Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Principal Deems Jesus Chant Offensive

I was looking for some information about James Cameron's "Jesus tomb" film (more on that in a later post) when the above headline caught my eye.

For those who haven't heard about it: there was a high school basketball game in Virginia between a Catholic school and another school, which was marred by an "antisemitic chant" and "antisemitic graffiti." The "antisemitic" chant was, "We love Jesus," and the "antisemitic" graffiti was the word "Jew" painted on the gym wall below the name of the home team.

I confess, I was a bit puzzled that anybody would perceive "We love Jesus" as an antisemitic chant. They weren't even playing against a Jewish school: the game was on the night of February 2, and no Jewish school would host a basketball game on a Friday night, Shabbat! But apparently, the hosting school is known to have a significant Jewish population, and anti-Jewish sentiment was the essence of the message expressed.

The important thing to understand about antisemitism (and all bigotry for that matter) is that hatred lies in the heart, not in the words. The word "Jew" is not an offensive term. I use the word all the time. It's much less cumbersome than the politically correct "Jewish person." But the word "Jew" becomes offensive when it is used to express the hatred in the heart, when it is used as a shorthand for, "This is a person you're supposed to hate, and you're supposed to hate him because he is a Jew."

Likewise, there is nothing wrong with the words "We love Jesus," nothing inherently offensive about them. But when the hatred lies in the heart and the words are used as a shorthand for, "We love Jesus, but you don't, and we're going to make you suffer for it," then yes, that's hate speech. And it saddens me that young people are apparently using words of love to express hate. At least, that seems to be what the Catholic school's principal thought.

Let me emphasize: it was the Catholic school's principal, not any Jew in the community, who drew the conclusion that this was antisemitic. The ADL, usually the first to jump on any perceived antisemitism, says absolutely nothing about this incident. But I suspect there will be a backlash against the Jewish community anyway.

It has been reported that the students of the Catholic school will get some sensitivity training. But I have a bad feeling that this compulsory training will only teach them the message that "those dirty Jews think it's offensive to love Jesus." I doubt any of them will notice that the person who described this as antisemitic, the person who organized the sensitivity training, was their own Catholic principal. Hatred is invulnerable to logic.

News Link:

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Should Jews apologize for killing Christ?

The problem with getting most of your news from Comedy Central is that I was very late to pick up on this news story...

Frank D. Hargrove Sr., a delegate to the Virginia legislature, made headlines last month when he expressed his opposition to a resolution expressing regret for slavery. He commented, "Are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?"

Let's stop and think about that statement for a moment before we jump to a knee-jerk condemnation. Let's be clear: Mr. Hargrove did not demand that Jews apologize for anything; rather, while opposing Virginia's apology, he said that Virginia's apology would be as wrong as demanding an apology from the Jews. If what he's saying is, today's Virginians are no more responsible for slavery than today's Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus, that today's Virginians do not owe an apology any more than today's Jews do ... is that such a bad thing to say? It is, after all, the essence of the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, the landmark document that opened up a new era of Jewish-Catholic relations, to say that today's Jews should not be held responsible for the actions of some of their ancestors.

But the analogy falls apart very quickly. It is one thing for a perceived victim to say that no apology is necessary; quite another thing for a perceived oppressor to say, "get over it." Mr. Hargrove would not force an apology from Jews (how nice of him), but I wonder how he would react if a prominent Jew were to tell him to "get over" the death of Jesus, as he told African-Americans to "get over" slavery.

I've found that those whose people have not suffered oppression are very quick to tell others to "get over it." They're very quick to tell others that they are "too sensitive." Every year, around Holocaust Memorial Day, we hear people tell Jews to "get over" the systematic murder of one third of our population. Now we hear Mr. Hargrove telling blacks to "get over" the fact that their ancestors were enslaved for 100 years, and telling a Jew who objected to his remarks that his skin was "too thin."

I wonder how Mr. Hargrove would react if an Arab told him to "get over" 9/11. Not so easy to "get over" it when you consider yourself connected to the victim instead of to the oppressor, is it? Not so easy to have a thick skin?

News Links (be aware: these links are on other sites and may disappear at any time):

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Office Humor

At my office, our Human Resources director loves small children and jumps on any excuse to bring children into the office. I tease her that her policies are "speciesist." We celebrate "Bring Your Daughter or Son to Work Day," but we don't have "Bring Your Cat or Dog to Work Day." We have a Halloween costume parade for human children 5-15, but I wasn't allowed to bring in my 6-year-old tuxedo, Ritz. I could put her in "costume" as a black cat, perfect for Halloween! But no dice.

At our admin meeting earlier this week, our HR director unveiled her latest excuse to bring children into the office: Holiday Breakfast with Santa! But she jokingly apologized to me, saying that this was another speciesist event and I wouldn't be able to bring my cats.

Without missing a beat, I said, "That's OK. My cats are Jewish."