Fri, Aug

The Divided States of America … Easier to Find Villains than Heroes

ALPERN AT LARGE--Ours is a nation united in our revulsion against violence, terrorism (domestic or foreign), and bigotry.  Only the bizarre fringes are accepting of such divisive and dangerous paradigms or actions, but what prevents us from true unity is our willingness (and, perhaps, choice) to hear things that are not being said, and being guilty of focusing on what truly divides us. 

In short, the right wing is too quick to shrug its collective shoulders at right-wing calls and actions that lead to violence and divisiveness, and the left wing is too quick to shrug its collective shoulders at left-wing calls and actions that lead to violence and divisiveness. 

Witness the apologists and shoulder-shruggers for David Duke and Richard Spencer--they're anti-Semites, race-baiters, and while not openly violent have a pretty awful track record of inciting deranged individuals to violence. 

Witness also the apologists and shoulder-shruggers for Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson--they're also anti-Semites, race-baiters, and while not openly violent have a pretty awful track record of inciting deranged individuals to violence. 

And, of course, if you're now responding by thinking or saying, "Well, MY guys aren't anti-Semites, bigots, or dividers, but THOSE guys are!" I should perhaps thank you for exactly proving my point? 

Whether it's David Duke or Louis Farrakhan, they both have said things that put my life as a Jew in mortal danger.  Not a dime's worth of difference.   

Does David Duke at least not use physical violence like his KKK forbearers?  Yes. 

Does Louis Farrakhan preach and act to demand black Americans avoid gangs, drugs, and abandoning loyalty to their families?  Yes. 

But it's pretty hard for most of America to cozy up to either of them.  And it's their own fault. 

Being kinder to white Americans, and being kinder to black Americans?  Of course.  Blame the Jews for everything ... not so much. 

A better example to follow would be that of Iranian ex-partite Maziar Bahari, who has suffered for his educating Iranians about the persecution of Jews and the Holocaust and of any bigotry that leads to this sort of thing. 

And while the obligation of Jews to fight for civil rights for all people is paramount in Jewish teachings, I'd be the first (as a Jew) to suggest that if any Jew has had a role in the exploitation of any group, black or otherwise (and that includes selling drugs), then that Jew is worthy of any punishment he/she deserves. 

And while we're at it, I'd be the first (as a Jew) to demand Joy Behar apologize to Christians for attacking Vice President Pence's beliefs ... because his Christian beliefs are his right to hold, and have led to much, much more good than bad in the United States of America. 

Because Christian beliefs are also Jewish beliefs insofar as talking to God (and really trying to hear what God wants us to do) is what makes a human being precious, and made in God's image.  Am I to be attacked next, as a Jew, because I pray and ask God every day to forgive and guide me in my daily struggles?  First the Christians, and then the Jews ... right, Ms. Behar? 

We're still reeling as a nation from horrible attacks--the South Carolina church shooting, the Dallas police shootings, a spate of racial incidents, the Las Vegas massacre, and of course the Florida high school shooting. 

President Trump's opponents have a lot to say about things he tweets and says, and many of Trump's own supporters probably wince regularly at things he's said and tweeted.  But while he appears to hang out with anti-Semites, all of his children are married to or date Jews, and he's squarely on the side of Israel in the Israel/Palestine conflict. 

So perhaps Trump (who has his own supporters in the black community, too) is a closet anti-Semite, but he's about the stupidest anti-Semite known to modern history.  Or maybe he's prejudiced but just not anti-Semitic. 

And while he has raised a hornet's nest about arming teachers (I can think of a flurry of reasons to oppose this idea), it's not President Trump who killed those innocent students in Florida, and it's not Trump who let it happen. 

The cowardly deputy Scot Peterson, who called for greater presence and arming of deputies to protect schools, and his enabler Sheriff Scott Israel, who has screamed and distracted about how Trump and NRA President Wayne LaPierre are responsible for the Florida massacre, are the ones with blood dripping from their pathetic hands. 

Trump and LaPierre may have a few bad or good ideas on how to protect children in schools, but it's the shooters who think that shooting up a school is "cool" that are to blame. 

I don't like proliferation of semi-automatic rifles anywhere, but shooters will find something--a handgun, a shotgun, a truck, a fertilizer-based bomb, etc.--to kill people if they really think it's "cool" to slay innocent people. 

Using the high school survivors of props for gun control might be a good idea if we realize that the overwhelming main reason why the Florida shooting occurred is because the shooter (who had about a gazillion warning signs to the community) had been taken into custody in an appropriate manner. 

And the manner that the deputies left the children to die in the high school while they established a perimeter?  No, that is on Peterson and Israel. 

Trump and LaPierre might have some bad or stupid ideas, but this Florida nightmare was not on anyone but the FBI and local sheriffs that could have, and SHOULD have, stopped this maniac before the disaster occurred, and after the shooting began. 

So we're looking for heroes.  The FBI and Sheriff Israel and his pathetic bunch aren't heroes. 

And those exploiting children, oppressed blacks or outraged whites aren't heroes, either. 

But we do need heroes.  And it's a darned shame that David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and Scott Israel are using our division and outrage to divide us even more. 

And the biggest shame?  We let them.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.