gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

This last fortnight has been full of emotions and difficulties relating to antisemitism. A lot of half-hidden stuff has been thrown into the light of day due to some vile politics and far right action (also far left action - it's complicated). This means many Jews are talking publicly about things that have been private worries for a long time. Because I'm open about my religion, I've been caught up in a lot of discussions. Today, someone on FB was lost - they saw that their Jewish friends were hurting and felt helpless. I answered them.

My answer was specifically about antisemitism and Judaism, but so much of what I said applies to so many groups. Right now, a lot of people are hurting. My first thoughts (the ones from FB) are below - I thought it might be handy to repeat them here. If they're useful, feel free to share them. If they're not, then don't. If you can add more, please do. Political action is the stuff of a different conversation. This one is about things one can do and things one can avoid doing as a private individual.

Whatever you do, though, don't do what several people have done to me. Don't say "I hurt worse than you." In fact, don't compare hurts at all, if you can help it, especially if they're quite different in kind. If you're in deep water and can't swim, both of you drown if you ask someone who's also drowning for help. Help yourself and (if you can) get help for them, but don't turn the focus on you in the conversation where they finally admit what's happening. At this moment and for these particular things, leaning on the friend who finally admits "There's something wrong" may push that friend closer to the edge.

Most of us who are dealing with racism and bigotry right now have had to deal with it all our lives. The way it's appearing now is scary. The way it undermines all our lives - our sense of self, friendship, safety, future - is what causes the fear. That's why this post is not about everyone sharing their hurt - it's about ways in which one type of hurt can be helped a bit. It's about reducing fear.

And now you have some contexts, this is what I said on FB:

I'm not sure that saying stuff* to us helps that much, but there are a heap of things you can do, both for Jews and for everyone else being targeted at this time.

Not making victims feel the brunt of your anger at the treatment others are meting out is a help - we end up carrying the worries for everyone because so many people "know you'll understand - I can talk to you about this where I can't talk on my blog or to my other friends."

Everyone who speaks up in public takes a bit of the pressure off and means that the emphases of public discourse shift and become less damaging. If someone is antisemitic, talk to them if you can, because it's less of a risk for you to do so than for your Jewish friends.

Don't make your Jewish friends be Judaism 101 for you at a time when they're struggling (I get so much of that!!). An awful lot of people are suddenly discovering Judaism and antisemitism and want me and others to guide them through the initial learning stages. I keep wanting to ask "But don't we have enough to handle?

I'm still on the receiving end of a lot of judgements and so are other Jews I talk to - people want me to be Jewish in their particular way in times of stress, and to react to things the way they think I should. I suspect it would reduce the fear somewhat if we weren't packaged and expected to be this or that. It would also help if we didn't get all kinds of people saying "So and so has it worse" and "You've had your turn." These things are true of all the groups currently being targeted (by no means only Jews) - we can't live as stereotypes and the public doesn't seem to leave us space to be individual or to support us because that doesn't fit with the general feel of what victims ought to be and do.

And now you have a bunch of random notes and a footnote, which means I can get back to work. My week has been unduly disrupted by racism.

* egs of things people have been saying "Oh God, is this really happening!" and "I can't deal with it." and "I don't know how you cope." and "This is horrendous." On the other hand, one of my friends was spot on when they brought me food and hugs and let me ramble on until I'd unwound some of the tension. Another friends sent me a present in the mail, entirely not related to this, and that present has become my knight fighting all the evil. So saying stuff and doing stuff helps, but it needs to be the right stuff. (and yes, that was a joke)
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