A true story of politics and betrayal
Whether I expect it to or not, whether I am particularly nervous in my mind or not, my body never fails to fail me. My mouth dries up and becomes as sticky as glue, my voice wavers, shakes and stutters as my lips emit those embarrassing smacking noises, my stomach churns vomit, my knees feel watery and weak and my head spins the world around me. I do my best to avoid these situations, and while I feel bad for being a victim of my own self, I am mostly relieved to have another hurdle behind me, whether I jumped it, ran under it or into it or just plain dropped out of the race.
The following is a story of a triple betrayal, of how my body, my mind and my teacher all set out to bring me down.
I was seventeen and the year was 1997. Right winged Benjamin Netanyahu was the prime minister of Israel, an electoral outcome that had shocked and depressed many only a few months after the assassination of the left winged Rabin. Under Netanyahu’s government, these same people felt that Israel was on a scary downwards spiral, and at seventeen, innocent and yet immersed in politics, I was one of those people. One morning I read an editorial written by Shimon Peres, the man who had lost the election. Peres clearly laid out all the horrible mistakes that the inexperienced and over confident Netanyahu was making, and the more I read the more infuriated I became.
I got out a piece of paper and summarized the editorial. I added onto it more points from a few other newspaper sources over the course of a week or so, and then I approached my highschool teacher. In spite of my nerve wracking fear of public speaking and in spite of my inferior body I had decided to volunteer to run the next “social hour”, a weekly hour in which the class was handed over to one of the students. Usually the teacher approved the most banal mind-numbingly predictable topics. Otherwise the time was most likely to be used as an hour long live infomercial for some missionary youth movement or other.
My teacher, who was an incredibly bitter bitch, read my little summarized topics for discussion, smiled dryly and said she’d love for me to do this, she was happy that someone was involved and wanted to use the hour for some lively debate. I asked her if she could possibly lead the discussion, so that it would be about the subject at hand and not about putting me on the stand, and she said we’d work it out.
As the hour of the class grew nearer I began showing the early signs of a full blown out panic attack. It seemed strange to me how everyone around me was just acting normally. By the time class started I had been seriously considering getting up and leaving, and was fighting my body with every ounce of strength I had left.
The teacher presented my list of ideas and asked me to come forwards and stand in front of the class. Even though at that moment nothing could be scarier, I robotically went to the board and stood there, shaking with my little piece of paper, my mouth dry and sticky, my body crashing. I began to read in a quivering, child-like voice, and was barely two sentences into it when the class ripped into me, and all hell broke loose.
I should mention that in Israel the political atmosphere at the time was highly combustible. The political issues there were regarded as life or death for the country, and it was rare to find a student lacking political identity. The argument was very bitter and personal, I was attacked not only for the validity of the points I was raising but for having the nerve to use school time to speak ill of the elected prime minister. Some students were yelling at me, others who agreed with me were yelling at them, and a steady stream of students walked out on me in protest. Finally the teacher, who had been sitting against the wall swallowing her evil little smile, got up and stopped the class.
At that point the loudest student, whose slogans and shouts made it seem as if he wished Israel was a dictatorship, turned his attacks on her, and demanded to know how she dared allow me to use class time for my propaganda. Instead of backing me up, the teacher agreed with him, and in front of the students who were left, calmly explained that she had allowed me to carry out my little agenda in order to teach me a lesson.
I had later learned that she was an avid follower of Netanyahu, and that she had actually prepped a few key Netanyahu supporters amongst my classmates as to what I was going to be speaking about. They had no need to listen to me, they knew what I was about to say.
The trauma of that day is not the birth of my paralysis. My body’s automatic shut-down preceded that experience by years. But that day changed me. I’ve never trusted anyone when it comes to politics since, and the chances of me ever debating anything publicly evaporated into non existence. In fact, politics and I parted ways that day. My political views nowadays are as sedated as my thoughts on politics of the 18th century. I've become a person who may watch idiots from the side, but will never try to argue with them.
Or with my body.
I'm not sure if that makes me an idiot too, but it definitely makes my body one.