A Game of Divide and Conquer
There was reason to be cheerful. The value of life is still highly prized, and we saw how mankind can rise to the occasion during a drama-packed week that gripped the world’s attention when thousands of rescue personnel from 22 countries converged on Thailand to extricate 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave where they were trapped for nearly three weeks.
We were equally repulsed at how life is easily devalued, by the perpetrators of mass shootings at a Las Vegas concert and schoolyards in Florida and Texas; and how morality has been debased by the strident and shameless belligerence of marchers promoting deviant lifestyles.
Objectivity vanished. Knee-jerk reactions prevail and waiting until all the facts are in and making informed judgments has become passé. If you are pro-Trump, or pro-Netanyahu, you jump to their defense even when criticism and caution is warranted. Anti-Trumpers and the Bibi-bashers, on the other hand, can give no credit or find any redeeming features.
These are all symptoms of a breakdown in social cohesion. Instead of society members showing willingness to cooperate with one another to survive and prosper, today it’s a game of divide and conquer.
That’s why Congress failed once again to pass meaningful health care reform; Israel’s coalition government can’t pass a new draft law; the British government can’t negotiate its way out of the European Union; and NATO member nations no longer share the same worldviews, nor can they clearly define who their enemies are.
That a consensus exists on all sides that systems are broken and in desperate need of repair is a positive. The question that looms large as we enter 5779 is whether we can capture the spirit that prevailed in Thailand, where the global community identifies common causes and bonds together for noble goals; or the world stubbornly digs in and ramps up the competition in an ideological zero-sum game, with all the perils that entails.
Chanukah was a festival of light and freedom for Sholom Rubashkin, who returned home to a triumphant welcome from family and friends, after President Trump commuted a 27-year sentence to the seven and a half years he had already served. A slew of legal experts persuaded the Department of Justice and the president that overzealous prosecutors, with collusion from the trial judge, trumped up the charges against Rubashkin.
Back in 1964, when Barry Goldwater accepted the GOP presidential nomination, he stated: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Goldwater was trounced, winning only six states, but in 2018, extremism in the pursuit of public office is stylish. Democratic radicals running for Congress include New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who considers Palestinians an endangered species, and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, who vows to promote Muslim interests in Congress. Republican radicals include Illinois’s Arthur Jones, an American Nazi Party member, and California’s Mark Fitzgerald, whose campaign literature reeks of anti-Semitism.
The price of Bitcoin when I wrote in December that the price was unsustainable. Since then, the price has plummeted to $6000. (And no, I didn’t short it.)
Steve Bannon wasn’t out of work for long after President Trump fired him as White House chief strategist. Bannon is up to his old tricks, this time in Europe, using the same disruptive tactics that plunked Trump into office. Bannon has teamed with right-wing groups to promote alt-right candidates, setting an ambitious goal of winning one-third of the seats in 2019 EU parliamentary elections.
Quote of the Year
“Denial of religious freedom is so destructive because it represents the state elevating itself above the Divine.”
—Nikki Haley on July 26 at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Saudi Arabia will never live down its involvement with the 9/11 terror attacks, but its new ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), reset his country’s image from a supporter of terror to a modernizing force in the Arab world on a two-week visit to the US. Improbable as it sounds, MBS even met with AIPAC officials, along with local politicians and business leaders, in a half dozen cities. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 726)
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