This writer, AC Charlap, begs your indulgence for an unread writer who'd never think twice about sacrificing his entire life on the altar of more listeners. For what else would be worthwhile to an a would-be-artist attempting to create a beloved world of beauty when there arises before him a complicated world of truth. For after, during, and before you hear these next two tales whose telling should last us through the summer, I'm sure you will wonder whether the characters AC Charlap introduces are mere avatars of people he knows, both very well and in passing; the answer, my hopefully not soon to be ex-friends, is, of course, that they're close, there's a certain resemblance, but they're not the same. They are mere caricatures of the more complicated, more elusive, more independent souls from whom the writer picks and chooses qualities most convenient within them to suit his artistic aims.
One character in particular, whom you will meet very soon, is based upon a person quite dear to AC Charlap. This character is a person with many virtues and only a few warts, and the semi-biography that follows is not of this person, but of a fictional person composed of letters and air. This semi-biography is not the point of these tales, but to be the eyes and ears through which as many as fifty other semi-biographies, based on fifty other avatars of fifty other people AC Charlap knows, are told. Therefore, as history ever does, he begs your patience, your forgiveness, your indulgence, and your trust that better angels will create a rendering of us all that will, ultimately, create a history of which many people thereafter can look to with pride.
We begin with an antisemitic lecture by Miroslav Zuckerman-Rabinovich. Since 1980, Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovitch has been a Professor of Marxist Theory at the University of Bratislava. In the mid 1980s, he rose to prominence in Czechoslovakia for refusing to sign his name to a document condemning thirty-two of his colleagues already fired for counterrevolutionary tendencies, though recent evidence has shown that he was in fact the author of the document. In 1993 he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Sexuality at the Freiuniversitat of Berlin on account of his treatise on perversion: Die Geschichte der Perversionen von der urzeit bis zum Dritten Jahrtausend und von der Saülingsalter aus dem Totenstarre. Eine historische und soziologische und psychologische betrachtung über die Ursachen und Wirkungen und so weiter which became an international bestseller. In 1999, he was appointed Distinguished Fellow of Lacanian Fetishism at the Ontological Institute of Social Action at the London School of Economics following the runaway success of his second best seller - Capitalism: A Degenerate's Instruction Manual. In 2003, he was appointed Professeur Distingueat the Sorbonne for his French bestseller: La Dialectique, l'autre, et la jouissance dans Bush, Saddam, et Jerry Lewis. The book did not do as well in translation. In 2006, Columbia University appointed him University Professor, their highest Professorial chair given to only twenty people throughout the history of the school. In his case the Robert Guccione University Professor of Pornographic Cinema on account of his third international best-seller: The Phenomenology of Ejaculate.
In the last ten years the Professor has written no less than fifty books, none of which contain footnotes. He gained particular recognition in May 2013 when in the span of a single week, he submitted four books for publishing under the titles: Harry Potter and The Epistemological Break, Revenge of the Sith at The End of History, The Dark Knight's Historical Unconscious, Tokyo Drift: The Fast and The Furious and the Sublimation of the Death Drive - but he was thereafter sued by MIT publishing because all four books contained the exact same text. The Professor's defense attorney claimed he intended it as a heuristic statement.
While Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovitch describes himself as an unreformed Marxist, he's also had something resembling a second career as a copy editor for the J Crew Catalogue, ensuring that all of its catalogue descriptions have a self-reflexive, ironically knowing, and implicit Marxist critique of itself which allows consumers from the bourgeois elite to congratulate themselves for their awareness of their imminent demise due to the superstructure and everything the superstructure tells them to hold dear drawing ever closer to collapse with every shirt purchase. The Guardian recently reported that Professor Rabinovitch is paid $40,000 per issue.
In 2014 the Professor also found himself embroiled in simultaneous paternity suits from graduate students at every Ivy League University. Each case was settled out of court, but Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich used the experience to write a controversial book on feminism in which he argues there can be no true feminism until feminists recognize the inherent right of every woman to choose to subject herself to exploitation. It was hailed by Jacobin magazine as a ground breaking work of social theory. Z Magazine called it the greatest revelation in feminist thought since Stan Goff. The eighty-page book can be found in stores everywhere for $34.95.
Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich has occasionally been mentioned as a socialist candidate for President of the European Union Council. He has, however, stipulated that the dissolution of the EU is a precondition of his accepting the job. In the past two years, Zuckerman-Rabinovich became a surrogate speaker on campaign trails for socialist candidates like Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Jeremy Corbyn, and Jean-Luc Melenchon. Each campaign refused to disclose how much the Professor was paid for his assistance, but the Professor assured the public in an interview with Russia Today that he was only paid what every person should earn in properly administered social democracies. Tune in tomorrow to hear the antisemitic insights of one of the intellectual giants of our time.
I find the concept of antisemitism very interesting because it is grounded in certainties that should be obvious to all of us. First thing: Through an accident of history, Judaism was positioned at the center between Europe, Asia, and Africa, a center through which ideas could travel with a facility which is impossible elsewhere. Monotheism may have been invented twenty or three-hundred thousand years before Judaism in Myanmar or Peru, or discovered millions of times in millions of places, but in an age before mass communication or transit, the widespread exportation is impossible in any place but Israel. In an age before monotheism, no legal codes could be binding because all legality was grounded in holy protection, and no god of one region could have binding authority in another. But when there is one God, law becomes universal. The necessity of records becomes permanent.
Second Thing: The greater organization of the Hebrew people enabled an accelerated human rate of development. Their empire under David and Solomon rose to eminence at far greater speed due to their greater intellectual and organizational development, but the newness of their techniques and outlook also facilitated a decline just as sudden.
Why? Because until their empire, the Hebrews were a tribe of bedouin refugees, absorbing the influences of the Canaanites, of Egypt, of Mesopotamia, and not only was the encirclement what sealed their sudden decline, it was also the newness of their outlook that threatened the superstructure - in places where values are less universal, organization is less necessary. The Hebrew Empire declined so quickly that its subjects never forgot how to live as refugees.
What I find so interesting about this is the ideological roots of Judaism in a pre-ideological era then causes Judaism to forever walk its certainties back. It is the original Hegelian dialectic. Everything in the world is ideology, and Judaism commits the original sin in believing that ideology can be transcended. It arrives at the universal superstructure, but believes that by study and reason and statistics, we can limit ideology and dogma by arriving at an interpretation of dogma that is more flexible and humane. But humanity does not need a humane dogma, it needs ruthlessly correct dogma and ideology applied to all things.
Third thing: the malicious original sin of Judaism is that by accepting incorrect ideology, it perverts incorrect ideology into something humane and livable, a practical and pleasant temporary solution that can only work for a few thousand years rather than forever. And there is therefore a direct line from Judaism to capitalism, which prevents the enactment of permanent solutions, and it is Judaism that prevents seeing the incorrectness of of capitalist ideology which sanctions inequalities.
The misnomer is that any circumstances exist outside of the ideological superstructure. There is no perception that exists outside of ideology. Therefore, the ideology which controls our lives is capitalism. Why? Because capitalism is the ideology that allows for individual differences that allow for inequality and authorize murder, torture, rape, exploitation, capitalism and Judaism. Many people like to point to the relative inequalities of capitalism that make inequality tolerable. These capitalists point to statistics that demonstrate the apparently relative inequalities of the capitalist hegemony. Why? Because statistics and facts are an incorrect ideology that require theological faith to believe, and therefore contorts dogma into intolerable ambiguities that prevent permanent solutions.
In every historical era of history the Jews had an opportunity to reach dialectical fulfillment. What do I mean by dialectical fulfillment? I mean that the ambiguities of Judaism could become the theological certainties of Assyrianism Babylonianism, Hellenism, Romanism, Christianity, Islam, Spinozism, Philosophism, Marxism, and Critical Theory. Each of my last six examples, the intellectual tradition of Judaism is clearly the ontological foundation upon which they base themselves, and in each of the first four, the permanent records of Judaism, created from their own ontological formation in Egypt and epistomological foundation from Mesopotamia was clearly the epistomological foundation upon which these classical empires based themselves.
Why does each become a dialectical fulfillment which Judaism is destined to reject? Because the ontological and epistomological foundation of each is based in Judaism's teleological didactics. Judaism survives to each era because its teleology refuses to accept a permanent dogma that views the world as an ideology that cannot be debated. It is only by the unquestioning mass obedience of the whole world of a utopian fulfillment that we can move to the next historical phase of utopian didactic. Nevertheless, Judaism insists on individuality and debate.
With the isolation enforced upon them in exile, the Jewish people had to assume all those characteristics which they were assumed to possess - thereby becoming the simultaneous possessor of the greatest and worst of humanity's qualities, at all times inhabiting the spirit of both Jesus and Caiaphas in dialectic, and in doing so become humanity's most perfect victim and most perfect predator. No sooner are they granted communities and countries of their own than they resume the detestable intolerance which has always been their modus operandi, an intolerance which they then taught to Christians and have no one to blame but themselves for the revisitation of the persecution they perpetrated upon Christians then upon themselves, however many thousandfold times more severe. In traumatic and dangerous circumstances, they developed their most particular qualities to the greatest extremes. They developed intelligence to such an extent that they turned it into pedantry, and similarly turned criticism into intolerance, industry into greed, altruism into fanaticism. The most fanatical champions of capitalism and communism, inventors of the Church and the greatest champions of liberalism and pluralism, the first to spread the Gospel in West and the last to deny it. the most influential monotheistic thinkers like Solomon and Jesus, and the most influential atheisticals like Marx and Spinoza. They even became extreme, and perhaps especially extreme, when trying to pursue moderation. So preoccupied with dogma and the elimination of ambiguity that they perpetually dwell in an ambiguous neither region between dogmas, where mankind cannot transcend the dogmas of its human condition into any greater state of being. It is, through an accident of history, Judaism, which at first glance looks like such a blessing, yet is clearly humanity's greatest impediment.
AC Charlap: Alright we've heard enough. I can't let this keep going.
Rabbi Swamley: Let the speaker finish!
AC Charlap: Let the speaker finish?
Rabbi Swamley: He's a famous thinker!
AC Charlap: I would think you'd be a hundred times more offended by this antisemitism than I am.
Rabbi Swamley: I go to all this to book a famous speaker you won't let him finish?
AC Charlap: You said it was no problem!
Rabbi Swamley: No problem! Of course it's problem! I make a dozen phone calls and and promise him a percentage of the show!
AC Charlap: You promised him a percentage of the show's profits????
Rabbi Swamley: It was the price he wanted!
AC Charlap: Why the fuck would you do that?
Rabbi Swamley: We don't make any money!
AC Charlap: But what if we do? Why the fuck would you promise him a gross percentage?
Rabbi Swamley: Why the fuck do you ask me to book better speakers?!
AC Charlap: I just wanted a speaker who wouldn't hit me with a 2x4!
Rabbi Swamley: This one's a pacifist!
AC Charlap: You hate pacifists!
Rabbi Swamley: A-ha but you don't!
AC Charlap: What the fuck is this, are you just trying to trip me up???
Rabbi Swamley: I just thought that's how you like to talk!
AC Charlap: Is there a single thing you don't screw up?!?
Rabbi Swamley: Oh, Charlap is now going to tell me what a screw up SOMEONE ELSE is???
Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich: Ach. Typical Jewish dialectic.
AC Charlap: Rabbi. Get this guy the fuck out of my studio!
Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich: He won't do that.
AC Charlap: What?
Rabbi Swamley: I promised him a series of lectures on our podcast. If he doesn't...
(ambulance noise, followed by entrance of lawyer and associate)
Roy Fagan: Mr. Charlap my name is Roy Fagan, this is my associate Mr. Ivanov, and we're here to warn you that you are dangerously close to breech of contract for which you will be subpoenaed, held in contempt, possibly face jailtime and a fine of 500,000 dollars.
Mr. Ivanov: If I were you tovaresh I would let the Professor finish...
AC Charlap: ...Alright...
Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich: I will finish another time, in the meantime let's let these Jews learn some obedience. (the three leave, drive away in an ambulance)
AC Charlap: WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU GET ME INTO?!?!? - sighs - What is the old new land. Where is the....
Swamley: Kharlap? Really? You gonna do this now?
Swamley: The Old New Land beginning stuff is a gantzeh khopteh that's stupid and gets more pretentious every time you do it!
Charlap: You're gonna tell me it's pretentious?
Swamley: What? What's the problem?
Charlap: You're trans-religious like Rachel Dolezal's black and you're telling me what I do is pretentious?!?
Swamley: Oh so you're going to bring that up every time I say something you think is stupid?
Charlap: It's a pretty big fucking thing!
Swamley: You don't have to swear!
Charlap: You've already sworn in this cast!
Swamley: Oh so now you're gonna remind me of that too!
Charlap: I don't have to, you're still faking being Jewish, faking that stupid Israeli accent, acting like you're a scion of the Skverer fucking Rebbe when you're from Duluth fucking Minnesota!
Swamley: Alight, well you don't have to rub it in.
Charlap: Oh my god....
(cut to tale)
There always seem to be certain women of a kind of preternatural intelligence for protection. Whether it exists, as so many men allege, in the nature of womankind, or in the social conditions men create, these women do exist. And where there once was sand, they raise whole cities in their orbit, yet never raise themselves, for the curses of others are too important to ever lift their own. They are not only masters of protection but persuasion. One well-placed word makes a hundred people realize they hate someone they've always liked and like someone they've always hated.
Were they different sorts of people, such a gift could make them President or something more useful, but the heart matches the brain, and they use their perceptive, persuasive, protective powers for virtue, yet always underestimate how difficult virtue is in this world. Bethany works, and she works, and she works, and she waits, and she waits, and she waits, but we're always thrown out of the Old New Land.
"It's like you get five religions in one" is what Barack Obama's grandfather said about Unitarianism. Unitarian Universalism, the great leveler of Christ, that great hope that religion and modernity can mix, that you can tame religion and all its demands for Holy War into a domesticated pet that lets you experience the holiness of divinity without recognizing its primacy, lets you feel connected to the oneness of all things while still feeling yourself important enough to love and be loved, guiltlessly binding the best of all religions together without considering how the people to whom these practices are life itself might feel it desecration.
And yet, Unitarianism is the best of us: The Adamses, the Alcotts, Barack Obama's family, Susan B. Anthony, Bela Bartok, Ray Bradbury, e. e. cummings, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Buckminster Fuller, Horace Greeley, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thomas Jefferson, Tomas Masaryk, Hermann Melville, Isaac Newton, Paul Newman, Keith Olbermann, Linus Pauling, Joseph Priestley, Christopher Reeve, Paul Revere, Benjamin Rush, Arthur Schlesinger, Albert Schweitzer, Pete Seeger, Rod Serling, Robert Gould Shaw, Adlai Stevenson, William Howard Taft, Kurt Vonnegut, Daniel Webster, William Carlos Williams, Joanne Woodward, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Wright.
There are less than 200,000 members of Unitarian Churches in the entire world, and less than 900,000 people who identify as Unitarian. No religion, not even Judaism, ever did so much in so short a time by such a large percentage of adherents to advance the causes of freedom and justice and beauty in the world. It is the religion of true miracles, in which the divine works are made manifest not in the skies, but here on earth - the place where in the end we find our happiness, or not at all.
At fifteen years old, few were happier than Bethany Felicity Katz; younger daughter of the Reverend Mary Katz, Senior Minister for the last three years of the First Unitarian Universalist Church and Center in San Francisco at the intersection of Geary Blvd and Franklin Street, herself the daughter of Matthew Williams, for thirty-seven years the Senior Minister at First Parish in Concord, himself the second son of The Very Reverend Frank Williams, who was Senior Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, the flagship Unitarian Church on Farnsworth St. in Boston. After fifty-two years, Reverend Frank was succeeded by Very Reverend Frank Jr., whom until then was Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in DC on Harvard St. and ran the Unitarian Lobby, DC Unitarians for Social Justice. Frank Sr.'s third son, Burke Williams, fried his mind with hallucinogenics in 1950's San Francisco and lived in a group home for thirty-five years for the mentally disturbed before the San Francisco Chronicle published an expose about fifty years of physical abuse perpetrated on their patients - choke holds that killed multiple patients, illegal frontal lobotomies, deliberate misdiagnoses to justify violent restraints, not notifying next of kin of about shock treatments, solitary confinement for weeks at a time, ice cold high pressure water jets, and untold numbers of unreported sexual assaults. Frank Jr. and Burke had not seen each other in forty years. Burke was a stranger to the family who had last been mentioned by anyone when Mary was a teenager.
On one sleety day before Christmas of 1990, Mary was summoned into Frank Jr.'s office where she was informed that she would not in fact take over her father's parish but was, rather, being reassigned to San Francisco. Frank made it clear to his niece that she would be expected to look after Burke, who'd been moved to an assisted living facility, and as a woman, was the family member best equipped to provide the nurturing Burke needed. Six weeks after their arrival, Burke hung himself in his new room, but the Katzes had already put so much effort into making the best of their new life that they decided to stay.
Bethany was also the younger daughter of Bob Katz, the most expensive, and therefore the best, invasive cardiologist practicing at Massachusetts General Hospital, and left both his hospital and his still more lucrative private practice in Concord to live in a Victorian townhouse on Steiner St. across from Alamo Square Park that he joyfully repainted with bright primary colors when their new neighbors suggested that the Katzes turn the last remaining house on their block into one of the Victorian Painted Ladies. In his new practice, he worked thirty hours a week rather than seventy, and he didn't need any more money than he had. His fiftieth was around the corner, and he had more than enough money to keep his family living handsomely in San Francisco's best neighborhood while his mother was safely in the Boston Area's best Nursi. If there was anything serious, his sister could drive down from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
When Bob started dating Mary Williams, his parents were livid. Not just a goyisher girl but a textbook shikseh, not just a textbook shikseh but the daughter of a minister, not just the daughter of a minister but a divinity student who'll be a minister herself. You can forget about Jewish grandchildren. There'd be a tree in the house every year, some years they wouldn't even be at the Seder because Easter would fall on the same days, and there's no question who'd win in a contest between Sunday and Hebrew School. It's not that Phil and Essie Katz particularly cared themselves whether Robert married a Jewish girl, but they knew that both their widowed mothers would be furious.
Bob's bubbies: Flora Katz (born Blumeh Levinson) and Mildred Spivak (born Menukhke Braverman) - didn't much care for each other, but both of them doted upon their goldene eynikle who went to Harvard Medical as though neither had five other grandchildren. They didn't become slaves to the kitchen and the corner store and the schmatteh factory and the supermarket and the nursing home just so their spoiled kinder and eyniklach could become accountants or podiatrists or go into their father's business. They both vanted a r-r-rich doktah, and they finally had one. Bob was a naches machine. You would never know this nice Jewish boy was brilliant if you spoke to him, but he was valedictorian at Boston Latin, Summa Cum Laude in Harvard undergrad, and soon to be the speaker in his year at its med school graduation. If only they would live to see Bob deh cahdiologist ver makhten zechs hundert teusend thaler a jahr. Und sechs hundert teusend thaler a jahr was what Bob would make in his new practice, in Boston he would bill with an eye to clearing the million dollar mark, some years he made it, one year he didn't but his partner did and never let him live it down. When he was leaving, his partner, Sunil Malhotra, shrugged and jokingly said 'more for me.'
His parents thought they could keep both their mothers in the dark about the relationship which their goldene eynikle who attends Harvard Medical School embroiled himself. It would be at least a good three years before they'd have to talk about marriage, and at some point Bob would realize, as he always eventually did, that he wasn't doing the sensible thing. Eight months into the relationship, Blumeh passed away. On the first anniversary of their first date, the lovebirds announced their engagement to the family. Menukhkeh passed a week after getting the news.
They moved to San Francisco when Bethany was twelve and her older sister was sixteen. Bethany's older sister, Marian, was bitter about the move and let her parents know in no uncertain terms. She had a boyfriend in Boston she had to leave, seemingly hundreds of school friends, and was determined to hate every minute of her years in San Francisco. When it came time for college, she applied only to schools in Boston, and chose Northeastern. Six months after graduation she married her high school sweetheart, had four children, stayed at home to take care of them, and is now that the younger two are teenagers is wondering what to do when everybody leaves the house. Maybe she'll get involved with politics - she fancies that she always wanted to care about things, or maybe she'll just take an art class.
Bethany, however, was the type who knew how to be happy wherever she went. If Bethany's parents always figured that Marian would become a doctor, it seemed absolutely obvious that Bethany was destined for a life of service. Like Marian, she was the most popular girl in her class at Cambridge Friends School, but unlike Marian, her popularity was not based on fear, and when she enrolled in San Francisco Friends School, she quickly became the most well-liked girl in her class - her teachers commenting on what a lovely effect she had on the other kids. A relatively unruly class of kids was suddenly nicer to each other, better behaved in class, and even the picked on kids who were falling behind were accepted by others because Bethany accepted them. In the case of the most particularly picked on and learning disabled kid, she would cheerfully volunteer to partner with him on group projects and gently ministered with patient help and explanations to get him caught up with the class.
There was no third sibling, but as seemed tradition from time immemorial in every branch of the Williams family, Bob and Mary would board a new student every year. In generations past, it would be divinity students, but in Jet Age of the late 20th century, it seemed especially exciting to host a foreign exchange student. So every year, Bob and Mary Katz would host a new foreign exchange student to Cambridge Friends School, and when they came to San Francisco, promptly founded a foreign exchange program at San Francisco Friends School.
Marian was, perhaps understandably, a little bitter about the experience of having to learn to communicate with strange people. When she was fourteen, one particular male exchange student from Argentina would make a pass at her every day while living under their roof, and twice was waiting in her bedroom for her when she came out of the shower. Her parents never seemed to take her complaints about the students particularly seriously, but after that experience they generally made it a practice of taking female exchange students.
Bethany though, would take it upon herself to learn as much as she could about her new siblings' language, their cultures, their hometowns, their families and friends back home, and would stick to them like glue in public to make sure that their transition to America ran as smoothly as the day is long. After they went back to their home countries, she would write them long letters full of hearts to make sure they knew how they were missed and how much love they added to the Katz family, inevitably ending with ample promises to visit them back home.
When Bethany was fifteen in 1993, the exchange student was Kristina from Dresden - a new adventure. Blond, six-foot-one, star center midfielder, friendly and outgoing, fluent and accented English full of wonderful malapropisms, and hilariously unable to get jokes. Every attempt to turn her smile into a laugh would be met with a brow that frowned while the smile stayed pasted on, and two seconds later an explanation as to why the statement Bethany just made was not true. It caused Bethany no end of delight. Kristina's father was once a member of the Communist party, his father before him a member of the Nazi party. Other various indirect ancestors were members of the Deutsche Reichspartei, the SPD, the Stazi, and the Waffen-SS.
But you would never know from such a troubled past by looking at Kristina, who resembled life itself. Nothing was too adventurous for Kristina, who insisted on taking Bethany, indeed the whole Katz family, all along the trails and rivers of Northern California. The Katzes thought they were an outdoors family until Kristina took them to a new outdoor habitation every weekend.
It was during one of these outdoor habitations that a series of a dozen-and-a-half vans pulled up to the next door house. Driving through the entire block is prohibited, so traffic was blocked for half-a-mile in each direction. Ten children emerged with two parents, and forty other men and women (mostly men) helping them move into the two houses to the east of the Katzes. The men wear dark suits and black hats which they only take off for the severest of labors, the women never take off their long sleeves or their long dark dresses or the hats atop their heads. The few women who show any hair look as though theirs is completely synthetic.
Within seven hours, all the furniture was properly deposited, along with an extra sink properly drilled and plumbed, two refrigerators installed, an extra oven installed with the previously installed thoroughly cleansed, two microwaves, two toasters. All able to be done because the wall between the two townhouses was thoroughly knocked down so that two townhouses become one large townhouse in the middle of the San Francisco Victorians. The multicolored hue of the Victorian paintjob was next thing taken care of, repainted not as a many-colored cloak but as a simple Blue and White, with a painting that used third floor windows as eyes, the second floor the nose, and the porch, the garage, and the basement overhang as the long square beard of an old man's face. Painted on the front of the attic was four Hebrew letters underneath that read "Mem, Shin, Yud, Khet." Moshiach.