Opinion by Daniel Azaria.
As a student of the political sciences, I naturally have a weakness for political philosophers, and recently I was reminded of Friedrich Hegel. He proposed that progress is messy because it occurs in the form of a dialectic. Like a pendulum that swings one way, and then swings the other to overcorrect itself, and eventually reaches a new balance which he termed synthesis. This idea is supposed to remind us to be optimistic about what the future might hold, even when the reality seems to be going in a wrong direction. Turmoil is natural in politics, but in the end we find a new balance that combines good ideas from either side of the pendulum, and thus we strike a productive and better equilibrium than either of the previous states.
Taking this idea and applying it to today’s America is a quite encouraging activity. Liberals in America have taken the country forward, and in so many ways improved the lives of so many, by promoting gender equality, racial equality, economic progress, healthcare for the masses. The list goes on and on. However, there are many liberal movements that seem to have gone awry. The hate-speech movement had a very noble idea and intention but went too far, and now there are many that feel like liberalism, which is supposed to be the protector of freedom of speech, has betrayed that proud heritage and now stifle any opposition. Feminism is a phenomenal movement which has accomplished so much in terms of voting rights, breaking glass ceilings, lessening wage gaps, getting women into the labor market, protecting them from abusive men etc. However, in its third wave, it has become a movement which many people do not want to associate themselves with, which alienates many people that care about equality. To be a feminist has almost become synonymous with hating men, and putting a gender spin on everything.
The civil rights movement, which was noble in its goal, and at most had fringes that were unacceptable, has now become a movement that shuns any criticism of anything that is related to minorities. White people need to ‘check their privilege’, men need to ‘check their privilege’. Movements that once were supposed to eradicate the very obvious privilege that white men enjoyed went too far. How bizarre must the situation have become when white men actually feel oppressed.
After 9/11, a wave of fear of Arabs and anti-Arab bigotry swept the world. Too many instances of this fear being irrational were recorded, and it was right to stifle that to an extent. But when liberalism has joined forces with the branches of Arab culture, and Islamists that shun the very foundations that liberalism stands for, what is left of the ideology? What do liberals stand for?
A core value in liberalism is to protect the individual from the imposition of despots. To protect freedoms. But the function that protects us all, is the state and the law. When the left-wing in America cannot acknowledge that there is such a thing as illegal immigration and that there is a problem to be dealt with, many people cannot see eye to eye with that. When people on the left cannot acknowledge that there is a religion, which does not mix with western liberal democracy, many people cannot see eye to eye with that. In the conflict of ideas, one must think realistically of the ideas one fights, and not of the adversary one would prefer to have. A perfect example of misrepresenting ideas is the phrase “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam”. Just the sentence is bizarre in itself.
How did this happen? The pendulum swung and overcorrected. Instead of a reasonable response, Hegel predicted this. What we have now is President Trump, who talks a discourse that is so anti-liberal, that blames all the society’s problems on the immigrants, who lump all Muslims together, who doesn’t seem to sympathize with any minorities, whether LGBTQ or racial minorities. A Potemkin President who won’t solve any of the issues he ineloquently spouts words about. Many signs point to Trump being the xenophobic nationalist that democracies have encountered before. However, it is up to the opposition to be reasonable and honorable. Dig inside Trumpism and extract the beads of reason that are there. Do not only talk about the activities that crossed the proverbial line. Create anew the beacon of liberalism. The new liberal center would thus be the synthesis. Do it right, and the American people will respond.
Daniel Azaria has an MA from Tel Aviv University in Political Science and Political Communications, and a BA in Business Administration from IDC Herzliyah. His writing has been published by Jerusalem Post and he has been interviewed by several Swedish publication such as Aftonbladet and Swedish Radio to comment on current events in Israel and the Zionist movement. He is originally Swedish, but has been stationed mainly in Tel Aviv for the past 10 years.