Saturday, January 17, 2009

Going Forward, Going Backward: Post 2.5

I threw up today.

Very sudden too -- I was talking to two of my friends in the hall, laughing, and all of the sudden, there it was (I was right outside my door and had time to run to the bathroom, thankfully).

It was the apex of two days of unbelievable stress and pressure. Today's post actually was better than yesterday's (through most of which I was a nervous wreck), but it's the sum total of things. As I expressed earlier, conflict makes me physically sick, and boy did today ever bear that out.

There are folks on these threads who have explicitly expressed that they do not want this project to continue; others who have made it very clear that they cannot imagine anything useful coming out of this discussion (either because of perceived lack of faith, or because they don't like that I'm talking about X instead of Y, or any other number of sins). All their prerogative -- but they seem dedicated beyond that to hanging around and trying to dynamite the discussion even for those people whom it is helping or who do find it useful and interesting. That angers me far more than any disagreement does -- even more than the personally directed attacks at me for being responsible for any number of alleged sins. That I could take. It's the fact that these people are taking it upon themselves to decide that, because they don't like that I'm saying what I'm saying, nobody else can feel comfortable participating that gets me. Because people have been contacting me, and telling me they appreciate what I'm doing and saying, and what some other people are doing and saying, but it's way too hot for them to try and join the conversation. These people, more than anyone else, are the real casualties of the latest flames.

But I have personal friends too, and they're obviously getting worried about my personal health. A lot of folks are telling me I've got to let the haters just roll off me. It's so much easier said than done. I think at the point physical illness sets in, it's pretty clear this isn't a deliberate reaction on my part. But I think what this experience has impressed upon me is just how hard it is on a person to step into a space and be immediately surrounded by a horde of people all trying to rip you apart. It's indescribable. We all think of ourselves as macho and gung-ho until we're actually in this situation. Then we break like anyone else.

One thing these comments have reiterated for me is the need that I have for a separate space to which I can retreat and get away from these people. A space where I have control, and the social surroundings aren't out to chop me down and use me for firewood. I'm an integrationist at heart, but I do not want to and shouldn't be forced to integrate into this. But "this" can be seen as a microcosm of what many Jews have to deal with daily -- and it is up to the non-Jewish community to knock it off before they have any right to ask (much less demand!) we come back to the table. Some Jews are clearly very comfortable in the same environs that I and many if not most other Jews find intolerable. That's great. Seriously -- I'm happy that they're happy and content. I don't want them to feel as crushed as I do. But that some Jews can handle this, even revel in it, doesn't mean that I can or can be obligated to, and that goes equally for the Jewish community as a whole.

We got a whole host of people intent on using Jews as punching bags and scapegoats, and then, when we finally get sick of it and say "that's it -- we're going home", they yell back "What home? You don't have a home! You have nowhere to go but right here!" Now, in addition to being forced to endure the punches, we're told that the very desire to leave the abuse is the real sin and, indeed, the only real injustice. Taking punishment becomes elevated to the level of moral obligation. Even those who are not participating in the abuse itself (indeed, who may find the abuse personally repellent and are working to stop it), who nonetheless refuse to admit our right of exit, are complicit.

I could not imagine being trapped in a space such as this forever. Some people are trapped like that -- they can never escape from a social situation which is centered around tearing them down. I don't know how they do it. I'd fall apart. My respect for the fact that so many do not fall apart has been immeasurably magnified.

I am trapped in it for the time being, however, because I'm committed to seeing this project through. Why? Well, one, I don't want to give in to this crowd, and let them parade my head around on a pike and call it "victory" for whatever mutated beast it is they call their "progressivism".

And two, in emails and in comments away from Feministe, I've gotten a lot of expressions of support for what I'm doing -- many of whom have expressly said they've been deterred from commenting. They're genuinely too afraid to step into the ring. I can't say I blame them: I don't like commenting under the best of circumstances, and this is not the best of circumstance. But I wish more than anything else that they felt comfortable enough to speak, and I feel like these people are in a sense counting on me. They are pleading with me to continue. Call it self-aggrandizing -- I have the emails. Many of these comments have centered around a theme of "courage": how courageous I was to stand up and put myself in the fray for the sake of getting these opinions -- that they felt inchoately but could not express -- out there. I claim ignorance: I don't think I knew what I was getting into. I don't know why -- I've observed Feministe comments before, and I was warned even by some Feministe insiders that there are problems in their commenting community -- but for some reason I was optimistic. Had I known, I probably wouldn't have done it. I'm not very courageous like that. But the "compliment", such as it is, makes me feel sad: trying to speak of one's life and experience and hurt and pain should never be an act of "courage".

The post series will continue, though we're moving it to a once-a-week, rather than once-a-day, schedule. I've been retooling some of the stuff that's coming up in the hopes that it will do more good than ill. That's all I've got to say for now. But more will come.

13 comments:

JordanBaker said...

Hey, I came over from Feministe, where I made but one comment that was mostly lost in the shuffle, which turns out to be fine with me.

I appreciate the project a great deal, since I have a hard time expressing what I find to be troubling sentiments on the left, and I really appreciate your efforts to create a cohesive piece exploring it.

I'm sorry this is turning out so awful for you.

ideealisme said...

Hi David,

I read your posts and I agree about the commenting tendencies on many left wing blogs such as these. If you state an open opinion, you are being silencing. If you try and accommodate your enemies, you are being condescending and patronising and appropriating. If you refuse to accommodate them you are, of course, privileged. I have to admit being unimpressed with the built in self-righteousness switch I've seen on so many blogs of this nature. I believe many of these people are failures or bullies in life who use their blogs to play victim, or gain "ally points".

That said, some of the comments are engaging and fair, from my quick skimming. It's possible to disagree without throwing a hissy fit and adding in special pleading to boot.

And all this coming from me, when I think the current Israeli offensive is deplorable and should be called off!

ansel said...

What ideelisme said. While there were some personal attacks on you in the comments on the first post, I've read and skimmed and read throughout the comments on the second post and I don't see much in the way of bad-faith or inflaming comments. I think there's a lot of smart, careful, and passionate discussion going on. I find it useful. Most folks, even Kristin, do seem to want to engage with your arguments, even if they are very critical. I'm sorry that you're throwing up and feel so stressed out, but I really don't think you can blame that in any way on Feministe commenters or, and correct me if I'm misreading you, on anti-Semitism.

I also wonder if waiting one week for is a good idea - I get the feeling every two or three days might be better.

David Schraub said...

The second post definitely did better than the first -- at least after the start. But it's very tense right now, and has the feeling of falling apart at any moment. Even though it was better than yesterday, it still just kind of builds off that tension and makes me crack.

The critical stuff is fine -- the discussion with Holly has been good, and even Kristen seems interested as you say in having a good discussion. But ... everyone's on edge. It's difficult.

PG said...

ideealisme,

In fairness to "many left wing blogs," Feministe specifically seems to have a fairly hands-off moderation policy, particularly toward regular commenters and those who identify as feminist. Other popular left wing blogs have a very different commenting tendency (I suggested Crooked Timber and Alas a Blog to David as sites where he would meet with a more reasoned disagreement from the commenters). Also, one shouldn't ascribe the failings of some of the commenters that a blog attracts to its proprietors. I think very well of most of the people who run Feministe despite having had strong disagreements with them on some issues. I just think their moderation policy is one that sometimes allows a small clique to silence dissenters, not through superior argumentation but through personal insults, obscene language, etc. If I were running a site, at the point someone explicitly declared that she was deliberately being "mean," "sadistic," "baiting," and so on, I would say, "OK, you're not debating in good faith, leave this thread until you feel capable of doing so."

PG said...

I am skeptical that people who repeatedly demand (in the comments to the 2nd post; I haven't read the comments to the first) that David apologize for mentioning Gaza; who say he shouldn't be writing in an academic way; who say he is condescending to women (David?! of all people!); who say his post doesn't belong on a feminist blog; etc. really want to engage with the argument. I think they've just realized that Lauren is going to put up with only so much BS.

That said, I do agree that David should provide more framing for his statement that those who disagree with him about Israel -- even in a deeply abusive, insulting, unreasonable and deliberately ugly way -- are treating him this way because he's a Jew rather than simply because he disagrees with them and they are intolerant of disagreement.

belledame222 said...

Okay. Look. As one of the people there who was probably the rudest, and knowing that you're a friend of someone I respect a great deal, I will...be as measured as I can, here.

I'm sure it's not fun being piled on. Hell, I know it's not; I've been there myself. I'm sorry I contributed to making you this upset.

That said. And I am being as measured as I can about this, but I'm not going to mince words:

This?

We got a whole host of people intent on using Jews as punching bags and scapegoats, and then, when we finally get sick of it and say "that's it -- we're going home", they yell back "What home? You don't have a home! You have nowhere to go but right here!"

...really irritates me. And is the sort of thing that drove me to responding snarkily there in the first place. Dude...anti-Semitism there may be, or not, (it is really difficult for me not to conclude, after reading this, that you do indeed conflate one's position on Israel/Zionism with "you just hate Jews, don't you," which also aggravates the hell out of me, but, okay, let's move on)

...but, all that aside, being piled on on a blog is just...not the same as being, like, driven out with blows and fires from the ghettos of Europe onto the steerage psasage of a ship where you don't know where it's going to land, all right? I haven't had that experience. I am getting the strong impression that you haven't either. If you have, my sincere apologies.

But, and, I'd make yet another analogy to similar sorts of shit that happens within various feminist discussions--women throwing down something offensive about trans people or (voluntary) sex workers and then, upon receiving heated responses from (female) trans people and sex workers, retreat licking their wounds, complaining loudly about how they've been abused and demeaned just like all women everywhere, especially the most abject in the world (insert graphic but curiously detached feeling references to gang rapes, clitoredectomies, etc), and oh by the way, trans women aren't -really- women and sex workers who won't admit they're really just victims and keep making porn and so forth are betraying all of womanhood, much as they hate to say such a thing--

I -would- say that, dude, but I have the strong impression that you'd have no idea what I was referring to. Which -also- irritates me, quite a lot.

Because, lookit: you're gonna write something of that length and breadth, know your audience. I gather from comments here that some people consider you some kind of pro-feminist mensch or something, and that's swell; but, see, the -rest- of us don't know you from a hole in the wall, and from where a lot of us sit, it -feels- like:

here's this -guy- who grabbed the mike for -seven. fricking. posts-, and when people--mostly women, and regulars--try to engage with him, they get these incredibly patronizing responses: naive, I'll explain it to you later, have patience...and it's like, bluntly, No. The fact that that doesn't even seem to have occured to you that that might also be a factor is...I don't really know what to say about that.

Seriously, sure, people can read you; but, you -do- have a home, you have your own damn blog, here. No one's owed a spotlight, you know? And having had the good fortune to get it, no one's owed the exact response they wanted. It's just how it works. Yeah, keep going over there if you want to, you got the green light, clearly; I'll recuse myself from reading the rest; but, well, you know how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

Me, I'd think: well, people know where to find me. I'd also think, and yeah, more blunt feedback: editing is your friend. Seriously. Is it -really- not possible to compress the rest of your thoughts here into one more post? because, dude...seven's a -lot-, and, my feelings about the ideas within aside, I am just not seeing seven volumes' worth of content thus far. And, again, thus far, I'm not seeing any relevance to this being on a -feminist- blog, as such.

Take it for whatever it's worth, or not.

belledame222 said...

and to reiterate: I haven't had the experience that -my Jewish ancestors- did; I don't feel comfortable about appropriating that degree of marginalization/persecution for myself every time I feel bad because of an Internet pile-on, or something of that sort. Particularly if there hasn't actually been any sort of comment to the effect of, "Why don't you go back where you came from, you Jewy Jew!! you with your filthy lucre and your conspiracies to take over the world and your suspiciously Semitic features, and everything."

on the other hand I -am- seeing, elsewhere, a lot of outright eliminationist talk directed toward the Palestinians, and Moslems and/or Arabs in general, even in so-called "progressive" circles. And, oh yeah, this is while they're getting the shit bombed out of them in Palestine -right now-, quite possibly with illegal weapons; so, yeah, frankly, it does feel a bit galling to dismiss it when you've brought it up as an entry point for what -feels- like a very academic discussion about anti-Jewish sentiment (assuming you're -not- just leading toward, you have to recognize Israel's right to 'defend itself,' even if it means wading into a Palestinian ghetto and killing hundreds, maybe thousands, sometimes, regrettably; and sure, mistakes were made; but, well, Us First, or yer a self-hating Jew).

belledame222 said...

...not to mention, ummm, the people currently in Gaza -literally- getting bombed out of their -literal- homes -right now-, with nowhere to go, -literally-. It is a bit rich to swallow, honestly. It shouldn't be difficult to see why.

I won't get into the "we feel...macho" business, because, yeah, I'd better really just exeunt at this point. -bows-

ideealisme said...

Once again, David, I'd like to thank you for engaging, even if it is difficult and people get emotional in their response to you. Bear in mind that you are getting swept up in a particular dialectic in a particular sector of blogosphere/academia that does not always translate to other places and does not invalidate your POV.

In Ireland, the consensus is usually pro-Palestinian, for historical reasons, though to my surprise the Irish Independent carries a strongly pro-Israel line, one that I disagree with to quite an extent. The challenge is to disagree without the tremendous emotional baggage that is carried by many further over to the left of the political spectrum.

I think many Israelis are unhappy with the way things have been going and are glad of the ceasefire. I certainly am - IMO this offensive should never have occurred, regardless on anyone's views on Israel's right to exist as a sovereign state. Diplomacy is the way forward.

I hope you have a nice restful day after all that!

Dan said...

belladame

You're fighting an enemy that doesn't exist here and you know it! David is not one of these "on the other hand I -am- seeing, elsewhere, a lot of outright eliminationist talk directed toward the Palestinians, and Moslems and/or Arabs in general."

Blaming David for the shitty comments of Marty Peretz and other Jews -- not cool.

If this:
"...but, all that aside, being piled on on a blog is just...not the same as being, like, driven out with blows and fires from the ghettos of Europe onto the steerage psasage of a ship where you don't know where it's going to land, all right?"

is as measured as you can get, I'm really sorry for you. Do you even know how offensive it is to David to say something like that? OF COURSE he knows this; it wasn't a comparison he was making. If you had any fucking sense of decency you would apologize for coming into his house, and attacking him in such a way. This on the very post in which he throws up from stress caused by you.

The point of David's series was NOT to relitigate the Gaza war, it was to introduce something new into the discourse. Surely there's enough space on the internet to discuss things other than Gazan deaths (even though both you and he agree that those deaths are awful and unwarranted)? Or should we turn the whole internet into "this is what Belledame thinks about Gaza"?

I'm going to stop now, because I've already given you what you came here for, and because you don't deserve to waste my time any more.

belledame222 said...

@Dan Well, no, in fact, it wasn't at all clear to me what he would have meant by "What home, you [Jews] don't have a home to go to" unless it was indeed to invoke our -historic- oppression. (My own great grandmother came over to the U.S. on such a boat; there's no shame in it). It seemed a logical extrapolation.

If I misunderstood, well, again, it seems that there are an awful lot of such misunderstandings going on at David's posts at Feministe, not just by me; and sooner or later, perhaps, one has to consider that if one is -consistently- being misunderstood in such a manner by a significant proportion of the audience, one might reconsider either a) one's manner of communication b) the efficacy of continuing to address said particular audience.

And yes, I get it, potentially bad netiquette, his own turf, you're the devoted friend protecting against intruders, sure. Thing is, well, the door was open; and, no, in fact, I did not "get what I came for;" I came to offer some apology for my flamier remarks on the feministe thread, and to -try- to offer a clue as to why he might be getting the reception that he is.

And, too, you may consider, and I did just say this, but: feministe, you know, is an Internet home away from home, if we're going to talk about the Internets in those terms, okay, for a lot of us; a virtual pub, if you will; and, again, here's some guy who we don't most of us know who he is who's gotten up on the stage, taking a very lecturey/patronizing tone, and commanding a great deal of time and energy from the regulars, most of them women (and a number Jewish as well). And offending them/us in his own right too, yep.

I will bow out for real now.

belledame222 said...

--ah, no, one last: I was not insinuating that David was akin to Marty Peretz, in fact. I -was- saying that it seems a bit rum to complain about supposedly eliminationist language toward oneself when a) it really wasn't, in fact b) there is however real eliminationism going on all around right now aimed at others, rhetorically and otherwise. And yeah, while I'm sorry you're upset, given the context of the overall discussion, perspective, well...

And, no, -my- thoughts on Gaza aren't that interesting or useful, which is why by and large, I haven't offered them. Certainly not in a seven post collection on the front page of a major blog; I'd far rather be reading the people who are -actually over there-, thanks, if we're to have guest bloggers weighing in on this. Certainly if it's going to be for more than one post. Apparently I'm in the minority opinion there; but, yeah, as a Feministe regular, and someone who's guest blogged myself, I do get to express that. Sorry.