George Allen Inspires Comedy, Philosophy Too
UPDATED 12:44 p.m. Wednesday
George Allen has finally become a household name--but not exactly how he wanted it to happen. On the late-night comedy shows, Jon Stewart was quick to pick up on the macaca incident. Stephen Colbert couldn't get enough of Allen's cringe-making rally for "ethnic Americans."
Slate today offers a George Allen Insult Generator, a sign of how the senator has come to mean little more than "macaca" to many Americans outside of Virginia.
And an unknown author has posted a fake campaign ad that makes very dark humor of the accusation (denied by the senator) that the young Allen stuffed a severed deer head into a black family's mailbox.
And here's a bit of drama starring the senator himself; it's Allen in a cameo appearance in the 2003 Civil War movie, "Gods and Generals," in which the senator joins a group of Confederate soldiers in singing "Hurrah for Southern rights, hurrah!"
The wizards of the Style Invitational are getting into the act. One of the Invitational's favorites, parody song writer Barbara Sarshik of McLean, offers this ditty, titled "George Allen's Song," to be sung to the tune of "Be Our Guest!" from Beauty and the Beast:
I'm a Jew! I'm a Jew! Something that I never knew. I sat down and asked my mother And she said that it is true!
I'm a Jew! I'm a Jew!
And I don't know what to do.
All the newest revelations
Have my campaign in a stew.
I love ham! I love pork!
I hate being in New York!
And the only testament
I read is new!
Though I'm so bland and boyish,
And I look so goyish,
I'm a Jew! I'm a Jew!
I'm a Jew!
And here's a story that on the surface has nothing to do with Allen, yet seems to be related, if tangentially, because it's about one of the main questions I keep hearing from readers: Why do people care whether Allen has Jewish heritage? Why do Jews care? Reader and essayist Jeff Gates tells a story about an incident on the Washington Metro that prompted him to think about this phenomenon of Jews (and presumably other minorities) worrying that each and every member of their ethnic group somehow represents the entire group in every little encounter with the outside world. Would Jeff have responded differently if the offending Metro passenger were not a fellow Jew? I think so. Is that wrong? Well, it's hard to see what's so bad about using moral suasion to keep up standards of public behavior among fellow members of any community. But others may differ. Check out his story (slightly abridged here) and tell us what you think.
I was standing on the subway platform Friday afternoon, looking forward to the weekend. As the train came into the station it was packed with fellow commuters. I know just where to stand to be next to the doors when the subway stops. My station is a transit point between three lines so there are always a lot of people exiting and getting onto the train.
When the doors opened, two people stood just inside the car clogging the exit points. And they refused to move, leaving less than a foot for the multitudes exiting.
I usually think to myself "why don't these people just move outside the doors and let everyone else off?" But instead, I crossed life's invisible boundary, and, without thinking, said out loud: "Why don't you guys move out and let these people off."
One of the perpetrators was a young man in his twenties, well-dressed and holding a bouquet of flowers. He turned to me and started yelling vile expletives. Surrounded by my fellow commuters I was both embarrassed and shocked. Before opening my mouth I had done a quick survey of the wrongdoers, neither of whom looked huge or threatening. (The guy was holding flowers!)
I've been watching HBO's 5th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, written by and starring the originator of Seinfeld, Larry David. Larry says things we might think but would never act upon. He is oblivious to their consequences.
I laugh at the situations he gets himself into. But it's a nervous laugh. The show straddles a very fine line of reality. What starts out as a normal, albeit tense interaction, tumbles out of control. Actually, it weaves back and forth across this psychological border often, producing a highly charged energy that is far from relaxing. It's theater but I can picture myself getting too close to this edge in my own life. Had I just crossed into this world under the streets of Washington?
Luckily, I am a fast thinker. I replied to the dorker (Metro's term for a door hog), "I hope the person you're giving those flowers to treats you better than you have treated me." On the commute home I thought of better replies but considering the moment, I gave myself a pat on the back for a good comeback. He was silent.
As I entered the car I looked more closely at him and was shocked to discover he was wearing a yarmulke or "keepa" (Hebrew for this religious skullcap). Not only was he Jewish but his supposed devotion to our religion seemed to exceed mine. His moral standards should have towered over me. How could one of my "own" treat another that way --treat ME that way?
I was immediately taken back to the 3rd grade when I met my first Jewish bully, Sidney Minz (my apologies, Sid, if you grew up to be a well-adjusted person). I remembered how astonished I was to encounter a fellow Jew who was mean. I had mistakenly assumed that all Jewish people were kind (an attempt by my young mind to identify and feel attachment to the group I'd been assigned to at birth).
When I sat down I pretended to read my novel while ruminating about this encounter. I looked up ever so discreetly at my antagonist. I saw him furtively glance my way. I looked down while thinking of the ultimate retort.
In a situation like this, when you don't actually know the person, context is important. I went with what I knew. What would be the best reply to a devout Jew with a questionable character? I chose an intelligent riposte with just a hint of guilt: "When you wear that kippa you represent all of us. You should be ashamed of yourself." Simple and to the point, it had the added bonus of letting him know he had transgressed against a fellow Jew. And my paternal admonition would remind him of his father, or better yet, his mother. Perfect.
Larry, however, would have taken a much more direct approach. Crossing the line, he would have made his way to the young man: "At Yom Kippur I will forgive you," he would say. The ultimate Jew-to-Jew comeback. The next scene you would see him sitting down at High Holiday services only to notice the rabbi standing at the pulpit was this same young man with flowers.
If the line in my life moves just ever so slightly it could happen just like that.
By Marc Fisher |
September 27, 2006; 8:44 AM ET
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