The Healing Power of Mah Jong?

This article makes my heart feel heavy: (NYT) “Many Florida Jews Express Doubts on Obama.” Mainly because it’s evidence that the allegiance between two stalwart constituencies of the Democratic Party, Jewish Americans and African Americans, is terribly tattered. Has been for a while. Hopefully, not beyond repair.

There is always the question of Israel, and whether anti-Semitism is lurking in whatever position a politician takes on her friends and enemies*. I make analogies from my own experience of diaspora, my parents having their own litmus test for anyone courting their vote: “But is it good for China?” The question of course being a riff on the question people in the Jewish diaspora have been asking for eons, “But is it good for the Jews?” (My parents’ views continue to shift on who’s best for China; at the very least they think McCain’s Bush III, which is worth it for us to keep talking.) But in the end analogy never feels like an adequate bridge to any kind of meaningful understanding. Certainly nuance and detail are the first casualties.

That said, as a well-meaning bystander to Jewish America who obviously has a lot invested in the our country being a standard-bearer for peace again, I’m hoping that the breach caused by lack of information, lack of access to Obama, and unfamiliarity with his political record and positions can be filled soon. I really do believe that while Obama’s not perfect, he may be the best we’ve seen in a while, and someone who can prevail over McCain. And hopefully he’s able to assuage fears people may have on what he stands for.

This mention toward the end of the article gave me a glimmer of hope:

Aides say Mr. Obama will spend as much time in South Florida as possible in the coming months. His aides believe that the negative rumors floating around about him are mere “noise,” as one put it, and have had little impact.

His aides also expressed confidence that when Mr. Obama officially becomes the nominee, the Democratic Party, including its many prominent Jews, will put their full force behind his efforts in Florida.

In anticipation, Mr. Obama has lined up surrogates like State Representative Dan Gelber, the House minority leader, and Mr. Wexler, both of whom are Jewish. Mr. Wexler said he would try to convert voters one mah-jongg table at a time, with town-hall meetings in the card rooms of high-rise condominiums and articles in community newspapers.

Peace, security, and politics at the mah jong table! A lot of important stuff gets transacted there.

*I’m kinda interested in what J Street is all about, because I have found it very unsettling for creepy right-wing xtian fundies (Christians United for Israel, etc) to have such a huge emotional and political stake in 1) the fate of Israel, and 2) that nation’s fate and any role it has to play in “end times” predictions. (Ideally, NO ONE is talking about end times ANYTHING with regard to ANYONE, thankyouverymuch.) So if J Street can credibly intervene in that conversation and make sure that peace is first and foremost, it seems all for the better.

And I’m interested in J Street because I’m wondering if we diasporic Chinese need a similar third space from which we can mediate between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan (Republic of China), which periodically threatens to flare up and unsettle east Asia. Or likewise be a peaceful and culturally-informed voice for progressive change in China-Tibet relations.

One thought on “The Healing Power of Mah Jong?

  1. welcome to my world.

    while plenty of what the interviewed alta cockers (yiddish for old, er, folks) is a bit laughable (to me, anyway), i can at least understand a certain strain or undercurrent of fear. jews and african americans have shared a bit of a tortured existence in the US. there’s a certain pain you can hear in some of these folks’ voices, a sort of we walked with you and supported you and then you turned your back on us sentiment. i’m sure there’s truth in that, and i’m also sure there’s truth in that the jewish community didn’t come through for the african american community at some critical point, too. i always pray for healing between the two communities, which have more in common than our generation can grasp. (if they were only alive, you could ask my grandparents about the no jews or dogs signs they met with at various businesses.)

    for me, and i am being quite brutally honest here, i have a hard time getting around obama’s relationship with rev. wright. (and believe me, i am trying.) how you can be a member of a church for decades and not understand your leader’s well-known views is bizarre to me; there’s almost a tacit agreement implied by remaining with the guy, not to mention having him share important parts of your life and work.

    i find it a little odd that now of all times, obama chooses to throw the rev. wright under the proverbial bus, perhaps for political expediency? why now? why not years ago?

    i’m trying, cyn. i am r e a l l y trying, especially since i will likely end up voting for obama in november. but it still just isn’t sitting well for me at the moment. point me in the direction of better info and i am ready to read and digest.

    in other news, polls are snapshots of a time, but i still recall one that pains me regarding antisemitism in the african american community:

    six years later, it still hurts.

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