March 22, 2005

"My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter!"

Because I'm a proud employee of Horowitz Cabinets and Paneling!

Of all the religious Right's suspicious bumperstickers, this one is the most deserving of scrutiny. Today's Christian radical strikes a bizarre balance between philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism, supporting the existence of the State of Israel only insofar as it leads to the Battle of Armageddon and the death or conversion of the Jewish people; despite their misguided and semimagical means, their wished-for end is still the annihilation of the Jews.

Consider the statement, "My boss is a Jewish carpenter!" The exclamation point must be considered integral to the text, as to my knowledge it always appears on the bumper stickers. The statements on bumper stickers invariably suggest a context: typically this context is the implied or presumed sentiment or statement of the observer, to which the bumper sticker functions as a retort: "My other car is a. . .", in its unironic manifestations, is a response to an implied or predicted "What a lousy car." "You wear your X, I'll wear mine" follows from the viewer's presumed shock or offense at seeing racist symbols prominently displayed, and makes the further assumption that the viewer thus offended is African-American and in possession of mid-1990s Malcolm X movie paraphernalia. Some bumper stickers explicitly state the sentiment to which they later respond: "Don't like my driving? Dial 1-800-EAT-SHIT".

Therefore it is not unreasonable to consider the range of prompts which elicit the response "My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter!" In the context of early-21st century America, it is unlikely that this constitutes some sort of brag: Jews are not stereotypically associated with woodworking, and those who are inclined to associate the notion "Boss" with the notion "Jew", that is, anti-Semites, would not be proud of their position.

There is likewise no tradition of comparing one's boss to other bosses on the basis of ethnicity so far as pride or prestige is concerned. The use of emphasis, i.e. "My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter", would tend to imply an unspoken "And Yours Isn't"; no such emphasis is found in practice.

There is only one common context which inclines toward the elicitation of responses such that "ACQUAINTANCE is a MEMBER OF ETHNIC GROUP": the challenge of another person's racial politics, or the challenge of a person's qualification to make an assessment about another ethnic group. That is, "My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter!" is functionally analogous to statements like "Some of my best friends are Black," and "My son-in-law is Hispanic". Commonly such statements are followed or preceded with the qualifying conjunction "but".

The claim, then, that "My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter!" only makes sense under the logic of bumper stickers if the displayer is held to presume that other individuals could reasonably have cause to doubt the displayer's belief in the moral worth of Jews. If the displayer did not expect that facts which he or she believed to be evident would lead to the conclusion that the displayer was an anti-Semite, there would be no reason for the sticker in the first place.

The sticker as displayed unironically is ironically never a statement of objective truth; it instead serves to identify the bearer as a Christian, whose deity is putatively assumed to have some training in carpentry as a result of his parentage. Profession of Christianity is therefore used as a means to definitively deny anti-Semitic leanings when in fact history has shown that the preponderance of anti-Semitic activity in Eurasia and North America since the fifth century AD was carried out by Christians.

There can of course be ironic uses of the Jewish Carpenter sticker that do not fall under discussion here; these are paradoxically limited to all cases in which the displayer's actual employer is Jewish, and one's actual profession is woodworking.


Anonymous said...

I agree, I've always found that bumper sticker to be a bit disconcerting for just some of the same reasons that you have mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I believe that you have over analyzed this bumper sticker beyond its intended meaning. It simply implies that "one answers to Jesus." Which I think is a unique way to express one's religion - If you can't get the word out through schools because everyone is so offended, you should spread the word in every other way possible.

Karl said...

I believe what I did was called it out as bullshit.

Anonymous said...

I think you're all losers. No one cares about religion let alone picking them apart. Easter Bunny, Santa, Jesus, Buddah, no Jesus. They are all equally believable. The bumper sticker should read "MY BOSS IS A JEWISH CARPENTER" and have the "ish carpenter" crossed out. That would be funny.

-Mel Gibson

Anonymous said...

My Boss is a jewish carpenter refers to someone who is very stingy with supplies and tight with money. This has nothing to do with Jesus. It is really a cut to the jewish.

Karl said...

I love these "gift that keeps on giving" type posts.

Keep the insights coming, anti-Semites!

Jack Perry said...

Hopefully, if the truth of a thing is what is looked for by unbiased truth-seekers, then here is what I offer:
If you have a committed position, then respect that I do not wish to cross swords and only ask we agree to disagree.
Jesus was earthly born a Jew, raised and helped his earthly father in the family carpentry business; a common everyman.
The Jews knew of a coming King; He was just not the Raging King wielding the sword that they expected, but rather a teacher providing an example while opening the door for all people to regain what we once had; oneness with our Creator, through the gift of His life for us all.

Anonymous said...

What a crappy blog

Anonymous said...

My take on the sticker, which you used to see back in the 1990's, was that it was an attempt to sound clever by playing on the absurd irony that a fine, upstanding Fundamentalist Christian(like themselves) would actually be working for a jewish-owned business, and engaged in manual labor. Fundamentalist Church People tend to be concerned about appearances and materialistic, and attribute their success largely to their religiousity.

Anonymous said...

Most evangelicals worship the ground on which jews walk - they send their sons off to fight in their wars, and pray for the pharasaic state of Israel every Sunday because of a poor understanding of their own theology.

SO I reckon the inference is that the viewer (the one driving behind the bumper sticker) is the anti-semite, who is meant to be shocked at a Jew engaged in manual labour for once; and then, following momentary confusion makes the realisation that the woodworker in question is in fact Jesus of Nazareth.

But I think the main thing to take from this observation of yours is that Jews are neurotic paranoids with high verbal intelligence and a chip on their shoulder.