Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Roseanne, Trump, Racism, and Teshuva

Roseanne Barr (Jerusalem Post)
I have to admit that I never liked Jewish comedienne Roseanne Barr. I did not particularly enjoy her humor. So when I heard that her old TV series that first aired some 30 years ago was being resurrected - I could not have cared less and thought it would be canceled after the first episode.

But I was wrong. Her show was a hit - the number one comedy on TV! I got a kick out of the fact that her character on the show was pro Trump (as is Roseanne in real life). I wondered why that was the case since Trump is so hated by the mainstream media and virtually everyone in the entertainment industry? Perhaps the public is not as easily influenced by them as I thought.

Just to be clear (again) I have not changed my mind about Trump as a human being. I still think his behavior and his rhetoric (especially when he tweets) is a disaster for our country. But I also believe that – with the exception of his terrible tariff policy - he has done a lot to support and advance my values. For example his pro business tax policies resulting in a booming economy and the lowest unemployment figures in decades; his choice for the Supreme Court; his much improved relationship with Israel;  moving the US embassy to Jerusalem where it belongs; choosing an observant Jew and the most pro Israel US ambassador to Israel in history; choosing the most pro Israel UN ambassador in US history - and much more. But I digress.

The point is that Rosanne’s TV  character was an antidote to the constant bashing of the President by his political opponents, late night comics, and the left leaning mainstream media. They used his bad character as a faรงade to oppose his policies as though any policy he implements must be terrible because he implemented it.

I am so tired of all the Trump bashing. He is the President now. He is in charge. Judge what he has done NOT who he is. While there is discussion by his opponents on the merit of his policies, it is almost always in the context of who proposed it - immediately coloring those policies as terrible before they are even discussed.

This is the problem with the kind of hate Trump has generated in his political opponents. There is a level of incivility by people I do not  ever recall seeing before. 

As was the case with White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family who were refused service in a restaurant because she worked for a President whose polices they didn’t agree with. 

Or the case where Congresswoman Maxine Waters tirade doubled down on that kind of behavior – unrepentantly urging her constituents to do the same thing to any official of the executive branch of government they encounter.

I find both cases to be sickening. I prefer the Michelle Obama approach in dealing with political opponents: ‘When they go low, we go high’. 

Which brings me back to Rosanne. She tweeted a horribly racist comment about Valerie Jarrett – a liberal black politician from Chicago who was part of the Obama administration.  It was so bad that I will not repeat it here. Her number one comedy show was immediately canceled by ABC. They said that they have a zero tolerance policy about racism. Which is the correct approach.

Meanwhile Rosanne is seen as a pariah… the poster child of the kind of racism this country has long ago rejected. 

Normally I would agree with that description because of what she said. But a lot has happened since then which has made me change my mind about her. There is a little thing called doing Teshuva. And I believe that Rosanne has done exactly that. From the Jerusalem Post
In an emotional and tearful recorded interview largely focused on Jewish and Torah values, Roseanne Barr expressed deep remorse and regret for tweeting against former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett... 
“I’m a lot of things, a loud mouth and all that stuff. But I’m not stupid for God’s sake. I never would have wittingly call any black person and say they are a monkey...
Barr told Boteach that she recognized her mistake and was not looking to make any excuses for what she did. “I don’t excuse it. I horribly regret it,” she said. “I lost everything, and I regretted it before I lost everything. And I said to God, ‘I am willing to accept whatever consequences this brings because I know I’ve done wrong. I’m going to accept what the consequences are, and I do, and I have. But they don’t ever stop. They don’t accept my apology, or explanation. And I’ve made myself a hate magnet. And as a Jew, it’s just horrible. It’s horrible.”
“I ask people if you look at my tweet don’t defend me. I’ve done something egregious and I don’t want to be defended. I don’t want to get anymore racism going from what I did, I don’t want that. I don’t want to be defended,” she said later.
Drawing on Maimonides’s three stages of teshuva – Hebrew for repentance - Barr said that her apology was not just about repentance but also included deep remorse. 
“The point is to feel remorse in your heart because that’s what unplugs your heart. You have to feel remorse, not just repentance. That’s just a step towards feeling remorse. And when you feel remorse you have to follow it with recompense,” she said. “You have to take an action in the world, whether it’s through money or other things, to correct your sin. After your heart is unfrozen and after it stops being broken from the pain you caused others, you stop being a robot and you gotta' come back to God. So it’s remorse, and I definitely feel remorse.”
In the interview, Barr revealed that she had tried to obtain Jarrett’s phone number to personally call her and apologize. She also said that before ABC hired her she told them that she would not stop defending Israel, despite the controversy her positions might cause. 
I recall reading about Rosanne’s turn towards a more meaningful Jewish life and her belief in the values of the Torah. I was surprised - but happy to see that. She may very well be on a road to full observance someday. Be that as it may, I cannot find it in my heart to vilify her any more. She made a horrible mistake for which she apologized publicly and tried to apologize privately. She has asked people not to defend her and hasn’t even asked to get her show back. A show that would have been worth millions of dollars to her.

I believe she deserves a second chance. She should no longer be shunned and considered a pariah. She is doing Teshuva to the best of her ability. Everyone deserves a second chance. Comedienne Samatha Bee’s horrible profanity about Ivanka Trump has not prevented her from getting a second chance after she publicly apologized. Rosanne deserves no less. I agree with Chicago Jewish News editor Joseph Aaron – a dyed in the wool anti Trump liberal observant Jew who said the same thing in his editorial a couple of weeks ago 
Yes, even Roseanne deserves compassion and to be forgiven. Especially by Jews, though my guess is Jews will be the last to forgive since they have to prove how pure they are, wear their condemnation of her as a badge of honor proving how not racist they are, which they have decided is more important than showing that as Jews we forgive each other, yes, expect a person to do tshuva, but when they do, yes we do forgive just as we want G-d to forgive us when we transgress.
Why I feel so bad for Roseanne is not only that she so quickly paid such a horrible price for typing a few horrible words in the middle of the night on a phone, but because there are a lot of Jews out there saying what to me are far uglier words and suffering no consequences and seeing no reason at all to apologize, indeed feel noble about their attitude.
I don’t often agree with Joe Aaron. But this time I do. And all I can add is, ‘Well said’!