Thursday, June 12, 2008

Narrow Road, Drive Carefully !!!!

"According to the law which they shall teach you, and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto you to the right hand, nor to the left."(Deuteronomy 17:11.)
Every time there is an election, we hear the ubiquitous metaphor of left and right used to describe political beliefs. After the French Revolution, it is reported that revolutionary deputies in parliament were seated to the left of the legislative chamber. Conservatives were seated to the right. This seating arrangement has been enshrined in our lexicon as a descriptive term for political beliefs. Its unfortunate effect is to dampen political discourse. I had an otherwise intelligent social studies teacher in seventh grade who once dismissed an idea by saying, "That would be socialism." The thought immediately flashed through my mind, "So now tell me what is wrong with the idea."
Years later, the Cambodian genocide dampened my enthusiasm for Marxism enough for me to stop and listen to my father's critique of planned economies. He described societies in which five year plans were the norm, and how they failed. His opinions were devoid of dismissive labels. Long after his passing, I strive to recreate his clarity of thinking.
Political ideologies often compete with religious faith in channeling the passions of belief. I have experienced the hypnotic appeal of Marxism, and looked with honesty at its stratospheric body count. Various forms of fascism have a long list of casualties to their credit as well.
Every time the Torah portion of "Shoftim" is read , the words "thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall declare unto thee, to the right hand, nor to the left." resonate in my soul. My understanding of these words is that they have political ramifications. It is very tempting for an adherents to an "ism" to close their eyes to uncomfortable truths that do not conform to their political philosophy. As a former communist, I used to rationalise the transgressions of Marxist regimes in order not to shake my belief system. At the end of the Vietnam war, the Cambodian genocide made this impossible. Politics is simply one aspect of the collective level of human existence. It need not be a "dirty business". Indeed, it is a necessary business.
On a personal level, there are political figures to the left and to the right who serve as living reminders to Jews not to feel at home in one place on the political spectrum. London Mayor Ken Livingston is such an example. According to the Yid With Lid" blog, "On two occasions Livingstone gave red-carpet treatment to Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi whom he invited to London. This Egyptian sheikh lives in Qatar and has supported suicide bombings as being consistent with Islam. He was presented by Livingstone as a ‘progressive' and the kind of moderate who could positively influence British Muslims." By contrast, Livingstone has villified Israel and British Jewry with a vehemence seldom shown to others.
On the right, Patrick Buchanan offers a similar warning to Jews to that offered by Ken Livingstone on the left. There is a disturbing overlap of terminology and political positions between Patrick Buchanan and those at the outer fringes of American politics such as David Duke and the holocaust revisionists.
Regarding the holocaust , Buchanan is quoted as saying "Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody." -New Republic, 10/22/90
Regarding Adolf Hitler, Buchanan states "" "He (Hitler) was also an individual of great courage, a soldier’s soldier in the Great War, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him. But Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path." - St. Louis Globe – Democrat, Aug 25, 1977"
When discussing racial segregation, Buchanan waxes nostalgic in the following quote. "In the late 1940’s and 1950’s…race was never a preoccupation with us, we rarely thought about it…. There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The ‘Negroes’ of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds and churches; and we had ours.” - Right From the Beginning (1990)
Anyone who looks to the left for anti Jewish paranoia can find identical notes sounded in Buchanan's writings. In the following quote, Buchanan's magazine "American Conservative" actually levels the charge that Jews had prior knowledge of 9/11. "

"And then there are the movers. Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, New Jersey was largely staffed by Israelis, many of whom had recently been discharged from the Israeli Defense Forces. As has been widely reported, three movers were photographed celebrating in Liberty State Park against the backdrop of the first collapsing World Trade Center tower. The celebration came 16 minutes after the first plane struck, when no one knew that there had been a terrorist attack and the episode was assumed to be a horrible accident. The owner of the moving company, Dominik Suter, was questioned once by the FBI before fleeing to Israel. He has since refused to answer questions.

Whether the movers and the art students had jointly pieced together enough information to provide a preview of 9/11 remains hidden in intelligence files in Tel Aviv, but the proximity of both groups to 15 of the hijackers in Hollywood, Florida and to five others in northern New Jersey is suggestive."

Buchanan is very effective at bringing some revolting ideas into the political mainstream. He is a living reminder that the right of the political spectrum is fraught with danger as well.
An enduring metaphor used to describe the Jews is that of the canary in the mine. There are lethal gases that accumulate in coal mines that have no odour. Miners used to carry canaries in the mine with them as protection. When a bird dropped dead off its perch, it was a stark warning to those in the mine to leave with haste. To masses of Germans who were cheering Hitler, the sight of Jews scrubbing the streets was an annoying element of discord in a pretty picture. It is easy for those lulled by what for them is an attractive ideology. It is even easier to bribe the unemployed and the desperate.Too late, the German people found that their "salvation had a steep price tag.
There have been rude awakenings in generations past of those who became enamoured of revolutionary idols. The victims in the Stalinist show trials of the thirties were dedicated revolutionaries who fell afoul of Stalin. Hitler's circle of hate widened beyond Jews. According to the famous poem by Martin Niemoller , "In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."
It is important that we seek truth and justice, wherever it may exist on the political spectrum. In Russian, the word for truth is "pravda". In Serbian the word for justice is "pravde".
Human language itself illuminates a connection between justice and truth. If we seek to build a just society, we must be honest with ourselves. We are living in dangerous times. We need G-d's help and the full benefit of our senses to make proper choices.
Although I am voting for McCain, although I frequently side with conservatives on current issues, I do not canonise anyone in government. The best that can be hoped for in the political process is to strive for perfection through imperfect means. May G-d help us

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1 comment:

JaaJoe said...

Pat Buchanan's new book makes some great points but falls apart when he spins he tries to spin his anti semitism in to something he thinks people can digest. He poises him self in a position where you have to agree with him, but then drops a bomb in your lap. Nice tactics, but none the less futile. I suggest reading this book review on his new book.