Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Real Meaning of "Survivor"

While watching football I could not help but be assaulted by promotions for the finale of the hit show, Survivor.

For me the term survivor has always had special significance because my parents were both actual survivors of the Holocaust. My father somehow made it through World War II, and my mother was selected to live by Mengele at Auschwitz and managed to be liberated after building airplanes as a slave laborer.

But sometimes when I am watching TV and reference to survivors of the Holocaust is mentioned, I can almost hear the collective groan in the audience – no one wants to hear about it anymore. Not the Jews again.

Still, my mother often pointed out how in her horrific past, it wasn't just the Jews, but also homosexuals, gypsies, dissidents and Communists who were systematically exterminated.

So why are people in general so tired of hearing about the Holocaust – and why is anti-Semitism so clearly on the rise? Just this week there was a brawl in the NY subway when someone said “Happy Hanukkah” in response to “Merry Christmas”, and a house in Miami was covered with Nazi graffiti.

The question remains: why are the Jews targets and why are they so despised? Certainly the perpetuated story of our killing Jesus is one reason but remember that Jesus himself was a Jew. And of course a great deal of the tension in the world can be attributed at least superficially to the presence of Israel in the midst of hostile neighbors.

So my alternative theory came about while watching "Survivor" for the first time. It occurred to me how surprised I would be if a Jew had ever actually participated in that show.

I could almost hear the dialog, “You want me to jump into that swamp? Are you insane?" Are the worms and cockroaches kosher?

Of course Jews might have written the show, but if they did, they went on strike. But the fact that I can write this openly and that Jews can be satirized in this way, and everyone will laugh, is what makes them targets.

We can take a joke. We have had no choice.

Sure, if someone says we like to Jew down the price, we may get offended. And we have the Anti-Defamation League for serious abuse – like cross burnings and murder. But most of us will shrug a stupid Jew joke off as ignorance. Plus we don’t like to fight (except the Israelis) – we’d rather go out and eat Chinese. Seriously stupid remarks by the likes of Jesse Jackson years ago will ruffle some feathers, but most of the Jews remain socially liberal and let’s face it, we love basketball.

Everyone else takes themselves very seriously and they become offended if their group is ridiculed for even its most innocuous foibles or stereotypes. Evil and hostile blacks and Arabs are hard to find on politically correct media, and even though uptight Christians have taken their lumps lately, they are quick to respond with evangelical alacrity. Look at the lawyers – they tried to pass legislation against jokes at their expense.

The Jews? They write the stuff themselves. At a comedy course I took years ago the teacher said, “Think Jewish, write gentile” – in other words, take full advantage of all of the neuroses and annoying traits you see in your (fellow) Jews and attribute them to non-Jews. People will laugh.

Name a character Finkelstein or Goldstein and you can make him the butt of almost anything.

But people who identify strongly with interest groups don't quite get it. What is it with the Jews - don't they understand that existence is serious business?

Gays can make fun of other gays, but no one else can. Ditto blacks, women, muslims, latinos – you name it.

Which brings me back to that “reality show” - Survivor. Isn’t anyone laughing at this show? These people are in “tribes”? They have serious psychological strategies? I’ll do this so they’ll think that and then this person will no longer be friends with her. I got past most of this stuff in high school.

Come to think of it, that’s why the show is obviously a success. Many of us peaked in high school.

But let’s face it, any Jew on that show is behind the camera. Wherever it’s being shot, we’re staying at the Holiday Inn.

Come to think of it, that’s probably why everyone else is pissed off.

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