What have we done with our freedom?
Always an appropriate, if not always a comfortable question. Especially so this Passover season. Given my druthers, I’d make this question part of the Greek symposium (drinking party) that the rabbis and sages long ago turned into the seder. And I’d require answers not pre-formatted long ago.
So what have we done with our freedom?
The story we tell is that the “Liberation Generation” of Israelites weren’t fit for freedom. The story we tell is that because the Liberation Generation lacked faith, they had to die in the desert.
What is it that the present generation lacks? Or perhaps, possesses to deadly surfeit?
What is the story that future generations will tell about us?
Nice to be back, after a couple weeks of dealing with assorted editors and publishers, concerning a novel about Israel and a couple other projects. Israel’s not exactly a happy subject nowadays, and if you don’t fall neatly into either standard category – Israel can do no wrong versus Israel can do no right – you make people nervous.
It matters to understand what makes Americans – the good Americans in their hundreds of millions – nervous about us.
Let’s do this Talmudically.
Unto what may the present Israeli-American situation be likened?
It may be likened unto that of a married couple who are having the kind of argument they never expected to have. The argument has been building for a long while. Both partners had hoped to avoid it. But they couldn’t, and now things are being said that neither ever expected to say or to hear.
Neither wants a divorce, and the day-to-day continues reasonably well. But the marriage will never again be what it was, or what the partners once hoped it might be.
In many American eyes, Mr. Netanyahu’s damaged goods. More than once, I’ve heard Americans refer to his “antics.” One friend even compared him to the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a nasty, unstable, posturing, narcissistic, megalomaniacal clown. Dangerous. But beyond that, not to be taken seriously.
Still, Mr. Netanyahu’s not the permanent problem. The permanent problem is that Americans now understand, as never before, how many Israelis favor, even delight in his antics. Israelis love leaders who “stand up to” the United States. Perhaps it’s time for Israelis to realize that “standing up to” and meddling in the affairs of Israel’s greatest friend and only benefactor, whatever the immediate satisfactions, may prove far from worth it in the long run.
America has not become Israel’s enemy. But as that nation’s demographics and psychographics shift, perpetual amity is no longer certain. No final divorce seems likely. But there may be a slow, steady drifting apart that in the end will amount to the same thing.
And all this goes beyond that other package of damaged goods and pathetic antics, Barack Obama.
Unto what might America’s relationship with President Obama be likened?
It may be likened unto a person who has given up on another, but must endure that person for a while longer. No expectations of change for the better are held and, if such happens, sorry, too late. It’s over.
And whoever his successor, he or she will not be able to erase easily or at all the American realization that the World’s Sole Superpower no longer superpowers much of anything, no matter who sits in the White House and knows only what others choose to report or reveal.
And now America’s beginning, vaguely, to ask herself, “What have we done with our freedom?” And what are we going to do, now that the inmates have taken over the conservative asylum and the inmates of the liberal asylum show no signs of recovery from their stupor, or of wanting recovery.
Israel and America – two damaged goods countries that have lost their way and have no reasonable expectation of their governing cliques getting them back on track.
But perhaps We the Peoples can help each other out.
As a necessary preliminary, Israel needs to recognize that she must somehow appeal to a growing group of Americans: those who are fundamentally favorable to Israel, but whose doubts have grown to the point where, as one American told me, in essence, “I would like to like Israel again. But you people aren’t making it easy.”
That’s the vital target for Israeli hasbara. Israel’s wing nut Amen Corner doesn’t need it; the anti-Semites and other ideologues won’t change. The skeptical but still-hopeful – them’s the customers we need to win back.
Those millions upon millions who believe in the Jewish State as a Jewish State, but not as the neighborhood bully or some sort of religious/military/imperial theme park.
How to do it?
First, forget the “Get the Truth Out” approach: those endless, dreary “Set the Record Straight” huff-and-puffs that induce those two devastating indicators of flagging audience attention and interest. TMI and MEGO. Too Much Information and My Eyes Glaze Over.
Forget also the ridiculously self-serving chatter about how wonderful we are, compared with Them. The evil of others does not equate to our own perfection.
Then, adopt the “Would You Accept It from Your Teen-Ager?” standard. “Mom, Dad, how can you punish me for getting caught cheating at school? Don’t you know about all the murders and rapes going on? And what about . . .”
Finally, smile politely at anyone who tries the old, worn-out “What about?” change-the-subject tactic. Smile politely, then leave.
That’s the negatives. But now, what do we say to America? And what might America say to us?
That’s for next time, For now, Chag Sameach to all us Israelites, and Happy Easter to our Christian friends. Especially those Christians who want to like us once again. Back next week. And thanks to my sweetie for filling in.