The Cardozo Jurist came out yesterday. I originally wrote a column following my normal trend of addressing gay rights within the Jewish community. However, after talking with other people about it, I came to the conclusion that I’ve driven the topic into the ground. Because I have never done that before.
Furthermore, the tone of the column was just a bit too over the top. Because I have never done that before, either.
Anyways, here is the Lost Column. I’ll post the one that was actually published later.
Today is election day. As a Texan, it is hypocritical of me to criticize other states’ political systems. It is also fun and easy — the New York gubernatorial race doubleplus so.
It was only a few election cycles ago when a Cuomo was the alternative to “the homo” and Carl Paladino was a registered Democrat. Of course, barring a sudden state-wide revelation that rent is too damn high, one of the two is governor-elect by now. However, the end of the election does not mean that campaign discussion has to end as well. Notably, Paladino’s tea party rhetoric about gay marriage in an address to Orthodox Jewish leaders deserves continued discussion, especially at a Jewish institution like Cardozo.
Upon first glance, Paladino’s speech does not seem too far from expected Republican talking points: “I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”
Paladino even wisely omitted from his speech one especially nasty bit in his prepared text: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”
However, this idea that certain demographics can be targeted within our society as less valid or less successful than the overarching uberculture is a dangerous concept, especially for the Jewish community. In New York, Judaism may seem like a well integrated, or maybe even dominant, ingredient in our pressure cooker of a nation. But for those whose world does not end at New Jersey, things can be quite different.
Back in 2007, Ann Coulter revealed in a CNBC interview an attitude towards Judaism that one does not often hear out loud: Jews need to be “perfected” into Christians. From her perspective, much like gays, Judaism is not an equally valid or successful option.
It is easy to dismiss Ann Coulter as a washed-up pundit begging for attention. But Coulter’s rhetoric is echoed in secret throughout the nation. This past month, U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert [what is the proper style here?] explained in a Newsmax magazine column that the government functions best when it is run by Christians. According to him, Christians are “the one[s] God has ordained to run the country.” Apparently other people, Jews included, are not an equally valid and successful option.
The Jewish community may be comfortable in our self-imposed urban ghettos. We can feel praised as talking heads throw around the term “Judeo-Christian” as if it meant something. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend has kept ties close during the War on Terror. But every time a pundit rants about the War on Christmas or the nation’s Christian foundations, it is a glimpse at just how thin the protective bubble is around non-Christian religion and culture. This may not be obvious at Cardozo, but it is in the rest of America. And when the courts are done explaining that Islam is actually a religion, and gay baiting no longer gets out the vote, Judaism will still be a minority, no matter how many times someone uses the phrase “Judeo-Christian morality.”
The problem is not just antisemitism or homophobia, but rather the idea that demographics can be targeted and attacked as less valid or successful than the dominating norms, with no support but bigotry. The Jewish community must draw a line at attitudes like Paladino’s, even after election season has finished. The same moral influence that has pushed Ann Coulter and Rick Sanchez off the air should stand with anyone who wants to attack minority groups to score points. And right now that stand is with the gay community. After all, we shared the same ovens.