Today is Purim. Among other things this means that, this week, many people with an agenda are trying to validate their ideas by quoting verses from the Scroll of Esther. Are you a staunch 2nd Amendment advocate? You can find Scriptural support. Do you think that gun ownership should be outlawed? You can find Scriptural support. This doesn’t mean that Scripture has nothing to say on the topic. It means that the ancient Jewish wisdom that emanates from Scripture can’t be easily absorbed or transmitted in one quick column lacking context, subtlety and serious arguments and debate.
On the other hand, it is Purim, so I am going to join the crowd and link to the holiday, not directly on the gun issue, but on two news media items I saw in the press this week. The first was an article by the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency claiming that the speech given at CPAC by the NRA’s executive-vice-president could exacerbate anti-Semitism. Since Wayne LaPierre mentioned Saul Alinsky, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros, his speech could be seen as a dog whistle to anti-Semites. To the author’s credit, he acknowledges that it is hard to discuss the gun-control movement without mentioning Soros and Bloomberg as leaders in it, but he thinks that it, somehow, well, kind of, shouldn’t be said because even if Wayne LaPierre isn’t anti-Semitic himself, he might be seen as encouraging others to be so.
The second item was a news report that BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco was refusing to share surveillance video showing groups of teenagers terrorizing passengers. The reason? Debora Allen, a member of the BART Board of Directors, reports that, “To release these videos would create a high level of racially insensitive commentary toward the district,” she was told. “And in addition it would create a racial bias in the riders against minorities on the trains.” This is similar to reports from other areas of the country where citizens feel that crime information is suppressed if the alleged criminals are African-American.
The link between these two commentaries is the mindset that if we don’t identify groups, people won’t notice that there are certain group tendencies. I remember hearing from a friend who lived in the old Soviet Union that airplane accidents on internal flights happened not infrequently. However, since talking about them would tarnish the image of the successful Communist state, they were not publicly reported. It is as if when nothing was said, people might not notice that their loved ones never returned home. Note to the Politburo – people did notice.
In the movement to eradicate the First Amendment that has gained momentum on American college campuses, the ruling elites share a conceit that if they don’t acknowledge information, the stupid masses won’t figure it out for themselves. The same idea is seen in other countries. That is blatantly untrue. People do notice and do know that Jews are, unfortunately, disproportionately members of the far-Left and Black teenagers are, unfortunately, disproportionately involved in crime. Recognizing reality makes you neither anti-Semitic nor racist. But acknowledging a problem does help those who wish to counter these pathologies in the Jewish or Black community to do so. Do these realities give support to people who truly are hate-filled? People filled with hate don’t actually need reality to support their feelings. By not speaking openly and intimidating good people to be quiet, you simply drive the conversation underground which is fertile territory for hyperbole, exaggeration and prejudice.
How does this tie in to the Purim story? Do you notice that despite the Scroll of Esther emphasizing that ancient Persia was made up of different and diverse communities, there was no difficulty in identifying either the Jews or the Amelekites? Each of us is a member of many groups. Our age, gender, nationality, religion, ethnicity, level of education and geographic location are only a few of the ways with which we are labelled. Sometimes we fit stereotypes, sometimes we do not. But it is futile to pretend that if we are not told so we won’t notice identifying features of one another.
I personally find George Soros’ behavior despicable and am frequently embarrassed by Michael Bloomberg’s activities. It is actually not irrelevant at all that Saul Alinsky is another Jew, even if that causes me shame. Neither is it irrelevant that many noteworthy scientists, entrepreneurs and jurists who contribute immeasurably to the world are of Jewish descent. I believe that God’s promise to the nation of Israel means that as a people we have the potential to soar higher or plummet lower than other nations. No one needs to point out either of these realities for them to be easily seen.