How easily wishful thinking morphs into nightmare

It is premature, I think, to write America’s obituary. Know-nothings and demagogues have roiled our republic before, although, granted, no former president was charged with 91 felony counts prior to the Mad Marquis of Mar-a-Lago.

A pathological narcissist threatens our constitutional order with chaos by deploying what conservative columnist George F. Will calls his “feral cunning.” But while Trump’s MAGA fans have doubled down in support of him, they are not the majority of Americans. They can only win by confusing and demoralizing the rest of us with a flood of disinformation.

There is also the problem of progressives who defeat themselves with all-or-nothing demands. A person named Jenna on the X social media platform wrote, “When Biden loses in November, I’m going to relish your tears.” Someone named Jeffdc5 replied, “Leftie or MAGA?” By all signs, Jenna is a pro-Palestine leftie, but the question of who she is actually helping is a good one.

A Jewish friend and I were discussing the Israel-Hamas conflict. I said that my position is grounded in opposing the murder of Palestinian children as much as that of Israeli children. Rather than heroes and villains, I see terrorists on one side and an embattled politician seeking to thwart democracy on the other.

In short, I do nuance. She advised me not to talk to Jews about nuance after Hamas’s murderous attack on Oct. 7.

Nuance, however, is vital to the honest resolution of differences. I will no more abandon nuance than my friend will abandon her Zionism. Without nuance, we merely toss slogans at one another.

It may be convenient to reduce complex matters to something easily chanted in the street, like “Palestine will be free! From the river to the sea!” But that makes it neither realistic nor just.

Some pro-Palestine advocates are calling President Biden “Genocide Joe” for his support for Israel. I, too, criticize the Israeli Defense Force’s brutal assault on Gaza for its devastating impact on non-combatants. But IDF’s invasion was in response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attack, which Hamas vows to repeat.

Piling on more war crimes is no way out of a conflict. As for Israel’s determination to eliminate Hamas, the death and destruction caused by IDF in Gaza serve more as an effective recruitment effort for Hamas.

I oppose Israel’s illegal annexation and dispossession in the West Bank. I support a two-state solution, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has rejected. There can be no peace until people on both sides recognize one another’s humanity.

That seems a distant prospect.

CUNY professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired as a CNN contributor in 2018 after remarks before the United Nations that included the highly charged “free Palestine from the river to the sea” (widely understood to mean the elimination of Israel), recently gave impassioned remarks from a church pulpit demanding a ceasefire and accusing Biden of genocide.

It was a fine, thunderous rant, but Professor Hill essentially demands a one-sided ceasefire. Another word for that is a massacre. If you only recognize the casualties and legitimate aspirations of one side, you are seeking vengeance, not justice.

Which brings me back to the need for nuance. My Jewish friend’s understandable outrage at the Oct. 7 atrocities does not make a real, durable solution any simpler. At the same time, the threat by pro-Palestinian activists to withhold their votes in retaliation against Biden is like taking bleach to avoid COVID.

America’s Founding Fathers, faced with the competing factions of their day, established a governmental structure that requires compromise. To reject any compromise as a betrayal makes it impossible to govern. Demonizing imperfect Democrats only helps Republicans in thrall to a third-rate dictator.

Dogmatism blinds us to opportunities as well as consequences.

The democratic process, both in court and in Congress, has yielded great gains for the LGBTQ community. If we sit out the election, whether from overconfidence or dissatisfaction, we could reap the whirlwind.

Jeffdc5 on X wrote: “No one has ever truly explained this to me. We withhold our votes and then what?”

I replied, “The revolution comes and paradise breaks out. Then it dawns on you, like a twist at the end of a Twilight Zone episode, that you’re trapped in a nightmare.”

We are in an age of comforting narratives, truth be damned. Personally, I prefer wrestling with reality. But choose a soothing fantasy if you must. Just hope you don’t wake up on a cold winter’s night with the monster under the bed asleep beside you.        

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at Copyright © 2024 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.