A Shande fur die Yiddim

Missed a few posts. Medical, comme d’ordinaire. Coming down off chemo can be as inconvenient as staying up there. So was that immune-system-related situation that consumed the last few weeks. Once my wife pointed out that the condition could be fatal – she learned it on the Internet, so who am I to argue? – and the doctors agreed, OK, let’s get this fixed.

True, chemo damages the immune system. But I blame Donald Trump. That man could wreck anybody’s immune system.

Which brings us back to the item we’ve been masticating for some time now. How should Israelis talk to Americans?

More precisely: How should some Israelis talk to some Americans about some things?

The last few weeks, I believe, have strengthened my hypothesis that the critical American target audience is good people with honest doubts, about Israel and much else, including their country and themselves, and that the way to talk to them is to do it “citizen-to-citizen.”

But does America have any citizens left? And after reading that Pew survey, it’s possible to ask: Does Israel even want to have any?

The American citizen dilemma first. Israel, next week.

The Republican Party – the party with whom Prime Minister Netanyahu has cast Israel’s future – has become abhorrent. I take it personal. From 1964 until 2002, I were one. One who saw the degradation coming and did what I could (not very much) to stop it.

But the damage is done. So, perhaps, is the current two-party system, which was traditionally based on the “Big Tent” theory that ideological orientation could accommodate a variety of outlooks and interests. No more. The Republican Party has become, not fascist (an inappropriate word), but deranged, mistaking petulance for philosophy, dubious economic theory for divine revelation, and Hate-Obama for some kind of constructive program. Meanwhile, the Democrats, including Senator Sanders, flail about, either pouting after some sort of compelling message that keeps not happening or wallowing in impotence chic.

Few Israelis understand the lunatic complexity and surrealistic procedures of America’s primary system, if such it can be called. A single national primary, with voters allowed to pick one candidate from each party, might make sense. But that would leave far fewer opportunities for favoritism, manipulation and cash-tossing, so it won’t happen. In any event, primaries are not about policies. They’re about personalities, about character, about how candidates present themselves and deal with others

Mr. Trump’s character – bully, thug, blowhard, lifelong spoiled brat – has been on public display since the 1980s. Those who find him attractive might be presumed to favor such qualities, and to approve of what has become the conservative penchant for governance by tantrum. As for the other Republicans, less of the same, but still the same.

I might be a recovering conservative, but I’m still on the mailing list. When I encounter candidate messages telling me of “Obama’s tyranny” or how “left-wing terrorists” are disrupting the Donald’s hate-ins and It’s All Over unless you send money . . .

Israelis, who have long grown used to hearing their brethren equate any and all opposition or criticism with Jewish self-hatred, anti-Semitism, Nazism and worse, may understand what happens when language becomes so debased.

Meanwhile, among the Democrats. Mrs. Clinton remains the known quantity she has been at least since the 1980s: self-referent, self-entitled, slick and vague, vague and slick, alternately faux charming and genuinely abusive. Her personal wealth, excluding hubby’s holdings, comes in between thirty and fifty million dollars. Not bad for a gal who hasn’t held a private sector job since hubby was governor of Arkansas and she was a partner in the Rose Law Firm, tending to her First Lady duties in her spare time.

As for Senator Sanders: He may not be the next president, but he’s certainly a positive indicator in two ways.

The first is that he talks to people like they was people. He may be all over the target on specifics, but he holds to a coherent meta-position, even though it has yet to find a name or a sound bite slogan. Socialism means as little here as fascism. Epithets and anachronisms only, and not very interesting.

The second is that his success so far indicates that there are plenty of people fed up with both parties. Perhaps they want less to be good Dems or Reps again, than to be citizens – active, participating citizens – for once. And here I venture a prediction:

Whoever wins in November, it is entirely possible, even plausible, that a serious third party will arise, composed of good people of various backgrounds who want their country back. The “barriers to entry” of a serious new party aren’t quite so formidable anymore. The Internet and crowd-funding have occasioned delicious new possibilities. The experience is being gained, the data bases created.

This would not be a party for dilettantes, ideologues or single-issue fanatics. It would be, to repeat, for serious people with serious doubts, who aren’t willing to witness passively the accelerating demise of America.

Or write Israel political and moral blank checks anymore.

Barack Obama, who has, if nothing else, proven that the human life form can indeed be invertebrate, will not be kickable-aroundable much longer. Whoever wins in November will doubtless keep the Israeli military grants, loan guarantees and “eternal alliance” rhetoric coming. How long these people will be around, or in a position to do so, is another matter.

At the moment, from this perspective, American electoral politics amounts to little more than a Shande für die Yiddim, a scandal in front of the Jews. But this is one scandal that the Jews, Israeli Jews especially, would do well to stay out of.

While preparing for a possible aftermath that may require a completely new relationship with Israel’s too-long taken-for-granted only patron and, increasingly, only friend.

Next: Israeli Citizens: Are There Any Who Can Speak to America?

P.S. Lest I seem totally negative about the American Right:

We moved to a new house recently. This required lots of newsprint to wrap dishes and glassware. So where, in this Age of Internet Everything, do you get newspapers?

Yisrael Ha-Yom. Israel Today.

“Hi. Can I have several copies?”

“Take all you want. Take them all. Come back for more any time.”

Thanks, Sheldon, We couldn’t have done it without you.



About the Author
Philip Gold made Aliyah from USA in 2010 after several decades as a Beltway "public intellectual" of sorts.
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