Friday, November 18, 2016

"History warns us ... the best thing to do is leave"

Canada

     Your neighbors will gladly murder you, given the nod by authority, then blame you for bringing your own death upon yourself. They’ll then move into your empty house, live there guilt-free, and years later, should anybody be so impolite as to raise the subject of your death, deny it ever occurred.
     That, in brief, is the lesson of the Holocaust, and if you suspect it left a scar on world Jewry, you’re right. Nothing like seeing the culture that produced Goethe, Rilke and Beethoven herding children into gas chambers to make you realize that the solid bedrock of civilized life, well, ain’t so solid.
      The earthquake of Donald Trump's election began with his calling Mexican immigrants rapists, then radiated outward, as hatred will, jarring Muslims and blacks, rattling women, before deputizing Mike Pence to go after gays. Hate doesn’t discriminate — talk about irony — it settles for whoever is convenient.
     Jews not fixated on Israel were shaken by formerly fringe anti-Semitic organizations riding into the mainstream on the Trump bandwagon, their slurs retweeted, their coded rhetoric about shadowy global conspiracy pockmarking his speeches.
    It worked. He won. Since Trump’s seismic election, rather than distance himself from the focused cruelty he exploited, as many wanly hoped he might, Trump has kept going, naming alt-right Breitbart bigot Stephen Bannon as his special adviser one day, recommitting himself to forcing Muslims in America to register the next.

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32 comments:

  1. Whatever was left of "American Exceptionalism" is gone now.

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    1. Wasn't the whole idea of American Exceptionalism kind of a nationalistic fantasy--that people here were/are exceptional and better than people in the rest of the world, and that wss supposedly why we had the affluence and success we had? I think the fascist parties in the 1930s each looked back to the national greatness of the nation where they were. I think of Mussolini's references to the glory days of Rome, and the end of the German opera "The Master Singers" which references past German greatness.

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    2. I prefer Tyrrell's interpretation: "In its classic forms, American exceptionalism refers to the special character of the United States as a uniquely free nation based on democratic ideals and personal liberty."

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  2. My biggest fear after this election isn't necessarily what he can do, it's of his armed angry legion and what they can do.

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  3. Thank you for saying what needed to be said.

    He started his campaign by slurring an ethnic group is the most demeaning fashion possible. That campaign should have been over by the end of the speech. That it served to launch him to the presidency is one of the most appalling developments in U.S. history. I fear this won't end well.

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  4. Considering your first paragraph: unfortunately that's also the story of the Palestinian people. And Donald Trump is set to make their suffering worse, too.

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    1. Wrong, honey.

      You are NOT "pro-Palestinian" you are anti-Israel and we know the deep-seated reasons why, too.
      The original British Mandate for Palestine included all of what today is Jordan – 75% of the Mandate.
      Jordan was given to the Hashemites of Saudi Arabia and they expelled all Jews from the territory.
      Most self-identified Palestinian Arabs today think that all of Jordan should be theirs.
      In fact, in 1971 – 72, Palestinians launched a civil war in Jordan against the King. Their aim was to get rid of the king and to get rid of Jordan and make it a Palestinian state.
      They lost that war against the king.
      So why today – if you are so gung-ho on the rights of Palestinian Arabs – is all of your ire on their behalf directed against Israel, and not at all against Jordan?
      It helps to remind people of the circumstances of Middle Eastern Jews at the time of modern Israel's Declaration of Independence.
      At that time, Middle Eastern Jews had been 1) evicted from Jordan even though many of their families had lived there for many hundreds of years; 2) subjected to threats of total annihilation from the likes of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whom Arafat called a Palestinian "national hero;" -- the Mufti had organized Muslim SS troops in Bosnia and wiped out the Jewish population of that country; 3) subjected to random, periodic Muslim-led pogroms and on and on and on -- Jews in the Middle East at this time were hardly any safer than they had been in Hitler's Europe!
      There was no other place for them to go, and no possibility of their being secure with Muslims holding power over them.
      Despite those egregious circumstances, in 1947 Jews accepted, but Arabs rejected a two state solution.
      And, in marked contrast to the Arabs' vow to "drive the Jews into the sea," Middle Eastern Jews wrote these words into Israel's Declaration of Independence:
      "WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
      WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East."
      THAT is what Arabs initiated a war of attempted annihilation against.
      And then, having failed to drive the Jews in the sea, the surrounding Arab countries either severely persecuted, or expelled their Jewish populations as “revenge” for the creation of modern Israel – which in itself tells us a lot about the status of the Jews in those Arab societies to begin with.

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  5. Unfortunately, many Jews in 1930's
    Europe couldn't afford to just pick up and move, even if they did want to.

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  6. Good NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/18/opinion/the-right-way-to-resist-trump.html?_r=0

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    1. If it is the one by the Italian chap who cited his country's experience with Berlusconi, I agree. Very thoughtful.

      Tom Evans

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  7. Perhaps when they come for the Muslims and Hispanics, if we keep quiet and do nothing, they will leave us alone.

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  8. ...who will he blame? Who?

    You know the answer.


    Actually, we don't. That's the thing about multidirectional hate. You never know in which direction it will go next. Hispanics? Blacks? Jews? Women who aren't hot enough? Gays? "Liberals" (however that word is defined)? All of the above? There's just no way of knowing.

    You would think that Jews would be safe, since Trump's son-in-law is Jewish and his daughter converted. But trying to predict these kinds of things is a fool's game.

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  9. I think it's a mistake to assume that all bullies are cowards. To do so gives them the chance to deny they are bullies by demonstrating a modicum of courage. Take Trump for instance: surely a classic bully using his position to lord it over everyone he considers inferior. Yet he can't be said to lack courage. I for one would shrink from standing before millions of people and talking utter nonsense for hours on end and I'm sure I would not have the guts to debate a knowledgeable, experienced and skillful politician without the slightest preparation. And now he is faced with healing a broken nation, while possessing not the slightest capacity for doing so. A brave man indeed. And a bullying oaf as well.

    john

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    1. John, with all respect, I think you're confusing courage with stupidity. Specifically, the stupidity that fosters unbounded, and unfounded, self-confidence.

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    2. I agree with Bitter Scribe here. It would take courage for you, John, to do what Trump does because you have self-awareness. Lacking any, he blunders blithely forward. Saying bullies lack courage is a truism -- it doesn't then follow that displaying courage obviates the possibility of being a bully. Pretzels are salty, as a rule. But take the salt off and it's still a pretzel.

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    3. Leaving Trump aside, I don't see a direct correlation between the urge or predilection to pick on those weaker than you and the urge or predilection to flee rather than fight when confronted with a stronger foe. The big kids who picked on me in grade school were bullies, but perfectly willing to fight someone their own size if required.

      And the Trumps of this world are perfectly willing to declare that a non-salty pretzel is not a pretzel if it suits their purposes.

      john

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  10. Thank you, Neil, for an excellent column today. As a transgender person, a member of an extremely small minority group that is in for a rough ride during the Trump administration, I thought seriously about leaving. The reason I choose not to is that a majority of Americans voted for the Democratic candidate for President. That gave me enough of a sense that it will not happen here at this time. I do not agree with those who say that it could not happen here because America is different from Germany. It absolutely could happen here, and we must act with vigilance and often to make sure that it does not happen here.

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    1. Joanie, you are very correct, such antics have already occurred in America's history, like when Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. A precursor to that ignoble event was the packing of the Supreme Court with Justices to his liking. Thus when an appeal went to the Supreme Court, Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled the government has the right to intern U.S. citizens extrajudicially. Without any test cases in our recent history the ruling still stands. Our only hope is the U.S. Senate does not allow Trump to pack the court in a similar fashion, and appeals to the Supreme Court will overturn Trump's fascist ideas.

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    2. Bernie, Roosevelt never "packed" the Supreme Court. He tried to and got shot down.

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    3. Greetings Bitter Scribe,
      There are two separate events, you get partial credit. First, earlier in his administration Roosevelt wanted to add members to the Supreme Court, adding Justices of his choice, that was shot down. Second, at the start of World War II, from Wikipedia: "In a 6–3 decision, the Court sided with the government, ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional. Six of eight Roosevelt appointees sided with Roosevelt. The lone Republican appointee, Owen Roberts, dissented." Some consider Roosevelt's eight of nine Justices a form of packing.

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    4. "Some" may consider the fact that Roosevelt got to choose so many Justices "a form of packing," but to me that's very tendentious. He chose justices as he was entitled to by virtue of being president for so long.

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    5. I think the inevitable arrival of the Trump presidency has everyone on edge, lets stay on game. Call it packing or not, there is one empty Supreme Court seat to fill, and a fair chance Trump will be replacing Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer. We should focus on the quality and character of any new Justices.

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    6. "Call it packing or not," Well, what do you call it? Was it packed? Or rigged?

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    7. Don't bring up irrelevant and inaccurate factoids about FDR's presidency and then hector me about staying on game, OK? If you don't like being called out, "stay on game" yourself.

      Bitter Scribe

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    8. In truth I like being called out when any of my thoughts are in error, because I don't like having false ideas in my head. In the past I haven't hesitate to admit when you're right and thank you or others for the correction. Please tell me what of substance is exactly inaccurate about by post. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. The Supreme Court ruled six to three it was Constitutional. Those six Justices were appointed by Roosevelt. Because the ruling still stands it is very relevant, I believe Trump will try to select Justices far worse then Roosevelt's Justices. I admit to having the tendency to be a bit trollish with my comments, please don't take it personally.

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    9. You falsely stated that Roosevelt "packed" the Supreme Court, I pointed out that you were wrong (he attempted to do so but failed), and then you tried to wriggle out of it by stretching the definition of "packed" beyond reason. You can call it trollish. I call it annoying and tiresome.

      Bitter Scribe

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  11. Not for me to give advice to Jews, but one hopes you don't all decamp for Canada, as you are needed here. Most, although not all, aspects of Jewish tradition are humanistic, and people bred in that tradition can be expected to resist when Attorney General Sessions starts redefining laws in ways that hurt defenseless people.

    Tom Evans

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  12. As good as writing and commentary gets. Best newspaper columnist in America. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, although the truth is I'm not even the best newspaper columnist in Chicago. That would be Eric Zorn -- day in and day out, he's owned this story, providing a constant stream of reason and commentary and a finely-honed outrage. I've found his work immensely helpful and am proud to know him. If you aren't reading him, you should. I stray into odd subjects, like tractors, because I see my task as sometimes offering distraction, and I can't always bear to look at what's happening. But Eric's gaze never falters. I truly think he's doing an invaluable service.

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    2. Don't sell yourself short Neil. I haven't looked at Zorn's column for months, and reading today's column reminds me why. Two major failures in his column. First given the political climate in Springfield, Senator Durbin would function as a tool of Madigan's machinations, he wouldn't tolarate it for a minute. I'll predict if Madigan were to pass away between now and the 2018 democratic primary filing deadline, Durbin will run and be our next governor. Second failure to mention or analyze the power shift that will occur when Susana Mendoza takes over the Comptroller's office next year. I admire your ability to listen to the opinions of others, and on occasion adopt their ideas. Reading comments on Zorn's column was a real surprise, I doubt he gives them a passing glance.

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    3. Apples and oranges I would say. But it's nice to see a nod given to a competitor, rather than a judgement made by Dean Swift.

      "What poet would not grieve to see
      His brother write as well as he,
      but rather that they should excel,
      would wish his rivals all in Hell."

      Tom Evans

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  13. So he's no longer "Professor Zorn"?

    Bitter Scribe

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