Monday, August 31, 2009

privilege and forgiveness

I don't normally read Bitch, Ph.D., though my experience with it has been that it's an excellent blog well worth reading. But I've come across this post on Ted Kennedy and privilege:
Because the thing about being privileged is that hopefully it gives one *security*. It's actually a *good* thing to have privilege. Ideally--and it seems to me that, as social thinking animals, this should be the goal--privilege gives one not just personal advantages but also the security to be gracious, to empathize, to be kind.
Particularly in the wake of watching The Reader that's been on my mind. I'm not sure quite what the relationship -- necessary or sufficient, or maybe just helpful? -- between privilege and the ability to forgive is. But The Reader brings to my mind all of my insecurity about the Holocaust, and maybe that is part of the problem. Others who find it easy to forgive Nazi guards might investigate what it is that enables them. (And who are they to forgive?)

In the comments, there's a link to MJ Rosenberg on Kennedy, who I normally don't read because I don't find him compelling. (I tend to agree with him on policy, but find his reasoning offensive.)
The mindless jingoism of his colleagues was not his way (nor is it John Kerry's) and when he addressed the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he was compassionate and even-handed. He was not your standard "liberal on everything but Israel" type.
That's particularly interesting given how Jewish organizations are lionizing Kennedy as a friend of Israel. It's not that Kennedy wasn't willing to criticize Israeli policy, but he was willing to empathize with Jews and shape his criticism to ensure he didn't threaten Jews' security as he did so. So, so often, it's assumed (often by Rosenberg, for instance) that criticism of anti-Israelism is aligned with the right-most tendencies in Israeli society -- as if Jews had no reason to feel insecure, as if security was a non-issue.

But if Kennedy could criticize Israel, that doesn't mean, as so many anti-Israelists would have, that anyone can criticize Israel without having to worry about being antisemitic. Instead, it proves that being called antisemitic for criticizing Israel isn't simply for having criticized Israel.

I'm about to watch Forgiving Dr. Mengele, available instantly at Netflix. It's the un-The Reader.

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