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When Jewish Upon a Star
Posted on Dec 2, 2011
By Mr. Fish
Dwayne: (via email) I’m not sure I agree with the idea that what’s happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians is the end of a war. Let me bring in some other parallels to consider. Prior to the Stonewall Riots, many in the gay movement felt completely ineffectual and hopeless as a population.
Continuously mistreated and culturally categorized as perverts and, quite literally, seen as being subhuman, gays by and large existed in varying degrees of real misery (depending on the geography) and were forced to perpetuate their own invisibility by remaining subservient to the prejudice that imprisoned them. Returning violence to the police and vice officers galvanized the movement in such a way that could’ve only been achieved through violence—it showed the world that there are genuine consequences for those who, both literally and figuratively, live by the sword.
I don’t celebrate that fact as a virtue, but rather point to it as a truism of physiological physics, a cause and effect as permanent as the truism of gravity. You can will an egg to maintain its integrity with all your might while it’s falling out of your hand, but you won’t be able to change what happens to it once it hits the ground. Likewise, bullies don’t usually possess any great talent for self-reflection and tend to learn of their own dedication to injustice by having injustice mirrored back upon them, if they ever learn. Malcolm X had much the same effect on the black movement as Stonewall had on the gays: No one should be allowed to revel in the delusion that they are so privileged that they can abuse other people and remain exempt from any blowback.
I think of Israel’s “war” with Lebanon in 2006. I think of Vietnam. I think of Iraq. Ultimately, I think, it becomes an issue of personal dignity. Human beings will tend to want to fulfill the fruition promised to them by their own biologies; DNA, in addition to determining eye color and rate of tooth decay, programs us with passions for freedom and comfort and self-determination. What Gandhi and King did was a tactic for rending the whip from the hand of their oppressor, certainly, and one I find exquisitely beautiful and inspiring; however, when I see how lazy and unimaginative and tribal humanity can be I find myself unable to trust that there would be any lasting sorrow over the cruel slaughter of me and my fellow pacifists. History has shown that there would likely be a quiet celebration for the gained real estate, both physically and ideologically, left by my absence.
Really? If the cops had gone crazy and killed all the protesters and none of them fought back, every single American would know about Stonewall instead of the very small % that do now. Further, if they had killed some cops where would the movement be?
So is it just the right amount of violence? My understanding of Stonewall is that it was not particularly an event of violence by gays inflicted on the oppressive police, but more the collection of a critical mass of people, gathered for the same reason, who got beat up by the police and fought back just enough to make it into the newspaper but not enough to demand revenge by generations of cops to come.
Not sure I agree with the mathematics. Seems that you expect not only great lessons to come from well publicized mass slaughter, but lasting ones as well, which history doesn’t bear out. The Armenian holocaust didn’t prevent the Jewish holocaust, nor did the Jewish holocaust teach the lesson to Israel that people should not be forced into ghetto existence and systematically terrorized and ultimately murdered with great technological proficiency.
Also, everybody knows about both World Wars—you can’t get any more public than that—and both of those wars ended with a global promise of “never again.” Some promise. And, yes, there is something to be said for “just the right amount of violence.” I’d rather be shot in the leg than in the head.
Yes! It feels great, especially when it’s justified. Self-defense violence, revenge violence, righteous violence, holy violence. Deep down inside, I still have some programming that would make me feel wonderful if I could shoot a man in a WW II German uniform. Those fuckers! I want to chop the arms off some Rwandan Hutus! I want to laser storm troopers!
You’re forgetting General Ursus from the “Planet of the Apes.” And you’re precisely right about that programming, which I would argue is only slightly tamed by one’s moral integrity. I doubt that a human being’s natural instinct for doing whatever he can to guarantee his personal survival will ever be sublimated by the abstract notion that stepping into the buzz saw of injustice is better for the species.
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