No Alien American is Perfect, Pony.
So…I wanted to do a post about Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I have the day off, which is why the post gets to be so late. Still…I was debating, strongly, what to draw in the first place. A couple of years ago I did a good one that had to do with wrestling with my identity as a Jew while not really being accepted by the community, and it said all there was to say on THAT subject.
One of my closest friends gave me the impression that led to the art above. She was observing a situation where once a year, at the High Holy Days, a huge contingent of Jews in our community suddenly try to be Much Better Jews, and become Very Pushy about their beliefs and observations. Going to shul and making observations suddenly becomes THE thing, taking over households in a way that will be forgotten the week after Yom Kippur, because the High Holy Days are over. It bothers us, because it seems hypocritical, and a bit judgmental.
For those that don’t know, Rosh Hashanah is the new year, and it leads to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, where you fast because of all the crummy, sinful things you did over the past year. The idea is to reflect upon your conduct as a person, and try to do better, to be a better person. The idea is NOT to be a better person for one week, when everyone in the congregation is looking…but that, sadly, is the way it comes out, quite often.
That’s what’s going on in the Kirby inspired art above. All the Alien Americans, diverse as they are, are waiting in line for the magic phone booth, which transforms them on the other side into really conformist, “ideal” Alien Americans. I imagine that the machine also provides a micro sermon about how the planet Earth must be protected against a vast galactic right wing conspiracy of terror, or somesuch like that, if only to provide some sort of enemy to personify in Alien American unity. Again, the metaphor is pretty heavy handed.
It bothers me a whole lot, because I’m far from a perfect person, but I do my level best, each and every day, to not @#$% up too much. I work in a profession that is universally considered thankless, in areas that need help more than any other. The same people that look at me like I’m Mother Theresa when I tell them I teach public school in the inner city look at me for the next week as if I’m the most awful person in the world, because I don’t make a big deal out of these observances.
Shouldn’t we be mindful of being a decent person every day? I think that’s the better way to live, religiously or not.
I won’t be going to shul…to be fair, I think I’m actually mildly disappointed in the concept. Am I that much better a person for going to a group meeting, responding in hebrew when told, and listening to the rabbi’s sermon…which is usually political? I don’t think so…at least not at this point in my life. If some one else wants to do that…fine, but I’d prefer not being judged on my choices to observe or not.
Especially when the Magic Phone Booth Machine really seems to embody my feelings about visits to shul these days. It seems like we want a quick change, and that there’s a certain unified kind of Jew that has The Same views on things like Israel and politics that is in vogue. I’ll never fit into that…so long as Israel keeps putting Palestinians in camps, I can’t really be on board with Israel. It seems like they have forgotten the camps in Europe, that got us possession of Israel in the first place.
On that simple point, questioning that hypocrisy, I generally get a whole lot of flak from any Jew in earshot. I’m not prepared to keep my opinion to myself (Free Speech, natch), and not prepared to be judged for having a dissenting opinion…that I feel a two year old outsider would agree with as correct, by virtue of its obviousness. In fact…I’ll go a step further…if the Jewish State in Israel treated the Palestinians with considerably more dignity, and tried to deal with them as equally valid people, there might be more peace in that region. You know…actually adopting the ideas of this set of High Holy Days, and trying to be better, less judgmental people.
Wow…that turned political. Apologies…it happens sometimes.
Pony and I are just happy to have a day off, and reflect. I think that the basic thing that I’m taking away from this season was said in the late 1980’s by Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan:
“Be Excellent To Each Other.”
With that as a guiding principle, regardless of religion or creed, I don’t think you can go wrong.