Turning Over Stones (What The Election Set Free)

Less than three months ago, after a pair of articles about the rise in Anti-Semitism appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the nation learned that during Twitter’s internal investigation the organization found that 2.6 million anti-Semitic messages were posted from August 2015 to July 2016, 19,253 of which were directed at journalists. Readers also learned that anti Jewish rhetoric, and incidents of anti-Semitism had risen markedly, and that Jewish journalists, many of whom seemed not to be voting for a ‘particular candidate’, were receiving hate mail at a rate not seen in recent history. When one such writer announced the birth of his second child on Twitter, he received this reply: “Into the gas chamber with all four of you.” More recently, there have been reports of bomb threats, nearly seventy in all, called into Jewish Community Centers across the nation. And this week, at least 170 headstones were knocked over at an historical Jewish cemetery in suburban Saint Louis, Missouri.

One has to be careful to choose one’s words carefully, and to be circumspect about whom to blame. After all it would be easy to paint the 45th president with the broad brush of anti-Semitism, (may I just call it Jew-Hatred from here on?) That would be wrong, I don’t believe he hates Jews. I do believe that in taking his support from any quarter, no matter how insidious, as he’d done during his presidential campaign, his refusal to disavow strident voices of Jew hatred (along with hatred of other minority groups) seems to have stirred up a long simmering cauldron of malevolence. Having been brought up in Minnesota, a former home to the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement, I believe I know at least three things that motivate Jew-Haters.

1. Sloth. The slothful Jew-Hater has a perpetual sense of being ripped off. You’ll hear things like: “Hey, why are they getting ahead so fast?” and “Look at those cheaters, how’d they do that?” I was born in a place called Saint Louis Park. Because there were approximately six percent Jews there, and because those Jews in my home town were astoundingly creative and productive—well beyond their numbers, as is often the case with Jews in general—be they Nobel prize winners, artists, writers —or even the founders of the State of Israel, there is always an attendant animus that crops up among those that are less so. The slothful Jew–Haters of my youth called my city by the wildly un-clever pejorative: Saint Jewish Park, as if that six percent were far too many Jews to bear. The advice I’d share with this type of Jew-Hater is: spend less time grousing about the accomplishments of others, get up off your ass and accomplish something yourself, something other than self-pity and rage.

2. Jealousy. Sloth and jealousy go hand in hand don’t they? One can either be impressed or depressed with the success of others, there aren’t a lot of options, and to choose jealousy is to always choose the latter. Unfortunately, as we all know, depression is not a much admired way to move through the world, and often a depressed person will use anger to compensate for his or her deficiencies. Anger, after all, has long been a more socially acceptable substitute for sadness. And who better to take one’s anger out on than the Jews?

History has shown us that path. And it seems easy enough. Without fear of reprisal, (at least not a physical reprisal), the jealous Jew-Haters feel safe meting out their anger on minorities, particularly those who like the Jews are not known for a propensity towards violence. The Jews therefore, make an excellent target for the jealous Jew-Hater.

3. Fanaticism. Fanaticism has within it, the qualities of both sloth and jealousy, but it also brings with it another, more troubling one: myopia. By seeing complex issues in only their most narrow framework, it’s easy to draw hasty conclusions. And while those conclusions will often be simple, they are almost never accurate. Although with fanaticism of any sort, accuracy and truth are thought to be superfluous at any rate, and therefore safely dispensable as we’ve seen of late.

The fanatical Jew-Hater believes in all the discredited cabals; the Protocols of the Elder’s of Zion (that great old Russian canard), and in the Blood Libel, (the falsehood promulgated in Europe and elsewhere, that the Jews murdered Christian babies to use their blood in Passover matzos), along with Anti-Zionist conspiracy theories about things as wide ranging as 911 and the AIDS epidemic. As absurd as these stories are, they nonetheless, slide down the gullets of fanatics like gruel, warming their bellies and nourishing hatred for generations.

As I’ve said, I don’t believe our 45th president is a Jew-Hater in any real sense, but he often seems so dead set on self aggrandizement that for example, during his campaign at least, he had no compunctions whatsoever about turning over stones to garner votes and attention, stones, which hid all sorts of horrible ideas. By not immediately repudiating those ideas (as a leader must) he allowed them to fester, to take root, and to ripen. Once seeds of hatred are permitted to grow into poisonous weeds they possess a life of their own, a dark power, which in turn invites other such fanatical ideas to flourish.

One may prefer one party, over another, one set of values —perhaps one is more liberal or more conservative, more religious or less so —but what has been released into the American zeitgeist is something altogether different. America is confronting a Pandora’s box of pure madness that hasn’t been seen in this measure for decades, at least.

Don’t be fooled, power doesn’t exist only in intelligence, creativity, and compromise. It exists as well, in intolerance, hatred and fanaticism. We humans have an animal instinct, a powerful visceral nature that left unchecked, gravitates to power for power’s sake. When unleashed it hungers for it —power to fight, power to consume, power to terrorize. To prevail over these dark forces we must see this tendency, first, in our selves, and only then can we discourage it in others.

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