Please, shake me and tell me I'm dreaming! It can't possibly be true - the People of the Holocaust, the most persecuted group in the history of the world are refusing to vote for a man because he's black?
The first I learned of this travesty was just after Barack won the nomination, and I heard the first rumbling that old Floridian Jews who had come out strongly and passionately for Hillary were in a royal snit. If they couldn't have their girl, they weren't going to vote at all, or might even cast their ballots for McCain (an extra mitzvah if that lovely Joe Lieberman was his running mate). Shortly thereafter I saw footage on CNN - elderly Jews, men and women who, without a trace of embarrassment, were declaring that despite the fact they were lifelong Democrats, would not be voting for Barack Obama. And the reason...?
He was black.
I was slackjawed. Gobsmacked. Outraged. But nobody I knew was talking about it. My own lefty Jewish mother had recently retired to that Great South Florida Over-55 Community in the Sky, but I was sure she would not have voted the racist card. I emailed a couple of Jewish pals, but neither of them responded.
So I called an old Hollywood friend of the Jewish persuasion. In the '80s this woman was the undisputed Queen of the Networks. Straight-talking, funny and clearly an Obama supporter, she answered my query about how a thing like this could be happening: "They won't admit it, but there are a lot of people out there who are terrified about the idea of a bunch of black people running around the White House."
Well yeah, I thought, lots of people who live out where I do, in the Land of the Rednecks, where the Aryan Nation openly parades down Main Street. Where you wouldn't be shocked to hear a beer-guzzling, mouth-breathing bubba say, "If God had meant for nigras to live in the First Home, He wouldn't'a called it the White House, now would he?"
But outright racism in Mondo Condoland? I thought it couldn't be true. Perhaps the Republicans were pulling one of their dirty tricks - finding a few of the clear minority of old Jews who were willing to go on camera and admit to blatant racism in order to psych-out the Dems and give them fits.
But finally, stewing in my own prune juice for long enough, I picked up the phone and called Sylvia, my mother's best friend in Delray Beach, Florida. The Kings Point Senior Community is ground zero of the east coast Semitic set where, amidst palm-tree-lined golf courses and man-made lakes, 17,000 elderly Jews loll in their satellite pools, and the clacking of mahjong tiles echo in the halls of the six-block long clubhouse.
I was relieved to hear that Sylvia was a staunch Obama supporter and appalled at McCain's V.P. choice, whom she sarcastically referred to as "Mrs. Palin, the beauty queen." But when I asked her about her fellow residents' voting proclivities, Sylvia confirmed my worst fears. Many of the people she'd talked to were still angry about Hillary's loss in the primaries, and were staying home rather than voting, or were casting their ballot for McCain. On the issue of Jewish/African American racism and why it was happening, all she could say was "There are a lot of stubborn, stupid people down here." She hoped that the upcoming visits to South Florida from Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden would change some minds, but she wasn't very optimistic. "Maybe if Hillary came down here and talked some sense into them..." she suggested. That sounded like a good idea to me.
It does seem that there's a generational aspect to this problem, and perhaps herein lies the solution. I don't know any young or middle-aged Jews who are voting for McCain or staying home on election day. What if all of us called our parents and bubbies and engaged them in conversation about what is going to be the most important election day in history? Using every tactic we have at our command - from Socratic logic to gut-grabbing guilt - we must convince our misguided relations to do the right thing.
If we don't, John McCain and Mrs. Heartbeat-Away-from-the-Presidency Palin (who is to the right of Hitler on several vital issues) could take America down the path to a new world-wide Holocaust that will make theirs look like chopped liver.