Certain events have a warping effect on the culture long after they have any practical impact. The sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols permanently altered the trajectory of Islam. The English Civil War is another great example of a single event casting a shadow over many subsequent generations. Regular readers will know I reference it often, because it plays such a big part in American history. America would be a much different place if the Mayflower had sunk in the North Atlantic or the Wampanoag had done the right thing and slaughtered the Pilgrims.
The reason we have the word “penumbra” is that every shadow has a limit, beyond which it has no influence. In the history of man, those seminal events that cast the shadows, shrink with the passage of time and their shadow correspondingly shrinks. In time, they cease to exist. We can joke about Genghis Khan because he no longer casts a shadow any of us can feel. One day, people will joke about Hitler in the same way because his deeds will have no impact on the minds of the living.
We are living in an age of receding shadows as the big events that have shaped our present fade from our collective memory along with the people who lived through them. Hitler is an obvious example. Let’s assume the youngest one can remember back is to when they were around five years old. That means the youngest person to remember Hitler is 76 right now. It means the youngest person who could have fought Hitler is pushing 90 right now.
In my lifetime, the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement are the two issues that loomed largest in politics. I don’t remember an election that did not have some racial component to it. The Democrats try to use the race card to turnout the black vote. At the same time, support for Israel has been a defining issue of foreign policy debates. Republicans are so hawkish on defending Israel, they often sound like they are running for Prime Minister of Israel.
For generations, the worst thing you could ever be called was an anti-Semite. A very close second was racist. One of the things that we see in what we’re now calling the Alt-Right is an indifference to the charge of racism. In fact, many make sport of being called a racist and spend hours on Twitter trolling Lefty in order to elicit the racist charge. The reason is the charge has been so over used that it is laughable. When you get called a racist for quoting FBI crime statistics, the charge has no meaning. It’s simply another way for the mob to scream “witch!”
Vox Day has a recap of a twitter exchange between himself, Jonah Goldberg and Milo Yiannopoulos the other day. A point Milo and others are now making is that the charge of anti-Semitism has gone the way of racist. No one takes it seriously because it has been so overused. There’s also the fact that no one alive has any clear recollections of the Holocaust so it has no emotional impact. That’s why telling jokes about Jews is no more meaningful to young alt-right types than telling Irish jokes.
There’s certainly some truth to their claims. When not spending the $400k salary he pays himself from the magazine his father created, John Podhoretz spends his days calling people anti-Semitic on Twitter. When he gets bored with that, he runs around demanding to see the bar mitzvah pictures of Jews he does not like, so he can accuse them of not being authentically Jewish. There’s only so long that festering carbuncles like John Podhoretz can do this before people no longer take any of it seriously.
The Holocaust has cast a very long shadow over American public life and it may be starting to recede. Like the tide going out, we are now seeing a lot of surprising things that had been covered by the water. One of those is that there is not as much conformity and unanimity within the Jewish community as has been assumed. The blood libel against all gentiles has forced a degree of solidarity on Jews in America, but as that loses its power to scare the goy, it also loses its power to unite the Tribe.
I think that’s what we are seeing with the feud between Bill Kristol and David Horowitz. Solidarity is losing its value so it is beginning to crack and a guy like Horowitz is fine with having a nasty public spat with a fellow Jew. Yeah, what’s good for Israel is a part of it, but that’s not the defining issue for Jews in America. Evangelicals care more about Israel than most Jews. The core issue in this dispute is patriotism.
The yesterday men on the Right like Podhoretz and Goldberg will cling to the old slurs until the last man, but this is probably a very positive development in America. You can meet Italians who are liberal and you can meet Italians who are libertarians. In other words, blood does not dictate politics for 85% of Americans. The exceptions are blacks and Jews and we may be seeing that fall away for the Jews.
That is probably a very positive development as it means Jews can fully and publicly integrate into American life in the same way the Irish or the Italians have blended into the fabric of American culture. No one ever talks about Irish solidarity in the way we talk about Jewish solidarity or black solidarity. No one worries about offending Italians or Poles. There’s no stigma attached to it. Just as important, the rest of us can stop tip-toeing around the obvious.
By obvious, I mean the fact that Jews have been the most successful ethnic group in America. In fact, no country has been better for Jews than America. Here, the Jewish people have been free to reach their maximum potential. That’s something all Americans should take some pride in, but Jews should be extremely proud. Instead of viewing themselves as oppressed losers, American Jews should be confident winners, celebrating and enforcing that which allows them and everyone else to be a winner, compared to the rest of the world.
David Goldman comes down on the side of Horowitz and I sense he is viewing this as a positive as well. He does not address it head on in his column, but the fact that he chooses sides based on patriotism is a bit of tell, I think. What’s good for America trumps ethnic solidarity. As a Jew you can be pro-Israel, but you have to be pro-American more than anything. That’s the way every other ethnic group is expected to view things. You can cheer for Ireland over England in soccer, if you’re Irish, but you don’t root for Ireland over America.
For as long as I’ve been alive, the key phrase with regards to the Holocaust has always been “never forget.” That’s a wonderful rallying cry for an abused people who feel they have to fight their way inside. It’s self-defeating for a successful people who are already inside and often in positions of authority. Whether guys like John Podhoretz like it or not, people do forget and that’s often a good thing.