Monday, September 18, 2017

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney was Governor of Massachusetts  in 2003-2007 and candidate for President of the United States in 2012.  Like most political leaders of our time, Governor Romney had things to say about tolerance. [1]

People of different faiths, like yours and mine, sometimes wonder where we can meet in common purpose, when there are so many differences in creed and theology. Surely the answer is that we can meet in service, in shared moral convictions about our nation stemming from a common worldview.

So even if we cannot agree, or even acknowledge, the religious point of view of others, there is nothing standing in our way to work together for the Common Good.  That’s why, in Masonic Lodges, discussions on religion and politics are absolutely forbidden – and a violation of that rule could result in a member being expelled from the Fraternity! 

Religious freedom opens a door for Americans that is closed to too many others around the world. But whether we walk through that door, and what we do with our lives after we do, is up to us.

We in America take so many of our Blessings for granted.  We are one of the freest countries in the world, and we often squander our Freedoms. 

Romney also addressed the dark side of the tolerance issue:  Intolerance.

Trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.

Dangerous to the heart and character of America, indeed.  Whether trickle down or grass roots bigotry, in order to protect our freedoms, we must resist the bigotry.  My Dad, and the members of his generation, fought Nazis in Europe and Japanese in the Pacific to guarantee these freedoms.  We must fight a no less important battle to ensure they remain viable. 

Religious liberty is the first freedom in our Constitution. And whether the cause is justice for the persecuted, compassion for the needy and the sick, or mercy for the child waiting to be born, there is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action.

The Christian conscience in action is a boon for civilization and democracy.  But it must be TRUE Christian conscience, and not the perversion of Christianity claimed by racists and bigots.

I trust Governor Romney would agree.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Decades apart, inciting ordinary people to hate Jews

An op-ed piece by my friend, Doctor Ellen Kennedy, the executive director of World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.  You can find the piece at MinnPost:   

When I heard the chants about Jews and I saw the huge swastikas that were worn and waved with pride and arrogance, I was truly frightened.

I am a Jew. I am a Jew with protective coloration, however: I’ve had a non-Jewish last name since the 1970s and I don’t have particularly "Jewish-looking" features.

People usually assume I’m Catholic, or at least Christian, because of my name and appearance. Over the years, a lot of anti-Semitic comments and jokes have been voiced in my presence but not directed at me personally, of course, because of that coloration. Those comments have offended me because of false and ugly stereotypes on which they are based, but the comments have never frightened me, and when I disclose my Jewish identity, the speakers are always contrite, ashamed, and genuinely embarrassed.

The events in Charlottesville frightened me. When I heard the chants about Jews and I saw the huge swastikas that were worn and waved with pride and arrogance, I was truly frightened.

Much of my extended family perished in the Holocaust, in the annihilation of the Jewish ghetto in Vilna, Lithuania. I work in human rights. I have followed the dramatic upsurge in hate groups and hate incidents that accompanied the Trump campaign, the election, and now the presidency itself. The chants of "Heil Trump" make my heart stop. Slogans having to do with Jews and ovens – I simply cannot believe that this is happening in my lifetime, in my country, from fellow Americans. 

And Trump is supporting this violence by failing to take a strong stand against the neo-Nazis, by demonizing the good people who were protesting hate, and by not disavowing the alt-right’s allegiance to him.

Young people are highly susceptible to online propaganda. The neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, part of the organizing impetus for the Charlottesville demonstrations, was shut down in recent days by several hosting sites and now resides in the dark web. It has its ancestry in the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, circulated in Germany from the 1920s until the end of World War II. Der Sturmer’s publisher, Julius Streicher, was prosecuted at the Nuremberg trials after the Holocaust and was hanged for committing crimes against humanity.

Streicher never killed anybody, never filled shower rooms with poisonous gas, never rounded up Jews and packed them into cattle cars. He did something that in many ways was far worse. He incited ordinary people to hate Jews, to view them as objects to be reviled and defiled and exterminated.

These are the same messages we are hearing today, without opposition from the White House, without outrage and incredulity from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, without enough shock and horror from all of us to silence the hate speech and to put an end to the swastikas and the Hitler adulation forever.

This is no longer my country. This is a place where I am frightened, where the next Julius Streichers are taking boldly to the streets with encouragement and support.

Where will I go to feel safe?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Respect is Not a Zero Sum Game

In a zero-sum game, there are winners and there are losers.  There is one pie, and if my piece is bigger, yours is smaller.  In a zero-sum game, it can make some sense to grab as much as you can before others can grab.  If you don’t, you will end up with less, and you might end up with nothing

A zero-sum game mentality can lead to a situation called “the tragedy of the commons.”  This arises when there is an asset owned by no one, or by “the Public”, and each member of the society is able to use that asset as much as he can, without restrictions.  Examples include grazing fields, which may be used by so many herdsmen that the grass is wiped out.  Or the cod fisheries, which have been so over fished that the cod population was on the verge of not being able to sustain itself.

It also has been suggested that the air and water suffer from the tragedy of the commons, as firms can dump their waste (smog, effluent) into the air or water at little or no cost to them, but an arguably tremendous cost to the populace at large.

The topic of this blog is tolerance.  It seems as if some folks feel that giving other folks (“the minorities”) rights will diminish their own rights.  Tolerance, and respect, is not a zero-sum game.  In fact, it is likely just the opposite.  The more the rights of minorities are guaranteed, the safer my rights will be.

Calls to mind another axiom:  Enlightened self-interest.

You help other people not only because it is the right thing to do, but because you will or may benefit as well.

I posted Martin Niemoeller’s poem about “when they came for me, there was nobody left to speak up” on January 24.  That is the extreme example, but sometimes it’s wise to consider worst-case scenarios. 

The moral of that story is, of course, that I stand up for the rights of others so that my rights may be more secure. 

It seems so logical to me that I have a hard time visioning an argument to the contrary….