I have to say that I don't feel like a member of a minority, although I am--and was born--Jewish.
In good old America, I am just another guy, and in particular, just another white guy I suppose, though this is not about race.
But, in the late 30's both of my parents fled Nazi Germany with little more than the clothes on their backs, let alone their lives. In fact, both my paternal grandfather and my uncle, who fled just a little after my father--the eldest son in his family who was sent ahead--were initially detained on "Crystal Night," the "nights of broken glass" where Jews homes were invaded and destroyed, the inhabitants detained, many of whom then were relegated to Concentration camps.
Several years later, my father returned to Germany as an American G.I., in fact he was one of the Ritchie Boys, one of many Jews who were sent back as Special Intelligence agents to assist the World War II effort.
So, I do truly appreciate our country and its opportunities, as well as the notion of "all men being created equal."
Though I was raised attending Temple pretty much each Friday, and Sunday School each day of rest--along with the requisite Bar Mitzvah in 1965--I am not what anyone would overtly consider a practicing Jew.
But, I am pretty spiritual, which I guess is normal for a Berkeley Hippie of my ilk. That said, I do view Judaism as an Eastern Religion, in that its origins are right there where Islam's are, at least continent-wise. And, all things considered, Judaism is spiritual like Buddhism is, and those are the aspects of the Faith I embrace (mainly, that means trying to be the best person I can be on earth in the here and now, and not worrying about what might happen after the ride here is over).
Still I am aware that many of the issues in the Middle East these days are caused somewhat by what seems to me to be intransigence of all parties, Jews included, for somehow it just does not seem that hard, as Rodney King would suggest, for us to all just get along.
That said I do, for some reason, cringe when Jews do unfavorable things, especially when the perpetrator is well known. For example, I shook my head long and hard at both Bernard Madoff and Anthony Weiner, both of whom did us no good with their stupid and questionable behavior. Not to mention Madoff was truly a crook.
So, when Syracuse's Bernie Fine was arrested for child molestation a week or so back, again I cringed. For, I did look it up, and he is indeed a member of the tribe, as we say.
As I did this, I wondered if African-Americans, or Latinos, or Asians, and other minorities felt this shame too? That if a well-known member of their community misbehaved, it just reinforced the terrible rumors and stereotypes the ignorant among us perpetuate.
And, though I am not sure if White folks cringe when a Terrence McVeigh goes looey kablooey, I do have to think Catholics--irrespective of race or nationality--similarly cringe when there is a priest scandal, for example.
But, what is scary is that as part of my running down Fine's religious beliefs, I stumbled into a couple of White Supremacy sites, which actually did freak me beyond the shame that Fine's behavior invoked.
Since this is America, I have to support these narrow souls right to spout--sometimes inaccurate and more often stupid and ignorant--off as they do. But, it scares me nonetheless in a country where we tend to deny our problems of race and religion.
Not that we are alone. Over the past few weeks I have been reading this terrific novel--A Fine Balance--by Indian/Canadian author Rohinton Mistry.
The book talks about the street riots in India during the mid-70's, but in framing this main plot, we learn a lot about Indian culture and the caste system. Which, whether I like it or not, was at least as evil as our slavery of African-Americans. Or many many other awful examples of exploitation of human beings any of us can think of.
I guess human beings still have a ways to go.