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Atonement for Assholes

Organized religion is full of contradictions-for example, could God create a boulder so heavy that He cannot lift it, and then create a heavier boulder that would outweigh the combined bloat of Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh?-and here is one of them:

"God will accept repentance for all sins except one: giving another man a bad name."

-The Zohar

 "It is a wise man that admits the truth."

-The Mishnah


What if admitting the truth means giving someone a bad name? Should we apologize for hurting others’ feelings after exposing their malevolence and hypocrisy? Is it better to speak charitably or honestly? And why do these questions keep me awake at night?

I am a professional asshole. My job (nay, my purpose on earth) is to mercilessly pierce the bullshit-ridden exoskeleton of society with my blazing katana of unfiltered rhetorical justice, decapitate the scum-sucking charlatans of this planet and make sweet, sweet love to their cleanly severed skulls. Somebody has to do it, and yet I feel bad whenever I make somebody else feel bad; the Katana of Truth is a double-edged sword.

I’ve previously detailed my social ineptitude here on Jewcy, and I haven’t changed much with a couple years of age (except that I’m way hotter now whereas you are uglier). Consider my behavior last weekend at a party with law school students whom I’d never met:

  • Mocked two brothers because they failed to make it into Harvard like their father

  • Told a disheveled guy that he looked like future divorce attorney and his first client would be himself

  • Informed a dude that the band on his t-shirt sucks, always a classy and well-liked move

  • Laughed in a Texan’s face because Alaska, my homeland, is more than twice the size of her shitty redneck state

  • To blonde couple: "You look like master race Aryans straight out of a Swiss Miss commercial, did you know that?"

  • To Catholic chick: "So you fuck like crazy but don’t use condoms because Jesus would send you to hell, right?"

Yes, I am hilarious, but I awoke in the morning and felt guilty for acting like a callous boozehound prick to everyone. It made me wonder if I’ve matured any since a party back in college where I tried to talk a random coed into a threesome with my girlfriend, yet forgot to technically ask my lovely girlfriend beforehand if she would be interested in conducting such an experiment? (She was not interested, as it turned out, plus the random coed was her classmate; the remainder of the semester was excruciatingly awkward for both of them.)

So I am a drunken mess with zero self-control, yet I feel bad for my unstoppable outbursts. And the strangest goddamn thing is that people seem to love – if they don’t despise me, and sometimes even if they do – when I am heaping shame upon myself. Whenever I am bashful, modest, nuanced, evenhanded, conciliatory and self-reflective (in other words: whenever I am sober), eyes glaze over and everyone is bored to death. When I amp up the testosterone to eleven and say whatever the fuck wants to come out of my mouth, I am the life of the party. Even if I am repulsing everybody in the room, at least I am interesting, which is more than you can say about yourself; it is difficult to shake the knowledge, however, that people will love you for your worst traits as a person.  Which cliché holds the most wisdom: "say what you mean and mean what you say" or "if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all"?

My parents gave me a sense of humor and a sense of decorum, which often clash with each other. My father is a very funny, crude, opinionated guy, whereas my mother is careful to avoid controversy, takes the middle ground whenever possible and has (admirably and astonishingly) never offended anyone. As a child my primary role models were total contradictions, and now I am a contradiction: a bashful jackass, a bastard with a heart of gold.  I have the mouth of a dick and the soul of a pussy, and this disconnect is a source of bewilderment whenever I look in the mirror, which is often because I enjoy masturbating all over it. As a reviewer wrote of my most recent book: "The fatal flaw is that, deep down, Beckerman has a heart… Beckerman’s not misanthropic enough to not care, and so comes back to say that he was just kidding about all the non-politically correct stuff-which takes away the little shock value that expressing the sentiments had in the first place."

The problem is that being a prick doesn’t work when you only take it 50 percent of the way, but taking it 100 percent means drowning out your conscience, chucking your empathy and shutting down your humanity. In politics, for example, the most successful pundits are those who spew incendiary dogma, feed anger to the masses, refuse to see shades of gray and define the other side as pure evil instead of seriously considering their motivations; you can make a LOT of money doing this, but it will make you a piece of shit. It’s easy to be a showman; it’s hard to be a human at the same time.

When I was a cub reporter for the Anchorage Daily News’ teen page, I went to a festival of psychics who charged $$ to read minds, tell the future, etc. A grandmotherly woman tried to peer into my soul; I went on to write an article titled "Drowning in Bullshit at the Winter Psychic Fair" (the ADN omitted "shit"), which scathingly derided the notion that humans have mental superpowers. According to my editor, the octogenarian medium phoned the newspaper’s office on the verge of tears after publication, wondering why I had been so vicious to a sweet old lady. Nothing is more hilarious than making 80-year-old women cry, of course, but I felt guilty over my comedy for the first time; I had learned that a writer can inflict pain with the power of the pen. (For the record, the psychic did predict I would struggle with two sides of my personality, so maybe it wasn’t bullshit after all. She also predicted that I would become the greatest writer since William Shakespeare, but I already knew that.)

In August Slate‘s Jack Shafer confessed: "I’m actually not a fan of any kind of humor. The very essence of humor is aggression. The point of most jokes is to inflict psychological suffering and pain-to transgress and make someone the butt. This is why I’ve declared my journalism, my office, my home, and the subway line I commute to work on absolutely comedy free." There is something inhuman about this degree of austerity, yet Shafer admits: "If you’re not offending somebody, you’re probably not pleasing anybody. Political satire that errs on the side of civility and good taste is empty."

Often I type sentences on Twitter such as "Republicans would feel comfortable in Hitler’s Germany (even if they are Jewish), and would eagerly crucify Jesus (even if they are Christian)," but I don’t hit SEND because it feels cheap and untrue in a factual sense even if it’s True in a big-T polemical sense. Do I need to become more comfortable with such brazen generalizations and leave the nuance to the eggheads and handwringers? Do I need to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to people who deserve no such thing?

"There is a type of meekness that brings a man to hell," explains the Hasidic Book of the Pious, specifically "the man who hears [others] speak falsely and says, ‘Who am I to correct them?’ There is a kind of humility which is not righteousness."

Well, you can’t argue with the crazy bearded freaks in stupid motherfucking hats who have a cornucopia of bizarre genetic disorders from restricting their gene pool for centuries to other crazy bearded freaks in stupid motherfucking hats. Therefore I owe no apologies to anyone, and will contentedly spend Yom Kippur eating bacon, cramming shellfish up my rectum and trying to reconstruct my foreskin with a pair of pliers and a bucket of cookie dough. If this offends you, go fuck yourself with a bottle of kosher wine, which is the most disgusting wine in the entire goddamned history of winemaking.


…but will you forgive me later?

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