“Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply you are involved in the United States . . . there is no guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.”
–Vice President Joe Biden to a Jewish American group, as reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic.
I had always thought of Joe Biden, whether as a U.S. senator or Vice President, as a feckless, if influential crackpot. But on reading this statement made to Jewish American leaders last fall, I now see him as a mindless demagogue.
As a Jewish American who came of age in the 1940s, I am well aware of the argument that what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany and other countries over the centuries could happen in the United States. It is usually made by ardent Zionists, however, not by American Vice Presidents who, if nothing else, should have a deeper appreciation of what makes this country different from others – the fact that the United States is the only country in the world based on an idea, not ethnic bloodlines.
Or is it that this Vice President doesn’t, in his bones, believe in America’s singularity as a national haven for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free?
On this point, as a Jewish American, I have also visited Israel and found it, the enduring spirit of the Exodus aside, a foreign country. Other than sharing a Bronze Age faith, I have as little in common with its inhabitants (many of whom, based on my American dietary habits alone, would consider me an infidel) as I do with those of Romania, the country my father left over a century ago to become an American.
Not that I’m blind to the existence of anti-Semitism and discrimination against other minority groups in this country – or in the case of African Americans, of persecution. But as Frederick Douglass pointedly reminded Abraham Lincoln when Lincoln suggested that once the slaves were freed they might return to Africa, there is no turning back. However they arrive here, those who come to America become Americans, here to stay.
And so it is with me. Unless, of course, by some odd quirk of history, a patronizing dumbass like Joe Biden were to become president.
Sound bite to remember
“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in the land continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants. While everyone shall sit safely under his own vine and fig-tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
–President George Washington in a letter to the Sephardic Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, August 1790