February 16, 2015

"Are you comfortable right there, right there?"

I'm quoting a Justin Timberlake song...
Shake - like you know you got nothing to lose
Make it move - girl, you know what we came to do...
...  because it's the first thing that came up when I googled "are you comfortable," which I did because we were talking about the hateful graffiti that appeared in Madison, Wisconson over the weekend. Swastikas and the words "fuck Jews" written across the street from the residence of a man who is the president of the Jewish Federation of Madison. This man, Jim Stein, said, strangely, "This is anti-Semitic to the extent people feel comfortable equating Jewish people or the Jewish religion with sexual terms and sexual parts of people’s bodies."

In the comments Richard Lawrence Cohen (my first husband) said:
In the climate of today's American intelligentsia, he thinks he has to *justify* calling the most blatant kind of Jew-hating (I prefer that term to "anti-Semitism") what it is. And he only partially, qualifiedly, calls it that, giving his enemy a chance to weasel out. ("To the extent" -- as if it's something else to some other extent. What bullshit!) And he can only justify his standing up for himself by analogizing the attack vaguely to sexual harassment. He tries to make his self-defense palatable to the educated community by enlisting feminist language ("feel comfortable"). If only the vandals hadn't used the word "fuck"! Otherwise, how dare he complain?
Is that feminist language? Of course, I immediately thought about the British journalist who asked Scott Walker "Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution?" Comfortable! After thinking about that for a few days, I decided that the correct answer to that question must be: No! The question whether the theory of evolution is accurate is entirely different from the question whether we should be comfortable with it. If you understand it, it should make you uncomfortable. Why are we here — we... and not some kinder, gentler people who were murdered and whose genes were superseded by the genes of marauding rapists?

What's up with this "comfortable" locution? Who talks like that and why? 

The original meaning of "comfort" is strengthen. You see the root "fort" which means strong. When did it turn into something so much more cushiony?

For what it's worth: In the King James translation of the New Testament, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as "The Comforter":
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.... I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.... But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

44 comments:

tim in vermont said...

Why are we here — we... and not some kinder, gentler people who were murdered and whose genes were superseded by the genes of marauding rapists?

Precisely the question and the answer is obvious too. But don't worry. Everything is fair, between the sexes, among the races. All is fair! We just need to discover the fundamental fairness a chaotic and heartless universe has left for us. It's a matter of faith, an urgent matter of faith.

tim in vermont said...

Surely fairness was somehow encoded into the very first configuration of the universe during the primordial instant of the Big Bang. Not by God of course. By some other agency.

Bob Ellison said...

When Justin Timberlake sings it, it's more in the spirit of "put your hands up in the air and shake 'em like you just don't care."

Sebastian said...

RLC is right.

But the next question is: why? Why would a Jew under attack talk that way? Ordinary PC? Jewish self-hatred? A we've-got-it-coming-for-Gaza loony-leftism? Or a superior understanding that, as the president said, these are "random" occurrences that happen to affect "folks"?

All assuming, of course, that the Madison episode is not a staged hoax.

If RLC were to write a novel describing the descent of the "intelligentsia" into the sort of madness he illustrates, I might read it (perhaps he has?).

tim maguire said...

I'd like to know why the person who wrote "Fuck Jews" on the driveway covered it up with snow so it wouldn't be dscovered until later (and how much later? I'd also like to know).

Terry said...

Usually ethnic or religious minorities are subject to subjugation or extermination because they are here. Jews seem to offend anti-semites simply by existing in time.

TennLion said...

The Greek word the King James version translated as "comforter," is "paraclete," which could also be translated as companion, helper, and most interestingly, advocate. In other words, the Holy Spirit is your defense advocate, speaking for you and defending you from attack. Betcha didn't know Christianity had a role for lawyers, did you?

YoungHegelian said...

This is anti-Semitic to the extent people feel comfortable equating Jewish people or the Jewish religion with sexual terms and sexual parts of people’s bodies.

Well you've got to admit, it would have been a really confusing kind of antisemitism is they had painted

I ♥ Kikes

on the sidewalk.

wildswan said...

I believe this will turn out to be a class exercise run by some UWM sociology professor. Who will not be able to see that his motivation was anti-semitism since it (not he or she, of course) since it will claim to be studying the psychology of hate crimes. Whereas really it was seeking a way of being hateful in a safe, nasty intellectual way.

Michael said...

People have learned to talk stupidly to keep from being shunned by the people who are totally non judgmental.

Oso Negro said...

Good! Maybe you are now feeling more comfortable with my notion of braining a sanctimonious twat who uses such a term as "Jesus-styled people".

Anonymous said...

Who talks like that and why?

You did in a previous thread.

As for "why": most likely because you thought it would drive more clicks to the Amazon portal. Seems to be the main reason you write anything on here anymore.

khematite@aol.com said...

Were there people who felt uncomfortable with the comfy chair inflicted by the Spanish Inquisition?

rhhardin said...

Handel Comfort ye

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem

(Howwood)

rhhardin said...

Jewish man in hospital

Nurse: Are you comfortable?

Man: I make a living.

chickelit said...

"Comfortably smug" is a terrible stronghold.

Vittorio Jano IV said...

"Are You Happy?"
--Iron Butterfly / In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

BudBrown said...

I read the Harvard lawyer's sexual assault article to the end. And in it she trained people how to get comfortable with such babble i.e. people suffering trauma are apt to say the darndest things.

chickelit said...

Althouse wrote: The original meaning of "comfort" is strengthen. You see the root "fort" which means strong. When did it turn into something so much more cushiony?

That's a fascinating observation, Althouse. By way of parallel, I note that the German translation of comfortable is gemütlich* but is closer to our cozy/comfy. The German etymology of gemütlich goes back through Gemüt which means "mind" or "spirit" which is getting close to that KJV quote of yours. Gemüt is in turn based on Mut which means "courage" -- a hearty word if there ever was one! Mut is also cognate with our word "mood."
_______________________
*Isn't there a small Wisconsin town which celebrates Gemütlichkeit Days every summer? -- there was when I was a kid

chickelit said...

Ah ha! Gemütlichkeit Days in Jefferson, WI.

n.n said...

The first rule of maintaining a coalition of diametrically opposed interests is to not speak ill of coalition partners. The second rule is... pass the opiates.

Stein is equivocating in order to avoid disrupting the coalition or perhaps diminishing his own status.

Char Char Binks said...

"Stein is equivocating in order to avoid disrupting the coalition or perhaps diminishing his own status." Right on, n.n. Stein suspects the culprit is black and/or Muslim.

Phil 3:14 said...

Have we become comfortably numb to antisemitism?

Phil 3:14 said...

"Hello,
Is there anybody in there?"

chickelit said...

Have we become comfortably numb to antisemitism?

Roger first floated that idea as a pig and said "come on in -- the Waters' fine."

chickelit said...

His life imitated his art.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Roger first floated that idea as a pig and said "come on in -- the Waters' fine."

That s not fair. Roger Waters is not anti-semitic, he just hates Jews

I am Laslo..

Phil 3:14 said...

I just read the original thread and its comments. The word that aims to incite:

ilk

C R Krieger said...

The later part of the post made me wonder if the Professor had read the item in this last Sunday's Boston Globe, "Our lost cousins, the Neanderthals".

Regards  —  Cliff

Phil 3:14 said...

If you cannot define "ilk", you're not in mine

Laslo Spatula said...

I had a Jewish girlfriend in college.

Maybe I'll tell that story tomorrow.

She was hot.


I am Laslo.

Smilin' Jack said...

The question whether the theory of evolution is accurate is entirely different from the question whether we should be comfortable with it. If you understand it, it should make you uncomfortable. Why are we here — we... and not some kinder, gentler people who were murdered and whose genes were superseded by the genes of marauding rapists?

Bullshit. There were never any kinder, gentler people. Just people who were less successful at murdering, marauding and raping.

chickelit said...

Phil 3:14 said...
I just read the original thread and its comments. The word that aims to incite:

ilk


The context from that thread: Obama and his ilk don't like Israel. The hard left blames Israel for the Palestinian plight.

I know exactly what the author meant by "ilk" but let me add some background.

I grew up and went to high school just a few miles from where these defacements occurred in Madison, but a generation or so earlier. In 1975, I wasn't ready for a high school teacher who didn't like Israel and who only blamed Israel for Palestine's plight. So I talked back in class. I'm pretty sure I got a "D" in that class (I could check my grades I have them somewhere). Anyways, that teacher's outlook wasn't mainstream then, so, after that class, I never had that problem again.

From what I've read, those anti-Israel views have become much more mainstream. The "ilk" is now a herd and it is heard herd. If they existed in 1975, I'm sure that by 2015 they could have gained strength. It seems plausible.

traditionalguy said...

That Jew named Jesus from Nazareth sure could use words well. He says a gift will come from his Father called the Holy Geist that will teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

He sure sounds like a Jewish lawyer to me.

The Nazarene also mentions about our lawyer that comforts us when we are betrayed and accused by family and friends of being offensive Christians:

"But make up your minds not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.Luke 21:14-15.

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mccullough said...

Nothing to worry about. These guys are cowards.

Tom said...

It's like when my wife says, "I feel like there should be a can of green beans in the pantry." I can understand through deduction and logic that one might "think" there is a can of green beans in the pantry because maybe a can was purchased and we can't remember a specific time using it or something like that. But I've never understood the use of the word "feel" in this case. I "feel" like Kate Upton should be soaking in my bath tub. There is not logic to that statement but I damn sure feel like it ought be true I think it's the same with this word, "comfortable." I've heard people ask, "are you comfortable making that argument?" There's a vague threat implied that even if your argument is logically and empirically correct, you shouldn't really feel good about what making that particular argument says about you as a person.

Revenant said...

The question whether the theory of evolution is accurate is entirely different from the question whether we should be comfortable with it. If you understand it, it should make you uncomfortable. Why are we here — we... and not some kinder, gentler people who were murdered and whose genes were superseded by the genes of marauding rapists?

The third sentence suggests that you were wrong to imply, in the first two sentences, that you understand the theory of evolution.

Firstly, because there is no reason to think we're "rape-ier" than our ancestors, and secondly because your human ancestors are who they are regardless of whether or not the theory of evolution is accurate. You're descended from rapists whether God created all life on Earth 6000 years ago or whether we're descended from single-celled organisms from 4 billion years ago.

William said...

There's a film by Terry Gilliam, The Zero Theorem, that dramatizes the Holy Trinity. In the film the Holy Spirit is played by a hot chick. It's the first time I can ever recall the Holy Spirit being personified in a movie. Apparently Gilliam knows his Bible......The pilgrim role is played by Christopher Waitz. He's very good. European stars like Waitz and Max Von Sydow are very good in pilgrim roles. You could never have an American actor like Robert Redford or John Wayne play the pilgrim. They've already figured out the answers to the mysteries of life, and their goal is not attaining heaven but retaining it.,,,,..Anyway, The Zero Theorem, while no Life of Brian, is pretty good and worth watching.

furious_a said...

Why are we here — we... and not some kinder, gentler people who were murdered and whose genes were superseded by the genes of marauding rapists?

Because it takes a fair amount of innate ruthlessness to evolve to an upright posture, sentience and tool-making.

sydney said...

William,
I watched the Zero Theorem and had no idea it was about the Trinity. The prostitute is the Holy Spirit? I've got to think about that. Who was the Father? Who was the Son? (I am having trouble accepting Management as God and the kid as Christ. Didn't Management say at one point in the movie that he's not in control of everything?)

jimbino said...

It needs to be noted that our own state and federal governments are major perpetrators of hate crimes, particularly those waged against atheists, humanists and freethinkers.

We atheists are assaulted by "in God we trust" hate graffiti on all our coins and bills, and in the ubiquitous moments of silence and even by the President and other officials who end speeches with "God bless America."

We have no atheists chaplains in our military or in our prisons or hospitals. Makes sense, since our Supreme Court is made up of 6 Roman Catholics and 3 Jews.

Some 6 states still deny positions of public trust (like juror) to atheists in the very graffiti of their constitutions.

How many of our SCOTUS Jews have voted to stop discrimination against atheists?

kcom said...

"Are you comfortable" is just another form of political correctness. Remember, the sina qua non of college life today is making it a "safe space". Everything has to be comfortable - not physically, but intellectually. If it's not comfortable it's wrong because it's not "safe". You can't have any peppers in your pablum.

William said...

@sydney: I think that if you watch Zero Theorem over again, you will find that it answers most of your questions about the paradox of a transcendent God immanent in a transient and temporal universe. It is also informative about how to gain everlasting paradise by wedding such a construct, but that's one of the bonus scenes on the DVD. It was cut from the original movie.