Monday, October 29, 2018

Zero Tolerance Run Amuck

Judge Ruchie Freier and Megyn Kelly (screenshot)
After what happened in Pittsburgh over Shabbos, I find it difficult to discuss a subject that by comparison seems trivial. The following was the subject I was going discuss yesterday and was written prior to to  overwhelming events that took place on that day. 

As of right now, there is little else I can do except continue to mourn the tragic loss of life at the hands of a mass murdering antisemite. 

In the meantime there are other issues that I feel need to be addressed. So I will proceed with my thoughts on that subject as originally written .

NBC Today Show host Megyn Kelly first gained national attention during a heated exchange with then candidate Donald Trump during a Republican Presidential debate. Orthodox Jews might remember her interview of Chasidic Judge Ruchie Freier.

Kelly is currently involved in a controversy over some racially insensitive remarks she made about wearing blackface makeup as part of a Halloween costume. She defended it if as long as it is not racially motivated.

That showed a complete lack of knowledge about the history of blackface makeup. Blackface was often used in skits by racists in the past to mimic  and ridicule the terrible past stereotypical image of black people as inferior human beings: illiterate buffoons - simpletons that were lazy and afraid of their own shadow. 

Of course Kelly in no way intended her comments to imply anything near that. Black people were nonetheless understandably offended.

Her lack of awareness of that was deemed so offensive by her peers and employers that she was immediately taken off the air. Since then her shows have been re-runs. All this in spite of the fact that she offered a sincere and what seemed to me to be a heartfelt apology after being made to realize just how offensives her comments were.

That did not matter. Her show has been canceled.

This event is proof positive to me that zero tolerance policy in this country in situations like this  have gone too far. Once someone sins in that way, there is no turning back. No matter what the circumstances are. No matter how much sincere regret one shows for making those comments.

This attitude entirely does away with the Jewish concept of Teshuva. There seems to be no such thing anymore in America. Apologies and regrets from people like Kelly are always presumed to be insincere… as though they were only being made to keep their jobs.

Now I’m not saying that apologies are always sincere. But I am saying that they often are. Each person’s apology should be evaluated individually. When in doubt about the sincerity of an apology - it should be given the benefit of the doubt. And yet I recently heard one so called media expert say that if Kelly was given back her show, it would mean that there is a certain degree of tolerance in the industry for racism. Even when there is an apology.

That is ridiculous. Judaism does not work that way. Sincere apologies that show true regret and remorse should be accepted. That is called Mechila.  That is the Torah way. It is not the Torah way to never forgive (unless there is a credible suspicion that the apology was insincere). This is no longer true in America. You cannot make a mistake. If you do, It’s over. End of career. End of reputation.

I find this new standard of political correctness to be a major flaw in our culture. Everyone makes mistakes. To deny the ability to correct human error is to deny human nature. And in my view unkind in the extreme. Is there anyone reading this that can honestly say he or she has never made a mistake and insulted someone?  …or unfairly judged someone else’s behavior?

If this ever happens where you work, should you be fired? …even if you sincerely apologized? If we are to apply the Megyn Kelly standard the answer would be yes. You should be fired. Does anyone think this is fair? Not me.

This is what happens when societal morality is guided by the cultural whims of the time. You tend to make it up as you go along. It’s called moral relativism. There are no fixed universal truths upon which you can rely.

This is a decidedly liberal way to interpret right and wrong. It all depends on how we feel about things today. It doesn’t matter what we thought yesterday. Yesterday we were stupid. Today we are far more enlightened.  

Religious values that do not coincide with the relative values of our day are thus cast aside as ancient relics of a bygone era. An era where everyone was innately intolerant without even realizing it. They are therefore discarded and even ridiculed.

This is what I think has happened today in America. It is this liberal mindset that dictates the morality of our time. Thank God that Judaism does not work that way. Judaism has fundamental principles and values that are unchanging. That is what observant Jewry lives by today. And unlike other cultures of the past those values have kept us together as a people for thousands of years.