20 March 2017

On the Current Antisemitism



Okay, so this must be the proof in the pudding. 

Since the election, the United States has seen a spike in reported hate crimes and violent acts against a whole array of people--this is reported, countable, legible, provable, and obvious. The high-profile ones are on the national news, but you can see them in your local newspaper, on your city news broadcasts, you can hear about them on the radio, and you sometimes witness them in person, when you are not the victim of them. This is happening. 

Some of these "groups"--to be absurdly reductive, but why not? The perpetrators of these aggressions are--are painfully expected, for example Muslims.

Obviously, Muslims--or people perceived to be "Muslim"--would be the first recipient of this local (but also executive and, thus, national) aggression: mosques, individuals, islamic organizations.

Then "immigrants"--but not all immigrants, really, just immigrants of, shall we impolitely call it, in that charmingly, antique phrasing, a "duskier hue": apparently that's Indians (from India), Sikhs (turbans: because turbans are exotic and the exotic is unfamiliar and the unfamiliar is frightening and what frightens us is automatically dangerous), anyone suspiciously Latin (i.e. "illegal Mexican" rapist/murderer/au pair/gardener), and anyone else with brown skin ("Go back to your country!"). 

Then we have African-Americans--you know, "Black people"? You've probably heard of them.

This comes as no surprise, since targeting black people is a national pastime and seems to be written into our national DNA, when it is not written into our national Constitution. (The horrible words, the curses, the slurs, the lies, half-lies, statistics, the violent words uttered against African-Americans, Blacks, People of Color, and Negroes in this-great-country-against-itself, need never be repeated again, to my way of thinking. We have all heard them, far too much, in our minds, in our homes, in our beds, on television, in books and magazines, and on the street.)

Okay, there's been a spike in violence against gay people, particularly men ("Trump won! Get used to it!"), which is not that weird, considering the kinds of people we're talking about, and how late the gay have been to the party of even tacit or expected "tolerance"/"acceptance." 

But the one I really can't wrap my stupid, fucking, American mind around is the spike in antisemitism everywhere, and against long-established synagogues (Sure! Why not attack a neighborhood place of worship? Synagogue=Mosque) and Jewish community centers.

When people are clearly other by skin color, the cowards go after them, sure.

Muslim, immigrant, dirty Mexican rapist, black man--I get it. It's asinine and repugnant, but I can at least follow the ham-fisted, racist logic at work, here. 

With our Jewish friends and neighbors, we enter into a strangely different territory.

This is not just because these individuals and communities have been here, on our shores, for so long (Black people, after the First Nations and Native Americans, after the Dutch, are the people who have lived here the longest: yes, they were slaves in New Amsterdam), but because of Jewish assimilation to American-ness, especially during the postwar period; their imbrication with American culture; their strange invisibility and presence--their frequent ability to pass, especially after entering the current period, where black Irish, Italians, Greeks, mediterraneans, and so on, were no longer considered "animals," in America--and the long, difficult history with and against antisemitism in the United States; our experience and non-experience/our knowledge and non-knowledge/our non-complicity and complicity in the Holocaust; our relationship politically, imperially, territorially, and culturally to Israel: for all these reasons, the sudden temerity in the attacks against Jewish cultural centers and people in the U.S.A., after the election, really pulls the mask off the clown.

Oh... It's YOU!

And, even if all the people committing the violence aren't motivated by the same animus, they are each being animated by each others' animus. 

And so, the oldest--the foundational--bigotry in Christendom; that most European of christian hatreds; that two thousand-year-old, murderous rage rises again, after being told to settle down for so long: Jew-hatred; Jew-murder; God-murder; Antisemitism: two-thousand years of death, pogrom, exile-in-exile, status-without-status, nationality-without-nationality. This? Again?

To my mind, this is how we should know it's serious.


What would Jesus do?

12 March 2017

On "My White Knight"



These lyrics don't exist online--I had to transcribe the whole thing, myself. This is a sort of reconstruction, by Cook and company, for that first, legendary Carnegie concert, of a version that never really existed because there were so many versions of "My White Knight," as they put The Music Man together; my friends, Meredith Wilson and friends: Welcome to the stream-of-consciousness that is Marian the Librarian.


My White Knight

All I want is a plain man,
A modest man, a quiet man,
A straightforward and honest man,
With habits
That do not exclude the occasion reading of a book;

I do not yearn for,
Nor do I wait
Any handsome,
Hand-kissing,
Silk-pillow,
Hookah-smoker;

No world-traveller,
In fact or fancy,
No show-off,
No clothes horse;
He need not necessarily be
In uniform;

Ah, you wait,
No clean-cut,
Weather-beaten,
Square-rigged white duck
pants in tennis shoes;

No plumed hat,
No splendid insignia,
No Moose-, Elk-, Eagle-
Oddfellows-, National Guardsman,
Fire Chief, or Highlander;

Be he from the Arabian Knights,
Or the French Foreign Legion;
No Lothario shoe salesman,
No bandleader, no railroad conductor,
Or any other charmer,
Either of me, or anybody else;

No Chautauqua advance agent,
No vaudevillian,
No depot telegrapher;
I'm not dazzled or for any such a kind
Of fascinating flame.

All I want is a plain man,
A modest man,
A quiet man,
A straightforward,

And honest man,
To sit with me,
In a cottage somewhere,
In the state of Iowa;

And listen with a smile,
To a poem or a song,
That is neither a five-line
Limerick, about Saint Peter,
And the Man from Duluth,

Or a sing-song Lament
Of a Purple Cow;
And not every day,

But just occasionally,
We could walk down by the meadow,
In the twilight-sprinkled dew:

My White Knight,
Can be blacksmith,
Welldigger, clerk, or king;

All I want is a plain man,
A modest man, a quiet man,
A straightforward, and honest man,

With habits,
That do not
Necessarily include

The chewing of snuff,
Or exploding root beer,
In the cellar, every June;

And I would like him to be
More interested in me,
Than he is in himself,

And more interested in us,
Than in me.
And if occasionally

He'd ponder
What makes Shakespeare and
Beethoven great: Him,

I could love, till I die.
Him, I could love,
Till I die.

My White Knight,
Not a Launcelot,
Nor an angel with wings,

Just someone to love me,
Who is not afraid
Of a few nice things;

My White Knight,
Let me walk with him,

Where the others ride by,
Walk, and love him,

Till I die,
Till I die.

Meredith Wilson, "My White Knight," The Music Man, 1957. Book, lyrics, and music: Meredith Wilson. Barbara Cook went through the development process of The Music Man and put this version together, with her music director, from snippets and versions that didn't make it into the final song; from "My White Knight," Barbara Cook at Carnegie Hall, 1975.