Today in Words Mean Things:
Mdm Palin seems unaware that words mean things; that, or she is very, very disingenuous.
From the AFP, this article: ‘Palin defends use of ‘blood libel’ after US attack’.
For those, especially (this being a Singaporean blog) local readers, who may not be familiar with the term because of a different cultural context: blood libel refers to the anti-Semitic accusation that, around Pesach, the Jewish community ritually sacrifices Christian children and mixes their blood into the Seder meal. This sounds, of course, horrifically silly; but many people did and do believe it, and have used this as justification for the genocide of Jewish people.
Naturally, Mdm Palin believes that those who associate her with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords because of her ‘Don’t retreat, reload!’ rhetoric are engaging in blood libel. Because they’re engaging in libel against her, claiming her hands are bloody! Why, what a natural response. And what an apt phrase so conveniently already in existence.
(h/t to Sady Doyle’s Tiger Beatdown, which is where I first found out about the shooting of Ms Giffords, two weeks — or what seems like such a long time — ago.)
And, naturally, Mdm Palin’s supporters — who are understandably just a bit indignant at this terrible slander, compare it to a pogrom. Another apt, convenient word.
Which refers to the Eastern European lynch mobs stirred up against minorities that included Jewish communities? Oh, don’t be silly, we’re using the word metaphorically, you’re overreacting.
Or something like that.
Incidentally? Did I mention that Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish? That she is the first Jewish woman in Arizona’s House of Representatives? No? Well, no worries, that doesn’t change anything about the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric over the shooting of a Jewish USAmerican legislator.
I wonder also how Mdm Palin views Jewishness, how she views Judaism. As my readers (who are few, but I thank y’all anyway) will know, I am an ardent reader of Fred Clark’s Slacktivist blog. I don’t always agree with everything he says, of course — Slacktivites are not the Borg — but his commentary on Jerry B. Jenkins’ and Tim LaHaye’s apocalyptic Christian specfic Left Behind series is spot-on. A certain faction of Christianity (mostly the premillienial dispensationalists, who tend to be right-wing evangelical Protestants) believes that the Jews must all make aliyah to Israel, that Jesus might return and rid the world of infidels. Which, um, includes them, but. These PMDs still love the Jewish people, really. Sarah Palin included.
(For those who dislike HuffPo because of gender/postco/racefail, yeah, I’m one of them, but I couldn’t find another source, sorry.)
Interestingly (but sadly, duh), Singapore is no exception to this trend of — I don’t know the term. Jewish-fanboy Christians?
I was very annoyed when that popular megachurch City Harvest held a musical entitled The Final Solution two years ago. At Easter.
Not Easter, which commemorates the death and resurrection of one of the persons of the Christian Trinity in order to save human beings from sin. I was raised Christian, I’m fine with that. It’s what Terry Pratchett’s Discworld characters would describe as ‘It’s Myffic. Narrativium an’ all that.’
Not that Easter, but Easter-the-time-when-many-Jews-were-persecuted-on-the-charge-of-deicide. When the Jewish diaspora was collectively held responsible for an alleged incident featuring a small group of Jews in the Middle East more than a thousand years back. Easter the time when the death of Jesus Christ was used as an excuse to lynch-mob Jewish people with blood libel accusations.
Easter, the time when City Harvest Church decided to stage a musical about the first Easter, giving said title the same name as Adolf Hitler’s euphemism for the Shoah.
On this note, ‘we would like to assure you first of all that as a church, we love the Jews and we believe that they are God’s special people (Deuteronomy 7:6)’ takes on an eerie significance. I’m sure Mdm Palin would agree with that sentiment. She probably believes wholeheartedly in it, too. She loves the Jews. (Noun, not adjective? Just like the [minority race] or the disabled or the [other marginalised group], because they are defined by that quality alone? I loathe loathe loathe this kind of linguistic dehumanisation. Watch the space in Words Mean Things, coming next.) She loves the Jews because — well, because. Because she thinks she has a religious obligation to ‘love the Jews’ in an impersonal way, just like how I could love Superman-the-character but not be fussed if Doomsday kills him for the sake of Plot Narrative because it doesn’t affect me and maybe even gives my fandom more texture.
No. No, this is wrong. No, we have a responsibility to point out this is wrong. Words don’t just have a surface. Words have a meaning to them. Words have history and baggage which can be affirmed or subverted but which must be recognised nonetheless.
So, Sarah Palin comparing being taken to task for irresponsible rhetoric to an excuse used to support the genocide of Jewish people? Morally unsound. Her supporters comparing this taking to task to the historical mob killings of marginalised ethnic communities? Ditto.
Doing this with reference to the shooting of a Jewish woman? Utterly, utterly tasteless.
Don’t do it, kids. Maybe it doesn’t affect you-as-a-Singaporean so much (except that we-as-a-nation have a significant, thousand-odd-strong Jewish community, who historically built much of the old city district alongside other overlooked ethnic groups like the Singapore-Armenian and Singapore-Arab communities who are classified under ‘OTHER’ in all their government papers), but an affront to humanity is an affront to humanity, &c., &c., and can happen anywhere if we let it happen.
This concludes today’s PSA on Words Mean Things, brought to you by Wednesday of Weekday Blues.