Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why Are Jews Liberal?

This seems to be the topic of the month where I visit. Norman Podhoretz has a book out with this title and has a summary at Wall Street Journal. Over at the libertarian law blog, Ilya Somin has three posts on the subject and David Bernstein weighs in as well. At Commentary, there is a symposium on the subject by David Wolpe, Jonathan D. Sarna, Michael Medved, William Kristol and Jeff Jacoby.

That should keep you busy all night if you are interested, so I am going to keep my contribution short at first. I think this will be a series, however, as many issues come into this one.

Not very surprisingly, I thought of the tribal aspect of all this, first from the Jewish side, then from the conservative and Evangelical Christian sides, as those angles seemed to be coming to the fore in the lengthy comments on all those posts.

I seem to have a God with an ironic sense of humor. Those who don't believe in God may say instead that I have formed God in my own ironic image. I have nothing to refute you with on that. I was thinking hard about the cultural side of the question, wondering how much the big-concept urban versus rural, association of right-wing with Nazism, north-south, and underdog-rooting aspects weighed out, and chuckling at the rather small cultural item one commenter had put a lot of stock in: hunting, which evangelical Christians tend to do and Jews don't. I couldn't see how that was going to be a big deal when compared to the other factors.

But I did understand it somewhat. One of my grandfathers went back to Nova Scotia with his brothers once a year to go hunting, but no one else in my family did. It just wasn't us. It wasn't something we did. So I could understand a Jewish attitude of It's just not something we do. But I didn't feel it deeply.

So on this very evening, Kyle asks whether he can get piercings. Kyle is 13. Permission for this isn't even remotely under consideration. It's just not something we do. I felt it powerfully, and despaired of how to explain to a child who grew up in a different (hard rock, drug use, skateboarding, minor criminality) culture. It's just not us. How do you explain that to someone who doesn't already see it, already feel it in his bones.

And it's also not quite true. My brother got an ear pierced in the 70's while he was in college, and he is very like me in many ways. So "we" do that after all.

My own tribalism, and the ghost of my grandmother via my mother rises to find me. Very funny, God.


Retriever said...

Can't wait to check out the links after work. But hold fast on the piercings...(of course, he will probably sneak out and have them done anyway? A friend's son got the ear pierced when he went on a (parentally approved of, because college admission promoting) school band trip...

Piercings, ICK! Not something we do either. Odd, tho, as we know plenty of okay people who do not share our views...

In general, I took the line with my kids about it making them less likely to be hired in future. Along with gang related clothing, tattoos on women, etc. They would point to friends of mine and say "But so and so has one".

I sympathize, and yet am also reminded of a wise friend who was calm when her beautiful blonde daughter dyed her hair first blue then fuchsia: She said seemingly calmly that better an outward and visible rebellion (even if making one scared about other more sinister affiliations and behaviors) than more dangerous behaviors (sex, drugs, cigarettes, booze, delinquency, etc. at an early age). Her kid turned out fine.

On the other hand, when one has lifted a person away from potential negative influences, one is justified in being hypervigilant about signs of identification with any of them going forward.

My kids say I ruined them being so strict about such things, so what do I know??? :)

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Saw your post over at Volokh; funny interaction with your interlocutor. Ii is somewhat amazing how uncomfortable the Jews are joining a group which has a significant religious right section even in a 'bottom up' organization like the Republican party. I guess I'm pleased they seem pretty comfortable with Catholics. Related to your subject of piercings, when I saw a tatoo of the SAC lightning bolt over my son's gracilis muscle (inner thigh), I thought, 'Well there goes your chance for Air Force Intelligence (probably just as well).'

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I am reading this book as well. Since I am not finished, I have not reviewed it on my blog yet, and the High Holy days have intervened with their own wacky contribution, a progressive rabbi's Sermon of the Smear!

With respect to piercing and tattooing. I said "no" to the 15 year old. My reason: Jews don't do that. Period. But a friend's daughter got a Yemenite tattoo on her shoulder. Where? On a NIFTY trip to Israel. Oy.