Simple vs. Complicated

Complicated is hard, simple is so much easier.   It’s no wonder that buzzwords and the wearing of different colored hats so often carry the day in human affairs.  

Keeping the countless gnarly complications in mind, remembering contradictions, comparing everything to your own situation and remembering that while you may be lucky, many just like you are cursed… the endless nuance and supreme challenge of trying to remain fair-minded, pursuing justice, mindful of history’s famously slippery slopes, the dependable unreliability of history, of homo sapiens —  it is exhausting just to map it out in a sprawling sentence.  

Complicated is difficult, takes too much goddamned work to work your way through, there is no end to complicated.   Simple is better, clearly.

Hence the soundbite.  The tweet.  Slogans.   If your slogan does not parse well and fit on a hat, the marketing folks will nix it.   A great ad is supremely simple.  It hits some essential truth we recognize immediately.   The best of them bring tears, so simple, so true!   We should make that long distance call to the poignantly adorable child who misses us.  Oh, God, it’s all so simple.

Except, of course, that it’s not at all simple.  “What do you think of Bernie Sanders?” someone asks simply, though it’s not likely you dislike Sanders or what he stands for based on the way you talk.    So, carefully, sensing a mine field as the first few critical comments about him fly around the table, you say:  if we remove the personality and the things you just said from the equation and put all the actual issues his campaign raised on the table, I think we’d all agree about most of them.   I got as far as the importance of addressing catastrophic climate change before the heavy guns were wheeled into place.    Sanders is a self-hating Jew, he only uses his Jewishness for his own purposes, he hates Israel, supports BDS  (Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel) [1]  One raises his voice to say he’d vote for Trump before he’d vote for the hypocrite Jew-hater Sanders. 

Now everything is simpler, easier to understand.  My reflexes were a tad too slow, though I know the right thing to do at a moment like this.   It is time to get up from the table and start washing dishes, or at least to clam up.   Perhaps sit on a nearby chair and play the ukulele a bit, as this little storm passes.   All these options I hope to keep in mind should this kind of thing arise again any time soon.  There is no point, no nuance that can be brought up once somebody is peeved enough to say Trump is a better choice than Bernie because Trump loves Israel and Bernie is a grumpy old Jewish Nazi. 

Simple:  Anyone critical of Israel’s long, often brutal, occupation, and the ticking time bomb of millions of encamped enemies living close by, generations of haters, many raised in hellish, hopeless poverty, many living in camps, literally, with state violence the only means of keeping a lid on the anger of now literally generations of these hopeless and dispossessed people — anti-Semite.  

We can agree that Bibi Netanyahu is clearly not an exemplar of the highest Jewish values.  He’s a putz, a schmuck, a much smarter Israeli Trump.  Fine.  Perhaps we can agree that the mildly racist Avigdor Lieberman, former extremist now Israeli Minister of Defense, and his party, to the right of Netanyahu’s right wing group, is not a legitimate force for de-escalating tensions in the seemingly eternal war between former neighbors.  

But, let’s keep this simple.  BDS, Boycott, Divest and Sanction, the same economic tactics used to exert enough pressure to bring down apartheid in South Africa, is plainly anti-Semitic.  Any Jew who thinks it might be a legitimate tactic to employ is simply a Jew hater, end of story.

Sitting here calmly, reflecting dispassionately, it is beyond dispute that there are numerous issues involved in this particular issue of BDS.   It equates Israel to the racist South African regime — not entirely fairly.    This equation requires its own long, sober conversation.    It involves uncomfortable levels of candor, perhaps, or tamping down an angry reflex to dismiss anything comparing Israeli military policies and THINGS THE FUCKING NAZIs used to do.  

Breaking down doors at night, grabbing and torturing suspects, an off the books detention or killing when required, doing secret violence here and there to keep the opposition from organizing, or bulldozing an entire block of homes because a terrorist was harbored in one of those homes, or forced relocation, or whatever you want to bring up, are reminiscent of things ruthless armies of occupation routinely do.  There is a much larger discussion to be had of the particulars of all these policies.  

All this is very uncomfortable terrain to negotiate, even among people who agree about most things in American politics, you have to walk through it very, very slowly, reassuring the other party of your good will at every step.   Easier to just say Israel, eternally menaced by a world of haters, is justified no matter what or the equally emotional position that Israel is acting just like the fucking Nazis.   The tic to view everything as a dichotomy blinds you to any truths that fall along that human gradient, seamlessly from black, to dark charcoal grey, to grey, to paler, mouse grey, to ash-colored grey, to white.  

Truth is hard, true belief is easier.   That ease is the reason so many still support their president, even as his policies are already starting to fuck them hard.

There are Israeli peace groups (example) working tirelessly against the right wing forces in Israel which have controlled the government, and the narrative, since a right wing religious fanatic murdered Itzhak Rabin more than twenty years ago.   These right wing Israeli officials argue it’s perfectly fine, even restrained, to shoot protesters with live bullets if they come too close to the fence in Gaza.  This policy is controversial and complicated, many difficult discussions can be had over whether it’s the best way for Israel to proceed toward any kind of peaceful resolution to the long conflict between Palestinians and Israel..    

But, for the moment, let’s keep it simple, folks.  Israel is a democracy and our greatest ally in the Middle East (along with Saudi Arabia, but why mention those publicly beheading motherfuckers?)   Our U.N. ambassador applauded Israel’s restraint in killing and wounding so relatively few Palestinians in the recent outburst of mass ugliness between these enemy neighbors.   Soon after her comments we [3]  left the U.N. Human Rights Council who wouldn’t stop bitching about Israel’s use of deadly force against unarmed civilian protesters, even suggesting the shootings by sniper might constitute a war crime.  

To cite but one example of the complexities involved.   One Israeli peace group, The New Israel Fund, supports the right of people to use protest methods like BDS, or, more precisely, it opposes the proposed U.S. criminalization of BDS  (their position is much more nuanced, New Israeli Fund actually explicitly OPPOSES BDS).  

Yet to those Jews who seek to keep it simple at all costs, the New Israel Fund supports terrorism by opposing “pro-Israeli” laws to criminalize BDS, thereby supporting BDS and hatred of Israel.  The New Israel Fund is a target of angry American Jews who believe Israelis who oppose their government’s extreme right wing tactics are traitors and anti-Semites, no better than Nazis, really.   I actually heard this view expressed by a tiny gaggle of disgruntled protesters outside a Palestinian-Israeli peace concert we attended.  

Keeping it simple: the New Israel Fund supports terrorism.   Boom.  End of story, synagogue hosting event is giving a forum to anti-Semites! The great David Broza, anti-Semite.  Anyone looking for peace with the enemy– traitor!

The Israeli government’s moral position on the mass shootings at the Gaza-Israel fence is that it gave the Hamas-inspired protesters fair warning: come within this distance of the 37 mile long reinforced fence [2] and we will use deadly force.  The warnings were dropped in the form of leaflets, plainly written in Arabic for anyone to read.  Fair warning.  Come near my fence and I will shoot you, even kill you.   Still they came, protesting by the thousands, surging toward the hated fence, threatening to breach it and cause a bloodbath in Israel, whose right to exist they angrily deny.  

The failing NY Times reported on the many Palestinian deaths, at least sixty, in the days around Ivanka and Jared’s photo op with Bibi Netanyahu as they cut the ribbon on the controversial U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.  Palestinian and international sources give much higher numbers of dead and wounded at the Gaza fence.   Easy enough to dismiss these numbers as fake news, anti-Israel propaganda, since it comes from people who have historically had a bloody ax to grind against Israel.   Is there a number of medics shot that is justifiable?   Is it legitimate to fire on medical personnel because they are aiding and abetting, by trying to save the lives of, those who surge toward the guns of their hated enemies?

It is so much easier to pick a side and just be on it than to try to consider all sides in an extremely complicated and intractable situation and take nuanced positions on a case by case basis.  We can raise arguments about the Palestinian definition of refugees, as the Jerusalem Post apparently did recently.  Simple, these fucks are not actual refugees, they just pretend to be victims under a definition they came up with.   They can’t leave Gaza?   Good for them!   The simple view sees good guys and bad guys and good people stick with the good guys.  Simple.

I was reminded, even sitting around a table with good friends, warm friends, people I love, all old friends who speak Hebrew and love Israel as much as I do, that some innocent questions are, to be simple about it, not innocent.   Say the wrong thing and the conversation is over.   Forget the fact that we all likely agree, to one extent or another, about the school to prison pipeline, intergenerational poverty going back directly to slavery,  the fossil fuel industry-created denial of plainly observable climate catastrophes as part of a of pattern related to centuries of escalating human pollution, vast, escalating income inequality, the anti-democratic curse of concealing information of great public concern from the voting public, the recent gift of billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest, at the cost of cutting the social safety nets for the most vulnerable, our unforgivable and unaddressed national racism (we can pat ourselves on the back for banning the hateful word “nigger” and replacing it with the great neologism “n-word”, much less offensive!), the imminent dismantling of a woman’s federal right to choose to terminate an unwanted, or dangerous, pregnancy, the inevitable corruption of a democratic system where unlimited campaign money is “free speech” and dark money — if donated in a large enough pile — needn’t ever have its source exposed, as the recently rewritten law provides.  

We did not get to this cruel president and his blundering administration by chance. The extremest, greediest billionaires found their donkey to ride to the promised land they’ve been dreaming of since the days of the John Birch Society.   The Koch brothers’ wealthy, distant father was a founder of that society.  The John Birchers were rich, paranoid men who suspected Dwight D. Eisenhower might be a secret Commie, or at least an unwitting dupe of the goddamned Commies.  These canny billionaires built a national infrastructure over the last thirty years or more, methodically, think tank by think tank, state house by state house, created legislative/corporate partnerships, and finally, as the Kochs head toward their reward in heaven (both are old men now) their long-cherished dream has become reality for all of us.  The cancerous chickens of our materialistic, profit-worshipping “libertarian” democracy have come home to roost.

It is a certain kind of torment to live in a world as inured to violence as our world is.  Millions die violent, hopeless deaths, it’s just the way it is.   Cherished principles are so easily tossed aside when policies are addressed directly to our terrors.   THEY ARE GOING TO KILL US!!!!   So we are morally justified in killing them first.   THEY HATE US.   Therefore, we can torture them, because if they hate us, fuck them, you know?   They already hate us, so torture them, what are you being so squeamish about?   They’d do the same to us, probably much worse.  

At the same time, when we are calm, we can recognize that hate never conquers hate, that an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind, that we need our most creative, empathetic, ingenious solutions for intractable, historically violent problems, but those are just abstractions.  All very exhausting abstractions!

BUILD THE WALL!   BUILD THE WALL!!!!   BUILD THE WALL!!!!    Feels pretty good, actually.



 [1]   Not only is this a sticky factual issue, with many sources stating that Sanders actually opposes BDS, but there is a related and completely separate issue that is easily elided into “support for BDS”.   Do you oppose a law criminalizing BDS?   I do, vigorously.   Do I support BDS?  I don’t.  What is Bernie’s position?   Truly, I have no fucking idea, though it appears he doesn’t.   I’m pretty sure he agrees that criminalizing selected nonviolent political expression is anti-democratic.  Which in my book, makes Bernie Sanders no more an anti-Semite than I am– trying my best to live by my Jewish values, including dedication to protecting the weakest among us and not doing what is hateful to us to others.

[2]      The fence is actually two parallel barriers built by the Israelis: a formidable one of barbed-wire within Gaza and a 10-foot-high metal “smart fence” packed with surveillance sensors along the Israel demarcation line. A restricted buffer zone as wide as 300 yards is between them. Israel has warned that people in the zone without authorization risk being subjected to deadly force.    

source   (Lying NY Times) 

[3]  We, the People.

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