There’s no better feeling in the world than being 100 percent right about something. In a slippery world where everything seems to be debatable — even climate change! — it’s so refreshing to find something that is not debatable, something truly black and white.
The fact that Donald Trump has made vile, racist, sexist, violent and bigoted statements is not debatable. It’s the cold truth, as if I told you that water is a liquid or the Lubavitcher Rebbe was Jewish.
This cold truth has united most of the Jews of America. Whether you’re on the right or the left, religious or secular, the vast majority of Jews (there are always exceptions) will not condone the vile statements made by Trump as he has climbed to the top of the Republican primaries. If you don’t believe me, try getting a Jew to publicly defend Trump’s racist comments. It’s one thing to harbor dark thoughts, it’s another to go public with them.
Trump goes public with them, and this has made us all dizzy.
Saying things like “Muslims won’t be allowed into America until we can figure out what the hell is going on” is not just racist, it’s incredibly stupid. We’re not used to hearing such raw bile from politicians who want to get elected. Talking points that come out of focus groups are littered with inoffensive clichés. If you want to be popular and attract as many voters as possible, the less offensive you are, the better.
So, when we hear such shocking and immoral bile from a presidential candidate, we go nuts. How could we not?
Our revulsion at Trump is making us so dizzy that it is trumping other values, like knowledge, curiosity and understanding. The rabbis and activists who plan to walk out in protest of Trump’s speech Monday night at the AIPAC Policy Conference have no interest in hearing what he has to say. I get it. Moral values are fundamental to one’s identity. If someone challenges these values as blatantly as Trump has, our instinct is to cut him out.
But I will be there Monday night, and I will definitely not walk out.
I hate Trump’s racist bile as much as anyone, but that’s not the point. The point is this: my feelings often bore me. They don’t encourage me to think, and thinking is what I love to do. The minute I internalize something like, “I hate you,” “You’re a racist,” or “Your statements are unacceptable and beyond the pale,” my feelings take over and I get in activist mode. I don’t mind the activist mode; I just prefer the thinking mode.
I prefer the mode of trying to make sense of this crazy Trump phenomenon, the likes of which I have never seen. Is he more of a huckster than a racist? Can attitude trump substance? Is he getting all those votes because or despite his vile comments? Is he just another politician who won’t deliver on his promises, including appalling ones like cutting out Muslims or building that 10-foot wall on the border of Mexico?
How much validity is there in his argument that we’re getting ripped off by China in our trade agreements? How much of his appeal is due to people’s economic worries and his shtick that because he knows how to negotiate good deals for himself, he’ll know how to negotiate good deals for America? How could so many voters overlook his horrible comments? Why are even educated people voting for him? How will he tailor his speech for the AIPAC crowd, and what will that say about him? And so on, and so on.
That Trump’s comments offend me to no end is a cold truth, but there’s another, equally vital truth swimming in my head: I like to figure out what the hell is going on.
It makes me less dizzy, and better equipped to counter what I hate.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at email@example.com