Sunday, November 22, 2015

Je suis

Just last weekend we all were stunned by the news of the massacre in Paris. I wrote in this blog how such acts have an insidious effect on us all. They permeate our consciousness and overtly or subtly affect our daily behaviors.

There is a scholar named Diane Vaughn who wrote about something she called The Normalization of Deviance.  What she suggested was that sometimes we get used to inappropriate/deviant behavior to the extent that it becomes normalized and essentially not considered wrong.  For example, when someone justifies a behavior that you know is inappropriate by saying, "everyone does it", they are providing an example of how people can behave reprehensibly yet not necessarily acknowledge their transgressions because similar activities have become normal.

Say, for another example, you are an educator and colleagues take excessive sick days, that is days on which they are not really sick. The colleagues take the time off because they know that they can get away with it. Well, if all colleagues in the school begin to do the same, it may become normal to use up all your sick time as vacation time.

One more example, assume you are in sales, and lie about the qualities of the product you are peddling. If you cease to consider the lie inappropriate because it has become so common in your line of work, then that deviance has become normalized. You don't even consider it lying.

I noticed two posts this past week that made me sit upright. The first came from my cousin who reported that there had been, yet again, a series of murders in Israel.  One of the victims actually had been a graduate of the same school my cousin had attended in Queens as a youngster.  My cousin posted a photograph of the massacre and wrote something along the lines of "I am waiting for the Je Suis Israel" signs to pervade social media.  Then a blog from an attorney named Micha Danzig was posted that was entitled, "Jewish Lives Just Don't Matter-as Much."  It was a powerful article that made the argument that when there are massacres in Paris the world, appropriately, is horrified and expresses outrage.  But when routinely citizens in Israel are killed, the reaction is not as loud.

Perhaps this is because that killings in the middle east have become normalized. We have become used to the horrific deviance in that part of the world. It has been close to forty years since I visited Israel, but one of my vivid memories of my stay was of being on a bus and hearing that there had been a bombing in an open market. And the reaction on the bus was not nearly as great as it would have been if say at Haymarket-- the public open market in downtown Boston--there had been such an attack.  People on that Tel Aviv bus just shook their heads.  Few gasps and no shouts of outrage. Political killing had become normalized.

But is there something else here?  Is it possible that Jewish lives really do not matter as much? That people are not as concerned with Israel as they are with France. One has to be careful to see Jew haters everywhere, but it struck me odd to realize that just shortly after the killings in Paris, killings in Israel barely made the news. There were, to be sure, fewer murdered in Israel this week than in Paris last weekend, but nevertheless the outrage was muted.

It would be nice to think that this is just a matter of people being numb to the horrors of the middle east.  But I am not sure that would be the accurate take here.  We should all stand up and be, as if we are the victims when there are horrific murders for no good reason. Je suis human. Nous sommes human.

And surely as we approach holiday time in the West we need to be very very vigilant against those who cite religion as a justification for inhumane behavior.


  1. Hi Zeke Have to disagree with "parts" of your post. I don't
    think most people were stunned by what happened in Paris. I'm shocked there haven't been more events the magnitude of 9-11. Literally millions of horrific events happen weekly, and the media picks and chooses what to publicize. If we know of all and "stood up" we'd spiral into a catonic depression and drop out of the world. Numbness saves us allowing our little lives with our circle of intimates to go on. But I am a far different person than you. My Dad died at 96 - or 98 - three weeks ago and I went to the funeral in Florida and had trouble conjuring up any feelings. I heard someone on NPR say that the anger of the Taliban suckers who crashed into the World Trade Center probably started with a bad relationship with anger when they were kids growing up. Anyway, have a good Thanksgiving and keep up with your blogs. It takes courage to put your feelings out there, Gene

  2. Good to hear from you, again. You are probably right. What is stunning is that outrageous events don't happen more regularly. Interesting comment about the Taliban and anger--my father used to say that if everyone had a meal each night there would be no more wars. I'd extend that and say that food counts a lot, but love is really the preventative medicine. Beyond that, I'll write that there are people who are hungry and bereft of any kind of emotional comfort--and yet they don't rationalize inhumane acts. Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. Hope the times and years are good for you. Zeke