Living in a PC World: Elections and Stereotypes

Well, we’ve reached the end of the race – almost. Tomorrow is Election Day in Israel, and I am still  (slightly) undecided as to who to vote for.
There isn’t one party which totally meets my “wish list”  – and I suspect the same is true for the vast majority of voters.
It’s a shame one can’t do “mix ‘n’ match” with the various party platforms, the way one does with clothes, tableware or bed-linen.

In a way, voting for a political party – any political party – means conforming to a political stereotype, at least in the eyes of the opponents of that party. It is like submitting to the PC Thought Police. The moment you tell someone you’re  voting for a particular party, you are  instantly tagged as a fascist/enemy of Israel/bigot/self-hating Jew/heartless capitalist/ bleeding-heart do-gooder/(take your pick).
Apparently it is impossible for one who believes in the right of the Jewish People to all of Eretz Yisrael  also to care for the downtrodden middle class who cannot make ends meet. If you oppose the proposed “Israel as a Jewish State” Bill, it can only be because you are a Leftist, self-hating Jew, not because you think it is totally unnecessary to state the obvious. If you think homosexuality is abnormal, but support the Civil Partnership Law, you are still a bigot in the eyes of “the enlightened” and a destroyer of Jewish Family Values in the eyes of the orthodox and if you think that Israel can exist as a Jewish State without abolishing the standing of Arabic as an official language – forget it. You are a racist in the eyes of the Left  (because only a racist would support the right of Jews to their own state) and a Fifth Columnist/Traitor in the eyes of the Right (because obviously, keeping Arabic as an official language weakens the “Jewishness” of the State of Israel).

I think that I, like many “floating” voters, will be deciding which slip of paper to drop into the ballot box, on the basis of “the lesser of two (or more) evils”. It has often been said that the Israeli voter is always voting against something, never for something. A perfect example of this attitude, carried to extremes, is the campaign slogan of the centrist and left-wing parties: “Just not Bibi”. It reminds me of the old joke about the Jew who is shipwrecked on a desert island and who, when he is rescued after 20 years of life as a hermit, proudly points out to his rescuers the synagogue he has built for himself, although, as he admits, he only prays there once a year, on Yom Kippur. As they all marvel at his ingenuity, he tells them: “Oh, this is nothing. Just wait till you see the other synagogue I have built, over at the far side of the island.”
“Why do you need two synagogues?” they ask him.
“That other one is the one I wouldn’t be caught dead in!” is the reply.

What I am trying to say is that the moment you announce your intention to vote for any particular party, after weeks of soul-searching and after finally arriving at the conclusion that Party X is not perfect (far from it) but that Parties A, B and C are worse, you are instantly tagged with all the stereotypes attached to the supporters of that particular party. And the PC Thought Police reinforces this attitude. According to their Orwellian agenda, it is not enough to support whatever cause is the “Flavour of the Day”. You must support it for whatever they have deemed to be “the right reasons”.

Nor is anyone willing to listen to a word  “the Other Side” has to say. For example, I have a friend from my choir who thinks I am a fascist and a racist, because I want Israel to be  “a Jewish state”. She thinks she knows what I mean by “a Jewish state” and won’t let me explain that what I mean by the term and what some others might mean by the term are not necessarily one and the same. She cannot conceive of the possibility that a person might believe fervently in the right of the Jewish People to their own state in all of Eretz Yisrael, while still respecting the civil rights of the Arab minority.

Likewise the question of same-sex marriage. Even if one agrees that people have a right to deviate from “the norm”, as long as they are not harming anyone else, one is still “a bigot”, if one does not believe homosexuality is “normal” , because for some people, if one uses terms like “normal”, one is making a value judgement. The common response of these people is usually something on the lines of “Who gave you the right to decide who is normal and who is not?” Try to explain what you mean by “normal” and they won’t let you get a word in edgeways, because you have already been branded a bigot and the democratic right to freedom of speech is only for those who happen to agree with what the self-proclaimed “enlightened” have deemed to be Politically Correct.

Hand-in-hand with this stereotyping of other people’s positions is the extremely defensive attitude concerning one’s own. My American-born friend from the choir who thinks support for a Jewish State is inherently racist, when asked what it was that drew her to make aliyah, does not recognise my innocent question as a perfectly genuine attempt to elicit from her an analysis of her view of the Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael. What she hears is: “If you don’t like it here in the Jewish state, go back to the USA.” And she refuses to allow any further discussion, any attempt to explain that this was not my intention at all.

I hasten to add, I do not believe that this behaviour is uniquely Israeli. I fear it is a trait shared by a very large number of people the world over. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem to bode very well for the future of Humanity.
In fact, sometimes, I wonder how we’ve managed to survive this long.
And yet, in spite of everything, the Human Race has managed – somehow – to muddle through.

Just as I am sure that, despite the dire predictions of Left and Right, Israel will also pull through, whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s elections.

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About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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13 Responses to Living in a PC World: Elections and Stereotypes

  1. It’s no different here in the US. The pendulum swings from one extreme to another and we all wonder where the moderates are. A crop of conservatives came in on the last wave and all they did was stop everything because they don’t make any concessions, no compromises. That means nothing gets done. It gets so annoying that we spend so much money on nothing when there are people starving and diseases to eradicate. Our big elections are next year and I already dread them.

  2. When Ed Murrow was agonizing over whether to go ahead with his program about Joe McCarthy, he commented: “”The terror is right here in this room,” and then announced that they would go ahead with the program.
    Later he said: “If none of us ever read a book that was ‘dangerous,’ nor had a friend who was ‘different,’ or never joined an organization that advocated ‘change,’ we would all be just the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants.”

  3. David Allon says:

    Shimona, you did not help me decide who to vote for…or who not to vote for. Using both methodologies separately or together has not given a clear answer. Too many pros and cons.

    The art of debate is no longer practiced. When I was in high school I was in a debate club. We would prepare a debate on a subject, and be ready to argue either side. That way one learns to look at all sides of an argument… and one must also learn manners, to listen to what others are saying.

    Should we blame TV, where things need to be defined within 30 seconds, where labels are used instead of an explanation?

  4. mariodacat says:

    Mario’s human here – I love your blog because you bring up excellent points. As I was reading this, I could see you talking about the US also as it’s the same way over here. I sometimes hate to say which party I have voted for or will vote for because of the flack one receives. I do believe that TV and the other forms of “instant social media” do play a part in fueling this atmosphere.

    • To Mario’s human 😉 and also to David Allon, yes, I’ve remarked before that what I call “the Instagram Generation” has to have everything packaged up in catchy little soundbites, and people are only interested in jumping on the bandwagon of whatever happens to be “trending” at any given moment. It’s the same with the PC Thought Police and their “flavour of the day”.

  5. ShimonZ says:

    Wishing you a very happy holiday, for election day in our country is a holiday. And I do not feel that the situation you have described is at all close to the Israel I know. It is true that there are childish radicals who proclaim such views… and maybe they shout the loudest. But as a life long resident of Jerusalem, and a religious Jew, I will accept whichever candidate is elected with love. Will wish him success in leading the country; am happy that many different views are able to express themselves in parliament, and truly believe that we are all working for a better state and society all the time. Differences of opinion don’t have to breed hatred, and I pray for an end to the noise, and more tolerance and sympathy between all citizens. Enjoy the day, and enjoy the results. We don’t have to agree about every little thing in order to be friends.

    • Election Day in Israel is, indeed, a holiday – not just because it is an official sabbatical, but because we are lucky to belong to that minority of countries (throughout the world, not just the Middle East) that does actually enjoy a democracy. And we are also lucky in that, for the first time in 2000 years, we Jews are masters of our own lives (more or less) in our own state. And the 20% of our citizens that are non-Jewish are partners in that democracy.

      “Differences of opinion don’t have to breed hatred, and I pray for an end to the noise, and more tolerance and sympathy between all citizens.”
      Agreed. As I made clear in the above post, I do have friends who don’t share my views, but we are still friends (as long as we don’t discuss politics, that is). It is fortunate that we have Music to bind us together.

  6. The gnome says:

    Great blog! Try to give it as widespread circulation as possible.

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