A thought. If your goal is America first, you can’t have America best.
A question. How is it that in this age when everybody feels free to say whatever they want, however they want in any of a trillion places they want, that so many are so quick to want to shut down those with whom they don’t agree?
Let’s start with the thought. As we all know, Trump, who I refuse to refer to as president, based his ugly campaign on the notion of America first, his pledge to always put American considerations before any other. His obscenity of an inaugural address, written by the most odious Jew of our time, Steven Miller, emphasized the point. No more would we be concerned with America playing its traditional role in the world. Nope from this point forward, said Trump, it would be only and always America first.
What is so funny about that, and why I have so much contempt for conservatives, is because conservatives are the first and the loudest to insist that America is an ‘exceptional nation,’ and yet they are opposed to virtually everything that makes it so.
I very much believe that America is an exceptional nation, unlike any in the history of the world. Imagine how exceptional it truly was for America, after defeating the Nazis in World War II, to send tens of thousands of troops to Germany to protect it and the rest of Europe. And how even more exceptional it was for America, after winning the war and defeating those who had cost us so much, took the lives of so many brave young American soldiers, had us spend tens of billions of dollars on weapons, to create the Marshall Plan, a program for us to spend billions more to rebuild Germany and other countries in Europe, to get them back on their feet. And yet more exceptional still is that we asked for nothing in return, not to rule over Germany, not to have them pay us back, not to have them give us their natural resources. Having been wronged, which is way too mild a word, we chose to do a mitzvah, a selfless act of giving and helping.
Same with the first Gulf War. We sent half a million American troops halfway around the world to throw Iraq out of Kuwait and then we simply left, brought all our soldiers back, did not choose to occupy Kuwait as the price of saving them. We did what was right and then headed home.
That is America. That is why we are an exceptional nation. Because we don’t put America first, but doing the right thing first. I can think of nothing more in keeping with Jewish values, with the essence of Judaism, than that.
But now Trump, in his insane obsession with America first, is doing the opposite of making America great again. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords was one of the worst examples of that. Here was an agreement designed to save the very planet we all call home, and out of selfishness and self-centeredness, he pulled us out. Making us one of only three countries on the face of the earth to not be part of the accords. So he has put us on the same moral plane as Syria and Nicaragua. Look at the men leading those two countries and you have a good idea of the man leading our country.
And now we have his hateful, cruel killing of DACA, which in an instant has put 800,000 young people in peril, frightened them, including those who serve in the military. America has always been a haven, has always done the right thing, always upheld precious values, always showed the world the way, had great power and yet a compassionate open heart.
Once again, though I am not a dreamer, this cuts to my Jewish soul. Just as his attempt to cut legal, that’s legal, immigration in half. I am here because this country opened its heart and its doors to my parents, refugees from the Holocaust, Jews from Europe who did not speak English, had no means of support, no relatives in this country. To Trump that means America had absolutely no reason to let them in. Thankfully, before his reign of idiocy, this country acted as it should, and so took in my parents and my grandparents, including my zayde the blacksmith, and gave them a new home, a fresh start, a golden opportunity. Just because. Just because that is America. Read the words on the Statue of Liberty. Let us only hope Lady Liberty does not get so depressed by the age of Trump that she drowns herself in the Hudson River.
I continue to be sickened by the fact that it is right wing organizations who continue to support Trump, continue to keep quiet about his outrages. These right wing Jews who think themselves the most patriotic of Americans and the most ardent of Zionists said nothing when Trump compared those opposing the Nazis in Charlottesville to the Nazis, when he said among the Nazis were ‘very fine people.’ And yet from the right wing corner of Judaism nothing. So with DACA, where it’s only the progressive Jewish organizations who stand up and speak out while those who consider themselves oh so religious, super Jews in fact, stay shamefully silent.
Okay let’s switch over to the question. As anyone who has ever been on the internet knows, people who post comments about whatever wherever are incredibly vicious, using the most vile of language, are petty and mean and ugly, feel totally entitled to say anything about anybody, don’t hesitate to spew their verbal garbage.
That’s the world in which we live. The internet allows you to sit there all by yourself and access the world and to anonymously hide behind fake names and stupid monikers to say whatever you want in the most nauseating of ways.
And yet at the very same time, we have taken it upon ourselves to rip to pieces anyone who says or does anything that we don’t agree with, proclaim them not worthy of expressing themselves, attempt to shut them up and shut them down.
For example, I just got my third voicemail from the seemingly endlessly angry and lunatic Dr. Ira. Dr. Ira, who my guess is, is a proctologist, hasn’t liked some columns I’ve written lately and so he’s decided I have no right to write any future columns.
In his most recent belligerent voicemail, he said, and I quote, “this man should not be writing an article.” And so he can feel free to say whatever ugliness he wants, but I have no right to write a column. Why because Dr. Ira, who my guess is, graduated from a medical school in the Caribbean, doesn’t agree with my point of view and so to him that means I need to be banned from expressing my opinions.
And then we have Colin Kapernick, a quarterback in the NFL who last season refused to stand for the national anthem. Now in the land of the free and the home of the brave, that should be his right. The right to free speech, to express himself, to say that when it comes to blacks, he doesn’t feel this country has lived up to its principles.
While I may not agree with his decision, I do very much admire his courage, and frankly can’t argue with him about how this country has treated and still treats African Americans. Just consider all those innocent blacks murdered in cold blood by cops.
But because Kapernick expressed himself, he has been blackballed by the league, no team has hired him to play this season. Just for being true to his beliefs, he has been deprived of a livelihood.
And then we have the co-owner of Max’s Deli in Highland Park. His name is George Morelli and so outraged was he by Trump’s embrace of Nazis in Charlottesville, his excusing their behavior, his praise for some of them as very fine people, George went to the deli’s Facebook page and next to its High Holidays menu, he posted an entry that included a cartoon drawing of a Trump like figure wearing a Nazi armband, giving a stiff armed salute and wearing a t-shirt that said ‘I’m with the Alt Right.’ Next to the drawing was his explanation of his thoughts and fears about what happened in Charlottesville, which included the line “Here’s a hard question: what do they really mean by Alt-Right? I’ll tell you what they really mean … Nazi.”
But it was the image that got all the attention. Now I am not a big fan of using Nazi imagery to make a political point, think the Holocaust is such a sacred, unique event that it needs not be diminished by using it to push an opinion.
And yet I understand why Morelli did what he did and in fact I admire that he had the passion and conviction and guts to do what he did. As he explained it, “I have a Jewish deli, I am a Jewish man. I am the first person that’s going to get a brick through the window if this plague is not stopped immediately.”
And so he did what the heads of America’s yeshivas didn’t have the courage to do and that is call out Trump’s Nazi love for the threat it is. And yet for speaking out and standing up, Morelli had the world come down on him. His deli was deluged with negative calls once his Facebook post became public, people berating him for speaking his mind, including his own family who Morelli said ‘is done with him.’ There were calls on Facebook for people to boycott his restaurant.
Morelli felt it was important that he post an image that portrayed what he sees as a danger to America. And he was totally willing to discuss it with anyone who wanted to come to the deli and talk to him about it, showing he was open to other views, even those of people who were not themselves open to his view.
“I do not regret getting involved,” Morelli said. “I do not regret speaking out. I do not regret assigning symbolism to hatred. I do not regret being trashed on Facebook. That said, it hurt.”
Indeed the trashing became so intense and ugly and threatening, that Morelli was forced to apologize. But he told Channel 5 that despite the negative effect this might have on his business, he was afraid not to speak up during this moment in history.
“I’m a Jew. I cannot pretend, in this moment, that I’m not afraid — but I’m also afraid of being afraid. I’m not going to go quietly on a train,” he said.
Very good for him. It’s not enough to say it’s okay for anyone to post any mindless vicious comment he wants on the internet while shutting down someone who strongly believes in something and expresses his point of view in a way that attracts attention.
Greg Morelli is a Jew who feels Judaism is in danger, feels there is a threat that needs to be called out and he did just that, even being willing to pay a high price. That is true courage.
The Jewish world could use a whole lot more Jews like Greg Morelli.