amazed by the profound thoughts my current friends have and yes, although we never met In The Real World I totally consider you as one of the people I know today. See I didn't even put quotes around the word know because that's how well I know you ;)

I need to reveal that there is a good chance that I am one part Asian (because I never ever saw the monkey thing as being racist until it was pointed out to me), one part white, one part Catholic, one part German to which I actually feel no connection to that heritage, one part mom trying to raise racially-sensitive children, and maybe even more parts that I haven't discovered yet. I am, however, the sum of all my parts.

If my grandfather were alive today, I would have told him Lauren was my friend with the great hair and the colorful aura that just got her bra upgraded and my grandfather would have said, "you mean that Jew girl?" And I would have said, "Yes, that's Lauren. I am glad you remembered her."

I have a responsibility to my children to make a difference by not giving them tunnel-vision and enough respect for my grandfather who died last year in his early-nineties to respect his life experiences as he grew up and not correct him in his house.

My grandfather no longer had the power to influence the up and coming generations like he had in the past. As a child immigrant he came over in the underbelly of a boat to Ellis Island and sat with his seven siblings and mother. His father came earlier and secured housing and jobs and then sent for the rest of his family. He was proud of that and I learned to appreciate his point of view.

As I grew, I learned that there were other points of view, equally fascinating that required equal respect even if I didn't understand those points as intimately as I understood my grandfather's history.

In summary, had I prepared the commercial I would have been taken aback to find out that it was offensive to some. I would have mulled that over, whined about being tired of being politcally correct twenty four flippin' hours of the day. I would have bitched non-stop about the poor quality of the study groups I paid good money to have review this commercial. I would have fired the ad agency and pulled the commercial.

If I really felt good about the commercial I had been responsible for being a part of and I was of a truly pure mind in this matter, I would keep it in my office and watched it occassionally and laughed at it because it was meant to be entertaining. And, with counseling (because I would have certainly persoanlized this) I would move on to bigger and better commercials that made the monkey commercial look like the piece of monkey shit that it was and then reaped the benefits that karma brought to me because I did the right thing for a lot of people that I never met.

Alright, Lauren ... with that said I will not put my tongue in my cheeck and say to you, "You, dear, are my first Jew. I'll always remember my first."

** The ideas reflected in this comment are strictly the early morning ideas of this author. They may in no way reflect the afternoon or evening views of this same author because the ideas vary as the day goes on and more information is received.

Jessica said...

I agree that Americans tend to have a very idealistic way of looking at things, and that is why it is hard for most of us to have any true conception on what life is like in other countries.

I can't imagine being referred to as the Jew...etc. That would end up making me feel like crap. I understand that he was probably coming from a culture where things like that were accepted, and meant nothing by it, but still using my American view point...I wouldn't have been able to handle it.

But, then again when you are truly, deeply in love..."We" look at things in a much different light.

Candid Carrie said...

I have had more time to think so I am back. I've got a little bit more coffee in my system than I did earlier, so I am ready to give this another shot.

In 1982, I worked in management at a small, yet popular, private college. Students came from all over the world to attend and that was the point in my life that there were many shades of black on the outside and a variety of shades of black on the inside, too. Don't be all "oh my gosh" shocked, because I know everyone knows what I am talking about right now.

Back to 1982, I was at our tiny hometown mall and one of the students came up close to my son and said to him, "I'll bet you didn't know we could come out of your television, did you?" Alright, my son was too little to understand, but I wasn't. One awkward second later, African American literally from Africa gave me a big hug, twirled me around and said, "It is so nice to see you outside of school, it makes you so much more human."

That was my first experience with, with ... I don't know what to call it. I loved that this black man was able to declare so simply stated that I was more human out side of school. I loved that this man regardless of his color was confident of himself as a man to rise above the attitude that I am unable to attach an adjective to right now. You know that attitude I am speaking of, I just don't know what to call it. I don't know if it is angry entitlement, I don't feel it so I don't understand it but I don't want it shoved in my face or my kids face because I am living in the here and now.

When my oldest son was in school, we were taught to be sensitive to races and it was a tenuous (sp) time. A few years and another child later, we were being taught to be color blind, the human race knows no color. A few years and another child later, we are being taught to be politically correct and becareful because that changes every day. I've got six kids, so hang in here with me but another kid later, I am being taught to celebrate diversity.

Truth be told, my kids range from twenty six to five. I was a child from the late fifties and I don't know how I am supposed to act today or how to raise my children. I work hard to teach them right from wrong, but it is tough when things change so rapidly during my fifty years.

Lauren, I love you dearly, and if I was with you I would hold your hand and smile and sit next to you and tell you how brave you are for writing what you did today.

I feel cowardly, hiding in your comment section spouting off over here while I attempt to stand next to you.

Insane Mama said...

Wow Carrie sure is chatty today! Sheesh
I applaud you for being so open with your thoughts. Religion and race are tricky. I can hide in here too and say that I am totally in love with a half black man, I was married to a Maltese man, and I had a child out of wedloc with a German man. My parents are Mormon, my sister is Catholic, my brother is jewish and seriously I don't know whatI am anymore. But I am proud to be who I am today. It seems as though I have taken the bumby road in life, and I have experienced alot

leezee52 said...

I tried to email you and it's not going through.

Drowsey Monkey said...

Yes, it's so true, I mean relating a money to an african american is only racist if you know the context & the history. It's very complex. Which is why when americans & canadians go to Japan or China they can easily offend people and have no idea why. I find racism isn't in what people say, it's the history that goes along with it and the intent that the user has.

Great post :)

leezee52 said...

Lauren I grew up knowing that I would marry someone Jewish and didn't let myself get into that situation where my boyfriend would say things like that. My whole life was “You will marry someone Jewish” and it wasn't done in a mean way but I was just taught that marriage is hard enough let alone different religions and if something goes bad the first thing they say...you know what...I can’t even say it. My Dad didn’t take a job in Salt Lake City, Utah because he thought 3 little girls…I don’t think so. My parents were not at all prejudice but when it came to their girls they just wanted us to have a good life and not in fear of someone being anti-Semitic towards us.

My best friend in high school was Mormon and she had her religious activities and I had mine and we used to laugh at our religions but we knew we were different and that’s what was so great about us.

About the monkey it was wrong of them to do that! I think that in this world there will always be a lower class of people in someone’s eyes, its just nature.

swile67 said...

thanks for your comments on my blog...i actually would love to be a travel writer...i love reading travel biographies too!!! anyways about this post...

i appreciate your candidness (and carrie's too...you aren't hiding Carrie!) I lived in Sweden for a year and they couldn't get over the fact that we Canadians would greet them with, " hi, how are you?" but never stick around to find out!! it made me more sensitive to these cultural differences.

swile67 said...

i forgot to tell you i visited the american ulster folk museum...it was the Mellon homestead...very interesting history of how the Irish landed in America! I have see many Mellon banks in the US so it was neat to find out the history!