Friday, July 14, 2023

"Judeo-Christian": Why I Use This Phrase


Why I Use the Phrase "Judeo-Christian"
 It's Not Why Some May Think


I use the phrase "Judeo-Christian." When I use it in a published piece, at least one disgruntled reader will shoot me a grumble of protest. "Judeo-Christian" is a controversial phrase. Since it raises hackles, why do I use it?

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

"Radical Son" by David Horowitz

 A review, below of "Radical Son" by David Horowitz. There are some points in this book that are pertinent to the Bieganski Brute Polak Stereotype

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey by David Horowitz
There's Never Been a Better Time to Read It

Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey, David Horowitz's memoir, was published in 1996. It needs to be read right now. I want to buttonhole my friend Deborah and assign the book to her as homework. Deborah regularly shares social media posts detailing violent crimes committed by young black males in Oakland, California, often against elderly whites, Asians, and Jews. Mainstream media reflect Deborah's internet scuttlebutt – see here and here. Oakland is one of the most dangerous cities in the US, and elderly and otherwise vulnerable people are frequent targets of criminal fists, guns, and knives. A book published in 1996 about events even decades earlier will help Deborah to understand her city and her dilemma in 2023.

My friend Louis is a musician, artist, and writer. He comes from a multi-generational family of successful creators. He has been making a comfortable living in Hollywood for thirty years. This man who keeps limber with yoga is as inflexible as an iron rod when it comes to politics. Anyone to the right of Louis, he rigidly insists, is a Neanderthal, not just unintelligent, but also simply without good taste. I am going to drop hints to Louis that he read Radical Son. The sheer elegance of the prose, and the human complexity found therein, worthy of a classic novel, just might move the needle of Louis' judgmental intolerance.

It is never too late to read a masterpiece, and Radical Son earns that superlative. Recent books like James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose's Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody and Bruce Bawer's The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Birth of the Woke Ideology provide a history of ideas. These excellent books chart how Woke and identity politics came to dominate American culture. Radical Son provides similar insight, but via a very different delivery mechanism. Radical uses the nitty gritty of particular, temporary politics to invite the reader into the universal, timeless human soul.

Radical Son's plot could be summarized as "boy gets ideology / boy loses ideology / boy gets new ideology." The book details Horowitz's growing up in the New York City area as the child of two dedicated communist parents. As an adult, Horowitz was a leader of the New Left. Reality intervened, most obtrusively in the grisly death of an innocent woman at the hands of the Black Panthers. Horowitz knew both the killers and the victim. Slowly but surely, he changed course, and became a prominent conservative.

I began Radical Son years ago, but I had to stop. I don't know if anyone who doesn't have roots in Mitteleuropa can understand why. A signature sadness clings like a mist to our ancestral fields and forests, castles and concentration camps. It's the sadness of human beings equipped like other human beings with hope, with a sense of humor, and with a capacity for love. People who like apple strudel and sing lullabies to their sleepy children and tell jokes, people similar to you and me, witness injustice and latch on to an idea that will make the world a better place. Armies and treaties, ideologies, borders, and blood feuds, rise up like a tsunami and pulverize these people, people who liked apple strudel, and told jokes, and had plans and dreams. The father of one of my childhood friends had been in a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. Another childhood friend's father was a Nazi. Some of my mother's friends and family members had been non-persons under the Soviet system. Some of our own family were Communist Party members. Resisters. Collaborators. Escapees. Mass grave corpses.

For our people over there, just being what I, a kid during America's post-World-War-Two pinnacle, thought of as a normal person, did not seem to be an option. Just thinking, "Hey, today I might go to the movies." Or, "I might get married or take a nap or watch a ballgame or go fishing." These, for me, "normal" choices were not options for them.

For our people over there, it was more like "Hey, today, I might get rounded up, or stand in front of an invading tank, or circulate samizdat." Massive injustice was the wallpaper of existence. You had to take a stand. You took a stand, and that stand somehow always ended up being every bit as unjust as the injustice you thought you were heroically opposing. In any case, everybody on every side eventually drowned in the same tsunami that also swept up all the clutter of existence with it. The wave didn't care how righteous were the ideals of the human particles it swept up along with stop signs and kitchen sinks and roofing tiles.

Horowitz's book begins at his parents' graveside. "Life is struggle," Horowitz has engraved on his father's stone. "The enemies against whom I once battled so furiously were more fantastic than real." The world is "and must remain forever imperfect. The refusal to come to terms with this reality is the heart of the radical impulse and accounts for its destructiveness … Political utopians like my father had a master plan. They were going to transform the world from the chaos we knew into a comfortable and friendly place … there are tragedies from which cannot recover, and alienation that no revolution can cure … we are the mystery … What else is this life about but vanishing?"

Horowitz's grandfather Moishe, a "wraith of a man, barely five feet tall" fled pogroms in Ukraine. Ellis Island officials altered his name. "He had accepted the change, like the other circumstances of his life, as an unalterable fate." In a sweatshop, "he had to sleep under his sewing machine on the shop floor." "Like Moses, he was allowed to see, but not to enter, the Promised Land." Moishe's only rebellion was, as described in a family story, to, one day, shock everyone by stabbing his dinner plate with such force that the plate shattered. Moishe's son, Horowitz's father, rebelled more intensely. He became a member of the Communist Party.

These early pages rhymed enough with the stories of people I know that they plunged me into days of reflection, memories, and unresolved heartaches. I could see and smell so many past kitchens, redolent of borscht, cabbage, and oskvarky, where we used to huddle and try to make sense of it all. I wanted so badly to escape from those kitchens, conversations, and hard, hard fates. I wanted to be a "normal person," and just go fishing. But I didn't. Like Horowitz himself, I had every reason to know better, but the siren song of utopia lured me, too, into the wave. And so I stopped reading, knowing I would pick the book up again someday when the time was right.

Radical Son is 468 pages, inclusive of an index. Those pages are dense. They are challenging. That's why, given that so few people read books any more, we need a miniseries. This book is epic. It is cinematic. Reading this book reminded me of years past when I banked days reading big, thick novels that interwove sex, death, current events, and life's big questions. It's one of those books that you have to discuss with friends. The cast of characters runs from Jean-Paul Sartre to Ronald Reagan, from Bobby Kennedy Jr to Abby Rockefeller, from Jane Fonda to Martin Buber to an innocent woman you've never heard of who was murdered for doing the right thing. Her suspected killer still makes videos that receive applause on YouTube. There are dramatic confrontations galore. We need a big-budget, multipart docudrama.

In spite of the sprawling narrative, the changes in location, cast of characters, and eras, Radical reads smoothly. The unifying feature is the main character / narrator. His mind, heart, soul, and perceptions are the unifying thread. Horowitz describes being honored by the US president, being hoodwinked by a woman who wants caps on her teeth, and then he describes his father injecting heroin into his lover's arm. He records these diverse events with the same voice. This is the voice of a man who can dispassionately observe and meticulously report facts, even facts that trouble or confound him, with clarity and calm. There isn't a single bad sentence in the entire book. I would change two words – two words only. Horowitz describes a KGB agent as having a "pasty Slavic complexion." Peter Collier has a "dough-faced Christian look." As a Slavic Christian, I protest.

One of the most astounding features of this book is the author's ability to capture exquisitely detailed encounters of historic importance, and also to plumb the depths of the human heart, using the exact same voice. Horowitz records, for the reader, disturbing meetings with Black Panthers he knows to be capable of murder, and a borderline farcical encounter between Joan Baez and Bertrand Russell. Horowitz courageously applies his surgeon's scalpel to himself. He writes with the nakedness of a man penning confessions to his own diary. He's letting his readers know that he himself is a flawed man who let his wife down, who was confused about how to respond to his friend's murder, and who crashed his own sports car. Even when Horowitz was reporting to this reader that he did something that this reader assessed as unattractive or damn stupid, I felt for this main character as I have for few others in books I've read recently. The author's willingness to show up and tell the truth, combined with his writing skill, brought me closer to the common humanity I share with someone so different from myself.

There's a humility in this kind of writing, and it's not just the humility of someone willing to display his own flaws. It's the uniquely writerly humility of standing back and letting the granular facts of existence speak for themselves, without interference from a writer's drive to produce flowery prose, or to spin facts in a self-flattering way. That humility is directly related to the theme of the book. A writer who wants to jot down words that announce, "Look at me look at me look at me. Look at all the pretty words and convoluted figures of speech I can conjure!" is a writer who can lie about big events. That is a writer who can turn a Stalin, or a Huey Newton, into a hero. Just reporting the facts, such as Stalin's cumulative death toll, or Newton's murdering a defenseless teenage prostitute, changes propaganda into history.

Radical Son isn't all politics. The book offers, astoundingly, a lovely, astute passage about falling in love. "I was in love with Elissa from the moment I saw her – drawn by her shy, passionate eyes that alternately smiled into mine and searched the air beneath her, as if looking for a place to hide." She loved him too, for equally teenage reasons, and they married and had four kids and many good years.

Radical Son begins with an intimate portrait of Horowitz's parents and their wider communist community. That community faced a crisis as Horowitz came into his own. Stalinism's bloody legacy confounded American communists. They had to save their faith. Horowitz put his shoulder to the wheel and became a leader in the New Left, first in England, and then in Berkeley, California.

Leftists in the 1960s and 1970s, counterintuitively, supported a variety of American phenomena that wouldn't at first appear to be a natural fit with communism. For example, they backed drug use, at least by non-party members. "The issues were never the issues … Anything that undermined the system contributed to the revolution and was therefore good." This approach is echoed today in leftist support for trans extremism. Classical Marxists find much to reject in trans extremism, but other leftists embrace it. Redefining basic categories like sex undermines the system.

Horowitz fell in with the Black Panthers. Previously, Marxists had tried to smash identity politics and replace ethnicity with class categories like worker and capitalist. Again, though, the Panthers undermined the system, and there were hopes that blacks and even prisoners would spark the revolution.

Horowitz's exposé of the inner workings of the Black Panthers and their leftist supporters is devastating. The Panthers were a violent, sadistic criminal gang. They murdered blacks as well as whites. Their white, leftist patrons loved them not out of any humanitarian urge. They loved them because they were gangsters. For anyone who has read Horowitz, videos like this, this, and this will be almost unbearable to watch.

Horowitz's account of his time with the Panthers, recording events from fifty years ago, is utterly pertinent today. The features of this interaction repeat themselves. For example, those who testified against Huey Newton after he murdered a teen prostitute in 1974 were themselves black. Newton's lawyers' discredited them. Newton preferred white juries. "Whites were most likely to be impressed by his myth."

Black victims of black criminals were less appealing to white leftists fifty years ago and black victims of black criminals are less appealing to white leftists today. Note how little attention white leftists pay to headlines like this one from June 20, 2023, "75 People Shot, 13 Fatally, Across Chicago Over Juneteenth Holiday Weekend." When black gangsters shoot black people in Chicago, it is not news. When Huey Newton and other Black Panthers victimized other black people, those crimes are edited out of the hagiographies.

Similarly, Radical Son describes the manipulation of science to political ends as AIDS emerged. Similar manipulation occurs today in relation to trans extremism. "The left posed a threat to the very people they claimed to defend," including blacks, gay men, and trans-identified youth.

The selective outrage Horowitz describes is a feature of the Left today. Crimes committed by right-wing governments prompted protest. Crimes committed by communists were ignored, written off as false accusations, or explained away.

Horowitz, as a New Left leader, struggled to keep New Left publications afloat; the machinations he and his comrades resorted to are almost a parody. They involved soaking rich people and misusing government funds like unemployment insurance. At one point a publication became a collective, where all decisions were subjected to hours of discussion. No name, not even that of the publishers or editors, was allowed dominate any other name on the masthead. Everyone got the same salary. In spite of all this, the publication folded. One might think that seeing that applying leftist ideals to a leftist publication and thereby sabotaging that publication would be object lesson enough to change hearts and minds. Not so, alas.

On the home front, Horowitz's marriage to Elissa ended. This reader was genuinely saddened. A book that is largely about politics is also a deeply human journey.

In Radical's darkest passages, Horowitz suggests Betty Van Patter as a bookkeeper for the Black Panthers. Van Patter discovered financial irregularities. The Panthers, it is alleged, kidnapped her, and, according to some sources, beat her and raped her, and eventually killed her.

The following pages are both dynamic reading and personally heartbreaking. Horowitz felt responsible for this tragedy. "I wanted to escape my parents' fate. Their political ideals" made them complicit in others' crimes. "I had resolved that I would not repeat their mistake. Now I was guilty myself." Horowitz, too, was swept up in the voracious, indifferent, tsunami.

Horowitz does not allow this tragedy to destroy him. Rather, he uses the pain he feels to become a better man. He examines his own philosophies and changes course in his life, slowly, surely, and entirely justifiably. His conversion is not a Road to Damascus moment. Nothing we've read so far would indicate that he would be capable of a rapid and unsupported change. Rather, Horowitz begins carefully reexamining previous assumptions, and he finds evidence to support a life change.

Horowitz was shocked at his leftist friends' response to Van Patter's murder. "No one cared … The incident had no usable political meaning, and was therefore best forgotten."

Leftists' lack of concern for Van Patter's murder was yet another display of selective outrage. Leftists had worked hard, as Horowitz describes, to produce a myth around George Jackson, a black man and a martyr figure in leftist propaganda. They carefully edited Jackson's own words, and obscured the fact that he was a killer, to make him more appealing to mass audiences. Leftists did this because Jackson was useful to their cause. "Anything that undermined the system contributed to the revolution and was therefore good." The vile murder of Betty Van Patter could not be exploited to undermine the system, or to contribute to the revolution, so no one cared, any more than leftists cared about the 2023 death of Tyre Nichols, a black man beaten to death by five cops. Those cops were all black, so Nichols, an innocent man, will never receive the attention of a George Floyd.

Horowitz approached the police. Their response was, "'You guys have been cutting our balls off for the past ten years, You destroy the police and then expect them to solve the murders of your friends." Again, this sentence reflects reality in 2023. Thanks to the Ferguson Effect, police pull back, and violent crime increases. BLM protests demonizing police will result in thousands more homicides, largely of poor and black people, according to research.

Horowitz could have surrendered to the despair he felt over Betty Van Patter's murder. He could have retreated to a life of addiction and passivity. He didn't. He re-examined his previous assumptions and found them wanting. He and his writing partner had previously produced best-selling, award-winning books. Horowitz rededicated his pen to producing truth-telling work about the Left. Radical Son is a redemption story.

One more remarkable feature of this book deserves note. Radical Son does not shy away from reflecting the disproportionate number of Jews in the Communist Party. Given the pervasiveness and murderous power of anti-Semitism, this is a difficult truth to mention; bad people exploit this fact to serve vile ends. Those who resist such exploitation constantly mention that only a minority of world communists have been Jews and only a minority of Jews have been communists. Further, there is a significant number of Jewish conservatives, for example Horowitz himself, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Ruth Wisse, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Norman Podhoretz. Stalin, Mao, Lenin, Castro, Pol Pot, and my own party-member relatives have not been Jews.

It is unavoidably true that the twentieth-century American Communist Party was disproportionately Jewish. Reflective of wider trends, throughout Radical, one encounters American Jews among American communists. I asked myself anew, why? What is it about communism that attracted them? This is an especially difficult question given that, as Ruth Wisse wrote, "Communism did at least as much damage to Jews as to any other people."

A standard answer is that Jews have been treated unjustly, and communism's promise of universal justice was attractive. This answer does not satisfy me. Eastern European peasants, many of whom lived under near-feudal conditions into the twentieth century, were certainly treated unjustly, and they largely rejected communism, as did American blacks, another group familiar with unjust treatment.

While reading Horowitz's book, I thought of another possible reason that so many American Jews in the twentieth century were attracted to communism. Most American Jews descend from Jews who lived in the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – this would include many so-called "Russian" Jews. These Jews had a total worldview and culture. They had their own language, Yiddish, their own publications, theaters, and houses of worship. Dense ritual activity occurred in every hour of the waking day. Self-regulation, for example in the Council of Four Lands, and subsequently in social and economic pressure from within and without, maintained orthodoxy.

As authors like David Roskies, Aleksander Hertz, and Eva Hoffman have written, Ashkenazi Jews might be subjected to prejudice in the street, but in the home and the synagogue they regarded themselves as distinct and possessed of authoritative knowledge and wisdom that offered them a special place in a hopeful narrative of salvation. God had singled them out. The Messiah would come, and he would be one of them.

Theologian Rachel Adler speaks of Judaism as "both prison and refuge." "The walls of the Diaspora cubicle are … externally imposed barriers and internally established boundaries protecting it from engulfment by rival systems of meaning." She cites Peter Berger who described "structures of religious meaning" making sense of the world by fighting off "the chaotic emptiness of unmediated reality … these rickety, jerry-built fortresses … wall out the howling wilderness of meaninglessness all around."

For most Jews, immigration to America eliminated many of the pressures for orthodoxy and obliterated many of the signposts of this total worldview. Jewish men shaved. Jewish women exposed their hair. Jewish children learned English and married non-Jews. Jews have become atheists, and have abandoned beliefs and practice at higher rates than others. "Jews in U.S. are far less religious than Christians and Americans overall," Pew reported in 2021.

One does not associate devout, religiously observant Jews with communism. "The international secular premises of Communism are antithetical to Judaism," as Ruth Wisse wrote in a June 27 email to me. The Jews who were attracted to communism were those who had abandoned a restrictive, but supportive worldview. Their new worldview had features in common with the abandoned one. As previously, they had access to an exalted and rare key to salvation. They were apart, a different and chosen elite, or "vanguard." Their special role was defined through ratiocination, rather than physical prowess.

Horowitz describes this worldview. "The world is cursed by ignorance, and the task of progressives like us is to set everybody straight … I was just ten years old, but I … could lecture the President of the United States on the difference between right and wrong and thus change the course of history … I was suspended so high above everyone else." Horowitz writes of his father's "unquenchable longing to belong." His father did not choose to belong to a doors-wide-open group; rather, he chose an elite. This group chose to retain only selected features of Judaism. Horowitz's father and his fellow communists rejected the Hebrew language for school children, because it was the language of a "reactionary past." The Bible stories little David learned were politicized. His mother practiced "reverse snobbery" and found "situations in which she could exert her own superiority."

Horowitz's father felt alienated from America when he took a bus trip west – the part of the US that is today dismissed as "flyover country." "I'm in a foreign land … I'm afraid that most of us aren't really … deeply fond of the country and the people." Horowitz describes his parents as choosing to live in a "ghetto," albeit a "political" one. Similarly, today, Pew Research suggests, leftists of any religious background occupy "silos" where their worldview is assumed to be the only accurate one. Horowitz describes his parents making choices that they didn't have to make that alienated them from their non-Jewish, non-communist neighbors. "We're not such nice people when we go to work on you," his mother wrote in a threatening note to a perceived opponent. His parents rejected a mainstream American route to financial enrichment – home ownership – when it would have been easy and profitable for them.

"What my parents had done in joining the Communist Party … was to return to the ghetto. There was the same shared private language, the same hermetically sealed universe, the same dual posture revealing one face to the outer world and another to the tribe … the same conviction of being marked for persecution and specially ordained, the sense of moral superiority toward the stranger and more numerous goyim outside. And there was the same fear of expulsion for heretical thoughts, which was the fear that riveted the chosen … Despite our disdain for religious belief, the creed we lived by was not dissimilar from that of our ancestors."

The "dual posture" Horowitz mentioned, the sense of operating two personae, would haunt Horowitz later. "When I began to appear before actual audiences, the sense of not belonging was so strong that I felt as though my personality was split between the figure on stage and the voice behind it."

Communism elevated human experience above the ordinary; it sanctified life. "I had always found security in the belief that a hierarchy ordered" the "vast array of human learning … I visualized a pyramid whose apex was Marxism, which was my life's work and which provided the key to all other knowledge. Marxism was the theory that would change everyone's world. And put mine at the center." Confronting the very evident horrors and failures of communism would have rendered apostates "ordinary." But that confrontation, for an integral person, was inevitable. "The tide of history had run out, stranding us on ordinary shores." Almost two-thirds of the way into the book, Horowitz realizes that Marxism is "false."

All around me, the room went black. In the engulfing dark, the pyramid flattened and a desert appeared in its place, cold and infinite, and myself an invisible speck within. I am one of them, I thought. I am going to die and disappear like everyone else. For the first time in my conscious life, I was looking at myself in my human nakedness, without the support of revolutionary hopes, without the faith in a revolutionary future – without the sense of self-importance conferred by the role I would play in remaking the world. For the first time I my life I confronted myself as I really was in the endless march of human coming and going. I was nothing.

"The one bright features of my father's melancholy life was his dedication to a worldwide movement for human renewal." After realizing that Marxism was false, Horowitz lost that "one bright feature." He was no better than, and had no more reason to go on, than the burping and farting wage slave whose greatest joy is a comfy chair, a cold beer, and a TV show. Suddenly normal challenges like imperfection, depression, disease, and death are stronger than you.

My copy of Radical Son looks like a truck hit it. The spine is broken, pages are coming out, and there is yellow highlighting and ball point pen commentary on most pages. This sorry state, the result of deeply engaged reading, is the highest compliment I can pay to any book.

Danusha Goska is the author of God Through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery


Monday, July 3, 2023

"Polish Death Camps" Tweet from 2018


Polish death camps tweet from 2018. see original here

Why is this tweet a problem? For the full answer please read Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype

For a shorter answer, consider this. How would you react when someone who is an anti-Semite repeats over and over the phrase "___ish communism"? That phrase is so controversial I can't even type it out. 

Or "___ish kapo"? 

People who speak like that don't want to know or speak the truth. They want to stir up hatred. 

The same is true of those who mindlessly repeat "Polish death camps." I can type out "Polish death camps" and I will not be punished. My post will  not be hidden by Google. 

The difference is that this woman is a respected journalist at the Jerusalem Post. She is allowed to spread mindless hate in this way. Whereas the anti-Semite who mindlessly repeats the above two smears is, rightfully, sidelined. And that double standard is one key to understanding the Bieganski, Brute Polak Stereotype. 

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Bieganski at the Eurovision Song Contest

 Noa Kirel, a mediocre singer, invoked the Bieganski, Brute Polak Stereotype at the Eurovision Song Contest. 

I haven't posted in a while

 I haven't posted in a while. You know why. This blog is not income generating. Anyone is free to donate at any time, but no one does. I have to earn a living and that takes huge amounts of time. 

I haven't not posted because of any lack of material. Bieganski is alive and well and the stereotype appears daily, in jokes, on TV shows, in scholarly books, and peer-reviewed articles. Bieganski isn't going anywhere. 

Please read the comments section under posts. A tireless contributor, Jerzy, sends in one Bieganski event after another. I have limited time to blog about each one. You can follow Jerzy's links. 

The situation will change only when a critical mass of Poles educate themselves about the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype and take action against it.