Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jewish leaders demonstrate the problem with rhetoric

Now I haven't blogged much in the last couple days, owing in part to some other obligations. Also, while I did point to a few things that hopefully dispelled the shameful attempts by many to exploit the Arizona shootings for political gain, I didn't want to go down there myself.  Giving some time and quiet reflection for those who were the victims seemed good enough.  But now I'm back to things, and thought I would comment on a strange issue that has come up.

Apparently, a barrage of criticisms from Jewish groups has erupted because Sarah Palin used the term blood libel.  File this under WTH?  Even the criticism is confusing.  The Anti-Defamation league admits it is a term that has become part of common parlance, but then criticizes Palin for using it.  Why?  Are only some people allowed to use it?  Because they don't like Palin?  What does that mean - it's become common parlance but she shouldn't have used it? 

That is one of the problems in our modern discourse.  I've spent days insisting that our rhetoric now is no different than in previous years.  But that's NOT to say that the context of our rhetoric is not different.  It's very different.  The presence of 24 hour news channels, the existence of the Internet, can take a simple statement and run it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again and build up anger and resentment where it may not have been without the constant overplay. 

Plus, we are an immature society.   I heard Rush Limbaugh reflecting on his birthday yesterday.  He made an interesting point.  Baby Boomers (and I would say those generations that came after), didn't have to grow up fast.  In fact, the argument could be made that many never grew up at all.  The celebrated Greatest Generation had to grow up fast.  At 14, my Dad had to work in a lumber yard to help the family.  A lumber yard.  Today, at fourteen the worst our kids are even allowed to do is bag groceries.  And that was par for the course.   So by the time that generation as storming the beaches at Normandy, or landing at Iwo Jima, sure they were just kids.  But they were kids already more mature and with more common sense wisdom than many Baby Boomer retirees today. 

So there are differences in the context.  But I also think a big, BIG, part of the angst in our dialogue is that we are dealing with foundational differences. We are literally seeing one side or the other side not really give a damn about anything but their own perspectives, because each side is rooted in conflicting foundational truths.  The Anti-Defamation League didn't come out with any condemnation of Palin's accusers that I'm aware of, despite basing its existence on righting injustices because of the horrors of all the false accusations that the Jewish people had to bear throughout the centuries.  But suddenly, Palin uses a word that the League admits is common, and Bam!  Palin is playing to anti-Semitism.  She can't use that word.  Can anyone use it?  Can only Jewish people use it?  Who can use it? 

And that's an issue.  Each side wants to impose its values on everyone else, while opening the field for anyting it wants to do.  So on one side we see the growth of harsh rhetoric, the F-Bombs, the accusations of this or that because we happen to like or disagree with this particular set of values, while on the other hand a growing list of Forbidden Terms is being imposed on us.  You  can say this, you can't say that.  You don't dare say that's so gay.  But Christianity is an evil myth?  No problem.

It's a bi-polar society that not only tolerates, but encourages an extremely disrespectful, and even hateful round of dialogue as long as it suits this or that ideology, while closing the noose on a growing number of phrases, words, and idioms simply because this or that group may be offended..  A sort of tolerant/censorship approach which, I can't help but guess, causes a lot of the tension and creates the impression that free speech belongs to only such as these, and not those over there.  And that's almost sure to cause the blood to boil in some sectors, more than any posters or slogans could ever do, if I'm any judge of human nature.

1 comment:

  1. The same can be said of gay rights groups, or feminists. Or consider Muslims. No matter how many Muslims kill how many Christians, we are not allowed to call Islam violent. Of course we can call all conservatives racists, or violent, or bigots. We can say all Americans are racists or hateful. We can say Christians are idiots, or priests are child rapists. But we can't say words that Jews or Muslims or gays or any other minority group says we can't. I think you are right. That does create an environment of resentment and a fear of lost freedoms. Maybe we need to address who gets to determine what is and isn't allowed to be said today.


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