“OK there might be some Jewish-African soul brothers or sisters out there who rap. But what do I know, I’m I’m like the worst Jew ever.”
”How is that even defined?”
Shroake the Stalker.
”OK. So You occasionally go to Temple, like on High Holy Days. You’ve never been to Israel 🇮🇱. You can’t speak Hebrew. You fake reading in Temple. You don’t know any of the holidays. You don’t keep Kosher. You don’t know any of the ceremonies or rules. You don’t look Jewish. You are too tall, fair haired and blue-eyed. You sort of know the Bible stories. Other Jews think you are an idiot. You joined a Protestant fraternity in College and you spent most of your life in the Army. You eat cow 🐄 tongue 👅 but not chopped liver.”
I Shroake as we awaited Nissim Black.
”Look at the Orthodox. They have their own thing. They are real. Authentic. I’m like a space alien 👽 to them. The Boten-daughter is the same way I am. We don’t blend here.”
Shroakified I-self (Third nominative declension of myself)
”I love these people. Look at the positive energy. So you are rejected 🙅♂️ by the so-called white man and from Jews as well?”
Shraike the Stalker.
“You spent too much time among the white man and you have adopted their ways. You were corrupted by the white devil 😈 the white Satan, the man, el hombre aka Mr. Charlie aka Bobo aka Ofay.”
Said Big Chief Guyasuta.
”Chief, you’re a moron.”
The crowd loved Nissim. He came right to the audience with beats, rhymes and flows. The kids were going crazy. They had one of their own as a rapper. He seemed almost startled by the warm, bordering on frenzied reception from the Pittsburgh region.
”Your people are awesome. I love their energy. It’s a real community. Here we are under a machine-age bridge 🌉 in Old Homestead celebrating the Festival of Lights.”
”Same here. Thanks for inviting us down.”
Nodded the Chief.
Said I-self and the Boten-daughter simultaneously.
”We’re not even sure who we really are.”
”But everyone else knows who we are.”
Stated the Boten-daughter.
”Hot cocoa with whipped?”
Peace be the Botendaddy
“Free Kathleen Kane!
Free Bill Cosby!
Free Harvey Weinstein!
Free Kevin Spacey! He’s Keyser Sözé, damnit.
No more traffic lights 🚦 anywhere in America!
Re-open Carnegie Deli!
Free the Unabomber 💣 🧔 ✉️!
Pot 🌱 in every chicken 🐓!
You will smoke my weed, Uniontown Red… only the finest… this is NOT an after school 🏫 special!
WaLuigi on the Supreme Court!
Ah… the smell of it!
Ask not what the Botendaddy can do for you ask what you can do for the Botendaddy!
F@&k human rights! I need Cuban cigars, blood diamonds ♦️ and Russian Caviar!”
I Shroake to the empty auditorium.
”You’re a complete moron. You can probably win.”
Shroake the Librarian.
August, 1972. Friday Shabbat Services.
It was a little Synagogue in North Eastern Queens. One of many in the area.
He was in a wheelchair. He had been there every week for a month. Every week, he drooled, pathetically, asking her if they could go to the deli together after Saturday morning services and get a bagel. She always laughed and said no.
She sat with her family in a rear pew. They were making an attempt to try to be more Jewish. Provide some support for the dynamic young rabbi from Las Vegas, of all places.
It was mostly dull. She read the announcements and the temple calendar. What made it fun was people watching. Who was with who. Who showed up and who didn’t.
The wheelchair hippie, as they called him, would roll behind the last pew and transfer himself into the end seat. And they would talk. He was 29, she was 24.
He had long black hair, a beard and a moustache. He was an absolute mess. He looked like a very large Rasputin. She couldn’t tell if he was fat or thin. His face was strong, but he wore baggy clothes mostly to hide his diaper, he said. Yuck. In order to speak, he had to unscrew an enormous orthodontic brace on his mouth.
She liked the hippie, even though he was disgusting. He talked about being in some kind of hospital, rehab he said. Probably a junkie who got hit by a car, her dad said. Her parents hated him. Harry the Hairy hippie, they called him.
She was not married. No boyfriend. She was zaftig. Brown hair, brown eyes. The good men were already snapped up. She worked in the City. Bus, first, then the 7 train during the week. Then weekend services at Temple, where she was inevitably stuck with Harry, the crippled wheelchair bum. Embarrassing. How could she meet a nice young man with this carnival sideshow freak around?
He would ask for her number, while wiping his drool from his mouth. What in the hell happened to him?
He was highly intelligent. He spoke of a girl in Philadelphia who didn’t follow him to Baltimore and broke his heart. Maybe he became a junkie after that?
Did he fall off a subway platform? Was he hit by a bus? Beaten by dope dealers? Who knows. He knew his prayers though, barely intelligible as they were.
He rambled on abouthow he missed working out and running. It seemed ludicrous. He spoke about some studies at some University somewhere. It made no sense. He talked about traveling around Asia.
She would chat about Harry at home. Her parents would chafe. They called him a self-inflicted wound. It was funny.
They were really worried that their daughter would end up with Harry the shitty wheelchair bum? She scoffed in her mind.
Every week at Temple he would hit on her. Tell her she was beautiful. How he missed Jewish girls and their unique beauty. He said he wanted to ask her out, but he could barely walk or talk and he couldn’t drive. Maybe they could go to the deli one morning and get a bagel with lox cream cheese spread. She always brushed him off.
He spoke about how beautiful she was. Some mystical tripe about dreaming her before he ever met her. He talked about being in some strange land, sleeping under the Southern Cross, and how he imagined a girl just like her.
It was romantic, but annoying. Girls don’t dream of being hit on by Quasimodo.
The end came during Friday services at Kol Nidre.
He held her hand for just a moment. It was strange, as if he desperately needed some human connection, as if it were a lifeline, and her parents saw him grasp her hand.
After services, outside, her parents confronted him in the dark in the Temple driveway.
Her dad was an imposing man, over six feet. He was a dentist. He had been a dentist in World War II and the Korean War. He was proud of his service.
“Son, I don’t know how you got like this, but you look like shit. You probably were hooked on drugs and you screwed up your life. It’s sad. But from now on find somewhere else to sit. We aren’t your fucking family and my daughter isn’t going to associate with a pathetic hippie bum.”
Said her dad, pointing his finger as he towered over the crippled hippie.
“Maybe when you get out of your little rehab, you can repair your life. Move back in with your family.”
Said her mom.
She drew back, remembering him saying that he didn’t have a family and he lived alone somewhere upstate in a big empty house that he hadn’t seen in years. Probably a cock and bull story. Junkies were notorious liars.
“I’m sorry. I hope you’ll be OK.”
She said, avoiding tortuous eye contact.
Harry hung his head. He muttered some apology. Probably long practiced from years of disappointing people.
The rabbi raced over. He looked very hurt. “What is hurtful to yourself, do not do to your fellow human being. That is the entire Torah!”
He shouted at her family.
“Shame on you!”
Yelled at by the Rabbi on Yom Kippur. Not a good scene.
They saw Harry again on Saturday, he sat alone in his wheelchair on the far side of the temple, he avoided eye contact and he turned his head… and then, the next week, he was gone.
A month went by. Then a couple more weeks. She wondered what happened to him. She rode the 7 train, reading her book. Bored to death, but thinking of the sad, disgusting young man in the wheelchair.
Veterans Day week, the JWV had their annual to-do where they called up some bored Jewish active duty soldier or officer and recited his exploits.
The rabbi summoned up a tall attractive strong black-haired young man. He was clean shaven, wearing khakis and an Army Sweater covered with ribbons and badges.
“Look, a caduceus!” Said her dad, all excited.
The rabbi introduced the handsome young doctor who waddled up on wooden crutches.
Her face fell when she realized who it was. Harry the wheelchair hippie… and she had crushed his soul… when he had desperately, hopelessly loved her.
“Everyone, this young fellow, Captain Harry Levi, was hiding in the back since July. He is an Army trauma surgeon who was sent to rehabilitate at the LaGuardia VA hospital. His helicopter was shot down in Vietnam in June while he was on his second tour. Look, it’s like a revival! Harry can walk again! Hallelujah! Heal! See Rabbis can do it too! By the by, Harry is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, for you Philly Skimmers here and he went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to study medicine. What a mensch!”
Said the rabbi.
She stared straight ahead, furious at her parents. Angrier at herself. What awful tricks God plays on us when we have shameless vanity and show cruelty to the unfortunate.
A nice single Jewish Doctor. Every Jewish girl’s dream, ruined.
A badly wounded Veteran and they had all laughed at him, mocked him, shit on him. Her dad looked sick and he began to tear up. He had humiliated a fellow veteran and everyone knew it.
She got up from her seat.
“Nice work, Mom and Dad, nice work! We are all wonderful people.“
She said bitterly.
She walked down the aisle and she stood in front of the entire Saturday morning Shabbat congregation. She faced Harry and she gave him a gentle hug.
“Harry, I’m Rachel. Let’s go get that bagel.”
“I love you, Rachel.”
He said very clearly.
And they walked out into the winds of Long Island Sound to the little deli.
We really don’t know what paths people travel to get where they are.
I’ve always believed in paths. I used to take a bus 🚌 from College when I was 18 and I always saw the same long-haired peaceful dude on the bus in the same seat. I don’t remember his name, I think it was Adam.
Many years later, (it had been almost 18 years since I rode that particular route), yet I was on the very same bus. And there was the same dude!
My theory is that we always run into the same people in the same places because people follow comfortable or familiar paths. There may be someone that lives next door, works at an adjacent office or goes to the same school, but we never see them.
I never understood my mother’s politics or beliefs. I always found it radical and annoying. ‘Activist’ was a bad word. But I’ve lately realized that we did not travel the same paths.
But now I am beginning to see the world the same way. After I’ve witnessed terrible inhumanity overseas and at home and experienced tremendous personal tragedy and observed the descent into maelstrom in our larger society, I now understand what horrors she witness in her life, both personal and societal.
I have learned this: nothing good lasts forever and nothing bad lasts forever.
I don’t have a call to action. I don’t have a cause. I don’t recommend a belief system.
I am immensely flawed as are all humans. One must forgive oneself for being flawed or one is doomed to accept such flaws and never achieve peaceful equilibrium.
We have to stop thinking of ourselves as ‘bad’. We have to forgive and release our pasts and the pasts of others. We have to stop worrying about a future that we can only guide to the best of our capabilities.
We have to contemplate and enjoy the now. It’s the only moment we have.
Can we seek to understand others without first understanding ourselves? I don’t know.
I have to cure myself first, with contemplative reading 📖, the enjoyment of occasional silence and finding a peaceful path to walk… not with any specific purpose in mind, but rather for its own sake.
It won’t be easy.
Can I find wisdom in Buber, Merton and Hanh? I don’t know 🤷♂️.
Peace ☮️ be the Botendaddy
We were in the Bolean Nationality Classroom.
The Fat Hairy Unionized Physical Plant 🌱 Guy let us in.
”Yunz (NOT YINZ) don’t Jag my wires (Jagmuhwhrrrz) n’at. Gotta get the kids ott da haaas n’ donn Muzzyumm.”
”What the f@&k did he say?”
Asked the Punker Model Writer Chick.
”Never mind. It’s almost Halloween 🎃 you f@&king morons.”
Hiroyuki was dressed like Yoko (Pronounced Yo-o-ko, your luv will turn me o-uh-uh-on) The Weird Trail Bicycle 🚲 Guy was dressed like John Lennon.
I was dressed like WaLuigi. Röchibäüld was dressed like Dieter from Sprockets. The CEO was dressed like Hilary and Devon was dressed like Bill. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. The Angry 😤 Online Social Justice Warrior Guy was dressed like some kind of Lou Reed Sugar Plum Fairy 🧚♀️ in a tutu… hideously del.ic.io.us.
The rest of the costumes are too horrific to describe. So the Halloween 👻 party started, when suddenly ooh 😮 aah the lights went out.
We could see by the faint blue light of the Boleans 👾 👽 glowing in the dark. When a ghastly spectre appeared! With hands raised in twin Peace ✌️ signs! It was the ghost of Richard M. Nixon!
”Listen up, America’s College Bums! Fornicators! I saw many signs on the campaign trail. One of them was held up by a little girl 👧. It said ‘bring us together’ and I propose to do just that! Listen I gave you this:
Detente with The Soviet Union
Detente with China 🇨🇳
Peace in Vietnam 🇻🇳
I ended the draft
21 year old vote 🗳
OSHA for Worker safety
Clean Air Act
Clean Water 💦 Act
Federal Block Grants to cities
An actual end to school 🏫 segregation
National Health Proposal
Family Assistance Program to fight Poverty
I hated right-wing conservatives
I supported the Equal Rights Amendment for women.
I was not hostile to gay 🏳️🌈 rights.
”What a f@&king wishy-washy peacenik ultra-liberal this guy was!”
Shroake the Voat Fat People Hate Verified Shitlady.
”I upvote this Nixon guy! I never heard of him! Maybe he could run for President!”
Shraike the Angry Online Social Justice Warrior Guy.
”Botendaddy is a pusillanimous pussyfooter! A nattering nabob of negativism!”
Shroake the ghost 👻 of Spiro T. Agnew.
“Botendaddy is a Soviet Communist.”
Shroake the Henry Kissinger hologram.
”I like this Nixon guy, Nixon 2020? Thank Khufu he doesn’t sound anything like a Republican.”
Said Revolutionary Blacquéz.
”Iced Maple 🍁 Latté‘?”
Peace ☮️ be the Botendaddy
Praha, Pareczenethy statue in Jagr Park
”In proto-Slavic ‘Pare cze’ means a few days or three days. ‘Nehty’ means nails. As Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross by an unnamed force, then he rose from the dead (Is risen) may the name Pareczenethy thus be interpreted to mean: the one who was nailed and returned after three days?”
Asked Fra Snieczka Zentresciewczky (Pronounced Zen-Trey-Chef-Ski) of the parish of Four Mile Run in Mysczwczckyczwsky, (Pronounced Mysharonna) Pennsylvania, the last functioning milltown in all of America.
“What about a Catholic view of Pareczenethy? He gave up, it is said, a half ration of his meager concentration camp food for three years to feed a group of Jesuits who were being deliberately starved by the National Socialists. His only explanation was that his own life or death was meaningless, but without the priests he would have no one capable of intellectual discourse. He would constantly risk his life for others, while seeking nothing in return and almost daring the blank faces of the National Socialist Entity to kill him. In the end they feared his actions as bold resistance, misunderstanding his Nihilism.”
”Fra Szcecziewsky stated years later in his fifth missive that he never once heard Pareczenethy complain about the awful conditions. ‘He would only ask me that I observe the result of adherence to unsupportable Philosophical Weltunschauung. I have never forgotten him. I loved him unconditionally.’”
“In return for his sacrifice, his daughter was secreted out of Thereisenstadt by Hungarian Jesuit Nuns and hidden in Buda-Pewsct until the Soviet liberation Is this not the teaching?”
Said Sister Sliwa Tomislaw Nagy.
”This is iduct (Defined as indisputably correct under rigorous Philosophical analysis).”
Responded zür Fra Z (Essentially unpronounceable)
”Pareczenethy, despite affiliation with the Jüwes (Pronounced You-Vase) of Jack the Ripper fame, may yet be seen through the Catholic lens. His ecumenical Nihilism being in essence humanist existentialism and his self-sacrifice being an example of the ‘teaching of Christ’”
Spaeke the sister.
”So in essence although his words, appearance and manner was vulgar, his actions reflected the teaching of the Christ. Let us pray.”
Many young people in the Park joined them in prayer. Others read dog-eared philosophy tomes, while some pušenje malu Cigaretu in quiet contemplation.
One young woman yelled in Czech: “Pareczenethy žije! Long live Pareczenethy!”
17 Dezember 1939 München
Pareczenethy und seine Frau spielten Karten mit den Von Änästaads.
“Achtung Jüden! Und scheißenden Rassenverräter! Geöffnet sie den Tür 🚪!“
“Listen, friends, since I presume that these Gestapo (Pronounced Ghee-Schtaah-Poe) do not speak English, we are now going to switch back to Deutsche and I expect you to follow my charade (Pronounced Scheherazade) is that clear?”
The door is kicked in by hobnailed jackbooted leather-clad members of the fascist entity’s extrême enforcement arm gegen Jüdische Marxismus.
The Von Änstädts are violently beaten in an orgiastic almost erotically sexual bloodbath of violence as leather truncheons descend rhythmically thumping against undulating flesh as the eyes of the Gestapo thugs rolled back in their heads with sensual ecstasy.
”Race traitors! Shroake the Gestapo Major (Pronounced My-Yore) all you left me were two shitty Jews! (The word Jew! Is shroaken or in Hoch-Deutsche ‘geschroackende’ like a Valkyrie (Pronounced Whaal-Chye-Rheaughe)
An emotionless 😐 young girl is dragged from upstairs by one of the Gestapo enforcers.
”Häär Pareczenethy! We have met before!“
Hatte der Major also gesprochen
“JaWohl Häär Major! Metz, Oktober 1918. It is a shame what’s become of you. You came from a good family and look at you now. You are a goddamned shit-covered disgrace to your family, to der König Bayerischen and above all the University of Augsburg. You have defecated on a thousand years of Hohenzollern civilization. You were better off standing on your principals and dying like a man.”
Whhhaaaap! A violent sensuous slap is cracked across the hairy disgusting face of the demonic Jew! Pareczenethy’s wife and daughter look on with abject disinterest. The three of them are ushered into a magnificent black Gestapo staff car.
”Rösczhy, I warned you and the baby to get out. Now they are going to kill us all.”
“Häär Doktor, we all die eventually. Our existence is irrelevant. Life is without objective meaning or purpose. Thus Existential Nihilism.”
”They will torture you and the baby.”
”Don’t be maudlin father. We are not Duty-driven. A deontological Weltunschauung does not suit you. Nor utilitarian. Duties create rules per C.D. Broad. Don’t worry about me. I will die or I will study high Philosophical Prinicples at a great University and then die eventually anyway. These shit-covered morons have no idea what I’m saying anyway.”
Today, Wroclaw (Pronounced Breslau (Pronounced Vratislava))
An elderly woman is at the podium.
”Pareczenethy was my father. That is the story of how we ended up at Theresenstadt. My mother died there because she would not leave Pareczenethy. She was classy, lovely, born to a good family from Westphalia. He was low-born low-class vulgar, disgusting, smelly, shit-covered, unshaven, brilliant, beautiful, unshakingly loyal to the King of Bavaria, he was fearless and principled and I loved him There I said it, I loved him! He and my mother preferred certain death rather than betraying the foundational prinicples of reasoned Philosophical thought. I was able to escape the final death 💀 💀 camp because of him and Häär Doktor Doktor Von Anstädt.“
“I look out at this audience and I see Philosophers, students, statesmen, scholars and ridiculous fawning insincere fatalistic Czech waiters roaking malu Cigaretu like the sniveling tip-mongering Tychy of Plzen. Stupid self-involved drooling gibberish-speaking driveling moronic self-indulgent drunken Czech idiots… my heros! I hope you enjoy this celebration of Philosophy. I look forward to your presentation as you drone on mindlessly about nothing as I fall asleep in utter boredom at the idiocy that is your life’s work. Morons. Disgraceful…”
The crowd gives a long ovation as a Triumphal Bach (Pronounced Bay-sshh) processional is played by a high Polskiyh quartet.
Munchen 24 Dezembers 1918 Jägerstrasse verlassenes Büro von Professor von Änstädt
„Glück Gesundheit 🤧 Gottes Segen Freude Frieden ✌️ allerwegen Fröhlich 😁 Weinachten und einen gesegnetes neues Jahr!“
Pareczenethy ist immer noch in seiner Uniform. Er ist noch nicht entlassen worden. Er ist unrasiert und dreckig. Er geht die staubige Treppe hinauf. Die Lichter sind draußen im Philosophischen Gebäude. Es ist fast 16:00 Uhr. Er öffnet die Tür. Von Änstädt sitzt auch in Uniform hinter seinem Schreibtisch. Seine Füße hoch. Er ist mürrisch.
“Alles ist scheiße 💩 Meng Geehrter Häär… der Krieg ist vorbei. Wir sind alles auf einen großen Haufen Pferd 🐎 scheiße.“
„Keine Probleme Mengen Geehrter Häär. Meine Wohnung wurde von den gottverdammten Kommunisten und dem Scheißbagger Eugen Leviné gestohlen. Ich werde diesen Juden Bastard selbst erschießen und ich bin ein verdammter Jude! Scheiß auf diesen diebischen Schwanzlutscher! Arbeiterparadies mein Anus!„
“Keine Sorge, alter Kamerad, Häär Schliessmann hat uns gebeten, für das XVII. Wilhelminische Bataillon eine Kompanie aus der Universität zu gründen. Also sagte ich was zum Teufel?“
“Ich habe genug gehabt. Ich habe seit drei Tagen nicht gegessen. Lass uns ein paar kommunistische Jugendliche umbringen, die dem Abschaum ausweichen.“
“Mein liebster Freund. Das Problem ist einfach. Sie sind eine philosophische Weltungschauung. Sie sind der schottischen Philosophie des 18. Jahrhunderts verschrieben, in der Individualismus, Streben nach wirtschaftlichem Erfolg und die Rechte des Menschen im Vordergrund stehen. Wie unser Land, das vom teuflischen Satans Woodrow Wilson zerstört wurde, musst du existenziellen Nihilismus annehmen.”
JaWohl! Meng Geehrter Häär. Dass bedeutet das der Existenzieller Nihilismus ist die philosophische Theorie, dass das Leben keine intrinsische Bedeutung oder Wert hat. In Bezug auf das Universum legt existentieller Nihilismus nahe, dass ein einzelner Mensch oder sogar die gesamte menschliche Spezies unbedeutend ist, ohne Zweck und unwahrscheinlich, dass sie sich in der Gesamtheit der Existenz ändert. Nach der Theorie ist jedes Individuum ein isoliertes Wesen, das in das Universum hineingeboren wird, das Wissen “Warum” nicht kennt und dennoch gezwungen ist, Bedeutung zu erfinden. Die inhärente Bedeutungslosigkeit des Lebens wird weitgehend in der philosophischen Schule des Existenzialismus erforscht, wo man möglicherweise ihre eigene subjektive “Bedeutung” oder “Zweck” schaffen kann.“
“Wunderbar! Meng Geehrter Häär Professor! Es ist, als ob Sie ein futuristisches elektronisches Lexikon komplett plagiiert hätten (Valkriepaedia? Wikipedia?)! Und dann ein noch nicht erfundenes Übersetzungstool verwendet haben!
Das is Ja unglaublich! Einen neuen Philosophische für den Neues Jahrhundert!“
Also Sprach der Botendaddy
’Defender of the Faith’ is a 1962 story by Philip Roth about a Jewish Sergeant, Marx, who is a combat Veteran just back from the war in Europe and his manipulative Jewish draftee Grossbart.
Without going into the story in depth, the apocryphal fable told about Jewish soldiers in the U.S. Army at the tail end of WWII, is one that sadly, I’ve seen before.
My distant family, three of them, the first born in America, all joined the Army to fight in the Spanish-American War. Somewhere a faded sepia-toned photograph ala Butch Cassidy may show them in their super-slick SAW uniforms with their slouch hats, slung pack and Krag rifle. Man, they looked muy macho.
Long story short, our family tradition has literally extended to every war from 1898 to this day. So the topic is very sensitive to me.
American Jews, post-Korean War, rightly or wrongly, had a reputation as draft dodgers. They served in solid numbers through the Korean War, but Vietnam and the college deferment was a huge blot on our reputation as Americans.
Even worse, by the epoch of the War on Terror (I served until 2011) the percentage of Jews in the Army had fallen to a level so minuscule that it equaled the number of Muslims. 3,400 souls in the entire Army. I was stunned. A higher percentage actually served in Theatre in Vietnam. It’s a statistical fact.
I don’t think there were more than five Jews in my Brigade in Iraq. Out of 3,500 soldiers… Unfathomable… Then, when I got back, only two Jews in my Battalion… me included. WTF?
Who pulled the charred remains of our brethren out of the ovens in 1945? The same U.S. Army. The same U.S. Army that wasn’t good enough for us by 1965?
When I first joined, early in my long unillustrious career, we had Passover services at Ft. Benning where 44 Jews showed up. 44! That’s a lot for anywhere.
I remember a Jewish recruit whining to me about how his sergeant treated him because he couldn’t do enough pushups. He wanted me, a Jewish Lieutenant to stand up for him. I refused and I made him do more pushups until his spindly arms fell off. I was furious. He was an embarrassment to my people.
Maybe Roth’s Sergeant Marx and I were more like the vicious Sergeant Waters from ‘A Soldiers’s Story’ who thought that by brutalizing the weak links he would bring up the image of black Soldiers in the Army.
This was exactly the story of Defender of the Faith. Grossbart plays on Marx’ emotions as Marx just returned from the front: 1945 Germany. Grossbart weasels his way out of orders to the Pacific. Grossbart whines for special privileges on account of being Jewish, then takes advantage when he gets them. Like me, Marx was furious and embarrassed for his people.
Marx gets Grossbart’s orders changed back to the Pacific. He does it not to defend Grossbart whom he views as a bad example, but to defend the reputation of American Jews in the Army.
I originally hated Roth. I thought he was ‘too Jewish’ and he made our people look like self-indulgent perverts. Sure, the Psychiatrist’s couch in Portnoy may be a veiled reference to Kafka’s cockroach, but Roth’s story is much harder-edged than Neil Simon’s rose-colored Biloxi Blues, where the snarky Jewish wise-ass brats put one over on the over-matched, shell-shocked combat Veteran Sergeant Toomey.
Where was Toomey’s thanks for saving those two brat’s people? Simon never gets the point, does he? Contrast Wouk’s Caine Mutiny where the mutineers’ Jewish Navy JAG lawyer, Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, has sympathy for Queeg, because Queeg stood up to serve long before many others did and help keep Greenwald’s mother from being made into ‘soap’.
In Roth’s ‘Defender’, the wise-ass Jewish brat doesn’t get away with it. Marx knows what the stakes are: he saw it in the liberated concentration camps and he knows who liberated them.
Roth, with an unblinking gaze, speaks an ugly but unsaid universal truth about the wise-ass Jewish kid who thinks he’s too special and too smart for the Army. Yes, I’ve seen them first hand trying to game the system more than once: don’t any of my soul brothers dare tell me that I haven’t seen it.
Roth was excoriated by the Jewish community for telling this story and he stood his ground. This is who we are, warts and all, Roth instructs us. This story is a triumph of truth over self-deceit.
Some of us, in the end are Sergeant Marx, the patriot, and some of us are Grossbart, the shirker, who makes a mockery of his own faith.
Call me what you will, but given my family history: from The Spanish-American War through Iraq, we jealousy guarded the reputation of the Jewish soldier in the U.S. Army until apparently there was no-one left to care.
RIP Philip Roth
Peace be the Botendaddy