The Azrieli shopping mall photo affair continues to roll on, with me receiving emails and phone calls from my family calling on me to change. Notable arguments include:
- As the Jewish son of Jewish parents, how can I say such things about the State of Israel?
- As an Israeli, how can I say such things about the State of Israel?
- I am only a tourist in Australia; my true country, my home, is Israel.
- By expressing myself the way I do I am humiliating the State of Israel as well as humiliating my family.
- Certain family members (some cousins were specified) already stopped talking to me as a result of my expressed opinions. This causes family disconnections.
I think all of the above arguments have been discussed in this blog before, but for what it’s worth I’ll have another [shorter] go:
- Religion: I am the son of Jewish parents. I was brought up on the modern Israeli secular variant of the Jewish culture. I like many Israeli foods and consider them my favourites (humus!). I listen to Israeli music (matter of fact, lately I've probably been listening to more Israeli music than I ever did).
However: none of the above requires me to consider myself a Jew; I’m an atheist, a vocal one at that, and like Christopher Hitchens before me I tend to see the institute of religion as one of this world’s greater evils. Now, if, in your opinion, religion is in one’s genes then fine – by your way, I am Jewish. If, however, you are of the opinion that everyone is allowed to make their own minds as to what they are, then face the fact that I do not consider myself a Jew.
- Nationalism: To quote Carl Sagan, when you look at the earth from outer space you do not see international borderlines. Me, I accept the concept of nationalities as one of this world’s evils that I am unable to correct; I certainly hold no particular favors for any country. The way I see it, a country is there to serve its citizens; some countries do a much better job at this than others (Australia vs. North Korea), and the better ones are the countries I would prefer to live in. To put it in other words, I am a patriot of the countries that put human rights, as per the spirit of humanism, as their core value.
- My true country: Let us not forget that Israel is a country where my wife would not be able to reside due to the religion she happened to be born into. My son, too, will have problems living there. For that reason and for many more, Israel cannot be my “true country”. In contrast, Australia’s culture is foreign to me in many ways, but Australia is a country that is totally unbothered by me living in it and allows me to lead a normal life involving work and family. I have many reservations about Australia, most if not all of them have been expressed in this forum; overall, though, I am happy here.
- Expressing my opinions: Of all the basic human rights out there, I consider the freedom of expression to probably be the most important one. If someone has a problem with my opinions they are more than welcomed to argue these problems out (one of my friends did so at my previous post, raising some very valid arguments); I am very often wrong and appreciate the effort it takes to correct me. However, shutting up for the sake of others who do not like to hear what I have to say is not a behavior I see myself adopting any time soon. If anything, I take pride in speaking my mind up, the transparency it brings, and the openness it nourishes. Last, but not least, if you have a problem listening to criticism and seek to shut me up through posed humiliation, I would say you have a huge problem on your hands.
Overall, it does seem to me as if my true alleged crime is daring to ask questions that others prefer not to ask. At stake is the matter of my identity.
In summary, it appears as if it has suddenly dawned on my family that their son is a lefty atheist. For years they tried to ignore the evidence before them, but now – for one reason or another (I would put my money on my parents’ introduction to the iPad coupled with my brother currently visiting them) – it just popped up in their face. That’s perfectly fine: it’s about time they meet their son.
I do have to say this whole experience feels a lot like coming out of the closet in front of the cliche family. Just like a gay person, this is what I am, for better and for worse; my friends who read this blog seem to have learned to live with that and still be my friends (and I totally adore them for that). Not to mention my wife! However, my family has a problem there. Their attempt to force me to change my opinions the way Alan Turing was forced to take drugs to counter his homosexuality will only make things worse. Just like a gay person, this person expressing himself in this blog is the person that I am, for better and worse.
I can only sympathize with gay lefty atheists coming out of their closet: their experience has to be the worst!
Image by StephenMcleod, Creative Commons license
Image by StephenMcleod, Creative Commons license