The Monitor supported John McCain in the presidential campaign just concluded, and given the opportunity would do so again.
Having said that, anyone who wasn’t profoundly moved by Barack Obama’s victory rally and speech last week has to be either emotionally dead or devoid of any appreciation of just how historic a moment it was.
The tears of joy and disbelief, the looks of wonder and hope, on all those faces in that crowd – particularly, for obvious reasons, the black faces – were enough to offset the despair the Monitor felt the next morning at the shamefully racist and abjectly ignorant comments posted on certain Orthodox websites.
There are things about Obama the Monitor doesn’t like – he’s way too liberal on domestic issues, apparently too trusting when it comes to international affairs, and he failed to convincingly repudiate or even explain his past relationships with a handful of troubling individuals.
But McCain had his own skeletons and unanswered questions, as do all politicians – indeed, as do we all – and nothing in Obama’s history indicates any personal hostility to Jews or Israel.
How, then, to explain the comments posted on the websites alluded to above – even after Obama picked as his chief of staff a Jew who belongs to an Orthodox synagogue, whose children attend day school and whose father served in the Irgun?
Comments like “Obama is an Arab”; “he’s a Muslim”; “everyone should make sure they have an updated passport”; “there are many comparisons to Germany circa 1936.” (And that’s just a miniscule sampling of some of the less inflammatory statements; it would soil this column to quote any of the wilder and cruder postings.)
Now, the Monitor is well aware, from the letters and e-mails received at The Jewish Press, that Orthodox Jews are as susceptible as anyone else to Internet innuendo and urban legends, even if the lies or rumors in question have long been debunked. But it’s still a shock to the system to confront the hysteria and paranoia, the willful – no, the prideful – ignorance conveyed in such a crude and ugly manner and posted for public consumption, yet.
One can be a conservative who’s convinced beyond doubt that McCain would have made a better president than Obama and at the same time recognize and appreciate the transcendent nature of the election results and what they say about America.
As Commentary’s John Podhoretz wrote on election night: “America, it appears, is on the verge of electing a black man as its president … the immensity of this single cultural moment dwarfs almost any other in my lifetime. Its positive social impact is incalculable; it was only eight years ago that Al Gore traveled to Harlem to kiss Al Sharpton’s ring…. Sharpton was, at that point, by default the most important black politician in America. Obama’s ascension to the White House, if it does nothing else, may at last bring down the curtain on race hucksters like Sharpton, whose power has always been rooted in the political alienation of inner-city blacks.”
And as The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat noted, “Obama has just been elected president of a nation in which he could have been bought and sold as a slave just generations ago.… Obama deserves congratulations tonight, but so does the nation he’s about to govern. We’ve come a long, long way.”
Those who have their bags packed and their passports ready in anticipation of the coming deluge might want to consider that the election of a black man as president should make Jews feel more secure in America rather than less.
African Americans have endured infinitely greater prejudice, hardship and discrimination – slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, etc. – than have Jewish Americans, and yet last week the nation entrusted its highest office to a black man. Not only did Obama win tens of millions of white votes, he carried states where not so long ago blacks were prevented by law from using the same public facilities as whites and actually took their lives into their hands simply by attempting to exercise, as American citizens, their right to vote.
America has arrived at the point where a black man will sit in the Oval Office while his black wife will do all the things first ladies do and their black children will roam the halls of the White House and play in the Rose Garden. If the country has come this far in its comfort level with and acceptance of blacks, how much more so is that true of Jews, already for decades the nation’s most successful and influential ethnic subgroup?
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org