(embed is fickle. If it’s not showing up, click here.2)
This is just the latest of videos of truly violent3, jaw-droppingly appalling, often racially- or ethnically-charged4 conduct at town halls on health care reform. But sometimes, I see stuff like this and it is just too much.
Because are you fucking kidding me with this? To say “heil Hitler” to an Israeli Jew, as an accusation, as an insult because you disagree with him on how large the government should be, and whether it should provide health care for its citizens. There is still so much work to do and there are times when I am not up to any of it. I understand anger-baiting, but I also understand cruelty, malice, bad faith, and evil. And there is something evil in this. Rabbi Menachem Mendel said:
Intolerance lies at the core of evil. Not the intolerance that results from any threat or danger. But intolerance of another being who dares to exist. Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us, because every human being secretly desires the entire universe to himself. Our only way out is to learn compassion without cause. To care for each other simply because that ‘other’ exists.”
This quote always brings up another for me. In “Mother Night,” a book about a playwright-turned Nazi propagandist, Kurt Vonnegut writes
There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that G-d Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with G-d on his side.
I watched the above video with a good friend of mine, who is not Jewish, but whose gay great uncle was killed in the Holocaust. He, too felt flabbergasted, but a short while later we were trying to light a fire which kept dying. He called the efforts lame and I told him that was an ableist term. He gave me such a look of annoyance, though occasionally he will apologize when I call him on “retarded,” and has learnt the term “hipster racism.” Where do you go with this? What do you do in a world that wants to hate without limit? I can understand wanting a small government. I can understand not trusting politicians. To disagree what sorts of programs a government should provide. To get upset when you see people stand in opposition to your ideals, even to lash out occationally.
But I cannot understand the baseless, monstrous comparisons to Adolf G-ddamned Hitler; strapping on guns and publicly, proudly threatening the president; I cannot understand a willful abandonment of humanity for inhumanity, the hatred of the other who dares to exist.
So. Where do you go with this?5 Where do you find that compassion without cause? How do you care for the other when the other is against (health) care? Where do you find love to combat intolerance so visceral?
1. “The West Wing,” “Take This Sabbath Day.” Sam Seaborn to Leo McGarry on the President’s refusal to take a stand against capital punishment.
2. For those unable to view or hear the video, the title tells you the long and short of it. An Israeli man is talking about how in Israel, they care for people, particularly soldiers, and provide everyone with health care. As he speaks, a woman off camera shouts “Heil Hitler.” He says to the reporter “did you hear that? She said to a Jew ‘Heil Hitler’.” He then confronts her: “I’m a Jew, you’re telling me ‘Heil Hitler?’ Shame of you! Shame of you!” Full transcript when I have headphones.
3. Hate crime-tracking groups report upswing in activity against President Obama, a health care protester uses Twitter to encourage people to carry and even use guns at town meetings, a Tampa town hall turns violent and is cancelled
4. Black Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia)’s offices are vandalized with a four-foot swastika following a town hall meeting, a woman has her poster of Rosa Parks ripped out of her hands. If you’re not quite sure about this racial undercurrent, I invite you to take a look at the comment section of virtually any piece about health care reform.
5. Me? I intellectualize.