Why is everyone so angry?
Usually, most people don’t take a real interest in politics until at least spring of an election year. Admittedly this year is different. The rise of The Donald continues to amaze. Obviously Bernie Sanders has touched a nerve.
Jews have been almost solidly Democratic for over a hundred years. The reasons are simple. The Democratic Party stood by the unions. The Jews who became citizens in the early 1900s and beyond knew that their only chance against the “Stinking Bosses” was to organize.
My grandfather, Abraham Shiplacoff (go ahead, Google him!), was a union leader in Brooklyn in what was called the “Needle Trades.” They were the thousands of Eastern European Jews who slaved making “shirtwaists,” skirts and pants on treadle sewing machines. They live in cramped, hot, stinking, unhealthy tenements on the lower East Side of New York and Brooklyn.
He was instrumental in the creation of the ILGWU (the International Lady’s Garment Union). All he and his colleagues wanted was for Jews to have a decent life and a shot at the American Dream. And they got it.
Jews moved from the tenements of New York and Brooklyn “uptown” to the Bronx and beyond. We spread across the country and because of rampant anti-Semitism, we were forced to become entrepreneurs, starting our own businesses. There were quotas in most law schools and medical schools limiting the number of Jews allowed. Still, the Jewish doctor and the Jewish lawyer have become legendary.
We have come a long way. But, things change. The American Dream has become a little muddled. It’s become tougher to move up that ladder. Not just for Jews but according to all statistics, for everyone.
The “New Economy” is one of innovation and entrepreneurship. These are two things we Jews are pretty good at. So we are finding our way in computer engineering and innovative startups. But not everybody has that urge, that ingenuity, which brings us back to this year’s testy election.
I asked a renowned psychiatrist: “I don’t want to get into a political discussion, but can you give me an opinion on what is going on in this country?”
His answer was simple: “People are afraid of losing their toys.”
Now, the definition of toys can be pretty broad, and the doctor does have a point. But in my opinion it is more than that. I think the anger comes from the fact that many people think the game is rigged against them.
Jews are particularly sensitive about this. For almost a century in this country the game was rigged against us. An attorney general of the United States once said, “All Communists aren’t Jews, but all Jews are Communists.” Yes, we have come a long way from then, but we still have to be aware.
When people get mad, when they think their “toys” are going to be taken away, whether it is an assault weapon or mid-life sports car, they look for someone to blame. Step two is for someone to tell them who to blame. And that brings us back to the 2016 election cycle.
Fingers are pointed at Muslims. Fingers are pointed at all immigrants. Could we be next? After all, aren’t we part of the problem? Don’t we control the media and the banks and the politicians?
I am not trying scare tactics or creating a straw Golem that will come after the Jews as Father Coughlin did in the 1930s. It’s just that when fingers start being pointed and people look for someone or something to blame, can we be far behind?
I am writing this on Martin Luther King Day and yes, that is playing on my mind. I see what is happening in state after state to unravel the Civil Rights Movement which was led by Dr. King and had so many Jews involved in the fight.
I see the anger that The Donald brings on in his rallies. I see a Muslim lady who simply stood up at one of his rallies with a t-shirt that said “Salam, I Come in Peace.” She was heckled, booed and asked by Trump to leave the gathering. As she did, she was heckled on her way out.
I think it is more than toys that people are afraid of losing. I think it is over a century of progress that seems to be slipping away. Jews have a stake in this fight. Whether it is government, lobbyists, the big banks or once again “The Stinking Bosses” we must be a part of making it right.
We too should have anger. Not of the Trump kind, but of the kind that Jews have always manifested to make things right. When a nurse in Israel, a mother of six is murdered in front of her children by a Palestinian terrorist and there is no immediate reaction from the Organized Jewish Community, I wonder: where is that anger?