Friday, July 23, 2021

Is Ideology the Enemy of Achdus?

Image for illustration purposes only (NPR)
A poll was taken recently - the results of which were reported in the Jerusalem Post. It revealed some interesting statistics about the polarization that currently plagues Israel. The truth is that the entire world seems to be polarized these days. I do not recall any time in my memory where we have been so divided. Whether it’s politics or religion, the divisions have never been greater. 

While the percentages expressing enmity between religious or political opponents differ from one side against the other - that doesn’t really matter. The hatred is there on each side in significant percentages and seems to be increasing with unprecedented intensity and speed. 

The question is why? Why is there so much hatred in the world? Now more than ever?! 

That is a difficult question to answer even as we witness what’s going on right before our eyes in some cases. To cite an obvious example of this, nowhere was this more evident than on January 6th, when a group of Trump supporters - among them RW extremists - stormed the capital. Their hatred of Democrats and even some Republicans whom they saw as traitors was so intense, it actually endangered their lives. The idea that a group of otherwise sane people could be riled up so easily by those right wing extremists - following them to the point of breaking into the capital building in what would’ve amounted to violent coup d’état  - is shocking! 

Thankfully it did not succeed. I didn’t think it would. But that they got as far as they did is scary - not just because it happened, but because of the hatred  that generated it. The left is not absolved of its own part in this. Their hatred of the right was on display in every mainstream media news broadcast whose media personalities joined them in that hatred. 

The same thing has happened among those of us that have religious differences. While that hatred seems to be greater in Israel, it’s pretty strong here too. I am shocked by some of the rhetoric I often see between the secular and the religious right. Or even between the religious left and the religious right.  

Ironically I think the culprit is ideology - something that is ordinarily very praiseworthy whether it be political or religious. Ideologues will fight for their beliefs. The stronger the belief - the stronger the fight. When individuals are so sure they are right and the other side is so wrong - they can only see the other side as harmful to their values. That is where the hatred comes in. Ideology has overtaken civility. Big time! It has turned our values into weapons. No longer do we say that everyone has a right to their opinion – live and let live. Nope. The current trend is ‘my way or the highway’. Whether it is political left against the political right or the religious right against the religious left. So wrong is the other guy that he is vilified or ridiculed or both. And worthy of contempt! 

What’s missing – gone from its vaunted place in the world is tolerance. Allowing others to have a view that differs even strongly from our own.  To respect that view and the right to express it no matter how strongly we disagree. Whether the differences are religious or political, it shouldn’t matter.  Tolerance is the hallmark of any successful democracy. As it is the key to Achdus. Political and religious differences should not matter as much as character. That is what defines us as human beings. Ideology might tell us how to live. But it should in no way divide us as Americans or as Jews. 

Sadly the reality is otherwise and seems to be getting worse with each passing moment.