Letter to the editor: The Lessons of Hillel and Shammai Are Lost on this President
Two thousand years ago, the Jewish world was divided into two schools of thought. Led by the scholars Hillel and Shammai, they differed in their answers to many questions of Jewish life. However, their disagreements were said to be for the “sake of heaven.” The ways in which they engaged in their disagreements are a model for how to engage in constructive conflict.
One lesson drawn from this model is to disagree without attacking one another and without damaging relationships. This is the lesson of maintaining good relationships while still disagreeing. Another is to be open to the possibility that your own view may be wrong. Still another is to check your motivation – are you simply trying to win and beat the other person or are you trying to solve problems?
Our current leadership, especially the person at the top, has unfortunately learned none of these lessons. In fact, just the opposite is happening. Relationships are being damaged. Problems are getting harder to try to solve.
Donald Trump is doing his best to make the other side the enemy, and not just a political opponent. The reason is apparently he thinks he cannot win with simply a political strategy; he is trying to win with demagoguery.
The despicable nature of what he is saying is breathtaking. A sample from his latest rallies: The Democrats are too dangerous to govern. Electing Democrats would turn the country over to mob rule. And his critiques of individuals are a shonda.
He claims that the case against Brett Kavanaugh was a hoax, despite everyone at the time calling Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony credible. Now he mocks and slanders Dr. Ford and others speaking their truths as part of a Democratic hoax.
She has become just another prop for him at his rallies.
Recently, he also began mocking a United States senator and was encouraging to a crowd that began shouting “lock her up” to his comments about Senator Diane Feinstein. If the leader of any other country did that, every Jewish institution would condemn his action, or his lack of action, accompanied with a smile, as anti-Semitic.
His description of protesters as “mobs,” and the subsequent repetition of the “mob” characterization by other politicians and commentators makes a mockery of the First Amendment right of free assembly. He is de-legitimizing and demonizing protesters, despite the nonviolent nature of the crowds of protesters. And showing no regard for First Amendment rights.
Our president is the master at the politics of aggrievement, of victimhood, of lashing out at opponents as lower than animals. He apparently sees that as his best route to try to win Congressional elections in November. But he is succeeding at driving a wedge between Americans.
It should be pointed out that he is also making the country and the world a more dangerous place. His perpetual stream of invective and hatred toward individuals and groups could very well lead to disasters, both large and small.
His recent television dismissal of the Saudi-born, U.S.-resident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, by favoring the sale of military goods over any claim of human rights abuses, is another disgraceful performance. He sniffed at the description of Mr. Khashoggi as a permanent resident of the U.S., rather than a citizen. This behavior simply emboldens the likes of the world’s dictators and dictator wannabes.
Many people say his performance is an act and dismiss it as nothing. Former Congressman Joe Scarborough wonders why anyone in his audience would ever believe what he is saying. But I think many people who tune him in are influenced by such behavior. Labeling it as an act is giving it an excuse that is still unacceptable.
Someone needs to teach the president the lessons of Hillel and Shammai. Whether it is a family member, and he does have family members who are Jews, or someone else, it needs to happen. We can ill afford to have the current behavior continue. Public and private discourse will continue to be cheapened. Bad feelings will fester. When will he learn these critical lessons? Is he capable of learning?Does he want to learn?
– Harold Kirtz, Atlanta
Letter to the editor: Hamas is Watching and Waiting …
Hamas hopes every Gazan killed while “crossing into Israel” – which means invading Israel — will spike international outrage, especially if the invaders are teenagers.
But unless a policy of “cross and die” is rigorously adhered to by young IDF troops who defend the border every day and night amidst foul, choking smoke, there will be many large and simultaneous “crossings” from Gaza into Israeli in the near future.
Let’s also remember that Gazans have been directed thusly by their leadership: “… tear out their hearts from their bodies,” and “… eat the livers of the Israelis.”
– Julia Lutch, Davis, Calif.