DISREGARD ON BROADWAY

Sam: You’re a very rude young woman. I know Douglas from the Rotary, and I can’t believe he’d want you treating customers so badly.

Cashier: I don’t think I was treating her badly.

Sam: Then you must be from New York.

Sam Burns (played by John Lithgow) in Terms of Endearment, the 1983 Academy Award winner for Best Picture.

 

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump supporters attempted to paint their opponents as coastal elitists out of touch with and contemptuous of the nation’s heartland. Now comes an event on Broadway —  possibly the bluest thoroughfare in the bluest city in the country – that portrays liberals as … well … as coastal elitists out of touch with and contemptuous of the nation’s heartland.

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Last Friday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence took his daughter to see Hamilton, the hottest show on Broadway. As they took their seats, audience members booed. Pence took it in stride, telling his daughter: “That’s what freedom sounds like.”  After the show, as Pence and his daughter were leaving, they were treated to a lecture  by Brandon Victor Dixon, the actor who portrays Aaron Burr. Pence stopped and listened. The next morning, he told interviewers that he was not offended, and he encouraged everyone to see the show.

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Although some commentators have dismissed the incident as “dumb news,” it nonetheless deserves examination. It tells us much about the current state of division in our country, and perhaps even a little about how that division propelled Trump to the presidency. Continue reading

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GO WASTE, YOUNG MAN

“Don’t waste your vote.”

That’s the message conveyed to the electorate in this, the autumn of our discontent. Vote for Hillary Clinton or vote for Donald Trump. A vote for a third-party or write-in candidate is a wasted gesture.

It’s a difficult message to stomach because in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the nation has the worst electoral menu in its history. Just look at how their more articulate supporters justify their preference.

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William Bennett served as Secretary of Education in the Reagan administration. He supports Trump. In a November 1 piece for FoxNews Opinion, Bennett and co-author F.H. Buckley called  Trump “a Sam Slick who seemingly has taken every legal advantage offered by the Tax and Bankruptcy Codes. And you expected something better from a New York City businessman?”

On the same day that column appeared, Conor Friederdorf, political staff writer for The Atlantic, offered this ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton: “There are so many politicians, many Republicans among them, that I would rather have as America’s president. If not for Trump, I would not even consider voting for her.”

That’s what their supporters are saying, so one can understand the vitriol spewed by their opponents. Not surprisingly, the New York Times reports today that more than eight out of ten voters are repulsed rather than excited by the campaign.

But wouldn’t a vote for anyone other than these two tawdry products be wasted?

In fact, the opposite may be true. Voting for Hillary or Trump would be wasteful because neither will be in a position to accomplish anything after winning the election. Both will face congressional or judicial investigations. Trump is scheduled to go on trial later this month for fraud concerning Trump University. If elected, he will face investigations into his Foundation, his taxes, and his supposed ties to Russia. Meanwhile, Hillary already faces investigations into her family Foundation, as well her private email server.

Neither candidate is likely to find Congress cooperative. Trump will not only face the unified opposition (and disdain) of congressional Democrats, he will also face opposition from his own party. At an October meeting of Republican activists and intellectuals at the Hoover Institution, the consensus was that the Party is “in for a pretty long civil war” after the election. Meanwhile, Republicans have already begun discussing grounds for impeachment of a President Hillary Clinton.

But even if a President Trump or a President Clinton is unable to accomplish anything, why vote for an alternative who cannot possibly win?

Well, not so fast. One outsider actually does have at least a theoretical chance. Continue reading

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NO, THE SYRIAN REFUGEES ARE NOT JEWISH

For Jews, these are the Days of Awe, the ten days between with the New Year and the Day of Atonement, when Jews repent for past sins and make resolutions for the future. One topic Jews may ponder is the special place assigned them among the peoples of the world. This is a distinction most Jews would rather do without. Injustices to which they have been subjected over the millennia are constantly diluted and devalued into a kind of common currency of calamity, with which all may identify. On the other hand, injustices which they have (supposedly) visited upon others are constantly magnified into unique catastrophes,to which history offers no parallels.                                                                                                                                            723_small-shofar_1

One sees evidence of the first phenomenon in the comparison of the plight of the Syrian refugees with the Jewish refugees of 1938.  Pundits, and even a questioner at the second presidential debate, repeatedly mention the supposed equivalency.

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CHURCHILL ON THE 2016 CAMPAIGN

Friends, foes, and even casual acquaintances of the Republican Party insist that disaster looms. And, indeed, the odds are that the Grand Old Party will lose in November. But that’s the short run. In the long run, the Democrats, not the Republicans, face calamity.

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The parties’ respective situations are illustrated by the legendary exchange between Winston Churchill and Bessie Braddock, when the plumpish Labor Party MP spied the Prime Minister deep in his cups. “Sir Winston,” she said, “you are drunk.” “Bessie,” he replied, “you are ugly. But tomorrow, I’ll be sober.”

This year, the Republican Party is drunk. But its inebriation with Trump is a short term affliction. In due course, the Party will sober up and dump him.  The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is stuck with a set of ugly positions which they cannot disavow or abandon. Whether the Democrats win or lose in November, those positions are likely to grow even more repellent with time, and they will weigh the Party down.

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REGRETFULLY YOURS, DONALD TRUMP

The 2016 Republican and Democratic Party conventions are history, but nothing said there can be aptly labeled historic. Of course, partisans on both sides insisted that their favorites delivered oratorical performances that were one part Winston Churchill and two parts Hank Aaron. The preferred phrase was: “He (or, equally often, she) hit it out of the ballpark.” In fact, even though many speakers did creditable jobs reading the words others wrote for them, no one really hit it out of the infield.

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But if most of the noise was sound and fury signifying nothing inside the convention halls, at least one memorable statement was made outside. That statement was made by Donald Trump, and it was a statement that he, the nation, and the world, may live to rue.   Continue reading

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ELIE WIESEL, ENTEBBE, AND THE PARADOX OF POWER

In a strange coincidence of timing, the world marked two events of great import to the Jewish people during this past Fourth of July weekend. The first was the death of Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor, author of 54 books, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The second was the 40th anniversary of the Raid on Entebbe, in which Israeli commandos flew 2500 miles to Uganda to rescue 102 hostages.

The two events inform the way the world sees modern Jewry. But they do so from opposing poles. Elie Wiesel’s life and works embody the Jew as Victim. When he wrote about genocide or evil on a mass scale, Wiesel commanded respect because these were not merely academic issues for him. They were part of his personal biography. The Raid on Entebbe, on the other hand, symbolizes the Jew as Warrior. The Israeli soldiers stunned the world with their lethal military effectiveness.

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The differences have consequences. As the Jewish State’s image shifted from Wiesel’s world of suffering and oppression, to the triumph of the Entebbe operation, so did sympathy and support. Israel became perceived more as master than martyr. Continue reading

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MESSING WITH THE MIKADO

The latest battleground in the never-ending struggle of the social justice warriors to reform mankind is Titipu. Yes, the same Titipu from which Nanki-Poo, son of the Mikado of Japan, fled to escape marriage to the domineering Katisha. And yes, the Nanki-Poo of whom we speak is the same swain who fell in love with the gentle maiden named Yum-Yum, the ward of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner.

Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado ran for 670 performances following its 1885 London debut, and has been performed continuously ever since in theaters around the globe.  This summer, San Francisco’s Lamplighters will present a very different version of the gem. Instead of Japan, the setting will be Renaissance Italy. The switch follows pressure from local activists who asserted two contradictory criticisms.

First, they complained that the musical’s depiction of Japan was racist. Second, they complained that the cast did not have enough Asian actors.thmikado-hsthm848500_592

The activists seemed unaware of the schizophrenic nature of their indictment — demanding more Asian actors to perform roles deemed degrading to Asians. Their inconsistency is reminiscent of the Puritanical criticism of modern cinema: “Movies today are pornographic … and ticket prices are so high!”

Inconsistent or not, do the criticisms have merit? Continue reading

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