Throughout my life, I’ve frequently avoided getting involved in social groups, mostly out of insecurity.  I think my fear was that if I became a member of a “clique,” that I would lose my individuality.  Maybe I felt that I was too susceptible to peer pressure.  If  kids wore Adidas, I wanted Adidas.  If kids wore Reeboks, I suddenly wanted Reeboks.   If friends smoked pot, I smoked pot.  But deep down, I never found myself comfortable being part of a group.  During college, I didn’t join a fraternity.  It was easier to hang out with “outsiders,” or just be by myself.

Despite my fear of groups, I’ve always been impressed by those who choose to be a member of one, but are confident enough to still express their individual opinions — even if these ideas are different than everyone else in that group. 

Even if one doesn’t agree with Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman’s decision to back the war in Iraq, I have to give him credit for going against the grain of the Democratic Party.  Of course, last night he was punished for his betrayal.  His party voted in inexperienced businessman Ned Lamont.  I don’t know much about Lamont, but Lieberman had a decent voting record on most domestic issues, even if he was hawkish in international affairs.  It looks like Iraq may be the new lithmus test for the Democratic Party.

Frankly, it reminds me a bit of  “The Lord of the Flies,” where a group member is not allowed to think differently than the rest of the group — without being ostracized.

As the fighting continues in Lebanon, this group-speak is in evidence everywhere.  The minute any type of spokesperson is on TV, I know exactly what they are going to say.  American Jews support Israel pretty much all the time, while Arabs and leftist Europeans cannot find one nice thing to say about Israel, damning the nation as being a Western oppressor while romanticizing the savage brutality of a group like Hezbollah.

I was not surprised to see “We are all Hizbullah now,” on one of the banners at the Stop the War coalition’s London march.

That’s why I’m impressed with those who are brave enough to speak their mind — even if I disagree with what they say.

In Sunday’s Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Benjamin, a professor at the University of Technology in Sydney, wrote an interesting op-ed piece titled “Israel does not act or speak for every Jew.”  In it, the Jewish professor criticizes other Jews for identifying Judaism too closely with the secular state of Israel. 

“I WRITE as a Jew and as a synagogue member. I write as one whose academic work continues to move through questions of Jewish identity and the legacy of the Holocaust. Yet, I write with a growing sense of shame. The source of the feeling is simple: Israel claims that it continues to act in my name.”

I don’t personally believe this, but I give this guy credit for following the beat of his own drummer.  Not every Jew has to think the same as me.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but wonder how Professor Benjamin will be treated in his temple next Saturday.  I have a feeling he’s not going to be asked to carry the Torah any day soon.  I’m hoping the temple members will be tolerant to those with differing opinions.

Although most of my politics tend to be “progressive,” I think that the left is as intolerant as the right.   I wouldn’t be surprised if half my readership would disappear if I said gays shouldn’t get married.  (they should!  they should!  whew…)

Joschka Fischer is an icon to many in Europe.  A leader of Germany’s environmentally-minded Green Party, he was Germany’s foreign minister from 1998-2005.   He became a hero to the anti-war movement when he snubbed United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the February 2003 international security conference in Munich.

Recently, Fischer wrote an editorial about the war in Lebanon titled “Now is the Time to Think Big.”  In the piece, Fischer blames radical Islam for the current conflict:

The current war in Lebanon is not a war by the Arab world against Israel; rather, it is a war orchestrated by the region’s radical forces – Hamas and Islamic Jihad among the Palestinians and Hizbullah in Lebanon, together with Syria and Iran – that fundamentally rejects any settlement with Israel.

Conflict was sought for three reasons: first to ease pressure on Hamas from within the Palestinian community to recognise Israel; second to undermine democratisation in Lebanon, which was marginalising Syria; and thirdly to lift attention from the emerging dispute over the Iranian nuclear programme and demonstrate to the west the “tools” at its disposal in the case of conflict.

His ideas are not especially controversial, but they were upsetting to many in the European left, who see Israel as a colonial power.  In one swoop, this iconic Green Party leader was insulted on progressive and green party blogs.  He was called fat, lazy, and a sellout only interested in getting speaking engagements in the United States. 

Again, I’m not as much interested in the politics as I am in the intolerance of groups for anything but the “accepted” point of view.   Who would ever want to voice their opinion in an environment like that?

It makes me glad that I didn’t join a fraternity.


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