In my regular column in Haaretz, my new article: “The Dems Smear Campaign Can Put Us All in Trouble“
We can neither abolish conservatism nor rid ourselves of liberalism. Instead, we only need to find our unity above them!
Donald Trump lashed out at the “so-called Judge”? Obama did this before. Donald Trump signed an immigration ban? Obama did this too, and for twice as long. Donald Trump wants to build a wall? Obama did this before, too. But none of the mainstream media outlets bring these parallels to our attention. In some cases, they have even classified such information as “fake news” in order to steer us away from the facts.
Why is all this happening? Because unlike any other time in US history, the defeated party in the presidential elections refuses to accept its loss and keeps trying to find some way back to the White House. Prominent media outlets that support Barack Obama and his party have launched such a preposterous smear campaign that it can only be described as “fake news,” with the aim to defame, delegitimize, and ultimately impeach the president. On the ground, Barack Obama’s “Organizing for Action” is using an expansive network of left-leaning organizations to build the progressives’ way back to the Oval Office much sooner than 2020.
But they are playing with fire. Half the country voted for Trump. That half does not want the progressive agenda, which robs it of its jobs, values, beliefs, and eventually, its country. The forefathers and foremothers of this conservative part of America made their country a world leader. They are tough, believe in their values and in their Lord, and they have seen enough of what New World Order pundits have to offer. They do not want this. Should Trump be forced to step down, chances are that his successor will make Democrats fondly reminisce at the sound of Trump’s name.
Back in Babylon
The reactionary response to the progressive movement is a natural phenomenon that happens toward the end of every stage in human development. The liberal era is ending. It is no longer liberal; it is the rule of a small elite group that is pitting the public against anyone who dares to challenge it. Using “political correctness,” seemingly in order not to offend minorities, the ruling elite is barring free speech and free thought, and shreds our society under the guise of individuality. As we succumb to isolation and alienation, to vulgar narcissism where pop stars’ on-stage pseudo-masturbation is regarded as art, we are losing our most precious asset—human connections. When we cannot care for others and others cannot care for us, we are losing the vital force that is necessary for our mental and physical health.
The media, which tells us that individuality and free thought are all that count, while at the same time stifling our ability to think for ourselves and realize our potential, makes us all confused and frustrated. In consequence, just like our ancestors in the land of bilbul (confusion), a.k.a., Babylon, whose mindset became its namesake, we are hopeless and lost, hateful and alone. Yet, many of us are still dangerously in denial of our situation.
The Midrash (Beresheet Rabah) tells us that at the time of Babylon, two forces struggled over preeminence. The trailblazer, if you will, of one force was Nimrod, king of Babylon, and the frontrunner of the other force was Abraham. To make a gross generalization for the purpose of this column (for more details, read Like a Bundle of Reeds), we could say that both Abraham and Nimrod understood nature, and particularly human nature. They knew that reality operates according to a balanced interaction between positive and negative—two opposite forces that complement one another to create a greater whole, which we call reality. Reality cannot consist of only a negative or only a positive force. It consists of both, requires both, and only when the two work in harmony can nature thrive.
The two leaders also knew that human nature is an exception to nature’s general rule. Even then, thousands of years ago, we were not in sync with nature. We weren’t as opposed to it as we are now, but the predominance of the negative force in the psyche of our ancestors was enough to gradually disintegrate the Babylonian society. The book Pirkey de Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter of Rabbi Eliezer) describes the alienation among the Babylonians. In chapter 24, it describes how the builders of the Tower of Babylon would “push up the bricks [to build the tower] from the east, then descend from the west. If a man fell and died, they would not pay him any mind. But if a brick fell they would sit down and wail, ‘Woe unto us; when will another come in its place?’ Abraham, son of Terah, passed by and saw them building the city. He cursed them and said, ‘May the Lord swallow their tongue.’”
As the alienation of Abraham’s countryfolk deepened, his curse came true and the inevitable happened. Chapter 24 details how the Babylonians “wanted to speak to one another but did not know each other’s language. What did they do? Each took up his sword and they fought each other to the death. Indeed, half the world was slaughtered there, and from there they scattered all over the world.”
Dealing with the Law of Nature
Abraham’s curse symbolized his ideology. He maintained that the way to overcome alienation is to strive to connect above it. He understood that alienation and even hatred were natural manifestations of the negative force. Without them, there would be no way to activate the positive force of connection.
Today we know that atoms exist through the balance of these two forces, which maintain the electrons at a relatively steady distance from the nucleus. If either of these forces were absent, there would be no atoms and our universe would not exist. This same balance exists between the atoms that make up molecules, the organs that make up organisms, and so on throughout the chain of existence through its final link—man.
The human psyche is different from the rest of nature in that “the inclination in the heart of man is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21). We lack the natural balance and conduct ourselves by limping along only on the negative force, as though we only have one leg. Is it any wonder that human society is lame?
Abraham maintained that if what we are missing is the positive force then we should activate it by ourselves. He realized that negative feelings in and of themselves are not a curse, but a necessary basis on which to add the positive force and thus create the same balance that exists in all of nature. Abraham cursed the builders of the tower not because they did not like each other, but because they made no effort to connect above their alienation. When he saw this, he knew that there was no hope for Babylon.
Nimrod refused to go by Abraham’s way. He chose the easy way, seemingly saying, “If we can’t get along, let’s go our separate ways.” Nimrod was the king and his ideology prevailed. Over time, Babylon indeed dispersed and the great civilization sank.
Nowhere to Go
Today, we are once again in Babylon: confused and alienated. But unlike ancient Babylon, we have nowhere to go. We have surrounded the world with billions of people who cannot understand each other and cannot stand each other. We have tried to build a modern Tower of Babylon, thinking that science and technology can make us happy. But science cannot change human nature—the cause of our misery. As a result, our two choices now are the same as those of the builders of the tower: We can each take our sword and fight to the death, or “hammer our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4), and work together to build a new, united humanity.
Should we choose to take the path of unity, then as with Abraham, the swords and spears—our hatred of each other—will be our tools for building our cohesion. We cannot abolish conservatism nor rid ourselves of liberalism. On the contrary, our individualism will only grow and make society even more diverse and splintered. However, if we take Abraham’s way, these new perspectives will only strengthen our society and enrich it, making everyone’s view of life more complete.
The Difference between Self-Entitlement and Ego
Last week, we saw what happens when a healthy ego turns into the monster known as self-entitlement. This NYU professor thought that she was justified in hurling profanities and abusive language, and nearly physically attack NYPD officers whose only “crime” was guarding peaceful Republican demonstrators from the psychoses of “progressive liberals” like her. When a person feels that only his way is the right way, his ego wishes to annihilate all other ways. This is how a healthy ego becomes self-entitled and narcissistic.
A view, any view, is not meant to be the only view. It is intended to be a building block in the structure that creates what we call “humanity.” We are all parts of it. If any of us were missing, it would not be the same; it would not be whole. We become humanity only when we unite our different viewpoints into a complementary whole. When we do not, we are merely a collection of egos vying for control and power. This is why when we unite above our egos we feel whole and happy, and when we fight each other we feel insecure and depressed.
My teacher, RABASH (Rav Baruch Ashlag), wrote in a special notebook titled Shamati (I Heard) what he had heard from his father, Rav Yehuda Ashlag, the great commentator on The Book of Zohar. Article (or perhaps it should be called excerpt) no. 82 described Abraham’s pondering how he would reveal the positive force. The Rav Ashlag explained that Abraham realized that it would happen through revealing his own egoism, above which he would rise, and that only when Abraham realized that he would have an ego above which to rise he was satisfied and confident about his success.
This is the essence of Abraham’s teaching. This is why King Solomon said, “Love covers all crimes” (Prov 10:12). The book Shem Mi Shmuel writes that “The correction of the hatred began in the generation of Babylon, when there was separation in humanity. That is, the correction of gathering people together began by Abraham and his disciples… and the end of the correction will be when everyone becomes one bundle.” In that regard, the great Rav Kook wrote (Letters of the Raiah), “The great rule about the war of views, when each view comes to contradict another, is that we need not contradict it, but rather build above it, and thereby ascend.”
Time to Act
The “trick” of rising above differences to create a higher whole is unique to Abraham’s descendants. It is also the key to our happiness today. In order to untie the entanglement within American society, Americans must take action and unite above their differences! There is no point in throwing dirt at the other side or trying to prove your righteousness and the other side’s wickedness. Anything that promotes separation is inherently evil. So right now, all sides are wrong.
Now it is up to the entire American nation to take up the common ancestor’s legacy, the method of uniting above differences, and implement it among all of Abraham’s descendants—Jews, Christians, and Muslims. If America wants to be great again, this is the only way to do this. The road to turning self-entitlement back into a healthy ego that contributes to a healthy society is not by separation, but by union above our unique individualities, just as Abraham’s students did back in the days of Babylon.