Although I have been doing my best to withhold certain comments and observations so we can move past this very divisive election, I also believe it is important that we continue to speak truth in a respectful way. Healing does not mean giving in or giving up on the things we believe. I will continue to fight and speak in favor of affordable health care, against government interference in the relationship between a patient and her doctor, harnessing the ingenuity and success of private enterprise to facilitate good works in the public sector, strong security at home and a respected military abroad, peace through strength for our allies including and especially Israel, crushing the forces of terrorism, and rejection of hate and intolerance.
You may notice these views don’t all necessarily fit into one of the traditional columns of conservative, liberal, Democrat or Republican. So let me make this clear: I no longer want to choose sides. I want to choose America. I want to choose life. I am a father, a husband, a doctor, a practicing Jew and an American. My views are defined by who I am as a person, I am not defined as a person by the views of a political party. And since neither political party seems to stand for much, other than getting into power these days, until either demonstrate a noble and honorable path to success for all its citizens, I prefer to keep it that way. I think there is probably already too much noise out there and I surely don’t believe that one more voice in the cacophony of opinions is necessary. But I was raised to believe that when you see something wrong in the world, you must speak against it and help correct it. This was the legacy of my grandfather who was one of the founding members of a political organization that fought to bring Winston Churchill to power, known as The Focus. I feel it is my duty to honor it.
Our democracy is built on the concept of the peaceful transfer of power. I will state right now that when Donald Trump called that into question during his campaign, that was the breaking point for me. I did not so much vote for Hillary as much as I did against Trump. I suspect that there is a very sizable group of people who cast their vote for one candidate or the other in much the same way. We are the TRUE silent majority. Embarrassed by the candidate we would like to support, and perhaps a bit ashamed of the one we ultimately voted for. But we must move on. We must accept the results if our democracy is to survive. We truly have no other option. So to see demonstrations and riots break out in protest to the result in the name of Democracy is especially troubling and painful. Not your President? Not my America!
Sadly, I do see far too many hateful and divisive references being made amidst the celebratory high fives, and too much anger, and protest amidst the disappointment. Both exist in such a tense and toxic environment, that either could take a turn for the worse at any moment. This has me very concerned and I suspect is what has, at least in part, given voice to the universal angst we all feel the need to express by whatever outlet we can find. People are or have been hurting all around the country, we keep hearing. Whether you are conservative or liberal, democrat or republican, urban or rural, black or white, it is simply unacceptable to discount or invalidate someone’s aspirations or struggles. So in that spirit, I humbly offer these thoughts.
First, if we are to heal we must stop the name calling and propagating tin foil conspiracies we read in social media circles and fake news sites on the internet. I still hear calls for “lock her up” and “she’s a criminal”. This must stop. Hillary was not indicted or convicted of any crime. Just as conservatives demand liberals accept the results of the election, they too need to accept the results of the FBI investigation and far too many congressional hearings. Hillary attempted to cover up a serious bureaucratic failure that had tragic consequences and that she knew was politically very damaging. She evaded responsibility and used terrible judgment in trying to defend it. And for that she paid the heaviest political price possible. But please stop calling her a criminal. She is no more a criminal than George Bush was for his failures pre and post 9/11. And there were many. She is a woman who devoted thirty years of her life to public service. She deserves our respect, regardless of her political views or yours.
Second, please don’t insult those of us who voted against Trump by saying that we believe 50% of the American people are misogynistic or racist. I have many Republican friends who I know are neither misogynist, homophobic or racist. But those of us who voted against Trump did so because we believe 100% of Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric at the very least enables among other things misogyny and racism. And we voted against him because people like me have friends, patients, wives, sisters and daughters who have first hand legitimate experiences and fears that the consequences of his election will be to embolden bullies and those among us who only know how build themselves up by tearing others down.
Many of us also voted against Trump because we believe him to be unstable and unfit to be President. We just elected someone who can’t control his impulses on a Twitter account and put him in charge of the nuclear launch codes for goodness sake. For many of us this election was not even about political ideology at all. It was about fitness serve as President at a time when critical flashpoints and volatile situations exist all around the world.
I have heard say that this is the end of political correctness and many feel liberated to speak their minds as they haven’t before. I am tired of the absurdity of political correctness too, but if that means the alternative is name calling, insulting and gaslighting then count me out. And if being thoughtful and sensitive towards others makes me part of the “elite” then you can call me “your royal highness”. We are free to criticize a female candidate and scrutinize her policies just as harshly as her male counterpart. Perhaps that in itself is an odd accomplishment. But to do worse and to attack and insult her and her supporters is not liberating, it’s abusive.
I agree we need to give the President elect a chance. That seems a popular refrain among Republicans now. It’s a shame they weren’t so beholden to that principle when they vowed to make Obama a one term President. Still, Trump will probably get more of a chance than Obama did his first term as his party holds power over all three branches of government. He has no excuse not to deliver on his many grand promises. Will he do all the things he said? If that includes moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and defeating ISIS I sure hope so. If he wants to adopt Obama’s original stimulus plan to invigorate the economy by investing in infrastructure, and keep parts of the ACA that work and tweak the ones that don’t I’m all for it! But if that includes alienating an entire segment of our society based on birthplace, religion, race or ethnic origin and building physical as well as ideological walls, I hope not.
If you want to combat bigotry, hatred and prejudice it might help to stand up and call on Mr. Trump to apologize to Mr. Obama and the nation for the hateful and toxic rhetoric of “birtherism” he promoted. We must be able to oppose policy without resorting to such disgraceful tactics. Similarly, we must be able to protest and speak out peacefully without resorting to violence. If the nation is to heal, these would be good places to start.
I am not ashamed to say that I supported Obama where I thought he was right, and I openly and vigorously opposed him where I thought he was wrong. I even changed my party affiliation a few years ago, though this election and the rhetoric associated with it is starting to have me regret that decision somewhat. When I supported Obama, I did so despite some people who accused me of being a self hating Jew, called me a “libtard” or unjustly and incorrectly blamed me for voting for the “wrong” candidate. When I was critical of him, some of my liberal friends this time around assumed I was supporting Trump because of my religious views or my views on Israel, and even accused me of “drinking Trump Kool Aid”. To some it may seem ironic that I in fact opposed Trump precisely because of the principles I believe our religion teaches us, and that I believe made him simply unfit for office.
We should not judge or assume anything about another person’s motives, challenges, or struggles. Both liberals and conservatives do it. That too must end. Instead, as I proposed before the election (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/hear-o-israel-2/) and have always maintained, we must work harder to listen, learn and understand each other. I am not alone in this line of thought. Far greater and more scholarly minds than mine have made similar calls in immeasurably more eloquent and convincing fashion, among them one of my heroes Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. In a world where the political spectrum edges ever closer to the extremes, I will strive to be as my father Z”L used to say, a radical centrist and learn what I can from both sides.
My purpose here is not to get a bunch of clicks or to go viral. I could care less if you approve or not. But if there is someone out there (and I suspect there are many) who feels that the world has gone mad, that reason and wisdom are being discarded in favor of fear and anger, and that this is simply not how things should be, to the real silent majority among you who feel you do not have a voice, I hope my words may give you solace. You are not alone. I am generally an outspoken person. I have spoken up when it was hard, not just when it was convenient or popular to take a given position. I have done what I can to support the families of fallen soldiers in Israel. I have cared for Syrian and Egyptian refugees who escaped to the US, fearing for their lives, to give birth to their children here. I will continue to do so, and so should we all who are so inclined to speak their mind and act in kindness.
Kindness is indeed what seems to be sorely missing in conversation, in social media and in our communities. Whatever our rationalizations and convictions, we must ultimately recognize that as American Jews we all want the same thing. Success in America, peace and security for Israel. How we get there and how we reconcile those sometimes competing goals is a challenge that is uniquely Jewish and one that will demand we strive to bring out the best in each other like never before. It will require that we heal ourselves, as well as each other. It will require true leadership in order to find redemption.
Indeed, in troubling times such as these, those with a more religious bent often look to prophecies and scriptures as a source of wisdom and understanding. Inevitably, discussions soon turn to the idea of “mashiach”. Within our Western thinking, we have allowed to permeate confusion between the term “mashiach” which is a leader, and “moshiach” which is a savior. One is active, the other is passive. It is in fact the former concept that reinforces the call to action, to “choose life” which is at the core of our beliefs. So if we are to truly seek clarity and understanding, we must recognize that WE ourselves are the spirit and the force that leads to a better world. If we seek success, peace, and “redemption” from the evils of the world, that is the choice that is placed before us. We can either give in to the darkness of fear and anger, or we can serve as a beacon of light to illuminate the way out. Choose kindness. Choose life. Heal thyself.
America IS great. Let us make her whole again.
Am Yisrael Chai.