This article by Bari Weiss is mainly addressed to Jews about the dangers the Jewish community faces from the new factions of the left within the politics of the West. I’ll come to the Jewish element at the end of this post, but first I wish to note how accurately she has outlined the liberal traditions that developed over the past two hundred years that is now almost entirely the ideology of the conservative right. She naturally takes sideswipes at Donald Trump since otherwise no one in her intended audience would listen to her, and for all I know that is what she actually believes. But what she outlines is what I believe, and she outlines the dangers that now confront all of us as well. She is a very brave woman, and brilliantly articulate. First she pretends there is a danger from we conservatives, but then she goes on to make her genuine point.
There is another danger, this one from the left. And unlike Trump, this one has attained cultural dominance, capturing America’s elites and our most powerful institutions. In the event of a Biden victory, it is hard to imagine it meeting resistance. So let me make my purpose perfectly clear: I am here to ring the alarm. I’m here to say: Do not be shocked anymore. Stop saying, can you believe. It’s time to accept reality, if we want to have any hope of fixing it.
To understand the enormity of the change we are now living through, take a moment to understand America as the overwhelming majority of its Jews believed it was—and perhaps as we always assumed it would be.
It was liberal.
Not liberal in the narrow, partisan sense, but liberal in the most capacious and distinctly American sense of that word: the belief that everyone is equal because everyone is created in the image of God. The belief in the sacredness of the individual over the group or the tribe. The belief that the rule of law—and equality under that law—is the foundation of a free society. The belief that due process and the presumption of innocence are good and that mob violence is bad. The belief that pluralism is a source of our strength; that tolerance is a reason for pride; and that liberty of thought, faith, and speech are the bedrocks of democracy.
The liberal worldview was one that recognized that there were things—indeed, the most important things—in life that were located outside of the realm of politics: friendships, art, music, family, love. This was a world in which Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg could be close friends. Because, as Scalia once said, some things are more important than votes.
Crucially, this liberalism relied on the view that the Enlightenment tools of reason and the scientific method might have been designed by dead white guys, but they belonged to everyone, and they were the best tools for human progress that have ever been devised.
Racism was evil because it contradicted the foundations of this worldview, since it judged people not based on the content of their character, but on the color of their skin. And while America’s founders were guilty of undeniable hypocrisy, their own moral failings did not invalidate their transformational project. The founding documents were not evil to the core but “magnificent,” as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, because they were “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” In other words: The founders themselves planted the seeds of slavery’s destruction. And our second founding fathers—abolitionists like Frederick Douglass—made it so. America would never be perfect, but we could always strive toward building a more perfect union.
I didn’t even know that this worldview had a name because it was baked into everything I came into contact with—my parents’ worldviews, the schools they sent me to, the synagogues we attended, the magazines and newspapers we read, and so on.
I was among many millions of Americans cosseted by these ideals. Since World War II, American intellectual and cultural life has been produced and protected by a set of institutions—universities, newspapers, magazines, record companies, professional associations, labor unions, cultural venues, publishing houses, Hollywood studios, think tanks, historical museums, art museums—that aligned, broadly, with those principles. As such, they had incredible power—power that demanded our respect because they held up the liberal order.
No longer. American liberalism is under siege. There is a new ideology vying to replace it.
And here in describing what is replacing the liberal world order, she gets it unfortunately exactly right.
No one has yet decided on the name for the force that has come to unseat liberalism. Some say it’s “Social Justice.” The author Rod Dreher has called it “therapeutic totalitarianism.” The writer Wesley Yang refers to it as “the successor ideology”—as in, the successor to liberalism.
At some point, it will have a formal name, one that properly describes its mixture of postmodernism, postcolonialism, identity politics, neo-Marxism, critical race theory, intersectionality, and the therapeutic mentality. Until then, it is up to each of us to see it plainly. We need to look past the hashtags and slogans and the jargon to assess it honestly—and then to explain it to others.
The new creed’s premise goes something like this: We are in a war in which the forces of justice and progress are arrayed against the forces of backwardness and oppression. And in a war, the normal rules of the game—due process; political compromise; the presumption of innocence; free speech; even reason itself—must be suspended. Indeed, those rules themselves were corrupt to begin with—designed, as they were, by dead white males in order to uphold their own power.
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” as the writer Audre Lorde put it. And the master’s house must be dismantled—because the house is rotted at its foundation.
The beating heart of this new ideology is critical race theory. The legal scholar Angela Harris put it concisely in her foreword to Critical Race Theory: An Introduction:
“Unlike traditional civil rights discourse, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”
Critical race theory says there is no such thing as neutrality, not even in the law, which is why the very notion of colorblindness—the Kingian dream of judging people not based on the color of their skin but by the content of their character—must itself be deemed racist. Racism is no longer about individual discrimination. It is about systems that allow for disparate outcomes among racial groups. If everyone doesn’t finish the race at the same time, then the course must have been flawed and should be dismantled.
Thus the efforts to do away with the SAT, or the admissions test for elite public schools like Stuyvesant and Lowell—for decades, the engines of American meritocracy that allowed children of poor and working-class families to advance on their merits, regardless of race. Or the argument made recently by The New York Times’ classical music critic to do away with blind auditions for orchestras.
In fact, any feature of human existence that creates disparity of outcomes must be eradicated: The nuclear family, politeness, even rationality itself can be defined as inherently racist or evidence of white supremacy, as a Smithsonian institution suggested this summer. The KIPP charter schools recently eliminated the phrase “work hard” from its famous motto “Work Hard. Be Nice.” because the idea of working hard “supports the illusion of meritocracy.” Denise Young Smith, one of the first Black people to reach Apple’s executive team, left her job in the wake of asserting that skin color wasn’t the only legitimate marker of diversity—the victim of a “diversity culture” that, as the writer Zaid Jilani has noted, is spreading “across the entire corporate world and is enforced by a highly educated activist class.”
The most powerful exponent of this worldview is Ibram X. Kendi. His book “How to Be an Antiracist” is on the top of every bestseller list; his photograph graces GQ; he is on Time’s most influential people of the year; and his outfit at Boston University was recently awarded $10 million from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
According to Kendi, we are all either racist or anti-racist. To be a Good Person and not a Bad Person, you must be an “anti-racist.” There is no neutrality, no such thing as “not racist.” Indeed, Kendi wants to ban those words from the dictionary.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech would not meet Kendi’s definition of anti-racism, nor would the one Barack Obama made about there being too many fatherless Black families. Indeed, nearly everything that Americans have been taught about how to be anti-racist for the past several decades is, according to Kendi’s explicit definition, racist.
It’s a rhetorically brilliant strategy. Racism is the gravest sin in American life. Who would ever want to be anything other than an anti-racist? And so under the guise of a righteous effort to achieve overdue justice and equality of opportunity for Black Americans, Kendi and his ideological allies are presenting Americans with a zero-sum choice: conform to their worldview or be indistinguishable from the likes of Richard Spencer.
And just in case moral suasion is ineffective, Kendi has backup: Use the power of the federal government to make it so. “To fix the original sin of racism,” he wrote in Politico, “Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals [sic]: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals.” To back up the amendment, he proposes a Department of Anti-Racism. This department would have the power to investigate not just local governments but private businesses and would punish those “who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.” Imagine how such a department would view a Jewish day school, which suggests that the Jews are God’s chosen people, let alone one that teaches Zionism.
Kendi—who, it should be noted, now holds Elie Wiesel’s old chair at Boston University—believes that “to be antiracist is to see all cultures in their differences as on the same level, as equals.” He writes: “When we see cultural difference we are seeing cultural difference—nothing more, nothing less.” It’s hard to imagine that anyone could believe that cultures that condone honor killings of unchaste young women are “nothing more, nothing less” than culturally different from our own. But whether he believes it or not, it’s obvious that embracing such relativism is a highly effective tool for ascension and seizing power.
The rest of her article is about the dangers all of this poses for Jews. Go to the link for the rest, but this is the first para of that next section.
It should go without saying that, for Jews, an ideology that contends that there are no meaningful differences between cultures is not simply ridiculous—we have an obviously distinct history, tradition and religion that has been the source of both enormous tragedy as well as boundless gifts—but is also, as history has shown, lethal.
She knows there are all too many Jews who will be unable to see it or understand it, but what is invisible to the older generation of post-War Jews is all too obvious to younger Jews today who wish to live a Jewish life. Go to the link to read all this and make your own assessment. I will here add in this to supplement the same points made above. This is from an article titled, Orthodox Jewish Rabbis Sue Cuomo for ‘Blatantly Anti-Semitic’ COVID Order. Here is the issue, and we are discussing New York, New York.
According to the lawsuit, Cuomo’s October 6 executive order “is blatantly anti-Semitic, creating religious-observance based color coded ‘hot-spot’ zones directed towards particular Jewish communities.”
The order “not only flagantly flies in the face of scientific evidence and the Soos Injunction” — a legal injunction preventing New York from subjecting religious services to extra restrictions over secular gatherings — but it also “specifically singles out the orthodox Jewish community in what has proven to be the latest extension of Governor Cuomo’s streak of anti-Semitic discrimination.”
And then there was also this today: New York’s beleaguered Jews strike back against Governor Cuomo. More of the same and where you should least expect it. “Governor Andrew Cuomo has gone full medieval, accusing Jews of spreading the Wuhan virus and attacking them with all of his political power.” It’s on the radar, at least for some.
It can’t happen here, maybe. Better to believe it could and then do what can be done to make sure it doesn’t. This may be where to start: How to Fight Anti-Semitism by that same Bari Weiss.