By David Aaron
(AJNews) – The recent events in Washington DC bring to light an ever increasing awareness of just how divided America is and the potential, under the wrong leadership, of what can be brought to bear against our democracy. I can’t speak to where this will go or its severity, but as a Jew, it is certainly setting off some alarm bells for me.
How safe are Jews in America and in Alberta? Although I have not heard of any anti-Semitic rhetoric from Republican leaders, we all know that within the grass roots of the party there is strong anti-Semitic sentiment. As right-wing populist governments gain traction, the threat to Jews becomes ever more apparent as history bears out.
Over the past 75 years we Jews in North America have lived with a level of civility that is unparalleled in modern history (until the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh). Under a Trump administration this has all changed. Trump’s Republicans are not the Republican’s of old. Trump’s motto of, “Make America Great Again” has many meanings including some hidden ones. Those who marched on the State capitol were not just upset at a supposedly rigged election, but many were also expressing racist feelings and biases.
Under a Trump administration, we have seen many issues arise from both the left and right of the political spectrum. In some ways, it could be said that Trump has let the genie out of the bottle. Whether he did it intentionally or not, he has given the “right” a voice in the same way that he sought out power for himself. I can’t help but think that if the Republican Party had had a leader who was politically astute and organized, he could have created much more damage to America’s democracy to what was an otherwise fair election. It could be argued that the Republicans are not that far off after hearing the way Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley spoke in the senate last Wednesday.
One thing I and others find disconcerting are the flagrant lies being bantered about and normalized especially by those in positions of power not to mention the right wing media. Jews should be taking note! Even though the target has been on the false accusation of a rigged election and the media to name one other, it is not too farfetched to imagine how the cross-hairs could move.
Though we have not heard anti-Jewish sentiment from top leaders, we know from history that right wing leadership usually seek out easy targets to blame to whip up the masses. At the moment Jewish people are not in the cross-hairs, but that could change as the situation evolves.
Here in Alberta we have our own issues with anti-Semitism and much of it up to now has been hiding beneath a veneer of civility. How much is the question. I don’t know, but since the UCP have come to power we have seen an abject use of power to push through an agenda of undemocratic policies and procedures under the veil of Covid-19. This is extremely disconcerting. The UCP are not immune from criticism. We know some of its members hold racist beliefs. Kenny’s speech writer Paul Bunner’s statements toward Residential schools were troublesome. Kenny wrote them off stating that Bunner had changed; however as Jews, we should not be so easily convinced or naive. I, like many Jews would have preferred that Bunner had made a public apology or been removed rather than hearing a statement from the premier that Bunner had changed. With no apology forthcoming we must retain a healthy level of skepticism towards the UCP especially in light of anti-democratic bills and ill begotten behaviours. The weight of history regarding right wing politics forces this upon us. We must not let lessons from the past go unheeded. It may be time for Jews in Alberta to begin thinking about how we respond to what is going on both internationally and locally. We need to be proactive and prepared.
Jews should be wary. Remember the burning of the Edmonton Beth Shalom synagogue in 1980 or the recent spray painting of synagogues?
As Jews, we must be vigilant and mindful of what is happening around us. We don’t live in a cocoon even though day in day out it may feel that way. We celebrate Yom HaShoah for good reasons. We must not only not forget, but recognize that it could occur again in some new form. There is change going on around us and it is happening fast. Trump has stirred the pot and where this goes is anyone’s guess. If it gets legs, we need to be prepared. Our Jewish leaders in Alberta should be talking to one another regarding these events. The time has arrived for someone to bring the canary into the coal mine.