“Whom should I have voted for, the Communists?”
Seventy years after the Holocaust, the West is waking from decades of peaceful, moderate, respectful, consensus politics, though it didn’t always feel like that. Now the monsters are back.
Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and other rising nativists are not Hitler. Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and other rising socialists are not Stalin and Mao. Many of their supporters are good people who just want to help the struggling or oppressed and/or provide a fair deal for the average person. Part of what we’ll need to get through this is the courage and discipline to not demonize and other-ize our political foes, no matter how fascist we think they are.
After a year of denial regarding Trumpmania, Neo-Conservatives woke yesterday to a series of frightening truths. We, and most people we know and trust, were very wrong about many Republican voters. This means our bubble is even smaller than we thought it was, and that we may be flying blind on some key issues.
Before neocon was an epithet meaning Zionist warmonger, it was a group of anti-anticommunists. They viewed themselves as opponents of totalitarianism of all kinds, and of defenders of freedom, Judeo-Christianity and Western Civilization. The neocons thought that the flowery rhetoric of the “New Left,” whether noble or not, was destroying everything classic liberals valued. Daniel Patrick Moynihan focused on the moral hazard, family breakdown and increased poverty that he accurately predicted would be unintended consequences of LBJ’s War on Poverty. Scoop Jackson focused on containing the Soviet Union and stopping the spread of Communism. Others focused on the cultural battle of those demonizing the West. Moynihan and Scoop Jackson lost their battles and most neocons decided they could better defend freedom and Western Civilization with friends on the right.
Reagan touched neocons with statements like this:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same …” — Ronald Reagan
Neo-Nazis and Neo-Marxists
On Yom HaShoah, neocons are among many Americans wondering whether we best defend freedom and Western Civilization by working with the left or the right.
On the one side, a victim vs oppressor paradigm that we think is immoral, wrong, and devastating to the free world. A group that champions diversity and tolerance for race and ethnicity, but not for ideas and values. A “no tolerance for the intolerant” paradigm that’s somehow more tolerant to Islamic fundamentalists than to those that fight them. An instinct to transfer more and more wealth and power from smaller groups to national and international governing bodies. A constant, over-sized focus on the real and perceived missteps of America and Israel, and the presentation of America and Israel as the key sources not of the world’s problems.
On the other side we have a dangerous populist demagogue who fans the flames of ethnic hatred. Who promised (and then sort of recanted) that the military would not refuse to carry out his illegal orders. Who retweets many of his crude, misogynist, anti-Semitic Alt-Right followers. Whose symbol is a big wall separating them from us.
Ideological Maginot Line
Our cultural/ideological response to the Holocaust was to demonize Nazis, white supremacists, and racists. To always stand up for the weak and oppressed, whether they were right or wrong. Almost defining right or wrong as synonymous with victim or oppressor. It was an ideological Maginot Line. Our totalitarian defense against yesterday’s enemies eliminated any acceptable way to defend ourselves against the new totalitarians, the neo-Marxists.
For the presidential election, we’re going to have to choose between what we see as a systemic attack on Judeo-Christianity and Western Civilization on one side, and a dangerous demagogue and his white supremacist and misogynist followers on the other.
Ben Gurion’s Paradigm
On the wider level, we’ll remember how Ben Gurion famously insisted that we fight the White Paper as if there were no Nazis, and we fight the Nazis as if there were no White Paper. Sometimes, as Netanyahu says, the enemy of my enemy is my enemy.
In our case, “fight” and “enemy” are the wrong words, the wrong paradigms. There’s good and bad in every person and group. We’re all driven by combinations of loves and hates, of hopes and fears. Passive-aggressive hate in the name of love, and intolerance in the name of tolerance, won’t get us through this.
We’re in a difficult time. With patience, real tolerance, and mutual respect, maybe we can get through it.