Levels of Intolerance

Sometimes the holiday season makes me crazy. I can point you to posts that I have written about the hypocrisy of being asked to give once a year or the issues with the Salvation Army guy. I can show you the silly and the sublime in all of this. Recollections of fantasy and fact.

But I always find myself getting stuck in the same places. I think of them or it as levels of intolerance.

These are the posts where I tell you that there is no such thing as a Chanukah bush and that Jews who have them should call them what they are…Christmas trees. In years past I was far more vocal about it. I made it clear that I think it is wrong to do so.

Read through the archives and you’ll find the posts where I engaged in some pretty vociferous arguments with people about what should or shouldn’t happen. Every time I did I thought about what I was doing and asked myself several questions:

1) Was it right or fair for me to judge others?

2) Would I change my mind or convince others to change their opinions?

3) Were my words a help or a hindrance?

I am not just a guy, I am a father. I take that role seriously. I may screw around with comments about being the greatest daddy blogger ever but I don’t lose sight of what I am trying to do. I am trying to raise menschen. I am trying to raise good children of character, worth and value. Good children who make a difference in the world and are productive members of society.

So I look again at my levels of intolerance and apply it to my children. The answer to whether it is ok to be judgmental is simple. It is yes. I have to be. I have to make decisions about all of the facets of their lives. I make decisions about education, religion, nutrition and morals. I look at their friends and try to steer them away from those who will get them into trouble.

They aren’t automatons. My children make decisions on their own, but they require guidance. My levels of intolerance can be viewed in lots of different ways. Some people will nod their heads and agree with me. Others will look at me and walk away because I have pricked the bubble of their levels of intolerance.

I teach my children to judge people based upon their actions. I teach them that race, religion, color and creed are not suitable for making decisions about people. But the levels of intolerance make some of those discussions more challenging.

They have cousins whose parents are raising them to be Christian children who occasionally experience brief moments of Jewish life. They light a menorah each year and show up at a Passover seder. They enjoy the family aspect and the culture, but the religious component is lost upon them. My children have known for years that Santa isn’t real and have been taught not to ruin it for other kids.

But kids push and prod. Some try to taunt and the words fly out, “Santa isn’t real- your parents are faking him.” This is not what I want, but I am not responsible for helping to facilitate this lie. I have done all that I could to prevent the discussion.

I am caught in the middle. Orthodox relatives and friends tell me that since I have fallen off of the derech I am not allowed to talk this way. I don’t keep Kosher and I am not Shomer Shabbos, so why do I dare to say these things. I look at them and we engage in hard core debate about this and that. But we come to an agreement…sort of.

We are committed to ensuring that the kids stay Jewish and they accept that though my way is not theirs it is likely to happen. So I revisit my levels of intolerance and ask why I can’t extend the same level of courtesy to those who put the tree in the house.

And I come back to the same places. It is my line in the sand. The tree is beautiful. The festivities are lovely. It is much easier to assimilate. It is much easier to give in and I see this as a gateway.

I accept that I might be wrong, but the stories I heard as a child stay with me. Relatives fled Europe and pogroms for the safety of America. There are pictures of those who didn’t. Those are pictures of the dead not because of old age but because of the Nazis. I will not help Hitler reach out from the gates of hell and grab more of us.

But I will work harder to mask my levels of intolerance from my children and those who do other than I wish they would. I am allowed, entitled and permitted to be judgmental and so are they. They can do as they wish in their homes and it is not for me to say otherwise.

I am curious to see if over time my feelings change. I have mellowed on this. Maybe it is because I have fewer and fewer concerns that my children will want these things for our home. I am not really sure.

All I know is that each year I will continue to explore my levels of intolerance.

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  1. Leon Noone December 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    G’Day Jack,
    Intolerant!! I just got an email from a bloke in England telling me to stop the “G’Day crap.” Can you imagine? Intolerant with no love of the vernacular.

    Everyone’s intolerant. Everyone’s judgmental. Everyone’s subjective. They’re signs of humanity. The pope may love Muslims. But I bet that there are a few individuals he can’t stand.

    The trick is not to let it get in the way too much.

    Anyway, Jesus was a Jew as were Mary, Joseph and almost all early Christians. They were ecumenical long before Vatican 11.

    And always remember; God didn’t invent religion. Man invented religion.

    And as the birth of a Jew is commemorated at this time of the year……. have a happy Christmas.

    And make sure………


    • Jack December 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Leon,

      Every now and then I run into “furriners” who talk about the queen and make funny faces when I ask them to speak English and learn how to spell “favorite” properly. 😉

      If memory serves this pope was once a member of Hitler youth but supposedly that was because he had no choice.

      That last comment ought to earn me the love of many Catholics. 😉

      Anyway, I am sincerely trying to relax about some things because it makes no sense for me to get all worked up about them.

      If it is not hurting my family/friends or the public at large well…

      Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. It is always good to see you here.

  2. The Hook December 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    “Sometimes the holiday season makes me crazy.:”
    Sometimes? They ALWAYS make me crazy!

  3. Absence of alternatives December 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    All I can say is as a parent, you do your best and make judgement calls on what is the right thing to do for your children. At any rate, your ability to self-reflect makes you so much better a human being in my book. Happy Chanukah!

    • Jack December 23, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      Happy Chanukah to you too. 😉 I figure that I owe it to myself and to my kids to take time to figure out why I believe XYZ to be true, false or whatever.

      Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  4. bdorman264 December 23, 2011 at 8:34 am

    You? Mellow out…………hmmmmm…….

    Personally I try to be less judgmental especially about things like religion and sexual preference. Religion can be a slippery slope and all we are going on is the written word of man (men just like us with opinions that were prevalent at the time it was written). Therefore, it’s hard for me to argue who is ‘more’ right. However, I will respect your beliefs and if you think it sends the wrong message to have a tree, then more power to you. If you want to keep a tree year round, then I would support that as well……I would think you are whacked, but will still support it.

    That’s my two cents for today; if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything, right?

    • Jack December 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Year by year I get more and more mellow- really it is true. Maybe it is maturity or more comfort in my own skin.

      I don’t have any patience for missionaries. I don’t spend my time trying to convince people to convert and expect the same courtesy. When they find me I politely tell them that I am not interested, but if they insist on talking polite goes out the window.

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