On the other hand...
June 30, 2017
In the fabulous opening of “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye engages in a uniquely Jewish argument: taking two dissenting opinions and agreeing that they are both right. This is possible because of Talmudic study; an exercise in which only Jews can engage and whose twisted logic all Jews are born to innately understand.
Jews are used to debate. Debating (okay—arguing) is built into our DNA. We will argue over the best bagels, the age of the universe and the best shortstop the Yankees ever had. The best of friends can go toe to toe with rising decibels, quickly de-escalate and have a cup of coffee to decry (together) the state of the world.
But something has changed. It has come upon us rapidly and almost without warning. The ability for people to discourse politely and agree to disagree has become a contact sport. Civility has taken a vacation. It erupted violently during the political campaign of 2016. Oh—it was there already, under the surface, but there.
Reaction to the campaign tactics of Donald Trump did not in and of itself turn the conversation ugly and confrontational. But it sure helped.
“I’d punch him in the face.” “Get him out of here.” “Lock her up.” Given permission like that, the emotions come out of hiding in full force. Not that our president was alone in this, certainly he did not start it, but when a candidate for the highest office in the land gives a nod/nod wink/wink to coarse speech and behavior it has a wave effect.
In the 1960s on the left, the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) fomented riots on campuses across the country. They were radicals demanding changes on campus and in society. Many of their goals were lofty but their tactics were similar to early Nazism.
Their most public and radical acts took place at the University of California, Berkley—a campus uniquely dedicated to dissent and disruption. They were part of a wave of disruption and disgust at our entry and tactics in Viet Nam, and the fact that their age group was being sent to die in a war that presented no clear and present danger to the United States.
Times change. The Alt-Right has taken full advantage of the new media available to become a rising presence in our society. In the past 18 months they have become more and more visible and their rhetoric more inciting and dangerous.
The backlash from the Left however is no less inciting or less dangerous. Not to let a speaker appear because you do not agree with their line of reasoning or political preferences is no reason to threaten violence and death if they appear where they were invited. You don’t like what Ann Coulter says or the way she says it? Don’t go to the event. And if you do go, act respectful and have your own questions ready.
The protestors who prevented the Secretary of Education from entering a public school in Washington, D.C., may have been right in their argument but dead wrong in their tactic. The graduates who walked out at Notre Dame on Vice President Pence were just as wrong.
If we cannot dialogue, if we cannot peacefully agree to disagree, the whole American experiment goes down the drain. If we cannot listen to people with whom we disagree or whose ideas we disrespect, we are no longer who we claim to be.
There are exceptions. Israel has no reason to sit down with people whose entire goal in life is to see that the Jewish Homeland, along with all Jews, will no longer exist. The entire BDS movement or the organization calling itself “Jewish Voice for Peace” are not worthy of dialogue. Their money comes from States and organizations that want to see the end of the Jewish State and then the end of the Jewish World.
In the United Nations seldom anything good transpires. Some years ago I had a client in the ad business whose product was an ideal promotional and fund raising item for the U.N. After some research I located the proper department and the proper person therein. The meeting with me, my client and three “officials” was a real eye opener. The entire discussion centered on “What’s in it for us?” Stated almost that blatantly. I learned a really good lesson that day.
The U.N. is corrupt. Decisions are based on money—much of it under the table. Thank God for one of the things this administration did right. Its name is Nikki Haley. Despite her best efforts, they will never be friendly or even fair to Israel. That is not the place to look for a just solution to any Mideast problems.
So, when it comes to the Alt-Right, a purely White Supremicist Group or to finding a partner to discuss any solution to the so-called Israel-Palestinian “problem,” Tevye would wrestle with a solution and finally, in exasperation—lift his hands over his head and exclaim: “There is no other hand!”