We Must Distance Ourselves From the President’s Remarks
I will say it straight out. The President should not have told members of The Squad to go back to where they came from. It is disappointing that he used language that – whatever he actually meant – can easily be seen as excluding tens of millions of upstanding Americans.
OK. I said it. Here is why.
A friend of mine thought of attending a presentation years ago by someone known to take positions far from a Torah point of view. He asked a gadol (whose identity I have forgotten) whether he could. This Torah authority told him, “You can go if you like. But if you do go, you obligate yourself to speak up if the presenter says something objectionable. You may not go and remain silent. If you are not prepared to respond to the message on the spot, you should not attend.”
Many of us find ourselves in the same position in regard to our relationship with the President. While our readership spans the entire continuum of reactions to President Trump, I suspect that more of us favor FoxNews than MSNBC. We have chosen to stay in the room, so to speak. Some of us have remained because we feel that the office of the presidency requires and deserves respect and loyalty, regardless of anything the officeholder may do, short of an offense that is followed by impeachment and conviction. Some of us will not and cannot turn on a President who has given Israel so much more than any US leader in memory, and freely admit that the safety and security of the Jewish State is prominent among our concerns. The loyalty of still others is shaped by both of these arguments.
Staying in the room, however, comes with responsibility. From time to time, our silence will not be possible.
I say all of this even though I find two of the three odious, contemptible liars and hate-mongers, and a third hopelessly naïve. All three have been guilty of exactly what they find execrable about Mr. Trump’s remarks. They have peddled and exacerbated racial divisions and tensions. No difference. But they are not the President of the most powerful nation on earth, using language that can be seized by those in power as a carte-blanche to disenfranchise enormous numbers of people they do not like. Omar and Tlaib should be rejected by Americans for good cause, not for bad points of origin.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, where I am employed, put it elegantly and pithily in a tweet that was balanced and fair. (It was not the first time that we have had to respectfully demur from a statement of the President. We were one of the first to critique the President’s first remarks after Charlottesville.) It was a study in level-headed non-hysterical criticism that correctly pointed to blame all around. I heartily concur.
Here is the tweet: Every American came from somewhere. Time for everyone in #WashingtonDC to drop the identity politics