Whether a crime that stems from hate is deemed a “hate crime” or not, the perpetrator knows that if it were not for the feelings of anger, disgust or outright hate that stirs in his or her heart toward a member of “that” persuasion (be it black, middle eastern, Jewish, or whatever other group affiliation the perpetrator might hang his or her hate on), there would be no such crime.
Opportunities for hate crimes abound, given the religion or nationality of one of the participants: Let’s say a man walks into a bar and orders a drink. He is not openly armed, he is not “looking for trouble,” and he creates no fuss with the bartender or the patrons. That’s what the bar is there for — to sell drinks and accommodate its customers. All goes well, and it’s an ordinary night. But let’s say that same man is wearing a T-shirt sporting some kind of disturbing (to some) logo or bearing a “message” that can incite an emotional response from those in the bar; perhaps he’s openly carrying a weapon and giving off menacing vibes; perhaps he’s dressed in a way that calls too much attention to himself (and not in a good way), or looks like he is “asking for trouble,” or says something that causes severe controversy; perhaps he showed up with “leftover trouble” from home, or some interaction with some person that didn’t go well and he’s become a walking powder keg — and on and on and on. In other words, what ensues from any of the above may appear to be a hate crime depending on the circumstances, but might just be a reaction to some kind of provocation that could set many an average man off in that particular situation.
It’s really strange to me why some people seem to go out in search of instigating the kind of reaction from others that ends up in hurting, harming, or killing themselves or others around them. It’s easy enough to understand — while not agreeing with — the kind of ill will or hatred experienced by someone directed toward a specific individual that might have hurt them or their family in some kind of horrific or irreparable kind of way, but to extend that ill will, that hatred, to all members of the group to which that individual might belong — all Jews in this case, as we’ve seen in those attacks on Jews in recent weeks — ought never to be accepted by anyone, and to so extend those feelings and the subsequent actions of hate toward that whole group only shows one’s ignorance and contributes to the overall and ongoing dissension between diverse groups of peoples and builds both a visible and invisible wall of prejudice that continues to divide human beings.
Last week I wrote about what Jewish leaders themselves, both past and present, think of the reason why anti-Semitism exists. It seemed that they recognized the “fault” of Jews themselves in the reaction of non-Jews toward them. Of course, not all Jews can agree on the reason or reasons for anti-Semitism — not even those who are the ones “practicing” it. But just as growing up poor is different from growing up in a wealthy family, and growing up illiterate offers a different experience for the child than the one he would have had growing up smart, so too is growing up Jewish an experience that non-Jews do not share.
We can acknowledge that some children may grow up around Jews or even in a Jewish family while not being Jewish themselves, but that is not the same thing. When I was growing up, practically all my friends were Jewish, and it never occurred to me, until I was much older, that it might have been because they thought I was Jewish too (I had a Jewish-sounding last name). In retrospect, I now remember that they were different in some general way from my other friends: they were smarter and more focused on their plans for the future. And, as far as I had reason to know, a few of them put a lot of stock in what their mother would think of them (as alluded to in last week’s column). One day one of those friends split his pants while playing in the schoolyard. Rather than going home and telling his mother, he asked me if I could take him home to my mother and ask her to sew up his pants so his mother would never know; he explained that his mother would kill him if she knew. My mother, who was generally kind, but not a pushover, told him that his mother would NOT kill him, and he’d better learn to go to her rather than to strangers. Reluctantly, he did, and she did not kill him.
Over the years, I wondered if indeed I might really be Jewish (on my father’s side). First, there was the discrepancy on my father’s birth certificate, then my oldest son decided to check into our genealogy and came up with some surprises. I found it kind of interesting that I might be Jewish, although I didn’t feel Jewish.
I have friends today who have, on occasion, made remarks about Jews in general, never once imagining for a second that I might be Jewish (not that I am), but one would never guess that they would have such thoughts about Jews — yet their comments told the truth. When I asked them why they would feel that way, they offered some kind of reason alluding to “their wealth, their positions of power…” — pretty much in keeping with what Joel Stein, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote in 2008, and as I quoted in my last column: “As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood … I don’t care if Americans think we’re running the news media, Hollywood, Wall Street or the government. I just care that we get to keep running them.”
Fortunately, there is no law or requirement that forces people to become friends with those one does not like, but to openly express one’s hatred toward a whole group of people — whether because of one’s personal experience at the hands of one or a few members of that group, or because of the hand-me-down prejudices from one’s family, teachers, friends, or celebrity influences of some kind, or for any other reason — is never acceptable on any level or for any reason.
Anti-Semitism, the main focus of this column, is for — and/or about — those who especially hate Jews. Why does that automatic hatred exist? Is it really an “equal-opportunity” hatred, as in you strongly dislike or hate all Jews, or is it more specific, as in some are okay in your book, but not others? And to help you answer, I ask these questions: if the best surgeon available to save your life — or the life of a loved one — were Jewish, would you look elsewhere? If your mother needed a blood transfusion to save her life, and the only match that could be found was Jewish, would you hesitate? If your child was in an accident, and the person who came to the rescue was Jewish, would you still have ill will toward that person?
And because of your feelings toward Jews, would you prefer to go back to a time before we had (in no special order) Jeans, Lipstick, the Ballpoint Pen, Contraceptives, Instant Coffee, the Television Remote Control, Traffic Lights, Discount Stores, Pawn Shops, the Polio Vaccine, Radiation, Chemotherapy, the Artificial Kidney Dialysis machine, the Defibrillator, the Cardiac Pacemaker, Vaccination against the deadly “Hepatitis B” virus, the Vaccinating Needle, Laser Technology, Google, the Wire Transmission Facsimile (FAX), the Microphone, the Gramophone, the Microprocessing Chip, Optical Fiber Cable, Laser, Cellular Technology, and the Videotape Recorder, to name just some of the contributions from the Jewish community?
According to the Boulder Jewish News, at least 178 Jews have been awarded the Nobel Prize, accounting for 23 percent of all individual recipients worldwide between 1901 and 2008, and constituting 37 percent of all US recipients during the same period. In the scientific research fields of Chemistry, Economics, Medicine and Physics, the corresponding world and US percentages are 27 percent and 40 percent, respectively, yet Jews currently make up approximately only 0.25 percent of the world’s population and only 2 percent of the US population.
We’re all free to dislike certain individuals for our own particular reasons; but to extrapolate that to everyone who happens to be of the same religious (or “national”) persuasion, is more than just plain ignorant — it’s anti-human! (And of course, all prejudice is anti-human.)
Trump is right to denounce anti-Semitism!