Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Warmongering Switzerland

(Picture courtesy of britannica.com)

Sometimes I feel like I am Switzerland and am being accused of being aggressive and war mongering while I am just sitting quietly amongst the mountains. I am not stockpiling weapons, testing a nuclear arsenal, or even having troops engage in training maneuvers near the borders. I maintain an armed forces solely for defense of my country, and the majority of the time the troops are not even in uniform or even at their bases.

People cannot see what I do over the tall mountains and they rarely visit so they do not know who I truly am. At times when there is communication it is friendly but superficial. Later these conversations are spun in such a way to make it appear that what I am doing is offensive to them. Yet, this is hardly case.

There is a cold peace. At times when tensions escalate, I am always labeled as the aggressor.

And now, I am just sick and tired of it.

I summoned the ambassador of the country making these accusations to an off-site location. Over an ice cream cone and a cup of coffee I looked the ambassador in the eyes, made my case firmly, and made the counter claim that it was indeed his country who had the problem; it was his country who was being closed-minded and intolerant. This ambassador could not make any counter-claims when presented with the facts. I logically took apart any argument he attempted to raise. At the end of our meeting, he could only reply that he would take a report of this meeting back with him to his country along with the recommendation to his country's rulers to re-establish friendly ties with my country.

He will attempt to explain to them that they need to understand and accept that the peaceful nation of Switzerland sometimes just does things differently.

In the end, I guess it all comes back to this for me.


At May 1, 2007 at 8:16:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

One benefit of candor is that you get to see with whom you can actually make some progress. It can save you a lot of time and energy- or surprise you to the contrary, which is a treat.

I'm usually too chicken, I must say.

At May 1, 2007 at 8:20:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I was raised to be a chicken too. That is why I have a feeling of satisfaction with myself for how I handled this.

At May 1, 2007 at 9:34:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

Look at the outcome you want. If your process won't get you there, it's the wrong process.

At May 1, 2007 at 9:39:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

What do you mean, Bob? I knew the outcome I wanted and my process got me there.

Is you comment, just a comment about the issue in its generality?

At May 1, 2007 at 11:15:00 AM EDT, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

It is all about balance.

At May 1, 2007 at 11:18:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Bob Miller said...

"Is you comment, just a comment about the issue in its generality?"


At May 1, 2007 at 1:06:00 PM EDT, Anonymous chabakuk elisha said...

Here's an example that I have dealt with when it comes to anti-religious relatives:

Relative: "I am sorry but I find Orthodox Judaism offensive. It stands for intolerance and foolish outdated beliefs. This is a rejection of everything that I believe, and it offends me that an even somewhat intelligent relative of mine would maintain such beliefs."

Me: "So, shouldn't I be highly offended by what you just said? And I equally find your views intolerant and foolish, as well as a rejection of my beliefs and just as offensive to my worldview."

Relative: "But #1, I am not trying to offend you, I am just explaining my position and #2 I am the one that is right here."

At May 1, 2007 at 2:16:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Here is another nonsensical exchange from this meeting that reminded me of yours:

Him: Well, you have to understand, it might not be caused by you. Sometimes people just get these opinions after bad experiences they might have had with an Orthodox Jew.

Me: Indeed. However, if I had a bad experience with a black person, I know that I cannot extrapolate and say that all black people are bad. So, why can you thus label all Orthodox Jews?

Him: I don't accept that rhetoric - that's relativism.

At May 1, 2007 at 10:09:00 PM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

"Him: I don't accept that rhetoric - that's relativism."
Well, that's just the problem...relativism (no pun intended)!

In my experience in dealing with both family members and on a largers Jewish communual level (Jewish Federation/jewish organizations/not-yet-observant congregations) everyone is pushing pluralism! Every party wants to be accepted for their values or level of belief, yet I have found that it's the Torah observant who end up being more tolerant.

I use to belong to an OU shul, of which only about 15% of the families were actually Torah observant. While the shul was a model for achdus, potential outreach, and a non-threatening approach towards yiddishkeit, yet I had experiences that still trouble me. My wife and I were always accepting and tolerant of other levels of observance, but at times felt like the 'odd-balls' even in an Orthodox shul.
In my case, tolerance of those driving on Rosh Hashana goes only so far until my wife and the carriage she was pushing to shul were almost run over by a shul member driving in the parking lot.
Mentshlikeit and potential Kiddush Hashem are not always easy.

My intent is not to rant (really), but to show that taking the higher ground is not always easy. I have found that when you are firm, yet positive towards others, bridges can be built.

At May 2, 2007 at 8:57:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Neil: You will appreciate this other choice interchange:

Him: You have to understand that she comes from a very German-Reform background. She has a fear of anything Jewish.

Me: I can accept the fact that she was brought up Reform and has a different world view. But, wouldn't you say that intertwined with Reform Judaism outlook is also a liberal outlook on the world?

Him: Of course!

Me: Well, a liberal world view is one that accepts the fact that others might do different things than you. It accepts the Amish man, the Asian, or the African tribesman with a bone is his nose. If she can accept the fact that all these people do something differently, why can she not accept the fact that an Orthodox Jew does something differently? You have to admit, this intolerance flies in the face of the liberal world view.

At May 2, 2007 at 9:33:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Are you familiar with the famous R Dr. Abraham Twerski story when he was sitting on the subway and someone commented about his mode of dress?

At May 2, 2007 at 11:37:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

Seeing Orthodox Jews as an interesting cultural curiosity would be a major step forward for many people who are super secular.


At May 2, 2007 at 4:02:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Neil: So what happened in the story?

At May 2, 2007 at 4:04:00 PM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

ASJ: I don't think it worth to point for reformists to their "liberal" values. Why they do like them, they have a personal grudge towards frume Yidn because of the war maskilim / yiddishkayt. While they like "liberalism", the war for them is the war.

At May 3, 2007 at 1:44:00 AM EDT, Blogger Neil Harris said...

From GENERATION TO GENERATION by R Dr. Abraham Twerski (page 92)

One of the many unfortunate consequences of Jews having lived among hostile populations is that many Jews have developed an "exile complex", manifested by self-effacement and subservience.

I was once traveling on a bus, dressed in my customary garb, wearing a broad black hat and a black frock coat. A man approached me and said, "I think it's shameful that your appearance is so different. There is no need for Jews in America to be so conspicuous, with long beards and black hats."

''I'm sorry, mister," I said to the man. ''I'm not Jewish. I'm Amish, and this is how we dress."

The man became apologetic. "Oh I'm terribly sorry, sir,” he said. "I did not mean to offend you. I think you should proud of preserving your traditions."

"Well, well," I said. "If I am Amish, then my beard and black hat doesn't bother you, and I should be proud of traditions. But if I am Jewish, then I must be ashamed of my Jewishness? What is wrong with you that you can respect others but have no self-respect?"

The time has certainly arrived when we ought to be proud of our heritage, of who we are, why we are, and what we are for.

At May 3, 2007 at 8:41:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...


At May 3, 2007 at 11:37:00 AM EDT, Anonymous A Yid said...

Thanks! Great story.


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