By Alan Caruba
When times turn ugly and people begin to worry about the future they begin to look for some group on which to pin the blame.
Fears manifest themselves as prejudices and this accounts, I think, of the recent flare up over Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture employee who was misidentified as a racist, treated shabbily by the White House and, astonishingly, by the NAACP as well before being swiftly exonerated.
Political pundits are saying that the one thing the first black President least wants to deal with are any charges of racism in his administration and that is entirely understandable. What is not understandable is the pass the Department of Justice gave some New Black Panthers who were clearly trying to intimidate voters at a polling place in Philadelphia.
Racism in America goes way back in our history. After visiting America around the same time, 1831-32, as Alexis de Tocqueville, the French economist, Michel Chevalier, noted that “An American of the North or South, whether rich or poor, ignorant or learned, avoids contact with blacks as if they carried the plague. Free or slave, well dressed or badly, the black, or man of color, is always a pariah.”
When a group of twenty-three Jews of Dutch ancestry arrived in New Amsterdam in September of 1654, its Governor Peter Stuyvesant did not want them to put down roots in what would later become New York, but the officers of the Dutch West India Company thought otherwise and overruled him.
If America was a hell on Earth for blacks taken into slavery, for Jews America was literally the closest thing to paradise they could imagine. It wasn’t that prejudice didn’t exist. It was that America provided opportunity and upward mobility in ways the Old World did not. To an extraordinary extent, they prospered and they gave back to America with their talents, their intellect, and their wealth.
Jews are closely identified with Hollywood, but some ugly things have been occurring there of late. There was the latest anti-Semitic outburst attributed to actor Mel Gibson whose previous 2005 arrest for DUI revealed a deeply felt hatred of Jews.
This was followed by a July 25 report on NewsBusters.org concerning an interview by director, Oliver Stone, with the London Sunday Times in which he railed against the “powerful lobby” of Jews in America. Stone’s upcoming Showtime documentary series, the “Secret History of America”, reportedly puts Hitler and Communist dictator Joseph Stalin “in context.”
How one concludes that either of these two monsters can be justified or excused of their crimes against humanity in any fashion defies the imagination and is deeply offensive. Stone, like so many Hollywood liberals is particularly fond of dictators of every description. Nothing good can come of his re-writing history to suggest that the mastermind of the Nazi Holocaust was simply a tool of German, British, and American “industrialists.”
Stone who has associated himself with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s dictator, Hugo Chavez, has apparently never met a despot with whom he could not break bread.
Hitler used anti-Semitism to stir the passions of Germans that were experiencing economic troubles in the 1930s. It’s a textbook tactic of all dictators in all times. Let’s not repeat it here or fail to protest it. Celebrities like Gibson and Stone should be shunned.
These and other incidents must especially be guarded against and condemned in times when the search for a scapegoat is too often the easy answer as opposed to understanding the actual dynamics of the nation’s economic troubles.
Bigotry is quintessentially un-America.
In 1790 President George Washington wrote to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, saying, “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy; a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”
We shall never be wholly free of the bigots among us, nor of any feelings we may have in our own hearts, but we can never permit ourselves or others to indulge in bigotry without considering the often terrible lessons of history.
The Moral Liberal Featured Writer, Alan Caruba, writes a daily post at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. An author, business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center. Copyright 2010 © Alan Caruba