Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Just in Time for Pesach.
a long-overdue missive from Simon

Yeah, we know. We know! It took us until April to get a 2009 post on the board. Do we feel guilty about it? Ordinarily I'd say yes, but ya gotta wonder: How much more online crap do you need to look at? I mean, the freakin' ocean of status updates and e-mail circulars and IMs and whateverelsethefuck that keeps overtopping your digital levees must keep you plenty busy.

And why update a blog just to update it? Do you need to see daily or weekly or even monthly updates from your scribblin' Hebrew pals if we're just bitching about how busy we are or how much we're diggin' on the Ethiopian coffee my mom's friend brought all the way from Addis Ababa or how way-shocked we were by what happened with Kutner on House?

Probably best if we just wait until we have a longform screed like this one to unleash, even if it's once a year, right? Come to think of it, an annual online publication would be kinda unique, whereas any twit with two thumbs can tweet every two seconds.

So here's the thing: It's Passover once again, and Jules and I will take refuge in the generous familial bosom, pore over the photocopied anarchist-atheist haggadah my Dad cobbles together, hear the four questions as warbled, more charmingly than ever, by the youngest of the tribe. We'll stuff our faces with all the accustomed treats and wash it all down with some concord grape. We'll wish each other well and tell stories and watch the nephews play "Extreme Horseradish Challenge." And if that's the extent of it, it'll still be a nourishing hang.

But this year I'm thinking a bit more about the angel of death.

You know the guy: Flies over the village and kills the firstborn in every unprotected household. But these days it's increasingly unclear how to mark one's doorpost.

This is the first post I've written since my guy got elected President. And it truly feels like he's my guy most of the time, and I've been kleibing naches, fo' shiz. But of course there are a lot of folks out there -- many of them with TV and radio outlets -- who aren't so happy, and they've been saying stuff like it's time for an uprising and arm yourselves and it's socialism and you'll all be sent to re-education camps and it's the end of the world and they are coming for your guns.

And weirdly enough, when these words go out into the world and march, ant-colony-like, into the ears of credulous, frightened, isolated, wound-too-tight heartland bunker-dwellers, you get eruptions of crazy violence. Where, like, whole families are slaughtered and cops are mowed down because of the "Zionist" threat and churches full of "liberals" are massacred.

The radio and TV hosts, after scoffing at the very notion that their dire warnings have any causal relationship to the actions of batshit crazy people who happen to be armed to the teeth and listen all day to aforementioned radio and TV shows, continue issuing their dire warnings. Gosh, what'll happen next?

Then there's Israel. Have you noticed how little we've talked about Israel in this ostensibly Jewy blog? There's a reason: I don't want to deal with pain-in-the-ass jingoistic members of my tribe (especially that one schmuck who always comments on Jewcy) who won't tolerate the slightest criticism of Israeli policy, and tar every Jew who breathes a word of protest as a self-loathing enemy of the state. Which makes no more sense there than it does here; remember how if you disagreed with Dubya you couldn't possibly be patriotic?

But you know what? Avigdor Lieberman, the new foreign minister, is a war-mongering shitbag. And the new ruling coalition might not even support a Palestinian state, which is beyond nuts. So let me be super-clear: I love and support my Israeli mishpuchah, but to hell with the Israeli government, straight up. A pox on them and on Hamas. Unless somebody works up some diplomatic miracles , the angel of death is gonna be busier than ever over there.

It's all the more galling when you see grown-ups representing the U.S. around the world and get an inkling of how much more harmoniously things could work.

Combine aforementioned cuckoobananas militiamen, trigger-happy, Arab-bashing Israeli powercreeps, the resurgent fuckwads of the Taliban, clammy-sickmaking economic-spiral news, and melting ice shelves; set blender to puree, and voila! A state-of-the-art, state-of-the-world anxiety smoothie. Only not so smooth. In fact: Ew.

So much for my hope that in 2009, with my guy in the White House, I could take a breather. So when does the perspective truck pull up with a sixer of solace? Just about ... now.

The world is not ending. It is changing, in ways both tumultuous and gradual. But there's every reason to be hopeful. Know why? Well, two reasons.

One is that hiding behind that grim wall of violent douchebags and monetary chaos is all the stuff that makes life worth living, like your hilarious kids, your dear friends, spring flowers, lamb chops, beer, romantic caper movies and rock and roll.

photo: Mollie Johnson

The other is that you have no fuckin' choice. You can live on the side of the wall where you're hoarding ammo and weeping bitter tears of despair as the paranoia ants march two by two into your auricular cavity, or you can live on the side with the stuff you love. It may not feel like you have a choice, but it's kinda like diet or exercise: Limit your exposure to the toxic and increase your indulgence in the beatific.

The latter, by the way, can come from anywhere. How often have I snorted derisively when someone e-mailed me a YouTube video I just had to see? But yesterday my buddy Jim included me in the routing list for this (with the subject line "worth watching," for crying out loud), and it was what finally got me off my ass, after lo these many months, to write to y'all.

If you've seen it, pardon me for being Mr. Two Years Ago. If you don't feel like clicking the link, I'll summarize. The clip starts with some shlubby dude dancing awkwardly in various foreign locales. It's amusing enough, but about 28 seconds in I was about ready to return to my regularly scheduled microdiet of tweets and blurts and e-yawps. Slowly, however, more and more people begin to join him. Soon he's doing his clunky white-boy moves amid throngs of raffish Parisians, frenetic Madagascar schoolkids, London famililes, Papuan tribesmen, Tokyo girls, Texas college students, Jordanian moppets, Mexico City cosmopolites ... all hoofing with the same full-steam-ahead joy. Holy shit, I thought as the video neared its end, this guy is uniting the entire world in a moment of sublime, full-body silliness.

And since, on Passover, we celebrate freedom, this is the kind of freedom I choose to think about. Not just reclining at the table, and not just keeping "my people" safe from the angel of death. But joining the world in defiant, ridiculous joy.

It's the only ammo we can count on.