When You Are Politics, and Politics Are You

I went to public school in New York and a university in America that wasn’t diverse, but that sought to fill the void by shoving various multicultural programs down our throats.  Both real and fake diversity gave me some sort of mild appreciation for having friends from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, from all across the political spectrum.  I enjoyed sitting at bars, mildly or aggressively disagreeing with people while sipping my drink.  I sometimes labeled these exchanges ‘great conversations’ and I felt good for having them. I felt worldly and tolerant.

Some of us dabble in politics.  We have pet issues, and we’re vocal about some of them.  Others don’t only have political views, but we have deeply embedded values that guide the majority of our personal decisions and color our entire world view.  Some see these values as political issues, but we see them as the very fiber of our being, central to who we are. Which, of course, poses the question: can you form meaningful bonds  with people who find the essence of who you are to be offensive?  Is the PC approach of ‘not talking about it’ or ‘listening and accepting each person’s right to have an opinion’ actually viable in all cases?  We all want to believe that it is.

I remember sitting at a bar a couple of years ago with a friend of mine and some of her acquaintances who all study fine arts here in Jerusalem. I like art.  My mom is an artist and I was bred to have an appreciation for modern art. An evening with a bunch of artists could have been a learning experience, a chance to discuss the revitalization of the arts here in Jerusalem, an issue that I’m deeply interested in.  Instead, it ended up like this:

Art Student: So where are you from? What are you doing in Israel?

Me: I made aliyah and I’m in the army.

Art Student: ::smiles::: Aliyah?  Do you know what the word means in Hebrew?
Me: Yes, a move upward. From La’alot.  What’s your point?
Art Student: Well, I would hardly call a move to Israel a move up.  You don’t know it yet, but this country is a screwed up place. We do terrible things.
Art Student: Never mind.  Why didn’t you fight the draft?  You could easily get out of it. You’re American.
Me: I volunteered.
Art Student: You volunteered?! You might want to educate yourself about the IDF first! They occupy Palestine, among other things. You are a part of this machine now.

You get the idea.  At a certain point, we did transition to talking about their senior art projects, but despite that banter, no one felt the desire to get to know me, and it was mutual.  I walked away doubting myself and others: we’re all dynamic people- why can’t we avoid that one issue and have an good time?

After a lot of self-doubt, years of similar conversations, strained friendships, being de-friended and re-friended, and ‘respectfully avoiding’ politics in many circles, I’m finally ready to submit to the truth.  The truth is that I’m no longer holding up pro-choice banners on the quad and then calling it a day.  I’ve dedicated my existence to what the rest of the world calls a ‘political situation’ and what I call home; to a faith that the world calls one of three monotheistic religions, and what I call my lifeblood; to what the world calls antiquated and what I call Zionism, the Jewish people’s greatest hope and an asset to the entire global community. The truth is that my tolerance and ‘appreciation of diversity’ has limits. It makes no room for the preposterous de-legitimization of Israel’s statehood. I don’t appreciate the ‘diversity’ of perspectives regarding the difference between intentionally attacking civilians and dismantling terror networks, which sometimes entails tragedies for everyone involved.

I value free speech and I’m in support of your right express all of these sentiments, but  I don’t respect your views.  I don’t want to share a drink with you and avoid the issues, or to sheepishly disagree.

Sometimes,  our perception of right and wrong and trumps tolerance, whether we like it or not.  How strong of a bond can we form if you staunchly believe that my path in life is contrary to everything that you believe in? A political and social travesty? A humanitarian disaster?

We should strive to appreciate all that surround us for who they are, but also to accept that at times, our beliefs and our values isolate us and it requires a great deal of stamina in order to have the strength of our convictions. But, we must.


  1. Jinjirrie

    7/6/2010 at 11:58 pm

  2. xisnotx

    7/7/2010 at 12:31 am

  3. rozi

    7/7/2010 at 12:34 am

  4. JamesEJ

    7/7/2010 at 9:24 am

  5. The Loxist

    7/7/2010 at 11:40 am

  6. AlexK

    7/7/2010 at 12:07 pm

  7. Tom Morrissey

    7/7/2010 at 1:44 pm

  8. cori

    7/7/2010 at 11:09 pm

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    7/7/2010 at 11:57 pm

  10. cori

    7/8/2010 at 1:26 am

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    7/8/2010 at 2:23 pm

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    7/8/2010 at 6:36 pm

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