A famous Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” Today it seems that we are all cursed. If anyone dreamed that after his inauguration, Donald Trump would be given half a chance to prove himself as President, that someone has now awoken. The new tactic that “liberals” employ in order to silence other views is violence and profanities—first at Berkeley University and now at NYU (Note: verbal abuse, viewer discretion is advised).
As if domestic troubles aren’t enough, the world seems to be jumping on the bandwagon of Trump’s detractors. “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 in one hand, and a blood stained machete in the other hand, standing in a posture of an ISIS terrorist.
Back home, the campaign against the President is targeting anyone who appears to support 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. The President’s actual supporters are also 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.”
And worst of all, the denigrators are going after the family: Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus dropped Ivanka Trump’s eponymous brand of accessories, apparel, and shoes.
All the above, coupled with the numerous disparaging opinion columns and TV interviews, create a vivid image: This is not an ordinary protest against a president (who has barely begun his term). This is not even a smear campaign. This is an orchestrated campaign to delegitimize a legally elected President and impeach him.
The war is not over the immigrants. It is also not about the wall between the US and Mexico or the Obamacare healthcare program. The tycoons financing and devising the plan to overthrow the President are fighting to maintain the power they have built over the last several decades. They know that the people behind Donald Trump’s triumph will not let them stay on top. Trump is no George Bush; he really will change things in America, and many currently powerful people are afraid of losing their position. They know that even if they win the election in 2020, four years of Trump administration will leave them nothing to return to. Therefore, they must act now! In many ways, they are fighting for their lives and they will stop at nothing in order to win.
Yet, for all their efforts, the liberal era is coming to a close. In fact, it has ended long ago and the outbursts of fanatic rage are exposing the true face of today’s “Liberals.”
A New Era
Up until World War II, the world developed in a relatively balanced course. Even World War I was essentially similar to the wars that Europe has known for centuries in the sense that it was more about sovereignty and honor, and less about ideology.
World War II changed all that. For the first time, a zealous ideology threatened to take over the world. In the end, Democracy and Communism defeated Nazism, but the fear of extremism has been entrenched in Western culture. This engendered Liberalism—the idea that you are free to say what you want, do what you want, and be what you want.
Essentially, pluralism of views is a blessing to any society. This is what keeps it vibrant and evolving. Baal HaSulam, author of the complete Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Zohar, wrote that “society is cautioned to preserve … contradictions and oppositeness,” and should “forever secure criticism.”
However, the fear of extremism and of fascism has thrown America to the other extreme. Gradually, liberals have become so suspicious of anything that questioned how they implement it that they themselves have become fascists—in the name of free speech. Nothing contradicts free speech more than political correctness. It dictates what you may or may not say, and just how you may say it. For all intents and purposes, political correctness is censorship, and censorship does not go together with free speech and free thought. Yet, it is the liberals who champion it and who determine what is politically correct and what is not. And worst of all, they feel entitled to stifle anyone who disagrees with them because they are liberals—champions of free speech.
That sense of moral righteousness is very dangerous. It has made them feel entitled and superior, or in other words, it has made them Nazi like.
But all this is over now. The silent Middle America, which is more traditional and conservative at heart, and more religious, has been silenced for too long. Now that they have had their say at the ballots, they will not go away without a fight. As they see it, it is time to make America American again.
The new era that is dawning will see the rising of great powers in America. What remains to be seen is whether these powers will clash, destroy each other, and possibly take the world down with them, or learn to rise above their differences and engender a cohesive and embracing society.
There Is a Precedent
Achieving a cohesive society out of such fierce hatred may seem impossible, but there is a precedent that can teach us how to do this. The early Hebrews, who gathered around Abraham, came from many different tribes. Nothing unified them but the idea of unity itself, which Abraham had taught them. The method he discovered through his observations of nature and subsequently bequeathed unto his disciples and descendants consisted of three elements, which kabbalists call “three lines.” Essentially, the first and second lines are two opposite traits, views, approaches, groups, ideologies, or any other clashing duo. The middle line is what the two lines create when they unite above their differences.
King Solomon described this method with the words (Prov 10:12): “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes.” The book, Likutey Etzot (Assorted Counsels) elaborated more on connecting opposites: “The essence of peace is to connect two opposites. Hence, do not be alarmed if you see a person whose view is the complete opposite of yours and you think that you will never be able to make peace with him. Also, when you see two people who are completely opposite to each other, do not say that it is impossible to make peace between them. On the contrary, the essence of peace is to try to make peace between two opposites.”
According to Baal HaSulam, the unique qualities of each and every one of us are so precious to all of us that losing even one of them “is considered a genuine loss for all of creation because there is none other like it, nor will there ever be like it in the whole world” (“The Freedom”).
The Book of Zohar also stresses the spirit of uniting above differences. In the portion, Aharei Mot, it writes: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers sit together. These are the friends as they sit together, and are not separated from each other. At first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another. Then, they return to being in brotherly love. Henceforth, you will also not part … And by your merit there will be peace in the world.”
And finally, the great thinker, Martin Buber, once wrote about the Israeli nation words that I think befit the current situation in America. 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.”
In short, the precondition for the success of society is diversity and contradiction of views, above which all unite. As I see it, the splintered American society will do wisely to adopt this spirit. If Americans want to see their country great again, this is the only way. The other way is war.
Turning the Curse into a Blessing
And a final word, to my tribal brethren. Your ancestors had implemented the three lines method. You may not feel it, but the memory of it remains within you. You can rekindle it if you only choose to try to mend the rifts within American Jewry. The Jews on both sides of the conflict in America are very prominent. If you move toward each other, everyone will follow.
And to the non-Jews, I call on you to urge the Jews to unite among them, to find a way to sit together at the same table, admit their differences, and strive to rise above them and engender unity. This unity should not be a compromise, but something new, which derives from both, but which is neither, like a newborn baby that is neither the mother nor the father, but rather a new and precious creature that is made from both but exists on its own.
As a Jew, I know the power of the nations to influence the Jews. If you pressure the Jews to unite among them, the whole country will benefit and the firestorm will die. The power to implement the three lines method is dormant within each of them. Your pressure can awaken it, and the Jews will take it going forward.
To paraphrase the Chinese curse, we are indeed living in interesting times, but we can choose whether to let these times become a blessing or a curse.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post