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On Makings Lists & Nonpareils

I love making lists. Who doesn’t? I have a million. I have them in my phone, on my computers, online… I have a list on my phone of eponyms, or aptonyms: people whose name describes their job. It’s impossibly common: Jonathan Buck from Fish & Wildlife, Emily Cook the chef, Jane Welcome the visit coordinator at UVM…. I have lists of gifts, lists of what to do, lists of movies to watch. On the weekends I like to make a paper list of tasks to get done. I keep it on the kitchen counter and I sometimes write something on it after I did it just so I can cross it off.

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I love making lists. Who doesn’t? I have a million. I have them in my phone, on my computers, online… I have a list on my phone of eponyms, or aptonyms: people whose name describes their job. It’s impossibly common: Jonathan Buck from Fish & Wildlife, Emily Cook the chef, Jane Welcome the visit coordinator at UVM…. I have lists of gifts, lists of what to do, lists of movies to watch. On the weekends I like to make a paper list of tasks to get done. I keep it on the kitchen counter and I sometimes write something on it after I did it just so I can cross it off.

Lately I keep having nightmares about having to escape. And about being separated from my six-year-old daughter. There isn’t a Jew in this country who hasn’t had a nightmare about a Holocaust in America. Maybe there isn’t a black person who hasn’t had nightmare about slavery or getting shot by a cop. I don’t know; I never asked. My heart aches for all the groups with nightmare scenarios of their own. We don’t want to be on those lists. The lists they hold when the bad guys come in the night and take you away. The nightmare.

Social media is replete with posts of outrage over Steve Bannon, Anti-Semite-In-Chief. Posts of anger and bitterness. These give me nightmares if I see them before bed.

I need to make a list. And I need you to, too. We need to make a list of the things we can do. We do not need to waste our precious energy complaining. Sometimes it’s helpful to discuss. I mean, I get that. The informed debate is what makes us us, and I suppose I am grateful for that. But we need to protest. To call our representatives. We need to volunteer and donate and run for office. We don’t need to be wasting our outrage on kvetching on social media. Yes, I’m seeing the irony here.

I like to say that Jews are nonpareils. We’re white on the outside and brown on the inside. We look white and can pretend we’re white if we want to. But I’ve never felt white a day in my life except the time in 1998 when I was working on a Get Out The Vote operation for the Democratic Party in northern Manhattan. I was driving a bunch of volunteers in the car, who were black, and we were inexplicably stopped by a cop whose sole purpose was to shine a bright flashlight into the eyes of my friends and glare at them. Then he looked at me and told me we could go. I was stunned. Partially because he had so thoroughly validated the racism accusations of the NYPD under then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and partly because I was the one who was white, apparently. My friends told me not to worry, that that happened to them all the time.

Seventy percent of America is white. Fifty-eight percent of that block voted for Trump, and I think the remainder is in my Facebook feed complaining about him and wearing safety pins. Maybe your empathy is just wasted on me. I don’t know. But I think it’s time for us to make lists. Lists of what we are going to do.

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