For its own sake, American society must rise above the differences and form a bridge of unity. Right now, I am very, very worried.
The week has barely begun and already “Thousands protest against the President in London, Australia,” and the Der Spiegel magazine cover photo shows Donald Trump holding the severed head of the Statue of Liberty with a blood dripping machete in his hand, like an ISIS terrorist, with the words, “America First,” written next to him. Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, quit Trump’s business advisory group because he could not cope with the pressure of the #DeleteUber campaign against his company simply because he didn’t criticize the President harshly enough.
It gets worse. Now the campaign is going after the family, as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus dropped Ivanka Trump’s eponymous brand of accessories, apparel, and shoes.
Even the President’s supporters are receiving unexpected backlash, such as Matthew Fishbane’s open letter in Tablet magazine that questions why Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, supports Donald Trump: “You really believe in this man, our president? Explain to us what we’re missing. We’re listening.” Wherever you look, it seems more and more like a case of “The World vs. Donald J. Trump” and anyone who supports him.
This is not a struggle over ideology. There is nothing ideological about boycotting an accessories line because the owner’s last name is Trump. There is also nothing democratic about the professed champions of democracy and pluralism becoming the bullies of the block. If Bay Area Conservatives Keep Meetups Secret Fearing For Their Safety, America can hardly claim to have freedom of speech or freedom of expression. Apparently, the First Amendment is only good as long as it supports the “Democrats.” But if a legally elected president does not represent their views, you might as well throw the Constitution out the window.
Why the Self-Entitlement
If you’re a Trump supporter, it’s very easy these days to feel threatened and that the losing side in the elections is trying to regain control in undemocratic ways. It’s very easy to get angry at the protesters’ infantile sense of self-entitlement, as though they are saying, “We don’t like this president so we want him out, and we don’t care if he won fair and square. It’s fair only if we win!”
However, if Trump weathers the storm and remains in power—and there is an “if” right now—his supporters will gradually feel more and more entitled, too. Just like the Liberals, Conservatives will feel that they should be in power simply because they are entitled to be. And they will be just as wrong as the Liberals are today, since the root of the chaos threatening to turn America into a splintered country is the pervasive sense of self-entitlement rather than the identity of the President.
America was not always this way. Capitalism is not an essentially evil concept, nor is liberalism. However, humanity is changing, and America is changing with it. Even back in the days of the Talmud, our sages knew that “One who has one hundred wants two hundred, and one who has two hundred wants four hundred” (Sukkah 52a). No one escapes this law of human nature. The result of our ever increasing appetite for money and power is that over the last half century or so, the growing self-entitlement has turned capitalism into neoliberalism, where the elite use pseudo-liberal argumentation to accumulate more and more power, increase inequality, and manipulate the uninformed majority into believing that they are part of a progressive mindset. Today, the same media outlets that have manipulated the public, are pitting those who voted for Hillary Clinton against the Trump family and his supporters in order to remove the President from office so they can regain control regardless of the results of the elections. If they succeed, America will lapse into civil riots, if not worse, or drag humanity into another world war.
The Only Possible Solution
The situation where only the Left rules and recklessly does what it wants will not return. Its time is up. Now is the time for a more conservative regime to take hold and balance the abandon of the previous administration. But after the new administration settles in, it will have to find a way to leverage from both approaches—liberal and conservative.
The precondition for the success of society is diversity and contradiction of views. In the 1930s, Baal HaSulam, author of the complete Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Zohar, wrote a series of essays detailing his approach to contradictions in society. In his essay, “The Freedom,” Baal HaSulam stated that “just as the face of each and every person differs, so their views differ. There are no two people on Earth whose opinions are identical.
Therefore, society is cautioned to preserve the freedom of expression of the individual. Each individual should maintain his integrity, and the contradiction and oppositeness between people should remain forever, to forever secure the criticism and progress of the free society.” Moreover, the more a society is developed, the more the views within it conflict and move apart from one another.
If you think about it, this is how everything in reality is created and operates. We ourselves are creations of two opposites—a man and a woman. We are neither exactly like our father nor exactly like our mother, but rather a new creation made from both. At the same time, both parents love their creation and feel we are their own, yet share in their creation.
A well-functioning government should act likewise. Any manner of governance that does not take into account the needs of all factions of society and does not treat them with equal care will not be able to make the right decisions.
Right now, the President is a Republican and so are both houses of Congress. On the other side of the ring, Democrats by and large dominate the media, judicial system, and Hollywood. Instead of collaborating, they are pitting the public against the other side, and in the struggle between them, the American people lose. Clearly, the differences cannot be bridged overnight. Yet, sometimes you need to prioritize and deal with your most urgent tasks first, and today, America’s most urgent task is to heal its internal fractures.
The great thinker, Martin Buber, once wrote about the Israeli nation words that I think befit the state of the American people today. In his book, Nation and World, he wrote, “It is not neutrality that we need, but rather cohesion, cohesion of mutual responsibility. We are not required to blur the boundaries among the factions, circles, and parties, but rather share a recognition of the common reality and to share the test of mutual responsibility.”
Similar to Buber, the book, Likutey Halachot (Assorted Rules) writes, “The essence of vitality, existence, and correction in creation is achieved by people of differing opinions mingling together in love, unity, and peace.”
Many centuries earlier, the wisest of all men, King Solomon, said (Proverbs 10:12), “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes.” Yet, to cover hatred with love, both sides need to recognize the necessity to do so.
At the moment, I do not see this happening. I do not see the entitled Left giving the Trump administration even the slightest break. This, in turn, will leave Trump with no option but to fight back. There are powerful forces behind him, too, as well as the support of half of the American people. They are silent now, but they won’t be for long; they will simply have no choice.
For its own sake and for the sake of the world, American society must rise above the differences and create a bridge of unity. Regrettably, right now, I do not see this happening, which leaves me very, very worried.
Featured in Haaretz