Stupor in Our Time
The parties my father votes for never get into Parliament. One year he’ll vote for some economist with thick glasses who promises a revolution in tax law, the next year for an irate teacher with a ponytail who advocates a revolution in the school system, the year after that for a restaurateur in Jaffa who explains that only a new culinary approach can bring peace to the Middle East.
The one thing these candidates have in common is a genuine desire for fundamental change. That and the naiveté to believe such change is possible. My father, even at the age of 78, is naïve enough to believe this, too. It’s one of his finest qualities.
In the last elections, my brother, a founder of the Legalize Marijuana Party, asked my father for his vote. My father found himself in a quandary. On the one hand, it’s not every day that your son founds a political party. On the other, my father, who had a taste of the horrors of fascism during World War II, takes all his civic duties very seriously.
“Look,” he said to my brother, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but there are all these serious people who claim that grass is actually dangerous, and as a person who’s never tried it, I can’t really be sure they’re wrong.”
And so, about a week before Election Day, my brother and one of the senior members of the party rolled my father a joint. “What can I tell you, kid?” my father said to me that evening during a slightly hallucinatory phone conversation. “It’s not half as good as Chivas — but to make it illegal?” And so my father became the oldest voter for the coolest party in the history of Israel’s elections. From the minute he said he would vote for it, I knew it wouldn’t get into Parliament.
That’s why I’m really surprised that my father, an enthusiastic supporter of underdogs, is going to vote for Kadima, the party of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The polls say Kadima is a shoo-in. “This is the most boring election campaign in the history of the country,” he explained, “and I’m telling you this as a person who’s been here since it was founded. I won’t even turn on the TV on Election Day — well, maybe for the weather forecast, but that’s it. These elections are one big sleeping pill.
“In past elections, there was always a little suspense, something to raise your blood pressure. And it didn’t matter whether it was Menachem Begin burning up the town squares with his speeches, or the fuss over Ehud Barak and that brilliant remark of his: ‘If I’d been born a Palestinian, I probably would have joined a terrorist group.’ This time, there’s nothing. Sure, Olmert’s smug. But one look at his face and I’m already yawning. Forty years that man has been in politics and he hasn’t done a single thing anyone can remember.”
“That’s not exactly a reason to vote for somebody,” I said, trying to argue.
“The hell it isn’t,” my father replied. “Listen, we’ve had so many Rabins and Pereses and Begins, people who tried to galvanize everyone with their charisma and energy. None of them ever really managed to bring us peace. I’m telling you, what this region needs is Olmert — someone who’ll bore us and the Palestinians so much that we fall into a kind of stupor. A stupor that’s a kind of co-existence. A co-existence that’s a kind of peace. Forget all that ‘peace of the courageous’ stuff Barak and Arafat tried to sell us. Even a child knows that courageous people go into battle, they don’t make peace. What this region needs is a peace of the tired, and Olmert’s the man to put us all to sleep.”
On the way home from my parents’ house, I began to think that maybe my father was right. And that it wasn’t exactly good news. If, after all the hopes and disappointments, all the accords and intifadas, the best a whole country can wish for is a politician so nondescript that the pundits are still arguing over whether he’s on the left or the right — if we want a non-event on Election Day — then we really must be exhausted.
Etgar Keret is the author of The Nimrod Flip-Out. This article was translated by Sondra Silverston from the Hebrew.