Let’s talk about abuse. Yesterday afternoon President Trump let slip that he thought the terrorist bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across America and the threat to an Anti-Defamation League office, and the destruction of Jewish gravestones were quite possibly the Jews doing it to themselves to make his Presidency look bad. He said this while in a meeting with State Attorney Generals – this was no off the cuff remark.
This man sitting in the Oval Office thinks that Jews would purposely terrorize and traumatize tens of thousands of our own children and senior citizens and community employees in order to score political points against him. He considers this a plausible enough theory to have first opined on it at his press conference and to say it again yesterday behind closed doors.
Is this Bannon in his ear? Is it his paranoia and narcissism? Is he an anti-Semite on a global level? Did he say this for political expediency, to send a dog whistle to his base? Was he burping out the latest fake alt-right news/conspiracy theory he had consumed?
We have a parallel. Immediately after the pogroms, including Kristellnacht in 1938, when Nazi Hitler Youth destroyed Jewish businesses and places of worship, the German government stated that the Jews had done this to themselves. President Trump has put forward Nazi propaganda as an explanation for the tragedy that has befallen Jews in America since he’s ascended to office.
We know he’s a blamer. He has never once taken responsibility for his hate speech and hateful policies. He thinks humility is beneath him.
America was once our golden medina, the land of opportunity and freedom. But abuse perverts promise. Over time, a dark stain begins to permeate the gold.
Let’s examine textbook abuse. Ultimately, an abuser wants to crush the victim’s spirit, subvert hope, control and flaunt. An abuser will alternate between manipulation, charm, and bombast. An abuser will always tell the victim that the victim is to blame for the abuser’s evil transgressions. The victim will never be able to get comfortable in their own skin, in their own home, in public…because the abuser delights in keeping the victim off balance, silently terrified. Moreover, the abuser is expert in threatening not only the victim, but the victim’s loved ones.
And after a particularly emotionally or physically abusive episode, the abuser will often turn on a charm offensive…uttering words of love and devotion and affection. And so the cycle repeats, until the victim is irreparably harmed or miraculously escapes or the abuser moves on to the next prey.
Last night’s words of love mean nothing to me. I know they are not real.
Last week President Trump said that the media and news organizations were the enemy of the people. Then he singled major organizations out and unconstitutionally blocked their access to the White House press gathering. And because they are not, because they actually act with integrity and fairness, the media has overwhelmingly given President Trump positive reviews for his Address last night before Congress. He climbed over the lowest bar imaginable simply by injecting some optimistic fairy dust into his words. And as the abused victim does, again and again until the cycle is broken, the media eagerly welcomed President Trump’s seeming pivot. After all, this relief had been long and anxiously awaited.
Netanyahu, the global Jewish community’s self-proclaimed savior and spokesperson, has been notably quiet. He who was the first to pound his chest and roar to the Jews of Europe, he hasn’t even uttered a whisper. What will Donald do to his loved ones? Bibi must be cagey.
The question circling Jewish communal leaders is should they hold fast to their dignity and speak out…and risk losing access to power? Or should they keep their heads down low, Shtetl style? What will happen to their loved ones?
What will happen to all the people he’s threatened – our neighbors and friends who are Muslims or Others who are not powerful, affluent White, Christian, male Americans?
And what will happen to us?
So, we keep the secret, even and especially from ourselves. We survive by any means possible, becoming ever more traumatized in the process. They say abuse is the silent killer. It’s not, really. It’s just that half the family is closing their eyes and ears to the telltale clamor while the other half is emitting a muted scream. Who will listen? Who will save us? Will we save ourselves?