Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Passover And The Plague Of Trump

Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax.  -- The Big Lebowski
Passover is a celebration of the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt three thousand years ago. We've been telling and re-telling the story ever since -- and it continues to resonate with us because, as Jews do, we ask questions, and then struggle to answer them as we try to connect the ancient story to our lives, our experiences and the society we live in today. Critically, our story is a universal story of liberation that not only reminds us that Jews were not always free but challenges us to recognize that others here and throughout the world have also suffered from and continue to struggle against oppression in its many forms.  This is their story too.

Some, like Schmuel Rosen, who wrote a recent op-ed in the New York Times, believe that the Passover Seder shouldn't be politicized -- that bringing contemporary politics into the mix of ritual and tradition trivializes this sacred festival.  But I don't see how we can meaningfully celebrate our story of freedom and redemption without reflecting on today's impediments to social justice. 

As Jonathan Chait points out, "this would not be such a problem if the sitting president did not bear such an uncanny resemblance to a villain from a traditional Jewish narrative. Like the Pharaoh, Trump is a builder fond of exploitative labor practices and an arch-nationalist, with a nasty habit of making deals then welching on his side of the bargain."

Or if the Trump Administration didn't continue to use language familiar to Holocaust deniers and white nationalists.  Just today, on the second day of Passover, press secretary Sean Spicer, decided to compare Hitler favorably to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, claiming that even Hitler didn't use chemical weapons. First of all, it is never a good idea to compare Hitler favorably to anyone --  and especially on a sacred Jewish holiday.  Then there's the inconvenient fact that the lethal ingredient that killed millions of Jews in what Spicer later referred to as "Holocaust Centers" was a chemical -- Zyklon B, to be exact.  Oy.

Trump is a plague on this country and on the world.  He rose to political power by scapegoating and demonizing Mexicans and Muslims, he has surrounded himself with racists and anti-Semites, and he is pursuing policies that will cause fear and hardship to the most marginalized and vulnerable in our society.

If Passover isn't a time for speaking out against injustice and calling out today's tyrants and their enablers, then, to paraphrase that great Jewish scholar Alvy Singer, "what's the point?"


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