Do you know why non-Jews don’t talk about politics, religion or sex in polite company? Because they keep polite company. Let’s face it, motek, you and I are not polite company. Our culture has always thrived on debate, discussion and disagreement. Three Jews, four opinions. We earned our name “Israel” by wrestling with G-d. So don’t all of a sudden pretend that we’re genteel, and instead let’s address the orange elephant in the room: The election was a calamity. A catastrophe. You don’t agree? I didn’t think so. Let’s discuss: I start by saying, “I don’t care what you thought about Hillary, we just gave the keys to the White House to a celebrity game show host whose election was celebrated with parades by the KKK.” Now, here’s where you come in, red-faced and fists clenched, saying, “Jeremiah Wright! The BDS Movement! The Palestinian apologists!” I respond with an irritatingly dismissive nod, saying, “The far-left wing of the liberal camp is not exactly Jew-friendly either. But they’re not in power. Nor were they ever, but let’s save that disagreement for another day.” See what we’re doing here? We’re arguing. It’s blood-pressure-raising, sure. But it also feels good, doesn’t it? It feels as though you’re fighting with your sister. No one can push your buttons like your sister, but you know that even after she’s screamed and hung up on you, she’d be the first person at your doorstep, if you called for help. That’s what our Jewish culture is about. But that’s not what our American culture is about. The divisiveness we’ve seen in the nation is not an intellectual debate grounded in love. It’s hate-filled; and more terrifying that that, it’s polite. There have been some stunningly flagrant bigoted statements made, but much of the rhetoric has come in the form of dog-whistles and opaque allusions. This is unnerving. This is unconscionable. This is un-Jewish. Between epithet-throwing protesters and those who sit idly by and ignore them, stands a Jewish culture that knows how honest debate can direct destiny. So here’s what I propose: Keep arguing. If you’re angry, stay angry and don’t shut up about it. If you think the guy who is about to be sworn in as president is awesome, hold him to that awesomeness. If he deviates from being awesome, argue against his choices and make your voices heard. What’s that? You say, you didn’t like her but you didn’t like him, either? You’re not off the hook, bubele. Use your disgust with both candidates to demand better options, better leaders. Maybe even run for office yourself. Right now, the nation needs less posting to Facebook echo chambers and more face-to-face disagreements with real, living people who can grow and change and teach and inspire. In other words, the nation needs more Jews. We have always banged on the Thanksgiving table in loud (but loving) disagreement with one another. We have always marched along with the dispossessed and marginalized. We have always written the most inspiring folk songs, and we have always sung them at top-volume, shamelessly, in public. We have never been polite company. And no matter what you thought about the results of the election, we can’t start being polite now. The future of our American culture rests on our Jewish cultural values of questioning authority and applying critical thinking to our dissent. You don’t agree? Good. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Mayrav Saar is a writer based in Los Angeles.