Apparently adulthood is over.
YA fiction, comic book movies, etc. It all apparently points to a state of perpetual childhood that adults are increasingly living in. Or so some people think.
Thankfully, there has been some extremely thoughtful and sober commentary on this. Among my favorites so far are this Salon piece. I emphatically agree with the economic arguments it makes as well, but it was this part which stood out to me for obvious reasons (bolding is mine):
It’s all very well to discuss feminism as a force of cultural liberation expressed by Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham, but for millions of women in the Western world it has also been an economic imperative, one that set them free from some (but not all) traditional expectations and thrust them into a job marketplace where they are often underpaid relative to their male counterparts. This is too complicated an argument to develop here, but I suspect that the “death of adulthood” is so much more evident among men than women because women are still called upon to perform productive labor – the bearing and nurturing of children – that cannot be or generally is not performed by men.
Elsewhere, another very thoughtful analysis (in Twitter form!) by cultural journalist Jeet Heer, includes truisms like these:
Women have worst of both worlds: must bear the burden of adulthood without enjoying the privileges of patriarchs.
In other words, women, due to endemic sexism and calcified gender norms, have to present as adults, but don’t accrue any of adulthood’s attendant benefits. In this, as in other things, we don’t get much of a choice. Furthermore, Heer points out that laments such as these about the supposedly dismal state of adulthood are themselves a way to prop up the patriarchy (bolding again mine):
Rhetoric of “we are not men our father’s were” has been used to shore up male privilege since at least time of Homer.
Fear of the decline of patriarchy is inextricably from patriarchy: it’s an essential rhetorical weapon by which authority is shored up.
If that’s “adulthood,” I say the 1950’s and 60’s can keep it.
This recent article made the case that no one who likes games should want to be called a “gamer,” since the word is associated with all sorts of unpleasantness. To wit:
The term [gaming community] is a miserable legacy of the medium’s niche past, where video games were viewed as the sole preserve of white, western indoors-yteenagers. The cliché has proven indelible. ‘Gamers’ (a term that further segregates ‘players’, while adding unwelcome ghost notes that call to mind the gambling industry) are routinely represented in media as socially inept boys with poor hygiene and a proclivity for impotent rage, perhaps expressed down a Britney-style head mic while playing online shooters, or typed wrathfully onto an internet forum.
I confess I once mentally defined gamers the very same way. I thought of gamers as people who owned consoles, played first-person shooters (a term I didn’t even know prior to this year) and generally spent most or all of their free time gaming.
In my mind, there was a very narrow category of people who could rightly be called “gamers.” These people were first and foremost, really good at games. In my mind, they could pick up any game and play it well almost right away. They were really experienced, really knowledgeable and most likely younger and male. Games, I thought, were not for me, a mom of a toddler in her 30’s.
Then I got to know Brianna Wu, head of a game development studio that was working on an iOS game. We were both users of App.net for a time and I saw that she was looking for beta testers. She said she specifically wanted casual gamers. In other words, people who didn’t have any gaming experience need apply. She mentioned the game had a Choose Your Own Adventure element and that sounded appealing. I used to love those books as a kid. So, I signed up to test what is now the extremely well-received Revolution 60.
I liked the game right away and didn’t find it too difficult or stressful to play. It didn’t make me feel stupid. It didn’t make me feel like this wasn’t something for me. It was fun!
Is what games are like now? I started thinking. At that point, I hadn’t even played mobile games besides Bejeweled or Gold Miner. We had a Wii and I’d played plenty of Mario Kart and other fun, casual games, but that was about it. I had vague memories of being young and playing Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt on a friend’s Nintendo down the street, but I don’t remember the games grabbing me. I loved Tetris (and actually played it in the USSR in the late 80’s on a family friend’s computer) but never even owned a GameBoy and certainly not a console. We were immigrants of modest means and something like that would have been a frivolous and unwarranted expense. And besides, I wasn’t interested. I had no idea what was out there or why I should care.
After Revolution 60 though, I started asking questions. Were there more games like this I might like? Where are they and what are they called? I started realizing that there were all kinds of games and far from all of them involved shooting people. There was a lot of light, as it turned out, between games like Halo and Call of Duty on one end and Bejeweled on the other. It turned out that even “hardcore” gamers played casual games!
It wasn’t long before I got a Steam account. I started trying out all kinds of games there and on Android and iOS and the rest, as they say, is history. I still haven’t committed to a console other than the trusty old Wii. But I can see a day in the not too distant future when that may well change.
So I was a gamer now, as far as I saw it. What I learned is that anyone who likes and plays games, any kind of games, can call themselves that. Or at least anyone should be able to. Because alongside learning about games, I started learning something else. I started reading about the rampant sexism that was endemic to the industry. I watched the Anita Sarkeesian videos. I read admissions like this. I watched GTFO. I always innately felt that gaming had a big “NOT WELCOME” sign on it and I started to realize that this was partially because of my gender. I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I didn’t feel like I would be welcomed.
This, in my opinion, is one of the reasons sexism and other bigotry persists in gaming. People who are perceived to be the “real” gamers are seen by outsiders like me as owning the culture and being in charge of it. People like me feel like we don’t have any skin in the game so we can’t say anything. That mindset needs to change.
But instead of, as the article at the start of this post suggests, doing away with the word “gamer,” I say instead let’s ALL call ourselves gamers. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of gaming, start call yourself a gamer and own it. No one has to give you permission to sit at the table. You don’t need to own a console. You don’t need to have gone to PAX or E3. You don’t need to read Kotaku, Giant Bomb, Polygon or any of the other gaming news and reviews sites. You just have to like to play. That’s all.
If everyone starts calling themselves a gamer, the stereotypes will die out, the societal stigmas will fade and the dearly needed changes to games themselves and gaming culture will start to happen more rapidly. Let’s do this.
Mathew Ingram at GigaOm has recently published a piece entitled Making fun of Silicon Valley is easy, but the next big thing looks like a toy. It bothered me as soon as I read it. Today I saw a few people I generally respect tweeting it and my unease grew. I’ll explain.
The point of the piece is, as is the current fashion in online writing, entirely spelled out in the headline. It’s fairly innocuous, but the message is clear. If you’re making fun of moronic Silicon Valley startups like Yo, or startups in general, you could be stupidly mislabeling the next Twitter or Facebook. Take this line of thought to its logical conclusion and the result is that it would be a mistake to question any new product or service in the tech space. I say no.
The same day that I read Ingram’s piece, I read this one on PandoDaily about a startup called Secret. The author of the piece, Sarah Lacy, has numerous concerns about this company and what they have created, concerns that seem eminently valid:
If Secret continues to grow with everyone trying to profit off of its popularity willfully justifying and ignoring the social cost, there will be Secret suicides. As a community, we will regret this. It will make the Craigslist killer and the Airbnb meth head-gate scandals look like nothing.
Lacy is a close watcher of the tech space. She has been writing about technology for 15 years. She has written two well-received books about it. But I guess she didn’t get the memo that Valley startups can turn into amazing, wonderful things even if they start out as silly or, in the case of Secret, morally and ethically questionable. She is taking a critical approach and thank goodness, because she explicitly addresses in her piece that others are unwilling or unable to do so.
That being the case, that there is a clear dearth of critical thought about technology, do we really need another exhortation to basically leave Silicon Valley entrepreneurs alone? If even light comedy about a frivolous new app is to be frowned upon, what does that say about the more serious criticism of an Evgeny Morozov or a Sherry Turkle?
The reality is that technology, on its own, is neither a benevolent force, nor an evil one. Your MacBook or your Facebook account don’t have feelings and motives. However, the people who built them and programmed them do. To pretend otherwise is utopian foolishness at best. At worst, it is dangerously careless.
First off, I just want to remind everyone that this is not a mommy blog. I repeat, THIS IS NOT A MOMMY BLOG. It never has been and never will be a mommy blog or even a parenting blog which I am told is the newer, more egalitarian term.
That said, I am taking a page from Chris Crocker and asking the Internet to LEAVE PARENTS ALONE!
Here is a blog post that appeared on a website that helps people find caregivers for their children.
My response is in the comments, but in case it is buried under many new ones, I’m reposting it here:
I realize that the goal of a blog like this is to get traffic to the website and controversial topics are more likely to do that. However, since I assume it is your company’s mission to help parents, I would think seriously about what you are achieving with posts like these. It might seem like just a good-natured parenting debate, but what I hope you know is that many, many parents are insecure about their parenting and all you are accomplishing here is making those millions of parents question themselves further. In addition, you are putting your readers and commenters in the position of making pronouncements on what the “right” approach is and there IS no one right approach to parenting. This is not the first such post that I’ve seen, but I’ve finally gotten fed up enough to comment. The Internet and our media in general are already rife with parenting “advice” and debates that do exactly nothing to help parents unless one considers it helpful to make them doubt themselves further. Please don’t add to this sort of noise on Care.com.
Now, I am singling out Care.com here, but as I wrote in my comment, this applies to SO MANY websites, not to mention books, TV shows, etc., etc.
Can we stop the madness, please?
Oh, but parents buy those books, you’ll likely tell me. They read those websites! They watch those TV shows! And that’s true. It’s true, because systematic destruction of your audience’s self-esteem is a lucrative industry. Just ask so-called “women’s magazines” like Cosmo.
(As an aside, I love how the consumerist justification for all sorts of heinous tripe is that there is a market for it. Heroin has a market too. Does that mean we shouldn’t try to stop dealers from selling it?)
So I’m going to say this one more time to Care.com and everyone else who is guilty of this crap. LEAVE PARENTS ALONE!
To my dismay, I quickly discovered that while everyone loved snarky bloggers (especially people in media), no one was looking to hire one. That sounds amusing now, but it was true as recently as five years ago and personally I think we still have a long way to go in integrating blogging into the mainstream media DNA.
Then, the seemingly impossible happened. I got a job. I was, to put it mildly, THRILLED. Unfortunately things quickly went awry and I was unceremoniously fired approximately 4 1/2 months later. Three days prior to being fired, I had found out I was pregnant for the first time.
I studiously kept looking for any sort of editorial job before I started showing when, I assumed, the jig would be up at interviews. Nothing materialized before my son was born. After, it became impossible even to shower or change into clean clothes for a very, very long time. He’s 2 1/2 in three days and I’ve only marginally improved on that track record.
I did go to work for the Sun-Times Media Group/Pioneer Press when my boy was about a year old. That didn’t work out. Four months into a job where my words and my reporting appeared in actual newsprint on a printed page, I felt ambivalent about the work. This was supposed to be my dream come true, but it felt hollow and unsatisfying. I wrote that I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. So I started to think bigger. If I couldn’t find a media company where I actually wanted to work, maybe I needed to start one of my own.
Something that always irritated me to no end is that good journalism only goes halfway to where it needs to go. It reports on a problem or corruption or a terrible injustice and…. that’s it. That’s where it ends. The rest of the distance to measurable change is often traversed by activists. Non-profits. Interest groups. PACs. Etc.
As a reader, I have too often experienced the frustration of reading an amazing story and at the end, saying to no one in particular: now what? If I want to do something about this, what exactly should I do? Where should I start? The journalist or her news organization will not help me with this. That would be considered activist journalism and thus very baaaaaad and possibly unethical. Journalists are supposed to be like clouds floating above it all. Seeing all and reporting it, but going no further. On the one hand, I see the value in this approach. On the other, I wholly reject it.
What do we get in the absence of clear-cut ideas and suggestions of where to invest money or time to solve a problem? We get Facebook petitions. Tweets. You-Tube videos you share with your friends. Slacktivism, as its been dubbed. Or we get shrugs and inaction. The problems seem so big and so nebulous that even a motivated reader wouldn’t know where to begin.
With Acta Magazine, I want to put a stop to all of that frustration. I want readers and those who want to reach a specific sort of reader to fund important journalism. I want to actually change the world, not just talk about doing it. Most of all, I want to write my own story instead of hoping that one day I can maybe get the sort of ending I want.
Will you join me? I’m doing a live chat soon about Acta, media and anything else people want to ask. Think of it like Reddit’s IamAs but for regular people. It will be on Wednesday, April 2 at 3pm CST and will take place here. I hope you’ll stop by.
I woke up this morning to news that Ezra Klein is pulling a Nate Silver and likely leaving The Washington Post.
For my part, I’m going to tell you a story. Once upon a time, I wrote a blog called The Daily Daley on a now defunct site called The Windy Citizen. It was about Richard M. Daley, the iconic mayor of Chicago, son of the arguably even more iconic Richard J. Daley who was mayor before him.
It was 2008 and this was my first foray into media, a pivotal moment in my life. I had not gone to journalism school. I had not studied it as an undergrad either. I had never written a blog before. I didn’t know anything about how online publishing worked. Brad, Windy Citizen’s founder, had to walk me through everything. He introduced me to the fundamentals of blogging, gaining an audience, how online traffic worked and so much more. From then on, I learned on my own. I read everything I could about media and journalism and eventually became a small, but vocal voice in the “future of news” crowd, online and off.
As for the Daily Daley, though I worked on it for only slightly more than a year and although it never reached a mass audience, it was read by nearly everyone in the local media. It was snarky and funny and politically informed and I liked to believe that journalists read it because I said the things they couldn’t. I remember that years later, I was at an interview for a job at the Chicago Tribune and my interviewer turned out to be a reader of the blog (this happened more than once). I remember him saying he was sad to see it stop. By then, I just shrugged, smiled and didn’t say much. There was a time though, when similar interest from a person employed by a major media organization gave me palpitations and delusions of grandeur.
In February of 2009, the Chicago Journalism Town Hall took place. The reason it was convened was this:
Ken Davis, former Chicago Public Radio guy, realized talking to his peers that, as he said, “People are freaked out” by the shift from traditional to online journalism.
Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that people were “freaked out” about the shift to online media in 2009. It was a great event and although nothing substantive was accomplished, decided or agreed upon, I believe it was a turning point. It drew attention to the fact that there were definitely two sides in this big sea change that was happening. There were the traditionalists who would cling to the bitter end to the old ways of doing things and there were the futurists who wanted to change everything. Since then, some people have changed sides but the sides remain and they remain obviously not only in Chicago, but all over the country and the world.
But back to my brush with grandeur.
In the ladies’ room at the event, I ran into a woman who worked for the local CBS affiliate, let’s call her Sue. She too was a fan of the blog. She was enthusiastic and gushed about how she loved my take on politcs. To my delight, she said she had been talking to her boss about putting blogs on their station’s website. She said maybe I could blog for them about the impending Rod Blagojevich trial. My eyes must have widened to the size of saucers. An actual media outlet might employ ME? At that point, I hadn’t even done the freelancing that would eventually start me down the path to doing actual journalism and getting paid for it.
Sue and I would bump into each other at future events and I would often email her to ask whether I could come in and meet with her boss to talk about the blog. She always said she was working on it. I was naive then and just starting down my path of self-education about how media worked. I actually thought that just because I was good at something, I could get a paid job doing it. Eventually Sue broke the news to me. “He just isn’t going for it,” she said with genuine regret.
Fast forward back to today and the news about Klein and I find myself crestfallen that things haven’t changed significantly. Sure, every old media site has blogs now. They’re all on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else. So much has changed. Except that what is most important has not. What hasn’t changed inside the majority of media organizations is the attitude, the culture, or whatever you want to call it. And what else hasn’t changed is the rigid hierarchical structure of most news shops. This was the lede of Kennedy’s piece for good reason:
What should a 21st-century news organization look like? A single entity, run from the top, with a common set of values? Or a loose network of related projects, sharing a brand and to some extent a mission but operating semi-independently?
Unquestionably it has to be the latter. It must. There is no other way forward, because while it seems right now like the status quo can endure, this won’t be the case forever. There are a number of reasons why this is so, but for today I will make the case that someday very soon, news shops that still function like a corporation from the 80’s won’t be able to attract the best and the brightest. Oh, they might work there for a while, like Silver and Klein and others have done, but they will invariably leave for one simple reason: freedom. The freedom to do what they want. To test new things, to fail and start over, to iterate, to reach new audiences, launch new products and create the future of news. People will say they left for more money. And that might be true to an extent, but it cannot be the full story. It cannot because people like these don’t do a job for the money. I know this because I am one of them.
Now, I am hardly a wunderkind on the order of Klein or Silver. I’ve nowhere near their accomplishments or reach. But I have been fired from one media job and willingly left another, because I cannot work in an environment hostile to innovation. I feel suffocated, frustrated, chained. I am horrified by the inefficiencies and the lack of a will to embrace new things and new ideas, regardless of where they come from.
A company where people do as they are told and don’t feel free to suggest changes or, even if they do, know that they have no hope of being heard or implemented,,, this is not a company that can succeed in the 21st century. A company that doesn’t embrace their star performers and give them every means to become better is not a company that has a bright future.
I have no doubt that the higher-ups at every major media organization would say, if asked what their mission is, that they want to deliver the news, inform the public, uncover important stories and of course (for many) make a profit while doing so. If that were really true though, there wouldn’t be an apparent need to tightly control all aspects of that mission. If you love something, in other words, you have to set it free. I hope it’s a lesson old media can learn before they become totally obsolete.
“I’ve never understood people who watch CNN all day long.”
This was said by someone in a discussion I saw happening on App.net recently. Later on, the same person diagnosed the types of people who do this. News junkies, he called them.
I smiled when I saw it. Hello, my name is Anna Tarkov and I am a recovering news junkie. Though I’ve long shunned TV news as a means of getting my fix (as is fashionable for all news snobs), I abused Twitter and various websites for years. Given my chosen career path, it’s hardly surprising.
In the world of journalism and media in general, it is assumed that you are a news junkie. Reporters, broadcasters, web editors, etc work with news all day long so if you weren’t a news junkie when you got into the business, you’re very likely to become one. Everyone who has worked in the industry knows the feeling. The rush of a fresh, new story is intoxicating. SOMETHING IS HAPPENING, your mind screams and you have to find out all the facts and report them.
Being a passive consumer of news is very similar. A story breaks and suddenly you want to know everything about it and follow all the developments.
For many, news is not a recreational drug. It is highly addictive. And like any addiction, it takes increasingly higher doses to get high. So you start out innocently enough, checking news sites, blogs or Twitter a few times a day or turning on the TV here and there. But pretty soon you’re glued to the computer and/or TV screen, terrified of missing something. The symptoms of your addiction are both predictable and strange all at once. For instance, you begin to delight in being the first to know about a story.
“Did you hear about the earthquake in Indonesia?” you ask your coworker. They reply that they haven’t and you proceed to smugly give them all the details. In essense, you are reporting the story to them, the same as a journalist would report it to their audience. You are telling them something new, something they don’t already know. It’s exhilarating, isn’t it, being the first to tell someone something? This is precisely what gets many people into the news business. That feeling of telling people what they don’t already know is so satisfying that we accept pathetic salaries, crazy work hours and all sorts of indignities in order to keep doing it.
These days of course, you don’t have to be employed by a news organization to feel like you have a captive audience who needs and wants to hear from you. If you have a popular blog or Tumblr or lots of followers on Twitter (or all of the above and more), you can be a one-woman newsroom. You know what your audience wants and you enjoy giving it to them. They look to YOU for information, perspective and context. It’s a dizzying feeling of power. You have become something greater than a junkie. You are now the dealer.
I still remember the moments when people said they were paying attention to MY Twitter feed for curation on an important story that was then developing. It felt like I was holding the world in the palm of my hand.
Having now gained some distance from those days, I can categorically say my life is better this way. I don’t know about every story, I don’t know what the latest Twitter war is about, I don’t know about the controversy du jour and I don’t care.
Like all former addicts, I may always have to watch myself to make sure I don’t backslide, but I’m fairly certain I won’t. The reason is that I have gained so much by kicking my addiction. I have gained focus for the things that really matter. I now have deep, nuanced conversations about important topics that go beyond the headlines. I have time to work on things I truly care about. More than anything, I have much greater peace of mind. You didn’t think it was a coincidence that journalists drink, did you?
So if you’re reading this while feverishly scanning Twitter or glazed over from five straight hours of cable news, I have a message for you. There is a life beyond your addiction. Come live it with me.
When I sat down to write this, I thought about doing it all professional-like, pretending it would be something that would appear in Wired or some such. But I decided to opt against that. Why should I pretend that I don’t have strong feelings on something? That would be very unlike me. So here goes.
Last night I saw some posts on ADN (that’s what users call App.net btw) from someone I have followed on Twitter for years and someone I respect, Patrick LaForge. Editor of News Presentation at the New York Times. Patrick’s posts expressed, among other things, a desire for ADN to become distinct from Twitter and Facebook. Reading this, I became compelled to finally write down what I’ve been wanting to say for a long time.
ADN is not like Twitter. Let me repeat that. ADN is not like Twitter. One more time with feeling. ADN IS NOT LIKE TWITTER.
Allow me to explain the way I know best, by using a metaphor. Think of Twitter as a hammer. It’s made of metal, but the metal has been fashioned into a hammer. A hammer is mostly only good for one thing: hammering in nails. I suppose you can misuse it to bash someone’s head in, but most people just use it to hammer in nails. So outside of a few edge cases, it has a discrete and finite purpose.
Now think of ADN as metal. It can be shaped into a hammer, but it can also be shaped into anything else metal can be used to make. Currently, ADN looks like a hammer to many people, because that’s the most prominent thing that has been made from it. Also, it’s recognizable. After seven years of Twitter i.e. the hammer, people see another hammer and say aha! I know exactly what this is. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing ADN is even right now and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only thing it will ever be.
I actually don’t understand why the concept is so difficult for people to grasp. All of you reading this probably use Facebook, right? You can use your Facebook account to post updates, photos, share links, etc., but you can also use it to play games and do lots of other things via applications that developers build for Facebook. The same is true of ADN, It’s just early still and no one seems to knows about the non-Twitter like applications that have already been built. Many more will surely follow.
Does everyone get it now? I really hope so. If you still don’t, why not try it out and see for yourself. You can also sign up for free via the iPhone app or the Android one. And please find me if you have questions.
In my next post, I will talk further about what makes ADN so special and why it is more than worthy of your time and attention. But for now at least, I hope we have the idiotic Twitter comparison resolved.
Until somewhat recently, I’ve always worn makeup. Like many girls, I started in my teens and never looked back. Why wouldn’t I wear makeup? It’s what the grown-ups do, right?
As I got older, I learned that less is more, but I continued to put on makeup to go to work, go out (even if just to the grocery store :-)) and practically every other life situation. Very, very faintly, somewhere in the background, I heard men saying that they like when women don’t wear makeup. Ha, I thought. That’s just because they haven’t seen us first thing in the morning. And everybody knows that after a certain age, women don’t primp to impress men. They do it to impress other women.
Though never a heavy user, I nonetheless felt naked and unkempt if I left the house without any makeup whatsoever. I felt like everyone was looking at me thinking how ugly I looked (I’ve thought that plenty even while wearing makeup, but that’s a story for another day). I felt self-conscious. I felt judged, mostly by myself as it turns out. Putting on makeup to me meant a woman cared about her appearance and took the time to make it a priority. The alternative was obviously a lazy slob who couldn’t take even 5 minutes to powder her shiny nose.
Everything changed after the birth of my son in the Fall of 2011. I suddenly had no time and no perceived need for makeup. With a newborn, especially one like mine, you don’t leave the house much.
At first, I thought I’ll go back to my old makeup routine eventually. And I still did it occasionally. A wedding. A job interview. The seven months that I went back to full-time work. But then something started to happen.
The more I saw myself without makeup, the more I realized I actually liked how I looked. So I stopped putting on anything to leave the house, not even concealer or powder which is makeup that is somewhat undetectable as such.
It felt kind of exhilarating. Freed from the fear that people were staring at me and thinking I looked terrible, I felt so much more comfortable in my own skin. It radiated to other things too, like body image. No one loves their body after having a baby and I still want to make changes for my health, but I’ve accepted myself for now and it feels fantastic.
I’m hardly the first to the no makeup party of course. The image atop this post is from a Twitter account promoting natural beauty and the #nomakeup hashtag on Twitter is always fairly active.
So I decided recently to ask women on my new favorite online place, ADN, for pictures of them without any makeup. I was surprised at how many readily shared them and I want to share them here so that we can all see what true, unadulterated beauty looks like. Some of these came from Twitter as well and you’ll find a link to the lady’s ADN or Twitter profile next to each photo.
Please enjoy and if you’re a woman who always, always wears makeup, I’m not judging you. You should do whatever you like to feel beautiful. But maybe you could try this sometime.
Jessica, wife of Jeff
And finally me.
I hope this helps give some of you the courage to try going without makeup. And if you do, I hope you’ll find it as liberating as I have.
Russians in a Skokie Panera are discussing Rahm Emanuel in a way that makes me very, very tired. Allow me to explain.
It’s an older woman and an older man. The man lives in Florida and is here visiting. The woman fills him in on local current events. Let’s call her “Irene” and let’s call him “Boris.”
Irene: There was a demonstration yesterday about the school closings. You know, on the south side.
Boris: Oh yeah?
Irene: Do you know what one of the placards said? “Jewish Decision.” Why did he [Rahm] have to get into this office? Why be in a position of political power at all? As soon as someone gets in, they hate all of us.
To many Jews, this will sound familiar. I have heard this all my life growing up. My father used to say that at the manufacturing plant where he worked, people blamed everything that was wrong with the economy on Alan Greenspan, another Jew in power. And that’s just here in the U.S. You can imagine what they said in the Soviet Union.
The thinking then goes that Jews should stay out powerful positions, lest all other Jews suffer for decisions they make that could foment Jew hatred.
When I hear things like this, I think are you freaking kidding me? Who cares if Rahm Emanuel is Jewish?
Then I think Christ (ha!), are there really people who blame Jews in this way?
I guess I live in echelons of society where this is not the norm, but I’ve always been warned it exists elsewhere. I don’t know to what extent it exists. It’s almost like a Jewish urban legend, but it strikes into my chest a visceral fear nonetheless. The Jews who lived in Hitler’s Germany also thought they were so deeply integrated into society than no one saw them as different, as “other.”
But now “Irene” and “Boris” have turned to discussing something else I’m very familiar with; the unfortunate situation of someone’s grand-daughter. The poor girl is 25 and unmarried.