13 April 2014
The Blame Game, in addition to being the name of a popular song, is an expression that means finding someone/something to blame when things go badly. While the term is new, the action is eons old. It’s not just used to refer to individuals or a small group, but entire social groups, usually ethnic groups other than one’s own that can be used as scapegoats for all and any causes. “Die Juden sind unser Ungluck.”, German for “the Jews are our misfortune.”, appeared at the bottom on the front page of Der Steurmer, the Nazi weekly newspaper. But blaming others is certainly not limited to the Nazis. It seems to appear in most cultures and frequently works on stereotypes of ethnic minority groups. Witness Irish jokes, Polish jokes, East Frisian jokes, Newfie jokes, all of which are pretty much the same, with one ethnic group’s name replacing the other.
Years ago, my friend Harry came up with Yfem jokes. They are no more than the standard ethnic jokes, but instead of being told about Irish, Poles, etc. they’re told about Yfems, an acronym for Your Favorite Ethnic Minority. The nice thing about Yfem jokes is that one can tell them and not be accused of bigotry or bias against any one particular group. And, to my shame, I find some ethnic jokes fairly funny. For example:
Two Yfems went to a fair and each bought a horse. On the way back Yfem1 (if I used a real name, you could tell which group was being singled out here, so I won’t do that), says to Yfem2, “How will we tell them apart?” Yfem 2 says, “Let’s cut the mane off your horse and that’s how we’ll know.” This works for a while, but they notice that the mane is starting to grow back. So Yfem1 says, “Let’s measure their height”. When they did, they discovered that the white horse was 8″ taller than the black horse. That’s funny and it could be told about any ethnic group, especially the Yfems.
The point of this is that names, particularly ethnic slur names and stereotyped jokes play an important role in the blame game. And often the use of the name itself is enough to generate a visceral reaction. In the Middle East, the word “Arab” sets off many Jewish Israelis, and the similar case holds for the word, “Jew” or “Israeli”. If you’re interested in such things, there is an earlier post about the name of the Washington NFL team.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Where is he going with this?”. The Ukraine. I’m wondering what pejorative names the Russians have for the Ukrainians and vice versa, so they know whom to name and blame. Or, they could just blame it on the Jews.
14 April 2014
Just after I wrote this, I heard about the events in Kansas City in which a man with a history of anti-Semitic and racist remarks shot 3 people at Jewish centers. In posts, he blamed the country’s problems on allowing the Jews to take over.
Ironically, all three were not Jewish.
18 April 2014
Following on this theme, in the city of Donetsk, Ukraine pamphlets were circulated required all Jews to register at the Donetsk People’s Republic office by May 3. This happened the week before Easter. Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus, whom th Jews killed just a few days earlier. Actually, they didn’t, but that’s of no matter. This time of year is rich in anti-Semitism and includes the blood libel in which Jews are accused of slaughtering young children to use their blood in the Passover seder.
At these times, I’m reminded of the song, “It’s a Wonderful World.”