Three Things You're Not Allowed to Discuss: Sex, Race, and Religion

There are certain taboo topics in polite society - here they are!

Posted Nov 09, 2011

Observing the American political scene, where attitudes and behavior are dissected daily, you learn there are certain topics that are simply verboten. For example, Herman Cain's latest accuser spoke of the Republican candidate forcing her head towards his crotch – uh-oh – oral sex

Watch TV commentators handle that one like a child talking about going to the bathroom and breaking into uncontrollable giggles.  As for anal sex – even sexologists aren't allowed to discuss that – especially if you combine it with teen sex – a taboo topic on its own!

As for masturbation, forget about it.  Remember George Clooney politely discussing "rubbing one out" with Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air?  Remember Congressman Anthony Weiner mentioning going to the bathroom to relieve himself after some racy talk with the woman in Nevada -- how that made television talking heads break into a sweat?

But the absolutely most impossible thing to talk about is female sexuality, particularly self-sexuality –witness the media upheaval when Barbara Walters termed a vibrator a "necessity."

But let's move on to the difficult topics. Like how Barack Obama could never have become president if he had married a white woman.  That he would do so was certainly a strong possibility, given that he had lived his whole life with white people.  Obama's selection of a wonderful African-American wife was a testament – certainly to true love! – but to political necessity as well.

Okay, are you ready for the difficult topics now? Which of the Comedy Central news commentators – Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart – is more reliably liberal?  One of them was born into the most liberal ethnic group in America – I won't say which of the two.  But the most liberal religious-ethinc group are American Jews. They traditionally vote Democratic – and did so for Obama.

Jews have always been accused of "cosmoplitanism" – that is, of being the most open to non-traditional elements in their cultures – from the arts, to politics, to, well, sex.  The people whose masturbation habits I have discussed are. . . . I mean, belong to this ethnic group. As one woman told me, her Jewish lovers had fewer restrictons to their love-making because "they don't believe in heaven and hell."  Readers – discuss among yourselves.

Okay, I think we're ready to progress to the most unspeakable topic of all in American media and politics – American Jews and Israel.  That is, while Jews endorse the most liberal positions of any ethnic group in regards to sex, political liberties, minority rights – Israel is a different matter.  For many or most Jews, Israel's status is more important than the rights of the oppressed Palestinians – ethinc solidarity trumps cosmoplitanism in this arena.

Except, some Jews are so darn cosmoplitan, they criticize – gingerly – this disconnect. One example who has thus far escaped being lynched is NY Times political columnist Roger Cohen.  Cohen is a South African Jew, raised partly in England, now an American, a long-time international correspondent who is – how shall I put it – less reflexively pro-Israel than most of his fellow religionists.

In his recent column, "The Last Jew in Zagare" (that's in Lithuania, if that's any help), Cohen points out that his own grandparents were from this region, where the Nazis quickly dispatched the local Jewish population in the most brutal, efficent, thorough way imaginable -- through mass executions.

Cohen then draws a parallel -- I'm not brave enough to say it.  Here's a paragraph from his column:

Carrying Zagare in my blood, aware of what centuries of Jewish precariousness have wrought, I believe the case for Israel was and remains overwhelming, but an Israel that condemns another people to permanent exile is not the one its founders imagined.

All right, I've wandered as much as I dare into forbidden territory -- anyone who reads this, forget I said anything.  Go back to your usual attitudes toward sex, race, and religion -- be happy!

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