by Terry Plotkin
I grew up in a time when Jews from the older generation carried around fresh memories of the holocaust, and the fear of annihilation that went with it. Thus, the pressure to marry a Jew was intense. Failure to do so would be risking having your parents declare you dead and saying Kaddish (the prayer for the deceased) for you. The elders in my family would use the Yiddish word for a non-Jewish girl: Shiksa. This term was followed by the word POOH! uttered while making a spitting motion to the ground. You could even be accused of being as bad as Hitler, because you ended your line of Jewish ancestry if you converted. These stories are a source of humor now, but held no mirth whatsoever in childhood.
The success of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, and the American ethic of mixing the races with the dominant culture has taken the edge off this potent argument against intermarriage. Loss and gain is always part of the same equation, and so it is with the integration of race and religion. Old ways and customs die and new ones take their place. But it has always been thus and always will be with humanity. We are an adaptable race, and if the pace of integration accelerates, so will our capacity to cope. The human race is divided in countless ways: wealth, class, religion, race, tribe, culture, family, gender, sexual preferences, political beliefs, values, and education levels, to name some of the bigger categories. The more these gaps are bridged, the less reason is for one group to contend with another. The more understanding we have of each other, the broader we become. The more informed we become, the less ignorance and fear will bring us down.
Strangely, even wars can bridge cultures. As you learn the enemys ways, whether you hate them or not, you will inevitably emulate them in some ways. This was how Buddhism arrived in the U.S.A., along with the casualties of the Vietnam War. Conflict is not going away, but one of the root causes of war – fear of another race and religion – is being addressed by the mixing of the races. The process has not always been clean, smooth, or peaceful, but as time goes forward, the rough edges are being rounded. Greed and hatred are sure to stay with us, and they will drag us through hell when they rear their ugly heads, but they will not be able to demonize other people as easily as they have done in the past. It will not solve all our problems, like our assault on the environment of Earth, but sooner or later, whether by catastrophe, higher thinking, or both, the race will move forward with fits and starts, tumbles and crawling back, setbacks and progress. These are the ways humans progress.
I believe this Star Trekian ideal of the people of the world living together in relative harmony is quite possible. (We have a better chance of accomplishing this than we do of flying around the galaxy at warp speed.) Give the world a hundred more years of international travel, studying in other lands, trading, visiting, and communicating with each other at the ever-increasing rate that is in motion now, and there will soon be a generation that will be raised as enlightened mutts, that will not be able to look up or down upon anyone. That would be a good time to be alive.