Yonathan Bar-On

It’s Time for the Forces of Light to Shine

Last Saturday our 9-year-old son and I saw Disney’s Zootopia, which both of us liked very much. It contains at least two messages that appear to be more American than ever: we all suffer from prejudice, and each of us can be(come) whatever (s)he wants. Judy Hopps, the main character (a rabbit who becomes a police officer) says in the movie: “Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker.” This was shortly after Hillary Clinton had twittered to the world that Tim Kaine would be her running mater, and after a week in which much of the world media’s attention had been devoted to four men: Turkish President Erdogan, the Tunisian terrorist and criminal Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel from Nice, Donald Trump, and Ali Sonboly, the young German-Iranian murderer from Munich.

As Munich was still overcome with panic, and while German authorities were still looking for possible accomplices of Sonboly and nothing was known yet about the possible ‘motives’ for this terrible massacre, Mr. Trump used Twitter to tell the world that he knew for sure in which direction the authorities should look for the perpetrator(s): “This cannot continue. … We must do everything in our power to keep it from our shores.” You can hardly blame the ‘poor’ man for immediately thinking about Islamists and immigrants. Very soon, though, it turned out that the apparently unstable Sonboly was an almost classic teenage mass murderer, with a history of bullying and frustration, and an unhealthy fascination for violence and weapons. He was Iranian but also German and born and raised in Munich, with a strong local accent. Since then we have also learnt that he might have been partly inspired by the crimes of the Norwegian muslim-hater and mass murderer Anders Breivik, and that he was proud to share his birthday (20 April) with that archetype of murderers, Adolf H.

Anyhow, I would like this article to be mainly about the Democratic presidential candidate. Maybe it might be a good idea for Hillary Clinton to start using the above slogan from Zootopia precisely as a bumper sticker, only if Disney gives her permission, obviously. If anything  characterized last week’s Republican convention, it was the internal differences and mutual accusations, and above all the explicitly negative, almost depressing atmosphere. It was all about maligning Mrs. Clinton, stirring up hatred, opening chasms, and fueling fear. Apart from some implicit and explicit references to the intentionally resurrected catch-phrase America First (in spite or actually because its associations with the xenophobe, and even anti-Semitic movement that in 1940-41 argued and acted against American support for the fight against Nazi Germany), Donald Trump and Mike Pence have hardly indicated what they stand fór, but mainly what – and even more whom – they campaign agáinst. Here lies the mission, and I think also the chance, for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

(This picture I found here)

It is very tempting to point out, again and again, Trump’s many contradictions, his countless extremist friends and supporters, the myriad problematic quotes and shady deals from his past. But what a relief it would be if this week, now that the Democrats have appointed their candidate for the presidential elections, were not devoted to political infighting, nor to the mistakes and dangers of Trump and ‘his’ party, and if America and the world heard loud and clear why the American voters shout vote fór Clinton-Kaine of all people. After all, nothing beats the Forces of Darkness better than the Forces of Light.

I am sure that the voters want to hear how Clinton and Kaine want to create equal opportunities for all Americans, how they will help the police and the various communities within American society cooperate in order to create more security and mutual respect and understanding, how they will give more Americans access to better education and to better health services. In the global sphere, Democrats should tell their potential voters – and also the whole world, which follows the elections with a lively interest, for obvious reasons – how the environment can be protected for future generations, how they think they can improve the position of the USA in the world, and how America can work better – not less – with its allies and fight its enemies more effectively.

(Picture downloaded from Hillary Clinton’s Twitter Page)

As a choice that is totally different than the very negative ideology that the Republicans have embraced in the person of Donald Trump, but also as an alternative for the almost nihilist perspective offered by terrorists worldwide, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine – with the whole-hearted, chivalrous and courageous support of Bernie Sanders – ought to deliver a message of hope and possibility. This does not mean that they should deny or play down the many dangers which face America and the free – as well as the not so free – world. On the contrary. Yet one cannot fight all those dangers and the negativity that they cause, without offering something positive in their stead. By convincing Americans that a better, more hopeful reality actually can be achieved, the Democrats may very well restore hope and confidence among Americans, and will definitely give them a real choice in November. All over the world – from Istanbul to Gaza, from Paris to Jerusalem, from Moscow to London – leaders ánd citizens, politicians ánd voters would hear such a message. Here’s one more piece of advice for Mrs. Clinton, again from Judy Hopps: “Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.”

This is a slightly updated translation of an article that appeared this week in the Dutch daily Friesch Dagblad.

About the Author
Yonathan Bar-On (Bert de Bruin) is a historian and an EAL teacher. He teaches English at the Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa, and has written extensively for Dutch newspapers, and occasionally for American and Israeli newspapers and online media. Yonathan writes a weekly column for the Dutch daily Friesch Dagblad. In 1995 he immigrated to Israel from the Netherlands.
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