(I almost deleted this post, because the events of this past week have magnified the need for kindness and solidarity versus divisiveness. But the more I thought about what I had written, the more I realized that the mentality illustrated in the story is precisely the mentality that condones the Mumbai attacks. And so I'm posting it anyway, and I hope nobody gets offended by the initially "fluffy" nature of the story. Given that I have spent the last 72 hours in a somber mood contemplating the dire state of the world, perhaps a pulse-check of the insidious lines of logic that create an environment ripe for precisely such attacks, chasve shalom, is in order.)
I was listening to the radio Friday morning while I was cleaning and waiting for my non-existent next assignment to materialize in my inbox. I generally am not a fan of radio DJs and call-in shows, since I tend to enjoy less didactic, self-aggrandizing radio. As in, just give me the music, please and cut the chit-chat. But when I tuned in to my regular station, I caught the following, and remained transfixed in horror.
As I tuned in, good ol' Elizabeth was busy telling the abysmal saga of how she had fooled her family by getting takeout from Boston Market and passing it off as her own. I was busy trying to give her the benefit of the doubt in terms of why she might have tried to mislead her extended family about her cooking, when she dropped in a most self-satisfying tone the following shocker: "And the best part is that they keep kosher!". As caller after caller told her that what she had done was deceptive and wrong, she kept saying "I just don't see what the big deal is".
Since I don't see how, living in New York of all places, she could be so put out by stopping off for 5 minutes to get kosher takeout post-Boston Market, her decision to not offer any kosher food to her guests suggests a general hostility towards religion. Perhaps she had issues with organized religion prior to getting married. Or maybe she and her in-laws don't get along. (Given her personality, I could see why that might be.) In any event, the woman definitely has issues with her husband and/or his family, and decided to address things in a most passive-aggressive manner.
Anyhow, I found myself pondering this radio roadkill. And what I found particularly disturbing was the following.
First, dear Elizabeth seems to misunderstand the basics of respect. When you get married, you need to nurture respect for both your spouse and your spouse's family. I mean, that's just a given, lady. I'm sure she would understand what the big deal would be if she served meat to a vegetarian. And, I hate to refer to Emily Post, but general etiquette does dictate that one find out if one's guests has dietary preferences and then offer a few dishes to meet those requirements. Unfortunately, it would seem that Elizabeth missed the boat completely as far as standard good graces are concerned.
Okay, so the woman has issues with etiquette. Many people in this generation do, so she gets a free pass on that one. But even if she couldn't see the problem with not catering to dietary preferences, as in the case of the vegetarian above, let's think about the sitaution from a different angle. How might she react if say, having made a choice in her life, her family consciously attempted to subvert her choice? Would she not feel as if her trust had been betrayed? That their lack of faith in her choice was condescending and/or disrespectful? But I suppose that's the point- she is obviously self-absorbed and doesn't give a flying fatouey about anyone but herself.
So the real shame is that this woman seems to believe that life is only about her and her "needs". When you get married, you're supposed to understand that you're going to have make some concessions in order to build a relationship with your spouse and their family. But the Thanksgiving episode- and who knows if this is the first such antic she has pulled?- will not only end up alienating her in-laws, but her husband and their children while she's at it. Although, to be frank, she probably would continue to shirk her role in the disintegration of respect and trust that is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Repeat after me everyone: "I don't see what the big deal is"...
As for the duped in-laws, where to begin? No matter what level of kosher they keep, the reality is that they have wanted to keep in contact with their son and consequently agreed to participate in Thanksgiving with him and his non-Jewish wife (I say non-Jewish, because even if this woman converted, she obviously did so insincerely). Imagine their dismay when, having put their trust in their daughter-in-law they learn the truth about her disgraceful behaviour. Because, let's be honest- if you're brazen enough to go on the radio to maliciously gloat about putting one over your entire family, you just know that word will somehow get back to the family. I expect Elisabeth is desperate to get caught. As for why that may be so, I'll leave that to everyone else's imagination. My concern is her moral vacancy.
How does all of this tie into the Mumbai attacks? First, Elizabeth is unequivocally an anti-semite, as demonstrated by her blatant disrespect for Jewish "traditions". Secondly, call it a stretch, but the same intolerance for anything but one's own ideology is at the heart of all extremism. By disrespecting other people's way of life, Elizabeth is perpetuating intolerance. And it is precisely such intolerance that finds a way of targeting minorities, such as us Jews. For those of you who don't believe Jews are minorities by the way, you'll have to wait for a future post; suffice it to say though that all you need to do is google countries by population and demographics, then do some rudimentary math, and you'll see that, all the propaganda to the contrary, Jews remain a minority.
What else can I say? In a perverse way, her call was fitting given the events of last week. It helped explain why, in the aftermath of Mumbai, the media coverage minimized the terrorist link by referring to the terrorists as "hostage-takers", "external links", "Pakistani Militants", etc. In a world where a Chabad family and their guests gave their lives in order to provide kosher food for people who might or might not have otherwise kept kosher, this woman's joyous celebration of mocking her in-laws traditions is a sad, chilling reminder that we only exist due to Hashem's protection and Divine Mercy.
May His Protection and Mercy never wain.