It is possible to hold more than one thought at a time.
In the current situation, it is possible to simultaneously feel horror, fury, helplessness, and sadness at the violent, savage massacre of Israelis by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. It is possible to understand Israel’s reaction — and even overreaction to an extent — and simultaneously feel revulsion for Benjamin Netanyahu and hold him accountable for Israel’s unprecedented erosion of intelligence and compromised defense.
It is possible to view war skeptically as a last resort when we don’t trust our minds enough to reason while recognizing that a terrorist organization that has the destruction of a nation, its people, and their religion along with usurpation of their land as a founding Article in their Charter, is not open to, nor worth, negotiation.
The murderous, theocratic hatred espoused by Hamas is as much about “freedom fighting” as Donald Trump’s criminality is comparable to the freedom struggle of Nelson Mandela and once upon a time – long ago – the ANC. I can’t imagine what kind of twisted moral acrobatics one must execute to gloss over the beheading of babies, the rape of women, the beating of the elderly, or any other similarly despicable acts to frame them as freedom fighting. To trivialize the horrifying evidence as Israeli propaganda despite Hamas gleefully and proudly providing it.
It’s also okay to question Israel’s motives, criticize their willingness to keep reelecting a narcissistic criminal, facilitate coalitions with racist, bigoted right-wing zealots, to amplify and exacerbate the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-secular, racist, anti-democratic policies (that you’re not allowed to call apartheid, despite how much it looks and smells like it) and unequivocally condemn mass murder, land grabs, and war crimes it conducts while simultaneously loving, respecting and supporting beautiful, innocent Israeli citizens who love their country and religions, who are among the most decent people you’ll ever meet, and want peace and a solution that includes the aspirations of their Palestinian counterparts.
Expressing as much does not translate into support for Palestinian genocide. Nor does it negate support for Palestinian aspirations and their desire for and right to autonomy. Nor does it demand and require unwaveringly supporting organizations like BDS or BLM to prove your bona fides like some Dystopian litmus test. Any more than criticism of Israel’s atrocious treatment of Palestinians – and particularly Gazans –translates into antisemitism. And because some antisemites cloak their antisemitism as anti-Zionism doesn’t mean anti-Zionists are inherently antisemitic.
It’s possible to enjoy and embrace the cultural heritage and traditions of the religion I was born into and raised in without buying into the dogma, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and othering that populates its most essential and revered writings and often its guiding principles.
If I don’t want to see speech or imagery that offends me, I avoid the places I’ll likely encounter them. Avoid them if you can’t handle or don’t want to see shit that goes against your faith, beliefs, convictions, or values. I won’t saddle you with my shit, so don’t saddle me with yours.
It’s possible to show respect for other people with different religious beliefs without respecting the teachings of those religions. I am aware that extremist factions of most religions view me as lesser than, worthy of pushing off buildings, murdered, tortured, and imprisoned based on ancient writing by disturbed men. I choose not to be victimized by them, nor am I sympathetic to their plight. I reject them and their hatred and inhumanity unreservedly and unapologetically.
I certainly won’t model my core values on them, allow them to shape my moral compass, or dictate the parameters of my humanity. I don’t believe in scaling down compassion towards others based on their religion, race, sexual orientation, melatonin levels, gender, nationality, creed, or circumstance.
It is possible to feel as much empathy and pain for an innocent Palestinian mother cradling her dead baby as it is for a mother who would rather her daughter be dead than raped and beaten and held as a hostage by Hamas. I can believe in and support the aspirations of Palestinians for a place to call home and still recognize and wholeheartedly support Israel’s right to exist and defend herself.
I’m perfectly okay with contradictory, shifting emotions and nuanced positions when dealing with complexities. I don’t need to oversimplify anything to justify a myopic view, blind myself to injustice, or excuse my inherent, taught, and often subconscious bias.
Empathy, for me, isn’t conditional. It isn’t predicated on or shaped by other’s hatred. I fervently wish for peace, even if people hate me for whom I do or don’t worship, whom I do or don’t love, whom I do or don’t fuck, what I do or don’t like or accept, or for what I do or don’t say, write, sing, photograph, film, read, listen to or watch.
My aspirations, morality, values, and humanity are my own, to guide me, frustrate me, confound me, lead me astray, or change on a dime.
Love or hate me for it or be wholly indifferent, for all I care. That’s on you.
Select articles, news coverage and books from a plethora of publications covering Clinton Fein’s career as a technologist, activist, artist and speaker.
As an activist, with a Supreme Court victory over the Attorney General of the United States, Fein garnered international attention, including The New York Times, CNN and The Wall Street Journal.
Fein’s thought-provoking and controversial work as an artist caught the attention of prestigious educational institutions, including Harvard University, which recognized its socio-political relevance and ability to provoke crucial conversations about human rights, morality, and the boundaries of artistic expression.