First one was named ---. Her mom was not Jewish but her father was. He owned a retail outlet for fat ladies. He fucking hated me. He was a very intense man. (His family had lost members in the Holocaust.) With age, I must admit, I don't blame him for hating me. After all, I was a skinny-assed, long-haired rock n' roll singer.
My second major girlfriend was named ---. She was a beauty (voted Best Body in High School) with hair almost like wires. In other words, her hair was almost like a black person's hair, but it was straight. (Her grandparents had fled the Holocaust. They lost many members of their family.) Her uncle was a famous comedian. She's was nuts, but in that particular way that drives a young man to his knees. She was a femme fatale.
She was a learning experience for me when I was a young man.
I never made the same mistake again.
My third major girlfriend was named ---. She was an actress. (You can see the thread here; actress and comedian? Yes, these are parts of my personality.) Her father was a German Jew whose family escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to Mexico when he was a child. He thought of himself as Mexican, or told people so anyway.
He liked me, but found me to be a pain in the ass.
He was a man full of subtle wisdom. He would say things that sounded like they were off the cuff, but I believe they meant a lot to him. (You had to hear the inflection in his voice to understand.) And, it will sound funny, but here are some of the things he told me:
(I asked him how he made the salsa) "It isn't what you do to the salsa, it's what the salsa does to you."
I really loved that one. I think about it all the time.
(He was a top engineer in the weapons and aerospace industry during the Reagan era) "When there is a problem, it is almost always in the conductors."
Think about that one for awhile. You can apply it to almost all problems in life.
And, here was the most important thing he ever said to me. He went to the Soviet Union as part of the Glasnost partnership with Gorbachev. He came back and I asked him what it was like. He told me,
"The Soviet engineers came up to me and told me America was less free than the Soviet Union. I asked them what they meant, and they said, 'Well, you guys have to have a government license to travel from town to town, and you have absolutely no opportunity to change social classes through education or hard work."
I couldn't believe my ears. They were being taught that there was no hope anywhere in the world, other than the disgusting, ugly dictatorship under which they lived. I had heard about Pravda, and I had read Kafka and Kundera, but I didn't believe what I had heard and read. I thought it was literary and exaggerated.
When he told me what it was really like, I realized that the Soviet people were truly being lied to, and I realized that what Ronald Reagan had been saying (which the Liberals had been denying) was true.
My comment to my girlfriend's father was, "My God, that's a psychological Holocaust."
To my mind, to live without hope is almost the equivalent of death. I think most of you would agree.
My girlfriend's father liked me more and more after that, but his daughter like me less and less.
Anyway, point is, that was the beginning of my long descent from the liberal misty mountains into the valley of reality. It took a very long time. And, most of the stops (learning experiences) along the way were inititated by Jewish people whom I got to know.
I remember, very clearly, and with not a bit of sadness and embarrassment, when an employer of mine (shortly after the Oslo Agreement) called me into his office and told me that one day, in our lifetimes, we would see another attempt at a Holocaust of the Jewish people. I laughed at him outright. I told him we were past all that. He assured me that we were not.
Now, we stand on the brink of that reality as the Iranian President threatens to wipe Israel off the map. That's about 5.5 million Jews for those keeping score at home.
(It is very hard to deny reality when you have known multiple families who have been halved by the Holocaust, but somehow I maintained that ability even after all these warnings signs.)
I've also met, and personally worked with Vietnamese people who fought alongside American soldiers during the Viet Nam War. They told me the true story of our abandonment of them in 73. Once again, it was the world turned upside down for me. The American media had told me a completely different story.
One man's story - a man who had been involved in the war alongside our troops (his name was ---) on a daily basis - really shook me. He was a very giving and together man. He was a Buddhist, and he was always involved in various projects to help out in the community.
When he told me his story, he got that "thousand-mile stare" about his eyes, and his voice shook and he looked like he was going to cry. It was very tough to watch.
That was 1999/2000. That was pretty much the last straw for me as a Chomsky reader.
When Sept. 11th hit, my British relatives called me to "say how sorry" they were, and then proceeded to tell me why America deserved it.
That was the end.
I couldn't help but hate all such people, no matter how hard I tried. Slowly, but surely, I learned the opposite lesson of Natan Sharansky (who is a very sadly mistaken man, in my opinion, and it is too bad George Bush listens to him) that some people love the smell of their own prison, and will not let go no matter what you do for them.
The reality, sadly, is they have to find their own way out of it, and some are up to the task, and some are not. And, unfortunately, some of it has to do with how culture has effected national character. In other words, there are whole nations filled with people who hate the very idea of freedom. They like being told what to do and when to do it, and we aren't going to win them over by being nice.
We are only going to win them over by being very, very mean, to the point of leaving them in despair.
That's how we did it in Germany, and Japan, and the American South.
And, that's how it will be again whether we like it or not.