The "hate" people are back, spreading disgusting lies about Obama, about all Muslims, and about all Jews. We even have been told by the American mainstream media that Sen. McCain's campaign has decided to try to make their focus on assaulting the character of Barack Obama. Some media also report that Obama is going to respond in kind.
Hopefully, the American people can see through all this and recognize that the important issues about American domestic and foreign poicy and the ethical, cultural and spiritual dimensions of our society are what most need attention, and that the personal attacks on all sides should be ignored.
But when the attacks are on whole classes of people, e.g. all Muslims or all Jews, the charges plug into previously established stereo-types that have had a long history of being inculcated into the consciousness of many people in the Western world. So here the potential damage is even greater.
Those of us who wish to challenge the hatred involved must help educate people to what parts of the charges are true and what part are not. If everything gets dismisssed as 'pure hatred' then the haters win--because many people know that there is a kernel of truth that haters usually use to validate their larger lies. Our task, then, is to separate the lies from the truth, and not to simply dismiss as "hate" all of their statements, because that then gives the haters more credibiity the moment they can show that part of what they said is true. (See the strategy of the Snake inthe Garden of Eden when he convinces Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree that God has told her to not eat.)
So, for example, McCain would be wise to admit that he had in fact been involved with morally questionable (and illegal) banking firms in the 1980s, and acknowledge how much damage those people really did do to the economy. Obama should not only acknowledge that he spent time and had deep political conversations with former Weatherman national leader Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, but should also acknowledge how deeply distorted their role was in the 1960s. Not only were these people who were advocates for violence, but they also introduced an ethos of attack against fellow anti-war activists.
Ayers and Dohrn helped the Weathermen take over Students for a Democratic Society, one of the most militant and yet super-principled anti-war organizations, and definitely the biggest progressive membership organization since the 1930s, and had then used their power to literally dissolve the organization they had been elected to lead, and went so far as to destroy the membership information so that it became impossible for anyone else to every reconstitute it. Thus, the most promising organization ever produced by the Left in the 20th century, an organization avowedly anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist, and yet completely un-entangled with the Communist Party, went from being the most significant force challenging the Nixon Administration into nothingness. This was an historical crime against the peoples of the world who depend on progressives here to curb the worst offenses of American imperial power. All this needs to be acknowledged by Obama if he is to convince people that he is just waiting to get into office before reestablishing ties with these particular criminals.
We should vigorously challenge the anti-Muslim voices that played a powerful role in leading us to war with Iraq and may yet play the same role in relationship to Iran. But we shoud also ask our progressive friends in the Islamic world to do more to counter the hate messages coming our ways by statements from thos who claim to speak for Islam in the Middle East, not only from Al Queda but also from the elected leadership of the Iranian republic.
Finally, while we should be aware of the ways that attacks against a few Jewshaving disproportonate economic power in this and other Western countries has been used to foster hatred and anti-Semitism. Yet we should simultaneously ask Jewish "defense organizations" like the Anti-Defamation League or the Museum of Tolerance to tell us what are the truths behind these claims: how much do Jews play a disproportionate role in the command positions of our economy and in the governmental institutions set up to regulate private business, banking, and the economy. We'd like to see a serious discussion of this, including detailed but alternative analyses of why and how Jews got to play such an important role in the economy--without assuming that somehow this is prima facie bad or despicable to have a disproportionat role.
We should also ask those who are doing this research to determine how many of our synagogues and Jewish institutions have been willing to raise public questions about these issues. At my synagogue, every year we raise these issues and call upon Jews to NOT SEEK OUR SAFETY THROUGH CUDDLING UP TO AMERICA"S RULING ELITES. Yet many Jews have thought that that was the path for them. Still worse are those who pretend that there's nothing wrong with serving the interests of a global system that systematicaly impoverishes billion of people around the world. It would be good to know hw many synagogues or Jewish institution have explicitly challenged the ethos of matrialism and selfishness that continue to undermine both the American and the global economy, and challenged their own membes who serve the god of maimon. You may find it useful to use our High Holiday atonement guide which is in your Sept/Oct issue of Tikkun, or you can dowload it as the T'shuvah Work Book on our website www.beyttikkun.org. --it is just as useful to non-Jews as to Jews.
Yet none of this acknowledgment of where we have erred ever provide justification for hating a group of people because there are some members of it who deal deceitfully, etc. Racsm, anti-Islam, anti-Islam, anti-Semitism, sxism, homophobia--these are always wrong.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
IF YOU WISH TO HELP US CHALLENGE THE CURRENT HATEFU DISCOURSE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL AND IN THE LARGER SOCIETY, PLEASE JOIN OUR (interfaith) NETWORK OF SIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES www.spiritualprogressives.org RabbiLerner@tikkun.org
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said: "We know from modern history that whenever there is a downturn in the global economy, there will be an upturn in the level of anti-Semitism and bigotry, and that is what we are seeing now."