The Jews got that this was a joke. My Christians peeps got it. But one uber-anti-semite might have missed the point.
The song I was called, “I’ll Be Jewish For Christmas.” It was a satirical song and while it was jokingly bitter, it was obviously very tongue-in-cheek. To some. Like, to sane people. I performed it at my show, “Broad Comedy,” and we posted it on Youtube. Here’s what the Youtube responder in question said:
“Unfunny, vulgar, racist scum jews with their gutter religion who feel it’s fine to insult other religions. Then wonder why they are the most hated people on the planet and have been kicked out of every country they tried to settle in…Get back in the oven.”
Now, ignoring the historical inaccuracy (American Jews seem to have retained our citizenship so far) and the fact that the last bit was an inadvertent compliment, (the assumption that one such as I could be clever enough to get out of the oven of my own accord), I have to say, I love Christmas, and the song my husband and I wrote is satirical about how a Jew feels left out, and has to settle for Chinese food and a movie. So to watch it and feel genuinely insulted speaks I guess, to his feeling defensive already — about Jews, but probably about other things as well. Might I make a stab in the dark and suggest he’s probably threatened by Muslims too? Hispanics? Gays? I’m just taking a wild guess here.
But, as a Jewish-Christian-Buddhist-agnostic myself, how does one respond? My first inclination as a satirist was to write something funny back, but this isn’t funny. He attacked another artist on YouTube who’d done some similar anti-Christmas spoof, but that artist had chosen to apologize for offending him. But I am absolutely not inclined to apologize to a racist. And it doesn’t make any sense. I would happily apologize for any number of my pieces for other reasons or for offending when I took a cheap shot. But it’s like after bad sex: don’t apologize. It only makes it worse.
I went through my options: ignore, insult back, gather supportive responses, block the guy from facebook… and what self-respecting, self-promoting comic would pass up the kind of exposure garnered with a follow-up song?! Hmmmm. “I’ll Be A Neo-Nazi for Martin Luther King Day?” I’ll get to work on it.
But the mother in me also said, “Damn, he could know where we live.” And that’s when I thought – oh no, I’m not speaking out because I’m afraid. And we all know where that leads.
Last week, we were telling my 8-year old about the Holocaust, really I guess for the first time, which to gentiles may seem inappropriately early to tell someone that young about such terrifying stuff (but glass houses, people – you’ve got a guy hanging by nails in front of the kids, even on jewelry!), but I would bet other Jews reading this think it’s late. “How did she get away with not telling him this long?” they ask. Well, the answer is we live in a mountain town out west most of the time… so not a lot of other chatty Jews with which to share Holocaust stories with by the fire.
When I told my son Hitler had rounded up and killed millions of Jews, he said (and I knew this was coming because I have a button-pushing-comment psychic-superpower, so I’d prepared), “Well, Mom, then I’d just pretend I wasn’t Jewish.” And because I’d prepared for this, I did not, (and I have a witness), freak out and say something he would have to go through years of therapy to undo. In fact, I had one of the most mature responses I’ve ever made to him (for a comparison, please see other songs of mine about lame parenting skills). I said, well, look, let’s say people thought that the Humane Society was a total waste of money and time (he’s a huge animal freak) and they wanted to shut it down, but you thought it was important and cruel to abandon the animals so you would fight for it, right? He got the message immediately, but because I am not able to stop when a lesson is learned (and I was having a little spasm of civil rights activism), I had to go on and compare it to what if people thought that having an X-Box 360 was immoral and didn’t want you or any of your friends to play it and… Even my 8 year old said, “Okay mom, that’s pushing it a little.” But he got the picture.
Back at the computer, I was still not convinced doing nothing was the answer. And then the Buddhist in me raised its irrepressible head — the annoying goodie two-shoes in class — and said, “How can we make this world a more compassionate place by our response to this?” Well, crap. Now I had to be compassionate. So the first thing was to think, okay what has happened in this guy’s life that made him this way, cuz this is a “nurture” not “nature” scenario. Obviously, peers and family probably pumped up his hate, but what else? A friend suggested perhaps both his parents were treated by Jewish doctors who didn’t succeed at saving their lives? Familiar and apocryphal (Hitler), but unlikely and just too, too HBO. Or like “A Very Special iCarly.”
Perhaps jealousy? I know as a group Jews are somewhat successful and of course we all know we run the liberal media conspiracy that rules everything (which of course accounts for Oprah’s success) and so is there a powerlessness at issue here? If there’s One Thing I Know For Sure (Oprah again! See it’s true!) it’s that people who feel insecure lash out and hate others. I’ve seen it every day with kids I work with at our camp and we see it in the news. Countries that have money and stability and healthcare and women who are allowed to breathe, don’t harbor as many terrorists. You never read that the school shooter was voted most likely to succeed, or most liked. These angry/sad/disturbed, unheard people use anonymous platforms to feel a little more powerful and get through the day.
But enough compassion. Screw that. There are also very high-functioning visible racists, many of whom have been voted into office by other racists.
I will admit the anonymity of it is spooky, especially when my husband, Soren, and I are so public with our opinions and satire. And really, it’s surprising this song elicited the most intense comment ever when really we have so many other offensive songs to choose from! What a waste!
When we get negative comments from posting songs of ours like “Glenn Beck is Batshit Crazy” I have no problem because we all just agree to disagree. But when it’s racist or bigoted the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. At the rate we’re going, I might have to start waxing my neck.
I didn’t take this personally in the least, though I was meant to. Being part of a group that is hated has very little to do with you. But being part of the human race makes me connected to this man, and as a Buddhist, in a very real we-are-all-one sort of way.
So what made me saddest of all was that I knew I couldn’t change this man’s mind. I don’t care what he thinks of me, but that he was routing for the demise of an entire group of people he doesn’t know anything about made me so sad. And as I said, for others too. I’m betting he’s not a big donor to the American Negro College Fund.
And I admit, I have had times where I felt like we would be better off without people of a different political affiliation than mine – how ‘bout only the people who agree with me about school funding are allowed to vote! – and yet this is ridiculous. I’m to blame for divisiveness too.
My husband, Soren, and I wrote a comedic song recently about how we should all come together and put aside our differences for our country. My character is enthusiastically singing this operatically, and then the punch line is, “Okay, you go first.”
Even those of us who want to bring the country together aren’t doing a great job. We may be sick to death of hating each other and using volatile language and having that kind of atmosphere create a country where a lunatic goes out and assassinates a politician (yes he was mentally ill, but he did kill a politician, not his neighbor’s poodle, so…), but I wonder how many hours of sitting on a cushion practicing compassionate mindfulness will it take to be willing to, I don’t know, maybe “go first.”
This isn’t just a rant about the pot calling the kettle black, (and I always call the kettle African American, so there), but I do know we all have to see how we’re contributing to this, and as a comedian I am too.
But not everyone gets irony either.
It’s May and I’m finally putting away the giant tub of Christmas decorations in my Jewish-Buddhist-Christian-and-generally-agnostic basement. My only hope is that for my son’s generation, as the world gets closer, that we get to know each other better.
Maybe I’ll mail that guy some kugel. My Christian in-laws love it.