Friday, December 11, 2015

Random Musing Before Shabbat - Miketz 5776 - Coke or Pepsi? (Or...?)

Julie Silver is not only a talented songwriter and performer, she is a thoughtful and caring human being who thinks seriously about how she lives and how she integrates her values into her life. Earlier this week on Facebook, she posted a picture of a blueberry bagel and had this to say:
For my friends who are curious, "why the blueberry bagel?" They ask as if to mock! Ready willing and able to yuck my yum. I eat them because they are the marginalized. The forgotten. The minority opinion. And we must not forget minority opinions. Plus ‪#‎blueberry‬ is life. And these are awesome. And the ladies at @abbotshabitveniceca serve them with such love.
Now, as I posted in the inevitable thread of comments:
To be honest, my first inclination was to make a snarky remark about blueberry bagels, but after reading your explanation, I am chagrined to admit that.
The comment thread was well developed before I added my two sh’kalim, and, to no one’s surprise, it was a mixture of adamant protests against such radical ideas as a blueberry bagel, and radical pro-blueberry supporters.
Now, I like my bagels savory, and I will readily admit to having made snarky and strongly-worded comments and observations about the blashphemy that is a bagel which contains anything sweet or fruit-like in it. Plenty had already made this case in the comments; one of the most forceful anti-blueberry bagel pronouncements coming from no other than Julie’s amazing spouse Mary Connelly. (There is a joy, I will admit, having done it myself before, in goading our spouses and others with whom we are close-so one can never really know what truths lie behind the playful sparring. If, indeed, Julie and Mary have equally strong but opposite opinions on the subject of blueberry bagels, it serves only to raise my esteem for their amazing relationship.)

I digress (so what else is new?) In our interactions, I have often found that Julie has a way of getting people to really think about things. That was certainly true here. Even if the whole posting was akin to my own frequent gadfly-like posts, and meant primarily as an attempt of adding some levity, that doesn’t change the fact that it got me thinking.

I’m not big into professional (or even academic) sports and don’t claim any particular loyalty to team, with one exception. I’m a Met’s fan. (I’m also a fan of NYC’s other two Mets – the opera and the museum of art, but in this case I’m definitely referring to the baseball team.) No, I’m not a serious fan – I can’t tell you the names of current players, I don’t dutifully watch games and follow the team with any regularity. I still consider myself a fan. Even though I lived for my High School years directly across the street from Yankee Stadium, I rooted for the Mets. I was with them from the beginning. The first professional ball game I ever attended was a Mets game, in their first year of existence, playing at the Polo Grounds. When I explain why I’m a Mets fan, I always say it’s because I always root for the underdogs. Now there’s an irony here, in that my freshman year in high school was the first time the Mets ever won the world series. Doesn’t matter – for a NYC kid, the Mets are perennially the underdogs – the “amazins” that have managed, somehow, to win two world championships and five NL pennants (that one I had to Google.) The Mets are NYC’s Cub, albeit the Mets seem to have had a little more success over a rather shorter lifespan than the Cubs. Also, truth be told, my feelings about the Mets generally are less enthusiastic when they’re having a winning season.

This rooting for the underdog, this concern for the opinions and thoughts and lives of anyone in a minority – these are core values instilled in me by two incredible parents. So it’s only natural that I would be caught up short when I thought about Julie’s explanation for her love of blueberry bagels. Her words made me realize, on the one hand, how dogmatic and fixed I can be in  my thinking (i.e. “blueberry bagels are just wrong.” On the other hand, they served to remind me that, though I am far from perfect at it, many aspects of my personality and my choices on how to live and act are based on a similar approach to championing the underdog and the minority. My nature as a gadfly in my writings, on social media, and even in real life is driven by a deep-seated desire to help people always to try and see all sides of a question or situation – to always consider the minority point of view.

So why wouldn’t I consider a blueberry bagel? Well, that’s not the right question. I don’t actually like blueberry bagels – I really do prefer my bagels savory. That’s OK. I don’t have to like everything. However, I do have to be respectful of those whose preferences are different from mine, and even more protective of those preferences  represented by a minority of preference-holders. Those who are marginalized. Wars and terrible acts have been committed in the name of obstinance and failure to consider a minority opinion. Why should I, why should anyone contribute to that unfortunate reality?

No, I’m not going to eat a blueberry bagel anytime soon (or ever, quite possibly. Well, I think I may have, gasp, unintentionally eaten a bagel with a raisin or some other inappropriate foreign substance in it by accident at some point.) I don’t need to eat and appreciate a blueberry bagel to be respectful and considerate of those who favor them (though there is something to be said about walking a mile in someone’s shoes in order to be able to appreciate their viewpoint.)

I certainly belong to my share of minorities. I suspect we all do, to some degree.  I, for example, will actually eat mayonnaise on a pastrami or corned beef sandwich. I don’t drink coffee. I like my pickles full bottom of the barrel sour – not the pansy half-sour or dill stuff. I put ketchup on hot dogs. I actually like matzah. I don’t watch Survivor, American Idol, The Voice, or even Game of Thrones. I love Dr. Who (and while there are many of us, we’re still a minority.)My height puts me in an extremely small (pun intended) minority. I am Jew. Although the world often seems to forget it these days, we are quite the minority, despite our successes.

In recent weeks, I’ve taken to task those who share my very leftist, liberal viewpoints for their sharing of questionable posts about Republican presidential candidates. Even that one about Trump’s ancestors. I detest the man and all he says and stands for, but I will not tolerate outright distortions of the facts about his family. No, two wrongs never make a right. Never.

As I stated, we’re all part of some minority. Why not flaunt it to make an important statement to the rest of the world that minorities and minority opinions matter. I do not say this to minimize the concerns of any one minority. There are, at this time, a number of minorities under threat, or subject to discrimination, or unequal treatment under the law.  And yes, there are some minorities whose rights to say what they say, and act as they act, I cannot, in good conscience, support. Nevertheless, it is good to remind myself that as much as I abhor the idea of a blueberry bagel, the people who, minority or not, love them, are my fellow human beings. Their opinion matters. While I cannot condone any terrorist’s methodology, I can, at the very least, seek to understand what, other than hatred, drives them to commit unspeakable acts as their way of insuring that their minority is heard. I can listen, and try to understand, without endorsing tactics or viewpoint. These days, the world seems to be full of a lot of metaphorical blueberry bagels.

It has been a long time since I’ve written a musing like this one with no attempt whatsoever to connect it to the parasha. I figure that if I spark some thoughts and some discussion, I’ve done my job. So no apologies for the lack of Miketz-ical content.

I was originally going to end this musing with a typical gadfly-ish/humorous twist by just asking:
Coke or Pepsi?
Thus the title of the musing. Then I realized that such a simplistic worldview omits too many other possible minorities.In my youth, for example, I was actually a proud RC Cola and Nehi Orange consumer. There are the people who never drink soda or any carbonated beverage – a growing constituency which could, for all I know, now be a majority.

So instead I close with this challenge to you – to identify both the majorities and minorities to which you belong. For your majorities, take some time to learn more about the minority opinions in that area. For your minorities, embrace them as a reminder of why it is important to champion and support minorities and minority opinions, and to be sure they are given voice. And now to muddy the waters – do members of a minority have an equal (or similar) obligation to try and respect and understand the views of the majority? Does that obligation change if the minority is actively (or even passively) suppressed,  discriminated against, or threatened?

Thinking about all this is going to make for a very interesting Shabbat.

Khag Hanukkah Sameakh and Shabbat Shalom

©2015 by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on Parashat Miketz:

Miketz 5775 - Assimilating Assimilation
Miketz 5774 - To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Miketz 5773 - B'li Meilitz
Miketz 5772 - A Piece of That Kit Kat Bar
Miketz 5771-What's Bothering...Me?
Miketz/Hanukkah 5769 - Redux 5763 - Assimilating Assimilation
Miketz/Hanukah 5768 Learning From Joseph and His Brothers (revised from 5757)
Miketz 5767-Clothes Make the Man?
Miketz 5766-Eizeh Hu Khakham?
Miketz 5757& 5761-Would You Buy A Used Car From This Guy?
Miketz 5763/5764/5765-Assimilating Assimilation

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