The Moral Deficit

The Mayor of Baltimore, who graciously “gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well,” was heeding Talmudic advice in giving the green light to her citizen-rioters to loot, burn, terrorize and perform other acts of violence. The Talmud (Yoma 78b) suggests that an older child should be given “clay vessels” to break, so as to have an outlet for his aggressions or anger. Rabba even bought damaged clay vessels and provided them to his children to break when they felt like it. (Of course, Rabba gave them his own vessels; he didn’t tell his offspring to go break someone else’s vessels or burn down someone else’s store…)

One would assume the Mayor misspoke and meant to say “protest,” not “destroy,” but some mistakes are so unfortunate that they are irreparable. That is not to say she will take responsibility and resign – that is not the ethos of modern America – but her words were, unintentionally or not, grounds for the mayhem that ensued, abetted by the passive response of the police obviously under orders to let the “protesters” vent. The President, whom we have been told repeatedly is a “role model” for young black men, waited a day to casually condemn the violence. It was a desultory commentary; Obama summons more passion in condemning Israelis for adding rooms to their homes in Ofra or Efrat that he did in criticizing young blacks for burning down their own neighborhoods.

Needless to say (actually, quite needful to say), the frustration of many blacks is real, and not necessarily the frustration over the police actions herein. The death of Freddy Grey remains a mystery, and even presuming his innocence, bad things do generally happen even to the innocent when one runs from the police, assaults a police officer, is arrested by the police or finds oneself in police custody. It is best not to get arrested, and even better not to commit crimes (or be in arrears on child support) or do anything that might result in an arrest. There are several recent cases – this is just the latest – in which it does not seem that anyone should have died at all, and those responsible should be brought to account. Of course, non-blacks have also died in confrontations with the police when the police tactics might have been overly aggressive. Rarely, though, have the aggrieved taken to the streets and burned down homes and businesses.

The real frustration of the black community should be over the persistent lawlessness, endemic poverty and social dysfunction that, for some reason, cannot be overcome. The narrative that there is open season on blacks by police officers across the country is patently false, and the statistics bear this out so blatantly that it needs no real analysis. The WSJ reported that twice as many blacks were killed in Chicago alone in one recent year as were killed by the authorities in the rest of the entire country – and 90% of blacks are killed by other blacks. That is the real scandal and the real cause of outrage, or should be. Good black parents – and the lingering tragedy is that most black children are raised by single mothers because of the disappearance of their fathers – must be petrified of sending their children to schools, friends, and even to play ball in the street because gang violence is common, illegal guns rampant and premature death a sad fact of life. The reality is that the young black has more to fear from other young blacks than from any white police officer, but no one seems to internalize that fact.

This is not a “white” police problem, although – without rationalizing any of the recent incidents of death in police custody – it is understandable why the police would be a little edgier in high crime environments than they would be when patrolling in tonier neighborhoods. The police also have families and children, and also want to get through the day alive and in one piece. Some have suggested that the police should just look away and stop ticketing for quality-of-life crimes, stop arresting for outstanding warrants on “minor” matters like failure to pay child support or driving without insurance or a valid license – in other words, look away in order to calm tensions.

The image of Baltimore in flames is exactly what happens when the police look away and decide not to enforce the law. Our Sages (Avot 3:2) taught that we should always “pray for the welfare of the government; but for fear [of government], a person would swallow his friend alive.” Alive! It is what enables people to break into a business and loot the assets, whether liquor, sneakers or bars of soap.

And that, for me, is the heart of the problem. It’s not “racism,” a tedious contention especially given that Baltimore (like many other big cities) has been governed by blacks for years. It has a black mayor, black police commissioner, large black population, and a police force with black representation that is proportionate to the population. That allegation is so clichéd that it is an attempt – usually successful – to avoid dealing with the major problem. And the problem is not education, jobs, police, income inequality, etc.

The problem is a moral deficit that cannot seem to be surmounted and is getting worse as time goes on. The Baltimore riots were typified by one particular act of anarchy: someone broke into stranger’s car, apparently hotwired it, and drove it right into a fire. He then emerged with hands raised in exultation (Touchdown!!) as the car caught flames because he had now succeeded… in what exactly? Stealing a neighbor’s car and destroying it, thereby inconveniencing him, perhaps depriving him of his means of getting to work in the morning? One who can do that and be proud of himself suffers from a deficit of morality that is not easily reversed. It is worse than lawlessness; it is moral emptiness, an obtuse ignorance and blithe rejection of the fundamental rights of another human being.

That moral deficit is manifested in the welfare culture that has created multi-generational families of dependence on others; in black men who routinely procreate and then evaporate, leaving their progeny fatherless; in disparaging the importance of education; in nurturing feelings of entitlement and fostering an industry of grievance; and in cultivating an environment in which crime and immorality are justified or excusable because of past wrongs done to blacks.

Obviously, all blacks are not subject to these harmful forces and probably not even most blacks. Many have rightly lauded the black mother who smacked her teenage son’s face and ordered him off the streets. Good for her! May there be many more like her. But there is another factor that underscores the dysfunction in the black community and the difficulty is shifting gears: the clergy.

Many black clergymen – think the Sharpton’s, the Jackson’s, the Wright’s, et al – stoke the flames (sometimes literally) of violence, grievance and anger at others. Blaming others, especially white people generally and sometimes Jews specifically, is a traditional sermon topic. They never call for introspection, for owning up to their mistakes, for taking responsibility for their own lives; it’s always someone else’s fault. And they disproportionately receive media attention and even White House accolades.

Jews – and their clergy – are the exact opposite. Whenever any Jew stumbles –and we have our own share of miscreants – they routinely blame the entire community, lament where we have all gone wrong, demand soul-searching on the part of the innocent and sometimes the victims. We always blame ourselves first, not others; indeed, we usually go overboard in our self-flagellation for Jewish misdeeds are rightly perceived as desecrations of G-d’s name.

For sure, there are black clergy who do the same. They exist throughout the country – some of them are known to me in New Jersey. They want blacks to take responsibility for their lives, they themselves are exemplars of morality and goodness, they realize the problems are internal and not external – and they are largely ignored by the media. And that is a media that still harp on the evils of slavery exactly 150 years after the Civil War ended – in a country in which slavery not only existed but also was the only country on earth in which other white people went to war with hundreds of thousands getting killed in order to bring about the abolition of slavery.

Can these conundrums be resolved? Not easily. The sale of illegal narcotics in the inner city is out of control and ravaging lives, gang violence is pervasive and there are only two ways to stop it. One is to have an increased police presence, but now the community has been primed to see the police as enemies and uniformly hostile. Any arrest of a black – especially one who resists and is subdued – will be met with suspicion and enmity regardless of its justification. It might work but in the short term can only exacerbate tensions.

The other way is from the ground up – to rebuild the black family with mothers and fathers and children, something that was the norm until the 1960’s; to halt the teenage out-of-wedlock births that demeans the young mothers and is occasionally simply a means to receive additional government assistance; for parents to encourage, monitor and promote their children’s education so the resort to gangs, violence and criminality is unnecessary, not to mention immoral and self-defeating; to raise the profile of true black leaders of vision and decency who recognize the dysfunction and yet are often silenced by the shrill voices of others and a media that knows now to inflame; and above all to preach and embody eternal values and objective morality so children are raised with a clear sense of right and wrong and do not look for day jobs in the grievance industry.

The irony is that most blacks already know this and most live it as well. The collapse of the black community in the inner cities after decades of black, liberal rule does not reflect the broader black community. The liberal paternalism that subtly encourages helplessness and “the soft bigotry of low expectations” (in President Bush’s elegant phrase) has devastated black life and needs to be upended; instead, it just goes on and on in a classic money for votes transaction.

But the dangers still abound and need to be checked or “The Burning of Baltimore” will soon be playing at a theater near you.

21 responses to “The Moral Deficit


    “Irrational Islamic Jew-hatred is the root cause of the problem in the Middle East.”


    “It is often said, because it is true, that if the Arabs laid down their weapons, there would be peace, but if the Jews laid down their weapons, they would be massacred, because the Arabs, the Muslims Arabs for all you hair-splitters out there, don’t want peace, they want the Jews dead.”

    SOURCE: Useful idiots for Palestine by Pat Condell

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.


    “I no longer believe that the Israelis should give back Jerusalem…
    Experience has taught us that the Islamic mentality views ANY concession as weakness to be exploited further. And besides, too many so-called Palestinians seem less concerned with peace and freedom, than with driving Jews into the sea, so the bombings would not stop.”


    “The truth is that Jews have contributed more to humanity than any other group of people; way more than Muslims, vastly more than Muslims…”

    Why do Muslims always blame the Jews? by Pat Condell

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.


    “Is it racist to criticize the Palestinians as the world’s most tiresome cry-babies, with a bogus cause, and a plight that is entirely self-inflicted?

    …I see the Palestinian cause as a lie; a lie designed to exploit Western liberal guilt…”


    “Every concession Israel makes is met with more demands, and more excuses not to negotiate; they [the Palestinians] could have had peace ten times over if they wanted it, but they [the Palestinians] don’t want peace, they want victory, and they won’t be happy until Israel is wiped from the map.”

    SOURCE: Pat Condell Finally Gets it on Israel

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.


    “If we are serious about peace in the Middle East, then we need to stop pretending that the Israelis are dealing with a rational enemy they can negotiate with; because in doing that, we are helping to feed a massive political lie whose gravitational force has become so great, it has warped reality. It is Hamas who has turned Gaza into a ware-zone recently, not Israel…”

    SOURCE: Peace in the Middle East by Pat Condell

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.


    “Once again, we see thousands of Islamic nut-cases take time-out from beating-up their wives to show their sensitive side. How?

    By smashing-up the towns they live in, egged-on by clerical ignoramuses whose motives are even lower than the literacy level of their followers.

    And once again, we in the civilized world are being urged to censor ourselves out of respect for a religion [Islam] that violates the human rights of half the people on the planet and that doubles as a political ideology that is indistinguishable from Nazism.”


    “The Turkish Prime Minister hilariously demands that Islamo-phobia now be made a Crime-Against-Humanity; when given the evidence, there is a much stronger case for making Islam a Crime-Against-Humanity.”

    SOURCE: A word to rioting Muslims by Pat Condell

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.


    “All anyone needs to know about the Middle East conflict is that: the Jews want peace and the Arabs don’t, because the Arabs hate Jews for religious reasons and they want them dead. Politics and territory are just excuses.”


    “The relentless focus solely on Israel that ignores the world’s real human rights violators tells us that this [BDS] is an anti-Semitic movement, and if you’re are part of it, then you’re are part of that too. If Israel was a Christian or a Buddhist country, there would not be any BDS campaign, and everyone knows it, just as there isn’t any BDS for Tibet, a country invaded and culturally-raped by the Chinese, but then, the Chinese aren’t Jews. No BDS for the Saudi Arabia for treating women like livestock, because the Saudis aren’t Jews, which is lucky for them, because if they were, they would have to ban themselves from entering their own country. How inconvenient!

    Crude Islamic Jew-hatred has permeated the Middle East conflict from day one, yet its influence is always carefully omitted from all political analysis. Any doctor who diagnosed an illness as ineptly and dishonestly would deserve to be struck-off and prosecuted.

    Palestinian leaders have had several chances for a two-state solution and they always rejected it because they don’t want a two-state solution, and they don’t care about the suffering of their people; they want all Jews out there or dead. The leader of Hezbollah is on record as saying that he won’t be happy until every Jew on earth is dead. Once you realize that this is the position, then whatever you think of Israeli security measures, your moral standpoint has to change. We know that if the Arabs would lay down their weapons, they could have peace and prosperity for all their people, and the Israelis would not need to build barriers or do anything else the world disapproves of; they could simply get on with what they do best; technological innovation, making life better for all of us, including Arabs.

    One the other hand, we know that if the Israelis were to lay down their weapons, they would be massacred, men women and children alike. The Arabs are even happy to put their own children in the firing line to attack Jews, they hate them so much, and this hatred comes directly from their religion.”

    SOURCE: Why I support Israel by Pat Condell

    Pat Condell is an atheist who was born in Ireland around 1950 CE and raised in England as a Roman Catholic and educated in Church of England schools.

  7. Egyptian Islamic clerics Sheik Said Al-‘Afani and Sheik Muhammad Abd Al-Salam appeared on Egytian Al-Rahma TV on 2009 January 17.

    This is what they said:


    “(The Jews) are the accursed people, who incurred the wrath of Allah.
    They are the offspring of snakes and vipers, the slayers of our Prophet Muhammad, whose death was a consequence of his being poisoned by a Jewish woman.

    We should know that the Jews are the slayer of all the prophets.
    They killed the prophet Yahya (John the Baptist) and the prophet Zakariya.
    The slaughtered the righteous prophet Yahya, and they presented his head as a gift to an Israelite prostitute. Our hatred of them [the Jews] is purely on religious grounds, and not because of the pure, sacred land, which was blessed by Allah, or because of Gaza…

    Not only because of Gaza, not only because of [the] al-Aqsa [mosque] and so on.

    We hate them [the Jews], first and foremost, because of their enmity towards Allah, and because they slayed our prophets. Let me clarify that it is our duty to hate them, as part of our faith.”


    “Right [correct]. People have become confused about this, some think that it is a territorial or national issue, or that it has to do with the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque; but the issue is much broader, it is a matter of faith. We are obligated to hate them because they are a murderous people, and the enemies of all that is good and of Islam.”

    SOURCE: Why Muslims hate Israel?
    (a pricelessly honest 1.5 minute video from MEMRI TV)

  8. Speech Exposes UN’s Hatred of Israel & Jews:
    speaker: Anne Bayefsky * date: 2014 September 8

  9. The United Nations vs. Israel by Anne Bayefsky
    The United Nations is obsessed with one country’s human
    rights record, and it’s not North Korea, Iran or Syria.

  10. “The United Nations does not want to deal with anti-Semitism because the organization would be exposed as the global platform for anti-Semitism.”
    SOURCE: The UN’s Jewish Problem by Anne Bayefsky

  11. Eradicating the Right to Self-Defense by Anne Bayefsky

    Learn how the International Court of Justice (the U.N.’s legal branch) has decreed new rules which redefine the right of self-defense, in a way which is custom-tailored to make it illegal for Israel to defend itself against radical Islamic terrorists.

  12. It appears Mr. Cohen has hijacked your comment section.

  13. Ironically, it may have been the inaction of a white, Jewish, Orthodox slumlord that lead to Freddie Gray Jr.’s mental condition.

    PS Mr. Cohen, are you trying to create more anti-semites? Go find your own soapbox.

  14. Mr Cohen, why don’t you start your own website/blog if all you want to do is post links

  15. Unbelievable. First, stop repeating this nonsense about the Mayor’s statement. She was saying that in giving people space to protest an unfortunate side effect was that there was space to destroy. Even Rabbi Menken at Cross Currents acknowledged that.

    Second, all these problems in the black community that you identify… where do you think they stem from?? Isn’t it obvious that these issues are likely connected with the mistreatment they have received for… oh well let’s see… their entire existence in the country!!! Slavery through the 1800’s, official segregation into the 1960’s. Practically, society is still basically segregated with black and white neighborhoods and black and white schools etc.

    Your argument essentially is that – hey it is a free country and anyone can succeed if they try. First, that is a nice argument for any one individual… but statistically a large number of people are going to be filling low-wage jobs and a smaller number the high-wage ones. And, guess how those odds are stacked when it is white vs. black??

    Second, it’s quite the chutzpah that a country that actively engineered discrimination for like 200 years then turns around and tells blacks… sorry we cannot help you… cuz we are right-wing conservatives who believe in small government. Where was that small-government philosophy when slave laws and segregation laws were in place. When it comes to helping the black community we believe in small government… when it comes to hurting them we do not.

    This basically sums up the conservative philosophy in general. Free trade laws that ship jobs overseas – no problem. Laws that help all those unemployed because of free trade – nope we believe in small government! Bailouts for poor people who lost their homes – no way small government! Bailouts for Wall Street – of course – too big to fail!

    • I don’t know who you are nor do I really care. But you and those with similar views to yours have proceeded to ruin this great nation with your silly ignorance and denial of the obvious.

      For the good of the rest of us, Kindly keep your self-hatred between you and your therapist. We don’t need to hear it or see it.

      Rabbi P, your analysis is, as usual, spot on the mark.

  16. Please…. Black president, black attorneys general, black mayors, black police commissioners, black athletes and entertainers – and you’re still living with James Buchanan? Until the 1960s the black family was more stable than were white families – more two parent homes. You seem to deny the existence of a thriving black middle class. Perhaps you resent their existence because it discounts your theory of endemic racism and white guilt.
    Please join the 21st century.
    – RSP

  17. Frankly, I think you are the one denying the existence of the impact of racism again black people.

    • That is precisely ” the soft bigotry of low expectations.” You’re saying they just can’t help themselves. Isn’t that racist?
      – RSP

  18. I think that their poverty is to blame on the loss of manufacturing and other jobs, jobs that went overseas as a result of the USA’s Wall Street mentality (which I’m not judging). The same mentality has resulted in lower worker wages. We can’t all be financiers and app developers. And this has all lead to a downward spiraling societal breakdown in some parts of the country, to be contrasted with the rising affluence of others. I think racism has sneaked in there, perhaps subconsciously, but it has become the back breaking straw in this story.