Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Joy, Mixed With a Little Sadness
Several weeks ago I predicted that Barack Obama would win in a landslide. He didn't win by double digits, but he defeated John McCain handily. What does that say about us Americans? Pundits and talking-heads are now analyzing the results of the election. Republican conservatives blame the party for straying from its Reaganesque principles (they forgot Reagan's spending.) Republican moderates blame everything but themselves: the economy, a protracted and unpopular war, the financial crisis, the unpopularity of George W. Bush, as if president had belonged to another party. Democrats, needless to say, add to this litany the magic of the candidate himself, and the brilliance of his political campaign. All Americans, with the exception, perhaps, of the loonies of the extreme right, understand the significance of this day. Even Republicans -- goodness, even Charles Krauthammer, who looked on television last night as if he had been staring into Mordor for 48 hours -- "gets it." And what is the "it" that they get? Most importantly, the greatness of this country -- the first non third-world country -- that has made a black man the head of state. And not because he is black, for Obama is not of the "generation of the aggrieved;" he is no Jesse Jackson, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Oh, sure, there are many blacks who voted to him out of racial-cultural loyalty without knowing much about his policies. But that is not what got him elected by 52% of the vote. He was elected because, in being black, he also transcended his blackness and his whiteness. He won because, darn it, he is an AMERICAN first, and a colored man second. He never hid hid blackness, nor his whiteness. Nor did he run on them. He convinced Americans that he would work tirelessly for them. And Americans came to believe him. What elected Barack Obama was a truly rainbow coalition of races and ethnicities, including -- God bless us -- the Jews. All of us are the children of hope; the children of "Yes, we can." What allowed millions of Americans to say, "I never thought in my lifetime that I would see this day" -= against all the cynics, pundits, and pessimists (count me in all three of those categories) -- was the realization of that hope. Call it sentimentalism, call it nostalgia, call it Hollywood, call it Jimmy Stewart, call it whatever you like. I call it America. But I am not only an American. I am also an Israeli Jew. And here is my sadness. You see, many Israelis still don't get it. Anybody who has been following the press coverage from Israel of the presidential election can see that. And I am not only talking about a soft porn writer like Naomi Ragen who exemplifies what Eliezer Berkowitz called "Hitler's Posthumous Victory," the destruction of the Jewish Soul. I refer to the so-called Israeli secular liberals. Only the day before yesterday the Israeli writer Yoram Kaniuk could write in YNET that McCain would win the election, because John-Wayne Americans were incapable of electing a black man president! Kaniuk, who lived in American for ten years decades ago, combines European snobbism, Israeli arrogance, and Jewish bigotry to come up with that bizarre prediction. What about columnist Amir Oren, writing in Haaretz, who called Obama "a Jimmy Carter with a suntan." Aside from the blatant racism of the remark, it is simply idiotic and way off the mark, but it speaks volumes about the sublimated hatred of moral exemplars like Carter and Obama in military types like Oren. But why stop there? Headlines like, "The Victory of Minorities", not to mention the talkbacks, show that so many Israelis still don't get it. Hello, it was the majority that won, not the minorities. Unless we are all minorities on this bus. Still, there is some signs that the message is starting to sink in. And if the message of Barack Obama is the "audacity of hope" -- and the phrase was coined by Rev. Wright, God bless him -- then maybe we have to give some time to the Israelis, mired deeply in their collective psychosis, to "get it". Already, the headlines in Israeli papers today are beginning to reflect the greatness of the hour. After the initial cynicism and condescension, the excitement is beginning to be felt. And here is another hopeful statistic - for Judaism in America, anyway. According to exit polls, 78% of the Jews voted for Obama, even more than those who voted for Kerry in 2004. All the dirt, hatred, lies, money, poisonous emails, only strengthened the Jews for Obama -- because they saw through the Republican ads. The vocal minority of rightwingers were crushed at the polls by the silent majority of Jews who climbed on the train of history and left the hatemongers at the station. To that small but loudmouthed minority of Jewish zealots I say: you said that Obama was a radical, a leftist, an extreme Muslim, somebody who pals around with terrorists and anti-Semites, who will do what he can to appease Iran, and will be a dangerous enemy of Israel. Well, he may or may not be those things -- but one thing he is for sure: the President of the United States, elected by an overwhelming majority. I hope you sleep well at night. In Jerusalem, I, and my children and grandchildren, certainly will.