When I lived in Ireland and I would tell people I was Jewish they invariably got all excited and were like, “The Irish are the Jews of Europe,” which presumably was them trying to say, “Hey, we Irish people identify with the way the world has been pooping all over the Jews since pretty much the beginning of time because we have also been pooped on.” The thing is, the Jews are the Jews of Europe. Yes, Jews have been mistreated for thousands of years. We don’t OWN pain and suffering, though. Other groups have been in on it, too. And really, there’s no need to invoke the Jewish people every time you’re trying to convey to others that your group has been having a rough go of it recently.
I bring this up for two reasons:
1) The Vatican
2) James Franco
The Vatican: So you may have been following the most recent iteration of freakouts in the Catholic church because–who wouldâ€™ve thunk it?–it turns out there were more priests molesting children than we knew before. And in some cases the guy who is now pope but was then a cardinal knew about what was going on and didn’t step in to stop things the way he could have. A lot of people are pretty angry about this, and are calling for all sorts of actions, including the pope stepping down, which seems about as likely as me being named the next pope, but whatever. The point is, there has been a lot of finger-pointing in the general direction of the Vatican, and then this happened:
ROME –A senior Vatica priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports aboutÂ Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews, sharply raising the volume in the Vatican’s counterattack.
Here’s the real money paragraph:
Benedict sat looking downward when the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who holds the office of preacher of the papal household, delivered his remarks in the traditional prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica. Wearing the brown cassock of a Franciscan, Father Cantalamessa took note that Easter and Passover were falling during the same week this year, saying he was led to think of the Jews. “They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms,” he said.
This is the part where I bury my head in my hands and scream in agony. A bunch of people within the Catholic church conspired to ensure that child molesters wouldn’t be imprisoned, and now people are getting mad at those conspirers. I’m sure that must feel awful, but it’s really not AT ALL the same as when Jews were falsely accused of using Christian baby blood to make matzah and then killed for something they didn’t do. It’s not AT ALL the same as the time Jews were blamed for poisoning wells, or gene pools, or just generally hated and then slaughtered for no reason whatsoever. No, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa. NO.
James Franco: He’ famous for being a good actor and people also seem to think that he’s a good writer because he has a short story in this month’s Esquire, and a collection of short stories coming out pretty soon. But let me share with you a choice excerpt from the short story that’s in Esquire, right after I tell you that I have actually a degree in writing fiction, and this is maybe the worst short story I have ever read including that time I was teaching an undergrad class in which every other story my students turned in was about abortion.
I wish I was Mexican, or Hebrew, I mean Jewish, I mean Israeli, or Mexican Jewish, or Mexican Jewish gay, because it can be so boring being you sometimes, and if you were the most special thing like that, it could be really great, but maybe some people say the same thing about you, and you want to tell those people: “No, you’re stupid, it’s no fun being me.”
James Franco, I think I can say with absolute certainty that your life would be neither better nor easier if you were “Mexican Jewish gay.” Please, for the love of all that is good and holy in the world, stop using the Jewish people as some sort of weird trope or device in your horrifyingly bad short fiction. In fact, maybe if you are looking for a weird and interesting group of people who have suffered unnecessarily, may I suggest ‘people who have read your writing?’ Because I think that works.
For more insight into the inanity that is James Franco’s writing, please see this excellent essay by Sady Doyle who is, incidentally, my new favorite person.
Now, if everyone could just lay off the Jew comparisons for a few days, that would be great, but I fully expect that in like 30 seconds George Bush Jr is going to show up in the headlines again talking about how the fact that he hasnâ€™t invaded a country in a while is as sad as that time a bunch of Israelis were killed in Munich. And then my head will explode. Again.