Main Entry: 1 domicile Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin domicilium, from domus Date:15th century
1 : a dwelling place : place of residence : HOME 2 a : a person’s fixed, permanent, and principal home for legal purposes b : RESIDENCE 2b
from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
Being the only Jew at a party is tough-going these days if you’re unfortunate enough to believe that whacko theory (still not scientifically proven) that Palestinians are human beings with thoughts and emotions and are therefore deserving of certain rights, among them justice and freedom from oppression. Folks automatically assume you’re an anti-Semite.
As if this weren’t bummer enough, the screens all over the room displayed half-a-million flag-waving yahoos in Time Square waiting for the bomb to drop, the ball to drop, the shoe to drop; waiting for something to drop. And it was my birthday. Almost my birthday. New Years Eve. I still had a few hours before this year of our wars 2002 became this year of our wars 2003 and my 38th waddled to me in virgin white diapers.
Now everyone knows that many of the most vehement of anti-Semites these days are Jews, especially the ones who refuse to kneel to the dictates of Sharon and his obsequious state-side “supporters” (Perle, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Lieberman, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, George Bush etc.). Still, I never should have fallen for the bait laid out by Uncle Dom, so deviously cunning in his ignorance. Eighty-year-old Uncle Dom. Self described Italian Catholic. Mind like a steel trap: cold, hard, empty.
I listened silently as he declared that if Bush wasn’t MAN enough to take out Saddam and the Saudis, the REAL culprits behind the WTC massacre, why, Old Uncle Dom would do the job himself. And anyway, why wasn’t I supporting Israel, the only democracy in the region? What was I, some kind of Arab-loving anti-Semite?
How stupid I was to ask Uncle Dom what books or articles, he had read on the subject of Palestine!
“Look, I don’t have any facts. But what I think is…” and he went back to his tirade as the 54 inch television behind us blared the happy flag-waving minions in Times Square. It’s one thing to wave the flag on fourth of July if that’s your thing, but on New Years Eve? When did this “tradition” begin?
Who can argue with such a brilliant rhetorical craftsman as Uncle Dom? “I don’t have any facts. But what I think is…” would later have me lying in bed for two days, staring at the wall, as if trying to figure out a Zen Koan. Nevertheless, I had to think of some kind of reply. People had taken interest in our little debate. A good number had even turned their backs to the giant screen and encircled us, perhaps hoping we would come to blows. Tough old buzzard, Uncle Dom was, and I was no kid myself. Still, I wasn’t 38 YET, and I bet I could have taken him. But really it would have been so unseemly to pummel my wife’s revered uncle in his own home, where my in-laws’ annual New Years Eve gathering took place.
To add insult to injury, Uncle Jay chimed in, “Yeah, what are you, some kind of Jew hater or something?”
Uncle Jay was one of those impossibly fat specimens of Manhood one might see chasing a tiny Philippine “mail order bride” around the set of a daytime talk show, demanding his “conjugal rights.” Real wide load. Phone company assigned different area codes to various of his Allegheny-sized flesh ranges so as not to be gypped on out-of-region calls.
“Geez, Uncle Jay. I thought if anyone would understand the complexities of the situation it would be you. You’re Irish, for god’s sake. Haven’t you ever read “Ulysses?”
“Yes. As a matter of fact I did,” said Uncle Jay, proudly. “And I believe he was one of the finest Generals ever to serve this nation. Whatever his faults as a President.”
Okay, so I was really out-gunned.
“Look,” I reasoned, carefully. “I never, ever said or would say that I didn’t support the right of the Israeli people to live peacefully and prosperously behind the 1967 borders, or Israel proper. Same way I support the right of the Chinese to live in China, or the Indonesians to live in Indonesia. But I sure as hell don’t support the Chinese annexation of Tibet or all the nightmares and slaughter Indonesia brought to East Timor. Or the Turkish and Iraqi treatment of the Kurds. You can support the right of people to live in peace in their own country without having to condone the violence and criminality of their government. It’s like I ‘support’ the people who live in the U.S., but I sure as hell don’t ‘support’ the policies of that war-mongering bully in the White House. He’s not even a real President.”
Oops. Now I’d done it.
“Well I don’t know what country YOU live in, but George Bush is MY President. He’s America’s President, voted in by the people of the USA,” Uncle Dom declared proudly, truculently.
“Well, no, actually, he wasn’t. He was granted the presidency by the Supreme Court. But let’s not go there,” I said, hastily. “Okay. Try this on for size. You ‘support’ the people of Italy, right?”
“Hell yeah. I’m an Italian. I must have visited Italy two dozen times. Not including the War.”
“What war?” he looked around, grinning, incredulous. “The war to save DEMOCRACY against FASCISM. The Second World War. I did what I had to do in that war. It wasn’t pretty, like you kids see in the movies. But I did what I had to. I served my country. And I was young enough to be YOUR son. Twenty years old, I was.”
“Okay, then. So you didn’t support the Italian people during WWII?”
“What’s the Italian people got to do with it? I was fighting’ Hitler and Mussolini. I was LIBERATING the Italian people from fascism so they could live free like us, dammit.”
“Right. So you admit that you can support the right of a certain people to live in peace and freedom, while not supporting the actions of their government, which, in the case of Italy, was authoritarian, fascist and oppressive.”
“What the hell are you talking? You saying Israel is fascist?” asked Uncle Dom, incredulously.
“No, not at all. I’m just saying that a ‘people’s’ will is not the same thing as the will of their government. Even in a democracy, so called.”
“Look, I’ll tell you what I know, and I know this for a fact,” said Uncle Dom. “The United Nations gave the Jews that land in 1948. It was a legal authority, recognized by the world as a legal authority, and they gave Israel to the Jews legally and if the Arabs have a problem with that fuck them. That’s why we’re gonna kick Saddam’s ass. And those Saudis who bombed the WTC. No respect for international authority.”
“But it wasn’t the United Nations’ land to give.”
“Well, yeah, England’s. But the Jews kicked their asses the hell out of there, and rightfully so.”
“It wasn’t England’s land either. It was Palestinian land, belonging to Palestinians, the majority of whom were Moslems living with, but often fighting against, both Christian and Jewish minorities for at least a thousand years. Where did the UN get the authority to give any land to anyone without consulting the people who lived there?”
“Don’t you tell me about the UN. I fought in that damn war to help create it. It’s a legal body. A necessary authority created to settle things DEMOCRATICALLY.”
“Okay. How about his. Say I want half of your house…”
“Fuck you, you want half of my house. I’ll kick your -“
“Hypothetically. I want half of your house. This house we’re in right now. I go to the local police, a legitimate legal authority, and I say, ‘I want Uncle Dom’s House.’ Now the cops say, ‘No, that wouldn’t be right.'”
“Damn right it wouldn’t,” snarled Uncle Dom.
“But what the cops do say is that they’ll give me HALF your house. That would be fair, the cops say. Now, since they’re a legitimate legal authority, we gotta go along with their judgment. So I move into half your house and you and your family can take the other half.”
Uncle Dom got a kick outta this. He turned to our now rather sizeable group of listeners and said, “Getta load of this guy! I invite him to one party and already he’s taking half my fucking house.”
“Now suppose,” I continued, “I start raising a family. Suddenly the half of the house the cops gave me isn’t enough. Also, I have relatives coming from all over who want to stay with me. So I start moving into your half of the house and making changes. Add a bed here, do some restructuring there, change the wall-paper. Little by little, your half starts becoming my half. See what I’m saying?”
“No, I don’t see. In fact this whole thing about you moving into my house is pissing me off. Let’s get back to the real argument. These Palestinians have no right to be fucking with Israel. Ever look at a goddam map? They have these huge countries all over the Arab world they can go to. Why make so much trouble over that little slip of real estate? Crazy. Just crazy is all.”
“What do you mean ‘Arab world?’ Syria? Jordan? Egypt? That’s like kicking half the Spaniards out of Spain and saying, ‘Hey, no problem. They can just go to France or Germany or, or Italy -“
“It’s the countdown! It’s the countdown!” someone cried.
“10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
Champaign popping, plastic horns tooting, hugs, kisses and another trip around the Sun. I withdrew from Uncle Dom and ushered in 2003 and my thirty-eighth year on this sad planet in the comforting arms of my wife.
“Happy Birthday, baby. Happy New Year,” she said.
Behind me I heard Uncle Dom talking to a new group of less adversarial listeners.
“How do you like the nerve of those North Koreans, starting up all this crap with nukes? We’re gonna have to start throwing our weight around. Iraq. Saudi Arabia. North Korea. Just take ’em all out, take the oil, and be done with it. You think we can’t do it? We can do anything we fucking want.”
ADAM ENGEL can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org