May 19, 2019

All About the Benjamins (Benjamin Franklin & Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl)

“On February 11, Glenn Greenwald tweeted “It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”

Omar responded “it’s all about the Benjamins,” obnoxiously suggesting Jews buy America’s friendship. But Omar stumbled onto something. The American-Israel relationship is all about the Benjamins, reflecting the shared values of “the first American,” Benjamin Franklin, and modern Zionism’s founder, Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl, Theodor Herzl’s Hebrew name.

Both iconic figures are caricatured endlessly. Franklin’s jowly oval face, rock-star, shoulder-length hair, and wire-rim sunglasses are instantly recognizable; so, too, are Herzl’s piercing eyes and bushy black beard. How can an American who lived from 1706 to 1790 and a European who lived from 1860 to 1904 explain a 21st-century alliance between two countries? Therein lies these Benjamins’ enlightening, hard-working, liberal nationalist power.

Both were intellectuals who harmonized dreaming with building, idealism with pragmatism. Scientist, inventor, printer, wiseacre, Benjamin Franklin was America’s philosopher king. He believed in thrift – “A penny saved is a penny earned.” He revered hard work – “Well done is better than well said.” He believed in leaving the world better than how we found it – “Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.””

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