Comments: Carol Chomsky, Presente

Awful, awful, awful.

Posted by John Caruso at December 21, 2008 04:42 AM

I was pleased that her obituary emphasized
her unique life, and not simply that she was Mr. Chomsky's wife.

Posted by Rosemary Molloy at December 21, 2008 06:15 AM

On a similar note, it was Chomsky's eightieth birthday recently. To quote Norman Finkelstein:

"It's hard to know what was more despicable: the vicious attacks on Professor Chomsky in the German press or the silence of the American media, including the left-liberal media, on Chomsky's 80th birthday this past December 7. It seems that basic values such as gratitude are in short supply on the American "left." Is he not chic enough or is it that he doesn't wear black or is it that he doesn't charge a five-figure honorarium for his lectures? It happens that Professor Chomsky is going through some tough times; most of the "left" media know this; yet none saw fit to mark his birthday."

Posted by Don Lorenzo at December 21, 2008 10:52 AM

Rosemary, thanks for that point. Will update the post.

Posted by Jonathan Schwarz at December 21, 2008 11:28 AM

To learn more about Carol Chomsky, here is an obit from the New York Times.

Posted by Don Lorenzo at December 21, 2008 12:46 PM

Thank you for noting this.

Posted by Ryan at December 21, 2008 07:47 PM

My sympathies too. I read about this in the NYT--their obituary was quite decent.

Finkelstein is right also.

Posted by Donald Johnson at December 21, 2008 09:20 PM

It's so sad.

It's one particular cruel aspect of life. Older couples get to be increasingly dependent on each other and then, poof, one is taken away. Heartbreaking.

Posted by Bernard Chazelle at December 21, 2008 10:03 PM

That is so sad, yet sweet as well, that they had known each other for so long. I've been with my wife for 21 years now, and I'm only 42. I don't know how he will survive this. I cannot imagine going on.

Posted by Jeff Crook at December 22, 2008 11:21 AM

Well Don Lorenzo, that's bullshit. Sonali Kohatkar ( interviewed Chomsk for his birthday and was fucking effusingly hagio-rific to the man (Chomsky himself was a bit sickened by it, obviously).

Chomsky's done a lot of great work over the years and it sounded to me like he'd just like to be left alone for a bit. Fuck you for lashing out at 'the left,' something I've never seen or been able to sign a card-check for.

Posted by Solar Hero at December 23, 2008 01:08 PM

What does "presente" mean here?

Posted by Save the Oocytes at December 23, 2008 05:58 PM

Very sad news indeed.

Posted by Barry Freed at December 24, 2008 12:16 AM

Very sad news indeed.

Posted by Barry Freed at December 24, 2008 12:17 AM

"Presente" I take as a reference to a ritual I have observed in a Jesuit parish, in which the martyrs of CIA-sponsored Central American murders were remembered. In the context of a roll call, the name of the deceased is called and someone designated to respond on their behalf says, "Presente" - i.e. "present, here" - implying that although this person is gone in one sense, they are still here in another sense.

I had the privilege of taking a course from Noam Chomsky, and getting an A from him (the course was "Intellectuals and Social Change", it was during the Vietnam War, and everybody got A's). I was thinking about Noam even before I read this sad news about his wife's death, in the context of a Huffington Post column by Larry Gellman about Bernie Madoff, "The Real Lesson for Madoff's Chosen People."

Madoff specialized in defrauding people he knew personally, or were personally introduced to him - specifically, people who belonged to organizations (e.g. country clubs) which were both exclusive and exclusively Jewish. Quoting a Time magazine article by someone who was defrauded, Gellman says that many of his victims suspected that Madoff's results were "too good to be true" but failed to act to protect themselves because membership in the Tribe was too important to them.

Gellman states, "The Madoff catastrophe has left the Jewish community reeling financially and emotionally. It has also been jarring for many of us to realize that a fellow MOT could do this to his own. But the major positive lesson that might be learned is that it's time to move beyond tribal thinking for our own good. We can't and shouldn't abandon the idea of community and a shared responsibility for each other's welfare. But we live in an open, pluralistic world where the true value of Judaism is now reflected by our wisdom, ethics, and values -- not by our need to stick together and blindly trust only our own. Most American Jews realized this a long time ago."

I was thinking of Chomsky as an example par excellence of a Jew who lives wholeheartedly as a citizen of an open, pluralstic world.

The extension of "Jewish identity" to "American exceptionalism" is left as an exercise to the reader - you, the reader of this comments column, are certainly capable of it. I argue that there is more than a formal parallelism - that the "mysterious" hatred aimed at America by "our enemies" - who in fact do not consider themselves citizens of an open, pluralistic world - is not only similar to the hatred directed at the Jewish state, but causally connected to it. Someday it may be possible to point out that the Palestinians have been badly treated without being called an anti-Semite - but in the United States, that day has not yet come.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at December 24, 2008 09:23 AM