Jewish World Review Nov. 10, 2004 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765
Save evil for true treachery
We're in the car after voting.
"If John Kerry wins, he won't be our president," Gnat said.
Ah, a teachable moment. No, honey. He will be our president. He will be the new president, and we will respect him.
"What does respek mean?"
Man, that is a good question. It means we treat him like a teacher or the pastor or a doctor. Someone we should listen to when they talk and someone who is important to everyone. Because he's the president, and we have to respect the job of president.
Because it's hard and very important.
She looked out the window with the expression that either means she was processing my remarks or thinking about My Little Pony. Since she said nothing else, I'll never know.
"I want to go the Play Place," Gnat suggested after we'd voted. As she played, I sat on the bench and read more of I Shall Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1933-1941, by Victor Klemperer. The author, a Jew, was a distinguished university professor in Dresden when Hitler came to power. He survived the war because he was married to an Aryan.
I'm up to the late 1930s. Jews are forbidden to drive, since this arrogantly presumes to profit from the labor of good Aryan workers. (Seriously.) Jews must pay reparations. Jews must have their property assessed. Jews cannot use the library public rooms. Every day a different decree; every day a different liberty removed.
It's remarkable, really – people get up, have breakfast, get the mail, tend the garden; in this sense they are unmolested. But imagine if every day you were informed of something you could no longer do, even if you didn't do it. At first you take comfort in things you can still do, but it soon becomes apparent that any liberties you still possess are ones they have not yet gotten around to confiscating.
The 2004 election is over now, and we Americans are still all over the map on a great many issues. The "progressive" impulse questions everything; the conservative impulse wonders why we question what has worked. What emerges from this dynamic satisfies neither, and fuels the next round of debate. I'd rather have that than 30 years of a static society that ends up so ossified and brittle that it shatters into a thousand pieces.
You want comity? You want progress? Enough with the catastrophe rhetoric. Enough with the nonsense. Enough with the gasbag fantasies. Reading the Klemperer diaries makes me realize again what real true perfidy looks like – and how those who view a Bush victory as "four more years of evil" are parading their petulant variety of moral idiocy for the approval of the claque. They're the modern Rumpelstiltskins, ripping themselves in half in anger to protest the price of pants.
It's a great and rare idea: one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. I think we can hammer out the particulars in a spirit of good will, eh? Or not. Our choice.
"Who is the father of George W. Bush?" Gnat asked on the way to school today.
"You're not going to believe this, but his name is George Bush, too."
"True." Pause. Should I? Might as well.
"And he was the president once, too."
"George Bush's daddy was president too? You're joking me. That's silly."
And so it begins. But if all goes as it usually does, in 14 years she'll vote for someone I don't like; he'll win, and she'll remind me, "You taught me to respect the president."
If I can give her that much, I've done my job.
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09/02/04: Save America from those who would save it
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06/24/04: Kerry's Science Buddies and the Silly Sanctity of Life
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© 2004, James Lileks