Only when America reinstates embracing of all views, not just all colors and religions, can it cautiously open its gates to immigrants.
Prior to the election that introduced Donald J. Trump to the Oval Office, the press was concerned with the question, “What happens if Donald Trump loses?” Los Angeles Times reporter Doyle McManus did not even consider that Trump might win. Instead, he concluded that after Trump’s loss, “it’s hard to imagine that Trump will simply fade away.” Liberals have controlled the White House (even when they came from the Republican Party) for so many years that the possibility of defeat never seriously crossed their minds.
And yet, I think that the greatest “revelation” of this election is not Trump’s victory, but the reaction of millions of people who proclaim to be liberals and progressives. The most evident and immediate benefit from the results of the election is the exposure of the true face of “liberalism.” The orchestrated outcry over an immigration ban that Obama himself implemented six years ago, for twice as long as Trump’s ban, is a hypocritical attempt to delegitimize Trump and characterize him as a ruthless and reckless president. Since 2011, the Obama administration has killed tens of thousands of Muslims in the countries whose citizens now seek asylum. He also killed their leaders and annihilated their systems of governance, creating a perfect bedrock for the rise of ISIS. Where were the “liberals” when Obama was doing all this? Where were they when he banned the entrance of refugees in 2011?
Moreover, everything that Democrats said they feared Trump’s supporters would do if they lost, they themselves are doing, and much more. How can a mob of car-torching, window-breaking hate-filled rioters who are cheering the musings of mega-stars about blowing up the White House proclaim to be “liberals”? What is democratic about their conduct?
In May last year, acclaimed liberal progressive author and journalist, Nicholas Kristof, wrote a column in The New York Times titled, “A Confession of Liberal Intolerance.” According to Kristof, “We progressives could take a brief break from attacking the other side and more broadly incorporate values that we supposedly cherish—like diversity—in our own dominions.” Today we are seeing the disheartening and violent results of this pretense.
A few days ago, I received an email from a student who lives in the Northeast. The student, who was brought up in a liberal household, declined to come forward by name for fear of retribution from “liberals” and “progressives.” Here is just some of what my student wrote.
An Entire Generation was Educated in Fantasy [student’s own title]
We grew up in this liberal bubble: a fantasy land. Our English classes required we read liberal books that championed the plight of immigrant minorities while condemning the westerner as the perpetual antagonist.
I like to think I have a decent moral compass. I take no pleasure in disagreeing with the trend. A person is terrified to say they are not liberal. Universities and schools raised us to breathe the notion that non-liberals are racist, backwards, white, old, men and bigots.
Right now, what I see in the liberal-left is the new fascist ideology. They are the least embracing group in this country. Somehow, we have arrived where our society is an eggshell of political correctness. Everything is racist. Jerry Seinfeld made a joke about his friend whose last name is black. He said ‘Black’s life matters.’ It was funny, however, Seinfeld was almost crucified for racism. This is a sickness.
I am a progressive. I define progressivism as openness to all opinions. Challenging everything. I also see myself as a champion of the oppressed. The oppressed right now are the Trump voters. The people that are not represented by Hollywood, the media, or tech and financial institutions where H-1B visa immigrants have all the good paying jobs.
I’m very alarmed at my generation’s insensitivity to those with a different opinion than theirs. Trump is obviously not always right. But the outright temper-tantrum the left and my generation is having right now is a turn-off. They are entitled and SAD!
An Inherent Failure
In the late 1940s, Baal HaSulam, my teacher’s father and the author of the Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Zohar, wrote about the inherent problems of democracy in his compilation, The Writings of the Last Generation. According to Baal HaSulam, “We should not deduce from the modern democracies, as they use various tactics to deceive the constituency. When they grow wiser and understand their [leaders’] cunningness, the majority will certainly elect a management according to their spirit. And their main tactic is that they first create a good reputation for people and promote them either as wise or as righteous, and then the masses believe and elect them. But a lie does not persist forever.”
The exposure of American democracy as a mechanism of exploitation proves that Baal HaSulam’s analysis was dead on. Yet, without proper measures to correct this destructive demeanor, nothing will change until the majority of American are destitute and struggling for survival while the elite feast on the cream and lecture the “plebs” on American values.
The Key to Successful Pluralism
A government where leaders are in office for a fixed, and relatively short term, requires certain preconditions in order to succeed. On the one hand, term limits guarantee that no leader becomes a monarch. On the other hand, when an election campaign occurs every four years, it guarantees that every four years candidates will vie for campaign funds and seek the benefit of their big donors. This inevitably makes them hostages in the hands of powerful pressure groups and individuals who exact their fee after the election, regardless of the public interest. The result of such a flawed system, as we have seen for the past several decades, is a stream of puppet presidents who dance to the dictates of their financiers and donors. These wealthy elites are the real rulers of the United States, and everything else is a “reality show.”
Today’s heads of states cannot be elected unless they are advertised like a commodity until the public “buys” the stories sold about them. It is as Baal HaSulam put it in the quote above: “their main tactic is that they first create a good reputation for people and promote them either as wise or as righteous.” In such a state, the president is not elected based on management skills, but based on acting skills and amicability. Are these the right criteria for choosing a nation’s leader?
To elect good leaders, the people must determine what they want to see in a leader. If they have the interest of the entire nation at heart, then they will elect leaders based on what benefits the entirety of the country. In the case of America, for people to have such a broad view, they need to care for America, and most of all, for the American people, all American people.
The Gaps Are Bridges
In today’s era of extreme self-absorption, the only way to restore stability to the American society is to learn to embrace plurality rather than reject it. Any company that wants to succeed, any sports team that wants to win a championship, and every system in nature, including our own bodies, function only when contradicting elements support one another instead of fighting one another. If the liver and heart fought over blood because they both need it for survival, we would die. But their complementary functionality guarantees that we have toxin free flow of blood to the entire body.
Likewise, every person in humanity is important because health and strength are achieved when we unite above our differences, and not when we exhaust ourselves trying to be the last one standing. This constant battle we are fighting with each other is exactly how cancer behaves toward the rest of the body, and we know how this ends for the cancer and for us.
When the ancient Israelites connected above their differences, they managed to build a nation out of millions of separate individuals. Once they pledged to unite “as one man with one heart,” they were tasked with passing the method for connection to the rest of the world. The Torah defined this task as being “a light unto nations”; it knew that disunity would “darken” people’s lives and they would need a light at the end of the tunnel. Today, when depression, violence, and alienation are engulfing all of humanity, unity does seem like a faint light.
Yet, Israel’s method for achieving unity can succeed precisely in conditions such as ours because it is designed for a state of animosity among people. It does not dread frictions; it cherishes and embraces them as tools for achieving greater unity and social cohesion.
My students all over the world carry out this method, which we titled, “Integral Education,” and prove repeatedly that people of different backgrounds can unite if they are willing to rise above their differences. They need not suppress their views, like today’s supporters of the President prefer not to express themselves for fear of being crucified through smear campaigns, like the case of Uber’s CEO.
I think that America’s stability is too important to the world for it to behave recklessly. I think it must reinstate its value of embracing all views, and not just all colors and religions. Only when America does this can it begin to cautiously open its gates to immigrants. However, even then it must be done on condition that immigrants also embrace the values of pluralism and unity as the basis of democracy.
In the coming years, the global challenges will increase and intensify. The basis for successful coping with these challenges is unity. If America establishes this, it will succeed. If not, it will end up like Europe.
Featured in Haaretz