Healing in an Era of Distrust

Earlier this week a reporter was eating at The Big Fish Grill in Wilmington, Delaware when who should show up for dinner but none other than Joe and Jill Biden out for an evening together.  There was, of course, a bevy of security people surrounding them but they tried to keep their distance and provide some privacy to the President and his wife.

Towards the end of dinner, the reporter walked by the Biden’s table and was aghast to see that the President had ordered that perennial dessert favorite, Black Forest Cake.

Shocked that the President would even think of ordering such a blatantly racist dessert, the reporter immediately contacted the local office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to report this untoward event.  The organization was amazed at the level of insensitivity to minority cultures that was exhibited by this President, who spoke so often during the campaign of unity and its importance.  The regional director immediately began to organize a protest at the Biden home to register his disappointment in the President’s behavior.

Later that evening, when the Bidens returned home they found hundreds of protestors with signs that said “Biden Eats Blacks” and others saying “For Biden Black is Dessert.”  At the same time a few miles away, there was another band of protesters outside the Big Fish Grill with signs saying: “Menu Racism is Still Racism.”

At both events, the media was out in full force recording the protests.  By the time the late evening news went on networks across the country everyone was aware of the racism of this President as evidenced by his eating Black Forest Cake.  It was even the main topic of discussion on all the late night talk shows as well.

By noon the following day in cities all across the country the Black Lives Matter movement had arranged demonstrations protesting the racist actions of the Unity President in having ordered that racially derogatory piece of Black Forest Cake.  By the time the Congress convened at noon, certain members of congress were already prepared to introduce articles of impeachment given the manner in which the President allegedly demeaned his office and, thereby, the good name of the USA globally as well.

Of course, Black Forest Cake is simply the name of a dessert created from chocolate sponge cake, filled with cherries and topped with icing. But lest you think this whole reaction is a bit extreme, it encapsulates what is going on in US politics now where every action of every politician from the President on down is scrutinized to the nth degree.  Even worse than the scrutiny is that so many events are blown out of proportion so that an attempt can be made to demonstrate how the public official is failing to do the job to which he or she was elected.

Sadly, this situation is not limited to US politics.  Today it seems to be part and parcel of every democratic system, and operates in a similar manner here in Israel as well.  The opposition, the media and even the general population is always ready to pounce on every little thing they see to try to make it prove whatever their point is at the moment.

In many ways, life was better before the onset of 24 hour news.  There is no doubt that politics and politicians suffered the same ills and made the same missteps 75 years ago as they do today.  The good thing was that the public did not see all of these within minutes of every event.  As a result, elected officials could govern.  We could disagree with their decisions but there we no cameras in the toilets spying on them during their private moments.

The result of all of this scrutiny and reaction is that the democratic process is undermined and those who voice opposing views are seen to the enemy, someone to be beaten politically rather than someone with whom to reach common ground.  Politicians at every level and their enablers have forgotten that in a democracy one cannot win every point, that sometimes the other side wins, and that the system only functions with compromise.

If the governments cannot re-learn these basic elements of a functional democracy, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that ultimately dictators will take the reins of leadership using terminology we have heard too often recently…..that only I can solve the problem.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said:  “To view the opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concepts of democracy. To oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of democracy.”  The sooner governments internalize that lesson the sooner the healing can begin.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 29 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.