Thought of the Week: On The American Election

Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 9 November 2016

I am writing this at 5 am on Wednesday morning, having woken early to watch the American election results (while occasionally turning over to see how England are doing in the cricket).

I am writing with a feeling of shell-shock (and more than a touch of deja-vu) as it becomes evident that Donald Trump will be the next president of the USA, in what the commentators on CNN keep referring to as ‘another Brexit’.

There are similarities.

Once again, for many of us, there is a feeling of shock as we discover that the society and culture of which we feel ownership is not one in which many around us feel engaged or invested.  We are the minority.

Once again, we are left with massive uncertainty about the future – about the economy, about international relations, about the future of the planet (the next president believes that global warming is a Chinese hoax, after all).

Once again, we are faced with the challenge of how to explain this to our children.  How to teach them about the importance of truth, of respect, of thoughtful language, of preparation, when the opposite has triumphed.

As I suggested on Kol Nidre (click here) we are experiencing a crisis in our political discourse – a crisis not just of politics but of ethics.  The events of the last months in America have demonstrated the extraordinary power of anger and resentment, that they can conquer thought and debate.  This is not a question of political position.  It is not about detailed policy difference, about whether we are of the left or the right (or the frustrated middle).  It is about the values by which we live our lives.

At 5.00 in the morning, I’m not sure how to respond.

I do know that my Judaism asks me not to overreact, not to give in to anger, and, however hard it might be, to wait and see. The Jewish ideal of dan l’chaf z’chut, of judging things on their merit, giving the benefit of the doubt, asks me to show patience.  To wait and see what sort of president Trump will become.  But I can’t help but be scared.

At least the cricket is going better than expected.