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 “Too Goyish” 

March 9, 2006 
In Nora Ephron’s witty novel Heartburn, the narrator, a New York Jew, says she Today's column is "'Too Goyish'" -- Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.could never feel at home in Washington, D.C., because it was “too goyish.”

I disagree with her about Washington, but I cracked up when I read that. The phrase perfectly captures something I’ve felt many times. You don’t have to be Jewish to see her point.

I like goyim, being one myself, but there can be too much of a good thing. Take my own family — please! As a boy in Michigan, I used to suffer the most excruciating boredom when I was trapped in a houseful of aunts — nice ladies, every one of them — who were watching Lawrence Welk on TV and gossiping excitedly about the Lennon sisters. I didn’t know the phrase yet, and wouldn’t have understood it, but that was a perfect example of something being “too goyish.”

This may be the chief reason — unstated, even unarticulated — why young people run away from home. I grew up in Ypsilanti, a goyish factory town, but I always gravitated to nearby Ann Arbor, which was far more exciting and, I now realize, a lot less goyish.

Later in life, as my journalistic career took me around the country, I often found myself in desolate places west of the Mississippi where there was nothing to read at breakfast but USA Today. No bookstores, no New York Times except maybe back at the airport. Such places are definitely too goyish. Even the Jews there, I regret to say, often seem goyish. The entire state of Texas is too goyish, except for Kinky Friedman.

I blame many of this country’s current problems on the fact that President Bush and Vice President Cheney are — there is no nice way to say it — much too goyish. This makes them easy for neoconservatives to manipulate, but it also explains lots of other things. When was the last time you heard of a Jew having a hunting accident?

[Breaker quote for '"Too Goyish"': The apt phrase]One could make a long list of famous people who are too goyish. George Will, though he is very intelligent and has a fine sense of irony, is too goyish. Britney Spears is far from brainy and a little short in the irony department, but all the more goyish for that. Even George and Britney are nearly always goyish names.

To some people — Adolf Hitler is perhaps the classic example — the very idea of something being “too” goyish seems a contradiction in terms. As far as people like that are concerned, the world can never be goyish enough! But I’ll bet that if Hitler had been stuck for a week in west Texas, he would have changed his tune.

To me, Jews are like garlic. I wouldn’t want to eat nothing but garlic, but life would be poorer without it giving duller foods its flavor. Too much of a good thing.

At times, New York City has seemed to me a bit too Jewish, and I understand why people call it “a nice place to visit, but” et cetera. Some Jews, I’ll grant you, can’t talk about anything but being Jewish, and I suspect that two of the chief causes of anti-Semitism are Abe Foxman and Alan Dershowitz. Still, you can’t blame all Jews for them. The Jews are far from perfect, but they couldn’t possibly be as bad as their defenders make them sound.

Are the Jews ethnocentric? That’s like asking if they’re human. Turn the question around. Is America sometimes a little too full of itself? G.K. Chesterton had the best comment on that: “The real American is all right. It is the ideal American who is all wrong.” Amen! The same could be said of many nationalities. The real people often turn out to be much better than their ideals. That’s because the real people are human, even if their superhuman ideals are actually inhuman.

Today’s exaggerated talk about anti-Semitism — thanks a lot, Hitler! — may give one the impression that Jews are easy to hate. This is itself a kind of group libel, as well as a cause of needless anxiety. Is it natural to hate George Gershwin, Sandy Koufax, Steven Spielberg, and your family doctor? Not to mention a thousand great comedians and wits who have kept us goyim in stitches for generations? Ignore the politicians and professional victims, and look at the achievers.

On the whole, the Jews have saved this country from remaining too goyish. The man who makes you laugh at yourself is your benefactor.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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