“I am saddened that the debate over Israel’s decision regarding two US congresswomen is tearing the Jewish community apart. Can we keep our eye on the ball? Israel was founded as a state as a safe oasis from anti semitism. Shall we now use debate about it to tear ourselves apart and hate on one another? Whatever your opinion, why the vitriol? Sigh. And don’t do it in the comments please. Don’t lobby. Don’t pontificate. Comments should be related to Jewish unity only – unity without uniformity.”
This is my Facebook post from last week and it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. As someone who travels throughout various echo chambers, and especially in the Trump era, I’m increasingly dismayed at the power of the human being to see the world through exactly one set of glasses: his own opinion.
I’m turning 45, which means according to google I am going to now be middle aged. Mazel tov! And from this vantage point I can’t think of another era in my adult life that has been this polarizing in terms of politics.
Whether it’s Trump’s personality, gun control, immigration, it seems every day is another emotional and intellectual roller coaster. Maybe I’m just more “woke” than I used to be? Or maybe it’s the effect of too much smartphone? Still, I can’t remember another presidential election that sparked so much deep angst and personal friction.
I wonder though: can’t we see a world that is bigger than Trump? Can we see people beyond their political opinions? And even if you say that what we call “politics” is merely the aggregated effect of humans on our planet, and therefore we cannot simply ignore politics, or agree “not to talk about politics” – really? So are we doomed to arguing till our throats and thumbs ache instead of noticing all the things about which we agree?
In allowing the disagreements of our country (aka “politics”) to color our real and virtual interactions, we have said goodbye to something very important, and that is unity.
In my capacity as an educator for Momentum, an organization that sponsors thousands of Jewish moms on a birthright-style trip to Israel, we have four goals. One of them is “achdut l’lo achidut” – unity without uniformity.
See, wholeness (what we call “shalom”) is only significant in the face of brokenness. That we are so prone to fracture is what makes unity all the more a prize. We can stay connected despite our differing views, and as a Jewish community, we must. It’s not optional.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the world will little note – nor long remember – how different we are. Our enemies will always morph us together into one homogeneous mass, yet we persist in engaging in what Freud called the “narcissism of small differences” – the thesis that communities with adjoining territories and close relationships are especially likely to engage in feuds and mutual ridicule because of hypersensitivity to details of differentiation.
What makes hate possible is the redefinition of another human being as a one-dimensional creature, and a sub-par one that the world would be better off without. We have devolved into a society that defines others by one issue: Donald Trump.
And that is a shame.