Capitol Crimes

Capitol Crimes

And while I’m on the subject of a Third World country

Everyone should acknowledge the truth of Chazal’s statement (Avot 3:2) that we should always “pray for the welfare of the government; but for fear of government men would eat each other alive.” It certainly seems that way. When government is perceived as illegitimate and fear of authority dissipates, there is no limit to what mayhem even decent, and certainly indecent, people can perpetrate.

It needs to be underscored that the assault on the Capitol was wrong, despicable, deplorable, and beyond the pale of a civilized society. It does typify what is common in Third World countries. To the extent that President Trump was responsible, he deserves criticism. It doesn’t undo the good that he accomplished in his four years as president, but the leader is responsible for what happens on his watch and especially an assault on the seat of American democracy.

It was inexcusable, which is not to say it was unprecedented. Let’s get real. Democracy is not in danger.

In January 1952, thousands of Israelis surrounded the Knesset to protest the impending negotiations about reparations from Germany. Egged on by an irate Menachem Begin, who urged his supporters to sacrifice their lives along with him, the Knesset chamber filled with tear gas. Lawmakers had to be evacuated. There was pandemonium in the streets. Numerous arrests were made. Democracy in Israel was assumed to be tottering on the brink of collapse. Begin was eventually banned from the Knesset for three months.  The talks with Germany began. There are persistent rumors (OK, I can verify it personally) that democracy in Israel survived.

American democracy will not be aborted by several hundred protesters who briefly occupied the Capitol, and once there, had no plan to actually do anything. It was less a revolution than an empty, pointless, but deadly gesture.

In 1932, tens of thousands of outraged veterans descended on the Capitol and squatted on the grounds. This was the Bonus Army, impoverished former soldiers protesting that their pensions in government bonds would not be payable until 1945. In the nadir of the Depression, they needed the money now. They, too, were deemed a grave threat to democracy, although too decorous to actually enter the Capitol building. Following orders, Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur directed his soldiers to fire live ammunition at the Bonus Army in order to clear the Capitol. They did. Two veterans were killed, and although democracy endured, this violent act probably cost MacArthur a chance at the presidency. His second-in- command, Dwight Eisenhower, fared better.

We should spare ourselves the apocalyptic talk, most (but not all) of which is politically motivated.

The justified condemnations of yesterday’s protest stand in stark contrast to the tolerance, even celebration by many of yesterday’s critics, of the riots, protests, and looting that swept through American cities this past spring and summer and lasted months. Those riots found enormous support especially among those who detest President Trump. It is a curious stance.

Consistency – intellectual and moral – demands that the black supremacist (BLM) riots of the summer of 2020 warrant the same passionate criticism of the Trump supporter riots of 2021. That it didn’t bears some analysis, and sheds light on the real threats to democracy in America.

Many rabbis and Jewish organizations, livid over the assault on the Capitol, were quite sympathetic, even supportive and some quite enthusiastic about the summer’s devastation in urban America. They saw no real problem, and even downplayed and ignored, the targeted attacks on Jewish businesses and synagogues (in Los Angeles, for example) and were very indulgent of the assaults, the homicides, the looting of hundreds of stores, the arson against homes and workplaces, and the chaos that ensued. They even excused the non-wearing of masks and the nonexistence of social distancing at these riots, holding that racial justice is more important than even protecting life from the ravages of Coronavirus. Some even opined that riots and protests were not contagious because…well, because they are just not.

In essence, these leaders, media personalities, activists and politicians all reasoned that political violence for a worthy cause is commendable if the grievance is construed as legitimate. And now they are shocked when another group asserts the same rights. If the black supremacists, Antifa and their allies were permitted to vent when aggrieved by some perceived violation of their rights, it should not be surprising when whites, supremacists and others, also seek to vent when they are aggrieved by some perceived violation of their rights.

What democracy might not survive is a persistent double standard in society. Few of the black supremacist rioters and Antifa looters were arrested, and of those who were, slightly more than none are being prosecuted. Theirs was a just grievance, apparently. But when millions of Americans have probable cause that there was significant fraud in the recent election, the elites determine that such a grievance is not legitimate. That position will clearly not persuade the offended.

Yet, the black supremacists and the white supremacists are mirror images of each other (the common denominator is that both dislike Jews). Blacks and others who feel targeted by the police and recklessly attacked were offended, and took to the streets, occupying large areas of Seattle, Portland and other cities. Washington DC, for all the hand-wringing and pieties heard yesterday, has been a war zone for months. Americans who feel that the government has taken away their freedoms, businesses, jobs, ability to earn a living, closed its schools to their children and saw their champion, President Trump harassed, harangued, and victimized by phony charges since before he took office and now defeated by fraud (so they say), are also offended.

Once political violence is legitimized at one end of the spectrum, the genie is out of the bottle. Let’s face it – political violence often works. Occupy Wall Street was a favorite cause of President Obama. The summer’s riots changed the election dynamic, was perceived as weakening Donald Trump, and encouraged and (to an extent) funded by Democrats and other left wingers. (Recall, for one example, Amy Klobuchar raising money to bail out rioters.) Arab terror weakened Israel sufficiently that it provoked the disastrous Oslo Accords. Of course, too much violence fails; thus the 2002 war in Israel against the terror infrastructure. Riots in the wrong place at the wrong time (like the Capitol riots) dishearten and disgust even those supportive of the cause. Besides being wrong and criminal, they are also counterproductive. The double standard, though, “violence for thee but not for me,” must surely grate on the protesters.

It is reasonable and proper to denounce political violence as a tool for everyone, and to prosecute anyone who engages in it. Anyone. Period. That should be obvious and those who properly wish to condemn yesterday’s riots while giving a pass to previous riots are misguided and pursuing an agenda. Too many people are afraid to accept this simple reality, and even now hide behind the contention that the Capitol riots are somehow different (because of venue?) and should not be compared to other political violence. That is wrong and short-sighted.

The more serious problem evinced by all these riots is the utter disconnect in America between the common people and the ruling class. It is felt both by the black supremacists (media darlings) and many white Americans (media villains). That will not be easy to heal. The polarization in society is that profound and the mutual contempt of both sides for each other stunning.  Each side points to the extremists in the other side and denies the existence of their own. There is no Democrat presently in a leadership position who has the slightest interest in outreach, another Obama legacy. The latest, frivolous impeachment talk, with Trump’s term ending in less than two weeks, demonstrates that what they seek is blood, not harmony. The “threat” to American democracy of the Capitol crimes will grow in the retelling, from riots to insurrection to a coup attempt, and all for a disgraceful scene whose purpose and objectives remain murky. Did the rioters really think Congress would stop tallying the electoral votes? Hard to believe.

What should Trump have done? I doubt that he even suspected that any of his supporters would invade the Capitol. He should have addressed the nation, as follows: “I feel cheated, robbed of an election that I won by all metrics. But no legal recourse has succeeded. I don’t concede but accept the conclusion and will leave office on January 20.” It would be a different world had he said this yesterday, instead of the speech that he gave, which was a terrible miscalculation.

He is best off not attending the inauguration. It would be a gigantic distraction. Neither President Adams did, so did they loathe their successors (Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, respectively). And he completely destroyed his quixotic quest for another term in 2024, and just as well.

What is the way forward?  It is not simple. The world has yet to realize the extent of the damage to individuals, families and society of the social media platforms that bring out the worst in people and are addictive. It encourages spontaneous outbursts instead of sagacious deliberations. That has to change.

Fighting for a lost cause is futile and vain; the only lost cause that was ever worth fighting was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The challenge to the Electoral College vote was such a lost cause not worth fighting, even if the primary request for a bi-partisan commission on election integrity is prudent. Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell were wonderful – statesmanlike and forceful – and putting country over party loyalty. Americans could use more of that, less demonizing of the other side, and an end to the political zero sum game that the parties have played for decades.

One indication will be whether yesterday’s appalling acts are seen as aberrations that reflect poorly on the participants and no one else, or are used as a club with which to pound all Republicans for the foreseeable future. I suspect I know the answer to that question.

Telling You What to Do

     “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
― Aristotle, Metaphysics

      A colleague of mine posted on the internet the moving clip of Jonathan Pollard arriving in Israel this week, kissing the ground and being greeted by Prime Minister Netanyahu. For his efforts, the rabbi was “unfriended” (or whatever the term is) by a number of people who, presumably, do not like Pollard, his arrival in Israel, the clip or the prime minister.

      Personally, I believe Pollard is a hero of Israel, placed in an impossible circumstance in which he chose the self-sacrificial route of risking his freedom in order to save Jewish lives. And I understand (without embracing) the counterargument that he endangered Jewish liberties in America. Many Jews feared that his espionage raised the specter of the “dual loyalty” charge against all American Jews, which, ultimately, is a comment on the level of insecurity of Jews in America. This is a recurrent pattern in Jewish history. Many Jews opposed Zionism, the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of the State of Israel because of the fear of the “dual loyalty” indictment.

Captured spies in the recent past who were Chinese-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Christian-Americans and the like did not seem to evoke the same universal fears among their compatriots. A major objective of spy craft is to turn citizens against their own country, and it is certainly despicable when the spying country is an enemy of the host country (unlike the Pollard case, in which he was charged with spying for an ally). There have been Russian Jews in Israel who spied for Russia, as there have been American-Israelis who spied for America. I don’t doubt that Israel has recruited numerous Iranians to spy against that evil regime on Israel’s behalf.

      Of course it was a crime (do not do it yourselves) but when lives are in danger, it takes a special person to risk everything to save those lives. Not everyone could or should do it, but Pollard’s valor always impressed me more than most of his critics’ poltroonery. If we ask in our daily prayers that God should not test us, this would be one test worth avoiding.

     Nevertheless, the point here is my inability to understand why the rabbi’s post should lead a tiny but intolerant band to cancel him, as if a mere post renders his Torah unworthy of study and disqualifies him as a human being. Why couldn’t they just “entertain [the] thought without accepting it”? Not to mention rejoice in the arrival of a Jew in Israel.

     That they and so many others can’t is one of the more execrable features of modern life, and itself engendered an interesting discussion in recent months in the rabbinic world. Three sides formed during the recent presidential election. There were rabbis who averred that they openly support the Democrat or openly support the Republican, and rabbis who made a virtue out of non-partisanship and taking no public position.

      I found myself in the second group, as you might have guessed. I am still mystified by the first group but respect their opinion – at least until President* Biden demonstrates hostility to Jews and Israel, and then they will be held to account. I struggle to understand the third group – the ones who took no public position.

      In theory, their argument is plausible. In such a polarized environment, taking sides could have the potential of alienating congregants on the “other” side. Teaching Torah is more important than who wins or loses a presidential election. Rabbis should not be dictating to free citizens how they should vote. It is plausible.

      Here is why I don’t accept it. The straw man is this notion of “telling people how to vote.” I have never told anyone how to vote; I only told them for whom I’m voting when I was asked. And it would certainly be inappropriate and an abuse of the sanctity of the shul for a rabbi to endorse a candidate from the pulpit. It is not that there are legal issues (black pastors have been doing this in churches for generations); it is rather that the shul is the place of Tefila and Torah, and introducing sordid politics into the shul itself is demeaning. Had I been active in the American rabbinate, it would have been unthinkable that I would have mentioned the political wars on the High Holidays. I did preach in Israel, and there such a notion is even more preposterous.

Nevertheless, if important enough, the rabbi can make his opinions known in other forums, which is far removed from “telling people how to vote” and obviously not seeking vengeance against those who vote otherwise. I don’t know how people vote nor are they obligated to inform me or to accept my opinion on these matters. I can only share my judgment, my application of Jewish values to current events, my analysis of what is good or bad for Israel and America – and then the ballot (in many but not all states) is free, fair and secret. That is how it should be.

      On several occasions I have noted one of the paradoxes of Modern Orthodox Jewry. When I express my opinion on a certain political issue, detractors say “who is he to tell me what to do?” But when I give a psak, a definitive halachic ruling, the detractor’s response is “well, that’s his opinion.” They have it backwards!

      A psak is a psak, not an opinion, and must be heeded. Even then, I would never characterize a psak as “telling people what to do,” which sounds abrasive. (There is a subset of Modern Orthodoxy in which a psak is also just an opinion, and they reserve the right to search for a more suitable opinion that coincides with what they wanted to do all along; it’s a small subset.) An opinion is just that, an opinion, and one can agree or disagree. If I announce to the world that I am a Yankees fan or a Mets fan, I am not demanding that all Jews follow suit. Such is an opinion, or a preference. Learning the difference between a psak and an opinion is a prerequisite to understanding and learning anything from a rabbi. And if it is purely an opinion, well, educated people should be able to “entertain a thought without accepting it.” Maybe they will re-think their opinion. Maybe they will find logical flaws in the rabbi’s argument and have their own opinion confirmed. Maybe they will even begin a discussion with the rabbi, exchange ideas and learn from each other. Wouldn’t that be something? The echo chamber can become quite tedious, although these days it is never lonely. Maybe rabbis can even demonstrate to all others that it is possible to disagree without becoming disagreeable, without making personal what is essentially political.

      I have always believed that rabbis should never shy away from addressing the major, even controversial, issues of the day. To do so makes the rabbinate appear irrelevant and disengaged from what is most on people’s minds at any particular juncture. That is not to say that every sermon – or, indeed, any sermon – must simply be an account of the week’s headlines with a cute spin from the sedra. That would be very provincial and a waste of time. What it does mean is that the good rabbi knows what is on people’s minds – fears, issues, concerns, insecurities – and tackles them directly with the wisdom of Torah and Chazal.

      Decades ago, newly married and still a civilian, I remember one Shabbat in particular when, on the previous day, a horrific terrorist attack had taken place in Israel in which Jews were murdered. The rabbi chose to speak that morning on the topic of toothpaste on Shabbat, important in its own right but something that left the congregants quite deflated.

      To make a virtue out of non-partisanship is as short-sighted as to make a virtue out of the rank partisanship that now afflicts America, in which Republicans and Democrats take turns (investigations, impeachments, the propriety of confirming Supreme Court Justices in the last year of an administration, challenging the Electoral College results, etc.) crassly switching sides in each argument without even a pretense of integrity, a smidgeon of sincerity or the faint memory of their previous positions.

     What is even more troubling is how this pungent partisanship forces partisan Jews to criticize Israel in order to rationalize their support of their party favorite. For example, Jews who now coalesce around the Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock, an obvious Jew-hater and Israel-basher by any reasonable definition, excuse his hostility and cover up his sins, should take a good look in the mirror. It is high time for an identity check. The same goes in spades for Jewish politicians (all Democrats) who look the other way at anti-Jewish statements made by their teammates that would feign apoplexy over if made by a Republican.

     That being said, from a rabbinical perspective much depends on personality and goals. There is a rabbinic model in which the status of toothpaste on Shabbat is an inescapable and weekly reality that is more meaningful and unchanging. It will impact people’s lives, certainly in the short term. Those rabbis eschew all news as immaterial to their primary focus, and Jews have the right to choose those rabbis to guide them. It is a legitimate approach even if it creates a leadership void, as reaction to public events is usually limited to the expression of platitudes.

     It is harder to justify that approach in the modern world, and rather than display an intense focus on Torah it can also result from an unwillingness to take sides, make anyone unhappy, or a dearth of knowledge. Then it panders to the spirit of intolerance rampant in society and is tantamount to self-censorship.

Teaching is about sharing ideas and values, and shaping minds, which is wholly different than telling people what to do. The latter is coercion, typical of tyrannies, and not teaching at all. It also convinces no one of anything.

      I would rather stand with Aristotle, and show respect to the educated mind that can endure listening to a contrary opinion, and even entertaining an idea without accepting it.

     Jews, and the world, could use a few more educated minds.

Rope-a-Trope

   On the road the other day, I drove across a tiny body of water that bore a strange name, Jewfish Creek, which is not far from the even tinier municipality of Jewfish in the Key Largo district. I didn’t know whether or not I should take offense at such a name, which probably means that I should not. Of course, taking umbrage at the faintest slight is a cottage industry today but I am extremely difficult to offend. It turns out that some people did complain about the name “Jewfish” in the recent past, and the townspeople could not care less and voted not change it. Jews are not Redskins or Indians, much less Chiefs or Braves, the former sports teams now searching for new names and the latter two on the chopping block as well.

    To add insult to injury, some trace the etymology to the fact that this Jewfish, which is a saltwater fish that can grow to be quite huge, is kosher and was widely consumed by the region’s Jews; hence the name. But the Fisheries Society, sensitive to this slippery slur, two decades ago stopped using the term “Jewfish” and instead reclassified it by its scientific name – the Atlantic Goliath Grouper. So not only did they drop the term “Jewfish” but also they renamed this fish for one of the great villains in Jewish history. Now that is an insult. At least the residents of Jewfish and its adjacent creek stuck to their harpoons.

     There are people who possess very keen antennae that pick up signals of abuse that most normal people do not. They have very low thresholds for affront and their main interest is not rectitude but power. The shortest route to power is through intimidation, and particularly by controlling the thoughts and words of others. That is why the variety of groups that perceive themselves as victims – American Indians, blacks, women, homosexuals, transgenders, etc. –  are always modifying the terms by which they prefer to be referred. Indeed, they categorize all prior references as slurs and try to stifle their use, except, oddly, among themselves, where they liberally use words that are verboten to all others. Again, that is an attempt at power and control, not sensitivity and morality.

     The latest addition to this genre is the repeated repudiation of so-called “anti-Semitic tropes,” words or phrases that are supposedly inherently hostile to Jews and brand practitioners as borderline Jew haters. Mentioning things like the Jewish vote, money, influence, media, power, and control, or using “Zionist” as a substitute for Jew, and literally dozens of other phrases, presumably send “dog whistles” to hate-filled ears and can provoke overt violence against Jews. For sure, some of these phrases may and often are used by Jew haters who are trying to instigate even more Jew hatred. The problem, then, is not with the words but with the people, and even if they wouldn’t sound these whistles, their designation as Jew haters would be accurate. Their malevolence is not in their mouths but in their hearts.

     The bigger problem is that the accusation of “anti-Semitic tropes” is frequently used against people who have shown themselves to be quite friendly to Jews (Donald Trump, Boris Johnson) and to defend self-hating Jews (like the leftist George Soros) from any criticism. Thus, when the deeds of a non-Jew are objectively favorable to Jews but the individual is otherwise reviled by left-wing Jews and others, the search for “tropes” is pursued madly and always found. Conversely, when the deeds of a left-wing Jew are especially harmful to Jews, Israel, the United States and the rest of the West, his leftist allies (often Jews themselves) will label any criticism of this individual as trafficking in “anti-Semitic tropes.” It also becomes a convenient but vacuous tool to preclude any criticism of Jews for anything except being too proudly Jewish. It comes out that this cliché of the “anti-Semitic tropes” is a club to use against good non-Jews and a shield to use on behalf of bad Jews. We are better than that.

     There is real hatred in the world, even real Jew hatred, but we do ourselves (and truth) a disservice by flinging about these accusations recklessly. To accuse friendly people whose actions reflect support and amity for Jews, but whose past words are excavated and scrutinized for hints, allusions, insinuations or just ambiguities that might trouble some Jew somewhere, is especially churlish. This, too, is about power and control, not Jewish self-defense or verbal kindness. Saying that Jews are “smart” is a compliment (I wish it were universally true!), not a blood libel, and should not be construed as a blood libel. Those were false, repugnant, libelous – and deadly.

     We should be fearless in labeling Holocaust denial as Jew hatred, not a trope, but genuine Jew hatred. We should be fearless in labeling “anti-Zionism” as Jew hatred, not a trope, but genuine Jew hatred. Those who murder us, deny it happened and wish for it to happen again are Jew haters. Those who advocate that Jews, alone among the peoples of the earth, have no national rights are Jew haters. And this applies also to Jews who profess these malevolent views. These are not tropes or stereotypes but illegitimate expressions of contempt for Jews. They deserve all the opprobrium we can muster and send their way. They are not to be confused with people who send unconscious signals that are picked up by activists with a mission and a gripe.

     If it seems like the same people who are apprehensive about “anti-Semitic tropes” are also vexed by team names like Indians and Redskins, it is because they are the same people. They revel in umbrage, and no name is safe. If “Indians” has to go, why not “Cowboys”? “Yankees” surely offends southerners, “Red Sox” and “Reds” those who suffered under Communism, “Angels” and “Devils” cancel out each other, and the mere mention of “Knicks” is irritating to anyone who likes basketball. And there are many more such transgressions.

     What is masquerading as sensitivity is actually the toll road to tyranny. The activists should relax a little, get a sense of humor and find worthier causes to occupy their time. The rest of us should just keep speaking like we want to speak as long as we mean no offense by it and respect all people as individuals.

    And if the Indians and Redskins are looking for new team names, as far as I am concerned they could do worse than to call themselves the “Jewfish.”

Third World

      I have been fortunate to visit dozens of countries on almost every continent on this planet, and the standard advisory when visiting any country that is part of the third world is: “don’t drink the water.” Too often the water is contaminated, unclean, unfiltered or insufficiently so, or just doesn’t rest well in a first world stomach. Tourists live off bottled water and hotels routinely provide bottled water (the good ones, for free) in every room. It is the price of visiting these countries and enjoying their other, non-potable, attractions.

     Then I realized that for many years most people I know do not drink the water in New Jersey or many other places in the United States. That is why the bottled water business is a $7,000,000,000 (that’s billion) industry in America. It might not be a lot compared to other industries –it is half of what was spent on the 2020 presidential election and a third of what Americans spend on chocolate – but it means that people would rather pay good money, billions of dollars, for something that they can get for free right from the tap. There are very few, if any, similar choices made by a consumer.

     What about infrastructure? It is not uncommon in the Third World to travel on potholed roads, rundown highways, and transit systems that are crowded and inefficient (although European trains are a marvel of efficiency and exactitude). Bridges and tunnels are often in disrepair and collapses are not unknown. Railroad tracks always seem to be on their last legs.

     Is the United States really that different? The subways in many cities compare unfavorably with the third world. Highways, bridges and tunnels are in such need of upgrade and modernization that it is a perennial promise by the politicians to spend hundreds of billions to do it, and never do. That little seems to be done is not only because politicians need something to promise in the future and the union demands grossly inflate the cost of any project but mainly because until anything breaks down completely, why fix it? That money can be spent elsewhere on something new and shiny.

     Likewise, the urban areas in third world countries are teeming with slums, old buildings and neighborhoods, and, too often, garbage and rubbish in the streets. These areas abound with dysfunctional families, aimless children, and poor educational frameworks. While the American poor have standards of living that far exceed that of the third world poor, the rest of the description is far too accurate. A slum is a slum wherever it is, and some slums seem to exist permanently. The inner cities wherever they are located remain places of high crime (and misdemeanors), homelessness, social maladies and disorders that seem to defy resolution. In the US as in the third world, there are areas of great opulence that are a short ride from places of great poverty and deprivation. The only difference is that the US has many more places of great opulence than one would find in the third world.

     What else characterizes a third world country? Typically, one finds debilitated social and political systems and even the latter is often tenuously held together by a strong man. In the third world, one expect to see lawlessness, mobs and riots in the streets, with the homes and businesses of the successful looted by the unsuccessful and embittered. One would expect the commission of crimes that will or won’t be prosecuted based on the personal whims of the prosecutor. One expects the judiciary to be so corrupt that it places its political predilections over the rule of law. Justice itself is not just illusory but it is altogether capricious, a veritable gamble as to who wins and who loses. The mob drives disfavored politicians from office and places its favorites into office. The government just prints money and distributes it in order to placate the people, oblivious to the fact that soon that money will be worth less and less.

     In the third world, it is quite common that the wealthy people are those who cozy up to government power brokers. Cronyism is rampant, sweetheart deals, contracts and monopolies are the norm, and politicians, oligarchs and their media acolytes are often interchangeable. There is a revolving door in which jobs and perks are exchanged regularly. The media, controlled by the elites, suppresses dissent, breaks and cancels its enemies, and sets the agenda for the society. Cabals in the establishment, usually military or intelligence, plot from within and attempt to overthrow any leader who does not conform to their wishes. Dissidents are cast out of civil society unless they do penance, often embracing views they previously found repugnant in order to regain entry into the world of the elites, and having to pay a premium price to do so. The crimes of the disfavored lead to their excision and incarceration while the crimes of the elites are overlooked, minimized or covered up. The rich and powerful get away with it.

     Well, how well does that describe modern America? Almost perfectly. The mobs and rioters intimidated and continue to intimidate decent people. A good percentage of Biden voters did so out of fear that the streets would explode and burn (again) if Biden lost. These threats were not subtle in the least. Cities across America deployed their security agents in force on Election Day lest the mob find the results distasteful. (As a general rule, Republicans don’t burn down buildings or businesses. Why would they? They own the buildings and businesses.) In many cities, property crimes, assaults and trespassing committed by the mobsters were not prosecuted. Literally, people committed crimes by the thousands and got away with it only because their politics of the rioters and the prosecutors corresponded. Some rioters were arrested, released without bail, and then arrested again for more crimes, and released again. Black supremacists are disgracefully hailed even as white supremacists are justifiably castigated.

     In New York City, police solve crimes at a rate below 30%, which is actually astounding. Criminals just get away with it, and the average citizen does not realize the extent to which they get away with it. Dissidents on moral issues have their religious liberties threatened and curtailed, even as the margin of victory in the Supreme Court (their last protection) is extremely narrow. Congress is as dysfunctional as any third world parliament, with the only saving grace is that Congressmen have not yet come to blows on the floor of the House or Senate, something quite common in the third world. Elements within the CIA and FBI plotted against a sitting president, and few if any will be brought to justice. Money is printed and distributed by the trillions, which is not to say it is fairly or equitably distributed, or distributed to those who need it most rather than to the oligarchs and political cronies of the powerful.

      And what better characterizes a third world country than election fraud? It is almost synonymous with the third world, as is the weaselly, politician/media cliché repeatedly uttered of “no evidence of widespread fraud.” Left open is why there should be any fraud at all, as well as a precise definition of “widespread.” Note this well: if 99 ballots out of 100 are legitimate, and 1 out of 100 is bogus, then most people would not construe that as “widespread” fraud. After all, it is only 1% of the vote. Yet, in the three key states of Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan, Biden defeated Trump by less than 1% of the vote. Widespread? Hardly. Determinative? Absolutely. And if we expand the definition of “no evidence of widespread fraud” to 3% of the vote (meaning that the election was 97% honest) then crunch the numbers and Trump won a smashing victory. I accept the outcome, but please do not insult our intelligence with the vapid banality of “no widespread fraud.” And at least acknowledge as well the oddity that all accusations of fraud went in one direction, not both.

      It is sad that the United States, to too great an extent, is becoming a third world country in all the aspects that define a third world country. The great irony is that, notwithstanding this political and moral collapse, only the United States could have produced the Coronavirus vaccine in such record time, and only the United States has the material and constitutional heft to lead the world, to be an example for other nations, and to fight the evil that persists in the world especially in countries antagonized by the American ethos. The United States has many places of astonishing beauty and prosperity, and successful people have long segregated themselves into communities that are gated, literally or figuratively. But Americans can also easily be fooled by the glitz, the glamour, the trappings of modernity and technology, and the soothing sounds of social media that indulge the worst facets of our nature and few of the positive ones. America is filled with soporific distractions, the bread and circuses of the Romans that lulled people into thinking that all is good and getting better even as every feature of civil society was breaking down.

      As Romans could tell you, nothing lasts forever. It is easy to get complacent, and easier, and worse, to deny what is happening in front of us because the consequences are too unpleasant to consider. “All are considered blind until G-d opens their eyes,” especially diehard partisans. Those who notice this should take it to heart, ignore the mindless cheerleading and empty platitudes, and draw the appropriate conclusions.