If a Jewish nonfiction writer sticks around long enough, he or she will be tempted to use the shop-worn “define chutzpah” rhetorical device, which consists of defining chutzpah and then applying the term to the acts or statements of someone or some group, or in simply saying that someone embodies the definition of chutzpah.
Alas, the likes of Representative Anthony Weiner, the U.S. Senate and Jena Troutman have driven your humble OpEdge scribe to resort to this hackneyed literary trope.
Merriam-Webster defines chutzpah as extreme confidence or gall. While it is true that people with chutzpah usually project self-confidence, the essence of what constitutes chutzpah is an audacity that approaches shamelessness and also has the hint of the comic. My favorite definition of chutzpah is the man who kills both his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.
Thus it took chutzpah for Mitt Romney to condemn the federal health care law that mimics the Massachusetts healthcare law he shepherded through the state legislature. And it took chutzpah for the creators of our torture system to say that torture helped to find bin Laden.
But this past week we have seen at least three poster children for chutzpah emerge.
Isn’t it the height of chutzpah for Representative Weiner not to resign? I don’t care that he showed his stuff online and I don’t care that by doing so he may have betrayed his new wife; those are personal issues. But to lie when the digital age makes it so easy for the truth to come out either shows appalling ignorance or sheer stupidity, neither of which you want in a Congressional representative. Then there’s the matter of the evidence, which suggests that in more than one instance, his photographic transmissions were unsolicited, out of the blue and completely out of context, raising them from the harmless to potentially harmful harassment, and therefore a cause for resignation.
Of course, in the old days, my great uncles and aunts would have likely engaged in a heated shout-out over tea as to whether Weiner was a schmuck or a putz (two Yiddish words that originally meant a male’s “wiener,” but have long referred to categories of fools).
And isn’t it the height of chutzpah for 56 U.S. Senators to vote to postpone the date when the debit card reforms go into effect? This vote favored banks, while ignoring the best interests of both consumers and small businesses (which make up more than 98% of all employers, according to the Small Business Administration). These Senators will now go home and shamelessly and audaciously tell the voters that they are acting in their best interests. Now that’s chutzpah! Luckily, the motion needed 60 Senators to approve it, so it failed.
And doesn’t it take chutzpah for Jena Troutman, organizer of the ban circumcision movement in California, to claim that her petition was “never about religion,” when the head of the group that wrote the ballot proposal for her has created a cartoon character named Foreskin Man who fights the evil “Mohel Man.” Mohel, for the uninitiated, is the Hebrew word for the religious specialist who cuts the foreskin during the circumcision rite. Thank goodness for another small wonder: Troutman is ending her pursuit of this anti-Semitic, anti-Moslem ballot initiative.
Shameless audacity—chutzpah—seems to define the current political tone in this country.
But let’s not include Tim Pawlenty, former Minnesota Governor and Republican candidate for President, among the “chutzpahim.”
Yes, it takes chutzpah for Pawlenty to say that by drastically cutting taxes and ending most non-military government spending, he can grow the economy by 5% within a few years and not tell us or show us how. But in giving his plan to renew the U.S. economy, Pawlenty proposed a “Google” test for government: if you can Google it, the government shouldn’t be providing it. Pawlenty forgets that the Internet was created as a government project called ARPANET and that without government support, there would be no Google, or any other Internet-based company, because there would be no Internet. That makes Pawlenty a schmuck or a putz, reader’s choice.