Archive for the 'Trump' Category

Has the pendulum swung too far?

“I want all Jews to die.”

That chilling statement was made by Robert Bowers, the man who shot and murdered eleven Jews on Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My second thought, immediately following the realization that a new horror had emerged, was Thank God the shooter wasn’t Muslim or Hispanic. Adding more fuel to the xenophobic rantings of the president of the United States and others who condemn or ridicule people for their religious beliefs or who fear for their lives was unnecessary in the already supercharged atmosphere surrounding the mid-term elections.

There is little doubt that the president’s Twitter rants, rallies and politics have exacerbated and made fair game of the practices once held in check by more socially conscious and healing-attuned public servants. Poking fun at the handicapped, demeaning women, excusing the behavior of neo-Nazis and outright bald-faced lies have opened the door to even more despicable acts by others who once were forced to occupy the deep, dark recesses of this America we all love. The improving economy and Wall Street have, until now, served as cover for Republican congressmen who are unwilling to confront this man. Even otherwise observant Christians and Jews, who would normally be repelled by his statements and immoral conduct, are reluctant to reject him due, in part, to their affirmation of his Supreme Court selections and his social agenda.

Trump’s failure to accept any blame for what is happening to the social fabric of this country is evidenced by his continuing assault on the press and his pronouncement of “fake news” on anything that does not fit his view of the world. Despite Saturday’s horror in Pittsburgh, he continued to Tweet on Monday “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open and obvious hostility and report the news accurately and fairly.” Like the failure of his self-appointed commission to bring to light any voter fraud, he offers little evidence of fraudulent reporting. He fails to note that the anger of his base towards the media is fomented by his own “fake news”, offered as red meat to those who believe he can do no wrong.

Anti-Semitism is an unwilling cousin to the xenophobic hysteria surrounding the immigrant caravan headed toward our southern border. Clutching it tightly as a wedge issue in the election, Trump and others have cited unproven and wildly exaggerated claims about the caravan’s composition. At a political rally in Kentucky earlier this month, Mr. Trump declared that Democrats “want to open America’s borders and turn our country into a friendly sanctuary for murderous thugs from other countries who will kill us all.”

George Soros, a Jew, has been widely and falsely claimed to be the principal supporter of the caravan. On October 22, a pipe bomb was found at Mr. Soros’s house; the police have charged a Trump supporter, Cesar Sayoc, with mailing the bombs to Mr. Soros and other Democrats who Trump frequently criticizes.

It is no coincidence that the rise in anti-Semitism has dramatically worsened in the first two years of the Trump presidency. It also coincides with increased Jew hating in Europe. The Anti-Defamation League reported that the U.S. experienced a nearly sixty percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 versus 2016. The League said…

“A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community – from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, and children harassing children at school,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society.

The road to the right continued to broaden with Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil which brought Jair Bolsonaro to lead the government. He has exalted the military, advocated torture, promised to pack the supreme court and threatened to destroy, jail or exile his political opponents. Per the NY Times, he won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative.

When I was a child, I lived in a Chicago ghetto where I believed that everyone in my world was Jewish, other than the janitor. When it was Passover, there was only a vast emptiness in my elementary school. Since my parents and friends were from Russia, I assumed that everyone in that country was Jewish. Except for the language, I might as well have been living in Israel. I was comfortable with my identity.

That changed in high school and reversed itself completely in college. I learned that I was a member of a very small minority with different holidays, different foods and a different house of worship. I became increasingly aware of my Jewish history and I was less comfortable with who I was. I felt different. Terms like The Holocaust, anti-Semitism and bigotry became frequently used parts of my vocabulary. I married, reared our children in the synagogue and counted on it as my go-to sanctuary. I have generally been on the fence about calls for more protection in the temple during the high holidays and I have objected to armed guards during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

I used to talk about the pendulum and how it will always swing in the opposite direction after reaching its maximum horizontal position. How good times would eventually give rise to bad times and how it would again reverse itself after running its course.

Today, with the murder of eleven pious Jews, I have my doubts.

ReDemrocans

It was reliably reported this morning that Donald Trump has personally contacted Hillary Clinton to offer her a deal.

Smarting from what he perceives to be an unfair advantage gained by the Democrats at their Philadelphia convention, Mr. Trump believes that his only chance to make it to the Oval Office is to team up with Secretary Clinton. The details of the deal offered by Mr. Trump are sketchy but they are believed to include the following:

Both Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton would run together as “ReDemrocans”.

Following their victory in November, they would become “Co-Presidents” jointly occupying the White House. Due to the crowded quarters, the vice-presidency would be abolished.

Presidential decisions would be made by Mr. Trump on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Secretary Clinton would assume that responsibility on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. No decisions would be made or actions taken on Sundays.

Secretary Clinton is free to appoint her own cabinet. Mr. Trump does not want a cabinet.

Congress would be equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. The current imbalance will be resolved by coin flips. Future congressional elections will be unnecessary. Vacated positions would be filled by one or the other Co-President depending on the day of the week that the vacancy occurred. Ditto for the Supreme Court.

In the event that one of the Co-Presidents should die in office, the remaining Co-President will commit suicide.  The country can then figure out what to do after that.

When contacted by Fox News about the deal, Mr. Trump denied any knowledge of it and blamed Chelsea Clinton for leaking the story. “It must be her time of the month” he said.

Trumpenstein

Following last Friday’s Shabbat service, we went to dinner with a few other congregants at a local eatery. It’s one of the highlights of the evening and is usually accompanied by some cheap wine, interesting conversation and strengthening of friendships.

I was fortunate to grab a seat right across the table from Ralph. Always erudite and entertaining, his company is welcomed. Looking across at him I noted that his right eye seemed to be irritated and tearing. I’ve noticed it before but I’ve never asked him about it. Being halfway into my first glass of wine, I felt confident enough to broach the subject. Ralph kindly offered me a rather detailed explanation of the relatively harmless malady that he has endured for years. “Always the right eye?” I asked.

Maybe it was the wine and his eye that then led to a discussion of the brilliant Mel Brooks movie, Young Frankenstein.  To my amazement, Ralph had never seen the movie and so had no idea why I launched into it. “You see, there’s this guy Igor, Dr. Frankenstein’s helper, who has this big hump on his back. And scene to scene it migrates from the right side to the left side. Then back again. Frankenstein occasionally comments on the migration but Igor seems unaware of it.” I had visions of Ralph’s malady behaving in the same manner as Igor’s hump.

Which, naturally enough, led us into politics and to an analysis of the rise of Donald Trump…a logical segue since Trump rhymes with hump.

Now I don’t think that The Donald is nearly as funny as Peter Boyle’s portrayal of the Frankenstein monster in the Mel Brooks movie. But I do think that the movie bears some amazing parallels to the rise of Trump in the Republican party.

In the beginning of the movie, Doctor Frankenstein, ably portrayed by Gene Wilder, has sworn off the business of creating the kind of monsters that his ancestors long ago trafficked in. But, overwhelmed by the call for greatness, he ignores the evil failures wrought by his predecessors and decides to resurrect the grisly, ancient practice. Sort of like Republican leaders who ignore this country’s changing demographics and continue to bow and scrape before old, rich white men.

Wilder and Igor, played by the google-eyed Marty Feldman, piece together the monster from a body stolen from the local cemetery and grey matter taken from the town’s brain depository. A mishap causes them to unknowingly insert a maniac’s brain into the creature’s skull. Wilder and Feldman try to make the best of their error.  Like trying to create the Republican party from wise and caring folks but doing it instead with the bits and pieces of angry people who’ve been told that they live in the worst of times and should do something about it.

Thinking the monster is under control, Wilder and his lab assistant played by the lovely Teri Garr, drop their guard and allow him to escape the confines of the castle and roam wildly through the countryside. Taking advantage of the charms of the funny Madeline Kahn is merely an hors d’oeuvre as the creature burns and pillages. Sort of like those in the Republican party who ignored, and then cheered The Donald as he alienated nearly everyone on the planet.

“I think we’ve had more than enough,” says the local police chief.  Played by the wooden-handed Kenny Mars, the chief enlists the villagers to seek out and destroy the monster.  Just like the Republican old guard who finally recognize what they’ve created and have taken up the cudgel in an effort to dismember The Donald.

Cornered, and having learned his lesson, the Mel Brooks monster retreats to the castle, is relieved of his ferocity and becomes a member in good standing of the community.

And here all parallels with the Brooks fantasy end. For Trumpenstein hasn’t learned anything, except that being a monster can be very rewarding.


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