Politically Homeless

Although I used to just call myself a moderate, that’s never actually been accurate.
May 29, 2024
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There’s no great option. Not for me. Not for my family. If I turn to my left, I see gray-headed flaws. If I turn to my right I see orange ones. And wherever I look, my friends, family and followers seem to assume I’m OBVIOUSLY making the correct decision, and going their way. But, am I? What to do?!

I’m politically homeless. Always have been. But more than ever, I’m feeling it these days. Although we aren’t in sync with every political stance, my wife Adi feels the same way. We’re both feeling stuck in the middle. Although I used to just call myself a moderate, that’s never actually been accurate. It was the easy, lazy way to describe myself, since I don’t fit into the template of any political party. Let’s break a cardinal rule of “how to keep friends,” and be brutally honest with my politics.

I’m extremely socially liberal. I’m a product of my British parents, and especially influenced by my mother, who spoke about these things passionately. So I grew up with a bleeding heart, and to this day have not changed most of those attitudes:

• Abortion? Let the mother choose. Other than late-term, I’m about as pro-choice as it gets. A teenager made a dumb choice, and wants to end the pregnancy? I don’t have a problem with that.

• Vaccines? Wait, when did this become a political issue? Oh right, COVID. Well yeah, I’ve kind of gone on the record about this — if the scientific and/or medical community sign off on something, I’m all for it. I take the meds, the tests, the vaccines, the screenings. If it’s good enough for my own doctors to recommend, it’s good enough for me. Same goes with anything “science” based, so just add climate change and evolution to this mix. There are always exceptions and outliers to cherry-pick from, but if the consensus is one direction, I’m happy to oblige. And for the record, I have the luxury of working in a hospital, so when I do have questions, I have experts to ask in person, and have done so for years.

• Gay marriage? Do you KNOW how many friends we have from every letter on the LGBTQ+ acronym? I want everyone to be able to marry whom they choose, and enjoy every legal benefit that I’m afforded as a straight person. Look at our wedding party and you’ll already know this was rhetorical; there were several men and women who represent the letters of that acronym. Yes, we have several — yes several — near and dear trans friends. So we’re fiercely protective of the rights and feelings of our loved ones and their communities.

• Capital punishment? Nope, I would sooner allow the family to get revenge “Dirty Harry” style than have the system execute people. By the time we get around to the executions, these people are on average 23 years older, some have likely repented; and even if not, I don’t believe in a system that enforces the mob frothing at the mouth for “justice.” There is no justice for the victim of rape or murder. The person who committed those heinous acts absolutely deserves to die. And if they could have been killed to prevent it, I 100% find that to be common sense. Judaism backs it up certainly. But once that person has been captured, separated from society, and gone through the red tape, I just don’t feel right about us strapping them down for execution. I would rather them be separated from society for the rest of their life, and let the morality of what they did be sorted in whatever afterlife there may or may not be, depending on your spiritual beliefs. And although Judaism “believes” in capital punishment, there are famously so many guardrails to prevent it from actually happening, that its, umm, execution, is as rare as a Giant Panda on the streets of Beverly Hills.

• Gun control? I’ve seen how much less murder and accidental death occurs in England. No I can’t give you the stats, but it’s not even close. Sure there are stabbings, robbery and murder. But it is so much easier, both physically and mentally, to pull a trigger, than kill someone another way — intentionally or not. And seeing countries where only a small percentage of police carry guns (batons and pepper spray do the trick), so almost nobody else in the country does either — that’s always been my unrealistic dream for our gun-loving society, where it’s built into our very constitution. Or so I hear on repeat.

Those are the “big” social issues that come to mind. I have never had any formed attitudes or opinions about inflation, taxes, or pretty much anything fiscal. And I’m all for capitalism rather than socialism or communism. 

So why am I not an outright Democrat? What makes me politically homeless? The other half of me will always be a proud Zionist. Shouldn’t matter, but sadly that doesn’t fit today’s liberal paradigm. Let’s look at my conservative side:

• Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)? Maybe this was well-intentioned, I can’t know that answer, but the execution of it is simply anti-intellectual. We are taught to see the world with a critical eye, and things should be gray — not black & white. Yet DEI lumps everyone into either one of two worlds — oppressor or oppressed. This is how people are taught to see others. Long gone are the days where we were asked to stop stereotyping and categorizing others. Now you look at a color palette or Kinsey Scale to see one’s skin tone and sexuality, and we judge you as oppressor or oppressed. And Jews have, as usual, come up on the wrong end of the barometer. We are all white apparently. Let’s just ignore the inconvenient truth that more than half of Israel is nonwhite. Forget the fact that Jews are proportionally the top hate crime victims in America by a landslide — we fit into the category of oppressor. Ironically, the very same groups who are first to defend the rights and labels of the non-binary, see the world in this totally binary way.

• Iran? Have you ever noticed that the vast majority of Iranians/Persians who you’ll meet are fans of Israel? Obviously the Jewish ones, but also Christian and Muslim Iranians. They escaped for a reason, and pine for their country to return to what it was once upon a time. People often don’t get that our enemy is the Iranian government, and we are on the side of the Iranian citizenry. When I have patients who are Muslim, I will sometimes sense some hesitance, as they see my kippah. When I have Muslim patients from Iran, they often see my kippah and exclaim, “WE LOVE JEWISH PEOPLE, WE LOVE ISRAEL, SALAM ALEIKUM!” 

The biggest global threat to Israel is consistently Iran. As mentioned, not the citizenry, but their government since the 1979 revolution. As a result, I was out there on the front lines protesting the Iran deal during the Obama era, with Adi and our friend Mike. And one of the guest speakers was Reza Farahan from “Shahs of Sunset,” a non-Jewish Iranian gay man, who said if he was still there, he would be hanging from a rope just for his sexuality. Why is Iran the BIGGEST global threat to Israel? Because most terrorist groups you see attacking it are Iranian proxies. 

• Egypt and Jordan? Many people forget this fact. Until the Abraham Accords, the only countries to have a “peace treaty” with Israel were these two, which was ironically a direct result of their attacking Israel, and subsequent defeat. Yes, war with Israel led to its most successful peace treaties since 1948. Both countries are still hateful in their rhetoric towards Israel. They never miss a chance to snipe at the Jewish state in all the ways these university encampments are doing, but they are still maintaining the peace. And that’s crucial. This leads us to …

• Israel? I love it. The way I love America. Flawed. Some governments worse than others. What would we Jews have done without its independence, three years after the horrors of the Holocaust? As I tell people who bother asking, do I like every administration there? No. Is it a true democracy? Yes it is. For some reason when people are mad at America, they target their wrath on that administration, and don’t start saying the country itself should be destroyed. But Israel is treated uniquely. When people don’t like what the government does, it’s suddenly a Nazi state, and should be dismantled. Long gone are the goals by peace-lovers around the world for a two-state solution. Now it’s Intifada, and “From the river to the sea.” Peace for many means goodbye Jews, and a government that would act more like Iran than America. Which brings me back to the purpose of my essay.

In case it’s not obvious, I’ll spell it out for you like a sports matchup. I worry about my friends and family in Israel (winner: Republican), and I worry about the rights of my daughter to one day have the right to choose what happens to her if she becomes pregnant (winner: Democrat). I worry about Iran being given billions to build nukes at a slower pace (winner: Republican), and I worry about the atmosphere and world created for LGBTQ+ friends (winner: Democrat). I worry about the binary nature of DEI shoving Jews into the white oppressor camp (winner: Republican), and I worry about the world literally falling apart from climate change (winner: Democrat).

We were taught to strive to be intellectually curious, but instead are now radicalized in our ignorance. As such, the political parties that I never fully could get behind, have become even more polarizing.

You could read that and disagree with some or all. And you can find examples of Democrats who are extremely pro-Israel, and you can find Republicans who are extremely pro-climate change prevention. But the two-party system is undeniably gravitating toward its extremes. The bases of both camps have historically been moderate. But recent years, and due in part to the emergence of social media as a news source, have altered the next generations of society. We were taught to strive to be intellectually curious, but instead are now radicalized in our ignorance. As such, the political parties that I never fully could get behind, have become even more polarizing. They try to appeal to the moderates, but also to the extremes. Good luck with that task.

If people who identify more as socialist than Democrat protest against Israel, they will be coddled by many Democrats, even if they burn American flags and vandalize property in the process. Oh sure, the heads of the schools will say that they shouldn’t be crossing the lines into illegal activity, but they will also say that their points are well taken. If people scream that the election was rigged, or that vaccines cause more harm than good, they will be coddled by many Republicans, even if they are vandalizing, and comparing doctors and scientists to Nazis. They will say their points are well taken. 

Does every group with a loud enough opinion merit such coddling and validation? I know Republicans have no problem saying these anti-Israel protesters are horribly antisemitic and even anti-American, but why can’t Democrats? I know Democrats have no problem saying that election-deniers are dangerous conspiracy theorists, but why can’t Republicans?

I still think Biden has done far, far more good than harm for Israel. But he’s also done some pretty terrible things, such as allowing the U.N. resolution to pass (a page out of Obama’s handbook on his way out of office); refusing to send previously agreed upon weapons (have a disagreement in private with your allies, don’t embolden your mutual enemies); and for every incident and speech that brings up antisemitism, always needing to throw in Islamophobia, which is its own form of “all lives mattering” about us Jews. 

I also still think that what Trump did with the Abraham Accords was monumental, creating a “normalization” peace with a whopping four countries (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco), something that stalled as soon as he left office. But he’s also done some pretty terrible things, reinforcing a complete lack of sensitivity to people who are not only LGBTQ+, but really just anyone who disagrees with him. On more than one occasion, he basically questioned the loyalty of any Jew who doesn’t vote for him. You shouldn’t have to feel bullied into voting for someone, you should just want to do so. An incredibly nonpresidential quality.

So thus, my wife and I remain politically homeless. Well aware that we will cast our votes this Nov. 5, and as usual, it will be less about who we like, and more about which octogenarian pisses us off less.

Boaz Hepner works as a Registered Nurse in Saint John’s Health Center. He moonlights as a columnist, where his focuses are on health and Israel, including his Chosen Links section of the Journal.

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