| Second Thoughts |

Up Is Down and Down Is Up

The last mishnah in Sotah (49b), depicting a topsy-turvy world just before the final Redemption, has come true



All those UFOs that have recently been sighted revive the old question: Is there intelligent life out there in space? But there is a more crucial question: Is there intelligent life here on earth?

Specifically, a visitor from outer space would be convinced that the US has been hijacked by the mentally unhinged, and that the inmates control the asylum. Murder rates, violent crime, and civil disorder are up all over the country, but despite all this, there are persistent cries to defund the police and eliminate law enforcement. Criminals who were caught on camera perpetrating their crimes are released from custody without bail, violent convicts who are serving time are given early release, legislators and civic leaders declare with a straight face that in order to increase law and order, we need less law enforcement. A Philadelphia district attorney refuses to prosecute thefts and other violations because it is “picking on the poor.”

Thinking has become muddled, and language has become meaningless. Crime no longer means crime, and breaking into department stores and stealing from them is not theft, but “reparations,” the rights of criminals are protected as against the rights and safety of their victims, the victims become the criminals and the criminals are the victims, mantras and slogans take the place of reason, “systemic racism” and “white privilege” become the marching orders of hoodlums and gangsters. Human vocabulary is corrupted, so that one may no longer use the word “convicts” but must say “formerly incarcerated”; one may not say “gang” but instead use “ group” or “schoolmates.” Criminal behavior is described as civil disobedience or acts of social justice. Where the social order has decayed, there is no such thing as guilt. And, to lend some comedy to all this, the august Princeton University will no longer require graduate students majoring in classics to be proficient in Greek and Latin, because of — guess what? — “systemic racism.” The last mishnah in Sotah (49b), depicting a topsy-turvy world just before the final Redemption, has come true. Up is down and down is up.

The fact is that redefining language or decriminalizing theft and violent crimes, or blaming the police, is not the solution. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in our selves.” So-called systemic racism is not the cause. This is clearly a false narrative. America banned de jure segregation in 1954, and has instituted pro-minority affirmative action since 1967. No country that has had a two-term black president, a black vice president, several black secretaries of state, several black military chiefs of staff, a black secretary of defense, and  black congressmen, governors, and mayors can be said to be racist. Certainly there is bias in the human heart, but to blame the system is to disregard these hard truths.

Rather, the fault is with systemic irresponsibility and non-accountability. To look inward and examine oneself requires courage and manliness. Has anyone pointed to the systemic breakdown of the black family and home, of children of single mothers whose  heroes and models are gang leaders and criminals? Are there black leaders and preachers who have the backbone to inform their followers of certain truths: that more than half of homicides committed in the US are committed by blacks, though they make up only 13 percent of the population ( Bureau of Justice Statistics); that most of the victims are also black? Most crucially, have they declared that without discipline, without fathers and mothers, without families, with disrespect for authority and instant gratification, their situation will become even more hopeless?

It is unlikely that the anti-Semitic leadership of BLM will take this advice, but it would be wise if they took as their model the Jewish experience in America. The destitute Jewish immigrants all faced ridicule, hatred, anti-Semitism — they could not even speak English — but they stressed family, religion, education, discipline, self-reliance, and hard work, and thus were able to pull themselves up from the gutter. And they did this without rioting or pillaging or blaming systemic anti-Jewishness.

With today’s skyrocketing murder rates, we are witnessing the fulfillment of the warning in Avos 3:2: “Were it not for the authority of the government, a person would swallow his fellow alive.” What we need to defund is not law enforcement, but leaders and organizations that corrupt rational dialogue and instead foment their own brand of racism and hatred. To take a page from their playbook, they should be characterized by their actual qualities: courageous leadership is not one of them.

About those UFOs: rest easy. There is no likelihood of invasion by creatures from outer space. They are too intelligent to want to live among us.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 866)

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