Caught in a Time Warp

By | September 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
‒ Leslie P. Hartley

Most of us have enough trouble dealing with our daily problems. But some people appear to have so much free time that they feel the need to dredge up old problems. They act as though the problems that afflicted their ancestors were still going strong today. It would be understandable if people tried to live in a past that was pleasant. But oddly enough, these people try their best to live in an unpleasant past.

African Americans.

Some African Americans seem to believe that they are still living in the Deep South in the days of racial segregation. No, they don’t actually look for “whites only” drinking fountains and toilets. But much of their thinking would be more appropriate if it occurred in 1917 rather than 2017.

Take the columnist for the Los Angeles Times who wrote an article subtitled, “It’s hard to shake the feeling that blacks, and black communities, are under siege.” What evoked this feeling? Are night riders in bed sheets burning black churches anywhere in America, much less in Los Angeles? Are lynch mobs dragging accused blacks from jail and hanging them from lamp posts?

No? Then what led this intelligent, educated African American to feel that she and her community are under siege? To quote her, “A Latino family is moving onto my block.”

Imagine what would have happened if a white columnist had submitted an article describing his anxiety because a Latino family was moving onto “his” block. The article would have been rejected, and he would quite likely have been fired. He would rightly be seen as a racist. His opinions would no longer be valued.

But somehow such views are acceptable in a “liberal” newspaper – if they come from a black. Does the acceptance of opinions that would be seen as racist in a white show respect for blacks? Or, on the contrary, does it reveal racism on the part of the editors, who have lower expectations of blacks, even black journalists?

In the days when blacks were subjected to discrimination on a daily basis, we could sympathize with a black who complained, “They keep us in this run-down slum, and now they’re taking that away from us, too.” But today blacks can live anywhere they can afford a house. The columnist wants to have it both ways – she can live anywhere she pleases, but a Latino family should think twice before moving onto her block.

African Americans can’t forget the days of racism and segregation – no one is asking them to. But they sometimes talk and act as if they were still living in those days. So they expect others to overlook their own racism, which they see as a legitimate reaction to the racism they suffer. The problem is that, to a great extent, they no longer suffer racism in America, so their own racism is no longer excusable.

The columnist holds a master’s degree from UCLA. Apparently a “liberal” university didn’t teach her that prejudice is unacceptable. On the contrary, that’s probably where she learned that everything is dependent on race, class, and gender.

When we moved into our home in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood years ago, an African American was living next door. Later, as chance would have it, a black again lived next door. A black family lives up the street, near an Arab American, while a Chinese American lived down the street. It’s the block where we live, but we don’t think of it as our block, just as an American block. Maybe that’s the key difference.

Jewish Americans.

Some American Jews, mainly “liberal” and non-religious ones, also live in the past. They remember how their ancestors were forced to flee for their lives from pogroms, which were anti-Semitic riots that often began in churchyards on Good Friday. I don’t blame them for remembering – my mother’s family suffered exactly that in czarist Russia. And the ancestors of other Jews were expelled from England, France, Spain, and Germany.

But the czar no longer rules Russia. Anti-Semitism no longer originates from the churches of Europe. In fact, hardly anything originates from the churches of Europe, which are largely empty. The mosques are full, however.

No, most of the anti-Semitism in Europe, and America as well, originates not from the religious Right, as it did a century ago, but from the secular Left, which shares this hatred of Jews with radical Islam.

Who are Israel’s best friends in America? Evangelical Christians. And who are its worst enemies? Left-wing Democrats. Yes, there is a tiny fringe of far-right neo-Nazis, but they are negligible. The great majority of Israel bashers in America are on the Left. True, they call themselves “progressive,” but it’s hard to distinguish their position on Israel, our war in Iraq, or the Middle East in general from the irrational rants of neo-Nazi websites. That should tell us something.

Orthodox Jews hold generally conservative views. But most American Jews are secular and “liberal.” George W. Bush was a good friend Israel, but only 25% of Jews voted for him. Donald Trump may be an even better friend ‒ and almost surely a better friend than Hillary Clinton ‒ but only 24% of Jews voted for him.

So much for the “powerful Jewish lobby.” Richard Nixon saved Israel from destruction in the 1973 war, but he was (and is) hated by most American Jews. In contrast, Jimmy Carter remains well liked, though his actions betray an anti-Israel bias that verges on anti-Semitism.


Ingratitude is a serious sin because it leads to many other sins. It is also a serious mistake. If we don’t thank those who help us, but instead criticize and insult them, we should not be surprised if eventually they stop helping us.

African Americans have made enormous progress in recent decades, and continue to do so. Blacks hold many important offices at national, state, and local levels. The last president was black, but some black leaders complained that he wasn’t “black” enough.

Some black leaders continue to ask for “reparations” for slavery. Slavery made a terrible stain on America, but it ended in 1865. One-third of a million white men and boys died fighting for the Union, and thereby ended slavery. The blood from one-third of a million corpses also made a terrible stain on the land. If all that blood, and all those amputated limbs, didn’t constitute “reparations,” nothing ever will.

Evangelical Christians, unlike their “liberal” colleagues, are the strongest supporters of Israel. But many American Jews, mainly the “liberal” ones, see them as dangerous enemies bent on turning the nation into a Christian theocracy. This fear is utterly irrational in a nation of religious pluralism, where no denomination has anything approaching a majority. The fear also shows colossal ingratitude.

But many American Jews, like many American blacks, are stuck in a time warp. They think and act as though it were the mid-1800s, and slavery dominated the South, while pogroms continued unabated. Living in the past is unrealistic and dangerous. We fail to recognize who our friends and enemies are. But at least living in a pleasant past is understandable. Living in an unpleasant past is less understandable, but equally unrealistic, and even more dangerous.

History has valuable lessons for us, but we can’t live in it. We must live in the present if we hope to have a future. Let us ally ourselves with our current friends, and confront our current enemies − while there is still time.

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