You have most likely heard the adage, “If you’re not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart. If you aren’t a conservative at forty, you have no brain.” The quote, in various versions, is attributed to many people ranging from a Frenchman in the 1700s to Edmund Burke, King Oscar II of Sweden, Georges Clemenceau and (seemingly incorrectly) Winston Churchill.
The opening half of the sentence makes sense in some circumstances, but it can also cover a multitude of sins. Yes, compassion is a wonderful trait in younger people as it is in older. But it is a poor roadmap for making important decisions in both private and public life. As the young grow and mature, they ideally become wiser and discover that feelings do not necessarily translate well into policy. They shouldn’t lose their heart but, instead, learn to channel their emotions towards endeavors that actually yield results.
But young people have other things tugging at them as well. Among them are hormones raging in their bodies, the insecurity of discovering that they haven’t yet conquered any mountains and the strong desire to be part of a crowd. All those things make them susceptible to joining mobs.
It is not compassion that is motivating those cursing and threatening their neighbors or destroying property and looting. Kind hearts do not wish police officers dead or want to subjugate those of a certain color. Kind hearts do not break the windows of shopkeepers and steal their goods. They don’t behead statues of saints in Catholic churches or deface historical monuments. Those rampaging in Portland, Kenosha and many other cities, are more akin to those who uncovered witches in the 1600s, tracked down escaped slaves in the 1800s, betrayed hidden Jews in Nazi Europe and enlisted in Mao and Stalin’s ranks in the 20th century. They are high on power and disorder, not on empathy.
They are also the natural outgrowth of the adults in their lives, parents, teachers, university administrators, reporters and government officials. Some of these older people know exactly what they are doing and benefit from manipulating hordes. Others have no idea that they are being used, naively trusting the same players they have trusted for decades, unwilling to recognize that the world has changed.
Ancient Jewish wisdom describes with horror a world where those in leadership are compared to dogs. Just as dogs seem to be run ahead of their owners, these “elder statesmen” and “opinion-makers” want to believe (or at least want us to believe) that they are the ones setting policies and running things. In reality, just as the dog turns his head occasionally to make sure he’s going in the right direction, so too have those who should be older and wiser abdicated their responsibility as adults, taking orders from those they should be leading.
If you rely on the Highest Authority, you may welcome
Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s recommended Hebrew/English Bible
Check it out and discover the features that drew our approval.