I happen to be a member of two communities, inside each of which a majority of the members is in the process of abandoning the fundamental agreement that established the community. I am speaking about the Jewish people and the United States of America. In the first case, the deal was struck more than three thousand years ago; in the latter, a mere two and one quarter centuries have passed since the bargain was made. My purpose here is: to briefly describe the deals, who made them and how they were ratified; then to present some evidence to establish that indeed they are being broken; and finally, to compare the two processes of revocation in order to uncover both the similarities and differences between them. The latter comparison will lead me to some speculative thoughts on the consequences these broken deals might have in the future.
The deal that set the Jewish people off on their at times majestic, at times horrific journey through history was struck in the Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt. The deal was between a ragtag bunch of homeless tribes unified in their belief in a single God and that God. The people promised that they would lead a holy life, chiefly by complying with a set of complicated, onerous and in some ways incomprehensible laws that He ordained for them. In return, He would make them a mighty nation whose example would lead all the peoples of the world to accept God’s reign under which humanity would know peace and harmony. It is not unreasonable to view the Jewish people’s willingness to endure 40 years in the desert without losing their faith and the resulting successful conquest of Canaan as the ratification of the deal by both parties. But God’s promise has not been fulfilled. Many Jews would argue that that is because the Jews have not kept their part of the bargain.
The deal that established the USA is more recent and more concrete. It is laid out clearly in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The parties to the deal were the American people, that is, the Yanks of the late eighteenth century made the deal with themselves. Of course, like the Jewish deal, it obligated the descendants of the original deal-makers to adhere to the terms. And like the deal the Jews made with God, the terms of the deal the American patriots made with themselves are not hard to state. Briefly, in exchange for establishing a system of government characterized by: clearly delineated limited powers, entrusted to distinct branches of government, subject to checks and balances between the branches and between the federal and state governments, and capable of modification only by an elaborate process that required the support of the great majority of the people; in return, the people would enjoy individual liberty, clearly enunciated rights and freedoms, equal opportunity to achieve prosperity and a civil society upon which the government and its members would not tread. The deal was ratified by the thirteen colonies and the American people largely lived up to the bargain for more than a century. But in the last hundred years, the deal has been slowly unraveling.
That both deals are in a poor state of repair is self-evident. First, the percentage of world Jewry that adheres to the laws God set down for them is very low—certainly no more than 10%. Moreover, one probably has to go back to the nineteenth century to discover a time when that percentage was significantly higher. God hasn’t been doing such a great job holding up his end either. It is only two thirds of a century since he allowed one third of his partners to be ruthlessly butchered. Yes, the State of Israel was born and American Jewry enjoys great freedom to pursue its Jewish culture and traditions. But ‘a mighty nation leading the world to peace and harmony.’ I think not. The world-wide animosity toward Israel and the Jewish people is as deep and wide as at any time in recent centuries.
Sad to say, the American deal is not in great shape either. Let me review: limited government—hardly; checks and balances—Congress has relinquished its power to declare war, the executive violates the Bill of Rights with impunity, and the Courts usurp the powers of both the executive and legislative branches with abandon; a federal system with sovereignty shared by the national and state governments—that would be news to the States; and finally, both the government and the people ignore the Constitution as if it were a dusty old family document in the attic that invokes fond memories but has little relevance to life today. As a consequence, our freedoms are eroding, our prosperity is at risk, group rights are eclipsing individual liberty and society is not so civil any longer.
Well, you might say, this is very interesting, but what do the two phenomena have to do with one another? The answer will emerge from a close examination of where the two processes resemble each other, and where they differ.
First, the processes of severing their seminal agreements—which is being perpetrated by Jews and Yanks—are alike in at least four main ways:
1. Double deals. The Jews concluded their deal with God, but certainly the deal was also with themselves and with their posterity. The 12 tribes might have been unified in their monotheistic belief, but they also had separate identities and they saw the deal as a mutual obligation. Furthermore, it goes without saying that they expected their progeny to maintain the agreement.
Similarly, although the Yanks of 1775-1787 were binding themselves to a specific form of government and organization of society, they saw themselves as fulfilling a holy vision, and in particular they believed that their success in the Revolutionary War could not have been achieved without the benevolent hand of Divine Providence. The writings of the Founding Fathers are well-stocked with references to America as the new Jerusalem and the American people as the new Israelites. They definitely saw God as a party to the deal. And like the ancient Israelites, they expected that their descendants would live up to the agreement.
So in both cases, the deal breakers are betraying themselves, their God and their children.
2. Not a recent phenomenon. The cracks in both deals have been evident for a very long time. The Jews were fashioning golden calves almost from the beginning. The spies Moses sent to scout the land of Canaan doubted God’s ability to keep His promise. Indeed, Jewish history is overflowing with examples of both parties violating their obligations under the Sinai agreement. It’s a wonder that the parties still pay any homage to the agreement at all. (More on that later.)
As for the Yanks, I and others have repeatedly written about how the origins of the unraveling of the American experiment in self-government trace to the socialist ideas imported from Europe in the late nineteenth century. I won’t repeat the litany here, but let me just mention again that from John Dewey’s idea of ‘free’ public education intended to capture the minds of American youth, to Wilson and the 16th and 17th Amendments, to Roosevelt’s New Deal (note the choice of noun), to Johnson’s Great Society, to our current Messiah, we have seen a more or less steady drift of American society away from the ideals bequeathed to us by the Founders.
3. Remaining remnant. Neither revocation is complete. There exist ardent adherents in both communities who remain faithful to the terms of the deal as fervently as their forefathers were at the inception. Their percentage might be small, but they are deeply committed.
4. Failure to recognize. In both revocations, the descendants of the original deal-makers, who are throwing the agreement out, are either blind or naïve. Either they are unaware of what they are doing, i.e., they are truly ignorant of their obligations under their ancestors’ agreement. Or they believe that the course they are pursuing—which is in direct violation of their obligation—will actually improve on the deal, and that the radical changes they intend are consistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement. Thus, one has Jews who see the pursuit of ‘social justice’ superseding religious obligation; moreover, they pronounce that such a pursuit is in fact a fulfillment of the deal at Sinai. Similarly, there are Americans who do not accept that their statist philosophy is a perversion of the founding agreement, but instead see it as consistent with the Founders’ Constitution—and even if not, it will yield a more just society than living under the Constitution has.
Next, let’s consider the key differences. I will highlight three.
1. Size. This is obvious. There are three hundred million Americans and perhaps as many as 14-15 million Jews in the world. The proportion is no better if instead one considers the size of only the remaining remnants. It’s hard to say in either case exactly what the size of the remnant is. But I venture that no more than 2-3 million Jews see themselves as bound by the deal at Sinai, while there might be as many as 60-75 million Americans who believe that the US should continue to be governed according to the principles of our founding documents. This would suggest that the latter (i.e., the remnant Americans) have a better chance of reinstating their deal than do the former (remnant Jews). But let’s see.
2. Dispensation. What I am after here is an understanding of ‘what comes after’ should the deal be totally forsaken. In fact, as with the matter of size, this issue appears to be transparent. Should the end of the ConstitutionalRepublic that is the USA come about, there will be no great Gotterdammerung. Our country will simply morph into a clone of a Euro-socialist state, as Canada has. Gradually, the memory of American exceptionalism will fade away and the people of the USA, or should I say the servants of the US Government, will live their lives unaware of what they have surrendered. Still, there are many unknowns. Will China come to dominate the world? What about India? Or will the Islamic fundamentalists succeed in creating a world-wide Caliphate? Whatever happens, the best we could hope for America is a continued existence as a second-rate power with scarcely a trace of the creative drive and prosperity that was fueled by the unparalleled freedoms we enjoyed in the past.
The fate of the Jewish people, should they totally renege on their deal, is easier to describe—oblivion. From the end of the Second World War until now (roughly two thirds of a century) the Jewish population of the world has increased by at most 25%, and probably less. Most of that increase can be attributed to the remaining remnant. If there will be no remnant, there will eventually be no Jewish people. If the maniacs in Iran and/or the Arab world manage to defeat Israel, the end might come very swiftly.
So while neither fate is particularly appetizing, one is much harsher than the other—extinction versus a radical change in the nature of the organism, but not its destruction.
3. Survival. Now I am thinking about what might happen should there continue to be a strong remnant, but its percentage does not rise significantly from its current state. Here my projection might surprise the reader. In fact, unlike #2, the advantage is to the Jews over the Americans. The Jewish people have proven, over a history whose length exceeds ten times that of the Americans, that their ability to survive—even the most horrendous circumstances (Shoahs, expulsions, pogroms and the like)—is unequaled by any group in history. I have absolutely no doubt that even a small group of Jews, if committed to the ideals of their forefathers, could survive—perhaps for another few millennia.
I am less sanguine about the survivability of the AmericanRepublic. We are perilously close to changing the fundamental nature of the nation. In a majority rule country like ours, should a sufficient percentage of the citizenry decide that it wants to make a completely new deal, there will be little the surviving remnant will be able to do save leave.
So let me conclude with a speculative glimpse into the future of both communities. As I said, time has proven that the power of the ideas put forth at Sinai is sufficient to guarantee the continued existence of a critical remnant of Jewry, committed to upholding the deal. Even if—God forbid—Israel and America should fold, that remnant will continue, likely in South America or Australia, perhaps even in corners of North America or Europe. Even if the light from the star that the Jewish people represent in the firmament of the world might dim, it’s not going out. Nevertheless, that does not excuse the Jewish people—all of them, not just the remnant—from its responsibility to do everything it can to ensure that the star continues to shine brightly. Unfortunately, as I have shown in two recent articles (http://www.freeman.org/MOL/pages/july2009/are-american-jews-the-most-foolish-voters-in-the-united-states.php and http://www.freeman.org/MOL/pages/sept2009/are-american-jews-the-most-foolish-voters-in-the-united-states–ii.php), the American Jewish community has not been doing such a good job discharging that responsibility. If the star dims, the percentage of the Jewish people that the remnant constitutes could grow—and then the ‘foolishness’ might cease.
As for the American deal, I fear that the vectors are pointing in the wrong direction. If I may quote from a previous article:
‘The Left has been advancing on many fronts in our country for more than a hundred years. They have captured the media, the educational establishment, most foundations, the legal profession and more. Their progress has been steady, highlighted by periods of huge leaps to port (under Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson and perhaps now Obama). The only successful counterattacks in the 20th century came under Coolidge and Reagan. And while Reagan had some success, his good work has largely been undone by the Bushes and other fake conservative Republicans who aped and appeased the liberals over the last twenty years—which has resulted in the unmitigated disaster that the Obama-Pelosi-Reid regime represents.
It is easy for a conservative to survey the scene and be dejected. The behemoth that the Federal Government has become constrains our individual freedoms on a daily basis—and the Obama team is working feverishly to turn the screws tighter. The respect for Western Civilization and our Constitutional, republican system among the people is at an all-time low—and declining. Our economy is crippled by massive debt, a crumbling dollar and runaway entitlements; the latter summons the image of a train speeding on a one-way track toward a brick wall—and Obama is stepping on the accelerator. Who or what shall rescue us? Oh despair…’
Still, as the catchy line goes, ‘Predictions are difficult, especially of the future.’ At the time of Johnson’s Great Society, who could have predicted Reagan? And in the days of Reagan’s morning in America, who could have predicted Obama’s dark night? But I don’t foresee many more seesaw movements like this. It seems to me that one of two eventualities is in store for us. I believe that within a generation, two at most, either there will be a true, powerful and long-term conservative renaissance in the USA or we will slip irreversibly into a permanent leftist nightmare. By the former I mean a complete reversal of the statist path we have been traveling. I’m talking huge majorities in Congress, several presidents at least as conservative as Reagan, and the marginalization (but preferably the dismantling) of the liberal hegemony that the leftist-dominated media, educational system, legal profession and foundations have imposed on the nation. I know, it’s hard to imagine that happening, but I believe it is possible. If it doesn’t occur, then I think the slow (and sometimes not so slow) inexorable drift of American society to the left will pass what Thomas Sowell has called the ‘tipping point,’ on the other side of which is an egalitarian tyranny that spells the death knell for the Republic that our Founders envisioned. If that happens, given the horrendous mistake the American people made in the last election, I doubt that we will even recognize the moment that our collective heads slip under the water.