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.