Oy, Humbug

Joseph Aaron

If it wasn’t for Chanukah, I think I would have given up.

The funny thing is that while I am definitely a political liberal, or as they say in Israel where absolutely everyone gets pigeonholed with some label no matter how ill-fitting, a leftist, there was actually quite a bit about Donald Trump I liked during the campaign. I have found everything he’s done as president appalling, but during the campaign, there were things I found appealing about the orange faced clown.

Sick of politicians who are so careful about everything they say, and who say anything they need to for political gain even if it’s the exact opposite of something they said a couple of years ago when that was politically useful, I liked that Trump seemed to say it straight, spoke from the gut.

I liked that he called out China for cheating us, called out hedge fund managers who benefit from being taxed at a lower rate due to their ‘carried interest’ ploys, whatever that is, I liked that he said he would not get us involved in stupid wars, that he would give voice to the ‘forgotten men and women.’

Yes, as they say, a sucker is born every minute, and I was a sucker for some of his act. For he is nothing if not entertaining and that too was a welcome change. He put on a good show, a very different kind of show, and said some things that needed to be said.

We now know he didn’t mean it, didn’t really know what he was saying, that he has done so much damage to those forgotten men  and women, robbing them of healthcare, depriving them of a tax cut, stripping them of consumer protections and national parks and most of all a role model of decency.

I’ve tried to comfort myself recently by watching snippets from ‘The West Wing,’ on YouTube to see what a president should be, how he should inspire us, not degrade us. But Trump is very far from the only thing that has got me so down these days.

It’s everything and everyone. It’s the whole long parade of prominent sex abusers and harassers, so very many of them Jewish, including the most recent, Judge Alex Kozinski, the son of Holocaust survivors. And it’s listening to their apologies which are so full of weasel words and semi-denials and evasions and justifications and rationalizations. It was a different time, I didn’t realize it would be taken that way, and all the other baloney.

It just seems like everyone doesn’t mean what they say, doesn’t act as they talk. It’s senators like Susan Collins and Bob Corker, who talk so courageously, who gave reasons why they could absolutely not support the Trump tax turkey and then who turned around and voted for it. Corker said he could not vote for a plan that would increase the national debt by one dime. But even though the plan increases it by about $1.5 trillion, Corker voted for it – after provisions were added that benefited wealthy real estate developers, like Bob Corker.

I’m depressed because as it appears more and more clear that Bob Mueller is going to get either Trump himself or his sons and son in law, suddenly all those who just a few months ago said Mueller was a man of integrity, the straightest of straight arrows, devoted to justice are now calling him a crook, a cheater, a liar. Nobody it seems acts with honor anymore, no one respects someone who does.

It is nauseating to watch Alan Dershowitz all over TV these days. He knows his time has come and gone and yet so desperate is he to stay in the spotlight that suddenly this liberal is popping up all over Fox News to support Trump. This great law professor has, like so many Jews, sold his soul so that Trump will invite him for dinner at the White House.

I find it sickening that two of the slimiest Jews on the face of the earth are the public faces of both Jewish right and left. On the right we have Sheldon Adelson, casino mogul who, because he is a billionaire, has the ear of both Bibi and Trump, is listened to on Israeli policy even though his ignorance of all matters Jewish is stunning. And on the left, we have the equally disgusting Haim Saban, who though born in Israel and who claims to be the biggest supporter of Israel this side of Sheldon, lives in Hollywood. He loves Israel but not enough to want to live there. Because it would mean he couldn’t have power lunches with movie stars in Hollywood.

Speaking of which, it depressed me to read a recent column by the head of the Israeli-American Council, full of blather about how Israelis living in America are uniquely positioned to be a bridge between Israel and American Jews and do so many great things for the Jewish people simply by being Israelis living in America.

Baloney. If you are an Israeli, you should be living in Israel and doing all your great work for the Jewish people in the land of the Jewish people. There was a time when Israelis living here felt shame about that, would always say they were intending to move back, were just here temporarily for school or job or family reasons. No more. Now they make no pretense of planning to go back, and even worse, see themselves as playing some vital role that no else does.

Jews have worked for, prayed for, fought for, died for a Jewish state for thousands of years. And now we have one. And so that’s where Jews should be. Yes including American Jews. But at least American Jews, having been born here and been brought up here, can make some excuse for why they remain here. But for Jews born in Israel, who have grown up in Israel to choose to leave, to live in the United States, there is no justification for that, as much as they want to invent one.

Where, one wonders, is all their great bridge work in seeing to it that so many American Jews are not being alienated by the cynical decision of the Israeli government not to allow an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. What have they done to do something about that? And what have they done to end the political corruption that is rampant in Israeli society and the lack of manners and the absence of economic competition. They have done nothing positive, are nothing but a bright shining light signaling that living here is better than living there. Some contribution they are making to the Jewish people.

It just seems like everyone is letting us down. Take the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia. He bills himself as a reformer, someone who is going to transform the society, root out corruption, bring modernity, strip those who have become wealthy at public expense of their ill-gotten gains. So persuasive has he been that Bibi is practically in love with him, a top Israeli cabinet minister recently called for Israel and Saudi Arabia to work together, Prince Jared, who is going to bring peace to the Middle East, is putting his chips on being helped in that effort by the Saudi crown prince. And then we learn that this Saudi reformer, corruption fighter was the one behind the recent $450 million purchase of a da Vinci painting, was the one who recently bought the most expensive home in the world, a $300 million mansion in France. This the guy who cares about his people, using their money to pay for his luxurious toys.

And no, I don’t think Al Franken should resign. Yes, he did some crude things but nowhere close to the things Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer did. While we overlook all the trespasses of the clown in the White House, Franken, a former comedian, is made to walk the plank even though he immediately took responsibility, called for an ethics investigation, and has done so much good in the Senate. Yes, he should be punished, but no, he should not be forced to leave office when Trump’s boast of grabbing women by their private parts is said to be forgiven because he was elected.

I am down because of all the super Jews who are so thrilled by Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, always was, always will be and we are not helped, indeed we are hurt, by Trump doing what he did. Please note that just one result is that for only the eleventh time in the entire history of the United Nations, an emergency meeting of the General Assembly was called so virtually every nation on earth could vote against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Tell me how that is a good thing for us.

I am depressed and disgusted by it all and by so much more of what’s going on all around us. There seems to be no honorable people left, everyone is out for themselves, truth means nothing, values are worthless.

Which is why Chanukah came around at just the right time. What a great holiday Chanukah is, and please spare me the stuff about how minor a Jewish holiday it is. It is a great Jewish holiday, full of fun and upbeat messages and latkes and candles and dreidels, reminding us of the values of family and friendships and G-d watching out for us and Jews’ dedication to our faith and the key role Israel plays in Jewish history and Jewish life.

So many Jewish holidays are downers, are burdens, are heavy, and are difficult. Chanukah is light and merry and fun, with some very important messages, a lot of meaning but all of it served with a big spoonful of applesauce, or sour cream, your choice.

And Jews are doubly lucky because not only do we, in these depressing, disgusting times, get to enjoy the joy of Chanukah, but can, from a distance, also bathe in the Christmas spirit. Now don’t freak out, I know Christmas is not ours and celebrates what we don’t believe in. But we can and should forget the theology, remember that it is not ours, then enjoy all the pretty lights everywhere and the jolly songs and the general upbeat mood people are in and even the messages of goodwill toward men and peace on earth.

This time of year is always the darkest, but this year it feels especially dark, with liars all around us, people selling out all around us, good things being thrown overboard everywhere we look, no one acting honorably, no one acting courageously, no one acting morally. It is a dark period for our souls. And so, a time to be especially thankful for the bright lights of the Chanukah candles.

I just got to try and figure out what I’m going to do now.

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