Throughout my life, I’ve been condemned as a bad representative of my group.
I fear my critics are right. I am a bad representative. I don’t think I’ve put any group I’ve belonged to in a good light.
“Why don’t you scathe somebody else?” has been a frequent response to my antics.
I have an ambivalent relationship to community. With the exception of a few years, I’ve always belonged to a traditional religious community but always straining against it at the same time. I’ve belonged to the Los Angeles Press Club but made life difficult for myself by writing bad things about its members.
I often find group membership suffocating and I have to get away, to loosen my ties so that I can retain some freedom of speech.
For instance, I think Orthodox Judaism and Alexander Technique and 12-step programs are frequently awesome for people but simultaneously I have no problem reading about the downsides to all of these things. I have no problem musing aloud and on my blog about the ups and downs of such memberships.
I guess I want to be an individual. I remember dating this woman who hated Orthodox Judaism and she had all these hateful preconceptions about who I was simply from the fact I davened (prayed) in Orthodox shuls. Many of her preconceptions were far removed from reality. In some ways, I am not a typical Orthodox Jew. Yet even a year into the relationship, she was still relating to me as a representative of this hated group and not for the individual I am.
I don’t go up to black people and say, hey, what do you think of Barack Obama? I treat people as individuals, not primarily as representatives of groups.
Usually being a good representative of your school or of your group means that you say nothing publicly that could reflect ill upon your team. I find that suffocating.
Out of all the groups I’ve belonged to, I think I have the most respect for Judaism for the way it balances the freedom of the individual with the needs of the group. I have no desire to live along and no desire to live in anarchy. Social ties are important to me and so is group membership.