Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Dangerous trends in our democratic society


February 2, 2018

After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the country entered into a period of patriotic and political unity that it had not experienced since World War II and the decade that followed. The 1960s and 1970s were periods of political tension over a disputed war in Vietnam, civil rights for African Americans and equal rights for women. Although great progress was made, much is still left to be done on these issues and a host of other issues that currently confront our American society.

In periods of political and social change controversy is always present. Public debate in such times becomes passionate and often spills out into the streets in the form of public protests. All of this is healthy expression in our democratic society as long as violence is avoided and truthful discourse is conducted in a civil manner.

I should make it clear that when I speak of patriotic unity I am not speaking of blind nationalism or American isolationism. Both can be inimical to American interests and national security and distract us from the many imperfections and inequalities that continue to exist in our society; and block our path on our national journey to a more perfect union.

Unfortunately, this has not been the pathway to progress in the last few years. Over the past decade the United States has experienced much upheaval in its political discourse and civility, not only in the halls of Congress and academia, but also in our own living rooms, across the kitchen table and in conversations with family and friends.

Social media, which could be a great contributor to the debate on public issues has become a “safe” platform for insults, unjustified labeling, lies, name calling, and retreating to extreme positions both left and right on the political spectrum. Posts have become exercises in re-enforcing one’s own opinion and totally rejecting any contrary point of view. This irresponsible use of technology has further removed us from ever solving the issues and divisions that exist in our society. Our “smart” phones have really been put to “dumb” use.

The press and electronic media have also failed in providing objective news coverage on important public issues. When a news channel is only attracting a viewing audience with a specific identifiable view as being leftist or rightist, that news channel has failed in its role (protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States), in a democracy to inform and dispense information to the public on an objective basis and to clearly differentiate news from opinion. It is a sad commentary that NGOs such as CAMERA have to exist to point out prejudice in news reporting.

The Jewish community has not been immune to these shortcomings. The mean-spirited division in our national Jewish community represents a danger to our well-being and security as it relates to our place in American society, in our political strength, and in Israel’s security and international position. This is not to say we should all be of one-mind; that is not the Jewish way. However, reason, civility and respective discourse has always been the Talmudic way to address issues in our community; and if we are to continue to be “a light unto the nations”, we should practice this standard among ourselves and demonstrate this standard here in our own country to our fellow citizens.

If you wish to comment or respond to any of the contents herein you can reach me at melpearlman322@gmail.com. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner. If you wish to respond by ranting and raving, please go into your bathroom, lock the door and shout your brains out.

Mel Pearlman has been practicing law in Central Florida for the past 45 years. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; on the District VII Mental Health Board, as Special Prosecutor for the City of Winter Park, Florida; and on the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Research and Development Authority. He was a charter member of the Board of Directors and served as the first Vice President of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as its first pro-bono legal counsel.


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