America was close to being governed by racists and anti-Democratic leaders. We aren’t the only country in danger of losing our democracy. Israelis elected 14 avowed racists to the Knesset who will pursue an anti-Democratic agenda. Italy has a fascist prime minister. In Hungary, Viktor Orban has crafted an “illiberal democracy.” The second-largest political party in Sweden has roots in Nazism. Populist, fascist, and anti-democratic leaders are circling the carnage of democracy. Those of us who live by justice, fairness, and egalitarianism must respond.
In this week’s election the top two issues motivating voters were the economy and abortion rights. Not democracy. Are we in denial? Perhaps too afraid to challenge the anti-democratic populists? Or are we just too comfortable to be bothered? For Jews, denial, fear, and comfort have never served us well.
When reading the story of Abraham, we extol his willingness to challenge God. God reveals to Abraham the plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham challenges the Almighty. He asks: “God, will you sweep away the good with the bad?”
Who will stand up for democratic values? Why are we not advocates like Abraham, who dared to push back against God? As former President Barak Obama has said “whatever you’ve done so far, is not enough!”
Sometimes I chose to stay home rather than protest. On many occasions, I enjoyed dinner at a restaurant that cost more than my donation to a candidate for office. Did I believe that watching MSNBC was a sufficient demonstration of my support for Democracy?
I pray that I am wrong, but these appear to me to be dangerous times. Anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia flourish because there are forces at play to eliminate people of different beliefs, skin color, or origins. No minority group in this country may be safe.
We failed to either isolate the racists or engage with our opponents. We retreated to the illusion of our houses as sanctuaries. Many dismissed the warnings of anti-hate groups that we live in perilous times.
I did not envision the United States convulsing with replacement theory and dystopian ideals. I failed to believe that isolationist, intolerant, and ignorant leaders can hold power in our government. And now I fear that words will lead to weapons and plowshares will turn into swords. I pray that the day never comes when we turn to God in desperation regarding our own fate and ask, “will you sweep away the good with the bad?”
As Elie Wiesel said, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Let’s embrace our roles as the agents of positive change and the defenders of freedom.
Rabbi Evan Krame