You can’t say everything at once. Nor should you try.
You can’t talk to everyone at once. And anyway, if you try to please everyone, somebody won’t like it.
This series is about how to explain Israel to a very specific target audience: serious Americans with serious doubts about Israel, about America, perhaps about themselves. The premise here is that these doubts are not unrelated, and that to communicate effectively, you treat them as a whole.
We start with what doesn’t work with these people. No screaming. No lecturing. No getting offended at any whiff of criticism. No insults. No arrogance. No righteousness. No Hasbara. And no assuming that because something’s valid and compelling to you, other people are required to treat it with the same regard.
They’re not. And serious people with serious doubts don’t appreciate being bullied, scolded, talked down to, or scorned.
They do appreciate being addressed in words of reason, calmly presented and dependent for their persuasive power on logic, not high-decibel invective.
And they respond, perhaps, to rational appeals to their rational self-interest.
How many of these people does America hold? Impossible to tell. Perhaps they’re a New Silent Majority. Or maybe there aren’t a whole lot left. But it’s a worthwhile task to attempt to speak to them at their own level because, in years to come, they may turn out to a new mass movement, or perhaps a secular saving remnant. One hopes.
But you can’t reach them simply by making your case for Israel . . . or by defending those whose advocacies they find abhorrent. You start out, insofar as you can, to craft your message anew. And you start that process by understanding, so far as you can, the people whom you wish to reach.
Serious Americans with serious doubts.
So what’s on their minds?
A lot. But not very often, Israel. For the majority of Americans, Israel’s a low-involvement issue. Unless their characters and beliefs predispose them to Zionism and/or Judeophilia, unless they have personal ties to Israel or relationships with Israelis . . . they probably don’t know much. A snippet here, an image there, maybe a bit of reading or a Holy Land vacation tour long ago. Call it rational ignorance. Why make the effort to learn and understand something that has nothing to do with you, when you’re so overwhelmed by more immediate matters, such as trying to stay alive, maybe even prosper, in the American economy of 2016?
And therein lies one key to explaining Israel to serious people. You start with the premise, no, the axiom: We’re all in this together.
A radical departure from centuries of “It’s all about us,” the People that Dwells Apart, and the rest.
But what, precisely, is “this” that we’re all in together?
Two obvious items arise. First, global climate change and its currently unpredictable consequences. Second, the global spread of violent, savage, tyrannical Islamism. But it’s not enough merely to invoke this unholy duo. You have to remember who you’re talking to, and what their own dilemmas and doubts might be.
Serious Americans, by which I mean those intelligent, humane folks drawn neither to the metastatic Right nor the impotence-chic Left, who are appalled at what American politics has let itself become. But again, it’s not enough merely to be appalled at a way of political discourse and action far more closely resembling reality TV or professional wrestling than the discourse and actions of the Founders. It matters to understand the logic behind the hideousness.
Historically, there’s nothing new about the wealthy exploiting those beneath them. Nor is there anything new about the second oldest tactic in justification of that exploitation: invocation of so-called transcendent principles, moral absolutes, divine will, etc. Nor is there anything new with the third oldest tactic: persuading those in the middle that their real enemies are those beneath them, not above them. But there is something new here in American history.
Nowadays, globalization means that anything can be made, bought, sold, invested or stashed anywhere. Globalization creates a dominant transnational elite whose primary loyalties are to their money and the power it buys. Today’s American elites do not need America. Which is to say: They do not need Americans. Not as workers. Not as consumers. Not as nothin’.
This globalized elite, sometimes aka the One Percent, is no mere continuation of America’s prior generations of robber barons and predatory financiers. Whatever their faults, they were American patriots in a growing nation that needed a productive, educated population. This is no longer true. More and more, Americans have become superfluous.
Seen from this perspective, much of the so-called conservative agenda – abolishing ObamaCare, even Medicare and Social Security; shredding the safety net; assaults on women’s rights; and the rest – make sense. Why pay to keep these superfluous people alive?
After all, death is the ultimate economy.
It’s happening. The Great American Die-Off has begun. Poverty, long-term unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, lack of adequate or any medical care, violence, are taking their toll. So may be corporate for-profit medicine’s “refusal to treat” – a complex affair sometimes hidden behind weasel words such as “best practice,” and what happens when your insurance maxes out. A 2015 study released by the National Center for Health Statistics showed significant drops in life expectancy for two white groups: the ill-educated middle-aged and those in their eighties and above.
The effects of poverty and hopelessness, we understand. But is somebody pulling the plug on America’s seniors?
Now add in all the possible and probable medical and economic effects of global climate change. It’s not talked about much. Yet. But at some level, serious people with serious doubts about their country and their own significance, must know that:
America’s slowly dying – a process that must accelerate and lead to ever more common use of an elite’s oldest tactic for keeping people down. Physical force.
Now, then, what do you say when you hear: “I’m an American. My country is dying. You want to talk to me about Israel?”