Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

If It’s Not About Politics, Then What’s Causing Our Downfall?

It was en route to one of our Lapland destinations, just a few days ago, that our tour guide decided to engage our Israeli group in a philosophical discussion in order to pass the two-hour bus ride a bit easier.  His question to each one of us was, “What do you think is the cause of the societal breakdown that we have been witnessing over the past several years which has profoundly changed Israel for the worse?”

Encouraging each one of us to participate in the discussion, several people took the microphone in hand and spoke about the massive differences they’ve seen and experienced.  Some blamed it on a decisive turn towards capitalism, given the fact that Israel started out as much more of a socialistic society.  Others spoke about a lack of parental education of kids which has failed to pass on manners and values, while some felt the real culprit was the Internet, social media and the use of smart phones – all of which have caused this generation to interact much less than their predecessors and show little enthusiasm or depth of feeling.

Of course, there is no doubt that all of these responses are part of a large puzzle which, together, comprise a composite picture of many of the causes which have contributed to a definite downward spiraling of our innocence, caring, unity and closeness, as a species.

As I thought about the question, I realized how Israel is a mirror image of the US, the country which they have probably most admired. Over the past 15 years or so, political lines have been drawn in a very divisive and vicious way, to the point where reasonable discussion is no longer an option. Each side is so dug into their positions and philosophies that there is no possibility of finding any common ground.

It began to really escalate in libelous ways as Republicans and Conservatives were labeled a “basket of deplorables,” by Hillary Clinton, with the rhetoric being ramped up as Biden referred to the same group as “White Supremacists,” “Racists,” “Domestic Terrorists” and more.

Israeli politicians, who should have noticed, didn’t seem to figure out that vilifying half of the population can only lead to disunity, distrust and a total breakdown of a once cohesive society. So they, too, began to look upon those, with opposing viewpoints, as the enemy within, rather than focusing their disdain for those who really want to put an end to the common race which we share.

Our tour guide, who began the conversation, was extremely reticent to accept that it is “political differences” which are responsible for our downfall, citing that, surely among the 36 members of our group, were people of all political stripes, yet able to get along and spend time together.

My very wise husband, reminded him that we were all on vacation, and his theory of political differences had not had a chance to be put to the test.  That, of course, was true.  Focused on strikingly beautiful sites and fun-filled activities, the topic of politics never even arose.

Of course, once we returned to Israel, we were met with a “Day of Disruption,” where chaos lined the streets of our homeland, making the peaceful bliss we’d just shared a day before, a distant memory.

It was the late Charles Krauthammer, a prolific writer, political commentator and great intellectual who stated, “If you don’t get politics right, nothing else can be right either.” What he meant was that politics has such a profound effect on every area of life, that it determines one’s feeling of well-being, freedom, self-worth, independence and sense of appreciation.  It reaches into the deep recesses of who we are, how we are able to live our lives and what we hope to contribute to society. Get that wrong, and life doesn’t feel so great!

The problem is that when one side sees the other as the enemy, and their greatest impediment to the type of life they believe must be enacted for all, there is simply no possibility of having a meeting of the minds.  This is where naïve, wishful-thinkers’ hopes of bypassing the hatred, in order to create a “better world,” are dashed by the reality of what’s on the ground.

One such person, named Dan Astin-Gregory, described as an entrepreneur, content creator and activist, sent out a post which said, in part, “I think it’s time that we define a brighter future for ourselves and take the power back to build vibrant, beautiful, lovely communities. I am going to lock arms with people next to me, left and right.  I don’t care where they lean politically, but I am going to make a decision to say no to the state powers that try to intervene and micromanage every single detail of our lives.”

Dan, I’m right there with you, but we must care how people lean politically, because if they don’t share our own values of freedom and liberty for all, then there’s no way to build anything together.  The dream is lost unless the building blocks can be fitted together in a way that facilitates us to get to our societal ideals.  Fighting the state is a massive undertaking, one which can only succeed when like-minded people come together in a unified effort to halt the decay which seeks to erode at our rights and self-determination as free people.

It requires commonality and the desire to unite and coalesce as each one uses their strengths to overcome evil with good, and what better good is there than freedom, within the confines of the law?

The politics of corrupt actors whose goal is to control, manipulate and use their power to suppress freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of movement, and replace them with their personal vision of how the next 200 years should look, is truly responsible for the downfall of our once beautiful society.  If we don’t recognize what is happening and do something about it, we will all end up in the clutches of those who will happily decide for us.

Thirty-six of us enjoyed a blissful week, void of politics, but the vacation has ended.  Now we’re back, and Lapland feels like a million miles away from our streets filled with demonstrators who recognize the effects of getting the politics wrong.

Yes, there are so many things which caused us to lose our way.  Looking back, on that bus ride, to a simpler time when life seemed better was a bit painful, but here we are, and if we refuse to acknowledge the political split which is threatening to take down our country, then we might as well get on a plane and head for the Arctic Circle where politics has not yet made its way to the destruction of that society!

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.
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