My interest in politics ebbs and flows, depending on what’s happening in the world, how close the U.S. is to an election and whether or not I’ve become so disgusted and disaffected by the whole charade that I just can’t take it anymore. My interest in religion is pretty much non-existent at all times. I didn’t expect a particularly heightened preoccupation with the former to have any influence over the latter. But here we are – the newest members of the local temple.
I blame Donald Trump. Seriously. And no, this is not just payback for those sincerely sarcastic thanks, Obama! statements that idiot a-holes repeated anytime anything went wrong. Thanks, Obama rightly became a meme and a joke, but I’m not joking when I say Thanks, Donald! I joined a temple and it’s all your fault.
I feel like I was an early ticket holder on the Trump is just crazy enough to win train when I noticed every time he did or said something insane and offensive his poll numbers shot up. No one GAF about his gaffes. They only made him more popular. At first I thought it was just his core supporters who were dangerous and that reason would eventually prevail, at least in the general election. It soon became apparent, however, that even if Trump was full of shit, his shit was explosive.
Penny is only eight years old, but she’s as sensitive as she is smart. She listens when her mother and I talk. And she listens when I listen to talk radio. Sometimes she interjects with a question or comment when I didn’t even realize she was listening. I should have known better. She asks questions and we have a discussion. We’ve been discussing Donald Trump since the primaries. We’ve been to rallies since the election.
We have Muslim neighbors and friends, we’re active members of a Dad Group with fathers who immigrated from Mexico and both Penny and her brother Simon attend incredibly diverse schools. One of Simon’s best friends is the daughter of a refugee. I’d venture to bet that my children are friends with more Muslims and people with a Hispanic background than an arena full of Trumplodytes. I’ve had to allay their fears, telling them that their friends are safe. Penny asks questions and she gives her opinion, usually quite forcefully. She doesn’t have all the facts, but then again, neither do I. Politics, when intelligently discussed, is about nuance and listening to opposing viewpoints. Nuance and opposing viewpoints, however, can be difficult when you’re 8. Hell, they’re difficult for most of the people with whom I discuss politics. Thanks, Facebook.
As mature as Penny sometimes seems, she’s still a kid. She’s still a kid and she wants to know how all of this affects her, how it affects her family.
We’re Jewish, even if I don’t “feel” Jewish most of the time. We live in the Northeast and there are too many of us around for me to really think about it much. I don’t feel like an outsider. I went to temple as a kid and I was Bar Mitzvahed. As I grew up, I attended services during the high holidays, but only because of the Jewish guilt from my parents. My family exchanges presents on Hanukkah and we usually do some sort of token nod to other (Biblically more important) holidays. Most years, at approximately this time of year, we have a Seder dinner for Passover, after which I eat charoset all week on either leavened or unleavened bread because charoset is delicious but the only reason I would attempt to keep Kosher for Passover would be to kickstart cutting carbs from my diet. I. Love. Bread! Thanks, Oprah.
As long as we’re talking about Passover, isn’t it weird that the Jews fleeing slavery didn’t have 18 minutes to wait for the bread to rise but they had 8 hours to slow cook a brisket? More troubling in the story of Pesach is that God murdered the first-born child of our enemy. I mean, that is just batshit insane! Sure, we pour out a few dabs of wine for our fallen homies, but it still seems pretty effed up.
This is all to say, I don’t buy into religion in general. It divides more than unites. It’s chock full o’ hypocrisy. It’s the opiate of the masses. It’s superstition. It’s all that bullshit you’ve heard from thousands of other Atheists. It’s all the bullshit I say that forces my wife look to the heavens and apologize on my behalf, because she believes in a higher power and she knows that I know not what I say. I’m not REALLY anti-religion. I’m anti-religion-used-to-justify-the-deplorable-behavior-of-assholes. Also, going to temple is just so boring! WRAP. IT. UP. Thanks, B.
I identify as Jewish because of what my ancestors went through in the land of Egypt, Berlin and pretty much anyplace else we’ve ever eaten a knish. But the lessons I’ve learned from their plight isn’t so much that we have to stick together as Jews, it’s that we have to stick up for anyone getting f**ked over. In Trump’s America, that’s mostly Muslims, Mexicans and, well, it’s still America, so black people. Oh, also, the LGBTQ community; god forbid someone has to take a whiz in Alabama. But lately, unexpectedly for someone who hasn’t thought much about it his whole life, it’s the Jews again, too. So, yeah, thanks Donald.
My intelligent, inquisitive, empathetic little girl feels it. She feels different. She feels like an outsider. She feels Jewish. I received a call from her music teacher because Penny refused to sing Jingle Bells at her school Winter Show. I tried to explain to my little fighter for what’s right that the song isn’t even really about Christmas, it certainly doesn’t mention Jesus or anything religious. But no, still no. She wouldn’t sing but she agreed to jingle the bell at the show (I didn’t even joke that Jews are more into blowing horns than ringing bells). Penny’s newly found chutzpah made it’s way into art class where she semi-obsessively drew the Star of David and also during a history lesson, when discussing ancestry, she told the class that her family was from the Jewish state of Israel. We’re not. After speaking with one of her teachers, I breathed a deep sigh of resignation and texted my wife that we should probably look into Hebrew school for Penny.
To enroll her in the Sunday class we had to join the temple. Despite my parents’ pleas, Allie and I have avoided joining a temple for years! Well, we had a good run but we run too slow. My parents were thrilled with the news. Ironically, by joining a temple I’m avoiding some Jewish guilt. Thanks, Donald!
If I had to join a temple, which apparently, I did, this one seems like a pretty good “choice.” The rabbi seems pretty damn liberal, which I dig. She talked some really thinly veiled shit about Trump during the Purim service, to the point where even I was like “alright, lay off the guy already.” They rent out part of the temple to an Evangelical Church; I like that different religions can share a space (because it’s like 95% the same bullshit, right?). And, like any decent religious leader, the rabbi strives to use her pulpit as a force for positive change. During a discussion about Passover, she spoke about new traditions, including a cup for Miriam (showing that women have had important roles in the Bible and deserve a place at the table) and an orange on the Seder plate (the slices are eaten but the seeds, which represent homophobia, are spit out). She continued that some Seder plates include an olive, symbolizing peace in Israel with safe homelands for Jews and Palestinians. She sort of trailed off with that one, with a sad acceptance of the current state of affairs. Too many people to thank for that one.
Religious institutions have a long history of fighting for civil change in America. They also have a long history of oppression and hate. And lately, hate gets most of the press. The Religious Right helped get Mr. Grabherbythepussy elected, despite the fact that his moral compass points due-Trump at all times. But recently there have been some amazing stories of religious communities coming together. Just like in the 1960s, when Jews walked arm-in-arm with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., today different religious groups are fighting oppression, hate and sheer f**king stupidity together. Muslim activists raised $70,000 for a desecrated Jewish cemetery and Jews in Texas gave a Muslim congregation the keys to their synagogue after the mosque was burned to the ground.
In the face of hate, there is still love. Religion can be the reason, or excuse, for both. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: religion is neither “bad” nor “good.” It’s just a way of thinking about the world. Though it’s not the prism through which my worldview flows, maybe it will be for my kids. I’m glad that my wife and I are giving them the opportunity to find or reject religion for themselves, and to find the good in people of all religions, races, creeds and sexual orientations. And to know there are shitheads in all those groups, too. For that, I say, thanks, Donald. Toda.