Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Letter To My Rabbi

Dear Rabbi ________,

I'm sure you're extremely busy right now. But I do want to write you to say that while I was very moved by your second day Rosh Hashana Sermon (minus the first five minutes...I had to listen from outside), I have to take very real issue with one of your sentiments. One that I think may compromise how you're remembered by your congregants and their children. I agree with you that we live in a time of excess and extremes. But I see the extremes as coming from one side of America, not the other. And I think in ten years you may have no choice but to come around to that point of view as well. 

I'm not a typical educated member of my generation. I consider myself a liberal, but I'm not a member of the left. I consider myself in the center, and it's because I'm in the center that I see liberal democrats as the only possible option. I realize that this is in part a generational perception, but please consider how my generation grew up. When we were in high school, we watched as Newt Gingrich insisted on shutting down the government rather than compromise on the Federal Budget. We watched as President Clinton was impeached for perjury after lying on an inconsequential issue that he should never have been made to testify about in the first place. Our first voting election was decided by the Supreme Court on partisan lines to stop a recount after the very real possibility of election fraud in Florida. We were just college students when 9/11 occurred, and we later heard from Richard Clarke that George Bush did not take the threat seriously enough to take very simple measures to prevent it. We were of draft age when the Iraq War happened, a war of choice for which we all eventually learned there was no discernible objective. We experienced a second election in which there was a possibility of election fraud in Ohio that was never pursued. It is entirely possible that in a century, historians will look at the 2000's and say that it was an era that was ruled by a Coup d'etat. 

Were I of your generation, I'd have looked at the riots of the sixties, the rise of Goldwater and Reagan on one hand and the rise of McGovern and Jesse Jackson on the other and concluded that moderation was the only sensible option. But I'm not of your generation, and it's because I believe in moderation that I have to place blame and say that there is no moral equivalence between the Republicans and Democrats. To say otherwise is just as untrue as to say that there is moral equivalence between the Palestinian government and the Israeli one. 

There is no extreme left in this country that bears mentioning. There is a single socialist senator (Bernie Sanders), there's no talk of nationalizing industries, no serious talk of allying with Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad against their antagonists, no talk of raising taxes for the rich beyond 35% of their income (compare that to the 1950's, when there was a marginal tax rate on the rich of 94%, and this was during the Eisenhower administration!). Real leftist figures like Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich are marginal figures in the Democratic Party, whereas Paul Ryan is the vice-presidential nominee for the Republicans. Every time a leader of your generation laments that there is a decline in bipartisanship and says that both sides are equally responsible, you are aiding and abetting the decline of Democracy in America. 

I know that your advocacy of bipartisanship and reservations about Obama are in large part due to Israel. But Obama realizes one thing that Bush never did, which is that if Israel is to survive into the 22nd century, it must be saved from itself. The Israeli Knesset is for all intents and purposes a right-wing supermajority, and the only thing preventing them from launching full-scale attacks on the Iranian nuclear program is Obama. To attack Iran or anywhere else in the current political climate would be to invite a potential apocalypse on Israel. Any chance the Arab Spring has of working would immediately be crushed and Radical Islamists who preach the destruction of Israel would sail into victory, each of which might try to build a similar nuclear program. Even if Iran doesn't build a bomb, they can simply order one from Pakistan, and if Pakistan has a radical Islamist government, they'll be more than happy to provide whatever amount of nuclear weapons Iran would like to have. We probably disagree about Obama's position on the settlements - I don't think he believes for a moment that peace will be achieved if only Israel withdraws from them. But in order to appease these very volatile places, he has to say he does. I'm not a dove because I don't take the threat of Israeli security seriously, I'm a dove because I think hawks don't take the threat to Israeli security seriously enough. 

Many people of your generation lament that the American idyll of the mid-20th century is no longer there. But my generation never knew that world. We have to deal with the reality of a world we'll be living in for the next half-century. And for the moment, the reality is that there is one party that is the party of democracy, and one party that is the party of authoritarianism and corruption. Liberals want a partner in peace, but there is no partner in peace.

Shana Tova to you and your family, I know your Yom Kippur sermons will be just as wonderful,

Evan Tucker

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