However, if you ask other Jews how Jewish I am, you might get an entirely different response. I am "half-Jew" to some, because I never studied the Torah. I am "kinda Jewish" to the kids I went to that dumb Jewish camp with. I am "not really that Jewish" to some of my friends from the East Coast, and to the Jews in Israel? I am barely a blip on the Jewish spectrum. So you see, it really depends on who you ask. If you ask me, Jewish is as Jewish does. If you ask my brother, he is as Jewish as the occasion calls for.
Within the culture, there are levels of Judaism contrived to divide us. Because in the end, you can use any random measure to divide any culture of people, any society, any group. All it takes is a little fear. All it takes is a little fact manipulation. All it takes, in the end, is the threat of losing what little you have, and the blame placed on another group of people.
This is what being an American is all about. Not, as they would have you believe, freedom. Not about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Not about being white. No. America is about the richest and most powerful constantly manipulating the masses to fight each other, to blame each other for what in fact is a power structure which serves only the powerful. The less we have, the harder we will fight each other for it. That is why the government de-regulated and privatized so many industries (healthcare, insurance, banks, and the news media just to name a few) that were geared towards supporting the middle classes. Because the harder it is for us to have that stuff, the more at-risk we feel, the more we are going to look around to blame. And the rule about blame is, you NEVER blame the group in power, you blame the group that is either at your level or below you because it is much safer.
The group in power has the guns. The group in power has the control. The group in power sees you as a fly on their sleeve and if they want to flick you off, they will, because they can. So you never blame the powerful.
This is why, in my estimation, so many voted against their own best interests. They were lied to. They were manipulated. Their situation was exploited in order to get their votes, and now, and over the next several years, they will see this. Nothing will get better for them, and in fact things will most likely get worse. And who will they blame? Other poor people. Other people in desperate situations, and those desperate people will fight back.
But there are more of US. And when I say us, I do not mean Jews. I do not mean Women. I do not mean any group other than the group referred to as Americans. And by American, I mean, all people who live in the US. There are millions more of us, and the one thing the people in power need is our money. I know it is hours before black Friday. I know it is coming up on the most wonderful time of the year. But let me tell you, the only way we can affect any kind of change is to cut off the oxygen to those in charge, and by oxygen, I mean MONEY. Yes, it is that stupid, but the fact is that these people in charge put profit before people every time. It is time for We The People to put ourselves before profit. It is time to show self-love on a national scale.
It is time, finally, to understand, that the only differences between us are the ones we construct (religion, skin color, profession, place of origin, sports teams) and by definition, are completely secondary to the fact that we are all human. We all want to love and be loved. We want to feel safe. These Universal truths bond us.
When I speak of self-love, I know it is life or death, because I know that if you do love yourself, and truly accept your flaws, your foibles, and your wonders, there is no way in hell that you will be cruel to another. I have never met a happy, self-accepting person who was also a bigot, or a sexist, or any type of hateful person. Because they know. People who love and accept themselves understand how shitty people can be, and also, how amazing they can be, and they are not thrown off by insignificant differences in skin color, gender, or dress code.
So the question remains, what can I do? How can I fight this? Besides getting involved in local organizations, writing letters to your local and national politicians, you can examine your own prejudice. You can figure out why some people make you feel threatened, then ask yourself, "is this true?" Because while there are certain types of people you should probably avoid, most people, if you give them the chance, are okay. I am not saying go out and develop deep and trusting relationships with everyone you meet, I am saying don't write people off so fast. Walk a mile or two in the shoes of another by asking them what their experience has been. Listen. Listen. Listen.
And if there was ever a better time to start loving yourself enough to stand up for yourself, to not allow other people dictate who you are supposed to be, I don't know of it. This is the time for Vigilant Love.
It is now time to understand that when a person acts against you, it is because they feel like shit. I am not saying accept it. I am not saying allow it. I am saying that the world is full of people who beat the shit out of other people to the point that those people only know shit beating. And this has nothing to do with you. You must stand up for yourself and yes, you must stand up for others who are beaten up on. Because abuse is an initiation into the culture of abuse. It normalizes bullying. It normalizes hate. It normalizes meanness.
None of that is normal. None of that is acceptable, and standing by and allowing it is also not acceptable. Not by any standard.
It is time now for our definition of Americans to change. We must champion the causes of all those in need. We must stand for ourselves and with each other. We must endeavor to create beauty and look for beauty in each other. We must understand that at this point in history, it is life or death.
And it is finally time to behave as if being an American means more than being manipulated. It is time to behave as if profit will never, ever outweigh the value of people. Not now, not ever.