Self-disclosure in the Trump Era
My wife and I have very different attitudes towards self-disclosure, or at least certain kinds of self-disclosure. For example, when people ask what my wife what she does for a living, she invariably says that she teaches at a Jewish school.
That is not my style. I have never denied being Jewish. I’m incredibly proud to be Jewish. But it’s also something that I never volunteer unprompted for a very good reason: a lot of people fucking hate Jews. And not just a little bit. It’s not that they’re annoyed with Jews or think gefilte fish and matzo ball soup are gross: some of these people, these “Jew-haters” or “anti-Semites”, hate Jews so much that they think people should he killed en masse just for being Jewish.
I suspect that my wife is more comfortable freely discussing being Jewish with strangers because she grew up in a Jewish world, in a Jewish community, going to a Jewish school where all of her friends were Jewish. Within her tight-knit South African Jewish community, Judaism was the norm.
That was not the case for me growing up. Even my Jewish group home was only half Jewish. I went to Jewish schools up until third grade where I learned the all too the pervasive, virulent and widespread nature of anti-Semitism. I don’t volunteer that I’m Jewish when I’m around strangers because I can never forget that the person I’m talking to might be an anti-Semite. It might not even be that pronounced. Maybe they had a bad experience with a former boss or an ex or a grandfather or grandmother who talked to them darkly about “those people” and how they covertly control everything.
There really is little, if anything, to be gained by volunteering that you’re Jewish in real life except, I suppose, the possibility that the person that you’re talking to is Jewish a well and you can bond on that level.
Things are different online and in my work. Here, I constantly reference my Judaism because it's so central to my identity and who I am and if someone is anti-Semitic I can block the fuckers. It's a whole different ballgame offline.
I’m perpetually wary of anti-Semites but I’m also suspicious of people who fetishize Judaism, who romanticize and idealize it in a way that makes me more than a little uncomfortable.
The other major way in which my wife and I differ when it comes to self-disclosure comes when it comes to Trump. My wife is never shy about expressing her contempt for Donald Trump to strangers and people we don't necessarily know too well. She assumes, generally with good reason, that whoever we’re talking to will probably share our bottomless contempt for the President, his cabinet, his minions and his ideas.
I’m obviously very publicly anti-Trump in my writing but when it comes to interpersonal interactions I once again never volunteer that I hate everything about Donald Trump unless I’m absolutely certain that I’m in the company of fellow Trump detractors. True, the vast majority of the people we hang out with share our political beliefs. But I always assume that someone I meet might be a Trump supporter just as I always assume they might be an anti-Semite as well. Also, I'm going to go out on a limb and say there's a good amount of overlap between the two groups.
That’s the crazy thing about Trump: he’s a bizarre, divisive cult figure whose followers are rightly viewed with suspicion but he’s also, you know, the President of the United States. So a whole lot of people must have voted for him, if not quite as many as voted for “Crooked” Hillary “Lock Her Up” Clinton.
This was driven home when, during a playdate recently, my wife made a casual comment about Trump being a Fascist and the gentleman whose home we were visiting responded in a way that made it seem pretty clear that he had voted for Trump, and also more than a little awkward.
I didn’t lose respect or affection for the man but it definitely did affect the way that I saw him, and not for the better. This also helps explain why I keep my Judaism and Trump hatred to myself when I’m around people I don’t know well: I don’t want other people to think of me differently because of my religion or my political beliefs but I also don’t necessarily want to know things about other people that would cause me to see them differently, in a way that highlights differences instead of focusing on what we have in common.
We hear a lot these days about Conservatives and Trump voters feeling judged and ostracized in a way that makes them want to keep their love for The Donald a closely guarded secret. This once again speaks to our bizarre cultural moment, where voting for a pussy-grabbing, racist, xenophobic, semi-literate man-child with a long history of sexual harassment and assault allegations is at once a weird taboo and something tens of millions of seemingly sane Americans did willingly.
I’ve always been wary of bringing up my Judaism to strangers and non-Jews. That’s only increased since Trump took office. Though Trump clearly has a higher opinion of Jews than he does of Muslims, women, Hispanics and African-Americans because, you know, money and Invanka, he’s nevertheless empowered anti-Semites to feel like this is their cultural moment, and their guy is in charge because, in many ways, this is their moment and their guy is in the oval office.
In the forty two years I've been alive, it’s never felt more dangerous or perilous to be a Jew, so you can forgive me for not bringing it up immediately when there are more polite things to talk about, like, you know, the weather, which I’ve heard is one of the only things those damn Jews don’t control.
You know the deal: I make my living largely through Patreon because I'm unemployable in the gentile media so if you want to throw a hard-working Jewish man a few shekels over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace it would be a real mitzvah!