Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Great Schlep: Jew Power for Obama
an early high-holiday card from Simon

Sera's in the Holy Land; I'm sure neither she nor it will ever be the same. But I've got a Wailing Wall of my own, and it's called this blog. And I'm-a use it.

Thanks to some killer PR and the hard work of folks like Mik Moore at the Jewish Council for Education & Research, among many others, The Great Schlep goes down on Columbus Day weekend. It's a mass pilgrimage of young Jews to Florida and other swing states, where they will endeavor to convince their older, often "low-information" relatives to vote for Obama.

I attended a beautiful fundraiser for said initiative the other night. It was held at the mansion-like home of some very generous entertainment-industry peeps, and I met a couple of mega-hot Jewish celebrities there who nearly made my knees buckle. The food, provided by the reliably brilliant Provisions (aka very haute Jew Lisa Feinstein and crew), was a gourmandish series of twists on classic bubbie nosh: brisket on toast, borscht shots (with crème fraîche and orange zest), mini-kugels, paté (chopped liver), succulent smoked salmon. The wine flowed freely. Handsomely attired Hebrews strolled the lush environs.

And yet, from the cocktail-hour chatter, you'd think we were all about to be herded onto trains to Dachau. Everyone was so worried. So terribly concerned. Worried about racist voters. Concerned about easily misled voters. Worried that Sarah Palin would become President in ten minutes and life would turn into The Handmaid's Tale. Concerned about what Bill Clinton said on TV. Worried about what their neighbors said in the driveway. Anecdotal blips on the radar screen were described like incoming ballistic missiles. For sheer doom-and-gloom certainty, I'd put any random bunch of Jews, even a well-heeled, high-information batch of Hollywood activist types such as these, up against the most rabid evangelicals in full apocalypse mode.

Fortunately, the presentation — by Mik and various other folks from JCER, and other cool outfits (including friend of this blog and mightily pregnant genius Jill Soloway) soothed some of these fears by describing the Schlep and making a charming appeal for support before screening this inspired, typically raunchy promotional video by Sarah Silverman.

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

Before I go on, I'd like to say a couple of quick things about this video. First: Our Sarah will kick their Sarah's ass. Next: I don't wanna hear about how you found this video offensive or untoward or how it made you uncomfortable. It isn't for you. It's for the kids who are going to journey to the heart of their grandparents' couches to close the deal for Obama, and they fully get and love her spiel. So shut your homentaschen hole.

Now I'd like to speak to the kids.

We often hear that children are the future, and ordinarily I don't agree. I just don't see the proof. But in this case, yes, children — specifically motivated and liberal teenage and twentysomething children and grandchildren of poorly informed, slightly confused elderly voters in swing states – emphatically are the future.

So you know your job, right, kinder? It's up to you to convince Bubbie and Zayde (and great aunt Rivke and cousin Manny and all their friends at the Senior Center) to cast their vote for our guy. This may not be as simple as it sounds. All kinds of ridiculous lies about Obama being a Muslim or not supporting Israel or whatever have been circulating like swamp gas among Jewish retirees, fueled by the Karl Rove innuendo factory. Then there's plain old ingrained racism, about which we'd like to think Jews would be more enlightened, but there you go. You will encounter resistance.

You must crush that resistance with everything you've got.

If you think I mean "Ply nana with an extra pot of Russian tea and tell her about Barack's thoughtful foreign-policy stances," you need to get real. I'm talking about tough love. I'm talking about winning this thing. Like Sarah S. suggests, I'm talking about emotional blackmail.

Nana has to understand that if she doesn't vote for Obama she's endangering her relationship with you.

This may seem harsh, but let's face it: If McCain wins this thing, we're mega-fucked. So it's time to put all our chips on the table, including our willingness to stay in touch with low-info relatives in swing states.

Look, I just want to help. I don't have any relatives in Boca, and my peeps are all voting for Obama anyway. But I thought I'd just sketch out a couple of talking points for you.

Of course, you do want to blow away the nonsense: No, he's not a Muslim, and a prominent Chicago rabbi wrote an editorial about how spreading this smear is lashon ha-ra. Barack's been endorsed by 900 rabbis. The Israelis like and respect him. You'll also want to make it clear that McCain's campaign is full of classic Jew-haters, and that Sarah Palin is a dangerous fanatic who scares the crap out of Israel. She believes Jews must be converted, she quoted racist Westbrook Pegler in her acceptance speech, and her church hosted a witch-hunting wacko who made some classically anti-Semitic inferences that can be found here. You might imply casually that she writes erotic fiction about the Third Reich under a nom de plume; can anyone prove she doesn't?
And given the age of your audience, it wouldn't hurt to remind them that McCain, not Obama, wants to bet their Social Security check on the same stock market that just fell apart.

Still, we both know that voting often comes down to abstract, emotional issues. For whatever reason, many older Jews have inhaled enough miasmic right-wing spew to feel an ingrained distrust of our candidate. That's where the tough love comes in. So let me offer you a few constructive dramatizations.

"Nana, you're going to vote for Obama. He's a wonderful candidate and the only one who can save our country. A vote for him is a vote for my future. So if you love me and want me to have a future, you will vote for him."

Let's say she looks down at the plate of kichel, heaves a weary sigh and says, "I'm sorry; I just can't vote for him." What are you gonna do, pack up your stuff and head for the bus station? I think not. You're gonna double down.

"Bubbie, let's be clear: You will vote for Obama. If you don't, you are dead to me. Because you will have chosen your wretched fears over my fondest hopes and flushed my dreams down the crapper because some idiot alteh cocker down the hall told you the shvartzeh won't stand up for Israel. And I don't care if you call him by that vile word as you pull the lever for him, even though every time you old Jews say it the little children who died in the camps and are now in heaven cry tears of blood that stain the fluffy clouds beneath their angel feet. You will vote for Obama because you if you don't, I'm going to come back here and we're going to get a knife from the kitchen and you can stab me right in the heart, just as Abraham was prepared to do with Isaac before the Lord stayed his hand. Is that what you want to do?"

I'm thinking by this time she's going to start to come around.

Sure, it's a risky gambit to fire these emotional cannons at our frail old family members. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Plus, when Obama wins in November and you come back to show them a bunch of family videos and have a nice picnic at the wrought-iron tables in the condo courtyard, they'll be delighted beyond belief. And so will you.

If, like me, you can't personally go on the Great Schlep, why not make a contribution? Even if you're broke, you can honor the classic grandparent tradition and slip a fiver into a card like this.


Alana said...

Today sort of sucks at work so far, and so I'm happy to have read your post, Simon. You're sharp as a tack (cliche, sorry.) Point is, reading this made me smile then smile some more and then laugh out loud. You're the Best. Also, you're a tease. No name dropping?

Anyway, the kiddo was a little bummed the other day when he asked, "Is Obama Jewish?" And I said, "No." Probably because the kid is now an Honorary Jew, thanks to you, but hey, he's still a fervent Obama fan, regardless of religious affiliation. Last night we got into a talk about the US Constitution and how that's a big effing sham now.

I told my parents last weekend when they were here from Colorado, (they voted for Bush and will vote for Mccain) that McCain and Palin frighten the shit out of me. This didn't rattle thier cages.

They, of course, mentioned Obama's lack of experience and how he couldn't get anything done even if he wanted to. I'm sure they're afraid he hates White people.

Listen, after reading this post, I may resort to some emotional blackmail of my own. "You're going to mar your grandson's future by voting for McCain and Palin???"

Palin is so awful I don't know where to start. I'm getting emails from Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, Michael Moore, and Defenders of Wildlife, among other organizations I belong to, pleading with me to help spread the word about her lunacy.

I think the woman may actually have a black heart.

Thanks again, Simon. For everything.

Rachael said...

Thank you so much for posting about this. I had not heard of this movement and I'll be passing the word along.

I live in Florida, but on the other coast from Boca and the mess that is Miami. I don't know any old Jewish people who are voting for McCain. And my old Gentile grandmother says she's voting for McCain but that's because she's 1930s-South-type racist and can't be swayed. Seriously, it's impossible. We've all tried. She insists that Obama, because he's black, isn't smart enough to be president. Never mind that Obama graduated from Harvard Law and McCain was nearly the very last in his class. We're all hoping that she forgets what day it is on Election Day. None of us have any intention of reminding her. She's seriously schizophrenic, so there's a chance she really will forget.

But in the hopes of raising the spirits of those who think the ingrained racism can't be overcome... I know of two Old Money South senior citizens in South Carolina, who both still live in the grand Big Houses their families owned when they also owned slaves, and they are voting for Obama. If they can overcome all the cultural racism they've been exposed to in their lives, I have hope that just about anyone can.

KELSO'S NUTS said...

I saw that debate last night and I KNOW that when Sarah Palin was saying "Wall Street greed and corruption" she was thinking "JEWS!"

Her avowal of a "love of Israel" made me want to vomit. Yet another Republican who "loves Israel," yet has never met an Israeli and hates all Jews besides.

If that repulsive woman were ever president of the states, there would be only two possible outcomes vis-a-vis Israel: (1) Israel would be incinerated or (2) Israel would incinerate the USA.

She is no friend to any Israel I'm familiar with. We can't vote but all the way from CdP to Patagonia you can't find a McCain supporter with a search party.

Please tell Jill Soloway her TV show is still in heavy rotation on the Colombian/Chilean network which has all the American series and crime shows with Spanish subtitles.