By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
If you have ever wondered how dictatorships take root in once-great republics, recent occurrences in this still great country could help you understand how it happens. It is beating a dead horse to examine how the fear of a new virus allowed people to willingly give up their rights in the belief that by doing so they were helping to prevent a pandemic from killing millions of people.
Trusting people they had never previously heard of, as well as government, which they rarely trust, citizens of this country, as well as of virtually every country in the world, accepted that they must lock themselves in their homes and cut off human contact. They were told that doing so would flatten the curve of illness and death until it would approach a manageable level. At that point, they would be allowed to return to their normal lives, albeit with safety precautions until a vaccine could be developed.
Schools closed, houses of worship shut down, and nearly every form of commerce was put on hold. Markets crashed, people lost their sources of income, and billions of dollars were gone, all in the name of flattening the curve. Anybody who dared to deviate from the firm lockdown laws was immediately shunned, publicly embarrassed, and slammed with severe penalties.
After some time, the virus stopped spreading, the curve had been flattened, and certain states began reopening and resurrecting their moribund citizens. Slowly but surely, life returned, morale picked up, and things were returning to quasi normal.
However, other states stubbornly refused to let go of the chokehold and kept their emergency stay-at-home laws in effect. They continued to punish people who ventured out without a mask, shutting down weddings, funerals and gatherings of any kind. Worship in groups remained banned, shopkeepers desperate for income could not open their stores, and children were chased from parks.
People in the shut states quietly accepted the situation without voicing protest. The fact that the entire citizenry was cowed into going along with the shutdown, which was no longer supported by science or medicine, is a fearful indication that the time is ripe for an effective, charming demagogue to take hold of the country.
New Jersey whistleblowers revealed that the governor of the Garden State, who last week renewed his state of emergency for another month, is not guided by science as he keeps the state in lockdown. Instead, he is “making things up as they proceed or making decisions and justifying them on the back end.” The revelation was not noticed by many and certainly did not cause anyone to rise up and demand an explanation.
Even as over half of the states successfully reopened, people in the closed states continued to willingly give up their rights to live freely, practice their religion, educate their children and earn a living. That should strike fear into you that one day, someone can come along and goad people into suspending the constitution and democracy that separate this country from all others. And then, from out of nowhere, a perfect storm hit, blowing Covid-19 out of the headlines and exposing even more glaringly the hypocrisy and insincerity of the governors and mayors who are maintaining their chokehold on the law-abiding citizens of their states and cities.
A horrific crime perpetrated in broad daylight in front of incredulous witnesses was caught on video. A white Minneapolis policeman choked an unarmed black man to death. As the man, George Floyd, pleaded for his life, the callous murderer kept his knee on the man’s throat for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, snuffing the life out of him. Three other policemen stood by and watched, without attempting to interfere to save the man’s life.
After simmering for a couple of days, the video engendered much grief, pain and anger among all those who watched it. A nation of laws cannot tolerate blatant murder, especially when it is perpetrated by someone sworn to uphold the law. Protests began in Minneapolis, the city where the crime was committed, and then began spreading throughout the country and then to cities around the world. Along with the protests came rioting and looting in 145 American cities.
Coining A New Mantra
Egged on by Democrat politicians and the media, the riots continued night after night. They gained steam as voices began decrying the “systemic racism” of the United States, its white citizens and the police. Together with the charge that cops kill black people, it became a rallying cry, and soon, talking heads began repeating the allegations over and over as fact. In the words of National Geographic, “The nature of Floyd’s death forces America to confront an immoral reality: the United States remains stubbornly committed to a long-standing practice of violent and often lethal policing of African Americans.”
This country does have a racist past, and blacks were brought here to serve as slaves to white masters. But the country has come a long way since then. The nation fought a civil war over slavery many years ago, and when the anti-slavery forces emerged victorious in 1865, all the slaves were freed. It has been a long march for equality, but the way the country treated blacks a generation ago has no reflection in the nation’s current culture. Sweeping civil rights laws passed in 1964 and 1965 granted blacks equality in many areas that had been closed to them. Lynchings are a thing of the past, as meaningful social progress has come a long way. Everything in this country is integrated, and billions of dollars have been poured into black communities in a bid to effect change.
Police killings of blacks are extremely rare. Blacks have been elected to every political office in this country, including the presidency. Blacks are represented in every level of society and endeavor, and many have achieved great success in this democratic country.
At a memorial for Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis, the family’s lawyer, Ben Crump, inflamed the passions, telling the crowd, “It was not the coronavirus pandemic that killed George Floyd, I want to make it clear. It was that other pandemic that we’re far too familiar with in America – that pandemic of racism and discrimination – that killed George Floyd.”
Noted race-baiter Al Sharpton spoke with characteristic demagoguery. He intoned, “George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks. Ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck.”
What happened to Floyd, he said, “happens every day in this country – in education, in health services and in every area of American life.” His voice rising to a crescendo, he proclaimed, “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks.’”
The self-victimization of black people has not gained them much. Those who are successful have taken advantage of all this country has to offer. They were educated and worked to provide for themselves and their families, as so many others do here. To say that there is no racism is foolish, but it is also foolish to deny that anyone with a good education and work ethic can get ahead in this country, no matter the color of their skin or their background.
Facts happen to be stubborn things, and the fact is that overall, in the year 2019, a total of ten unarmed black people were killed by police. Eight of the killings were found to be justified, and in the other two cases, the culprits were brought to justice. But that doesn’t matter. Nor does the fact that more unarmed whites are killed by cops than unarmed blacks. Nor does the fact that thousands of blacks are killed by blacks, and the only reason that more aren’t is because of the police. Invariably, when protests such as those going on now are over, police pull back and crime in the inner city rises. But that all has nothing to do with the prevailing narrative that the country suffers from systemic racism and that police are prejudiced against blacks and love to kill them.
Mayors encouraged the protesters to carry on, as their cities were being systematically destroyed. Look at Manhattan for example, New York State’s engine of tax income and worldwide bastion of commerce. The city has been devastated; its prominent downtown and midtown avenues covered with miles of plywood as 90% of stores are boarded up.
As cities burned, and as family-owned businesses stifled by the corona lockdown were emptied and trashed by people posturing over the “evils” of this country and its 800,000 police officers, the same authorities who threatened people with jail if they violated the stay-at-home rules the week before the murder took hypocrisy to a new level.
They kneeled in front of protesters and encouraged people to join the demonstrations.
These are the same people who put a giant padlock on schools and shuls, and didn’t let people die with any relative present or be buried with a respectable funeral service. These same people played down the violence committed by the protesters who were disobeying all the Covid rules. These same people, who wouldn’t let you celebrate a decent wedding or bar mitzvah, a siyum or bris, because of the terrible danger they presented, encouraged people to join large protest gatherings of thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder. Does that make any sense?
The New Rallying Cry
It should scare us how fast the “systemic racism” and police-kill-blacks narratives spread and were adopted by people of all stripes across the country. This has led to the new rallying cry: Defund the police.
As the nation sees what happens when police are handcuffed and prevented from doing their job, protestors and politicians are touting their latest solution to ending racism in the United States: stopping the flow of money to police departments. It sounds like the far-fetched rumination of an out-of-touch-with-reality conspiracy theorist, but it is the truth and it is already happening.
A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis city council promised to dismantle their police department. They said that they would create a new public safety system. No word yet on what they have in mind.
Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, a city wracked by savage looting, announced that he is slashing up to $150 million from the city’s police force. In New York, 40 Democrat politicians called for a $250 million annual cut to the NYPD budget. They said that the allocated money would be better served funding summer youth employment programs. New York City’s failed mayor, Bill de Blasio, joined the “defund the police” campaign on Sunday, saying, “I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people.”
Similar moves are being strongly advocated in Philadelphia, Dallas and Nashville. After all, in the words of Mayor Garcetti, the recent unrest is “a movement to change who we are in America when it comes to black America and our criminal justice system.”
It should be obvious that without a system of laws and people enforcing them, a civilized society cannot exist, as Chazal teach (Avos 3:2) that if not for fear of government, men would swallow each other alive. By defunding the people who enforce the laws and protect the innocent, the only result can be increased crime.
But word has gone out and the narrative has been repeated so many times by so many people that it sticks, and anyone who dares voice any opposition is quickly silenced. Drew Brees, a New Orleans hero, quickly lost that status when he said in an interview that he would “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” He added, “I love and respect my teammates, and I stand right there with them in regard to fighting for racial equality and justice. I also stand with my grandfathers, who risked their lives for this country, and countless other military men and women who do it on a daily basis.”
Brees was roundly condemned and forced to repeatedly apologize. He said that his comments were “insensitive and completely missed the mark… They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.” His wife also apologized and said, “We are the problem.”
Echoing State Propaganda
The New York Times, formerly the undisputed newspaper of record famed for its news coverage, went into a meltdown over the weekend for publishing an op-ed written by Republican Senator Tim Cotton in support of bringing in federal troops to help quell the rioting and looting if all else fails. The publication of an opinion piece, on the opinion page, not in keeping with the politically correct narrative caused a revolt in the ranks. The newspaper, which had claimed to be journalistically impartial, lost all pretense and apologized for publishing the article. The editorial page editor was pushed out and the publisher issued a statement saying that he agrees “that it will take a new team to lead the department through a period of considerable change.”
The chief editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer was sent packing. Over there, the article itself was kosher, as it justified black anger. The problem was the headline, which read, “Buildings Matter, Too.” A play on “Black Lives Matter,” it was found to be insensitive.
A Sacramento sportscaster was also fired. He tweeted, “All Lives Matter.” No, no, you’re out.
This country is slipping towards socialism, where everyone lives at the mercy of the state, which feeds them and tells them how and what to think and say. Millions of people here are now being paid not to work and attempts at protest of the corona-inspired lockdown were quickly shut down. Only protests that are in line with the agenda of the powers that be and can be used to overturn the present White House administration are sanctioned and supported. People are scared into silence and then acquiescence, lest they be shamed and ostracized for disobeying the state and violating political correctness.
Regrettably, in our community as well, people feel forced to toe a party line. You don’t hear many askonim advocating for a reopening of schools and stores. Tens of thousands of children are regressing, and nobody sees that as a cause to rally around and remedy. Storekeepers and small businessmen are suffering, yet we don’t hear anyone taking up their cause and pointing out the hypocrisy of what is being perpetrated clearly for political gains.
There is an insurrection taking place. The left is fighting to change this country and it is getting scary. Should they assume power, they will blame all the ills of the country on conservatives, Republicans, whites, and of course President Trump.
President Trump is a convenient scapegoat for now. Democrats and protesters blame him for everything. They twist his words and make up quotes to make him look like a fool. Last Friday, the president held a press conference to crow about the unemployment numbers. His prediction that the economy would bounce back from the ravages of the Covid shutdown as soon as states would open was borne out and he was proud of the accomplishment.
In his remarks, the president spoke about the ongoing protests over the murder of George Floyd. He said, “Equal justice under the law must mean that every American receives equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement, regardless of race, gender, color or creed; they have to receive equal treatment from law enforcement. We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen. Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. It’s a great day for him; it’s a great day for everybody in terms of equality. It’s really what our constitution requires and that is what our country is all about.”
The media went on to report that Trump said that Floyd was looking down from heaven and was proud of the job numbers. They castigated the president as a self-absorbed, callous fool. Joe Biden also got into the act, remarking that what Trump said was “despicable.” He never said it. They made up the quote and then condemned the president. How is anyone to know that the quote was bogus.
But Donald Trump will not remain in office forever. He may not even be there past January 20th. The liberal policies which the leftists will institute will be of little help to the poor blacks – and whites. Their promised utopia will not materialize, and they will need someone to blame. Who will they blame for their failures? Who will they turn on then?
Historic Scapegoat In The Wings?
Sorry to say, but historically, the people who have been blamed when things do not go right are the Jews. Presently, this golus is the most comfortable in our long and painful history, but you see how fast the narrative can change. With the snap of some fingers, the country has gone mad over “systemic racism.” A new orthodoxy has taken root and nobody can argue.
If you have ever wondered how Hitler took over a largely docile German people and turned them into rabid murderers, these past few weeks should help explain how that metamorphosis occurred. A seed was planted and a story germinated about a deadly group of people who had to be exterminated for the state to survive. It doesn’t take long for people to become frightened about their lives and convinced that they must do everything in their power to stamp out the evil and the threat, be it systemic racism, police brutality, or people who disobey the Covid lockdown rules.
Chof Sivan, the day that commemorates the Gezeiros Tach V’tat of the Crusades, is this weekend. Klal Yisroel in years past would fast and do teshuvah on that day, but as memories of the murderous period of the years 1648-9 receded, the practice ended. Perhaps, as we now see the potential for destruction and the direction in which this country is headed, on that day we should we should reflect and daven that the horrors of the past not be repeated, r”l.