Post-Charlottesville Hopes for a Great Future
OpinionOne Man’s Opinion

Post-Charlottesville Hopes for a Great Future

Hate groups feel emboldened by President Trump’s actions and speeches.

Eugen Schoenfeld

Eugen Schoenfeld was born November 8, 1925. He is the oldest son of a book store owner in a small town in Czechoslovakia and a holocaust survivor.

Here we go again: Anti-Semitic acts, such as vandalizing a Holocaust memorial in Boston, have been on the upswing. Such acts are among a great many deeds that tell us this country is in disarray.

Of course, hate groups, like the poor, to use a biblical phrase, will always be within our gates. I would hate to see a completely homogeneous society — how boring that would be. Disagreement within a population is one force in the dialectical movement that is necessary for change.

The recent events in Charlottesville, Va., that cause me to be concerned about the future of this country are the result of having irrational hate groups instead of having people who have a different vision of life but believe in creative discourse.

The sense of futility and hopelessness has changed opposition groups into hate groups believing that this country is ripe for many to accept their philosophy of life. Moreover, they feel emboldened by President Trump’s actions and speeches and have gained an increased sense that the public and even the president of the United States accept their views.

I have experienced the events that gave rise in Germany to rule by hate groups. Is this what is happening in this country?

I would have expected such events to occur during an economic crisis, as in Germany in the 1920s or the United States during the Great Depression. But our economy, so I am told by the television gurus, is strong, and the stock market is rising.

The rise of the market is a great indication of the ever-increasing wealth of a small percentage of the population, whose existing wealth gives them the means for a continual increase in fortunes. But present economic conditions hardly have a positive impact on the working people, the so-called middle class, whose lifestyle is eroding as the value of the dollar decreases.

Although I am, by most standards, an old man retired on a pension and am no longer in the market for a house, I watch television programs about the buying and selling of homes and have become appalled by the rising prices.

Homeownership has always been considered a necessity for a middle-class lifestyle. It seems to me that what has occurred since the last election is a decline in life’s satisfaction.

Perhaps most detrimental to life satisfaction is the erosion of our sense of a predictable future. Our sense of well-being depends on a belief that we can make plans to achieve a good life. I call this our dependence on the truth of if-then propositions, which serve as the blueprint for planning a good future.

Take, for instance, the following proposition: If I go to college, I will be able to get a good job and will have my lifetime career. For a long time, we believed in such a proposition, but no longer. Young people with college degrees live with their parents, and far too few of them make an adequate income to be independent.

We are no longer independent at 18 and are lucky if we are by 35.

For a good life, it is essential that we have a good worldview. In general, as Alan Bloom wrote in his treatise “The Closing of the American Mind,” even our supposed educated people — those who went to college — no longer have a worldview of what constitutes a good society. This, unfortunately, also holds true for the president.

Our educational system, as Bloom proposed, is committed to teaching trades rather than ideas and the development of a vision of life. The educational system has impoverished our people’s souls and has failed to imprint ideas that are essential to the maintenance and growth of democracy. As I see it, this condition has eroded our ability to develop an image of a positive future.

Throughout my life in the United States, almost 70 years, most presidents have given the people a vision for the future, but not the present president, whose plan and view of the good life are expressed in empty slogans, such as “Make America great again.” How?

His view, if he has any, is regressive. His view, as I surmise it, is let’s go back. Back to what? Does he believe that he will bring back jobs in the mines that are economically not feasible?

A good vision of a good future is imperative to both the development and maintenance of hope. And hope is dependent on a vision of the achievability of a good future.

It was Micah and Isaiah’s worldview that gave us Jews hope because it was based on a positive vision of life. It was that kind of hope, for example, that sustained me in the darkest times of my life in the Holocaust. It is hope that gives us faith in the improvement of life in the future.

But this president has no vision of the future. He has no idea how to elevate people’s hope, so we are becoming a people without hope.

Along time ago my grandmother, who liked to instill into me her notion of wisdom, taught me: Money lost, nothing is lost; hope lost, all is lost.

Do we have hope for the future, Mr. President? If so, what is your vision of that future?

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