I was just listening to the Newsies soundtrack. Boy, do I love that movie. And the funniest thing about it is that I am a frothing-at-the-mouth capitalist. Not that forming a union isn't a perfectly legitimate capitalistic undertaking, but still.
The thing that really got me, listening to the songs, was the feeling of unity. (See here for examples.) Here we are, we have a cause, and we are united behind it. It made me...this sounds silly, but jealous. I don't think that I've ever been part of a cause to that degree, that I can shout its slogans in one voice with one hundred others, that I feel that I am selflessly working towards the greater cause, hand in hand with those who share my dreams. I felt a strange longing for a chance to make great sacrifices for a great cause, to fight with a wave of fellows for a greater something.
I remember, quite clearly actually, the last time that I still had this wistfulness. A friend was describing what it was like at the massive disengagement rallies- the ones where families would camp out, waiting to get into Gush Katif. She talked about the announcements over the loudspeakers, the shiurim here and there, but more than anything else, the feeling of fighting together, of strangers bursting into song together, and as I listened, I suddenly thought, "That must be what it felt like to protest Vietnam" and then I wondered "Will I ever have the chance to be part of a cause?" And in that moment, I wished that I agreed with their cause, just so that I would have the chance to join it.
And this is a wonderous and terrifying thing. This desire- this strange mixture of the drives towards conformity, nobility, aggression, heroism- has feuled, I think, just about every cause and ism in the world. Every ism. Not just the ones that we know are evil and dangerous, but also ones like patriotism and liberalism and probably even humanism. The spirit that feuled revolutions and civil rights protests, that motivated terrorists and soldiers, Resistance fighters and union workers.
I tend to distrust this impulse. When my seminary pushed going to disengagement rallies, I remember saying to a friend that I couldn't go because it would make me feel like a Nazi Youth. (Oh, dear, I think I just Godwin-ed. Sorry) Not that I think that the cause is evil or that it was supported only by those swept by its tides, but because I knew that I did not know if I believed in the cause, and could not risk ceding my conscience to the masses. It's even possible that I was not against disengagement precisely because it was popular. I wouldn't put it past me.
It is for this reason that I don't think that I shall ever be part of a cause, in the sweeping,
anthem-singing sense of the word. Even when I back a cause, I have a natual impulse to question it, to stand outside of myself and watch me, to devil's advocate and to wonder.
And in some ways, this makes me sad. It's all well and good to stand against the tide, and I think that it is my moral duty. But there is still something that feels very basic in my emotions that makes me wish that I could, just once, sing in properly choreographed, joyously unanimous, endlessly defiant Newsies fashion.