Monday, February 20, 2012

Why Do They Hate the President?

An article in the Forward asks this question. But I am not sure it really answers it. I have to wonder... is it racism? Is the reason that so many right wing Orthodox Jews hate the President is because he is black?

The quick answer is no. I am absolutely certain that if anyone were to ask one these Obama haters why they hate him so much they would be quick to point out his liberal social policies and his somewhat cool relationship with the Jewish state including his over-emphasis Israel’s settlements policy as an obstacle to peace. These are indeed legitimate reasons to oppose him and vote against him in the next election - if (and I emphasize the word if) the opposing candidate is more favorable to one’s own political position.

First let me say that by no means do I mean to say that all Orthodox Jews are racist. I am sure that most Orthodox Jews are not. But enough seem to be - at least subliminally - to make it an issue.

What is troubling to me is the vehemence I often see in those who oppose him. I wonder if there isn’t some latent racism in that. I’m sure that they would be just as quick to deny it. They would point to their support of someone like former Presidential candidate Herman Cain – who is black - as proof that this has nothing to do with skin color. Or they would point to their equal antipathy toward former President Carter who is white. They would probably consider it an insult to even suggest that racism has anything to do with it.

But then why the hatred? Some of it so visceral - you would think he was the devil incarnate!

I am willing to give those who deny there is any anti black feeling involved the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they do not have a racist bone in their body. Nevertheless it makes no sense to hate a man that - if looked at with the slightest bit of objectivity - is a good man with good intentions.

If one examines his policy with respect to Israel it may generate opposition. But it does not warrant the anger that accompanies some of those who are opposed to him. If one would only look at it with an unjaundiced eye, one would see that his policies with respect to Israel are not all that black and white. As I have often pointed out in the past the level of military cooperation between the United States and Israel has never been greater than it is now under this President. And he has expressed his resolve that the relationship between the two countries is unbreakable.

His liberal policies are not all anti Torah either. For example his support for abortion rights is the correct one – even though there is opposition from right wing religious organizations like Agudah. Abortion is not automatically forbidden to Jews. We do not consider it murder. Although it is against Halacha to abort a fetus for no reason, there are many instances when it is not only permissible but a Halachic requirement do have an abortion.

I have always felt that the procedure should be legal and that we ought to let individuals make their own decisions based on their own religious beliefs. No one is forced to have an abortion. A Jewish woman should not have to worry about getting an abortion if it is required and the procedure were to become illegal. I therefore disagree with the Agudah and instead agree with the President. Judaism is neither politically liberal nor politically conservative. Although in my view it tends to be more often conservative than not. But that is beside the point.

What about about other social issues? Well I tend to disagree with him on most of them. Like gay marriage for example. I oppose it. Not going into why here.

What about family values? Is he a moral man? I happen to believe that President is not only a moral man but a role model for family values. He does not cheat on his wife, has been married to the same woman for many years, has great children whose parents (the President and First Lady) who have raised well - despite the enormous pressure of constantly being in the public eye.

How can anyone hate a man like this? No matter how much we may disagree with him? I did not vote for the President last time. And I probably will not this time either. But I do not hate him, I do not think he is an anti Semite. Nor do I think is immoral.

The fact that there is so much anger and hatred of this man by so many Orthodox Jews among both Charedi and in some cases Modern Orthodox Jews is very troubling to me. Despite claims to the contrary and the ‘proofs’ cited above that show that the hatred is not racist, I am unconvinced.

I’m not saying that the racism is of the KKK variety. I do not believe that anyone wishes the President or his family any harm. But I do think it may be what former President Bush called ‘soft bigotry’. It may be the case that being so opposed to the President for ideological reasons brings racism out of the closet. It may even be subconscious. They may not even be aware it’s there. But I think it might just be.

That kind of hatred has no other explanation. It also explains why one can support a Herman Cain. His conservative political ideology and his very pro Israel stance keeps that bigotry subliminal and under check. When it comes to having a visceral hatred of former President Carter - that is understandable on its own merit. Carter’s antipathy to Israel makes the President look like Ben Gurion by comparison.

I think anyone with a visceral hatred of the President ought to step back, take a deep breath, and re-examine his own motives to see if there isn’t indeed some subconscious racism involved in all the venom that comes out of their mouths.

I am not an ‘anybody but Obama’ person. What does this mean for the next election? I am inclined to vote for those candidates who express the most positive views with respect to Israel. And for those whose own views are more in line with my religious values. And for those whose policies will most protect America from all enemies foreign and domestic. And for those that will work to maintain American leadership as the most powerful nation in the world. And for those whose polices will be the most conducive to prosperity.

With that in mind - the current field of Republican Presidential candidates leaves me uninspired. Who will I support? You never know. It might even be the President.