Parting shot: Path of enlightenment

It’s disconcerting enough when someone is so sure of himself that he thinks his very narrow and often skewed viewpoint is the only path toward truth.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama, March 2014.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama, March 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Is it only me who feels like he is walking around with a day-glo sign on his chest saying “I agree with you”? That’s the only plausible reason I can think of why strangers, acquaintances and friends can begin a dialogue with some contentious declaration like “Isn’t Obama a disaster for Israel?” or “The messianic age will begin when all the Jews have returned to Zion” or “We all know that Chevy Chase is one of the most under-appreciated actors of our time.”
While we can all get behind the Chevy Chase aficionado, the other examples demonstrate that some people don’t understand that not every sounding board is going to align themselves as an Obama detractor or a believer in the second coming of the Lord. Yet, it doesn’t seem to slow down the pontificating pack from continuing to attack.
I’m not sure if it’s a worldwide phenomenon or a particular Israeli trait – those lead-ins that implicitly state ‘“This is the truth that I know and because I’m talking to you, you obviously must concur.” I suspect it’s more prevalent here, where almost all issues of state and religion are emotionally fraught, deep-seated and define who we are. But it seems the more someone knows who he is, the more he thinks that he knows who the other guy is too.
There are those off-the-radar uncomfortable scenes like the horror-film situation I unexpectedly found myself in nearly a decade ago, where it’s not just one person pounding his out-of-mainstream ideology over one’s head, but a whole group.
It was a couple days after prime minister and Gush Katif evacuation mastermind Ariel Sharon had suffered his stroke and fell into a coma. I had arrived as an afterthought guest at a barbecue that a friend was holding for his mostly modern-Orthodox, English-speaking male business associates.
It started off fine, with talk of football and bottles of cold beer. But as we were sitting around passing out the barbecued wings, burgers and shots of whiskey, one of the attendees stood up and proclaimed, “A toast to Ariel Sharon – may he suffer and then die for what he did to us in Gush Katif.”
I managed to extricate myself from that sinister locale as quickly as possible, but it served to amplify the realization that even with seemingly upstanding, successful alpha males, blind ideology is often devoid of rational thought.
It’s never more apparent than with the uncontrollable hate and venom many nationalist Israelis and supporters of Israel feel toward Obama, and constantly express in ways that question their sanity. Social media have turned into the National Enquirer of our times, with outlandish conspiracy theories about the US president’s birthplace or claims of him deliberately allowing Africans with the Ebola virus into the US, receiving equal headlines and space on news feeds to stories actually based in reality.
And that has permeated the mindset of educated, otherwise stable individuals who hold steady jobs, raise families, are kind to their spouses, but urge you to nod in agreement that Obama wants to turn the US into a Muslim nation and allow Israel to be destroyed. That’s about the time when I pray for a cellphone call from the dental assistant scheduling that root canal appointment.
It’s not that the ideologues shouldn’t have a right to hold their opinions that make them feel secure in their beliefs and provide a convenient enemy to blame all their woes on – it’s just exasperating to hear conspiracy theories like that espoused as common knowledge that everyone in earshot agrees with.
Religious fundamentalists, whether Jewish or Christian, are right up there in the “You and I are together” way of thought. Whether being told that any sane person would realize that evolution is a fraud and creationism is the clear truth by a Christian guest, or hearing how women holding a Torah at the Kotel goes against the precepts of Judaism by an Orthodox rabbi, it wasn’t the actual argument that was vexing, but rather the assumption of agreement in the argument from the get go.
This phenomenon isn’t relegated solely to those espousing, shall we say, conservative points of view. It’s a twoway street that has resulted in countless conversations in which a Leftist who assumed I was a card-carrying sympathizer went off about the “evil settlers” and how they’ve brought calamity upon Israel, or the dossim (the haredim), and how their sponging off the state and refusing to serve in the army makes them somehow subhuman.
Those are certainly valid viewpoints to hold from someone with the convictions to back them up. But whether it’s slamming the Left, the Right, the haredim or the Women of the Wall, maybe these are opinions we’re better off sharing with ourselves in the confines of our mind, or with a close circle of loved ones. Or better yet, share them on chat groups and talkbacks designed specifically for the purpose of democratically stating your views and gaining emotional support from like-minded thinkers.
It’s disconcerting enough when someone is so sure of himself that he thinks his very narrow and often skewed viewpoint is the only path toward truth. It’s even more disturbing when he thinks you’re walking right next to him.