only an ethnic group and are certainlyrnnot a religious community; they constituterna people and should form for themselvesrna nation-state, like other peoples.rnIn that formulation—the Zionist one, beginningrnwith Theodor Herzl in 1897—rnthe Jews were in exile and should gornhome to the land of Israel, where theyrnwere to found (and in 1947 did found)rnthe state of Israel, The idea of exile tookrnon new life, this time in a secular and politicalrnframework. It formed part of thernrhetoric of Zionism and today forms arnnative category of Israeli nationalism,rnwhich deems )ews living in states otherrnthan Israel to be living in exile and to berncitizens of the Jewish state.rnWhat, exactly, can anyone mean byrn”exile” today? Since the U.S. Senate hasrnnearly a dozen Jewish members and thernHouse of Representatives well over arnscore, how are the Jews supposed to bern”in exile”? The miseries of exile, whichrnholy Israel patientiy endured in ChristianrnEurope and which the Jews in I9tii andrn20th-century Europe denied, but withinrnwhich nearly six million of them died,rnhardly form part of the day-to-da)’ existencernof Jews in the Western democracies.rnWe see the futilit)- of secularizing arntheological structure and system whenrnwe realize what, in political terms, “exile”rnactually means.rnIn his Calamities of Exile: Three NonfictionrnNovellas (1998), Lawrence Weschler,rna truly remarkable writer, tells usrnwhat exile means inrnthree tales. .. about basically decentrnexpatriates (the first an Iraqi,rnthe second a Czech, the third anrnAfrikaner), each of whom tries torndo the right thing with regard tornthe totalitarian regime holdingrnswav over his homeland, to var)’inglyrncalamitous effect.rnThe Iraqi is an architect, son of SaddamrnHussein’s court architect; the Afrikaner isrna leading South African poet, artist, andrnessayist who got himself involved with,rnand used by, the communist African NationalrnCongress; and the Czech is an anticommunistrnwho ran an undergroundrnoperation from London and ended up,rnwhen the communists fell, accused of involvementrnin their secret service.rnWhat Weschler makes clear is the truerncosts paid by authentic exiles in thisrnworld. And he makes one other point:rnOne might note . .. how in allrnthree of the totalitarian situationsrnsurveyed in this t e x t . . . thernregime’s dominance depended,rnparadoxically, on both the atomizationrnand the homogenization of thernsubjugated population. Dictatorsrnwant their subjects both to surrenderrnall sense of themselves into thernirational (or class) mass and, simultaneously,rnto experience themselves,rnqua individuals, as utterlvrnalone, cut off both endlessly suspectrnand unendingly suspicious ofrnever)’one else. Pithed, in short, ofrneven the fantasy, let alone the possibilit)’,rnof any sort of independentrnagency. In a sense the regime intendsrnthat its subjecl experiencernthemselves as exiles in their ownrnhomes —isolated, ineffectual, andrnutterly contingent. Eor the conditionrnof actual exile ordinarily dictatesrna similar sort of double movementrnin its victims, towardrnsimultaneous atomization and homogenizationrnand this wearingrndown of the potential for agenc’.rnEdges get sha cd away and subjectivitvrnis contini’ausly shorn until individualsrnexpei lence themselves asrnlittle more than abject objects,rntossed by a cruel and senseless fate.rnThat is what authentic “exile” means.rnIn that context, what can the theologicalrnconstruct of “Golah” or “exile” in Judaismrnpossiblv mean in a secular framework?rnJewry in exile never underwentrnthe kind of experience that Weschlerrncaptures. Take the Czech exiles, for example.rnThe authentic exiles from communistrnCzechoslovakia were the nativernresidents of die countr’, cut off from onernanother and suspicious of ever’one. Thernregime attempted to subvert and corruptrnthe entire population, some with threatsrnof punishment, others with promises ofrnsmall favors. In the Afrikaner poet’s case,rnthe commimist African National Congressrnsent an untrained, incompetent,rnand highly visible artist back into therncountry on a mission to Stephen Biko, asrnthough the bureau of state security werernnot following the poef s every movement.rnThe stor)’ of Hussein’s corruption of Iraq,rnhis creation of “the Republic of Fear”rn(the title of Kanan Makiya’s classicrnwork)—this, too, represents the internalrnexile of a complex and, before Hussein,rnhighly accomplished nation. .As Weschlerrnsays, “After the Baathists stormed backrninto power, in 1968, no sphere of Iraqirnlife was any longer allowed to exist outsidernpolitics.”rn”Exile” thus stands in the real world forrna condition of utter alienation, broughtrnabout by state power and institutionalizedrnin enduring form, of persons fromrnone another and from the social order.rnExile forms part of the subversion ofrnman, his corruption into something lessrnthan the image of God. In the Judaic theologicalrnframework, the term bears authenticrnand heavy meaning. In the secular,rnpolitical experience of our own time,rnwe are still paying the costs of the corruptionrnand subversion of human autonom’rnand dignity that communism effectedrnwherever it ruled. How the same theologicalrnand political language pertains tornthe situation of a secular ethnic group isrnunclear. What I learn from Weschler’srnmasterpiece of moral analysis is the differencernbetween real and imagined exile,rnthe human meaning and costs of the secularrnexile brought about by the politics ofrnthis calamitous century, and by communismrnmost of all.rnJacob Neusner is Distinguished ResearchrnProfessor of Religious Studies at thernUniversity of South Florida and arnprofessor of religion at Bard College.rnCHILTON WILLIAMSON, JR.rnThe senior editor for books atrnChronicles has returnedrnto Wyoming.rnHe encourages Chronicles readers inrnwrite to him at:rn1301 East Kearney Street, Laramie,rn’ ” ‘ M ^ H i mrnIHfl^^^^v ‘ « mrnthe area tornWY 82070rn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn