I still remember that day as if it just passed.
There I was, sitting in my middle school religion class daydreaming about what it would be like to fulfill my ultimate ambition; owning a department store. I did not have just any department store in mind, though. No, I was dead set on operating one in the full-service, outrageously grand style of yesteryear.
Needless to say, the rise of Internet shopping killed all chances of this ever coming to fruition.
Anyhow, just as I began to wonder exactly how I could handle the Christmas rush with as few employees as possible, I heard something rather startling. At first, I was sure that I had misinterpreted it, but as I listened more closely to my teacher’s words, there could be no mistake. My stomach tightened and heart raced in a way which it only did when a beautiful girl walked by, though now there was no joy or hopeful anticipation, only fear mingled with peculiar sense of dread.
Slowly, I raised my hand. Always the questioner, I usually reveled in bringing a new dimension to any given conversation, but this time was different. Very different. There was no trace of arrogance under my guise of intellectual curiosity or superficially polite, but condescendingly self assured smile spread across my face. For once, I was truly at the mercy of my educator.
After a long while, she called on me. Finally having the opportunity to state my all-important query, I cut directly to the chase: “Do we really believe that Jesus rose from the dead, is God’s son, and all?”
Immediately, I got the impression that all eyes in the room became fixated on me in a fashion suitable for a little green martian who had just landed his spacecraft from a planet far, far away. Her response, which I am sure that you already can predict, was given as one might speak to a fellow inquiring about the color of the sky on a cloudless day.
This was the beginning of my journey into sociopolitical Realism.
For many years, I had been rationalizing that the story of Christ’s resurrection, subsequent travels with his disciples, and eventual ascension into the great beyond was a deeply symbolic morality tale. I so wanted this to be true, as it was the only explanation of the post-crucifixion New Testament which made sense to me, but, alas, my childhood hopes were dashed. Knowing that I was supposed to actually believe this stuff was truly a stab through the heart, or someplace close to it, at the very least, because I could not even bring myself to pretend to.
Despite my mother trying her darnedest to raise me as a Roman Catholic, I simply never gelled with the Church, or its Tradition, or any of that. I always knew and was glad to hear that such things worked out well for some, but they just never did for me. My interest was always in embracing my family’s deep Sephardic Jewish heritage; some of my fondest memories regarding personal religion involve chilly December nights in which I lit the candles affixed to my late paternal grandfather’s centuries-old menorah.
Being honest with myself and others about my beliefs was a tremendously difficult thing to do; during my high school years, courtesy of my peers, I was exposed to some of the most virulent anti-Semitism imaginable. Would it have been easier to live a lie, posing as something I fundamentally was not for the sake of missing out on some poor soul telling me in no uncertain terms that I was less than human due to my ethnoreligious background? Perhaps, but in the end, I would never have been able to forgive myself for this. Unless we are speaking of the mentally deranged, nobody respects a fraud or a hypocrite, and the worst kind of hatred is that of the self.
In my opinion, the most simple fact of life is the following; sooner or later, we have but only two options. The first is to accept reality about ourselves and the world around us, not envisioning either or as we wish them to be, but as they are, and the second is to retreat into an elaborate land of make-believe. The ideologue, whether he or she be interested in the fields of science, politics, religion, or all three, will always choose to voyage into a realm of his or her own creation due to an incapability to deal with especially challenging individuals, events, and objects. The open mind, meanwhile, will judge the situation at hand and, after careful consideration, take the most practical course of action. This might not be the most preferable, or popular choice, but he or she will not care as his or her mind is focused on finding long-term solutions as opposed to quick fixes.
Needless to say, my commentary is geared towards those falling under the latter category. As the United States, a perpetual beacon of hope and prosperity for yearning masses the world over, is a nation whose social, economical, and defense climates are in a constant state of flux, what is desperately needed, though in painfully short supply, are Realists. Over the next several months, I hope to share with you, at long last, my philosophy on dealing with many of the crises plaguing our society. Of course, we will likely disagree on great many a topic, but regardless of your own personal views, I am sure than we will reach common ground on a surprising number of things. I am not the sort of person who is excessively partisan, or even readily identifiable in a comprehensive manner as being “conservative”, “liberal”, or “libertarian”. Labels of this nature, as far as I can tell, do far more harm than good to the American dialogue, and, as such, would be best relegated to jars.
Such a lofty, but noble goal almost makes naiveté seem like something worth striving for.
When all is said and done, I am simply someone living in the real world, and odds are better than even that you are, too.