Friday, September 29, 2006

A Rant

One of my earliest memories is sitting at my grandparents’ kitchen table in their worn out Brooklyn apartment listening to my grandfather tell stories about Argentina, a country he had lived in for so long. After a while my brothers would grow disinterested but I was enthralled. I would sit there for hours listening to my grandfather and those stories had a profound effect on my life. It made me learn Spanish, and major in Latin American studies in college. Traveling to and potentially living in South America was always a dream of mine, and at 23 I'm fulfilling it. However, one thing my grandfather always commented on, and which I usually ignored, was the region’s pervasive anti-Semitism. This situation would have probably been very familiar to my grandfather:
The other day I told a Chilean friend I was Jewish. He just stared at me for a good 30 seconds. Literally, just stared. I understand that there are very few Jews in this country and I'm probably the first one he's (knowingly) met. But really, what the fuck? Don't stare at me like I have six heads, it's rude.
I have had a ton of very similar experiences, and there comes a point where you just get fed up, and that's me right now. So here it goes...

I hear this particular conspiracy theory a whole lot from people who know I’m American but not Jewish: "The Jews are an extremely powerful people in American society and are the driving force behind the decisions and actions of George Bush." This harks back to Jews being blamed for the Plague in Medieval Europe. Unequivocally, George Bush is responsible for George Bush's actions. Not the Jews. Bush is an evangelical Christian, not a Jew. How many senior administration officials are Jewish? Zero. How many oil execs are Jewish? Zero. Jews traditionally have highly valued education; hence we are disproportionately represented in white collar jobs. However, about two percent of Americans are Jewish . Because we are so few in number, most white collar workers are NOT Jewish, it’s a mathematical impossibility. Nor are most people in positions of power Jewish. Nevertheless, even if that were the case- that a majority of powerful people were Jewish- that alone would still be insufficient evidence of a conspiracy. I'm not saying that conspiracies do not exist. One need only look at the Iran Contra Affair or the rumor that McDonald's is a front for the CIA (okay, I just made that one up, but you never know, McDonald’s is everywhere), but come on.
What I also hear lot: "Why are you Jews treating the Palestinians so badly?" Don't get me wrong, I love to argue about politics and I probably do it too much (sorry... Dad especially). With that said, five jotes (a mix of coke and cheap wine) into the night, I'm not trying to have a heated debate concerning Israeli-Arab relations - playa's just tryin' to get his drink on. With that said, I don’t agree with a lot of Israel’s policies and actions, however the aforementioned statement is inherently anti-Semitic. Jews can be from anywhere, people who live in Israel are properly referred to as Israeli, just as people who live in Nigeria are Nigerian. It is far from a black and white issue, but get one thing straight: the Israeli government is the actor, not US JEWS.

Instance number three. On a trip last July to Mendoza (Argentine city about 7 hours from Santiago) a friend and I met some Argentine girls. We got to talking about the United States and how diverse it is. I mentioned that in New York, you could find just about any race/ethnic group in the world. Chinese… Dominicans… Irish… Jamaicans… Jews… Upon which one of the girls remarked, “Oh of course, there are a lot of Jews in New York. the Jews are a very capitalistic people (i.e. greedy) and New York is the center of world capitalism, so a lot of Jews immigrated there.” At the time I just brushed the remark aside. But really, read a history book, watch a documentary, or shut the fuck up.
To be sure, this is not the Third Reich, and the rest of the world is probably equally as anti-Semitic. I can only comment on my experiences in Chile, and to a lesser extent Argentina. I like Chile a lot and most of my experiences here have been quite agreeable. Sometimes you just gotta vent though.

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