We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Harvard professor Ruth Wisse, author of Jews and Power, argues that the defensive self-blame and even self-abasement that Jews adopted in the millennia since the fall of the Temple is counterproductive to survival.
This argument is at the heart of today’s critiques of Obama’s feckless and failing foreign policy.
On May 20, Wisse addressed the thirteen Jewish cadets graduating West Point.the Naval Academy.The Weekly Standard has the text.
Wisse uses the humor about schlemiels to make her point.There are many definitions of the Yiddish term, mostly varying in emphasis, but basically a schlemiel is naïve, gullible, even a simpleton.
Wisse starts with some Old World jokes about schlemiels in combat who don’t recognize they are in a mortal situation.Then Wisse comments:
Hilarious in Yiddish, this joke hardly works in English, which has trouble imagining someone so unworldly that he cannot grasp that a man may be shot just for stepping on the wrong side of a border. The joke may likewise fall flat because we now know what happened to the people who created those jokes. They were slaughtered in the millions. What we call the Holocaust targeted precisely the population that created schlemiel comedy. We learned from that episode that sweetness was no laughing matter and that joking—which momentarily releases tension—offered no defense against real belligerents. The schlemiel who initially made us laugh also taught us to raise our guard.When I wrote about the schlemiel in the 1960s, I had in mind the culture of Jews, but nowadays, we Americans similarly confront enemies who intend to destroy our way of life. Like the Jews of Europe, we are tempted to ignore them. We enjoy getting along with the rest of the world. We have no passion for war, favoring peace and prosperity. Like the schlemiel, some among us think that warfare is a ridiculous pursuit….
A schlemiel doesn’t know how to find the notch in a saw.Sound like Obama? Oy vey!
But, it's even worse than that among many leading Jews, as Jennifer Rubin points out about the Rabbis selected as safe for Obama to meet with:
This is what passes for “leadership” in American Jewry. A kabuki dance is orchestrated by an Obama fan to gather other Obama fans to air the mildest criticism and to avoid challenging the factual representations of an administration that is the most hostile to the Jewish state in history. As one Israeli hand who definitely isn’t going to be invited to any meetings with this president put it: “They may be fine rabbis, but they are out of their league here.” And by not directly and strongly taking on the president, they are, in fact, enabling the president’s anti-Israel stance. It is, come to think of it, more than an embarrassment; it is an egregious misuse of their status and it is every bit as dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s.
The Jews of Europe died in the gas chambers because they had adopted a culture which told them that they really could depend upon the classical liberal conscience for their safety. Always a minority, it was safest to assimilate and adapt -- to the extent that they could -- and be friends with their neighbors. Israel exists today because Jews learned, the hardest way possible, that they couldn't depend on anyone else for their survival.
In an episode of Star Trek called "The Immunity Syndrome, an entire starship crewed by Vulcans went to their deaths not understanding how it was possible. When Mr Spock felt the telepathic death cries of the crew, he said that their final feeling was one of astonishment. I often wonder if that wasn't exactly what many of Europe's Jews felt when they finally realized, at the moments of their deaths, that the Nazis really did mean to slaughter them all.
"The Jews of Europe died in the gas chambers because they [believed] ... they really could depend upon the classical liberal conscience."
Actually, I believe the Jews of Europe died because the Nazis, who were bone evil, conspired to kill them. Perhaps sharper situational awareness could have contained the damage, but the Jews themselves were blameless.
(I'm not claiming that you meant otherwise; I just wanted to keep the blame firmly fixed where it belongs.)
The best protection against evil people in power is a set of enumerated rights, preferably set down by a transcendent god, that limits what the government can do.
But even that gets mixed results: The Bill of Rights didn't save the Indians from ethnic cleansing. Of course, neither did armed and organized self-defense.
As to the 'dangerous as the quietude of American Jews in the 1930s,' one cartoonist who tried to warn the isolationists in the '30s was Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel). His wartime work is archived at UCSD and can be viewed online at:
I've spent a lot of time over the last few decades wondering if I would be more like the Jews who threw away their security and most of their savings to flee in the 30s before things descended straight into Hell, or like the ones who couldn't quite believe it would ever get that bad. It's so tempting to hunker down and hope things will get better in the place where we feel the most secure. But where does a modern American go? Is it best to plan to stand and fight?
This essay on schlemiels reminds me of something from American history that should not be forgotten.
During World War I the white owners of large farms in the American South intensely opposed allowing Black Americans to be drafted into military service, or even being accepted as volunteers.
The reason those white farmers gave was a lie. It usually ran something like, "We need our Negroes."
The reality was that the white elite of the South knew very well that once a Black man had been trained and blooded as a soldier, he would never again be submissive to the oppressive social structure the South inflicted.
What's distressingly clear about our current situation is that today's self-styled "progressive" elites expect Americans of all colors to just be good little n-----s, or schlemiels, and submit to their blatant authoritarianism.
Etymology Note: A schlamezel is one who can never know luck, as in if it rained soup he'd only have a fork.
A schmuck (rooted in the word for jewel later attached in use to the "family jewels") is a dope, and is susceptible to scams (among other definitions and usages).
Many Americans voted like dopes, but even many of those have now had their illusions circumcised.