I was attempting to psychoanalyze the tea-partiers, when someone helpfully Twittered this article from New York magazine, titled Clash of the Bearded Ones, Hipsters, Hasids, and the Williamsburg Street.
All I could say was: Whoa.
Simply change the names of the principle protagonists, and it could be right here in Greenville; instead of "Hasids"--insert "Bob Jones University"--and you have the ongoing Culture War of Greenville. It's utterly amazing how little difference there is between the two groups, right down to the clothes.
Fundamentalists have so much in common, regardless of the religion in question.
Like the Brooklynites, we also have the situation of the new arrivals... the oodles of mega-trendy folk moving into lofts converted from old textile and cotton mills. Who worked in those mills? The BJU people's kinfolks, that's who. As I also wrote here, it can be particularly galling to be called a redneck and priced out of the town you built, as well as the actual neighborhood you grew up in. This feud is also about class and class-mobility; global vs local, and a host of other issues.
As my regular readers know, I dislike the Bob Jones people, and I doubt I'd get on any better with the Hasids. But they were there before anyone else... and I think that does count for something. (We seem to believe that it does count when discussing Native Americans, but not when discussing fundamentalists who have lived in one locale for a long period, and made said locale the desirable location it has now become.)
From the article:
The hipster incursion began in the late nineties and was first written off as a fluke—some strangely dressed types poking around the abandoned warehouses and factories. The initial reaction, says Isaac Abraham, who has lived in the neighborhood for 58 years after emigrating from Austria (“Schwarzenegger country!”), was indifference. “Maybe the red carpet wasn’t out for them, but they came in masses and there was no objection from the community. Everybody went on with their daily lives.”Yowza, it's the same language! And the same concept: a war with the Domestic Evildoers.
But after a while, says one Hasidic real-estate developer, “People started talking to the rabbis—‘Hey, something’s happening, all these young white people are moving in.’ ” When the Satmars [Brooklyn Hasids] realized that the Artisten—the Yiddish name they used for the bewildering newcomers—were there to stay, something like panic set in. Rabbis exhorted landlords not to rent to the Artisten, builders not to build for them. One flyer asked God to “please remove from upon us the plague of the artists, so that we shall not drown in evil waters, and so that they shall not come to our residence to ruin it.’’ Rabbi Zalman Leib Fulop announced that the Artisten were “a bitter decree from Heaven,” a biblical trial.
The hyper-conservative Bob Jones folks (and their fellow travelers) are especially fond of this Old Testament verse: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land."--II Chronicles 7:14.
They wear it on T-shirts and everything. If you were watching the various news networks' coverage of the recent tea-party rally in Washington D.C. (which they memorably held on the 15th anniversary of Timothy McVeigh's terrorist mass murder... aren't they just so cute with that shit?)*... then of course, you saw the t-shirt multiple times.
More from the article:
[In] 2007, came the bike lane, part of a citywide push to make streets more cycling-friendly. As bike lanes go, it wasn’t as plush as the ones springing up in Manhattan these days; it wasn’t even as nice as the one on neighboring Kent Avenue. But Bedford is Williamsburg’s main thoroughfare, and the pathway immediately found a thriving clientele. Morning to night, boys and girls whipped by Hasid minivans on their fixed-gears, hoods and hems flapping, thoughtful produce rattling in the baskets. It’s not that people didn’t bike down Bedford before, but the lane threw them into relief, marked them as a category.Yes, a war over a bike lane. (You really need to read the whole thing!) I could easily see the same thing happening over on Wade Hampton Boulevard, which is why there will never be a bike lane over there.
The Satmars were incensed. Hasids are prohibited from looking at improperly dressed members of the opposite sex, and some complained that the women cycling through their neighborhood were an affront. “It’s a major issue, women passing through here in that dress code,” Simon Weiser, a Hasidic member of Community Board 1, told the Post. “Most Hasids have acclimated to living in New York,” says Sholom Deen, a semi-lapsed Hasid who, since 2003, has been publishing a blog called Hasidic Rebel. But each fresh bit of modernism—the Gretsch Building, the bus ads for Sex and the City—tends to touch off an uproar, he says, and the bikes were something new altogether: “It’s a direct intrusion.” The city, having spent $11,000 on the bike lane, appeared to encourage that intrusion, and the cyclists themselves seemed, if not improper, impudent. It felt like a seniority issue. “How long have you lived in the community that you now want to make the rules and totally ignore my opinion, when I’ve lived here for 50 years?” Abraham says. “You just got here. You either offer to help and do as the Romans do, or …”—and here Abraham goes into a spirited, if odd, impression of a spoiled young man—“ ‘I live here now. I lived here for ten years, and now I’m going to make rules for the entire community!’ ”
For a full year, the city seemed to ignore the hipster-Hasid war. Then, on December 1, 2009, came a sudden announcement. The Department of Transportation—under Janette Sadik-Khan, the bike-friendliest commissioner it’s ever had—was going to rip up “a small portion” of the lane between Flushing and Division Avenues, fourteen blocks in all. The deal to remove the lane is said to have been quietly brokered as far back as last April. Just about everyone’s assumption, including that of more than a few Hasids, is that Michael Bloomberg had needed the Satmars—who tend to vote enthusiastically and in a single block—in the upcoming election and that this was an easy bone to throw them.
On December 1, a crew of municipal workers descended on Bedford, sandblasting the lane and its stenciled biker figures off the asphalt. The next day, a group of three bike activists—Quinn Hechtropf, Katherine Piccochi, and a man we’ll call Ben—had an idea. That Friday night, around 3 a.m., they hit the street with aerosol cans and handmade stencils. According to Ben, more than a few Satmars saw them paint. “As they walked by, I made sure I said hello, explained to them that we’re not vandalizing the street, and asked if they wanted to help,” he says. “At first, they were a little standoffish, but a couple of guys had a sense of humor about it.” But by Saturday, fresh snow covered the group’s efforts, and the painters, encouraged by the adventure’s relative ease and cheered on by myriad bike blogs, decided to finish the job Sunday night.
And then, there is this side-account of some guys in a deli:
Right now, on a slow Thursday afternoon, the talk of the deli is Rachel, an 18-year-old Hasidic girl who “went off”—the local term for breaking with tradition.I think this is what strikes abject fear into the hearts of all fundamentalists, and the author of the New York piece, Michael Idov, goes straight for it. I am thinking of that old hippie/biker bumper sticker: We have come for your daughters. Yes, this is the heart of it, and Idov knows it:
“She got a huge tattoo,” reports Baruch Herzfeld to a gangly copper-haired cook in full beard and payess.
“No way,” says the cook, ecstatic. “No. Way.”
“Seriously. She shows it if you ask, too. Right here”—Herzfeld points at his thigh. “So fucking hot.”
The cook just grins.
Herzfeld grabs his iPhone and opens Facebook, searching for photos of Rachel. The Hasidic Facebook is its own phenomenon, a parallel universe where the prim girls you see on the street in turban hats and snub-nosed forties shoes post their bikini snapshots and glamorously lit studio pictures. Herzfeld enthusiastically scrolls through his four-figure friend list, picking out the hotties for us to look at. “Esther. Hot girl. Her father is super-religious. The interesting part is how many friends they have. Look: 273 friends. Most of them are Hasidic guys.”...
It is the undercurrent of thwarted lust beneath the Satmars’ pious exterior that’s causing the tension with the Artisten, Herzfeld believes (“Orthodox is you don’t want to look at a girl in a bathing suit. Ultra-Orthodox is you want to close down a beach”). And it’s also what will bring about the sect’s downfall, he says.And for the record, I believe this is true of Bob Jones University also. I've lived here for 22 years, and I've heard a lot of gossip; some of the kids can't wait to break loose, and don't waste any time doing it.
Herzfeld is convinced there’s a massive generational split within the Hasidic community...
The internal inconsistencies certainly don't help, such as telling the faithful that Catholicism is evil, then paying the Church around a million dollars to get your son a Ph.D. from Notre Dame (?)... or claiming that Mormonism is an evil false gospel, all whilst backing a Mormon for president (?). Bob Jones (like the two Rabbis Teitelbaum of the Brooklyn Hasids) has one standard for himself, and another for the faithful. Very cultish, but seemingly acceptable to the cult. Go figure. One hopes that after awhile, they will wise up.
In any event, I am surrounded by conservatives, and I can feel their hostility towards the hip, young newcomers. I can also feel the derision of the newcomers, as they take for granted the beauty and good manners of the upstate, carefully crafted and cared for by the same people they despise.
Stay tuned, sports fans.
* Another internal inconsistency: we have tea-partiers claiming to be for law and order (or what Abbie Hoffman used to call Lawn Order), and openly celebrating a mass-murdering terrorist of 168 people. I ask you, would lefties be allowed to say "whoops!" and wink at the camera in the case of such a "coincidence"? Ha, not hardly. Why didn't they change the day of the rally? Obviously, this was intentional. Thank God, Bill Clinton didn't hold back.