Sunday, December 16, 2007

Al Gore Broke My Heart

I want to thank you folks for not pointing out that my future as a political prognosticator has been irredeemably scarred by my wishful thinking toward an Al Gore candidacy. I thought I had it all figured out. But like someone that can't accept Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman, I could not believe that a statesman who's political trajectory had propelled him to win the popular vote for the presidency could turn his back on his destiny and merely walk away. I thought Gore certainly must have some grand and Biblical strategy that would swallow the other candidates like Jonah by the whale. My scenario was this; John Edwards wins Iowa, Hillary wins New Hampshire, and Obama wins South Carolina. Then in the midst of this turmoil would come Al Gore, organization at the ready and with a chest full of medals, prepared to assume his rightful place in American history as the redeemer of the thoughtless and slayer of the Bush philosophy of government by the corporation.

America believes in redemption and needed Gore to cleanse the collective guilt felt by those who voted for Bush, actually believing he had integrity. It would have been a national do-over, like a football sideline review, where an historic wrong might finally be righted. In every interview, when asked about running again, Gore always said, "I have no plans to be a candidate." That's quite different from saying, "No, I will not run." But then came the news that Al had accepted a partnership in a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that specialized in helping innovative start-ups that were energy efficient and potentially profitable. Before I could become too indignant about Gore cashing in on his environmental advocacy, however, I read he is donating his salary to the Alliance for Climate Protection. Still, he started the Alliance, and venture capitalists usually get stock in the company. I'm sure he's not working for free.

Silicon Valley is also within proximity of Gore's San Francisco based cable network, "Current," which plans to combine the best features of television and the Internet. Now you can watch multiple reruns of "Law and Order," while simultaneously seeing the most popular Google searches. Gore has been a noble, lifelong public servant and deserves to financially capitalize on an historic year of achievement. I'm certain the speaking fees of a Nobel Laureate are considerable, not to mention the Oscar and Emmy, but I can't help but feel disappointed as a citizen.

If Al Gore is on an urgent mission to decrease global warming, it would seem the most direct way of affecting policy is as U.S. President. But, I am reluctant to admit, Gore's moment has passed and any lingering hope that he, or we, had for a draft has passed too. Also passed is the chance that the "boy groomed for the office," will ever be President. Had he known this before, Gore could have skipped the Nam. I'll also admit something else. When I heard Gore speak last week at the U.N. Climate Conference in Bali, and he blamed the U.S. for obstructionism to great applause from the delegates, I wanted to say, "All right. We get it!", or, "You've got the job. Ease up already." For the first time, I found Al Gore annoying, and imagined years of similar preaching.

So, I was wrong. There will be no President Gore and the politician I have championed since the eighties has gone Hollywood on me. Though sometimes unctuous, most obviously when he blew the 2000 Debates, he was the best informed candidate we'll likely ever see, including Bill Clinton. He will choose to remain in the private sector until next year, when a new President may call upon him to return once again to public service, and I'm sure he will answer his nation's summons. I only hope that in whatever capacity Mr. Gore serves the next government, it doesn't require him to make any more speeches.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Jewish Conspiracy

I'm always bemused when some mouth-breather starts spouting off that the Jews own the entertainment industry, or the Jews run U.S. foreign policy, or any other such notion that the Jews collectively "run" anything. Such myths are so easily dispelled, it's difficult to realize they still exist, but much of American society, at least, still think of the "Jews" as if they were some monolithic bloc, thinking with one mind and speaking with one voice. The Jews can't even agree on how to spell Chanukah, or is it Hanukkah? Determining how the Jewish community thinks is much like a pollster asking, "How do you white people feel about this?" It's more accurate to refer to Jewish communities, since the diversity of opinion is so vast.

When I was a child in Memphis and excluded from certain social functions because of religion, I used to ask my father, "Don't they know how much we argue among ourselves?" My father, correct as usual, told me that the Jews don't air their dirty laundry in public. He explained that there are always plenty of people willing to criticize the Jews without us doing it to ourselves. But the internecine feuds between the three branches of Judaism were so intense in the Fifties, that the Orthodox Jews segregated themselves from the Reform Jews, and vice versa. For every Country Club and golf course the Reform Jews erected, the Orthodox would counter with swimming pools and gymnasiums. Although the Reform thought the Orthodox were a superstitious lot who refused to leave the 12th century, and the Orthodox considered the Reform Jews as Christians, the fact that the sects of Judaism did not get along was lost on the general public. And, my father would remind me, during the war when the Nazis were loading up the boxcars, they never asked anyone if they were Reform or Orthodox.

It's not hard to understand why there are Jews in influential positions in all fields. In their history, the Jewish people have traditionally emphasized two things; family and learning. A scholar was among the highest pursuits to which a Jewish man could aspire. Add that tradition to 5000 years of ancestral intellectual pursuits, and you'll eventually breed some big-brained people who are not only capable, but adaptable as well. Consider the fact that this country is up in arms over an estimated 12 million undocumented foreign workers within our borders, then contrast that with the knowledge that there are only 13 million Jews in the entire world. While Americans remember 1492 as the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Jews know it as the year that Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the Jews from Spain. Our collective history is what binds us, but we rarely indulge in group-think. When I asked my father why the Jews didn't recruit like the Christians, he told me that back in the bad old days of anti-Semitism, when a Gentile expressed interest in converting to Judaism, the first thing the rabbi did was try and talk them out of it.

The Israeli Jews demonstrate this internal disagreement daily. The Ultra-Orthodox claim that anyone who converted to Judaism under the auspices of a Reform rabbi is not a Jew. The Reform want to go to movies on Saturday and say the Orthodox religious laws interfere with their freedoms. But the vast majority of Israelis are secular Jews that practice no formal rituals at all, or consider themselves as "religious." The latest conflict began with a group of Israeli environmentalists calling for a "Green" Chanukah this year, by lighting one less candle than the traditional eight. Whenever three Jews agree on anything, they call themselves a "coalition." Thus, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and the New York based Jewish Council for Public Affairs, neither of which have I heard of before, have stated that lighting one less Chanukah candle will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and lessen greenhouse gasses. If this is an example of the workings of the "International Jewish Conspiracy," my ballot must have gotten lost in the mail.

Many think of Chanukah as "The Jewish Christmas" anyway, so it's fitting that Chanukah should lose its' way as well. Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday, celebrating the military victory of the Maccabees over the encroaching Greeks by recapturing the great Temple and relighting the lamps. The oil, only enough for a day, lasted eight, which represented some sort of miracle of early refinery. A Jewish group that calls for the lighting of only seven candles sort of defeats the purpose of the holiday, doesn't it? As children, my sister and I were told that we got eight days worth of presents, but they were always trinkets and tops and mesh bags of gold-covered, chocolate coins. We couldn't wait for Christmas. Still, all eight nights my father said the Hebrew blessing while the family gathered around the menorah to light the candles, a practice that I continue in his honor. Do you believe I am about to listen to the advice of an Israeli tree-hugger and alter that tradition? It only proves to me that Jews are as capable of foolishness as anyone else.

That also explains the "Jews running U.S. foreign policy" argument. It's true that several influential Jews, Wolfowitz, Pearle, and Feith, among others, were among the neocons who thought up the Iraqi War and most of the Bush governments' Middle East policy. But most U.S. Jews are liberal Democrats who are the antithesis of the neocons. This small group caused a huge rift among American Jews who are generally anti-war, regardless of Mel Gibson's opinion. It goes back to the "smart Jews in all fields" argument and proves that Jews can no longer be characterised as only one thing. The adamant Zionists, Israeli and American, support the Bush regime for one reason only; their unblinking, rapture-driven, apocalyptic dream of a united Israel, Temple Mount intact and prepared for the return of Jesus. The Wolfowitz crowd is living proof that assholism is a universal affliction, but never believe they speak for the Jews. This is Cheney's war, and no more proof need be offered than the Jew they scapegoated in the Valerie Plame case.

So, Happy Chanukah, or Hanukkah, ya'll. We sure kicked some ass that time. A joke going around Jewish circles says that most Jewish religious holidays can be summed up with a short blessing; "They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat." But why can't we keep the (guttural) "cha" in Chanukah and keep modernistic and trendy phases out of it? The only green I want at Chanukah is the gelt, and I won't allow Jewish guilt to prevent me from lighting all eight candles, even if I feel global warming is entirely my personal responsibility when I'm done. I apologize to the polar bears in advance. Like my Daddy said, "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Or, to paraphrase Elvis, "I'll have a green Chanukah without you."