28 February 2017
The headstone mystery
The fallen headstones in some Jewish cemeteries are a sort of 3-D Rorschach pattern; what you make of it may say more about you than the actual objects. Given the current global environment, it would be understandable for people to suspect Muslim vandals of desecrating these monuments or calling in threats to other Jewish facilities across the U.S. It seems just as likely, however, if not more likely that people will blame these incidents on white supremacist or "alt-right" vandals. This is the thinking of some Jewish groups, and many sympathizers, who've perceived a slowness to Donald Trump's denunciation of anti-semitism and claim that his rise to power has emboldened traditional anti-semitic elements in the U.S. Such claims seem hard to square with the President's oft-professed Zionist sentiments, but critics of the alt-right claim that admiration of Israel isn't incompatible with essentially anti-semitic sentiments. Richard Spencer, the supposed "alt-right" founding father, reportedly sees Israel as a model for the "ethno-state" he wants the U.S. to become, in which there may be no place for Jews. At the same time, Trump has been popular with the "paleoconservative" milieu from which Spencer emerged, which on anti-interventionist grounds, if not for other reasons, doesn't even share Trump's Zionism. As far as I know, no evidence has emerged yet pointing either to Muslims or whites as suspects in the recent vandalism, but it's obvious that many Americans would prefer that white anti-semites be proven the culprits, just as they sigh with relief when they hear that the most recent cases of cars driving into crowds of people were DWIs or senior moments. While theirs is clearly a defensive attitude on one front, it's also a prejudiced one on another, based on a stereotype of Trump supporters as xenophobic, chauvinist white men indiscriminate in their discrimination. It is taken for granted that such people hate all but their own kind, as narrowly defined as possible. If they're assumed to hate Muslims, it doesn't seem contradictory to assume that they also hate Jews. Their attitudes are assumed to be rooted in ancient prejudices more than in recent history, and recent history, it's suspected, only gives such people an excuse to vent hatreds that existed before anything supposedly provoked them and would persist had nothing provocative happened. The redneck, that degenerate subspecies of boobus americanus, hates anyone who looks, sounds, dresses or prays differently, according to this view, and needs no other prompting to hate. This viewpoint takes for granted that the white man is uniquely xenophobic in human history, or uniquely violent in his xenophobia; merely to identify as "white" is to conspire in the subjugation (if not the extermination) or the rest of humanity. Naturally, then, this monster is the first suspect in any hostile act against minority groups -- and the sad fact is that it is quite possible that someone like him is to blame for at least some of this vandalism, not because whites are uniquely hateful but because some of them are pretty damn stupid. I don't think anyone would dispute that whoever is tipping tombstones or calling in prank threats is stupid, regardless of background, and even in the unlikely event that the real perpetrators are provocateurs out to stir up hatred for groups other than Jews. That aside, it would also be stupid not to consider every possibility of culpability simply because you dislike the potential consequences. In particular, people who boast of their lack of prejudice should be the most ready to hold guilty individuals accountable, regardless of who or what they represent.