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January 24, 2017 3:51 am

Schizophrenic America

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Donald Trump being sworn in as America's 45th president. Photo: Screenshot.

Donald Trump being sworn in as America’s 45th president. Photo: Screenshot.

On Friday, I attended the inauguration of President Donald Trump, with hundreds of thousands of other fortunate witnesses to the peaceful transfer of unimaginable power. It was an inspirational and patriotic experience. The inaugural concert was especially moving, and I thought that Trump’s address was punchy and to the point.

The very next day I stood on a street corner across from the White House and witnessed hundreds of thousands of protesters demonstrating against his presidency at the Women’s March. An endless river of humanity swept passed me.

Welcome to schizophrenic America, where, in the space of just 48 hours, the capital city can change from blue to red to blue again.

Are these opposing stripes now destined to forever remain parallel lines that never meet? Are we the generation to have witnessed the last of a united America?

In asking whether America can be brought together again in our lifetimes, let me be clear that there is nothing inherently wrong with deep political divisions in our nation — as long as no side suppresses or disrespects the rights of the other. To be sure, America is much stronger unified. And yet, the very essence of democracy is the existence of opposing factions that need not always cohere. When people say that America is more divided than ever before, they forget the 20,000 who died in a single day at Antietam, the more than 50,000 who died at Gettysburg or the four students murdered at Kent State.

But, as President Trump said in his inaugural address — quoting from the Bible — there is sublime beauty when people dwell together.

I am personally wounded by the deep divisions in our country, which manifest themselves in increasingly bitter exchanges that I witness at our Sabbath table on Friday nights. Most weeks we host significant numbers of people from the Left and Right, liberals and conservatives. But these days, I find myself increasingly in the position of having to police the exchanges, lest they drift in an instant into friction, acrimony and discord.

Given that America today is more prone to political extremes, what can possibly unite us?

Is it religion?

No. Not just yet.

I would venture that a large percentage of the Trump supporters who came to DC are more identifiably religious than the arguably more secular crowd that participated at the Women’s March. In that sense, religion may be dividing rather than unifying America.

Is it, perhaps, patriotism, then? No, because the two sides have very different definitions of what constitutes patriotic loyalty. The Right glorifies the military — as was plain from Toby Keith’s message at the inaugural concert — while the Left puts greater emphasis on patriotism expressed in social justice.

We are left then with only one solution: values.

The American Right and Left must be united through common values: a shared dedication to the infinite dignity of the human person, to protecting the innocence of children, respect for the sanctity of love and relationships, a shared belief in generosity and charity, a commitment to the blessing of education and knowledge, a respect for women as the equals of men — a commitment to a common humanity. Cap this off with unbridled dedication to the integrity of the will of the people as expressed in the democratic process and we still might be one nation, under God.

The women who marched in DC might not be great fans of Donald Trump. But they sure looked like they enjoyed marching together. And we must emphasize to them that the glue that binds them as a sisterhood is a shared belief in affirming their values, rather than a hatred of Trump. Likewise, those who gathered on the steps of the Capitol to salute America’s 45th President should affirm the idea of unity, rather than despising the Left.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad system in Judaism, once said that a bird requires two wings pushing in opposite directions in order to fly.

Can we not see the political Right and Left in the same light?

Would America be blessed if we were a one-party state like China or Putin’s Russia?

I read many of the thousands of signs that passed me by at the Women’s March. Those that affirmed the dignity and equality of women touched my heart. I am, after all, the father of six daughters. But those that vilified Trump, dropped the F-bomb or displayed lewd depictions of the female anatomy (and you’d be amazed at how many there were) left me cold.

Conversely, President Trump’s calls for unity during his inaugural were the most moving parts of his address. But those in the crowd who booed Chuck Schumer, even as his speech seemed unnecessarily laden with political calculation, undermined the dignity of the inaugural.

In the final analysis, Americans need to ask themselves a simple question: Will it take tragedy to bring us together, as it did at 9/11? Or will we reach out to one another in full recognition that a nation as fortunate as America must see as its greatest blessing not just diversity of ethnicity and color, but especially the diversity of opinion, creed and thought.

How utterly boring and monolithic it would be otherwise.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published “The Israel Warrior: Standing Up for the Jewish State from Campus to Street Corner.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • Joseph Feld

    As a democracy we can agree to disagree and be prepared to fight for our opponents’ right to disagree with us. President Trump’s campaign was one long hyperbole, at times almost comic in its overstatement. Now that he is President he has to work with the House, the Senate and the Court to refine his proposals and make them practical. When it comes to the USA State Deparrtment, one thinks of Churchill’s comment on ‘Dull, Duller, Dulles’ refering to John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State (Foreign Secretary). Like The UK Foreign Office the USA State Dept seems to attract Arabists who are likely to do their best to keep the US Embassy in Tel Aviv and to pressure Israel to make any and all concessions to the poor PA, overlooking that Fata and Hamas charters call for the detruction of the State of Israel and the murder of all Jews. .

  • Hilltop Watchman

    Shmuley: What I saw on these marches were a lot of sheep, a mob wearing their “pussy hats”, a disturbing echo of the other parades wearing their Wehrmacht helmets also in solidarity with hatred. We had an echo of this intolerant fascism with that lunatic Madonna alluding to bombing the White House as was the Reichstag.

    And what was this “protest” by the “feminist” sisterhood and their hangers-on about? Donald Trump made a few tasteless remarks in private and the banners and hats and outrage were all that this”protest” was about, the denial of democracy, of free speech, the lot.

    As for these FAKE “feminists”, no protests, no banners, no mass outrage at the millions of women genitally mutilated, forced to live in a black cloth coffin, no rights, mass rapes, enslavement, their being used as human sheilds by Hamas and Hezbollah, NOTHING.

    Until we start seeing these FAKE “feminists” march to address these real issues, it is clear that this is nothing to do with feminism, with solitarity, little to do with Trump and everything to do with those on the hard left who only do democracy and free speech when it’s theirs as opposed to us “deplorables” who to the “liberals”, don’t count.

    Hopefully, Algemeiner will post this, and my poem below:-

    While ISIS barbarians murder men, boys and babies
    Koran wielding zealots like mad dogs with rabies
    Desecrating synagogue, church and temple, defiling sacred graves
    Yazidi women captured, stripped naked, sold as slaves
    The fake Feministas of the Church will not see
    Too busy campaigning for God to be “She” and not “He”
    Kidnapped Christian girls raped, made pregnant by Boko Haram
    Rape victims stoned in Saudi, hanged from cranes in Iran
    Female education forbidden by the Afghan Taleban
    Faces disfigured by acid, for “honour”, in Pakistan
    Trapped in their homes and forbidden to drive cars
    Forced to wear sweltering black robes that cover their scars
    Yet the fake Feministas and leftists won’t see speak or hear
    About the millions of women living in violence and fear
    Who cares for little brown girls, their womanhood excised
    Not the Politically Correct officials who averted their eyes
    And what of all the white girls, drugged, raped, beaten, abused
    Nothing to see, shhhh, move on please, that’s yesterday’s news
    Still the fake Feministas, spout their loony left views
    More concerned we should be forced to use gender-free loos
    Pre-pubescent slave girls are forcibly bedded
    Used, defiled and discarded, many brutally beheaded
    The perversions acted upon them are the base of the basest
    But best to keep schtum, or they’ll call you a racist
    And while the EU and UN trumpet “Women’s Rights” loudly
    They butt-kiss the woman-hating oil-rich Iranians and Saudis
    Yet still not a squeak from the fake Feministas

    Their morality drowned in the blood of their sisters.
    Copyright – Jeremy Zeid 3/6/2015