My uncle was an alcoholic...
Remember Seinfeld Episode 165 - The Apology? No, of course not. Let me refresh your memory.
This is the important part:
GEORGE: So you're Jason Hanke's supervisor?
GEORGE: Whatever. Listen, I'm very concerned about this guy.
SPONSOR: He's doing very well. He's already on to Step Ten.
GEORGE: Yeah, well when you don't actually do the steps, you can go through them pretty quick. You can get through six a day.
SPONSOR: Is there some unresolved issue between you and Jason?
GEORGE: I don't know. A little thing called Step Nine? Instead of an apology, he was beboppin' and scattin' all over me.
SPONSOR: I'm not sure what you want me to do.
GEORGE: Well, aren't you the boss of him? You shouldn't let him move up! When I was in the Cub Scouts, I got stuck on Weebolos for three years 'cause I kept losing the Pinewood Derby.
SPONSOR: You're quite upset, George.
GEORGE: Well, I think you should drop him down to Step Two.
SPONSOR: Admit there's a higher power?
GEORGE: Yeah, let him chew on that for a while.
SPONSOR: You know George, I think I can help you. We're having a meeting tomorrow. Why don't you just come by?
GEORGE: All right. That's more like it. Thank you very much. (giving the sponsor the 'be strong' hand clench) By the way, my uncle was an alcoholic, so...
George is trying to curry favour with a recovering alcoholic by conjuring up an alcoholic uncle, suggesting an affinity between him and the sponsor. He utilizes exactly the same kind of logic that informs that notorious refrain to hide one's bigotry: "some of my best friends are..." **
Now this is usually a meme employed by any garden-variety closet antisemite to distance himself from the "real" antisemites out there. I've encountered it repeatedly, from people who can hardly contain their loathing of anything Jewish (that is, usually anything Jewish and successful...).
Today, I had the dubious pleasure of encountering a different angle of this coin. I was taken by surprise because, pessimist as I am when it comes to the foibles of human nature, not even I had ever considered this possibility.
In a certain Internet milieu populated by few and rather stupid antisemites (that is, legitimate critics of Israel*) one poster was suspected of double loyalty, of harbouring some lingering affection for Israel. However, the person, aspiring for the current chic of Rococo-Leftism, rejected this accusation. I'm paraphrasing his righteous self-exoneration:
Soon after my father died, a close friend of his had a tree planted in Israel for him. I always thought it ironical, because my father was antisemitic.
The ancestral antisemitic affiliation serves the same purpose that George's alcoholic uncle does, in that particular situation. It signals to the other, a confirmed antisemite (that is, a legitimate critic of Israel's existence), that the child of an antisemite should not be suspected of liking Israel. A certain pride is observable in that explanation. As it happens, Seinfeld's recovering alcoholic has overcome his addiction and can decipher that it is George who suffers from some unintelligible problem...
As good fortune would have it, that very person also has a number of Jewish friends.
However, let's not be too hard on anybody here. It might be a case of trying to please another's feeling, as the Reverend Billy Graham explained to his Jewish "friends" why in his conversations with president Nixon he expressed clear antisemitic sentiments: "If it wasn't on tape, I would not have believed it. I guess I was trying to please... I went to a meeting with Jewish leaders and I told them I would crawl to them to ask their forgiveness."
"I guess I was trying to please..." , and just like George, nobody was fooled, and it's George with egg on his face. Poor George.
*[BTW, I've yet to see an example of anyone remotely serious calling a critic of Israeli policy an antisemite for arguing against Israeli policy. I know of no one well disposed to Israel who would dream of confusing the two. Just look at the Israeli media if you want to see full-on criticism of the Israeli government. But what's striking is that, all too often, those who are indeed genuinely anti-semitic - who oppose the existence of Jews, not just of Israel - hide behind that distinction.] (Stephen Pollard)
** Joel Kovel is one of those "mamma was a Jew so I get to say anything I like without being a bigot" type, a cretin who compares Gaza and the West Bank to the Warsaw Ghetto. And he is in Ireland, being praised as another Chomsky, as if that were a good thing, and by the sorts of people who love the fact that his mamma was Jewish so they can say that, see, even a Jew agrees with our bigotry, so we can't be bigots. Oh goody. As if they aren't letting too many people out of mental institutions as it is. (The Atlantic Blog)
Some readers told me that the comments' link does not always open. The comment left on this post by "Anonymous" is here by served, for your merry enjoyment:
u seem to know so much about alcoholics. Which leads me to think you must have some in your gene pool.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Tuesday, October 09, 2007