Saturday, April 9, 2016

In Praise of Ostentatious, "Goodbye, Columbus"-Style Parties

I rather enjoyed Anne Roiphe's toast to "ostentatious, vulgar, nouveau riche Jews" who throw ostentatious, vulgar, nouveau riche shindigs (weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, etc.): As I like to say, "Nouveau, old-veau; what's the diff as long as you're 'riche'"? Like Roiphe, I figure that after centuries of Jew-hate culminating in the Shoah, we're entitled to spend lavishly (even if Phillip Roth, for one, happens to disapprove):
In Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah he interviews a Polish peasant in a town outside Auschwitz who, speaking into the camera, says that the Jews hid their gold under the floorboards of their homes but when the Jews were taken away and the neighbors pulled up the floorboards they found no gold. The Jews had hidden it elsewhere, so the face on the camera tells us. So, the Jews were accused of having too much even when they had too little. I would rather we had too much, and I don’t think we should hide what we have here in America. We are absolutely entitled to a few centuries of gold trim, 12 kinds of cheese, champagne, kosher or non-kosher sugar plums, and chocolates raining down on us. 
Jews give more to charitable causes than most other Americans. We have almost from the beginning of the great wave of immigration created institutions to support Jews and non-Jews who need help to survive in a rather chilly capitalist society. Jews enthusiastically joined in the Civil Rights movements, in peace movements, in American politics, local and national. So, we are entitled to celebration and joy and showing off. Showing off is human. It is a little bit wicked but compared to the wickedness of the world we live in it is not so bad. I would rather spend an outrageous amount for a party or a designer pocketbook or a vacation than live like a good mouse in a drab house, because someone else can’t afford my style, and I am not afraid that someone might think I am vulgar or otherwise unseemly. If that Polish peasant comes hammering at my floorboards, I hope she finds ruby rings and diamond earrings.
I would never question why the nouveau riches spend so lavishly; I figure it's their money, and in a free society, they are free to spend their money as they see fit. I would, however, question why so many wealthy Americans continue to vote for the soak-the-rich Democrats? (Some years ago, ex-lefty Norman Podhoretz examined the question in this book.)

No comments: