The Obama Generation Wants to Cashier My Generation’s Obsession With Racial Distinctions

US Politics
on 13 Comments

As a child I was obsessed, as the neoconservatives were, by being an outsider Jew. It was the strongest social feeling in my family: we weren’t allowed inside. The neocons addressed their resentment by building a "parallel establishment," as Jacob Heilbrunn has said in his book about the neocons, while personally over the years I know that I have tried more to mingle with the Other, from blacks to Arabs to gentiles. Still, it is not as if these distinctions are not important to me. They are still my social roadmap.

In my own generation the breakthrough was to mingle the Jewish and WASP elite tribes. Today the Clintons break Yom Kippur fast with the family of their daughter’s Jewish investment-banking boyfriend. That sort of thing happens all the time in the new power elite. Cokie Roberts, a political aristocrat who married a Jew, wrote about this mingling a few years back. On my camping trip this year, a friend said that Goldman, Sachs was not a Jewish firm. I was surprised by this but took it to be true. Another sign of the great mingling in the establishment. There used to be a lot of awkwardness between WASPs and Jews 10 and 20 years ago. That was the time of Woody Allen jokes, and Alan Dershowitz refusing to eat the food served to him by the Harvard Law School dean’s wife (as I remember the story from Chutzpah, don’t sue me Dersh!), bringing his own kosher sandwich. This awkwardness is over now in elite circles. Jews are simply too important to the life of establishment.

Where am I going with this? I feel that these distinctions that were so big to my generation are nothing to the next generation. They seem oldfashioned to them, racist, arbitrary. It is part of the reason that 62 percent of Jews under 35 are marrying nonJews. A year ago I hung out with leftwingers at Columbia U. for a story about the progressive movement on campus, and my lightbulb moment came from a student name Deena Guzder, who when I asked her what her background was said to me, "I don’t describe as anything. I think labels constrict people’s
understanding of concepts or ideas.”  That attitude went for her whole community, and led me to say:

















nearly twenty years, identity politics has ruled the left, keeping
everyone in his little box. Indeed, the Iraq war had paralyzed the left
by playing on sectarianism at every turn. Clash of civilizations. Islam
versus the West. Jewish neocons and Evangelical Christians plotting
against Persians plotting against Zionists. Shiites murdering Sunnis
murdering Shiites.

I observed a similar pattern last year at Brandeis, where I saw young Jews wrestling with Jimmy Carter’s observations about Israel–not denouncing him out of hand, as their parents’ generation has.

This also seems to me the clear cultural thrust of Obama’s campaign. He and his movement want to get us past alot of the differences that separate us. Notwithstanding his wife’s racialist views in college, or his own struggle with his "blackness," Obama is erasing the feeling around these distinctions. That seems to me the most important revolution that his movement is already achieving. They are making me feel very oldfashioned!

I’d add that the Obama movement is making the parochialism of the Jewish establishment look somewhat racist and ancient. Last month Commentary published a review attacking the rabbi Abraham Heschel, saying that his universalism goes against the Jewish religion:

The good, Heschel wrote in Man Is  Not Alone, “is convergence, togetherness,  union. . . . Evil is division, contest, lack of unity.”

As it happens, this simplistic formulation goes against the thrust
of the Hebrew Bible and the rabbinic tradition, both of which affirm
the distinctiveness of nations and individuals to a degree greater,
probably, than in any other major religious system. The Israelites are
set aside as a “holy nation” that is commanded to follow its own
distinctive path.

Young people are sick of this kind of talk, and I can’t blame them.

13 Responses

  1. Val
    March 2, 2008, 11:11 am

    Should Jews should be held to account for their misdeeds over the centuries in the way the gentile have? Do you think no stone should be left uncovered to out anti gentilism, ingrained and persued?

  2. liberal white boy
    March 2, 2008, 11:21 am

    "The Israelites are set aside as a “holy nation” that is commanded to follow its own distinctive path."

    Yes but as Mr. Martillo has pointed out many times what does this have to do with the Jews. See An invention called "The Jewish People"
    link to
    See also…Why God Doth Thou Make Christian Zionists So God Damn Stupid…link to

  3. Richard Witty
    March 2, 2008, 11:39 am

    The comments from Commentary illustrate two permanent divisions within Judaism.

    I think you missed Heschel though. Heschel was NOT saying "assimilate". He was saying "be Jewish in the universalistic application of it".

    The commentary that comprises Talmud for example is understandable as BOTH universalistic and parochial. That is one of its great aspects, that Judaism is NOT a dogma.

    There are many self-appointed "thought-police", but that action is usually by neophytes who are not confident enough in the practise itself to accept diverse perspective, if sincere and committed.

    Have you read "Man is Not Alone?"

  4. Val
    March 2, 2008, 12:25 pm

    That's right, Richard Witty, keep the Jewish people pure. Elliot Abrams agrees with you. Adolf Hitler had similar ideas but he was a Nazi. Aryan purity = nazism. Jewish purity = diversity, multicultural love of mankind and under no circumstances should this be discussed any further. Disagree, the ADL gets you for hate speech. Welcome to America, folks, be dumb and dumber. Have no sense of identity, this is racism. Forget your history, your culture and merge/merge/merge into a lovely big melting pot – except for us Jews, marrying out is an abomination. Let's not discuss this further it just obscures multicultural love of mankind. Disagree, the ADL will get you for hate speech.
    Way to go, Witty.

  5. Jim Haygood
    March 2, 2008, 12:32 pm


    "This also seems to me the clear cultural thrust of Obama's campaign. He and his movement want to get us past a lot of the differences that separate us." – Phil

    No question that Obama, with his diverse background and peripatetic resume, seems like a new generation in comparison to traditional black politicians. But before you O.D. on the hype, Phil, listen to what the man is saying. Did you read what he told the U.K. Sunday Times?


    Obama intends to pour more troops and resources into defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    He told The Sunday Times he would expect European allies to contribute more to the fight. “You can’t have a situation where the United States and Britain are called on to do the dirty work and nobody else wants to engage in actual fire-fights with the Taliban.”

    He praised Prince Harry’s “commendable” service – “I’m sure the British people are very proud of him” – and said America would have a “special, special relationship” with Britain should he win the White House. “That’s inviolable,” he said.

    Europe, he added, would get something in return for an extra push in Afghanistan. “It’s important for us to send a signal that we’re going to be listening to them when it comes to policies they find objectionable, Iraq being top of the list.”

    link to


    So, we're pulling out (partially) from the Iraq occupation, to facilitate an escalation of the Afghan occupation?

    Obama may be a new breed of black politician. But evidently, he's the same old shuckin' and jivin' Uncle Tom, when it comes to sending off poor kids (and very few Jews) to die in foreign hellholes for oil and Israel.

    Sorry, Phil, but I'm calling BULLSHIT on Obama. The man is a bloodthirsty warmonger, who approves of foreign occupation and targeted assassination, and is plainly saying so on a daily basis. When Obama's approval rating sinks just like Bush's did, as the Afghan casualties mount into the hundreds per month, don't say I didn't warn you.

    If Obama's policies are "progressive," then I'm Jesus H. Christ on a crutch.

  6. Val
    March 2, 2008, 1:06 pm

    Jim Haywood, until we get back the right to decide our own destinies we're as good as shackled by the Jewish elite. they decide what is racism, what is allowed, what is forbidden. In the meantime, we're so beholding to these unnatural social norms that keep people silent, our kids are dying. They made us cowards, afraid to speak out even whilst our kids are being sent to die, their brains damaged, their limbs blown off.
    I'm grateful to Phil, but I resent the way this chosen guy can speak the truth yet no goyim may speak it at pain of his career, life as he knows it, and if they get their way, our liberty.
    Ron Paul was the best hope we had, they destroyed that.

  7. Charles Keating
    March 2, 2008, 2:17 pm

    I agree Ron Paul was the best hope because he alone of the candidates always asked who will pay? And, he alone of the candidates knows the economic system, the upside down triangle that takes real work and spins it up in an endless ponzi scheme point, lately topping off with the USA debt and the mortgage crisis. And all the dead and maimed Americans, the blind enforcers and their blind families.


    As you must know, A.J. Heschel marched with ML King, was an anti – war protestor during the Vietnam war. Do you think he would have opposed our current involvement in Iraq? How about on to Iran? And what poem would he create to capture the I-P confllict? I would be interested in some feedback on this.

    Like Tolstoy, he was concerned about a single child's tear, or was it just a Jewish child's tear? Since he marched with King perhaps not, though the divide-conquer thesis is an opposing thesis. Anyway, he escaped Hitler and lived a long time, singing of wonder and responsibility, his physical life protected, ultimately by goy soldiers.

  8. Richard Witty
    March 2, 2008, 2:36 pm

    Ron Paul was a flake who by suggesting that the US should eliminate taxation on income, contributed to the borrow and spend philosophy of the republicans. Sure, he would have reduced spending (how?), but nowhere did he outline how he would get to balanced budget.

    The Clinton administration achieved it, on less economic activity than currently.

    Ron Paul is an idealist candidate, NOT the "realism" of Walt/Mearsheimer.

    I love Heschel. I suppose you know that King stated that "anti-Zionism is a form of anti-semitism".

    Most likely Heschel would have promoted the recognition of Palestinian rights, including sovereignty and restitution for title perfection. He most likely would have attended rallies that supported Palestinian rights that excluded hate or rhetoric from their presentation.

    He would have applied the concept of urging being a good neighbor to a good neighbor.

    He definitely would not have excused Hamas shelling civilians in Sderot and Ashkelon as "legitimate" resistance.

    His support of civil rights was sincere, as was the basis of his opposition to the Vietnam War. It was not necessary to harm, to suppress, in order to live well.

    And, to suppress others distracted from the purpose and criteria of a successful Jewish life.

    My understanding is that he, like Buber, like Einstein, were avid Zionists, but humanist Zionists.

  9. Jim Haygood
    March 2, 2008, 3:35 pm


    "Nowhere did [Ron Paul] outline how he would get to balanced budget. The Clinton administration achieved it, on less economic activity than currently."

    One way that Ron Paul proposed to save several hundred billion a year was to demobilize U.S. troops from the hundred-plus foreign countries where they are stationed, and to defend America for a change. Had we merely resisted the pressure from Jewish neocons (Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, et al) and stayed out of Iraq, it would have saved a trillion dollars. Flaky, huh?

    As an accountant, you ought to realize that the fleeting cash-basis surpluses in the final two years of the Clinton administration were an artifact of capital gains from the Dotcom Bubble — which proved to be unsustainable (although the halfwit Greenspan prophesied a looming shortage of Treasury debt – LOL!). Clinton's last year in office, 2000, was the peak of the Dotcom Bubble.

    Clinton was no financial genius; he simply rode a Bubble and deftly stepped aside as it ended. Calvin Coolidge, who ran a surplus every year, did the same, leaving office in March 1929. I trust that you will sing the praises of Silent Cal along with William the Impeached.

  10. Charles Keating
    March 2, 2008, 4:13 pm

    RE: "The commentary that comprises Talmud for example is understandable as BOTH universalistic and parochial. That is one of its great aspects, that Judaism is NOT a dogma."–Witty

    Yes, and so is the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. No problem, which is why we had a Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, etc.
    Streicher loved the Talmudic commentary and used it as his defense at Nuremberg. Israel's law of return mirrors the Nuremberg laws. Where's the iron in irony?

  11. samuel burke
    March 2, 2008, 4:24 pm

    By Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers
    Since Thursday, Israeli forces have killed more than 100 Palestinians— including 18 children, according to Israeli human rights groups and Gaza medical officials.

  12. Richard Witty
    March 2, 2008, 5:22 pm

    "Had we merely resisted the pressure from Jewish neocons (Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, et al) and stayed out of Iraq, it would have saved a trillion dollars. Flaky, huh?"

    And, if Bush had adopted the views of the Jewish MAJORITY we wouldn't have wasted trillion + dollars in Iraq.

    But Bush, Cheney had other ideas. They had a gamut of options. They were the responsible parties, not the think-tank advisors. THEY were the ones that hired those individuals anyway. It is NOT a statement of Jewish presence in the administration, but more specific.

    Its MISREPRESENTATIVE to describe as Jewish.

    The idiocy of the republicans and probably Ron Paul (I don't know his voting record at the time), was that instead of retaining tax rates at a level that the government would shortly emerge into some surplus, instead they enacted tax cuts that gave away the prospective surplus.

    No community investment, no restored infrastructure, no medicare for all program, no confidently secure social security (and still regarding social security surpluses as part of the general federal fund, rather than sequestered like other legally mandated pension funding.)

    The cash basis accounting of the federal government has been a disaster. Legally, the US government does prepare accrual basis financial statements, and audited.

    The problem is the defense department. Since the federal financial statements have been audited, no audit has been able to state that they issue a confident opinion on the accuracy of the financial statements as whole, because of the magnitude of innacuracies and gaps in record-keeping within the department of defense.

    link to

    Just for reference, the largest statutory liability that the government is obligated to is veterans benefits.

    I know there has been much stated about the inadequacy of current performance of the Veterans Administration, but during Bush's first term, the largest contributor to accrual basis deficit was the increase in veteran's benefits.

    The social security and medicare obligations don't even appear in the body of the financial statements as a whole.

    But, the federal government continues to report its surplus/deficit on a cash basis, and DISTORTS (rosily, even from the horror that it is) the actual federal deficits.

    All of the tax reduction efforts by republicans and libertarians have ignored timing and need for funding. In Massachusetts there is much agitation to reduce state taxes, ignoring the need for a "rainy day fund" and ignoring the need to improve infrastructure (things like the safety of schools, bridges, etc.).

  13. samuel burke
    March 2, 2008, 11:29 pm

    obama dancing cumbia.

    link to

    its worth a look.

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