Thursday, December 18, 2014
This is the fourth time around for the kernel of this essay. I have changed it each time to match the tenor of the year in which it will go to post. Since I have just returned to blogging after having been away for four years, the change is of a wider range. It includes a new direction for this blog and my writing life in general. Read on and you will see…
I am a Jew. For most of my life if you had tried to force me to say “Merry Christmas” you would have had a fight on your hands. Yet now, I find that after many years of conflicted feelings, I have come full circle on being wished (and wishing others) “Merry Christmas”. No, I am not loosing my Jewish identity; on the contrary, I am very sure that it is stronger than ever.
I grew up in an observant Jewish home ( I am observant still) in which we greeted Christmas with a mixture of fascination, respect and a little irritation. At some point I became fond of expressing my ambivalence by quoting Jackie Mason, who once said:
“I don’t understand something about Christians; maybe you can explain this to me? Why is it that this time of year you bring the trees inside and put the lights outside?”
That line, for many years summed up the bemusement that I affected about the whole public Christmas celebration.
My feelings were mixed for a variety of reasons. My Dad had a retail store so the weeks leading up to Christmas were always a time of tension and brutally long hours of work. The traffic on the roads, crowds in the stores, and the saturation of television (especially in those pre- cable times) and radio airwaves with Christmas programs and music were overwhelming. I found the frenzy mentally punishing, the free-floating goodwill unsettling and the talk about Jesus (in whose divinity I was not supposed to believe) uncomfortable.
It left me very glad to have it over on December 26th.
And I was always more than a little unsure of how to respond when some well-meaning person would wish me a Merry Christmas. I was often caught between wanting to thank him noncommittally, try to summon a convincing Merry Christmas in return or to say,” Thanks Very much but I don’t celebrate Christmas and then have to deal with the uncomfortable silence or explanations and apologies.
I am ashamed to admit it today but I was, at first, pleased when I saw, over the years, the ACLU and Multi-culti types pushing “Merry Christmas” out of the vocabulary of cultural discourse in favor of the more generic “Happy Holidays”.
I’ve grownup, though, and I’ve grown into a new perspective on this whole question and, today, when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I have a new response. It’s really simple-
I stop what I am doing
I don’t have any hesitation or second thoughts.
I wish them a great big “Merry Christmas” in return.
I would like to encourage all my fellow Jews to join me in this.
I have come to see quite clearly that even if there are politically correct, multi-cultural, morally relativistic, post modern progressive busybodies who would like us to believe that our Christian friends’ and Neighbors’ spontaneous Christmas wishes are somehow injurious to us and our culture, they are nothing of the kind. A sincere “Merry Christmas is more American and better for the republic and her people than the blandest, most guarded “Happy Holidays”
You see, the U.S. was founded by Christians. Not just any Christians. The early colonists were both devout and independent. They were fervent Protestants whose purpose in coming here was to leave the Kings, Priests, state religions and archaic laws of the Old World behind. Even if some of them were supersessionists and dogmatic, they were also egalitarian and self-reliant. They came here to build a country where every man could read scripture for himself and be his own priest- where he could be free to elect political leadership that he could follow gladly.
By the time of the founders, a century and a half later, much of that initial fundamentalist fervor had evolved into a more complex mix of Mainline Protestantism, Masonic brotherhood and Deist spirituality. Hardened on the forge of a yeoman’s life, annealed by the day-to-day and season-by-season struggle to wrest a living from this still untamed land where God’s will could be imagined alive in the caprices of the weather, soil and the forests they learned self-reliance and independence by daily practice. Above all, they came to know that it is not enough to expect, that to survive and thrive you must always study, be openminded and learn.
It was those fiercely independent Protestants who set the tone for the nation in which we now live. Their adamant spiritual presumption of the liberty of the human soul is, still today, the great central mast that lifts the canopy of democracy and holds it above us as a sanctuary from the extremes of despotism and effete decay that afflict most of the rest of the world.
The devotion of deeply religious people and spiritually awakened souls like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams are what have made the this country the true standard bearer of self rule and freedom in the history of the human race. They codified it and crystallized it in the constitution that they wrote for us.
At over two hundred years old, that constitution and the government that flows from it is still the one in the entire world that best honors the individual and guarantees most rights to any individual who accepts the constitutional responsibilities of a citizen.
Among all their other unique achievements the fact that they decided that there could be no Official Religion in a country that aimed not just at physical or intellectual freedom shows that they understood that full human freedom means spiritual freedom too- Freedom of Religion.
To honor their genius fully we have to understand that Freedom of Religion must never be allowed to be a mandate for Freedom from Religion. As a Jew, I am exquisitely aware that freedom to practice my form of religion exists in this country because of those Christians and their vision of what a Christian country should stand for.
This uniquely Christian openness is why America has become the destination of choice for any one wishing to escape repression or lack of opportunity elsewhere in the world. That's why Jews (and everybody else) have gravitated here for two hundred years. But we all (Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists) are in danger of forgetting how this all works and I think this whole “anti-Merry Christmas” thing is a symptom of that amnesia.
My grandfather told me stories about life in turn-of-the(last)–century Eastern Europe so I have some idea of what he escaped by coming here in 1915. And its not just that, thirty years after he left for America, he was not trapped with many of his Aunts, uncles, and cousins in Zhitomir, his Ukrainian home town, when the Waffen SS slaughtered thirty six thousand Jews there in one day! That is a gift indeed, but it is in and of the past. No, it is the gift of equality and the opportunity to prosper that still lives on. It is that continuing gift that sustains the American dream and should call upon our constant love and loyalty.
The United States of America, as conceived by her Protestant founders, has been a miracle and a blessing to the entire human race. It has been especially important to the Jewish people.
We Jews are barely over one percent of the population here. We (a lot of us anyway) take pride in our contribution to America’s dynamism. We point with satisfaction to the fact that the founding fathers of this country were inspired and informed by our holy book which they called The Old Testament. Thomas Jefferson (among others) others used to read from it every day in the original Hebrew, something few of us “modern” Jews can do.
But why do I need to explain this? Why don’t we all understand the centrality of the Protestant ethic to the goodness of America? Partly, it’s because of a lack in the educational program. But it’s also because our media, whose responsibility it should be to make us aware of the important ideas, events and issues has other agendas. Our “Mainstream” media is often found to be doing just the opposite.
In the media, America is assailed daily for her imperfections; and if not assailed, then damned by the faintest of praise. The media emphasizes the imperfections instead of the achievements- the discords not the harmony.
Historical revisionism has been used by the joyless progressives, secular humanists and multiculturalists to sap the joy, goodwill and meaning out of all religious practice including Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It has even come to pass that our President goes abroad and cannot seem to visit another country without some pathetic apology for America’s past- as if there is any country on earth whose history is so pristine that they are in a position to judge.
I am only one Jew- not a Rabbi and not a spokesman for a community organization, just a simple Jew. Nevertheless, I would like to call on all Jews, indeed, all Christians, Muslims and whoever else will standup with me and celebrate the blessing that The United States of America is to us and to the human family. Let us bow our heads together this Thanksgiving and resolve that instead of fretting about how saying “Merry Christmas” might make us an overly Christian country, we will thank our own, private God that we live in this country where “Happy Thanksgiving” and “Merry Christmas” mean what they mean here.
We need to loosen up and get a perspective on this “Merry Christmas” thing. It is not the people who say “Merry Christmas” and mean it that we need to be discouraging in America at this time. It is the people who find something wrong and suspect in the energy, enthusiasm and good-will that animates that “Merry Christmas” that we need to discourage.
We must side with our fellow Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom are warm-hearted friends with morals and ethics or we will have become unwitting dupes to heartless enemies with no moral compass who think they can rationalize almost anything and undermine our great civilization with reasonable sounding, non-judgmental sophistry. Do you need a moment to think about that?
By saying “Merry Christmas” in public we are not necessarily agreeing that Jesus was the son of God, we are just acknowledging that some very good people believe it. When we say it, that does not constitute accepting Jesus as our personal savior; it does show his followers that we see them as fellow countrymen, friends and brothers-in-arms in the defense of the highest ideals of our civil society and Judeo-Christian culture. What is the problem with that, exactly?
And that brings me to a question that some of my Jewish friends have asked me about. How do I feel about supporting Dr Carson when he talks so sincerely about his faith and seems to be so firm in expressing his ideas that it makes them uncomfortable.
His faith does not bother me at all. It inspires me. The way he talks about it reminds me of the way that our founders talked about their faith. In the same way as their belief in The Individual, Enterprise, Study, work and Liberty formed the culture of the greatest country the world has yet seen, Benjamin Carson’s life, and especially the story of his remarkable mother and his escape from poverty echo the birth drama of The United States of America.
In the end it is all about Culture. He was born an outsider, a poor black kid. He became a great man because he was raised by a great mother. Dr Carson’s single mother worked menial jobs all her life and yet she raised two sons to distinguished lives. One became a U.S. Naval Officer and the other, Ben Carson, a world famous neurosurgeon. Her genius was that instead of giving in to the despair and decay around them she raised her family up. She did it by observing the strong and prosperous around her and creating a “micro-culture” of pride, study and achievement in her family that mirrored the success she saw.
His mother lived and breathed the whole philosophy of self-reliance, trust in providence and independence that the founders interlaced into the U.S. Constitution. That must be why he is so passionate about this country and its constitution. He is a man who lives it gratefully. He recognizes it for the matchless inheritance that it is; indeed he is a man built in its image. No “constitutional scholar” could ever have such an intimate appreciation of it. So even if there should be a constitutional scholar or any other sort of intellectual humbug who would object, I’ll gladly say “Merry Christmas”! And although I’ve never gotten one before, I’d love to have Dr Carson announce his candidacy for president of the United States as my first Christmas present…
Thursday, December 4, 2014
The hurt in the streets is palpable. It is not what it seems to be, however. This is a pivotal moment in the racial history of this country. It is at once a terrible danger and a unique opportunity. I have not yet heard anyone put their finger on what is really happening. Here is a hint: A failing prophet is more dangerous than a wounded tiger.
What is truly going on in Ferguson and New York and echoing across the land? The first thing to acknowledge is that it is not what it appears to be. It has more to do with the last election than with the death of a young man who has already been shown to be a strong-arm thief , someone who tried to take the weapon away from a policeman, in Missouri. It is not even about the more sympathy-inspiring case of a hapless, overweight, asthmatic petty criminal who resisted arrest in New York.
Caught off guard (again!) the bewildered conservative media and blogosphere are obsessed with arguing the facts of the individual cases and cannot quite understand why they cannot get anyone to engage them on that level. They will come to see that it is not about the facts.
Here is what it is really about: The progressive alliance of Mass Media elitists, Wall Street manipulators, entitlement boosters, racial “equality” careerists, community organizers and socialist agitators that constitute the political hard-core of the Democratic party that brought Barak Obama to power is falling to pieces. All the boldfaced lies, prevarications, demagoguery, and failures (both foreign and domestic) of the past six years have finally become unsupportable and a great disappointment has settled in amongst the believers. The American people have finally noticed and voted to reverse all of it.
The Political Black Messiah has failed his minions. All those other failures aside, the one thing they knew he could do, ease the “race problem” is the single worst failure of his administration. This closest analog to this that I can think of is the way all false prophets of the past have met with the ultimate failures of their prophecies. The world didn’t end last night at midnight? Take credit for the reprieve that you won for the human race from heaven and go on a membership drive. Your whole theology is shown to be a transparent fabric of lies? Look your followers in the eye and ask them “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?” They have thought it all out and their ideas are correct and compassionate - Why can’t everyone just do as they prescribe?
In years to come, the progressive movement will undoubtably turn on Obama and their afro-american vassals who perpetuate the myths of racist hatred will support them as they cast him out, blaming him for not being competent or wise enough to implement the ideas that they believe will transform the US and humanity. They will find a way to allege that he betrayed his movement and followers. All failed leftists (and there have never been any successful ones…) have suffered them same ultimate fate.
Question: Why did communism fail in Russia?
Answer: Why, Stalin and Lenin did not implement it properly.
Question: Why was German National Socialism such a human disaster?
Answer: Oh, that Hitler was an evil man.
Question: Why, before Reagan, was America floundering in the world with hostages in
Iran and economic “malaise” at home?
Iran and economic “malaise” at home?
Answer: You know, that Jimmy Carter, he was just ineffectual.”
But for now Obama is still in office and such a “counter betrayal” would add immensely to the already staggering cognitive dissonance they are feeling.
As with all failed prophets in the past, they are falling back on the one thing that they think will still work. The “legacy of slavery” and its analogs: the “racial divide”, the “genocide” of young black men- false premises and self-fulfilling prophecies all. They will either blithely change the facts of the individual cases, as they do with the “Hands up - Don’t shoot” calumny against the police or they flatly say that the facts don’t really matter because the killing is not the result of the facts on the ground but the outcome of “centuries” of bigotry. They never let a crisis go to waste at any time and they need this lie more than ever because without it they are powerless to slow down the disintegration of their world view. Never mind that their allegations damage the careers and reputations of good people whose only intention is to serve the very people that they claim to protest on behalf of. They shout empty slogans accusing the authorities of not valuing “black lives” equally and all the while they countenance the destruction of black-owned businesses, foster distrust of the police and, ultimately, sacrifice the safety and vitality of the primarily black neighborhood where the “injustice” took place. They don’t care about the people there they have no remorse- it is just part of the plan to discredit and tear down the existing order.
Just think of Al Sharpton’s (80+ visits to the Obama White House!) decades of depredations. He pioneered new lows in race baiting starting with the pathetic frauds Tawana Brawley, and Crystal Magnum. He stoked the riots in the Crown Heights pogrom. And do not forget his role in the Trayvon Martin and now Michael Brown and Eric Garner agitations. He has sown a trail of lies, fraud, hate, rioting and destruction for decades and in this time of defeat and demoralization he is the one who is called in by the White House and the Mayor of New York City to create still more hatred and chaos. As it always does, this chaos and crisis cements the resolve of the progressive constituency, and demotivates and cows those who would analyze, moderate and find constructive ways to move forward. This is what he does and this is why he is lionized by the press and in the halls of power.
They do not care what damage they do because if they do not keep the false accusation of endemic racist oppression alive, the cracks in their world view show up in stark relief. They are desperate now because they know the vote in the mid-term election shows that their incompetence has been exposed and without the fog and chaos their agenda is doomed. That is why encouraging lawless thugs and thieves to riot is a win-win tactic for them. Fostering fear of the police, making people in black neighborhoods far more vulnerable, is vital to their cause. They feed on fear, victims and pain.
Race and its abusers is one of the most dire threats we face as a nation. The hatred, helplessness and division that flows from this cripples further the black population and dispirits anyone who wants the nation to move beyond it. That is why I believe Dr. Ben Carson can and will play a pivotal role in the regeneration of American purpose and moral vigor. I would like to see him as our next president but whether he runs or not, having him in the national conversation is a saving grace. Just listen to what he says about the situation:
The man was born to lead. He is gifted with the touch of a healer- in the operating room or in the political arena. Most of all he looks at reality with the clear eye of a man who has made his living solving problems and leading teams. His moral leadership could be more important that his political leadership but how great would it be to have both?