If you thought these were quotes from the 1930's or even the 1950's, you'd be wrong. They are, in fact, Tweets in response to Jonathan Weisman's article in the New York Times about his experience with Trump supporters bombarding him with anti-Semitic attacks. Not only has Weisman been harassed in this way, but many other Jewish political reporters, specifically when the write articles that are critical of Donald Trump.
This doesn't necessarily mean that Trump himself holds anti-Semitic views, and in fact, his daughter, Ivanka Kushner, converted to Judaism when she married her husband, Jared. That being said, there also has never been a time when he ever denounced these kinds of statements from his own supporters. Orthodox Jewish journalist, Ben Shapiro, himself a victim of several anti-Semitic attacks from Trump supporters, had this to say: "But one thing is Trump’s fault: Trump has been reaching out to these supporters. They feel empowered by his rise not merely because they agree with his policies, but because of the language Trump uses and the people with whom he associates."
Something has awakened in people, and it's not pretty. In some ways, this is a case of "monkey see, monkey do," in that we humans tend to copy the behavior of those we admire. The disgruntled, disaffected, alienated populace, disenfranchised by political corruption, moral decay, and economic depression see Trump and his obnoxious, hideous, bombastic style as oddly inspiring and empowering. This rich, white guy with bad hair says what they have been too afraid to say. He tells off those political do-nothings who for years have been sucking at the governmental teat, draining it of our hard earned tax dollars. They feel satisfaction by proxy because someone is finally doing something, or so it seems.
This is another example of a Tweet received by Jonathan Weisman by an anti-Semitic Trump supporter.
In many ways, this is a lost opportunity on the part of Donald Trump, that is, if he truly wants to quell the surge in such bold displays of blatant bigotry. If Trump really wields the power many of us thinks he has, he could easily use that power to bring calm to his supporters. He could easily tell them to back off, and many likely would. IF he wants this to go away. Then again, maybe he doesn't want this anti-Semitic tirade to go away. After all, that has a power of its own that a savvy politician could use to his advantage, by playing on the extreme emotions of those he views as lower than he.
It makes me think a little of the first scene in Act 3 of Macbeth, where Macbeth plays on the anger and frustration of the three murderers to goad them into killing Banquo. Now don't get it twisted--I'm not suggesting that Trump wants to kill anyone. At the same time, his lack of response to these supporters just winds them up further, and emboldens them to an even greater degree. But the danger is that this could all come back to bite him in the ass if he's not careful. That's the problem with the mob--they live on their emotions, but their loyalties can shift easily as a result.
As a Catholic (with only a teeny bit of Jewish ancestry), I have to look at this phenomenon with tremendous concern and a lot of troubling questions. Some suggest that 2016 is turning into 1933, with Hitler on the rise and people hiding in dark corners to save their lives. I think that might be a bit of an exaggeration, and I for one, do not believe that Trump is another Hitler. I don't like him and I'll never vote for him, but I think it's unfair to compare him to the Fuhrer. At the same time, something clearly needs to be done to put a stop to this crazy Trump Train with its band of bigots. The problem is that this country has been in a religious decline for decades now, so making an appeal to virtue or faith or kindness would likely fall on deaf ears. In addition, with emotions riding so high, a lot of these people would likely view a faith-filled response with hostility.
The problem is riddled with complexities, too: social media, lots of anger, a crass culture, a spoiled, entitled, aggressive, spineless generation, all living in an increasingly godless society. Churches have unfortunately become too political (including too many Catholic clergy and religious), so they've lost their credibility in many ways. At the other end is the growing traditionalist movement, which on the one hand has a desire to return to purity and grace, but on the other hand which is regarded as fanatical by the mainstream. Thus, we see these bigoted attacks against Jews, but mostly we shrug and say, "I'll pray for you."
Nothing wrong with that, of course, as we should approach all we do with prayer and intense faith. We should also remember to think long-term, that is, to remember that, as was said in the ancient world, "this, too, shall pass."
But for now, we have to deal with a new culture of intimidation--and it's not just Jews any more, but the #NeverTrump crowd (I'm one of them). Frankly, I don't think this will be fixed with a quick word because the culture has already gone too far and shows no sign of backing down. Therefore, the only solution is a long-term one, involving a massive cultural shift back toward faith.
In his Utopia, St. Thomas More wrote about how the residents of Utopia were required to adhere to a religion--an agnostic or an atheist was not considered reliable or stable because they were answerable to no one. In a large way, I think this is what needs to happen in our culture, that every single person strives to adhere to one religious tradition or another. That may sound extreme, and of course, it's true that religious belief and faith is a very personal journey that cannot be regulated by human law. Part of the problem is that we've been in a religious decline at the very least since the early 19th century, and perhaps earlier, as a result of the Protestant Reformation and the ensuing persecution of the Catholic Church across much of Europe and Britain. Coming back to faith as a culture, therefore, is a major challenge.
In Revelation 3:16, Jesus says, "But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth." The USCCB comment that, "Halfhearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ." Therefore, we need to find our courage in this trigger-warning, paranoid, emotionally distressed society, show a little mercy toward others, listen to people's stories, and then, perhaps through good works and kindness, slowly guide them back to light and peace. Maybe then, false gods such as Donald Trump will be seen for the devils that they are.
Witty; cunning; crafty
© ArtfulCatholic 2016
All rights reserved
This material may not be reprinted without permission from the author.