News Analysis: Dennis Prager
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by Dennis Prager
The most frequently asked question I receive from non-Jews about Jews is, why are Jews so liberal?
The question is entirely legitimate since Jews (outside of Israel) are indeed overwhelmingly liberal and disproportionately left of liberal as well. For example, other than blacks, no American group votes so lopsidedly for the Democratic Party. And the question is further sharpened given that traditional Jewish values are not leftist. That is why the more religiously involved the Jew, the less likely he is to be on the Left. The old saw, “There are two types of Jews — those who believe Judaism is social justice and those who know Hebrew,” contains more than a kernel of truth.
In no order of importance, here are six reasons:
1. Judaism is indeed preoccupied with social justice (as well as with holiness and personal morality), and many Jews believe that the only way to achieve a just society is through leftist policies.
2. More than any other major religion, Judaism has always been preoccupied with this world. The (secular) Encyclopedia Judaica begins its entry on “Afterlife” by noting that “Judaism has always affirmed belief in an afterlife.” But the preoccupation of Judaism has been making this world a better place. That is why the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) is largely silent about the afterlife; and it is preoccupied with rejecting ancient Egyptian values. That value system was centered on the afterlife — its bible was the Book of the Dead, and its greatest monuments, the pyramids, were tombs.
3. Most Jews are frightened by anything that connotes right wing — such as the words “right-wing” and “conservative.” Especially since the Holocaust, they think that threats to their security emanate from the Right only. (It is pointless to argue that Nazism stood for National Socialism and therefore was really a leftist ideology. Whether that is theoretically accurate doesn’t matter; nearly everyone regards the Nazis as far Right, and, therefore, Jews fear the Right.) The fact that the Jews’ best friends today are conservatives and the fact that the Left is the home of most of the Jews’ enemies outside of the Muslim world have made little impact on Jews’ psyches.
4. Liberal Jews fear most religion. They identify religion — especially fundamentalist religion and especially Christianity — with anti-Semitism. Jews are taught from birth about the horrors of the Holocaust, and of nearly 2,000 years of European, meaning Christian, anti-Semitism. They therefore tend to fear Christianity and believe that secularism guarantees their physical security. That is what animates the ACLU and its disproportionately Jewish membership, under the guise of concern with the Constitution and “separation of church and state” (words that do not appear in the Constitution), to fight all public expressions of Christianity in America.
5. Despite their secularism, Jews may be the most religious ethnic group in the world. The problem is that their religion is rarely Judaism; rather it is every “ism” of the Left. These include liberalism, socialism, feminism, Marxism and environmentalism. Jews involved in these movements believe in them with the same ideological fervor and same suspension of critical reason with which many religious people believe in their religion. It is therefore usually as hard to shake a liberal Jew’s belief in the Left and in the Democratic Party as it is to shake an evangelical Christian’s belief in Christianity. The big difference, however, is that the Christian believer acknowledges his Christianity is a belief, whereas the believer in liberalism views his belief as entirely the product of rational inquiry.
The Jews’ religious fervor emanates from the origins of the Jewish people as a religious people elected by God to help guide humanity to a better future. Of course, the original intent was to bring humanity to ethical monotheism, God-based universal moral standards, not to secular liberalism or to feminism or to socialism. Leftist Jews have simply secularized their religious calling.
6. Liberal Jews fear nationalism. The birth of nationalism in Europe planted the secular seeds of the Holocaust (religious seeds had been planted by some early and medieval Church teachings and reinforced by Martin Luther). European nationalists welcomed all national identities except the Jews’. That is a major reason so many Jews identify primarily as “world citizens”; they have contempt for nationalism and believe that strong national identities, even in America, will exclude them.
Just as liberal Jews fear a resurgent Christianity despite the fact that contemporary Christians are the Jews’ best friends, leftist Jews fear American nationalism despite the fact that Americans who believe in American exceptionalism are far more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel than leftist Americans. But most leftist Jews so abhor nationalism, they don’t even like the Jews’ nationalism (Zionism).
If you believe that leftist ideas and policies are good for America and for the world, then you are particularly pleased to know how deeply Jews — with their moral passion, intellectual energies and abilities, and financial clout — are involved with the Left. If, on the other hand, you believe that the Left is morally confused and largely a destructive force in America and the world, then the Jews’ disproportionate involvement on the Left is nothing less than a tragedy — for the world and especially for the Jews.
by Dennis Prager
To understand Jews, one must understand that most Jews are not religious.
This is true even if our definition of “religious” is minimal, i.e., observant of any specifically Jewish religious laws, attends synagogue once a month or even declares a belief in God.
According to a 2003 Harris Poll, “Only 16% of Jews go to synagogue once a month or more often”; and regarding belief in God: “Protestants (90%) are more likely than Roman Catholics (79%) and much more likely than Jews (48%) to believe in God. Religious affiliation here includes many people raised as members of a religion or religious group, regardless of what they practice or believe now.”
Why most contemporary Jews are irreligious, given that the Jews gave the world the Bible and introduced humanity to the God of monotheism, is a fascinating subject. It is also a vital subject given the role that secular Jews — such as Marx, Freud and Einstein — have played in forming the modern world.
One reason was traditional (Orthodox) Judaism’s inability to keep most Jews religious once Jews were free to leave the ghettos and shtetls (small Jewish towns or villages throughout Eastern Europe) in which most Jews lived.
The only Jewish religious alternative was a new Jewish movement called Reform Judaism, begun in Germany in the beginning of the 19th century. But with all the good intentions of Reform’s founders to stem the departure of Jews from Judaism, Reform retained little that was distinctively Jewish. It dropped kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws), Hebrew as the language of worship, Jewish peoplehood, opposed the return of Jews to Israel (Zionism), and allowed moving the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.
By the mid-19th century, some Jews broke away from Reform and founded Conservative Judaism, in order to “conserve” Jewish religiosity without being Orthodox.
While Reform and Conservatism appealed to many Jews, a deeply religious, God-centered alternative to Orthodoxy that can keep Jews religious has not yet arisen.
And why did most Jews reject Orthodoxy? Over the course of thousands of years, a combination of anti-Semitism and Orthodox Jewish law — one of whose primary purposes was to keep Jews separated from the non-Jewish world — kept Jews in isolation. And when any group has little or no interaction with other groups, its intellectual life begins to atrophy. This was not only true in Orthodox shtetls; it is a problem in much of the Islamic world today as well as in the secular liberal university.
Therefore, once Orthodoxy was exposed to the light of freedom, it had few rational or convincing responses to the modern world’s challenges. Faced with the choice between science, Mozart, personal liberty and great literature on the one hand, and Orthodox isolation on the other, the choice for nearly all Jews was obvious.
And that brings us to a second reason for many Jews’ irreligiosity. Jews decided that the secular world of the arts, the university and celebration of reason — a world devoid of religion — was the world for Jews to work for. Secular Jews are still believers in the Enlightenment (despite the anti-Semitism of Voltaire, the father of the Enlightenment, and despite the anti-Semitism of secular Europe).
Which brings us to the third reason. Along with their rejection of Jewish religiosity, Jews also feared and loathed their Christian neighbors’ religiosity. European Jews had suffered for centuries from religion-based (especially European Christian) anti-Semitism. For example, Jews were tortured to death on a charge of “desecration of the host,” which essentially meant being murdered for allegedly torturing a wafer. Christian anti-Semitism in Europe ensured that virtually no Jew would feel sympathetic to religion generally, let alone Christianity specifically. Therefore, when European culture began warring on Christianity, many Jews completely identified with the anti-religious warriors. Those warriors were the men of the Enlightenment, the self-righteous title the anti-Christians gave their movement.
Thus began the now centuries-old Jewish association of secularism and anti-religiosity (especially Christianity) with what most Jews deem is good for Jews. That America’s Christians have founded the country that has provided the most blessed place in which Jews have ever lived — and that many Christians are now the Jews’ best friends in a world that has more anti-Semitism than at any time since the Holocaust — has not changed many Jews’ belief that the anti-religious, especially those trying to weaken Christianity’s influence, are the Jews’ natural allies.
A fourth reason for Jews’ alienation is the huge percentage of Jews who attend university. A major aim of the university is to influence students toward secularism and away from the Judeo-Christian value system that America’s values have largely been based on.
Fifth and finally, Jews have suffered a great deal throughout history, culminating in the Holocaust. This has further reinforced Jews’ alienation from God and religion.
Given Jews’ influence in America, itself the most influential society on Earth, their alienation from and hostility to religion and to Judeo-Christian values, the greatest value system ever devised and the one based on the Jews’ own Bible, is a tragedy. But if this irreligiosity is to be undone, it must first be understood.
by Dennis Prager
Years ago, on a flight to Louisville, Ky., the woman seated next to me asked what brought me from Los Angeles to Louisville.
“I will be giving a lecture,” I responded.
“To whom?” the personable middle-aged woman asked.
“To the Jewish community,” I responded.
She then proceeded to engage me in a discussion about Jews, and it became apparent that she believed Jews wielded great influence in society. So I decided to ask her a question:
“There are almost 300 million Americans. How many of them do you think are Jews?”
“Fifty million,” she replied.
When I told her there are 6 million Jews in America, she thought for a moment and said, “Hum . . . they must all live in Kentucky.”
Love them or hate them, respect them or loathe them — and most people have at least one of these reactions — of all the world’s groups, none receives as much attention, including hatred, as the Jews. And this has been true for thousands of years.
Yet, for all their fame and notoriety, Jews are little understood. In fact, it may be said that those who do not understand Jews fall into two groups: non-Jews and Jews.
So, after a lifetime immersed in Jewish life — an involvement that includes nearly every aspect of Jewish life from the religious (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox) to the secular (Jewish federations, Israel and Soviet Jewry activism) — and after 25 years of speaking to people of all backgrounds on the radio and in lectures, I feel ready to attempt the daunting but significant task of explaining Jews.
With this first column of the year, I inaugurate a series of columns titled “Explaining Jews.” Last year, 25 of my 50 weekly columns were devoted to “The Case for Judeo-Christian Values,” and I came to realize the significance of exploring one topic in depth alongside columns on the immediate issues of the day.
Subjects to be addressed will include:
Why are Jews overwhelmingly to the left of center?
Are Jews a nation, a religion, a race, an ethnicity?
Why have Jews been so hated?
What is Zionism? Is anti-Zionism a form of anti-Semitism?
Are any stereotypes about Jews true?
Why are most Jews irreligious? And how can there be a secular Jew when there is no such thing as a secular Christian?
Why do Jews oppose intermarriage?
Does Judaism believe in an afterlife?
Why don’t Jews seek converts?
Is the doctrine of “Chosen People” racist?
How do Jews view Christians?
Do Jews control Hollywood?
Why do Jews shun “Jews for Jesus”?
Readers’ additional questions and reactions are encouraged.
Let’s begin with the most basic question: Are Jews a religion, an ethnicity, a people, a nation, a culture?
The most accurate answer is all of the above. And that confuses both Jews and non-Jews because there is no other major modern group that falls into all these categories.
Christians, for example, constitute a religion but not a nation. One is a Christian by virtue of affirmation of a faith. In order to be a Christian, one has to believe some Christian doctrine.
On the other hand, Americans are a nation, not a religion, and there are, therefore, Americans of every religion and of no religion. As is true of other nations, one is born an American by virtue of one’s parent(s) being American. No affirmation of American faith is necessary. One can be an American and hold no American values or love for America.
Jews are Jews in both the above ways. One can become a Jew solely by affirmation of the Jewish religion (just as one can become a Christian by affirmation of Christianity) or solely by being born to a Jewish parent (originally the father, through most of Jewish history the mother, in Reform Judaism today the father or the mother).
That is why there can be atheist and secular Jews — just as there can be atheist and secular Americans even though the country’s values are Judeo-Christian. But that is also why any person in the world, no matter what race, ethnicity or religion his or her parents are, can become a member of the Jewish people through religious conversion.
That is also why there can be self-hating Jews — people born Jewish who devote their lives to harming the Jewish people — because no one born a Jew can be read out of the Jewish people. It’s probably a good thing. But not always. As we shall see.
by Dennis Prager
On Jan. 21 in Paris, a gang of Muslims intent on kidnapping Jews kidnapped 23-year-old Ilan Halimi. Reciting verses from the Koran in phone conversations demanding money from the family, they ultimately rejected the money and tortured Halimi to death. They kept him naked for weeks while they cut him up and finally poured flammable liquid over his skin and burned him alive.
When Jews read this story, they see themselves as Halimi and think that such a thing could happen to them somewhere in the world today and somewhere in the world at any time in the past.
If you want to understand how Jews think and behave, you must first understand how large antisemitism and the Holocaust loom in the psyche, emotions and minds of the vast majority of Jews.
It could not be otherwise.
While ethnic, racial, religious and national hatreds are as old as mankind, none has been as universal and as deep as hatred of Jews.
Jew-hatred was given the name “anti-Semitism” only in 1879 by a German anti-Semite named Wilhelm Marr. The term is entirely misleading since it has nothing to do with “Semites.” Jews may be Semites, but so are Arabs, and antisemitism never meant hatred of Arabs, only of Jews. That is why many contemporary writers, including my coauthor (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin) and I in our book “Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism,” do not spell the word “anti-Semite,” but rather as one word without a hyphen — “antisemite.”
Jew-hatred or antisemitism has been so deep that tens of millions of people have equated the Jews with the devil and many more have desired that the Jews be erased from the Earth. Such an attempt was made only one generation ago in what is called the Holocaust (or Shoah, the Hebrew term). This was the German Nazi attempt to murder every Jewish man, woman and child, which resulted in the murder of two out of every three Jews in Europe.
To give an idea of how many Jews have been murdered for being Jews, all one needs to do is look at population statistics. Scholars estimate the population of the Roman Empire at about 60 million at the time of Jesus. According to the dean of Jewish historians, Professor Salo Baron, at that time Jews comprised about 10% of the population. That means that 2,000 years ago there were about 6 million Jews. It is also estimated that at that time, the world’s population was about 200 million.
Today the world’s population is over 6 billion. While the world’s population is about 30 times larger than 2,000 years ago, the Jewish population has barely doubled. Had Jews been left alone to procreate at the same rate as others, there would be about 180 million Jews in the world today. Moreover, even the 6 million number for the Roman empire represented a huge loss of population due to extensive killing of Jews in the 12 centuries from their inception.
It is true that Jewish population losses have been also due to assimilation, but this assimilation was itself overwhelmingly a result of persecution — forced conversions, desire to lead a far safer life as part of the majority culture, etc. In fact, because of the Holocaust, there are fewer Jews today than there were 100 years ago.
One can now understand why the Passover Haggadah — the special prayer book for the Passover Seder meal, first written about 2,000 years ago — contains this famous statement: “In every generation there are those who rise against us to annihilate us . . . “
As a result, Jews are probably the most insecure group in the world. This may come as a surprise to most non-Jews since Jews are widely regarded as particularly powerful. But Jews’ power and Jews’ insecurity are not mutually contradictory. In fact, Jews’ power derives in large measure from their insecurity. The stronger the Jews’ influence, Jews believe, the less likely they are to be hurt again.
Fear of being hurt again is the major reason most identifying Jews are so protective of Israel. First, they fear that without Israel, Jews are far more vulnerable to another outburst of antisemitic violence. And this has been true. Israel, for example, was Soviet Jewry’s great defender (along with America and Diaspora Jewry) and the place to escape to. Only a very strong Israel, Jews believe, can prevent another Holocaust. Second, Jews believe that Arabs and other Muslims want to do to Israel and its Jewish inhabitants what the Nazis did to the Jews. And given the Palestinians’ desire to destroy Israel, the Iranian regime’s repeated calls for the annihilation of Israel, and the number of Muslims who chant, “Death to Israel,” this fear is entirely warranted.
Fear of being persecuted and even murdered solely for being a Jew resides in just about every Jew’s psyche. It helps to explain Jews’ preoccupation with Israel; Jews’ preoccupation with teaching the world about the Holocaust; Jews’ fear of Christianity — most Jews are taught about European Christian antisemitism at a very young age and link Christianity to the Holocaust; and even Jews’ near-religious commitment to liberalism, which most Jews see as the best guarantor against antisemitism. An increasing number of Jews are rethinking the latter two conclusions as a result of Christian treatment of Jews in America and Christian support for Israel and because of the lack of such support on the Left. But whatever one’s position on these matters, the fact remains that fear of pogroms, torture, expulsions and mass murder shapes most Jews’ psyches and politics.
When my older son was about 8 years old, I was putting him to bed one night and asked him what he learned that day in school. Normally he would answer, as nearly all boys do, by saying, “Nothing.” But that night he had an answer.
“I learned I have a yetzer hara,” he told me. As a student at a religious Jewish school, he was using the Hebrew term for the desire to do what is wrong. It is basic Jewish theology that the human being has two innate drives — one for good and one for bad — and that life is a constant battle with the bad drive. While Christian theology uses different terms, such as “sinful nature,” both traditions believe that the greatest battle for a better world is usually with oneself.
This is another significant way in which the Judeo-Christian value system differs from the dominant value system — that of the Left — in the contemporary West. Whether the ideology calls itself radical, leftist or liberal, its primary emphasis is on “social justice,” i.e., making society more just. Now, of course, Judeo-Christian values also seek to create a just society. Any system rooted in the Old Testament prophets and teachings of Jesus is going to be preoccupied with how to make a just society.
The differences lie elsewhere. There are two major ones.
The first is that the Left frequently defines “social justice” differently than Judeo-Christian values do. For most on the Left, “social justice” means social equality and social fairness. It is not fair that some people have more than others. This is why the Left believes that courts should be far more than umpires when adjudicating justice: they should be promoting fairness and equality.
The other difference, the focus of this column, is that leftist ideologies are so preoccupied with “social justice” that they generally ignore personal character development.
Judeo-Christian values believe the road to a just society is paved by individual character development; the Left believes it is paved with action on a macro level.
That is one reason the Left is far more interested than the Right, i.e., religious Jews and Christians and secular conservatives, in passing laws, whether through legislation or through the actions of judges. That is how the Left believes you make a better society. There is, incidentally, a second reason the Left passes so many laws: As the Left breaks down the self-discipline of Judeo-Christian religions, more and more laws are needed simply to keep people from devouring each other.
That the Left is more concerned with social change than individual change and the Right is more concerned with individual than social activism can be seen in many areas.
Many parents, for example, measure their child’s character by the child’s social activism, not by his or her behavior toward fellow students. If the child has walked for AIDS, or marched for breast cancer, or works on “environmental issues,” the child is deemed — and the child deems himself — a fine person. That he or she might mistreat less popular kids in class is not considered.
There are, of course, religious Jews and Christians who do not lead decent lives and there are leftists who do. But leftist ideals, being overwhelmingly macro, will always be more appealing to the less decent who want to feel good about themselves. That helps explain those Hollywood celebrities who lead narcissistic, hedonistic personal lives but nevertheless feel very good about themselves by raising money for “peace” or by demonstrating against global warming.
I first became aware of this vast discrepancy between “social activism” and personal ethical behavior when I saw the personal behavior of the “pro-peace,” anti-war, activists at my graduate school (Columbia University) in the early 1970s. They demonstrated for world peace but led personally narcissistic lives. Their theoretical altruism was all macro. Meanwhile, most of the religious students were preoccupied with personal character issues.
Why? Because Judeo-Christian values have always understood that the world is made better by making people better. On occasion, of course, a great moral cause must be joined. For example, it was religious Christians who led the fight to abolish slavery in Europe and America. But in general, the way to a better society is through the laborious and completely non-glamorous project of making each person more honest, more courageous, more decent, more likely to commit to another person in marriage, more likely to devote more time to raising children, and so on.
That is why all those peace studies institutes and courses are morally meaningless. Only by people learning to fight their yetzer hara will peace reign on earth.
by Dennis Prager
When you think about a Muslim suicide terrorist, is “happy” the first word you think of to describe him?
When you think about Nazis or Communists or Klansmen or child molesters, do you immediately think, “Now there are some happy people”?
Of course not.
It only takes a moment’s thought to realize that while most unhappy people don’t engage in evil, most evil is done by unhappy people. This is true on both the macro and the micro levels. We all know how much more likely we are to lash out at others when we are unhappy and how much we desire to make others feel good when we feel happy.
Given this association of evil with unhappy people, it is quite remarkable how little attention is paid to happiness as a moral, rather than only a personal psychological issue. Too often the pursuit of happiness (not the pursuit of fun or excitement) is regarded as a selfish pursuit, when in fact it is one of the best things a person can do for everyone in his life and for the world at large. The Founders of America were brilliant in many ways, not more so than by enshrining that pursuit alongside the pursuit of life and liberty.
It is therefore worth noticing how little thought is given to the question of happiness in attempting to understand the roots of evil and in seeking ways to improve the world.
Those on the left are far more likely to inquire about the economic state of those individuals and groups involved in anti-social behavior (“poverty causes crime”). And those on the right are more concerned with determining the moral and ethical values held by people engaged in bad behavior.
In my view, values are more determinative than economics. But few people have values that are so strong that those values will always overcome the individual’s unhappiness and lead him to act according to those values.
Moreover, happy people with weak characters or who possess an underdeveloped code of values are still not likely to engage in cruel behavior or join evil movements. But unhappy people who lack strong character or who have not adopted a code of moral values are very likely to act out their unhappiness in anti-social ways.
This is particularly true in the personal realm where unhappiness can be so powerful that it regularly overwhelms a person’s value system. I suspect that most readers of this column know someone with generally good values and good character who nevertheless acts indecently toward some member(s) of his/her family: a parent, a child, a spouse, a sibling.
One of the sadder revelations as one gets older is seeing how often psychological problems determine behavior.
When my book on happiness first came out in 1999, I was interviewed on dozens of talk shows. In almost every case, the interviewer asked me, “So you write that we have a moral obligation to be happy — what do you mean?”
The notion that happiness (or at least acting happy) is a debt we owe to all those in our lives and even to society at large is foreign to the vast majority of people. Yet, the more time I have devoted to writing and lecturing on this issue, the more I have come to realize that this is indeed the case. Ask anyone who was raised by an unhappy parent; ask anyone married to a chronically unhappy person; ask any worker whose co-worker is moody what their life is like and you will readily understand the moral obligation to be as happy as one can be.
Polls consistently show Republicans and religiously active Jews and Christians to be happier than Democrats and secular Americans. In light of the above, what does the preceding tell us about the good each group is likely to achieve?
Dennis Prager is a radio talk show host, author, and contributing columnist for Townhall.com.
by Dennis Prager
If you want to understand the Left, most of what you need to know can be summarized thus: The Left hates inequality, not evil.
As one raised as a New York Jew (who, moreover, attended an Ivy League university) and therefore liberal — it took me a while to recognize this fatal moral characteristic of the Left. But the moment I realized it, it became immoral not to oppose leftist values.
It is neither possible nor virtuous to be devoid of hatred. Even those who think it is always wrong to hate must hate hatred. The question therefore is not whether one hates but what (or whom) one hates.
For example, on the basis of the value system that I hold — the Judeo-Christian — I try to confine my hating to evil. By evil I mean the deliberate infliction of unjust suffering on the undeserving; cruelty is the best example of such evil.
Those who hate evil hated the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, after all, was a made-up country, created by a band of gangsters called Bolsheviks and Communists. They murdered between 20 million and 40 million innocent people, spread their totalitarianism around the world, and thereby rendered hundreds of millions of people slaves and automatons.
From the 1930s to the 1950s, liberals and social democrats vigorously opposed communism. But the rest of the world’s Left, especially its intellectuals and artists, not only did not oppose communist governments, they were the greatest defenders of communism.
By the end of the Vietnam War (begun and prosecuted by liberals), however, most liberals abandoned anti-tyranny, anti-evil liberalism and joined the rest of the Left. Since the late 1960s, with almost very few exceptions (one is Sen. Joseph Lieberman), “liberal” and “Left” have become synonyms. (That is why The New York Times characterizes the Nation, a far-left journal, as “liberal.”)
Thus, when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” the liberal world condemned him. The Cold War, once regarded as an epochal battle between freedom and tyranny, came to be regarded by liberals as an amoral battle between “two superpowers.”
Likewise liberals almost universally mocked President George W. Bush when he labeled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, North Korea and Iran an “axis of evil.” It takes a mind that either has little comprehension of evil or little desire to confront it to object to characterizing three of the worst regimes in modern history as “evil.”
How else can one explain the Left’s enchantment with Fidel Castro, the totalitarian ruler of Cuba? Clearly his evil is of little consequence. What matters to people on the Left is that there is free health care and almost universal literacy in Cuba. Whereas non-leftists believe that it is far better to be illiterate but free, leftists believe that it is better to be a literate slave.
Today, this inability to either recognize or to hate evil is manifested in the liberal opposition to the war in Iraq. As I pointed out in a previous column, opponents of the war should be asked to at least acknowledge that America is fighting evil people and an evil doctrine in Iraq. But even that is difficult, if not impossible, for most people on the Left.
As noted above, everyone hates someone, and that includes people on the Left. The problem is that because they don’t hate evil, they hate those who oppose evil. That is how liberals went from anti-communist to anti-anti-communist. To paraphrase one of the greatest moral insights of the Talmud, those who show mercy to the cruel will be cruel to the merciful. So, George W. Bush, not the Islamic terror world, is the Left’s villain; life-embracing Israel is the Left’s villain, not their death-loving enemies; and religious Christians who note moral weaknesses within the Islamic world are the real danger, not the moral weaknesses within the Islamic world.
To be fair, it should be noted that confusion over evil and insufficiently hating it are not confined to the Left. There are religious people who conflate sexual sin with evil and/or advocate automatic forgiveness of all evildoers, even when no repentance has taken place.
But the inability to acknowledge the greatest evils, let alone to join in fighting them, is the defining characteristic of the Left. That is why former Vice President Al Gore just announced that global warming was a worse threat to humanity than terrorism. He really believes that. As do the great many people on the Left whose moral passion focuses more on gasoline prices, drug prices, health care prices, and other expressions of material inequality than on people and movements dedicated to murder. That is why Robert Redford and friends from Hollywood can celebrate Fidel Castro. Castro may imprison political opponents, and most Cubans may have no right of dissent, but they are economically equal.
by Dennis Prager
Decades of radio counseling, personal experience, and public and private discussions about marriage prompt me to write this list of questions for anyone contemplating marriage.
1. Is the person your best friend or at least becoming so?
It is easy to find a lover. It is easy to get excited about a new person. But if you cannot say that the person you are considering marrying has become or is becoming your best friend, you need to figure out why before you decide to marry. This is probably the single most overlooked question among couples, especially young ones.
And for good reason. Many people cannot not answer this in the affirmative. But you have to answer it. Over time, friendship is the greatest bond between a couple. If the person you marry does not become your best friend, you will either seek someone who will be or simply drift apart.
What is a best friend? Someone you can and do tell just about everything to. Someone you want to be with as much as possible. And someone you need. One of the most devastating ideas of the last generation was that needing or depending upon another person is a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. The inability to need is a sign of weakness — you are afraid to relinquish power or afraid to be hurt.
2. Aside from sex, do you enjoy each other?
As great as the sex may be (and great sex certainly adds to a marriage), even Hugh Hefner spends the vast majority of time doing other things. You must enjoy this person during those hours. This sounds trite, but enjoying each other may actually be the single most important characteristic of a happy marriage.
3. Is there chemistry between the two of you?
As essential as being best friends and enjoying each other are, there should be a physical component to your relationship. Dating for marriage is not an interview for a platonic best friend. Nearly always, a woman who dates a man who meets the criteria listed here can grow to find him sexually attractive. If that were not the case, the majority of men would never attract a woman. There are very few men who turn heads. Most men become physically attractive to a woman thanks to other, masculine, qualities that they possess.
Even for men it is common to find a woman physically attractive over time. In my late 20s, I directed a summer institute for men and women ages 19-25. After the first two summers, I began to play a game with myself. On the first night of the session, I made a mental note of which women I thought the most attractive and compared that list to one I made after the four weeks. The names on the latter list were rarely on the first-night list.
Nevertheless, if there is insufficient physical attraction after all other criteria are met and time has passed, you may be in the tragic position of having to end a relationship with a great man or woman.
4. Does the person have a number of good friends and at least one very close friend of the same sex?
It is a bad sign if the person you are thinking of marrying does not have good friends (including of long duration) of the same sex. Something is very wrong. This alone should rule out the person from consideration. A woman who cannot hold female friends and a man who cannot hold male friends have issues that will probably sink your marriage.
5. How does the person treat others?
It should go without saying that if the person is not kind to you, quit while you can. But it is far from sufficient that the person you are considering marrying treats you kindly. Watch how he or she treats waitresses, employees, family members and anyone else he/she comes into contact with. I promise you how the person treats others now is how this person will treat you later.
If these questions and the ones I will pose in Part II are answered honestly and help determine your decision, your chances of entering a happy marriage or avoiding an unhappy one are dramatically increased.
You’ll need that, too.
by Dennis Prager
It is exceptionally difficult to find the right person to marry.
This is especially true for first marriages. That is why it is so important to think through your decision by asking and answering critical questions. In Part I, I offered five. Here are seven more:
6. What problems do the two of you now have? And what inner voice of doubt, if any, are you suppressing?
Here is a rule that is rarely broken: Whatever problems you have before the wedding day, you will have during your marriage. Do not think that marrying will solve any problem you have with the person. You therefore have three choices: Make peace with the problem, see if it can be solved before deciding to marry, or don’t marry the person. It is imperative that you be ruthlessly honest with yourself. And that is very hard. Nothing in life is easier than denying problems when you are in love. That is why it is important to pay attention to inner doubts.
7. How often do you fight?
It may be normal for couples to fight (though the ratio of loving moments to fights must be high to sustain a loving relationship). But it is usually a bad sign if you are doing so with any frequency while dating. Presumably that should be the easiest time to get along — no children together, no joint financial problems, and the excitement of a new person.
If you do fight, do you quickly make up? Does he/she fight fairly and hear your side? Has either of you said “I’m sorry” after a fight? And perhaps most important, do you fight over the same issue(s) with no resolution?
8. Do you share values?
Opposites attract in the very beginning. Likes stay together for the long term. The more you share, especially values, the better your chances of a good marriage. For example, if you think television watching is a form of self abuse and your prospective spouse loves watching for hours a day, you may have a big problem. Likewise if you have opposing political and social views to which you are passionately committed.
Love conquers all pre-maritally. Not post.
9. Do you miss the person when you are not together?
This even holds true for men. Yes, men are better at being distracted by work, sports, computer games, the opposite sex, and God knows what else, but it is not a good sign if you rarely miss her when not together. As for women, if you don’t miss him, it is probably a really bad sign.
10. Is the person unhappy?
Having written a best-selling book on happiness and lectured on the subject on all seven continents, I am tempted write a book-length book explanation of just this question. Suffice it to say that the importance of marrying an essentially happy person cannot be exaggerated. If you are basically happy, do not think for a moment that you can make an unhappy person happy by marrying him or her. On the contrary, the ability of the unhappy to make the happy unhappy is far greater than the ability of the happy to make the unhappy happy.
11. How much of your love is dependent on the sex you are having?
The power of sex is so great that it often obscures problems of relating to one another. How much do you relate outside of bed? Do you love talking when you don’t see, let alone touch, each other — such as by phone or computer? The best way to ascertain the answer is to take a month off from all sexual contact and see how much you then enjoy each other.
12. What do people you respect think of the person you’re considering marrying?
Young people are certain they know better than anyone else in the world what is good for them. So a lack of enthusiasm for the person you are considering for marriage on the part of family or friends may mean little or nothing. And sometimes family objections should mean little or nothing. But if objections come, let us say, from a parent you respect for reasons that are not easily dismissed, and if others you respect are unenthusiastic as well, you should take the objections seriously. You would do so regarding the purchase of a car, wouldn’t you? Yet no car will affect your life nearly as much as your spouse.
Will honest answers to these 12 questions either help you marry well or avoid a marriage that can make your life miserable? There is an easy way to find out. Ask any married or divorced person who will open up to you whether these questions need to be answered. They are the experts. Not the never-married, like you, who usually know nothing about marriage.
by Dennis Prager
Jews who support the Christian right are “Uncle Jakes.”
So says a pro-Israeli Jewish official in his recent column for the Israel Policy Forum, a pro-Israel organization. “Uncle Jake” is M. J. Rosenberg’s term for Jewish equivalent of “Uncle Tom.” Just as the left sees conservative blacks as traitors to African-Americans, so it sees conservative Jews as traitors to the Jewish people.
I am the “Uncle Jake” most criticized in the Rosenberg column.
That a Jew on the left would use this term to describe Jews who support conservative Christians gives one an idea of how irrational, how hysterical are the arguments of the Jewish (and non-Jewish) left. And lacking a rational basis, they frequently rely on name-calling.
Speaking personally, I have been called many things in my life, but “Jewish traitor” is a first. For the record, and offered with obvious embarrassment at having to list these things about myself, here is a brief review of my Jewish activities:
From 1969 onward I was one of the leaders of the Soviet Jewry movement, beginning with being the national spokesman for the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, the leading activist group in that cause.
I have lectured in more Jewish communities in North America — federations, synagogues of all denominations, Jewish community centers — than almost any living Jew. And I have spoken at the national conventions of virtually every major American Jewish organization — including Hadassah, the General Assembly of Jewish Federations; the United Jewish Campaign; AIPAC; and the American Jewish Committee.
I co-wrote with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin perhaps the most widely used introduction to Judaism in the English language.
I am the recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s 2004 Prize for excellence in Jewish Commentary.
For seven years I was the director of the Jewish retreat center, the Brandeis-Bardin Institute.
I am a founder of a Jewish day school in Southern California.
I am the emcee of the annual Chabad telethon; I’ve been teaching the Torah at the University of Judaism for 25 years, and teach Torah at my Reform synagogue.
And I have brought tens of thousands of Jews back to Judaism and Jewish identity — Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.
How then does a Jewish writer call me, a man whose life has been so committed to the welfare of the Jewish people, a traitor to Jews?
The answer is simple: To many leftist Jews, a non-leftist Jew is by definition a traitor. It’s as simplistic as that. To these Jews, “left” and “Jewish” are synonyms. Just as to many on the left, “left” and “black” are synonyms.
The use of this smear is the tactic of those who cannot argue. Blacks and whites who smear black conservatives such as Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter, Larry Elder, Walter Williams, and Ward Connerly as “Uncle Toms” do so because they cannot, or wish not, to engage them in intellectual argument. It’s far easier to libel them than to debate them.
The same libel and intellectual shallowness characterizes the Rosenberg piece.
His major charge is that Jews who support conservative Christians are “Jews taking positions hostile to the Jewish people in order to stay faithful to some political agenda.”
And what are these positions that are “hostile to the Jewish people”? Rosenberg enumerates them: “the entire Christian Right agenda: opposing abortion, poverty programs, progressive taxation, laws that protect gays, affirmative action, the environmental movement, and feminism.
Even if that portrayal of conservative positions were accurate, why are these positions “hostile to the Jewish people”? Because they are conservative positions! Again, to such minds, “left” and “Jews” are synonymous, and therefore “conservative” and “hostile to Jews” are synonymous.
If you think most abortions are immoral; that a lower tax rate is better for society, including the poor; that the problem of poverty in America will not be solved by the government spending trillions more; that marriage should not be redefined; that a race-blind society is a finer society and that race-based affirmative action hurts both the recipients of the lowered standards and the society at large; that we desperately need the oil from a small percentage of the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve because doing so will help us rely less on Saudi oil and won’t hurt any caribou; and think that, in retrospect, the feminist movement (as distinct from the belief in man-woman equality, which every religious conservative I know holds) hurt more men and women than it helped — you are anti-Jewish.
Such shallowness is based in part on ignorance. For example, Rosenberg writes that “He [Prager] conveniently ignores the fact that Christian Right support for Israel is largely based on a religious belief that Christ will only return after Jews are all in Israel accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ.”
That is the lie about Christians that the left spreads to prevent Jews from knowing the truth about Christian support for Israel: that it is rooted overwhelmingly in the beliefs that God promised the return of the Jews to Israel, that Christians are grafted onto the tree of Israel, that God blesses those who bless the Jews, that Israel is a humane democracy and its enemies are bloodthirsty and backward regimes.
To Rosenberg, conservative Christians are a caricature.
Rosenberg’s charges that Jews who support Christian conservatives do so from nefarious motives and that Christians who support Israel do so from nefarious motives is typical of the left. They judge motives, not deeds. And the reason is clear. They are so certain of their moral superiority, they can only deduce that all those who differ with them are bad people. That’s how a Jew who has devoted his life to the Jewish people can be called an Uncle Jake.
by Dennis Prager
In 1945, the anti-Nazi German pastor Martin Niemoller wrote the following:
“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”
This famous statement can be updated for Europeans:
First they came for Israel, and we didn’t speak up because we weren’t Jews. Then they came for Lebanon’s Christians, and we didn’t speak up because we weren’t Maronites. Then they came for America, and we didn’t speak up because we weren’t Americans. Then they came for Sudan’s blacks, and we didn’t speak up because we weren’t Sudanese blacks. Then they came for us, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for us.
As long as Muslim demonstrators only shouted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” Europe (and the rest of the world’s Left) found reasons either to ignore the Nazi-like evil inherent in those chants (and the homicidal actions that flowed from them) or to blame America and Israel for the hatred.
But like the earlier Nazis, our generation’s fascists hate anything good, not merely Jews and Americans. And now the Damascus embassy of Norway, a leading anti-Israel “peace at any price” country, has been torched. And more and more Norwegians, and Brits, and French, and Dutch, and Swedes, and the rest of the European appeasers who blamed America for 9-11 and blamed Israel for Palestinian suicide bombings, are beginning to wonder whether there just might be something morally troubling within the Islamic world.
Some on the Left here and in Europe are beginning to reassess whether America and Israel or their Islamic enemies are at fault.
The fact that major newspapers in most Western European countries published some or all of the cartoons that triggered the riots against Denmark, the country in which the offending cartoons of Muhammad first appeared, was a statement that at least some in Europe have had it with appeasement of Islamic violence.
And here in America, a left-of-center columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutten, just wrote: “It’s no longer possible to overlook the culture of intolerance, hatred and xenophobia that permeates the Islamic world.”
As it happens, I have sympathy with the notion that newspapers and others need to be sensitive to religious, including Muslim, sensibilities. However, when Muslim governments and religious spokesmen attack the West for its insensitivity to Muslims and its anti-Muslim prejudice, one has entered the Twilight Zone. Because nowhere in the world is there anywhere near the religious bigotry and sheer hatred of other religions that exists in the Muslim world.
Christians nearly everywhere in the Arab and Muslim worlds are usually second-class citizens at best and terribly treated at worst.
The Taliban Islamic regime in Afghanistan blew up the unique Buddhist sculptures in their country because they didn’t want even a trace of a non-monotheistic faith to survive in an Islamic country.
About a million non-Arab and non-Muslim men, women and children have been slaughtered by the Islamic regime in Sudan.
Nigerian Christians are periodically murdered by Islamic mobs.
And regarding Jews, Andrew Sullivan writes in this week’s Time: “The Arab media run cartoons depicting Jews and the symbols of the Jewish faith with imagery indistinguishable from that used in the Third Reich.”
As for the riots and Islamic government protests, one question needs to be posed to these people: Which casts Islam in a worse light — political cartoons depicting Muhammad, or Muslims who murder innocents around the world in the name Allah and Islam?
Did any Jews riot when the Los Angeles Times published a cartoon of the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall, with its stones reconfigured to spell “hate”?
Did any Christians riot when museums displayed “Piss Christ,” a crucifix submerged in artist Andres Serrano’s urine?
What we have is a culture largely based on saving face and honor juxtaposed with a Judeo-Christian Western culture largely based on saving liberty and innocent life.
All of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, should pray that the better one wins.
by Dennis Prager
There’s a certain consistent pattern regarding the worldwide Left’s assessment of culpability for Muslim terror. It is the fault of the murdered.
The most recent example is the blaming of Denmark, or at least the Danish newspaper, for publishing cartoons of Muhammad. From Kofi Annan to The New York Times — and the other American newspapers that declared respect for religious symbols a new journalistic virtue — liberal and leftist opinion always condemns violent Muslim demonstrations, but always with a “but.” The “but” is that in the final analysis, it was the Danish and other European papers’ faults for insulting the Muslim prophet.
This is only the latest example of finding the victims of Islamic violence responsible for that violence.
For a decade or more, it has been a given on the Left that Israel is to blame for terror committed against Israelis by Palestinian Muslims (Palestinian Christians don’t engage in suicide terror). What else are the Palestinians supposed to do? If they had Apache helicopters, the argument goes, they would use them. But they don’t, so they use the poor man’s nuclear weapon — suicide terror.
The same argument is given to explain 9-11. Three thousand innocent Americans were incinerated by Islamic terrorists because America has been meddling in the Middle East so long. This was bound to happen. And, anyway, don’t we support Israel?
And when Muslim terrorists blew up Madrid trains, killing 191 people and injuring 1,500 others, the Left in Spain and elsewhere blamed Spanish foreign policy. After all, the Spanish government had sent troops into Iraq.
When largely Muslim rioters burned and looted for a month in France, who was blamed? France, of course — France doesn’t know how to assimilate immigrants, and, as the BBC reported on Nov. 5, 2005, “[Interior Minister Nicolas] Sarkozy’s much-quoted description of urban vandals as ‘rabble’ a few days before the riots began is said by many to have already created tension.” Calling rabble “rabble” causes them to act like to rabble.
If you wish to test the thesis that the Left blames those blown up for being blown up by Muslim terrorists, have your son or daughter at college ask some liberal arts professors who is to blame for 9-11 or Muslim suicide bombers in Israel, etc.
In fact, one way to describe the moral divide between conservatives and liberals is whom they blame for acts of evil committed against innocent people, especially when committed by non-whites and non-Westerners. Conservatives blame the perpetrators, and liberals blame either the victims’ group or the circumstances.
We Americans are used to this. For decades, liberals have blamed violent crime in America on racism and poverty, i.e., on American society far more than on the murderers, rapists, arsonists and muggers themselves. Conservatives blame the criminals.
During the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, black mobs murdered innocent Korean shopkeepers and burned sections of the city. The liberal response in America was virtually universal: We must understand the anger of these people at American racism. The daily special section on the riots in the major local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, was titled, “Understanding the Rage.”
Though Thomas Friedman, the New York Times foreign affairs correspondent, has been among the few prominent liberals to support the Iraq War, he regularly blames Islamic terror on unemployment in the Arab world.
Since examples of liberals refusing to blame criminals and terrorists for their behavior are legion, let’s try to figure out why this moral inversion is so common.
Here are three hypotheses:
One is that liberals tend to blame outside forces for evil. This emanates from the secular humanistic view of people as basically good — and therefore human evil must come not from the bad choices and bad values of the evildoer, but from the unfortunate socioeconomic and other circumstances of the person’s life.
The second explanation is that as you go further left on the political spectrum, it becomes increasingly difficult to blame the “weak” for any atrocities they commit. The Left does not divide the world between good and evil nearly as much as it does between rich and poor, and between strong and weak. Israel is stronger and richer, so Palestinian terror is excused. White America is stronger and richer than black America, so black violence is excused. The West is stronger and richer than the Muslim world, so Muslim violence is explained accordingly.
And third, liberals tend to be afraid of the truly evil. That’s why the liberal newspapers of America refused to publish the Danish cartoons, probably the most newsworthy cartoons ever drawn, but have never had any hesitance about showing cartoons and photos that mock Jewish and Christian symbols. Christians and Jews don’t kill editors.
We don’t know who will be the next target of Islamic or other murderers from poor or non-Western or non-white groups. All we can know is that liberal and leftist thought will find reasons to hold the targeted group largely responsible.
by Dennis Prager
Among the most frequently asked questions about Jews are: Why are Jews overwhelmingly liberal? Why are so few religious?
One column in this series has already dealt with the question of why Jews are secular. Before answering the question of why Jews tend toward the Left — and before proceeding with any of our analysis of Jews — it is necessary to understand the various groups that comprise the Jewish people.
In the most general sense, Jews fall into two categories: those who identify as Jews and those who do not (or do so only when forced to do so by outsiders). The latter may be called “non-Jewish Jews,” a term coined by an early 20th-century Jewish radical, Isaac Deutscher, to describe himself.
The non-Jewish Jew is someone who is born to a Jewish parent but who chooses not to identify with either the Jewish community or Judaism. Such a person is not necessarily hostile to Jews; but these Jews often play an important role in society. Examples are the many college professors who have Jewish family names but who do not identify in any way with the Jewish community or religion. As we shall see when attempting to explain Jewish liberalism and leftism, their lack of identity — often complemented by an antipathy to American national identity — helps explain most of their social and political views.
I do not include among non-Jewish Jews those people who are born Jewish and convert to another religion, such as Christianity. These are Christians who happen to be born Jews, not non-Jewish Jews.
The second category of Jews consists of Jews who do identify as Jews — meaning that they identify with the Jewish community or with Judaism or with both.
Among identifying Jews are secular Jews and religious Jews.
An identifying Jew can be a secular, even an atheistic, Jew. Indeed the founders of the modern state of Israel were secular Jews, men and women whose entire being was suffused with Jewish identity, but who were completely irreligious. They strongly believed, as did the founder of modern Zionism — the completely secular Theodore Herzl — that the Jewish people needed to live in their homeland just as the French or English needed to live in their countries.
Given that the basis of Jewish peoplehood and identity is religious — Abraham became the first Jew by virtue of his belief in the one God; Moses is a thoroughly religious figure who brings the Jews to the borders of a divinely promised land, Israel; and the entire founding history of the Jews is contained in a religious work, the Hebrew Bible — the notion of a secular Jew identifying as a Jew is intellectually inconsistent. But that has not mattered to the many Jews who dropped Jewish beliefs yet remained committed to their Jewish identity and to the welfare of the Jewish people.
For some Jews, Jewish identity is so strong that no matter what their religious views, they wish to continue to identify as Jews. This is not only true of secular identifying Jews. At the other end of the religious spectrum are a small number of Jews who convert to Christianity and who also do not wish to relinquish their identification as Jews (thus calling themselves “Messianic Jews” and “Jews for Jesus” rather than “Christians”).
Finally, among religiously identifying Jews, there are three major religious denominations — Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. Roughly speaking, the Orthodox believe in the divine origin of both a Written Law (the Torah) and an Oral Law (found in the Mishnah, the earliest part of the Talmud). They do not believe these (or, for the most part, rabbinic) laws can be changed. The Conservative movement believes the laws should be observed but that Conservative rabbis can change laws, and it does not affirm the divine authorship of Scripture. The Reform movement does not believe in the divine authorship of Scripture, does not believe that any of the laws (except universally ethical ones) are binding, and regards every Jew as an autonomous unit who accepts from Judaism only what is meaningful to him/her. Sometimes, the distinction between Reform and secular Jews is not obvious.
Among the reasons it is so important to understand these types of Jews is this: The great majority of Jews who affect the world are either non-Jewish Jews or Jews with minimal Jewish identity, and very rarely have Jewish religious faith or religious values. That is why all talk about “Jewish control” of Hollywood or of media or of anything else is meaningless. A disproportionate number of powerful figures in these professions and in academia may have been born to a Jewish parent, but most of them have no Jewish identity and they surely do not work on behalf of any Jewish interest. When was the last pro-Israel movie made, for example?
However, given the influence of non-Jewish Jews on society — in the arts, the university, the media — it is fair to say that a Jewish revival among Jews is in both the Jews’ and humanity’s interest.
by Dennis Prager
Throughout much of last week, hundreds of thousands of students in France were angrily protesting.
They have been joined by the major French labor unions, which are threatening a general strike.
And what is this all about?
It is all about a new law in France that allows a company to fire a person under the age of 26, without cause, within two years of being hired.
Wow. Imagine that. You might get fired from your first job.
As it happens, the whole point of the law was to encourage companies to hire young people. The unemployment rate among young people in France is 23%. And in many suburbs, it is double that. Meanwhile, French companies are understandably loath to hire 22-year-olds when they cannot fire them except “for cause,” which under union rules means something like committing mass murder in the workplace.
What these massive demonstrations reveal is the narcissism, laziness and irresponsibility inculcated by socialist societies.
Enough generations of socialist policies have now passed for us to judge their effects. They are bleak. Socialism undermines the character of a nation and of its citizens. In simpler words, socialism makes people worse.
These young people in France really believe that they should be able to be hired at their tender ages and that a company must not be allowed to fire them from their first day at work (except “for cause,” which, as we are learning in America, is increasingly difficult to establish). In America, most of us would call the French young people’s attitudes “spoiled.”
Socialism teaches its citizens to expect everything, even if they contribute nothing.
Socialism teaches its citizens that they have a plethora of rights and few corresponding obligations — except to be taxed.
And that is why the citizens of less socialist — and more religious — America give more charity per capita and per income than do citizens of socialist countries. That is why Americans volunteer time for the needy so much more than citizens of socialist countries do. That is why citizens of conservative states in America give more charity than citizens of liberal states do. The more Left one identifies oneself on the political spectrum, the more that person is likely to believe that the state, not fellow citizens, should take care of the poor and the needy.
Under socialism, one is not only liberated from having to take care of oneself; one is also liberated from having to take care of others. The state will take care of me and of everybody else.
The same holds true for foreign affairs. Why did the conservative government of Spain support the American war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and send troops there, while the Spanish socialists withdrew Spanish troops as soon as they were voted into office? Because the idea of risking one’s life to bring freedom to others — or to risk one’s life for another nation for just about any reason — is alien to the socialist mindset.
Similarly, in the great litmus test of moral acuity — the Middle East — socialist countries and parties virtually all line up behind the Palestinians. They do so either out of moral confusion or out of cowardice — it takes a lot more courage to support Israel than to support the Palestinians and the whole Muslim world.
The socialist idea sounded altruistic to those who began it, and it sounds altruistic to the naive who believe in it today. In practice, however, it creates self-centered individuals and a narcissistic society. So while it may have begun as a way to help others, it has come to mean a way of evading responsibility for oneself and for others.
That is why France is so frightened of the utterly rational idea that a young person should have a two-year trial period at work before being granted a lifetime job. Such an innovation in France would mean that young people would have to work hard and earn the right to lifetime employment. But if socialism means anything, it means that one shouldn’t have to earn anything. One merely has to breathe.
As much as America has been adversely affected by socialist thought, it is still inconceivable that in America hundreds of thousands of students would shut down their schools in order to gain the right not to be fired by the first company that hires them. But every time America’s socialists, the Democrats, prevail in an election, we move in that direction. No matter how pure their motives, the Left makes America and its citizens less noble people, just like the spoiled French students.
ROANOKE, Va. (AP) - The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism told evangelical Christians at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University on Wednesday that prayer in schools is not the answer to moral decline in America.
Instead, Rabbi Eric Yoffie urged Christians and Jews to “build bridges, find shared values and join together.”
Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, asked those at a chapel service in Lynchburg not to compromise church-state separation by making it a quick fix for the “disturbing collapse of public morality.”
“The bloody rise of theological politics in the Islamic world, and especially in Iraq, reminds us how rare and fragile an achievement the separation of church and state really is,” he said.
Religious leaders should work with media industry leaders to come up with a content-based rating system to protect children from on-screen sex and violence, Yoffie said.
“We live in an era of rampant materialism and no-strings-attached sexual encounters,” Yoffie said. “Every night television assails our children with mindless reality shows that present self-gratification as the only goal worth pursuing. Pornography ... has become a staple of our culture.”
He said religious leaders should remind their followers to turn off the television.
“We need to make our churches and synagogues into safe places where kids know that they matter and where they are shielded from the pressures of premature adulthood,” he said.
Falwell was not available late Wednesday for comment on Yoffie’s remarks.
The Union for Reform Judaism says it represents about 900 synagogues in North America with an estimated membership of 1.5 million people. Of the three major streams of U.S. Judaism — Orthodox and Conservative are the others — it is the only one that sanctions gay ordination and supports civil marriage for same-sex couples.
By Dennis Prager
Editor’s Note: This column was first published in May 2002.
Let us make war on the phrase “violence doesn’t solve anything.” It is a lie, and anyone who utters it cannot be taken morally seriously.
Take, for example, the American use of violence against the Taliban. Thanks to it, Afghani women may get an education, attend public events without a male escort and otherwise ascend above their prior status as captive animals.
Thanks to American violence in Afghanistan, Islamic terror has started to decline in prestige among many Muslims who had previously romanticized it. Though many Muslims still glorify Muslims who blow themselves up in order to murder Jews and Americans, the glamour of terror is dwindling. In Pakistan, for example, there are almost no Osama T-shirts on sale, and no more demonstrations on his behalf.
Even more significantly, a handful of Muslims and Arabs are beginning to ask what is wrong in their cultures, rather than continuing to blame America, Christianity and Israel for their lack of human rights, political democracy and economic progress.
Once again, violence properly used has led to major moral gains for humanity.
You have to wonder how anyone can utter, let alone believe, something so demonstrably wrong as “violence doesn’t solve anything,” or “an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind,” or any other pacifist platitudes. These are the moral and intellectual equivalents of “the Earth is flat.” In fact, it is easier to show that violence solves many evils than it is to show that the earth is round.
It was violence that destroyed Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Only violence. Not talk. Not negotiations. Not good will.
It is violence used by police that stops violent criminals from murdering or otherwise hurting innocent people. There are many innocent men and women alive today solely because some policeman used violence to save their lives.
It was violence that ended slavery in America. Had violence not been used against the Confederacy, the United States would have been cut in half, and millions of black men and women would have remained slaves.
The list of moral good achieved by violence is endless.
How, then, can anyone possibly say something as demonstrably false as “violence doesn’t solve anything”?
The answer is difficult to arrive at. Given how obviously moral much violence has been, one is tempted to respond by asking how people can believe any absurdity — whether it is that Elvis Presley is still living, or that race determines a person’s behavior, or that 72 women in heaven await mass murderers.
Vast numbers of people believe what they want to believe or what they have been brainwashed to believe, not what is true or good. For vast numbers of people, it is simply dogma that all violence is wrong. It is a position arrived at with little thought but with a plethora of naive passion.
It is also often the position of the morally confused. People who believe in moral relativism, who therefore cannot ever determine which side in a conflict is morally right, understandably feel incapable of determining when violence may be moral.
Those who say violence never solves anything have confused themselves in other ways as well. They have elevated peace above goodness. Therefore, in these people’s views, it is better for evil to prevail than to use violence to end that evil — since the very use of violence renders the user of it evil.
For those people whose moral compasses are intact, the issue is as clear as where North and South are. There is immoral violence, and there is moral violence.
That is why it is so morally wrong and so pedagogically foolish to prohibit young boys from watching any violence or from playing violent games like “Cops and Robbers.” Just as with sex and ambition and all other instincts, what must be taught about violence is when it is right to use it.
For if we never engage in moral violence, it is as certain as anything in life can be that immoral violence will rule the world.