Thursday, June 23, 2011

AntiSemitism at the ATM

I had a strange experience a couple of days ago, and I honestly can't figure out how I'm supposed to feel about it.

I was at the ATM, minding my own business. At the time, I was wearing my kippah (yalmuke)*. A person got in line behind me - I don't think I noticed it at the time. When I was done, I walked away, and gave the next guy a friendly "all yours." I noticed that he was a bit of a hard looking guy - muscled up, spiked piercings. Driving a mammoth pick-up. Nothing unusual these days.

Then, without saying a word, he started goose-stepping towards the ATM.

I couldn't really believe I was seeing it. Part of me wondered if he was just being goofy - maybe he wasn't really throwing out Nazi imagery at me. But, even though I can't be sure, it doesn't seem likely that it was random, or meaningless, does it? No, it's probably safe to say that, for whatever reason, he was directing it at me.

And, like I said, I'm really not sure what to think about it. I so rarely encounter overt Anti-Semitism any more. When I was a kid, it was not uncommon for someone to throw pennies at me, or to use "Jewish" as a generic negative term ("That's so Jewish" was often used just like "That's so lame"). It never really got nasty - I was never assaulted, our house was never vandalized (unless you count some shaving cream on Halloween). But, it was around, and needless to say, I hated it. But, it's been a long time since I've seen that kind of thing. I obviously tend to run in circles where Jews are well accepted, and I think that this kind of prejudice (not just against Jews) just isn't as accepted as it once was. Happily, this goose-stepping jerk was an anomaly in my life.

In the end, I really don't make too much of it. It was just one jerk. It didn't hurt me the way it used to (one of the advantages of growing older, and getting more comfortable with myself). I wasn't scared (I didn't really expect to get assaulted in broad daylight, in a busy bank parking lot). More than anything, I think I was sad, and a bit confused. It's not like I don't know about Anti-Semitism. But, deep down, I don't get it.

What I really want to know? What was going on in that man's head that made him not only hate Jews, not only hate me (if you can really hate someone you don't even know), but also feel the need to express it in that way? What did it do for him?

Maybe I'm overanalyzing an ultimately meaningless moment, but what was so wrong with that man's life, or with that man, that he gained some kind of satisfaction by pretending to be a Nazi in front of a Jew he didn't even know?

Maybe this is just a more mature kind of sour-grapes, but as I'm writing this, I'm starting to realize a big part of how I feel about this ridiculous act of Anti-Semitism. I don't know why he felt the need to do it. But, it honestly made me glad that I'm me, instead of him.


A quick epilogue -- I'm writing this in the waiting room at a car place. While I was working, a guy came in from the shop and politely, and a bit shyly, asked me why I wear a kippah - what it symbolizes? I explain that it was just a sign of respect towards God that I wear when I pray or study*. He said he's always wondered, and thanked me for taking the time to explain it.

*I'm supposed to wear it when I eat, too, but I don't always. Another blog, I guess...

Always good to remember, and be thankful, that our goose-stepping friend is in the minority.

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