Why Apologies Matter

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

Recently, someone who didn’t realize we’d once been close, introduced me to a former friend. Years ago, my former friend did something no friend should ever do, which is why we became ex-friends. When we were introduced, my ex-friend extended her hand but I withheld mine, which I’ve never done in my life.

To my surprise, a few days later I received a heartfelt letter of apology from my ex-friend expressing remorse for her dreadful behavior, which she outlined in the same detail that I too remembered, from many years ago. I responded immediately, forgiving her, and saying how rare it is to receive such an apology.

Why are apologies so rare? Do people believe that by not owning up to their errors and the harm they’ve caused that no one will be the wiser?

Puzzled in Peoria

Dear Puzzled,

Many see an apology as a sign of weakness, believing that only the weak apologize. Since ancient times, the vulnerable have depended on the strong. Slaves bowed and apologized to owners; serfs apologized to feudal lords; courtiers apologized to royalty; employees apologized to employers. The reverse was considered unthinkable.

This tradition is unfortunately still with us: for the powerless, apologies are mandatory; for the powerful, they’re unnecessary.

This shouldn’t exist in modern life but it does, partly because many behave as if they’re “Masters of the Universe,” in Tom Wolfe’s apt phrase from his 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities

When one friend hurts another, a caring friend apologizes at once. The Master or Mistress of the Universe doesn’t: it’s the difference between being empathic and being arrogant.

Some people have more trouble apologizing than others.  As the gifted psychoanalyst Dr. Nancy McWilliams has written, narcissists have particular difficulty expressing remorse because to them it implies fallibility and personal error, admissions that are psychologically intolerable to such people.

Apologies can be difficult for everyone. An apology includes a clear statement of one’s error or offense, such as being disrespectful, underhanded, mean-spirited, deceitful, disloyal, unfair, hurtful, condescending, inconsiderate, insulting, heartless, cruel, abusive, as well as negligent, careless, feckless, and reckless.

Is it pleasant to acknowledge that you’ve been any of these?  No. It takes self-awareness, backbone, and a strong desire to do right by another human being.

Apologies matter if you value a relationship.

If you imagine that by procrastinating or refusing to apologize you’ll evade responsibility forever and make the damage you produced vanish into thin air, you’re fooling only yourself. Your friends or family members may no longer mention the injury you caused, but that doesn’t mean a painful, unhealed wound doesn’t remain. It’s never too late to apologize, even decades after you inflicted harm. But, as Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

If you don’t know what you’ve done to hurt or alienate someone: ask. Don’t offer a vague, blanket apology “for anything I may have done” or peremptorily insist that the injured person “forget about this; it isn’t important.”  These tactics show greater concern for yourself — and your need to “get past this unpleasantness” with transparently empty, unfeeling words — than for the person you’ve hurt.

A real, rather than a pro forma, apology also expresses genuine remorse.

What doesn’t constitute an apology is a one-word, “Sorry,” except for minimal inconveniences. For anything serious, “sorry” is a brush-off masquerading as an apology. If you seek to minimize the gravity of the harm you inflicted, then “sorry” will convey that. Like a shrug accompanied by “Whatever,” it expresses casual dismissal.

As is often noted, an apology is invalidated by the weaselly word “if” — as in, “I’m sorry if I did anything to offend you.” Nor should an apology blame the injured person for being hurt, as in, “I’m sorry you were upset.” Both forms of pseudo-apology fail to take responsibility for causing the other person’s distress and implicitly criticize the victim for his or her reasonable response to mistreatment.

It takes a mature and psychologically secure human being to offer a genuine apology. Far from being a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. An employer who apologizes for an unfair outburst to an employee will gain greater respect, not lose face.

It also takes a decent person to forgive. Indeed, there’s a moral imperative to forgive if you believe the apology is genuine, if you can forgive in good faith, and if the offense is, in fact, forgivable — which not all are.

You don’t have to stroll arm-in-arm into the mist with the person who’s apologized to you, although a genuine apology can be the beginning – or the continuation — of a beautiful friendship.  If not, it will at least put an honorable end to a relationship, like a firm period instead of an emotionally irritating semi-colon.

— Belladonna Rogers

In Praise of Worry

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

I’m a worrier. My husband says worrying does no good, wastes time, and won’t help. Is he right?

Worried in Wyoming

Dear Worried,

No.

While too much worry creates stress, which is hazardous to your health, too little worry can be just as dangerous. The anthem of the International Association of Worriers — which doesn’t exist, but one day might — could be the popular song by Randy Newman in the YouTube clip above.

We all worry.  The difference is not between worriers and non-worriers but between people who acknowledge they worry and those who don’t. The second group may think they’re not worrying, but they’re unaware that they are.  To err is human, as is to worry.  Those who say they’re not worried show their inner turmoil in many ways, from hair-pulling to beard-tugging, to drinking in excess, to sleeping or eating too little or too much.

Neurotic worry, or obsessive, repetitive thinking about a problem iscounterproductive.  But wisely directed worry can solve problems and lead to vastly improved outcomes.

People who claim not to worry enjoy mocking those who recognize they do, calling them worrywarts, fussbudgets, fusspots, handwringers, and Nervous Nellies.

Even the otherwise judicious Roman rhetorician, Marcus Annaeus Seneca, said, “There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness is it in expecting evil before it arrives?”  Right.  Guess he never had to prepare for a hurricane, a blizzard, a flood, or a child’s college tuition payments.

Echoing Seneca, some people prefer to be what they consider “tough,” “mature,” “realistic,” or “stoic,” boasting, “I never worry because it serves no purpose.  If something is out of my hands, there’s no point in my worrying about it.” Both assertions are inaccurate but the second sentence is more so. Rarely are situations completely beyond our ability to improve their outcomes.  Believing that something is out of our hands doesn’t make it so: we can make an enormous difference for the better through actions we take after some beneficial worry.

But no situation will bend to our efforts to improve it if we believe “nothing can be done” and “it’s out of my hands.”  Those responses aren’t merely dismissive of the benefits of worry, they’re hostile to the notion that worry can produce positive consequences.  Such passive attitudes are far more detrimental to your health and happiness than is worrying.

Worrying constructively can change the outcome of the troubling situation for the better. The productive worrier is often thinking about what options are available in difficult circumstances, choices that could make the source of worry less threatening — less worrisome.

Case in point: after Nazi Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Sigmund Freud’s daughter, the gifted psychoanalyst Anna Freud, was deeply and justifiably worried about her father’s safety. Both she and her 82-year-old father had been questioned at Gestapo Headquarters in Vienna, a terrifying experience that could have led to an immediate deportation order to transport them to a death camp.  By worrying and using her worrying to come up with a successful escape to London, Anna Freud was able to save her mother and her father, as well as herself from certain death in concentration camps, which was the tragic fate of all of Sigmund Freud’s four older sisters.

More recently, Andrew Grove, the retired co-founder and CEO of Intel, the pioneering microchip company, titled his classic business book Only The Paranoid Survive.  He would know: while he and his mother, Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary, were sheltered by friends during World War II, Grove’s father was imprisoned in a concentration camp, which he survived.

Grove’s book focuses on the need to stay competitive in business, where sudden changes in regulation, innovation, and market forces require pivoting on a dime. Worry in business and at many places of employment is essential: competition from other companies and from others within your workplace create the necessity for worry.  Others are trying to surpass, supplant, and outdo you or your enterprise.  Unruffled, over-confident complacency is unwise.

To skip through life with nary a care may seem to be an agreeable way to go, but you probably won’t go far. In his penetrating book, The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker illuminates the critical importance of being realistically worried about the dangers that surround us.

While necessity is the mother of invention, worry is the parent of prudence. Not only in business, but also in our daily lives, being on the qui vive can prevent disaster.

When you’re driving, for example, worry is as functional as knowing how to brake.  If it never occurs to you on a Saturday night or on New Year’s Eve that other drivers could be drunk, you will be more likely to conclude your evening in an accident, a hospital emergency room, or on a marble slab at the morgue than if you’d worried and been hyper-alert.

If you’re in the woods and are happily unconcerned about poison ivy, you could discover the shiny three-leafed plant has left you with some maddeningly irritating souvenirs.

A happy-go-lucky unmarried man with a “What Me, Worry?” tattoo can go condomless as often as he pleases, until a gnawing itch is diagnosed as herpes, or other symptoms turn out to be syphilis, gonorrhea, or worse.

Being worried enough to wear a condom isn’t being a fussbudget.  It’s being smart.

In family finances, not to mention the federal budget, worrying about disaster compels the prudent person or government to put aside money for a rainy day.  Worry is the cause of saving, which can be the difference between having a home and being homeless, having a Triple A bond rating, or being downgraded.

In political life, if we weren’t worried, we wouldn’t vote at all.

Forward-thinking worry is part of a realistic person’s intellectual and emotional suit of armor in dealing with what Hamlet called the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.   Do not ask for whom worrying is indispensable.  It’s indispensable for you.

Worry isn’t just for worrywarts: it’s for us all.

— Belladonna Rogers

Sex Addiction 101

“Sex Addiction Among Women Real and Growing”

Now that I have your attention, I’d like to say that I don’t believe that headline, which recently appeared online.  At least I don’t believe that sex addiction among any group is “growing.”  I do believe, however, that some women — and some men — are genuinely addicted to sex.

First, let’s address sexual addiction and then, I’ll end by saying why I don’t think the incidence of this addiction is “growing.”  The latter is a somewhat less intriguing topic and if I wrote it about it first, you might stop reading now.

According to one description:

“Insatiable sexual hunger is not really a desire — an act of will — but rather a desperate need, a compulsion that is experienced as a craving. The need is pursued like a drug. Although sex addicts are enslaved to sex, it is far from their goal. Rather, the pursuit of sex is in service of a different goal — to dispel feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety, rage or other feelings that the sex addict experiences as unbearable.

“Like a drug addict or alcoholic, the sex addict relentlessly seeks satisfaction from an external source to palliate an internal pain. Modern technology, such as the internet, provides a new external source that sex addicts use in their quest for sex partners.”

Drugs, alcohol, food, and sexual activity all stimulate the dopamine receptors in the brain — the sites of memory and, more to the point, pleasure. The problem is that these receptors are insatiable little tykes.  The more pleasure they get, the more they want.  Leave them alone for a while and they’ll calm down, but stimulate the heck out of them and their response is, “I want more, much more, and I want it now.”

This poses an obvious problem for the possessor of these dopamine receptors

To cope with depression and anxiety, we humans have our techniques: those that we consider wholesome or relatively harmless such as tennis, hiking, playing Chopin on the piano for 12 consecutive hours, or reading a multitude of books aren’t deemed addictions.  They’re called, neutrally, “coping mechanisms,” or, more positively, “hobbies,” or, even admiringly, “passions.”

WHEN COPING MECHANISMS TURN TO ADDICTIONS

By contrast, when people consume copious quantities of liquor, food, or drugs to numb their feelings of despair, fear, anxiety, and loneliness, these responses are called addictions. And for those of us who have powerful sex drives on an averageday, at times of increased despondency, there’s nothing quite as distracting as a good — or better still, a great — orgasm.

As you’ve doubtless noticed, when you’re in the throes of sexual passion, you’re unlikely to become immersed in thoughts about making that next mortgage payment, getting into college, or whether Romney or Obama will be president in 2014.  All those concerns recede into nothingness. During sex all that matters is the intensity of the exquisite ecstasy you’re feeling and giving, and the glorious burst of climax.

Alas, if you’re a sex addict, you don’t settle into a state of blissed-out exhaustion afterward.  No such luck. Edward Mendelson, literary critic and editor of W.H. Auden’s works, analyzed the post-orgasmic melancholia described in the 1847 novel, Jane Eyre, in his book, The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have To Say About the Stages of Lifeas follows:

Charlotte Brontë understood that an unequal sexual relation between adults is necessarily an unloving one; she also seems to have sensed that sex is experienced differently—that is, produces different physical and emotional feelings—in unloving relations and loving ones. … Post coitum homo tristis —“After sex the human is sad”—is far truer about unloving relations than loving ones; if the union between two partners is limited to the sexual act, then loneliness inevitably follows it.

And that’s exactly the vortex of dejection and despair that envelop the psyche of the helpless sex addict.  No sooner satisfied than empty.  It’s the Chinese take-out syndrome of loveless sex. And sexual addiction is by definition loveless because it allows no time for love to develop.  It allows no time for anything to develop except the bare essentials necessary for sexual intercourse.

It might appear that two sex addicts together would form the ideal couple.  What could possibly go wrong? Only everything. Such erotic duos generate emotional conflagrations so intense that the Chicago fire of 1871, which killed at least 200, appears, by comparison, as trifling as the flicker of a single kitchen match. Unions of sex addicts are psychological tinderboxes destined to consume them in mutually assured destructive infernos. They’re fated to part, lest their lives descend into nothing beyond the simultaneously tantalizing and terrifying bonfires they never fail to ignite in each other, regardless of age.  Hence such titles as Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Fatal Attraction.

The chase and the conquest are part of the addiction: while the pursuit is hot, the addict is distracted from cares and woes.  But once the conquest climaxes in orgasm, the chase begins anew.  The sexual addict will attach to anyone, from the postman to the butcher to the physician, to his or her nurse, to a friend, to anyone with the necessary physical equipment.  If the answer is no  (which it rarely is, because sex addicts invariably possess a bat-like radar for identifying willing accomplices) the addict moves on to greener pastures in search of — to mix a metaphor — fresh meat.

THEY’RE NOT JUST LURKING IN DARK ALLEYWAYS AND SEAMY HOTEL LOBBIES

The sex addict, whom you may imagine cruising bars or lounging about in seamy hotel lobbies, can and will turn any environment into his or her personal boudoir, from a church service to a birthday party to the Oval Office to a tennis court to a library to a walk in the park.  Compulsive flirtation and suggestive double-entendres are always in play.

The sex addict isn’t interested in you, but in him- or herself and his or her single-minded effort not to feel the pain. You are to the sex addict what a fifth of whiskey is to an alcoholic: a means to an end.  The sex addict has no more heartless attitude toward you than does the alcoholic toward his or her bottle: yes, your feelings will be trampled, but only because you’ve failed to recognize that you were in the grips of a sex addict. One way to know is if he or she tries to maneuver you into bed immediately after first meeting you.

You may actually think that the sex addict has found the love of his or her life.  You’ll certainly be treated as if you were — that is, until the chase, the conquest, and the climax are over.  Then, dear reader, you are as meaningful to the sex addict as that overflowing condom he’s just thrown in the trash, or the toilet paper she’s just flushed away with your heart.

A SEX ADDICT’S LOT IS NOT A HAPPY ONE

But as depressing as it is to have been used and discarded by a sex addict, it’s five gazillion times more demoralizing and anxiety-producing to be one.  A sex addict’s life is one with virtually no introspection, no wish to face squarely and deal directly with the painful emotions the addiction is intended to numb — and which, by the way, all human beings feel.  It’s the agony of the long-distance addict, criss-crossing the room, the office, the party, the town, the country, and the world in pursuit of the next conquest and the ever-more-stunningly penetrating orgasm.

Why do they do it?  The large body of research tells us that a sex addict had — you know it’s coming — an emotionally distant, inattentive mother who was unable to focus on the emotional needs of her infant.  The baby was never comforted when he or she cried or felt lonely, and so never heard such soothing words as, “You’re going to be fine.”  Thus such children never learn to comfort themselves.  When stressed and depressed, they’re unable to calm themselves from within and so they turn outward to others.

If they ever marry, it’s invariably to someone whose main focus is also elsewhere: either on his or her own work, or on home and family.  Such spouses tend to be as inattentive to the real inner lives of their marital partners as were the sex addicts’ mothers, which is one reason the sex addict chose such a mate in the first place. Their spouses’ psyches operate on a different wavelength, or as we might say today, bandwidth, and they are able to live with a discreet sex addict with absolutely no awareness that they do. This arrangement can continue indefinitely until the sex addict’s compulsive behavior erupts into public scandal so serious that even an inattentive spouse is no longer able to ignore the truth (e.g., Hillary Clinton; Anne Sinclair, the wife of Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Elin Nordegren, former wife of Tiger Woods; and the late Elizabeth Edwards).

For a momentary glimpse into the mind of a sexual addict, one need only read last Thursday’s Telegraph to see Monsieur Strauss-Kahn’s latest legal defense: concerning his sexual relations with ten different call girls at a Parisian swingers’ club, his attorney now claims DSK didn’t know he was sleeping with prostitutes because “they were all naked at the time.” Excuse me?  This is a legal defense?  Only if you have DSK for a client.

Getting back to the formative years of sex addicts’ lives, as the child becomes an adolescent, he or she discovers that in the sack, he or she doesn’t have to be alone.  So that becomes the place where anxiety, depression, and loneliness are assuaged.  As long as sex is being pursued or experienced, the comfort-seeking sex addict is able to have his or her painful feelings quelled.

But the more sexual experiences they have, the more they want.  More than one lover in a day or evening are not unusual. Lunch hour becomes yet another chance for a temporarily soothing balm.

Aye, there’s the rub: every balm is temporary.  A sex addict doesn’t want a relationship, he or she wants relief from unbearable tension, anxiety, loneliness, and/or depression. Saddest of all, sex addicts don’t realize this, because they’re so absorbed, indeed so riveted by their compulsive pursuit of the ever-more-intensely rapturous orgasm beckoning, always beckoning, from just beyond the horizon.

WHY I’M DOUBTFUL THAT SEX ADDICTION IS “ON THE RISE”

As to why I’m dubious that rates of sex addiction are soaring, it’s partly because I’m leery of statements made by people with doctorates in “sexual studies” who, by an amazing coincidence, also happen to own and operate clinics for — of all people — sexual addicts. They claim, whenever interviewed by the media, that sex addiction is on the rise.

Observations that coincide with the financial interests of the speakers are less than credible for another reason:  if you’ve read anything written in any century earlier than the 21st, you’ll have noticed that the phenomena the doctors of sexology note with grave concern are not exactly what you’d call new.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), for example, was extraordinarily insightful on this subject — and he wrote the following 14 lines without so much as a master’s degree, much less a doctorate, in sexual studies:

SONNET 129 (emphasis added)

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,

Enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight,

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had

Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait

On purpose laid to make the taker mad;

Mad in pursuit and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;

A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;

Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

We human beings, not unlike the birds and the bees, are hard-wired to enjoy sex.  That’s why there are now seven billion of us.  The problem of sex addiction afflicts no more than three percent of all people, even according to the “sexologists.”

IF WHILE READING THIS, YOU’VE ASKED YOURSELF, “AM I A SEX ADDICT?”

If you’re concerned enough to take an online test of whether you are, in fact, a sexual addict, beware of the website offering the test.  If it’s one that also offers “treatment” for your “condition,” it’s highly likely that you’ll meet the self-dealing criteria and discover that — OMG! — you are a genuine sex addict. To you I say: caveat emptor. 

These self-described experts in “sexology” have a product to sell: their own services.  It’s in their interests to insist that sexual addiction is a growing menace to society, and to dream up “tests” with questions so inclusive that your five-year-old granddaughter could well qualify for their “therapy.”

Unless sex is all you crave from the moment you awaken until your last conscious thought, and unless your entire life is consumed by sexual pursuits to the exclusion of anything else except perhaps earning a living — and if even that, as well as your marriage, is in constant jeopardy because of your obsession with sex — you may not be a sex addict.  If you think about sexual activity mainly in response to a stimulus — seeing, meeting, or being with someone with whom you think fleetingly, or not so fleetingly, of bedding down — you’re probably living with a far different addiction: to oxygen.  What this means is that you’re still alive.

Sexual addiction is not the same as enjoying sex, including having sexual relations, fantasizing about having them, and taking matters into your own hands if the need arises when you’re alone.  It means being hooked on it.  If there’s only one website you can’t live without and it isn’t PJ Media, but rather a sex site, you might be a sex addict.

Sexual addiction is not based solely on what you think — unless that’s all you think — as much as on what you do and what motivates you to do it. If you think about sexual activities, but don’t compulsively act on those thoughts, you’re what’s known as human. If you’ve ever uttered the words to someone you find powerfully attractive, “You’re very appealing, but I’m happily married and I wouldn’t do that to my marriage or to my wife (or my husband),” you’re definitely not a sex addict. “No thanks” isn’t in their vocabularies.

Yes, there are sexual addicts and predators.  Just ask any woman who’s been alone in a room with Dominque Strauss-Kahn.  But by and large, not every flirt is a sex addict, and not every compliment you receive is intended as a prelude to ravishing you in the sack and then heading for the nearest exit before you can catch your breath.

Sometimes a compliment is just a compliment, a sigh is just a sigh, and, yes, a kiss is just a kiss.

–Belladonna Rogers

How to Confront the Anti-Israel Fixation of the Left

Dear Belladonna Rogers,

Of all the challenges I face dealing with leftists, one of the most difficult is contending with their anti-Israel bias. I realize Ron Paul has also expressed and mobilized anti-Israeli sentiments, but I, personally, don’t have to deal with them and hope I never do. How can I deal with the growing, overt liberal animus toward Israel?

Chagrined in Chicago

Dear Chagrined,

Much of the malicious and inaccurate criticism of Israel stems from two sources: ignorance and anti-Semitism.

If the criticism is based on the first, you can counteract it with facts.  Here are four of the principal, hostile myths about Israel and the facts to rebut them.

(1) Israel is a foreign implant, a Western outpost, alien to the Middle East.

To the contrary, Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, who were living there for centuries before Christianity or Islam began.  Jews have lived in what is now Israel continuously for more than two millennia.

(2) Israel has imperial ambitions and seeks to expand its territory and dominate others. 

When it was established by a vote of the United Nations in 1948, Israel accepted the borders that the UN drew. The year it was founded, the surrounding Arab countries, however, all attacked Israel in an effort to destroy it.  Israel ended the war with more territory than it had had at the beginning.  In 1967, Arab aggression led to another war of self-defense in which Israel captured more territory.  The Israeli government immediately offered to return the territory in exchange for peace.  In 1979-82 it did return territory to Egypt as part of a peace treaty brokered by the United States.

It has conducted negotiations with Syria to the north, and the Palestine Liberation Organization to the east, for the same purpose, but neither of them has been willing to make peace with Israel.  For that reason the Golan Heights, to the north, and the West Bank of the Jordan River, to the west, have remained under Israeli control. At no time has Israel sought to enlarge its territory by attacking others in an “imperial” effort.  Its boundaries have changed only as a result of wars initiated against Israel by its Arab neighbors.

(3) Israel is not a democracy. 

The status of the Arabs living in the West Bank is the subject of negotiations, as discussed above.  As for the rest of Israel, it is a Western-style parliamentary democracy in which full civil and political rights, including the right to vote, extend to all of its citizens, including its almost one million Arabs citizens, both Christian and Muslim, and to all women. (Full American-style rights are not available to the citizens of any Arab country.)  Arabs have been elected to, and serve in, the Israeli legislature, the Knesset.

(4) Israel and its friends manipulate American foreign policy. 

This is the canard of the vicious polemic written by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.  They charged that Israel and its friends were responsible for the American war in Iraq, which the two professors opposed.

The president, vice president, secretaries of state, and defense and national security advisor of the George W. Bush administration (none of whom is Jewish), who made the decision to go to war, were not, of course, manipulated by anyone, nor was the United States Congress, which supported the decision.

Indeed,  Israeli government officials privately counseled their American counterparts against the Iraq war, believing that Iran posed the greater threat.

WHEN ANTI-SEMITIC BIGOTRY IS AT THE ROOT OF ANTI-ISRAELI SENTIMENT

As for anti-Semitic bigotry as a source of anti-Israeli sentiment — a subject on which Eliot A. Cohen has written brilliantly — here are some telltale signs that this ancient hatred is the underlying cause of the animus against the modern Jewish state:

(1) When people refuse to accept the validity of the facts presented above.

(2) When the critic demonizes Israel and Jews, assigning to them responsibility for things with which they have no connection (e.g., “banking domination of the world,” referring to “Rothschild Zionists,” and asserting that Jews “always profit from war” despite the fact that if anyone “profits,” it is defense contractors whose ranks are not “dominated” by Jews).

(3) When they use a double standard, criticizing Israel for actions they never question in other countries (e.g., when they attack Israel for self-defense, while ignoring rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians, or ship-borne “peace brigades” from Turkey, with armed men on board ready to kill Israeli officers patrolling Israeli waters).

Bigotry is, unfortunately, rampant among Israel’s Arab neighbors, in part thanks to the bombardment of printed pamphlets of anti-Semitic propaganda and short-wave radio broadcasts in Arab lands by the Nazis during World War II.  Since then, anti-Israeli hostility has been encouraged by the incompetent, oppressive authoritarian dictators who seek to deflect the anger of those they govern away from themselves.

Anti-Semitism is also making a vigorous comeback in its ancestral home of Europe, where for more than a millennium it was comfortably ensconced, reaching its apex in the Holocaust.

The current wave of virulent European anti-Semitism has caused an exodus to Israel from Sweden, France, the UK, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria, and other countries by Jews whose families have lived in Europe and the UK for centuries.

The main cause?  Criminal assaults on Jews by the fast-growing young Muslim populations. The governments in these countries are scandalously lax in protecting their Jewish citizens.

There’s one place, however, where criticism of Israeli isn’t fueled by anti-Semitism, and that’s Israel, whose boisterous democracy regularly generates debate and criticism so robust that they can make relations between American Democrats and Republicans seem positively chummy by comparison.

Unlike anti-Israeli sentiment based on ignorance of history, though, you don’t stand a chance of persuading bigots by using facts, logic, or reasoning, because their attitudes are irrational, deep-seated, and often unconscious.

Education may help with the factually-ignorant.  With the deep-seated anti-Semite, nothing will succeed.

When you encounter such a person, I recommend minimizing contact — indeed, if you can, cutting off contact entirely.

Life is too short to subject yourself to an unrepentant bigot, no matter how charming or attractive he or she may appear to be in other respects. I’m with Moses Seixas and George Washington on this: “give bigotry no sanction.”  None.

–Belladonna Rogers