We do great harm to ourselves when we’re so quick on the trigger.
Who among us hasn’t heard of a Jewish family where certain members no longer speak to each other? Maybe there was a bad argument, or an epic insult, or perhaps a choice of a spouse that resulted in parents or siblings or children permanently writing someone off.
I can think of a few such instances and I always find them profoundly sad. How can a Jew write off a loved one? Does that happen more in our community, and is there something within our strong-willed Jewish soul that causes some of us to hastily judge and dismiss others?
These days it seems we’re also quick to cast aside entire organizations. We form an impression about some group, quickly assign it some terse label and then write it off entirely. In doing so, we cut off any possibility of a two-way dialogue, thereby becoming more entrenched in our personal ideologies.
Our rush to judgment is especially prevalent during these emotionally charged times. It is now commonplace to hear Jews – from both the left and the right – write off the following groups entirely with a simple and self-serving label:
Black Lives Matter = “Anti-Semitic”
NFL Players = “Unpatriotic”
United Nations = “Anti-Israel”
NAACP = “Anti-Semitic”
ACLU = “Anti-Semitic”
New York Times = “Anti-Israel, Too Liberal”
Wall Street Journal = “Too Pro-Business”
CNN = “Anti-Israel “
AIPAC = “Too Republican”
Protesters = “Anarchists”
Hollywood = “Too Liberal”
Media = “Fake”
And so on, and so on. We see (or perceive to have seen) an offensive tweet from someone within an organization and suddenly we dismiss every one of their colleagues as being hateful or incompetent, or both. And oftentimes, we don’t just take issue with these groups, but treat them with the same disdain and venom we reserve for our mortal enemies.
But we’re playing with fire each time we do this.
Each time we reject and vilify our critics and cease trying to understand them (and vice versa), we only retreat more and more into isolation. It’s as if we’re on our own island, and we keep choosing to make it smaller and smaller.
Is that really the wisest strategy for a people who comprise 0.2% of the world’s population?
How did we get like this? When did we get so quick at casting aside people, groups and ideas? When did so many of us come to see things only in black and white terms, and not allow for the grayness or nuances of things, where the world actually dwells?
Is the NAACP all bad because a someone there tweets something vile? Is the entire cause of systemic racism bogus because certain Black Lives Matter representatives have made anti-Semitic statements? Are all NFL players anti-Jewish because a few of them tweet something that is reprehensible? Is the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal no longer readable because a journalist takes a position we find objectionable?
Recently the Jewish News featured Rep. Rashida Tlaib on the cover. She’s a controversial political figure who clearly holds views that offend many Jews, including myself. And yet some people are suddenly so upset that they’re claiming to cancel their subscriptions? Never mind the 80 years of publication and countless stories that informed and uplifted our community? Talk about snap judgments!
Bari Weiss, one of my favorite writers, quit the New York Times, stating she was harassed over writing too many stories about Israel and anti-Semitism. It was disturbing to many of us, but does it mean that the entire paper is now awful and illegitimate and should be boycotted? Same goes for CNN, or MSNBC or Fox News. Does every single journalist at these places — so many of them clearly brilliant — deserve to be discredited because of a few who hold ignorant points of view?
We do great harm to ourselves when we’re so quick on the trigger. We close off learning and dialogue, and cease trying to present others with the merits of our perspective. Instead, we gather evidence to support our positions and then share that evidence with like-minded people. Ultimately the gulf between ourselves and others just keeps growing deeper and wider.
How’s that working out for us?