Then Moses and the Children of Israel chose to sing this song to Hashem, and they said the following: I shall sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.
–Exodus 15:1 Stone Edition Chumash
Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took her drum in her hand and all the women went forth after her with drums and with dances. Miriam spoke up to them, “Sing to Hashem for He is exalted above the arrogant, having hurled horse with its rider into the sea.”
–Exodus 15:20-21 ibid
“How can you sing when my people are dying?”
–Talmud Sanhedrin, 39b
I quoted from today’s Torah Portion and from Talmud as much as a lesson to myself as for others. I’m not speaking so much about celebrating or cheering when our enemies (or people we just don’t like) die, even a very deserving demise. I’m addressing how we cheer when we think we’ve trounced some else’s opinion particularly in the realm of social media including the blogosphere.
Believe me, I’m as guilty of this as anyone else.
But it occurs to me that at some point, when we attempt to champion our own cause at the detriment of someone else’s, we are trying to harm the other person.
Recently on Facebook (clicking that link will take you to an image some would find offensive so choose wisely) I engaged another person, someone in my local community who I used to work with, over the matter of women dressing up in vagina costumes for the national Women’s March of a weekend or two ago. To me, it looked incredibly degrading and seemed to be communicating that these “progressive” and “liberated” women saw themselves as nothing more than their genitals.
I believe they were actually responding to a comment attributed to Donald Trump which he made some years back (and which was recorded) about grabbing women by their “p*ssies which I indeed do find highly offensive.
However, I’m not sure that responding by dressing up as the object of Trump’s interest (as suggested by his comment) is the best way to protest and I said so.
Of course, I was accused of misunderstanding the symbolism involved and maybe even somehow denying these women the right to choose their own symbols.
We went back and forth a few times and then I dropped it (not everyone else did) figuring I’d made my point and people were free to disagree with me.
Did he “win” and I “lose” because I didn’t continue the “battle?” More importantly, if I had continued the exchange and if he became silent, should I have celebrated his “defeat?”
Just so you don’t misunderstand me, I do believe in standing up for morality and I believe vagina costumes and some of the language used by the women and men (yes, some men dressed up for the occasion as well) involved was offensive.
Now I know I can be accused of supporting the “Patriarchy” for that comment, as if I, as a religious male, have some sort of right to control the behavior of women. No, it’s not about control. I don’t “control” the behavior or dress of my wife and daughter (they’d explode if I even tried) and only exercise some control over my granddaughter’s choice of apparel because she’s just two-and-a-half.
Women are free to wear whatever they choose and to behave in any manner they desire (short of breaking the law or otherwise causing harm), but in this nation of free speech rights, I can choose to express my opinion on what I think is acceptable and unacceptable behavior from men and women based on my moral and ethical values. I would also object to men protesting while wearing “penis” hats (my friend said somewhere on Facebook that the Washington Monument is a giant penis symbol which I find kind of ridiculous since not everything that is taller than it is wide is a penis).
If I were a better person, I probably wouldn’t get into these debates at all since long and bitter experience has taught me that they do absolutely no good in changing anyone’s mind.
And yet, if no one objects to offensive and ludicrous imagery and symbolism, that amounts to tacit acceptance and agreement.
How far can we go in objecting before we find ourselves driven to metaphorically “kill” the person with whom we disagree?
For more, read Mrs. Lori Palatnik’s article When Evil Falls. It doesn’t directly address my point, but it is illuminating nonetheless.