Tuesday, December 9, 2014
800 Words: When Facebook and Blogging Become One
To be a Jew is to be a natural arguer. And outside of music, there wasn't a single influential gentile in my life until I was 16. Everything in my life since then is seen through the inheritance of those conflict-laden formative years. When I see the conflicts of today, gradually accumulate influence and militancy every year since I was a teenager and showing every sign of growing far more than it already has, I not only see the beginnings of a Tea Party of the Left, I see the young Menachem Begin and the Irgun, which eventually evolved to the modern Likud of Netanyahu. To the young Begin, violent opposition to what he felt to be unjust rule was always tolerated, often encouraged, occasionally participated in, and all cautious and nuanced words treated as though it is the same as though caution is as evil as the vilest bigot. What we're currently seeing on the streets is the formation of a neoconservatism for the left. Eventually, whether now or in a hundred years, caution, and only caution, will be what can win this current battle against racism - just as caution was what eventually won the Cold War, Jewish statehood, and the American Civil War. But just as in every one of those conflicts, there will be conflictmongers who will claim that their bellicosity was responsible, and people will believe them, only for the extremists to pervert the victory into something unrecognizably tyrannical and start the cycle of conflict anew. Mid-century America was a terrible place, it was also the best place the world had ever seen, in which the choice in planning for the future was between Roosevelt's Democrats, the party of liberalism, and Eisenhower's Republicans, the party of more gradual liberalism. If the world's made progress since then, it is because of what those two visions of America were able to implement for today's world. The Republican party went off the rails quickly afterward, and descended further year by year into a pit of authoritarian conservatism from which they have no escape. The Democratic party, never moreso than under Obama, did what it could to stand guard against them, and was burdened with doing the thinking that should be split between two functional political parties. But Obama, and all the progress he's made for us, has been betrayed by the very progressives who should be most aware of how he's resurrected the best liberal traditions. After he leaves, it's hard not to think that we will see the ultimate triumph of conservatism, which is the eradication of liberals who think with any more nuance than conservatives. After 9/11, we saw the us vs. them mentality so recently, and today's torture report shows exactly how that can warp people's sense of right and wrong. Yet every day on facebook I see people sharing pieces about how more moderate people use euphemisms to keep the old order in place, and are nothing more than conservatives in disguise. Or how allies have no place in the fight but to march lock step without asking questions. Yes, the old order is terrible, but the world can descend so quickly into so many worse terrors. Maybe people have a subconscious wish to bring us there, but once we get there, I think they'll be nostalgic for what once was. If you think your side is not capable of evil just as great, history will make a fool out of you. I first became politically aware at a young age, but for the entirety of it, I've seen a gradual destruction of everything effective which liberalism once stood for, and I expect it will gradually erode for the duration of my lifetime. It's like watching the Titanic gradually sail its way toward the iceberg at a glacial pace, and being powerless to stop it. In its place, as once happened in Europe, will be two diametrically opposed dogmatic revolutionisms, which will resemble one another far more than anything else. Jewish history is nothing if not symmetrical. Thank you for indulging me if you've read this far.