Current affairs

I Do Not Want to Replace You

A few days ago I woke up in the middle of a nightmare. I was dreaming about trying to get my family out of San Francisco before a nuclear missile hit the west coast.  I needed to figure out where to go and how to get there.  And I was boarding up our house because I had read earlier in the day that the best thing to do in nuclear attack is to shelter in place in a room without windows…we don’t have such a room in our house.  I haven’t had a nuclear holocaust nightmare since 7th grade when a teacher made us watch The Day After.  I thought it couldn’t get worse than the premise of that movie.  Until last weekend.

As my wife would say, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed that I haven’t written in a while.  There have been a number of reasons why, the main one being time — I’ve taken on some more work and I want to spend as much time as I can with our boys.  Instead of writing on Friday afternoons, for example, I now take Ryan for a “Super Friday” with Daddy.  He gets to pick where we go, and I have now realized that when you let a 3-year-old pick, you will likely spend a lot of time on the train going to the candy store.

But that is not the whole truth.

It is really hard to write these days.  There is just so much noise and confusion.  I was going to write about nuclear war, and then the Google guy wrote his ridiculous manifesto about the inferiority of women (for which he deserved to be fired).  And then Nazi Germany came to Virginia.  Let’s not forget climate change, the dismantling of the EPA, the Mueller investigation, among so many other things…so many of which don’t get more than a day’s worth of attention, if that much.

Memorial for Heather Heyer who was killed in Charlottesville

I wanted to write about the fact that the Governor of Virginia said that one of the reasons the police responded the way they did in Charlottesville was because the white supremacists were so heavily armed and had more powerful weapons than the police.  Guns should have been a bigger story coming out of this weekend.  And I wanted to write about Taylor Swift taking a sexual assault predator to task for grabbing her ass at a photoshoot.  He actually sued her for $3 million.  Even more so, like many of you I imagine, I’ve been lost in the world of all of these “new” phrases such as false equivalency, dog whistles, whataboutism. It’s mind spinning and mind numbing.  In fact, this is my fourth attempt recently to write a coherent blog post.  I wrote nearly 2,000 words on Tuesday on a topic that seemed almost immediately out of date given our President’s “off the rails” press conference later that afternoon.

We all know at this point what occurred in Charlottesville.  I don’t need to rehash it here.  If you want to see how it all went down, I highly recommend watching Vice’s documentary on the events on HBO.  It is breathtaking (not in a good way, like literally will make you stop breathing) and will stay with you for a while.

One part of the weekend that has stayed with me is the white nationalists, holding their Tiki torches, chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us.”  Maybe I’m just a dim bulb but I can’t for the life of me understand what they were trying to say.  Are they concerned that all these Jews are going to rise up like the White Walkers from Game of Thrones and take their jobs at Top Dog? Let me be straight about this, and I can’t really speak for all Jewish people here but I’m going to take a leap…we have no intention of replacing you, we just want you to leave us alone.

It feels odd to me to write about being Jewish.  I mean, I’ve been Jewish since my bris, which I thankfully cannot remember, but until Donald Trump was elected President, I haven’t had to actively think about being Jewish all that often.  That’s been true for at least 20 years and especially since I moved to the Bay Area (side note: holy crap, I can’t believe it’s been almost 20 years away from NYC!).  I’ll always be Jewish, but it doesn’t define me now in the ways it did when I was younger.  I’m defined by my family, my kids, my work, my love for baseball.

The last time I had to “defend” myself for being Jewish was in the fifth grade when another boy in the neighborhood called me a “Jew boy.”

I went to Hebrew school for many years, had a Bar Mitzvah (and let’s be clear right now, I aced my haftorah) and celebrated all of the major Jewish holidays.  I very much grew up in a conservative Jewish family.  That’s not to say I understood it all or believed that God really needed me to refrain from eating french toast on Yom Kippur.  I remember this running conversation/fight/disagreement with my mom that I couldn’t go outside on the high holy days unless I was dressed up, and I HATED wearing a shirt with a collar (still do).  She thought it was about respect (she was likely right for the point she was trying to make) and I thought that God didn’t care what I wore, just what I believed.

It’s been an interesting few months — to say the least — for many reasons, but for me, having to think about being Jewish is one of them.  Nothing has ostensibly changed with how I live my life in that regard…yet.  I can’t tell you if there is a synagogue close to where I live and I don’t know when Yom Kippur falls this year unless I look at a calendar.

But, I think the one thing that our President has “given” to us is the need now to think about who we are, who we want to be, how are we defined and what we want our kids to understand and learn.  The thing about being Jewish, at least for me, is that regardless of whether I dress up as Santa for my kids and pretend to come down the chimney on Christmas Eve or forget the name of the middle candle on a menorah, it is a part of who I am and how I engage with the world.

When I was really young, let’s say 1st/2nd grade, the older kids on the block let me play baseball with them on the street.  That was a big deal.  They were huge to me and I thought they were so cool.  There were very few kids in my neighborhood that were Jewish at the time and I remember one kid, Gary, who was Jewish and lived across the street.  He played sometimes too. And one time he dropped the ball (or something) and some of the big kids called him a “Jew Bastard.”  One of them turned to me and said “no offense Neil.”  I can’t remember what I did or said specifically, but I know it was pretty close to nothing. Maybe I nodded, said “no problem” and smiled sheepishly.  I was 7 years old, and I really wanted to play.

I didn’t stand up for myself then.

But I can now.


Photo courtesy of Bob Mical/Flickr:

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