LOS ANGELES, September 25, 2012—When the sun sets on Tuesday, September 25th, the Jewish people will celebrate Yom Kippur.
Yom Kippur is the most serious holiday in Judaism, the day of atonement. We Jews beg Hashem (God) for forgiveness for our transgressions, and vow to make an effort to be better people going forward. What makes Yom Kippur so powerful is that on that day we are not who we are, but who we wish we could be.
From sundown Tuesday night until sundown Wednesday night, no food or drink is consumed. The one day of fasting is to purify our bodies and souls.
Yet the concept of atonement is a difficult one. It is one thing to say words that sound holy. It is another thing to mean them.
For instance, I have recommended that politically liberal Jews stay home and avoid Synagogues unless they are willing to apologize for everything they have said about conservatives. Ask a liberal Jew if they will apologize for everything they said about Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and George W. Bush. They will make a joke or explain why some hatred is justified. Then they will turn it around and ask if conservatives like me will apologize for hating President Obama. Once it is explained to them that I do not hate him at all, but merely disagree with him, they offer a confused look. Isn’t that the same thing?
No. Not at all. Not even close.
I have never been a fan of insincere requests of forgiveness. For instance, I do not apologize for acts of lust because I feel zero guilt over it. Maybe I should, but until and unless I do, any apology would be phony and meaningless. If I see a Republican Jewish brunette in Synagogue that I would like to flip over my shoulders and take back to my cave, I will probably make an attempt.
Atoning in my mind should not be “cosmetic.” For instance, several relatives of mine should do the world a favor and just cease existing. To apologize for requesting that they drop dead would be insincere. In my mind they are terrible human beings, and requesting that they cease to exist is actually my way of saying I want a better world. They most likely feel the world would be better if I departed. If that is how they truly feel, then their apologizing would be pointless.
Yet some situations are not so simple. A flight I took recently offered food for thought that really does deserve my contemplation on Yom Kippur.
The passenger next to me in first class was gracious. He took the window and allowed me to have the aisle. I slept for most of the flight, and made small talk with the gentleman as we were landing. He admitted to me that he knew who I was. We had interacted once before, and it was not a good experience for either of us. My face was ashen when he told me where he met me as I quickly connected the dots.
I gave a speech in Idaho in front of former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. A reporter named Michael Ames wrote about the event in a manner that I considered unfair.
I responded by writing a column entitled “Michael Ames is a lying liberal scumbag.”
Now Mr. Ames was sitting next to me on a flight. He also happens to be Jewish. Yes, there are Jews in Idaho.
Mr. Ames had only been reporting for one week when I unloaded on him. A couple of my readers thought I overreacted. Ironically, some of his family members agreed with me.
While I was sleeping, he was sending messages on Twitter about who he was sitting next to. One can go either way on the ethics of that.
We had a frank exchange, and he was genuinely bothered by my assessment of him. He felt I was unduly harsh.
I made a promise to him, and that promise was kept. To dismiss his concerns out of hand would be unfair. To just apologize on the spot would be insincere. My compromise was that I would go back and reread his column and my response. Then with everything fresh in my mind, I would reassess.
Apologizing is not supposed to be easy. True atonement is meant to be difficult. Jews on Yom Kippur are forced to confront some pretty dark situations.
Very careful consideration was given. Self-reflection is not always navel-gazing. In this case introspection was necessary.
My hope was that I would come to the conclusion that I was completely wrong. It is with deep sadness that I simply do not feel that way.
I was partially wrong. I called him a “lying, liberal scumbag.”
It is possible that his misquoting me was accidental. His mistakes in the column could have been exactly that, and honest ones at that. This could be another case of that stereotype about two Jews in a room and three opinions.
He insisted to me that he is not a liberal. He is libertarian who does not fit into either of the two major parties neatly. While many liberal reporters deny they are liberals, I have to take him at his word unless contrary evidence shows up.
As for calling him a scumbag, that was harsh, and I regret doing that. The guy I sat next to on the plane was pleasant. Besides, if he was truly awful, my comments about him would have had zero effect. The guy obviously has feelings, since apparently I hurt them.
The problem I have is that I still intensely dislike the column. It contains a mixture of factual inaccuracies and interpretations that do not come across to me as fair.
I attacked his intentions when I should have focused only on the results.
Simply put, I questioned what was in his heart. That was wrong of me.
I apologize to Mr. Ames for how I described him, but not for being upset with his column.
I absolutely disagree with his assessment, but I would be willing to break bread with him if he thought any good would come out of it.
Should he be burned in effigy? No.
Should that particular column be used as kindling for a bonfire? Perhaps.
Have I ever written anything that others felt was inflammatory and worthy of scorn? Yes.
Were my critics justified in being angry? Sometimes.
Mr. Ames and I are both far from perfect, but I truly believe we were both sincere with each other on that airplane.
For that reason, I genuinely wish Mr. Ames a peaceful Yom Kippur, and hope that the holiday and days beyond provide him meaning physically and spiritually.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS
Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at TYGRRRR EXPRESS
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