“I know I ask perfection of a quite imperfect world
And fool enough to think that’s what I’ll find.”
[From “I Need to be in Love,” songwriters Richard Lynn Carpenter / John Bettis / Albert Louis Hammond]
“Do not be an ingrate. Honor anyone who has opened a door to help you seek your needs.”
[Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel, Orchos Chaim of the Rosh No. 129]
In a posthumously published column in the Jewish Press of August 19, 2022, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”l, wrote about “The Power of Gratitude,” which was most dramatically exemplified by the Nun Study. Briefly, in the early 1990s, seven hundred members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, then aged from 75 to 102 years, gave permission for researchers investigating aging and Alzheimer’s disease to access their records. What made the study remarkable is that in 1930 their Mother Superior had asked the same nuns to write “a brief autobiographical account of their life and their reasons for entering the convent.” Since all of them had led essentially similar lives over the following 60 years, any differences in health among them would be significant. The results, published in 2001, showed clearly that “[t]he more positive emotions – such as contentment, gratitude, happiness, love and hope the nuns expressed in their autobiographical notes, the more likely they were to be alive and well 60 years later. The difference was as much as seven years in life expectancy.”
Despite these results, there is a diametrically opposing viewpoint taking hold across the nation. One need not be a conspiracy theorist (and I most assuredly am not) to suspect that there is a coordinated push across the culture – media, entertainment, education, even sports – to turn America into a nation of ingrates. One of the earliest manifestations was Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which is essentially a revisionist version of American history from a Marxist perspective. Incredibly, Zinn was unable to answer the question of whether the world would be better off if Europeans had never colonized America. As a Jew, Zinn should have at least, in light of the Holocaust, entertained the question before writing the book of where or even whether he would be had the United States not taken in his forebears. (For many of us, Dennis Prager’s assertion, derived from his father, that the United States has been the best place in human history for Jews to live, outside of Israel, rings true.) As a Marxist, on the other hand, he subscribed to what is now known as intersectionality, that is, every identity group has to adopt every other identity group’s issues as its own – except, of course, for Jews, who are expected to subsume our own issues to everyone else’s, a doctrine which I may dub “anti-Semitic universality.” Illustrative of that mentality is a website “History is a Weapon,” linked to Zinn’s book, which notes that its own manifesto has been “updated” to include the founding documents of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Similar expressions can be found in everything from Leonard Bernstein’s hosting a fundraiser for the Black Panthers to ADL’s current defense of Omar, Tlaib, and company.
Conversely, intersectionality has generated ingratitude to the Jewish People from black Americans, who are twice as likely as whites to hold anti-Semitic views. They seem unaware of the contributions of Jews to the civil rights movement, from co-founding the NAACP to aiding Thurgood Marshall in drafting his legal arguments that culminated in the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education to incongruous support for Black Lives Matter, which is openly anti-Zionist. (We might add a similar ingratitude expressed by the anti-Zionism of the LGBTQ+IA activists, even though Israel is the only gay-friendly country in the Middle East.) Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin, among earlier civil rights leaders, showed gratitude; contrast Al Sharpton, who incited the Crown Heights riots in response to a tragic accident when a driver in the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s motorcade lost control of his vehicle and struck and fatally injured a black child, Gavin Cato.
More generally, black people are continually told that they are victims of white supremacy and can’t succeed, as if nothing has changed as a result of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Some months ago national media dredged up a horrible race riot that occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma a hundred years ago to prove that America is a racist nation. The current obsession with slavery, which was surely an abomination, fails to take into account that slavery has existed in every civilization for millennia and that it was the West that first took up the cause of abolition. Britain abolished slavery in 1833, followed by France in 1848, and by America in 1865 as the result of a civil war that claimed more than 600,000 American lives out of a population of 31 million, which would then scale up to over six million casualties measured against our current population. The accusations of institutional racism, as Dennis Prager and others have mentioned, fail to answer the question of why three million people from Africa and the West Indies have immigrated to America in recent decades. Are they all fools who can’t recognize how racist America supposedly is? In reality, surveys have shown that African immigrants are largely pleased with how well they are treated in America and with the greater opportunities they have here. Collectively, Nigerian immigrants actually have a higher average income than white Americans and comparable education. True racists, the Nazis, upon taking power in Germany, denied Jews the academic degrees they had earned.
Our children are having a message drummed into them in the schools that the real founding of America was in 1619, when the first slave ship landed in America (actually the passengers were indentured servants), and the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery. Historians across the political spectrum have criticized the inaccuracies and outright falsehoods in the 1619 Project (as was also the case with Zinn’s book), yet it continues to be adopted in history curricula around the country, and its creator received a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, and was recently hired as a tenured professor at Howard University to start a journalism center.
Ingratitude has also become prevalent with younger generations in particular believing that American capitalism exploits workers, when in fact the American economic and political system has created the freest and wealthiest nation in history. Those who are poor by American standards would be regarded as wealthy in much of the Third World, and they are cushioned, as are Europeans, by a generous welfare state.
Why has all this indoctrination been so spectacularly successful? A primary reason is that as in the lyrics quoted above, Marxists have convinced millions of people to compare America, not to the nations of the real world, but to some mythical Utopia that never has existed and never will until Mashiach comes. In other words, even though humans are imperfect, anything less than a perfect society is evil. (And they view socialism as the blueprint for a perfect society, never having lived under it. Ask anyone who fled from the former Soviet Union or its Eastern European satellites, from Cuba or Venezuela, or from China, Vietnam, or North Korea, just how utopian repressive totalitarianism is.) Such specious reasoning is the product of educators who either have an ideological axe to grind or are as shallow as a service plate. To cure this miseducation requires that sensible Americans rise up, even if they are labeled as domestic terrorists, and elect school boards that will remove the Bolshevik influence from our nation’s schools. To paraphrase the Left’s leading prophet, “Parents of America, unite! You have nothing to lose but your children’s chains.”