I recently came across Orthodox Jewess Gital Dodelson's article about being denied a divorce by her husband.* I understand the criticisms of her: For example, no matter what the pressures, if she was perfectly skeptical when she was younger she should not have agreed to marry this guy in the first place. Okay. However, now, she should be given a divorce; the man ought to have no right to hold her hostage to any demands, and we've seen how misleading the Weisses have been in their fight for public opinion (see you guys, we agreed to the "arbitrator's" recommendations...never mind that we know from this rabbi himself that the parties never mutually agreed to him being either arbitrator or mediator because, you know, who cares about silly rules saying not to be misleading? Torah, what's that?).
But no, instead people have just decided that she's evil. That she's by necessity a horrible parent for putting her story in the New York Post after waiting for a divorce for 4 (count 'em!) years. That as one regular commenter put it on one popular rabbi's Facebook wall, she just doesn't want the get. That people who claim to want to make sure "both sides of the story" are heard will link to stuff from the man and then neglect to link to the refutations. And these aren't right-wing haredi Orthodox Jews, those people disappeared from my life a long time ago. These are otherwise rational, sophisticated, modern Orthodox people, some of them who were on the right side of history in so many of our other fights: on The Slifkin Affair where a rabbi was basically drummed out of the community and his books were banned for teaching science, on the anti-Internet International Conference in the U.S. Against the Scourge of Technology (asifah), on the fight against abuse in the community.
This is a situation where the survivor of the difficult situation is being portrayed as the aggressor and thus cannot be given a just resolution. I've seen this over and over again, both in history and in my own encounters with people. We were told that women and minorities were intellectual inferiors of white men and thus mustn't be allowed to ballot since they would destroy everything white people had worked for. We were told that Hollywood screenwriters and musicians were involved in a plot to subversively destroy the United States, when really Joe McCarthy was tearing the nation apart. We were told, quite seriously, that gay people just have sex out of a hatred for God. We were told that kids sent to behavior mod institutions deserved whatever they got because "tough love" dictated it and surely they mostly came out better for their treatment, except for the lazy ones. Speaking of laziness, we were told the poor were "takers" of "my tax dollars" and thus food stamps had to be cut to discourage a "culture of dependency;" big farm bill subsidies, OTOH, had to continue. We were told that dead rabbis who were more modern had to have their records whitewashed because otherwise the truths of their positions would just "confuse" people; besides, said the hagiographers, if they were alive today really they'd agree with us. We were told that kids were just making up that they had been abused and wanted to get back at the rabbis. We were told that Slifkin was just making trouble and his "tone" meant he deserved whatever he got. We were told that there is nothing wrong with the situation where the atheist was locked out of his house because a rabbi told his wife to keep his corrupting influence the hell out (she eventually, thank goodness, decided to ignore him and other rabbis; the couple remains married today). And now we're told that Gital Dodelson just doesn't want a get, is a horrible parent, that only her husband's "side of the story" needs to be given in full while her side's refutations must be ignored. I guess this story was just sort of a last straw for me. I get all this now, I see it all in its context.
The lines of modern neo-Burkean hierarchical cultural warfare are thusly drawn. Oh, don't start. Yes, I know, it's possible that the more powerful forces are sometimes in the right. I think they historically have been from time to time: Rich conservative Bourbon Democrats were probably right that we shouldn't have done that Prohibition thing for example. Good for them. But that the interests of elites sometimes coincide with the peoples' interests does not make the two the same; business, at the end of the day, is business.
Those elites "standing athwart history" have always fought, and fought hard, for...well, their side. Thankfully in some of these cases we have fought back, and gained hard-earned victories; certainly there are many hopeful signs in the Dodelson case. But in many cases, there is little hope to speak of: I admire the work CAFETY does, but let's face facts, they are only a spark in a wellspring of darkness for kids who have physically and emotionally abused by troubled teen industry institutions throughout the country; Rep. George Miller's common-sense Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2013 will likely be killed by Republicans in committee just as his similar bill did in 2011, lacking advocacy in all quarters. Food stamps are getting draconian cuts, with only a few lone liberal voices standing up for the poor.
As old fashioned as it may sound, I think that now is the time to show some real Solidarity with our fellow...victims? No, survivors of all types and stripes, because survivors fight back.
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