"Guilt means you have a conscience. You have self-awareness, you have—in the case of America's history of racism—historical awareness."Well, aren't you special!
He goes on to say that what we really need is more, lots more, "white conservative guilt."
As C. Van Carter summarizes white liberal guilt:
I feel terrible about what those other people did! About what I do, not so much.Ron Rosenbaum wants you to know that if he had any ancestors who were mean to slaves or Indians, he'd feel just awful, and you should too.
C.S. Lewis described this as indulging “in the popular vice of detraction without restraint” while feeling “all the time that you are practicing contrition”.
One of the unmentionable ironies of this whole topic is that the most fervent proponents of white Americans feeling guilty about their ancestors owning slaves and fighting Indians tend to be white Americans whose ancestors didn't own slaves or fight Indians.
More generally, it's interesting to compare "white guilt" to "Catholic guilt" to "Jewish guilt."
White guilt is, at least nominally, about whites feeling bad about whites in the past being racist.
Catholic guilt is more personal. Typically, Catholics and lapsed Catholics complain about being made to feel guilty by the Church about their urges and behavior, particularly sexual. (Catholic guilt has a certain ethnocentric angle to it in mixed religion America -- stop fooling around, get married and have kids! -- but, in general, The Church, with its universal ambitions, doesn't do ethnocentrism well, for obvious reasons.)
Jewish guilt, on the other hand, is infinitely joked about, but its essence is almost never spelled out in such a way that non-Jews grasp what "Jewish guilt" means.
Clearly, there is a form of Jewish guilt much like Catholic guilt that focuses on personal ethical lapses (for example, my father got a call on Yom Kippur once from a former colleague asking forgiveness for wronging him on the job), but that's not what Americans typically mean by "Jewish guilt."
What is typically meant is something almost exactly the opposite of what is theoretically meant by "white guilt."
Joshua Halberstam wrote in The Forward in 2005 in "The Myth of Jewish Guilt:"
There is no credible empirical evidence — I’ve looked hard and carefully — that Jews feel more unwarranted guilt than others. The hypothesis is of course too amorphous to confirm or disconfirm with reliability; interestingly, however, when it comes to testable mental states such as psychosis, the data suggests that Jews suffer less than average. To be sure, sensitive, reflective individuals are discomforted when they disturb the traditions, the communities and the families to whom they feel attachments. This is true of Jews… and everyone else. ...
How, then, did this bromide about Jewish guilt attain its status as a distinctive Jewish disposition? Unlike jokes about kishke, which Jews actually ate (and eat), and such slurs such as the Jews’ association with money — originally propounded by non-Jews — the Jewish guilt syndrome is a Jewish creation, the invention of the previous generation of assimilated American Jews (see Portnoy, Alexander).
I recently reread Philip Roth's very funny 1969 novel Portnoy's Complaint about a Jewish bachelor lawyer with a high profile do-gooder job in the liberal Lindsay administration in New York City. Despite his being interviewed on Public TV, his parents don't consider him a success. They constantly nag him to stop chasing blonde shiksas, find a nice Jewish girl, get married, and move back to New Jersey and give them some grandkids. After he breaks up with his latest shiksa girlfriend, a semi-literate West Virginia hillbilly lingerie model (because she demands he marry her -- but she's not smart enough to mix her genes with his), he flees to Israel. But he finds he doesn't like Israel or Israeli women and returns to Manhattan At the end, he's on Dr. Spielvogel's couch, in a state of extreme frustration with his life, narrating his 309 page Complaint.
In other words, in the classic example of Jewish guilt, Portnoy's Complaint, Jewish guilt is the opposite of white guilt: Portnoy's feelings of Jewish guilt stem not from his ancestors being too ethnocentric (as in "white guilt") but from himself not being ethnocentric enough to please his ancestors. His parents make him feel guilty because he's individualistically ignoring his racial duty to settle down and propagate the Jewish race.Halberstam goes on to give similar examples of what Jewish guilt means to modern Jewish Americans (he, himself, seems to side with Portnoy's parents):
A recently published book, “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt” (Penguin Group USA), exemplifies the breadth of this presumption. Unlike the sophomoric parade of Jewish-mother books that, incredibly, still makes its way to the humor shelves of Barnes & Noble, this anthology features well-written contributions by significant, contemporary Jewish women writers. But while each entry describes some episode of guilt, crucial differences among them should be emphasized. Some are heartfelt accounts of their authors’ struggles, often ongoing, with the demands of Jewish tradition and the pressures of their Jewish subcommunities. The excerpt reprinted in this newspaper by the invariably brazen Daphne Merkin is representative of these conflicts. These are worthy investigations, as are the explorations of Jewish women experiencing guilt about their Christmas trees, non-Jewish romances or trading their expected domestic lives for careers. [In other words, Jewish women with, respectively, gentile husbands, gentile boyfriends, or careers instead of children.] They are of particular interest to us because they are our stories (though, undoubtedly, you could find the same strains among women calibrating their lives as Methodists and Mormons, Shias and Sikhs).
However, other contributions to this book gush with ludicrous and often offensive extrapolations from the authors’ own experiences to a national neurosis. What is striking — and sociologically significant — is not what these authors say, but the ease with which they say it. The tone is set by the editor’s introduction, in which she asserts that Jews are only too delighted and eager to make others feel guilty. Then she reduces her rabbi father’s discomfort with her dating a non-Jew as typical guilt-tripping. ...
Katie Roiphe, writing about the “infinite voraciousness” of Jewish guilt that refuses to allow anyone to be happy, is upset because her mother would like her to have children: “Could it be that lurking inside all the Jewish feminist mothers of the 70’s is a 1950’s housewife who values china patterns and baby carriages above the passions of the mind?”
In other words, "Jewish guilt" in modern America is, more than anything else, about not being racialist enough.
Similarly, an NPR article about this Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt book sums up Jewish guilt:
"At the center of the book is the battle between obligation to one's community, with its dictates and traditions, and the obligation to one's individual interests and needs. It's that tension that produces guilt."Thus, Jewish guilt is the opposite of "white guilt," which is (theoretically, at least) about a white person's disobligation toward one's community, with its sins and crimes, and the obligation to boost other communities' interests and needs at the white community's expense.
Of course, in reality, "white guilt" turns out to be all about the individual white person's interests and needs to preen morally in order to demonstrate his superior social status over other white people. After all, when it comes to social-climbing, other white people are the competition.
Thus, it's not surprising that, while there is certainly demand among some American Jews for works that will help them feel guilty about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians (see The Nation magazine), there is zero market in America for the Jewish equivalent of "white guilt" about what some Jews did in the past.
Indeed, the most obvious analog to slavery and taking America from the Indians, the disproportionate role of Jews in inflicting Communism upon humanity (as documented in UC Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine's book 2004 The Jewish Century), has almost completely been crammed down the global Memory Hole.
For example, the world's most famous living author published almost a decade ago a two volume history of the relationship between Russians and Jews. He called for mutual remembrance, contrition, apology, and forgiveness. Here's an excerpt from the only excerpt yet published in the United States:
Alas, mutual grievances have accumulated in both our people's memories, but if we repress the past, how can we heal them? Until the collective psyche of a people finds its clear outlet in the written word, it can rumble indistinctly or, worse, menacingly...
I have never conceded to anyone the right to conceal that which was. Equally, I cannot call for an understanding based on an unjust portrayal of the past. Instead, I call both sides -- the Russian and the Jewish -- to patient mutual comprehension, to the avowal of their own share of the blame...
I conceived of my ultimate aim as discerning, to the best of my ability, mutually agreeable and fruitful pathways for the future development of Russian-Jewish relations. ...
Indeed, there are many explanations as to why Jews joined the Bolsheviks (and the Civil War produced yet more weighty reasons [e.g., the mass pogroms detailed in Volume II, Chapter 16]. Nevertheless, if Russian Jews' memory of this period continues seeking primarily to justify this involvement, then the level of Jewish self-awareness will be lowered, even lost.
Using this line of reasoning, Germans could just as easily find excuses for the Hitler period: "Those were not real Germans, but scum"; "they never asked us." Yet every people must answer morally for all of its past -- including that past which is shameful. Answer by what means? By attempting to comprehend: How could such a thing have been allowed? Where in all this is our error? And could it happen again?
It is in that spirit, specifically, that it would behoove the Jewish people to answer, both for the revolutionary cutthroats and the ranks willing to serve them. Not to answer before other peoples, but to oneself, to one's consciousness, and before God. Just as we Russians must answer -- for the pogroms, for those merciless arsonist peasants, for those crazed revolutionary soldiers, for those savage sailors. ...
To answer, just as we would answer for members of our family.
For if we release ourselves from any responsibility for the actions of our national kin, the very concept of a people loses any real meaning.
Not surprisingly, the world's most famous living author can't get these two books published in New York City. Don't call us, Alexander, we'll call you.
Moreover, almost nobody in the American media has found it at all worth mentioning that Solzhenitsyn can't get published in New York City.