MR. KOMMENTS AND ME
In light of yesterday's open letter to Jared Kushner, I have received a great deal of feedback either through Facebook, or via text and email. I have therefore collected all those shared expressions and will now attribute them to an imaginary character named Mr. Komments.
Below is a script for my one-man show called Mr. Komments and Me.
OPEN ON A BAR. TWO MEN ARE SITTING AT A TABLE, ONE IS IMAGINARY. BOTH ARE DRINKING BEERS.
Me: Oh, hey.
Mr. Komments: Hey, man. How's the big anti-Semite watch going?
Me: Whoa, whoa, whoa. We're starting there already? What happened to small talk? Nice day out maybe? Having Thanksgiving guests?
Mr. Komments: Well, dude, you're the one who started all of this yesterday with your open letter to Jared Kushner. I mean, c'mon. Are we still talking about Donald Trump? It's been a whole week since he won. Move on.
Me: I've already addressed that. No, it's not time to move on. Now take your daily dose of Ritalin so you can accept people focusing on one singular topic for more than a few minutes.
Mr. Komments: Did you get that rubber "anti-Semite" stamp you ordered from Etsy yet? Should come in handy.
Me: I assume you're referring to my utter distaste for Steve Bannon and his appointment as Campaign Strategist to the White House?
Mr. Komments: ALL I'M SAYING IS THAT EVERY TIME I LEAVE FOR SHABBOS ON FRIDAY HE SAYS, "SHABBAT SHALOM!"
Me: Look, man, I never called Bannon an "anti-Semite," and in fact, I think it's almost irresponsible to.
Mr. Komments: Oh, word....?
Me: Yeah. I have no idea what's going on in his heart. And I could never make that accusation especially when the proof is not all that substantive. We're talking about something his wife said about him in court during a custody battle. Or there's that time, under his editorial leadership at Breitbart News when one of his writers called Bill Kristol a "Renegade Jew." Personally, Renegade Jew sounds like nothing more than a Seth Rogen movie. A pretty funny one, mind you.
Mr. Komments: Ah-ha! So, Steve Bannon is a friend of the Jews! Hoorah, hoorah! [To the rest of the bar] DRINKS ON ME, GUYS!
Me: I didn't quite say that. It's presumptuous to assume that that's the case.
Mr. Komments: [to bar] DRINKS NO LONGER ON ME, GUYS! [To me] But I don't understand. Shmuley Boteach, who is "America's Rabbi" has gone on record saying...
Me: [starts laughing hysterically]
Mr. Komments: What's so funny?
Me: [wiping tears] You said "Shmuley Boteach is America's Rabbi."
Mr. Komments: But he is. He was friends with Michael Jackson. He had a reality show. He's written thirty-one books! One of them is even about having relations with food.
Me: You know Kosher Sex is not about that, right?
Look, no disrespect to the man, but it's just a touch presumptuous proclaiming and touting yourself as "America's Rabbi." Was there a Rabbi America pageant? Did he beat out Rabbi Puerto Rico? But I'm not intent on dismissing his credibility overall. Just this time. In his essay titled, ahem, "America's Rabbi rises to defend Steve Bannon." How heroic, by the way.
Mr. Komments: I sense sarcasm. It's palpable.
Me: Possible. Here's the thing, though, when it's buried in the third paragraph "I barely know Mr. Bannon, having met him for the first time last week at The New York Hilton," but then you go on to defend based on the characterization of one of Bannon's own employees...well, then credibility shot.
Mr. Komments: But then isn't that what you're doing here; presuming to know a man without, you know, actually knowing him.
Me: Incorrect. What I'm saying here--and I want you to pay attention to this really closely because this is the important part, kind of like that point in the movie when the main character explains that he's been dead the whole time and he's actually a ghost and the kid can see dead people. I am not calling Steve Bannon an anti-Semite. I am not saying the Holocaust is coming. I am not saying that the Nazis are taking over the White House. I have not broken the glass over the Hide in Your Attics Alarm.
I am simply stating that Bannon, who is in large part responsible for the success of Breitbart News has courted and flirted with the alt-right movement--who should be called, for the sake of total transparency, "white nationalists"--and is right now being touted as their hero.
Let me ask you something...do you trust CNN?
Mr. Komments: You mean the Clinton News Network?
Me: [sighs] Yeah. That one. Anyway, just yesterday they posted an article about white supremacists celebrating his appointment. In fact, David Duke, who also loves a spotlight, said--and I quote--"You have an individual, Mr. Bannon, who's basically creating the ideological aspects of where we're going. And ideology ultimately is the most important aspect of any government." How can you not see that as problematic? That outspoken racists are high-fiving one another because of Bannon.
Mr. Komments: You've got it all twisted, dawg. The Zionist Organization of America thinks he's the bee's knees.
Me: First off, any organization with the name "Zionist" in it cozying up with white nationalists is beyond surreal to me. Like, imagine the awkward pillow talk. Two, did you know he's a guest at their dinner this Sunday? Would be kinda awkward if they trash talked him before he even got a chance to sample the buffet. Three, here's an important point I'd like to make...
Mr. Komments: Another one? Two wasn't enough? We needed a third?
Me: Breitbart News was established by Andrew Breitbart who was himself a Jew and a profound lover of Israel. Andrew is now dead, and with him, his restraint. Breitbart News didn't always flirt with the alt-right in the way that it does now. And you can blame that sea change on Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos, specifically when the latter wrote his alt right screed titled An Establishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt-Right.
[Looks up at the ceiling] Dude..the impression that these deplorable basket fillers are friends of Israel is not totally wrong, but we embrace that notion at the sacrifice of the safety of American Jewry.
But here's another scoop of truth I'm going to serve on your lunch tray of thought; just because you're a Zionist and pro-Israel doesn't always mean you're 100% pro-Jew.
Let me draw that distinction; white American nationalists wants America to be white. Other countries are not of their concern. All the Jews can go to Israel for all they care. Just as long as they're not here. Oh, and take the Muslims, gays and blacks with you while you're packing up your Moishe's Movers truck.
And I need to clarify again before your Semite sense goes off. Steve Bannon may not feel that way personally. But he represents it and validates it. And it's irresponsible of media outlets...forget that, it's irresponsible of my friends to say otherwise.
Mr. Komments: Okay...so, I'm getting a better sense of where you are on Bannongate. Incidentally, have you seen that Buzzfeed article titled "This is How Steve Bannon See the Entire World?"
Me: You mean the one we just got emailed to us like fifteen minutes ago? Yes, I read it while you were talking. There's one weirdly vague and somewhat unsettling part of the whole thing. This article features a transcript from the Human Dignity Institute conference in 2014 which Bannon spoke at. The speech and the Q&A segment is more or less pretty uncontroversial, but at one point Bannon is asked about the racist inclinations of the conservative right.
And he says, "I’m not an expert in this, but it seems that they have had some aspects that may be anti-Semitic or racial. By the way, even in the tea party, we have a broad movement like this, and we’ve been criticized, and they try to make the tea party as being racist, etc., which it’s not. But there’s always elements who turn up at these things, whether it’s militia guys or whatever. Some that are fringe organizations. My point is that over time it all gets kind of washed out, right? People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more."
Bannon ostensibly first diminishes the criticism by making the "they" into a delusional enemy. Secondly, he denies the racism as a whole by saying "which it's not." Then he talks about the racism and attributes it to a fringe, or just "militia guys." Finally, and the most offensive part of the whole thing, is that he proactively refutes any claim otherwise by assuring us that "over time, it all gets kind of washed out."
Mr. Komments: Hmmmm...
Me: Yeah. "Hmmm." Racism doesn't get washed out. Anti-Semitism doesn't get washed out. Homophobia doesn't get washed out. I mean, of all the terms to use in regards to racism..."Washed out?!?" Like bleach white-washed out? Really?
Look, it's getting late. I've got to get home to the fam. I don't want to go on too much longer about this because it is what it is. I just wanted to clarify my position here. I'm not presumptuous enough to name call. Calling someone an anti-Semite is only something you can do once they have been outwardly anti-Semitic. This is not the case here.
I would also never bring up the Holocaust and Nazi Germany flippantly. All I'm saying is history offers us many lessons and when we look back on it, we can parse valuable things from it. Such as when some dude who is also an alt-right thought leader gets a position in the White House. Things that make you go hmmmm.
Mr. Komments: Oooh, delicious. A C + C Music Factory reference?
Me: And I know everyone is exhausted about all of this. I'm exhausted. I'm tired of caring so much. I'm tired of second guessing myself about caring so much because some good friends are telling me to get over it. But I don't know, man. That's like telling your heart to stop loving someone. Or telling your stomach to stop reacting to dairy with bad gas.
Mr. Komments: Is that what I've been smelling?
Me: This is how I feel. I feel conflicted. I feel concerned. You can tell me anything and everything about how much Breitbart loves Israel. How Steve Bannon says "shabbat shalom" to some rando Jew who literally five hours ago accused NPR of racism. And I sure as Hell won't trust the self appointed "America's rabbi."
So, Mr. Komments, don't work so hard on invalidating the concerns of millions because you don't relate to them. Just as I may not relate to your concerns.
[Smirking] And you want to know something? I envy your peace. I'm jealous that you're so accepting of this reality because it's probably nice to go home and chill and watch an episode of Kevin Can Wait without having that "holy moly"-moment. Yeah...it must be nice.
Me: Hello? Hey, kiddo. Yes, I'm coming home. OK. See you soon.
[To Mr. Komments] Look, man. That was my kid. I gotta go. But it was good chatting. I appreciate our talks. It's...cathartic.
Mr. Komments: Yeah, me too, dude. I get where you're coming from. No disrespect for challenging that.
Me: All good. Hug?
Mr. Komments: Oh, most definitely.
[They hug. Lights go out]