… but just a reminder to my American readers: We already live in this reality. This country isn’t just full of guns; it’s full of ammunition. If you have access to even a single bullet, you are $10 and a trip to the hardware store from making a wonderfully lethal weapon: unserialized, untraceable, highly concealable, nearly foolproof. You won’t be doing any civil massacres with a hardware-store slam gun, but you can mostly definitely kill the guy standing in front of you with little effort.
The reason no one will shoot you today is because no one feels like shooting you today.
Just for the record, this isn’t antisemitism. I saw this Saturday, soon after it was painted, while driving past with my kids on the way to the river. I’m one of the chairs of the Jewish safety committee for this area, so it’s safe to say that my anti-Jew radar is exquisitely well tuned.
“Fuck Israel” written on a public Rock that, for decades, has been a locus of political speech? That isn’t hate speech.
The fact is, Israel is a goddamned country. You can say the nastiest words in the world about Israel, and as long as you keep it about the nation-state of Israel, we’re all good. It’s just like how you can criticize China or the Democratic Republic of the Congo without being racist about it.
Meanwhile, standing outside a synagogue and holding a sign that reads “Israel Has No Right to Exist”? That is antisemitism. And folks have been doing it just a few hundred feet up the street from the goddamned Rock for 16 years and Ann Arbor has done shit about it:
I listen to music basically whenever I write, often as a simple practical matter (I have a wife, a barky-bary-bark, two school-age kids at home, and a house that backs up to an apartment parking lot). What I’m listening to during a given period often seeps into what I’m writing. I listened to Steely Dan’s “Fire in the Hole” every morning while working on the middle section of this novel—both the longest and darkest (“Where There is Nothing, There is God”—itself a title stolen from William Butler Yeats.) At some point, I’d gotten the notion in my head that the narrator of the song was a waiter/actor, which is why the protagonist is a waiter/actor. Looking at the lyrics now, I have no idea where I got that impression. (I’m told Fagen—who co-wrote the song—said in an interview that it was about dodging the draft during the Vietnam War, which makes a lot more sense than my interpretation of the song.) Doesn’t really matter; it was always the piano that caught my mind. It’s the piano, more than the words, that seeped into that story.
This video isn’t about “bulletproof backpacks” and “bulletproof hoodies” and all the other misery-profiteering school products out there—but it illustrates an important point, which is that this shit isn’t a +4 magic shield; you have to stop the projectile, and you have to do something with the force it’s exerted, and you have to be able to get up and get moving to avoid getting shot in the face or the crotch or anywhere else that’s exposed because you’re on the ground and gasping. Life isn’t a video game:
Heck, just jump to ~3:34, and see the wreckage caused by an extremely common, extremely legal gun—even when the bullet is stopped.
Do those hoodies stop a .44 Mag? Yup! Zero penetration. That is indeed impressive. But look closer at these results: the witness panel was deformed by 1.25 inches on average. That’s how far that bullet would go into your body—even though it hasn’t torn the fabric. It’s called “soft body armor” for a reason, folks. The manufacturer implies that the hood will protect you, but that’s a load of shit: If your skull suffers a blunt penetration of 1.25 inches, you are dead. Your brain is only about .5 inches from the outside world.
Timely! (see also this swastika and this other swastika and all the little swastikas raining down all around me like a gentle, glittering, beautiful snow storm whisking me straight up Heaven’s Chimney!)
I’ve got no clue if your message is the command “KIKE: FREE PALESTINE 卐!” or the wish for a “KIKE-FREE PALESTINE 卐”, and that’s driving me nuts. Please, parents: Don’t just teach your children to hate Jews; teach them to use hyphens and colons properly!
Straight talk, though: If you’re vandalizing a synagogue in England—regardless of what words you paint—it really doesn’t have shit to do with Palestine or Israel or whatever. Likewise, if you are holding a protest outside a synagogue (as has been the case at the synagogue ~1 mile for my house for the last 16+ years), it has nothing to do with what’s written on the signs.
Similarly, the extremely high likelihood that right now you’re thinking “My Gosh! That is so clearly and obviously wrong, but you have to admit that Israelblah blah blah…” —that thought, it doesn’t have shit to do with Palestine, either.
The vandalism is anti-Jewish.
The protest outside a synagogue is anti-Jewish.
Expecting Jews in England or Michigan or—hell, anywhere OTHER THAN ISRAEL—to bear some special responsibility for Israeli domestic policy is anti-Jewish and, frankly, crazy. It’s literally the same as protesting outside a Black church because you’re upset about the ongoing lack of accountability or reconciliation from the Liberian Civil Wars, or protesting the Xinjiang internment camps by picketing outside of a Chinese restaurant.
The fact that any of what I’m saying maybe makes you uncomfortable, that’s for you to sort out.
But if you’re afraid I’m maybe implying you harbor anti-Jewish sentiment, here’s a test you can do in the privacy of your own head, and never tell anyone the outcome. Do you agree with the following statements:
I feel weird acknowledging the 3000+ rockets Hamas fired at Israeli civilians in the past month without also acknowledging the 20x difference in Israeli and Palestinian casualty rates.
When someone mentions the 58+ Palestinian children killed in this latest paroxysm of violence, I don’t even think for one second about the terror of ~3000 rockets coming at you in a single month.
If you answered YES to both, congratulations: You’re pretty much like every other person in the world. If you’ve ever wondered how something like the Holocaust happens, now you know.
Sorry to be a bummer, but real talk and then we’re done: Did you feel worse about the thousand rockets, or the 58+ Palestinian kids, or the fact that some Jew in Michigan called you out about it?
You probably feel attacked right now, so I want one last thing to be crystal clear: My answers to those two questions were “Yes”es, too. If your culture has a bias, you have that bias as well—even if, in your heart of hearts, you despise the bias. Even if that bias contributes to your own destruction. None of us get to stand outside our culture; there are no free passes in this game. It’s noble to want to fix Israel, or Liberia, or China—but sorta weird not to give a moment to healing yourself, too.
Incidentally, my source for the image above includes some interesting history (which I’ve touched on before) specific to the town where this happened:
This anti-semitic attack in Norwich makes me want to tell a story of the Jews of Norfolk. By way of background, the first synagogue in Norwich dates back to 1087. This is a story of both hatred and decency. Of English antisemitism. This is the story of William of Norwich. 1/8 https://t.co/oP6EoqJDkg
… was that we all got to learn about “concept unification”:
A fantastic corporate euphemism that yielded the following corporate training videos, which are simply astounding found-footage horror flicks waiting to happen. If this isn’t the origin of the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game series, then nothing makes sense anymore.
(whoever added the Erik Satie score to this second video is a goddamned genius, by-the-by)