On Equality and Maturity

I think that one sign of maturity is the ability to say “You’re right” even when you don’t think the other person really is right. So to the ability to remain silent when you know there is no purpose for your words. I’ve sometimes said things I regret saying, later to reflect and realize that there was really no reason for me to say those things, even if I was absolutely correct in my statements. I’m working on that skill, but it’s hard.

So, I write. And you listen. And you can tell me I’m wrong if you want. But there’s no point in me telling others they’re wrong, because they don’t care.

Today on facebook, a friend posted this article:

“Even though it’s legal, I still can’t marry my girlfriend”

The article is about a lesbian in a long term relationship with another woman. The author lives in California, where the prohibition on same-sex marriages has recently been abolished by the U.S. Supreme Court, and therefore, couples of the same sex are now legally entitled to marry.

She writes that she still can’t marry her girlfriend, because he girlfriend lives in Alaska. Her girlfriend lives in Alaska because she can’t get a job in California. She can’t get a job in California because she is a convicted felon. According to the author, the girlfriend committed the felony a long time ago, served her time, and is now a “changed woman”. Still, employers are unwilling to give her the chance, and therefore, she felt compelled to accept the only job offer that came her way, a position in Alaska.

The article then goes on to talk about the inadequacies and hardships convicted felons face, and also, in the same breath, that White Men arguing for Equality just don’t get it, they don’t face the same hardships that Black Women face, and therefore, the White Men who are celebrating the fail of PROP 8 and DOMA should really not be celebrating, because we still haven’t yet achieved equality.

I take issue with bringing up the two issues in the same article. Same-sex marriage rights really have nothing to do with rights, or lack thereof, of convicted felons. I acknowledge that the author is right about the [unfair] hardships convicted felons face. Still, don’t blame the White Gay Men for that. They lobbied for equality in marriage, but they haven’t lobbied for equality for felons because that’s not their job! I don’t deny that maybe some changes should be made in the way rehabilitated convicted felons are treated in this country, but don’t rain on the parade of the gays. Like one commenter on the article succinctly said, “It’s like saying to someone saving the whales: ‘Well, that’s all well and good, but you’re a bastard for ignoring the seals!’ “.

I could have written this as a response to my friend’s post (or a shorter version of this. Maybe just copied that line above.) But I chose not to, because this friend is not very receptive to ideas that she doesn’t agree with. She doesn’t just debate, she gets personally offended. I didn’t want to start an argument with her, and I didn’t want to offend her. So, I remained silent. But the thoughts were still inside, and I had to get them out, so I spilled them here. Hope you enjoyed!

And, if you disagree, I welcome dialoge.

Math and Rav Kook

Disclaimer: I’m writing this post kinda randomly. That is to say, I have a bunch of thoughts running through y head and i don’t exactly know how they connect. Yet. I’m sure there will be a point by the end of this.

So, in math, we’re learning about complements. The complement of a given set is anything that’s not part of that set. This is the venn diagram which illustrates what the complement is:

In the diagram, the left circle represents everything in group A. Everything not in group A can be defined in three ways. First, you can simply call it “C and D”, or you could call it “A complement.” The way to write “A-complement” is Ac.

This gets more interesting when you start to assign actual values to the letters. For example, you could say that A represents all the people who ate at Hillel friday night , and C represents all the people who came to shul Friday Night. B would be the people who came to shul AND ate at Hillel, while D would be the people who neither came to shul nor came to eat at Hillel. Ac would be anyone who did not eat at Hillel, regardless of whether or not they went to shul on Friday night .

I find this interesting because when writing down math problems, my professor tends not to write the symbol Ac, opting instead to write a different variable which describes this group, perhaps S for “starved” (in this example, it doesn’t quite work because obvously people who didn’t eat at Hillel would have eaten somewhere else and would not have starved, but you get the point)

I thought about this today while learning a letter of Rav Kook. In it, he discussed the idea of a culture and a counter-culture. The hippies of the 60’s were a counter-culture, a response to the general straight and narrow culture of the time. He talked about non-religous Judaism, and whether chiloni society is a culture or a counter-culture. In other words, do you define non-religous Jews simply as “NON RELIGOUS Jews” or are they something more than that? Are they “my neighbor down the block with the really pretty flower garden ” and “That really funny guy in my Biology class”, or are they simply “The group of people who are not religous.

Rav Kooks point is that its so easy for religous people to look at the rest of the world and think of them as “Religous-complement” but thats an entirely wrong way of looking at things. A guy I know, “Bobby” is possibly the most insightful person I’ve ever met. And I happen to know alot of really insightful people. I really value Bobby’s opinions on almost everything. It doesn’t matter to me that Bobby is not particularly religous-I can still count on him to explain my math work to me, or to shed light on a really complicated sugiyah I’m learning.

So often, we as religous Jews fall into the trap of staying in our own little Jewish circle, and never really branching out beyond that. A friend of mine grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family, went to Ultra-Orthodox schools her whole life, attended an Orthodox seminary in Israel, now is in Yeshivah University, and is getting married soon and moving some Chareidi nighborhood in New York. I’m not judging her particular choices, for her they probably were the best move. However, this girl does not have any real exposure to people who are not exactly like her. And that, in my opinion, is really dangerous. I mean, she could live her whole life never having to really think about why she is religous. And worse, she won’t be able to convey that over to her children if she herself is unsure. And then people wonder about the “crisis” of kids going “off the derech.” Amazing.