I have a friend whose politics are different than mine. My friend also happens to be Jewish, like me. I’ll call him Sam. When Sam learned about Ronald Lauder’s $25 million donation to fight anti-semitism he was delighted to share that information with other Jewish friends. Unfortunately, Sam mentioned that he heard this news on a program called Fox and Friends.
He was promptly and quite severely castigated for watching (and daring to quote) Fox News. Sam told me that the only word that can describe their reaction is hatred. Pure and unadulterated hatred. They skipped right over the piece of news that he shared, and began to directly attack him and the news source that he was quoting.
I will freely admit that I don’t watch Fox news. I also don’t watch CNN, or MSNBC. I read a couple of newspapers, most notably the New York Times and the Washington Post, and consume a lot of news from Jewish publications.
But I have watched what’s happening on Facebook, which I use primarily to keep track of birthdays, follow the minutia of distant friends’ lives, and post my blog in the hopes that people will read what I have to say.
And I am dismayed that Facebook has become a cesspool of hatred. The vitriol and unadulterated hatred from both the left and right is frightening.
My politics tend to be left leaning, so I witness the ugliness from the left more than from the right. I have seen people post “if you voted for Trump, tell me so I can unfriend you.” I have seen ugly caricatures. I have seen name-calling, ridicule, disdain, and outright hatred for not just Trump but everyone who supports him.
I have made it my policy to not discuss individual politicians, but rather, talk about behaviors and issues. I worry about lies told by those at the very top, and at the very bottom. I worry about a nation that cares about a few vaping deaths but not the nearly 200 people who have died by gun violence in this year alone, a year that is only a couple of days old. I worry about a nation that seems to have lost its moral compass.
And what worries me most deeply is the divisiveness and hatred that has invaded our society at all levels, and on all sides of every debate. We are no longer willing to listen to each other. We don’t want to understand another’s viewpoint. And it seems we will not compromise on anything.
Here’s my truth. The world is not yes and no, this and that, us and them. The world is complicated. Humans are complicated.
When we oversimplify, refuse to understand subtleties and shades of meaning, we dehumanize the other person and ourselves. No person is only a Jew, only a Muslim, only a politician, only a Republican or Democrat.
There is no room for hatred, for Othering another person. Judaism teaches that we are ALL made in God’s image, each with the ability to experience and embody the attributes of the Divine. In today’s political and societal climate, the attributes of compassion, understanding, and kindness must prevail.