What Have We Done with Our Freedom? (Ert and Bernie Explain It All for You)

What have we done with our freedom?

In many ways, magnificent things. The United States and Israel remain two of the great success stories of human history. Even morally. Some years ago, while giving a presentation on a college campus, I listened to a student – a rather over-age, over-wrought student, it seemed to me – dishing about the various criminalities of America and Israel. After he finished, I thanked him.

For what?

Obviously, for affirming our moral stature. You don’t criticize real tyrannies because you know it won’t make any difference. You target those who might be amenable to your righteous instruction. That means, we’re so close together on so many things that if you toned down the invective a bit, you might get a really positive response.

I’m not sure a positive response was what the dude wanted. But it left him blessedly speechless. All you campus defenders of Zion: try it sometime. But do be sure you’ve planned your escape route. Just in case.

So we’ve much to be proud of. But some stuff works better than others. Everything goes wrong eventually. And the things we do aren’t right just because we’re the ones who do them.

We’ve lost our way. Two great nations, two great peoples, whose governance now consists of a metastatic Right, the oligarchs of wealth and religion and hate who own and operate that Right, and an impotent Left more given to narcissistic kvetching than serious thought or action . . . or even talking to us like we was people.

Still, there’s an old American adage. “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.” Great. But who exactly are the people, and toward what might the people lead?

The people, I would suggest, are all those who’ve grown weary of loving their countries but despising their governance. It’s time for us to start communicating. That’s how it starts, you know. Just people talking to each other. Hearts and minds, although it’s important to remember that in the original quote, the formulation was reversed.

The American Revolution, said John Adams, “was effected in the minds and hearts of the American people” before a shot was ever fired.

True? Maybe not entirely. But the formulation remains evocative. Disgust may be an initial response to learned helplessness. But disgust is only the start. It’s the mind that matters, and must empower whatever emotions follow.

The next several posts employ a time-honored, read here utterly unoriginal, literary trope. I’ve never been much for the “letters from” format. But sometimes they work. De Crevecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer, for example. Or Camus’ wartime “Letters to a German Friend,” reprinted in Resistance, Rebellion and Death. Even Letters from Aviva, an audio cassette I bought for my young son long ago, featuring the voice of a Russian immigrant child, writing home from a place where “almost everyone is Jewish!”

And they’re all above average. But no matter. We begin.

Names. We need names.

Got it. Ert and Bernie, Or maybe Bertie and Ernesta. Bertie’s a late-twenty-something oleh, writing home to a Sympathetic Other, type-shikse, with whom he once had, in the brain-dead, passionless vocabulary of our era, a “Relationship.” Or should we make it Ernie and Bertesta, and reverse the roles?

Maybe we will, later on. For now:

And, by the by, no social media or Twitter for these two. They communicate the old-fashioned way. By email. Grammar and spell-checked. Coherent, even.

Shalom, Former Sweetie,

Shalom? That’s Hebrew for ‘How the hell are ya?’ A delightful surprise to hear from you, after all these months. Yes, I miss you. No, I haven’t taken up with anyone else, and I assume you’re still working those God-awful sixty hour weeks that make serious dating impossible. Still planning on partner? Go for it. If it doesn’t happen, my offer’s still open. It would have to be a civil marriage in America, or maybe Cyprus, which is where a lot of Israelis go if they don’t want to be married by the Rabbanut, or can’t be. No civil marriage for Jews here in Israel. Orthodox only, and only if they say yes.

“I’ll explain all that later, should the need arise. For now, let me answer your four questions.

“’What do you people think you’re doing?’

“Trying to stay alive.

“’Don’t you understand, you can’t get away with it anymore?’”

“What precisely is “it”?

“’Doesn’t Bibi know what a very unfunny planetary joke he’s become?’

“Yeah, but he’s got a job and a very positive self-image. Can most Americans say that much?

“’What doesn’t Obama understand about you people?’

“Obama understands everything. He just can’t do much with it.

“Yes, Bibi and Barack could do great work together on the Comedy Channel. We’re in agreement there. But we part company (again, alas) on your notion that Islamism’s assault on civilization is something that can be “managed.” We’ve tried to “manage” our local bad actors. All we’ve achieved is to create a situation where, every few years, we manage to pile up more rubble and more bodies. America’s been in the “management” business since the 1970s and, truth to tell, has piled up more bodies, more rubble, more debt, and has enjoyed considerably less success than Israel.

“And let’s face it, the world ain’t thinking too highly of either of us, nowadays.

“As for Obama’s great deal with Iran, look, babe, he and the Iraniacs can agree to partition the Moon and start selling falafel franchises. It’ll stand as much chance of holding up as anything else they pretend to agree on.

“That said, and no, I’m not ranting, yes I used to, but everybody here rants, so where’s the fun? – I’ll give you my take on things.

“We’re in this together.

“So best we stop screwing it up and each other over, and get past the idiot bickering. After all, to quote a very wise Klingon proverb, ‘Only a fool fights in a burning house.’

“We may not be burning quite yet. But the smoke’s getting to us.

“More later. Gotta go pretend to learn some Hebrew.

“Love. Yes, still.”

Next few posts: Ernie and Bertina/Bertie and Ernesta, known collectively as Ert and Bernie, explain it all.


About the Author
Philip Gold made Aliyah from USA in 2010 after several decades as a Beltway "public intellectual" of sorts.
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