Revisiting “The Perfect Storm”

Boy, my last posting on this blog – “The Perfect Storm” – has generated just that; a bit of a storm.  Of course, in a perfect world (as opposed to a perfect storm) I would love for many, many people to read my postings and find them insightful, moving, and right on target.  However, in this imperfect world, as a blogger, I should be content with the fact the my blog simply is being read.  Of course, I would love it if my critics would read some of my other postings along with the ones with which they disagree, and I would be ecstatic if they could tell me what they liked as well as what they disliked, but perhaps that is asking too much of human nature.
Tonight I received a email from one of these distressed blog readers, who also happens to be a resident of my community.  He presented several issues which he had with my posting, not the least of which was my use of an analogy between what I see happening today and what happened in Nazi Germany.  This person also took great exception (not without some definite merit) to my characterization of the Republican party.  Since I felt that this person most certainly deserved a serious and thoughtful response, I immediately framed one for him.  I wish to share with you a portion of that response:

Now to your comments about “The Perfect Storm”:

The blog is far more directed at the Tea Party Movement than at the Republican Party.  It is this movement that troubles me greatly – not because they hold and express views contrary to my own, but rather because they have promoted violence, racism, and revolution as a means of addressing their concerns rather than entering into civil debate.  Contrary to what you have said about your perception of my stance, it is indeed the message of this movement that either we all are with them or “we can go pound sand.”  And yes, there has been violence born out of this movement.  There have been Congressmen who have received death threats.  Bricks have been thrown through the windows of some congressional offices (kind of like Kristalnacht), and racial slurs and racist language has been used.  I look at this form of behavior and I do find it very Nazi like.  As I said in the blog, the similarities between these violent expressions is just too hauntingly similar to the violence perpetrated against the Jews of Germany by the SA – the Brown Shirts.  When we permit violence to replace discourse, we are heading for trouble unless we shut that down pronto.

I know that there are those who cringe at Holocaust analogies.  However, every year, at our local Yom HaShoah observance, we include a reading called “The Shoah and Today.”  This reading, which is reframed every year, attempts to remind us that if the death of the Holocaust martyrs are to have any ongoing meaning for us, then we must take whatever lessons we have learned from the Holocaust to heart and apply them as storm warnings in today’s world.  Indeed, usually in that reading, we include the famous quote by the philosopher George Santayana, who said:  “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”  I think that we all agree that making contemporary Holocaust analogies concerning Darfur and Rwanda are appropriate.  However, it is my firm belief that when we wait for situations to turn as extreme as those before we make such analogies – when we wait for the acts of genocide to take place – then we are way too late.  When considering Holocaust analogies, we should not restrict ourselves to the end product of the Holocaust but rather, we would do a far greater good if we turn our attention to the early stages of the Holocaust, when the Nazis were just getting started in what would ultimately result in that great human tragedy.  For if we are able to honestly recognize disturbing similarities between early Nazi activities and events that are occurring today, then we can step back and say, “Hold on there!  If we let this behavior go unchecked then it will end very badly for all of us.”  In this light, the use of threats, violence, and hate speech to promote a political ideology should serve us as a massive red flag.

As far as the analogy that I made concerning the relationship between the SA and the Nazi Party, as compared to the relationship between the Tea Party and the Republican Party, upon further review I recognize that I was not as clear as I could have been and should have been.  The SA was an official arm of the Nazi Party and whatever they did was at the behest of that party.  While the Tea Party is in no way officially associated with the Republican Party, and they, in fact, deny any identification with the Republican Party, the connection between the two is strikingly obvious.  They endorse only Republican candidates and they target only Democratic ones.  Key Republicans, like Sarah Palin, openly identify with them and speak at their rallies.  It would appear that the Republican Party is trying to ride the crest of the Tea Party’s wave of popularity, catering to them in order to gain their support in the upcoming elections.  In this, the Republican Party is playing a very dangerous game, for the more they court Tea Party support, the more they become associated with the negative aspects of the Tea Party as well as with their shared ideologies.  If the Republican Party wishes to avoid being identified with Nazi-like behavior, then they have to make it a point of sharply distancing themselves from such behavior, making it abundantly clear that they will have absolutely no truck with those who strive to go beyond dialogue, debate, and the democratic process and rather choose to travel the path of violence and hate mongering in order to achieve their political ends.  Until the Republican Party is ready to do that, their silence presents itself as endorsement.  If you lay down with dogs, you may get up with fleas.

Let me make myself perfectly clear.  The Republican Party, the Tea Party; these are organizations.  Their identity is directly tied to their ideology and also to the actions that are taken in their name.  That is in no way to say that every member of these organizations are also, individually, to be so identified.  That cannot even be said for the individual members of the Nazi Party, for there were people in Germany who joined the Nazi Party for various reasons, but who, themselves, did not personally identify with all of Nazi ideology and were repulsed by some of the actions of Nazi Germany, including its persecution of the Jews.  This is to say that being a Republican or being a member of the Tea Party does not automatically mean that one identifies or agrees with every aspect of their party’s ideology or activity.  There have been several reports of Tea Party members who have publicly denounced the violence that has taken place in the name of their party.  However, there needs to be more such people.  There need to be so many Tea Party members who step forward in this fashion that they make it abundantly clear that anyone who promotes or perpetrates violence and hatred have themselves stepped outside of the Tea Party tent.  As far as the Republican Party members are concerned, there need to be more members of the Republican Party who are willing to express their discomfort with the growing relationship between their party and the Tea Party, that is as long as the Tea Party does not effectively separate itself from those violent elements within it.

Here are the links to two Youtubes which should help demonstrate why I am so concerned about the effects of the Tea Party in our society today:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5pdwTQ4xA8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S38VioxnBaI
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7 Comments on “Revisiting “The Perfect Storm””

  1. Jim Tansey Says:

    Henry,
    I remain deeply offended by your analogy of Tea Party members and the Republican Party to the SA and the Nazis. If you want to be considered credible you should call out the fringe elements on both sides, instead of looking through blinders and attributing the acts of a few nutjobs to an entire movement. You reference Kristalnacht with a brick thrown through a Democratic Congressman’s window, but fail to mention the bullet through Jewish Congressman Eric Cantor’s office window. Which one is a closer analogy. Racial slurs have been thrown both ways, with Tea Party activists labeled as racists by many in the progressive movement. This kind of ugly rhetoric has no place in civil discourse, and you sir are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  2. Roger Leese Says:

    I have read your comments about the Tea Party and some of your other postings. You make mention of predijuce many times in your writings and I agree that all predijuce is bad. Your characterization of the Tea Party is very predijuced and is not based on fact. I attended the Tea Party event in Bettendorf recently and have first-hand knowledge of the group, rather than liberal press articles about fringe elements who are not serious members. I am not a spokesperson for the Tea Party, but merely an individual who attended.

    The Tea Party attendees are somewhat similar. Most are middle aged and senior citizens who are very ordinary citizens, not some group of radicals. They have one thing in common. They are tax payers and are concerned that our Constitution is being ignored and power being abused.

    Your contiuous characterization to the Tea Party as Naxis is totally wrong, predijuced and hurtful to ordinary citizens who attended these events. You talk about having civil dialogue, but you should start with yourself.

    My concern is that this current Democratic administration is currently abusing power and ignoring the citizens. They admit they do not care about the Constitution and behave in dictatorial ways. This was the behavior of the Nazi party in Germany whereby they slowly and steadily gained more power and control over German citizens to the point of no return.

    As a Jew, I would think you would be very concerned about an admistration that is abusing power and that you would be in favor of a smaller, limited government.

    If a Tea Party event should return to this area, I would be pleased to invite you to attend it with me and see for yourself, istead of relying on the New York Times and Keith Olberman.

    Best regards

    • ravkarp Says:

      Dear Mr. Leese,

      I do not doubt the sincerity of your beliefs nor do I doubt your concerns about the current administration – though I do not share those concerns. Indeed, I do not doubt your description of the Bettendorf Tea Party event. I suspect that its demographics were precisely as you have described.

      However, one Tea Party event in one community does not necessarily present an accurate description of the Tea Party on a national level. In report after report, we see that the Tea Party has not only been attracting but has actually been embracing members of right wing fringe groups; groups that should cause us, as Americans, a great deal of concern. The key word here is “embracing.” That is what is so frightening. Up until now, in spite of the fact that these groups share many politically conservative values in common with the Republican Party, still the Republican Party has recognized and rejected their dangerous extremism. They have been told flatly that they have no seat at the Republican table, for those who endorse violence are toxic to the democratic process. Not so with the Tea Party! The Tea Party welcomes these folks in. I know that I am greatly frightened when I read of a Tea Party gathering in Oklahoma, in which people attended with rifles slung over their shoulder and got local Republican politicians to agree to the concept that state militias needed to be formed in order to prepare for the possibility of combating the Federal government, should they feel that the Federal government is becoming too invasive of states rights. We are talking about open rebellion here; rebellion against a democratically elected government; a government composed of officials openly elected by the citizens of this nation. That frightens me. I am surprised if that does not frighten you. It frightens me just as the images of the Tea Party rally in Washington, DC frightened me, with all sorts of folks holding up all sorts of signs promoting all sorts of hate. And then, of course, there was the attack on the African American congressmen.

      The beauty of our nation is that all Americans are free to hold their own views. They are free to hold them and express them publicly, and to support political candidates that share those views. Every American has a chance to be heard and to work to elect individuals who will endorse the advance their political views. But there is a limit to these freedoms. That limit is not a stifling one. It is simply the limit of our pursuing these interests within the legitimate framework of the democratic process.

      However, the application of violence to further political goals is clearly outside the democratic process. This is what is happening at the hands of some of those whom the Tea Party has embraced, and who have perpetrated their violent deeds in the name of the Tea Party. As long as the Tea Party continues to embrace such extremists – and fails to separate itself from them, letting them know, as the Republican Party has done, that those who advocate violence will have no seat at their table – then the Tea Party will continue to present a very real and present danger to the American way of life.

      • Jim Tansey Says:

        Henry,
        In your April 16th posting you stated that “I welcome disagreement and the healthy discourse that it can lead to, for it is out of such discourse that we all can grow; that is if we are open to growth.” Having read your reply to Roger Leese, it is clear to me you are not “open to growth” on this issue. I have provided you with numerous articles where Tea Party organizers have decried and disavowed any kind of violence or poor behaviour, yet you still write things like, “The Tea Party welcomes these folks in.” Please provide me with even one article where a Tea Party organizer welcomes in violent people. I have provided you with articles showing that liberal fringe groups are intentionally infiltrating Tea Party events to try to show them as radicals, yet your view is still not open for growth. I have seen articles where immigration supporters have resorted to violence following recent enactment of Arizona’s new law, yet no reproach from you as these are folks you agree with. I sent you an article about the liberal fringe that shot out Jewish Congressman Eric Cantor’s office window, a real comparison to Kristalnacht, yet you save those comparisons for the Tea Party. I understand it is easier to demonize your opponents than to make your case against them. However, a man of your intelligence and position should be able to rely on the strength of his argument. Indeed there are many of us Jews in the community that disagree with your politics. I choose to counter your arguments rather than to call you names or liken you to murderers. In the name of being open for growth, I respectfully request you do the same.

      • ravkarp Says:

        Hi Jim,

        You asked me for articles which link the Tea Party to the violence which has arisen from its ranks. Below are a number of articles and film clips which draw those connecting lines. In anticipation of your response that nowhere here will you find a definitive statement coming from the Tea Party leadership saying that they welcome and encourage such behavior, and in fact you will find some denunciation of it, still I contend that you have to look at the overall effect of the Tea Party. When its leaders denounce such acts – which they do all too rarely – they do it without sufficient enthusiasm and conviction. Indeed, in the case of the racial slurs thrown at Congressman Lewis, one Tea Party leader mockingly offered to make a significant contribution to the United Negro College Fund if anyone could produce definitive proof that the incident ever took place; as if the testimony of several witnesses was not sufficient, and only a film clip of it would suffice. Yet on the other hand, they feed on generating the hostile emotional climate which fuels these acts and has the effect of encouraging those who perform them. They continually allude to the possibility of violence, using terms like “revolution.” They demonize their opponents, calling Nancy Pelosi a Nazi and President Obama a Communist and a Marxist, in ways far more provocative than my comparing the resorting to violence by their followers in order to obtain their political ends to the use of violence by the SA branch of the Nazi Party in Germany in order to obtain the Nazi’s political ends – the very comparison for which you have vigorously chastised me. And they are continually inferring a not-too-distant call to arms. Signs reading “I did not bring my gun this time”!?

        You refer to the violent or threatening actions of individuals who are opposed to the Tea Party. Well, they are individuals who act as individuals. So many of the violence coming out of Tea Party members are demonstrated during the very public gatherings of the Tea Party. They are supported by those Tea Party members who witness them. They are accepted as appropriate expressions of Tea Party sentiments. View the clip of the Tea Party member throwing dollar bills at the man with Parkinson. Not one member of the Tea Party crowd said “Stop!” Their shouts were shouts of encouragement.

        You claim that I fail to grow. I disagree. It seems that such violent and threatening behaviors continue to arise out of Tea Party supporters. I watch as the list piles up and I do grow; I grow increasingly concerned that this situation will only get worse, not better. I grow increasingly concerned that the Tea Party organizers will wag their fingers occasionally and cluck their teeth in proforma disapproval until the time arises when this matter gets so out of hand that they will no longer be able to do anything effective to curb it. Along those lines, I encourage you to watch the CNN clip on the relationship between the Tea Party and the radical right.

        When all is said and done, I suspect that even after you read these articles and view these clips, you will still not share my concern about the violence which is flowing out of this phenomenon created by the Tea Party. You will continue to accuse me of demonizing the Tea Party, and I will continue to contend that you have chosen to close your eyes to, and deny, the dangers arising from it. I suspect that we will never convince each other. We will need to agree to disagree, and let the unfolding of the future determine which of us is correct in our perceptions.

        Here are the articles and clips I wish to share with you in response to your request:

        Here is a link to an AP news article on the Oklahoma Tea Party officials endorsing the creation of state militias to defend against the Federal government. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100412/ap_on_re_us/us_tea_party_militia

        This Christian Science Monitor article speaks of Tea Party members carrying rifles to anti-Obama rallies. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/0419/Are-tea-party-rallies-given-preferential-treatment-by-police

        This article in the Huffington Press contains a photo layout of some of the scenes from the Tea Party’s Washington DC rally. Some of those signs truly cross the line. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/12/taxpayer-march-on-washing_n_284477.html

        Here is a CBS news article and video about a Tea Party protest in which members of the Tea Party mocked a man with Parkinson Disease. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20001186-503544.html

        Here is an article about the racist slurs that were directed at African American Congressman John Lewis, of Georgia, during the Tea Party DC rally. http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100320/NEWS02/100329990

        Here is a more complete account of the racism incident from the New York Times. http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/20/spitting-and-slurs-directed-at-lawmakers/

        Here is an article from the New York Times about several acts of vandalism, including the cutting of a gas line at the home of the brother of a Democratic congressman who supported the health care bill. It should be noted that the address was listed on a Tea Party website as the home of the congressman. While this article does include a statement from Tea Party leaders distancing their party from such acts of violence, it is clear that the environment which they are creating within their party is one which fuels these very same acts. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/us/politics/26threat.html

        Here is an interesting analysis of the relationship between the Tea Party and the far right as presented on CNN. http://patdollard.com/2010/04/cnn-tea-party-provides-%E2%80%98breach%E2%80%99-for-radical-right-to-%E2%80%98spill%E2%80%99-into-%E2%80%98mainstream%E2%80%99/

        I remain your friend,

        Rabbi Henry Jay Karp

      • ravkarp Says:

        Hi Again, Jim,

        I did want to add one thing to my previous reply. It would seem that you are saying that I am only object to the use of violence by those with whom I disagree politically. There could be nothing further from the truth. Throughout my discussions of this topic, I have repeated said that I object to anyone who steps outside of the democratic process and uses violence to obtain their political ends. That objection applies to ALL who behave in such a manner, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum. It is true that in my postings here, I have focused on the use of violence for political ends by members of the Tea Party. That is because the topic of my postings has been the Tea Party. If you were to choose to create your own blog, and elected to compose a posting on the use of violence by those opposed to immigration legislation, the choice of that topic would be your prerogative. It would simply be a matter of you write about your topic and I write about mine. In the course of doing so, neither of us would need to talk about our objections to the use of violence for political end in other areas, such as in Darfur. That does not mean that we do not oppose such violent behaviors. It just means that we are focusing our remarks on violence to the particular topics we are address.

  3. Jim Tansey Says:

    Henry,

    Thank you for your response. Here’s the problem. In your response to Roger Leese above, you made this statement, “In report after report, we see that the Tea Party has not only been attracting but has actually been embracing members of right wing fringe groups; groups that should cause us, as Americans, a great deal of concern. The key word here is “embracing.”” When I challenged that claim, you did exhaustive research and provided me with several articles, in which you admit that, “nowhere here will you find a definitive statement coming from the Tea Party leadership saying that they welcome and encourage such behavior, and in fact you will find some denunciation of it.” So, you were wrong. That is where I feel you need to be “open for growth.” I would and do denounce referring to anyone as a Nazi, whether it is Obama, Pelosi, or a Republican. I denounce all forms of violence and intimidation, whether from the far right lunatics or the far left lunatics. Whoever chooses to demonize their opponent rather than make a cogent argument is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Remember, your initial point was about same-sex marriage, and nobody has had a problem with your perspective on that issue. It is only the name calling and unfounded accusations that raise people’s blood pressure, including mine. You don’t have to like the Tea Party movement or the Republican party. You have every right to disagree with them on every point in their platform, and to state your disagreement. You are not right to accuse them of embracing radicalism when you can’t find one Tea Party leader doing so, and in fact found several denouncing it.


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