Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The Soul of the Left

Here's a link to a fascinating article, How I became an 'unconscious fascist' by the Italian journalist Fiamma Nirenstein. She describes the fall from Leftist grace of the victim Jew -- and the emergence of its hateful opposite. "The 'new Jew' that tries not to suffer, and that, above all, can and wants to defend himself," and who "immediately loses all his charm in the eyes of the Left." She uses her own experiences to illustrate the point. A Communist from youth, Nirenstein realized, as she grew up, that the Leftist approval for the victim-Jew of the immediate postwar world was based on a Faustian bargain: remain an object of pity and we will not hate you.

She had gone to Israel in the mid-1960s to work in a kibbutz, but "when I went back to Italy, some of my fellow students stared at me as somebody new, an enemy, a wicked person who would soon become an imperialist ...  But I soon noticed that I had lost the innocence of the good Jew, of the very special Jewish friend, their Jew: I was now connected with the Jews of the State of Israel, and slowly I was put out of the dodecaphonic, psychoanalytic, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, Freud shtetl, the coterie that sanctified my Judaism in left wing eyes."  She had become an 'unconcious fascist'. What had changed was that Israel had just won the Six Day War. She was no longer a victim.

Nirenstein's article has a special resonance because it might just as well describe, with only small alterations, the attitude of the Left toward nonwhites who either become successful or conservative. Nirenstein sums up the Leftist accusation of ingratitude beautifully. "We have helped you poor Jews lacking everything, a non- existent nation, in the Diaspora and in Israel, to keep you alive. Without us you are nothing. And therefore be careful: if you continue with your treachery we'll annihilate you. You don't exist if you don't know your place, and your place is nowhere." This speech, with the word 'Asian' or 'African' or 'Latino' substituted for Jew has probably been heard by every member of a minority race who is unwilling to play the poster victim for the Left. The experience even has a name: it's called leaving the Plantation.

When Clarence Thomas voted against affirmative action Maureen Dowd wrote, "What a cunning man Clarence Thomas is. He knew that he could not make a powerful legal argument against racial preferences, given the fact that he got into Yale Law School and got picked for the Supreme Court thanks to his race. ... It's impossible not to be disgusted at someone who could benefit so much from affirmative action and then pull up the ladder after himself. So maybe he is disgusted with his own great historic ingratitude." Dowd's article is the most literate version I've ever heard of the old knee-slapper that used to be told around ole boy gatherings: "What do you call a black man who has just won the Nobel Prize for both medicine and physics?" Maureen Dowd's answer is not surprisingly, the same as the punchline of the joke: you call him a nigger.

Read Nirenstein's whole article. It'll make your day.