Tuesday, May 15, 2012

America, Whither Go You?

Who will win the elections in November, Obama or Romney?

The elections remind me of what the Talmud says (Sanhedrin 109B) about On Ben (the son of) Pelet and his wife. On Ben Pelet was one of the leaders of Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ leadership (see Numbers ch. 16). He appears at the beginning of the story but is not mentioned later on. What happened? The Talmud says that his wife saved him from the fate of Korah and his followers, from being swallowed up by the earth. She asked him, “What benefit will you derive from the insurrection? If Korah wins, he will be the master and you will be the student. If Moses wins, he will be the master and you will be the student. ” There’s more to the story, but the main thing is that On’s wife, with her great wisdom, saved her husband. The Talmud says of such a lady, “Every wise woman buildeth her house…” (Proverbs 14:1).

So who is going to win in November? Does it really matter if you are not a party hack? Are the two candidates really that different? Are they the ones who will decide our future?

On the micro level the future of America is more dependent on the average Joe than the guy who sits in the Oval Office. I recall a telephone conversation that I had with my father. It must have been about five years ago. A little bit of background first. I live in Israel and my father lives on the East Coast of the U.S.A. He is not an Orthodox Jew. The conversation went something like this:

My Dad: Everything is kaput over here in America.

Me: What do you mean?

My Dad: No families here anymore. Young people are not getting married. Television is disgusting. People are talking about the most intimate things on television. You would not believe it. Everything is kaput.

Could things really be that bad? I hadn’t been in the U.S. for over 20 years. After that conversation I wondered what the neighborhood that I grew up in looked like today. Were the little girls still playing jump-rope? Were there still children there riding bicycles, doing “wheelies”, playing touch-football and running-bases in the street? Or were the few children in the neighborhood communicating with their friends through their computer keyboard? What else were they viewing on the WWW?

I don’t really think that my father thought that everything was “kaput”. He was looking at his surroundings from the vantage point of 80 years of life experience, and was pained by the decay of the family unit and the lack of decency in the public domain.

I believe that America has a great future. I believe that future is more dependent on the behavior of the individual than who he votes for in November. We may not be able to determine foreign or domestic policy, but we can sure decide what our homes will look like. We can certainly improve the way that we act with our friends and our loved ones.

(Also posted here.)

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