February 18, 2020

Civility Is a Casualty in Political Discourse, The Rise of Anti-Semitism, What Israelis Face

Civility Is a Casualty in Political Discourse
I admit to being a liberal progressive, and thus my political, cultural and social views and values are in most ways the antithesis of those whose beliefs fly the flag of hard-right conservatism (“Who Owns the Truth?” Oct. 12). I read and reread last week’s Journal from the secular (left to right) and Hebraic positions (right to left). In addition, I spent a few hours today opening the dank archives in my mind remembering my mental sojourns across the political aisle, bringing to the fore memories of rejection and ridicule to my dove offers of dialogue and conciliation.

Almost every time I extended my Democratic hand, I was met by a Republican fist.

Almost every time I acknowledged a liberal error, I was taunted by Conservative guffaws.

Almost every time I put forward a fact from a nonpartisan organization, I was overwhelmed by a tsunami of right-wing gaslighting that turned a farce into a fiasco.

The reality is that the right-wing conservatives are fighting a political Armageddon while the left-wing liberals are immersed and enmeshed in an internecine skirmish.
Marc Rogers, North Hollywood

Amid the societal despair in searching for the answer to who owns the truth, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s parsing of the problem also sheds a welcoming, strong light on its roots.

It’s an undeniable fact that fear on the left and the right is what’s driving the deplorable animus in the political discourse we’re now witnessing. During the many years of Democratic majority rule, the left’s agenda of altering the cultural landscape by legalizing same-sex marriage, giving millions of undocumented immigrants legal status, etc., raised the fear level of the right to the point of hysteria.

The right didn’t want to lose its cherished status in society. As a consequence of this real fear, Donald Trump was elected president by the very Americans who shared those fears.

His victory was a deep shock that the left that it hasn’t been able or willing to overcome.

Then came the right’s vendetta, as it railroaded through nullifying legislation and enforced the approval and confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices. In the right’s opinion, it effectively halted, if not reversed the cultural shift.

Both sides in this cultural divide are fiercely convinced they’re right. No one is willing to compromise. In this adversarial, toxic climate, political discourse becomes the first victim. Civility, courtesy and common sense are eviscerated. General trauma grips the electorate. Everyone is fearful of what to expect.

Enter Rabbi Boteach. His is a welcome plea to take a step or two back, catch your breath and seriously think of what’s at stake for everyone in these United States. He urges us to give great weight to what all of us stand to lose by blindly pursuing our present course.

We need vastly more of such voices of reason from both sides of this cultural divide, to be able to alter and restore civility as it once was.
David Lenga, Woodland Hills

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach provides excellent insight into our very troubling times. However, he didn’t offer a possible solution to a very complex challenge in our deep political divide.

Agree to disagree. Listen to both sides before making an informed decision.

Compromise. Very rarely is one side 100 percent correct.

So, Democrats and Republicans can continue this no-win situation in which not all people are treated with dignity, and we learn nothing from our history. Or, we can become the United States of America and develop solutions that work for everyone. Our children and grandchildren are seeking an optimistic future.

We owe them the opportunities we had decades ago.
Warren J. Potash, Moorpark 

While I agree with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach that nobody owns the truth. I also know that to get to the truth, you have to strictly adhere to certain principles. You have to respect facts, you have to understand the difference between opinion and fact, you cannot lie, you cannot misrepresent lies as exaggerations, you cannot make up stuff, you have to have an accurate view of reality, you have to make meaningful distinctions, you cannot engage in hypocrisy, and you cannot believe in or propagate conspiracy theories. If you are able to do all these things, then maybe you might have a chance to get to the truth.

But without truth, you cannot have intellectual honesty or credibility, nor will you engender respect for your views.
Michael Asher, Valley Village

Your publication’s editorializing goes overboard in playing neutral in our present political conflict. You obviously blindly favor the left side of the aisle in liberal-conservative issues. Your columnists describe the Democrats’ disdain for fair play as a rough-and-tumble free for all. The two parties are not bludgeoning each other. The left-wingers are the violent demonstrators in this “civll war,” i.e., turning over cars, breaking windows, etc. The Democrats are attacking Republicans at every turn.
Chuck Colton, Los Angeles

Step Back, Reflect During Days of Awe
I couldn’t agree more with Rabbi Lori Shapiro (“Awed by Days of Awe? Keep the Holiness Going,” Oct. 5). One of the challenges of the High Holy Days is that of keeping ourselves connected to the introspection and teshuvah that we begin in the month of Elul, which precedes the holidays, and which is the focus of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

In my book, “For Every Season: An Introspective Guide to Renewing Ourselves During the High Holidays and Throughout the Jewish Year” (Blackbird Books, 2015), one can take advantage of monthly readings and action prompts that reflect on the theme of the holidays and sacred days of each month and that simultaneously suggest a continuing reflection on the ways in which we can continue to challenge ourselves to be our best selves.

The “work” of the High Holy Days is meant to be year-round. In this way, we increase the chance that next Rosh Hashanah, we will be able to reflect on how we have transformed and can look ahead to how we can take the next step.
Jeff Bernhardt, Valley Glen

The Rise of Anti-Semitism
The Journal’s story on the 1924 movie “City Without Jews” was incomplete (“When a ‘City Without Jews’ Was a Comedy,” Oct. 12). The story implies that the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe can be attributed to “the rise of neo-Nazis worldwide.”

On the contrary, the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe is very much due to Muslims and leftist anti-Semites like Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, who openly supports the jihadist anti-Semites of Hamas and Hezbollah. I’d never minimize right-wing anti-Semites, but the Muslim-leftist alliance should never be ignored.
Chaim Sisman, Los Angeles

What Israelis Face
David Suissa’s column “Why Are Israeli Voters So Stubborn” (Oct. 5) asserts that many American Jews are insensitive to Israel’s enormous challenges. But why? I believe Jewish liberals so adored former President Barack Obama that they went into a kind of denial when he praised the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and snubbed Israel. They stopped sympathizing with the threat of violent death Israelis face every day, and in their concern for Palestinians, forgot the anguish of Israeli parents whose teenage children must serve in the military to protect their small, embattled homeland. 

Israelis fight and die to protect the Jewish covenant, and welcome thousands fleeing European anti-Semitism every year. Politics aside, don’t they deserve our respect?
Rueben Gordon, Via email

What Is Trump’s ‘Truth’?

Wendy Zierler is “outrage(d) at the daily assault on truth being conducted by our president and by others” who continually refer to honest reporting as “fake news” (“These Jewish Literary Truths We Hold,” Oct. 12). She also cites the president’s lawyer’s insistence that “truth isn’t truth.”

I am rereading George Orwell’s “1984,” published in 1950. In his chilling prediction of the world in 1984, Orwell questions whether there is such a thing as “truth” and concludes that “Reality exists in the human mind … (but) not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes … only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth is the truth.”

What are President Donald Trump’s and his followers’ beliefs about whether there is such a thing as “truth”? His accusations of falsehoods about him made by reporters  and critics bring forth the question, “What constitutes the truth to President Trump?” I hope he and his lawyer have received invitations to attend Symposium 2, “These Truths We Hold: Judaism in an Age of Truthiness.” They will benefit from the wisdom about truth offered there.
Harriet Wertman, Santa Monica 

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