Monday, October 25, 2010

Choices, Transformations And Observations

I’m tired of being told that my way of looking at the world is less moral than the ways of other people. I’m tired of being told to disregard what my eyes are seeing because other people may find it offensive.

I am the child of people who survived the Holocaust. My mother was first taken from her home in a small village called Nisni Slatina and taken along with other Jewish people to a decaying, disease ridden ghetto. From there she was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. As she arrived in Auschwitz, she asked a woman Gestapo where her parents were. The woman Gestapo pointed to the smoke bellowing from the chimneys and said, “You want to know where your parents are? That is your parents.” My mother was wearing earrings and the Gestapo pulled down on them, splitting her ears and creating the scars that she still bears today, at 92 years old.

My mother was taken out of Auschwitz as one of 300 girls to do slave labor in a factory called Telefunken. She was treated better at Telefunken doing slave labor than she was at Auschwitz. She was lucky to be sent there. As the tide of the war started to turn, my mother was sent to Bergen Belsen, where she was lying among the dead and dying when the camp was liberated by the British. My mother survived, as did three of her sisters. Two other sisters and her brother, along with both of her parents, were killed.

My mother told me of her experiences often. She told me about how when she entered Auschwitz, she saw the women there behaving like animals, fighting for every scrap of dirty food and swore she would never act that way. But hunger was the over-riding emotion and one day when she spotted a dirty potato skin on the floor, she grabbed at it. She said this to me many times with a lot of emotion in her voice; “Howard, that dirty potato skin tasted like an apple to me.”

As a child, I never fully understood the significance of the Holocaust. I knew it was bad. My mother would have nightmares where she would scream in such a horrified way and you couldn’t wake her up! I would run into their room and literally shake the bed. My father was always afraid that waking her up from these dreams would be too sudden and traumatic. She would finally wake up and start to relax, though with tears in her eyes. I would ask her what happened in the dream. All she would ever say was that big dogs were chasing her. She never went into more details about those nightmares and would just say that she didn’t remember the rest.

As I started to get a little older I started asking questions. What about all the other people? Didn’t anyone see that what was going on was wrong? My mother told me one story about how the neighbors in Nisni Slatina, people who had been over for dinner, people who they had been friends with, took advantage of the growing anti-semitism and started to steal things from their home. This outraged me. The evil of the Nazis was self-evident, though hardly explainable. But that average people would not only do nothing to help, but actually use the situation for petty thievery – that just stuck in my craw.

Some thoughts that you have as a child stay with you forever. Perhaps it is because these are your formative years and you are thinking things out for the first time. As you get older, thoughts come into your mind and leave and you never even knew they were there! The thought that stayed with me and shaped me forever is this; I would never be a person who would allow other people to intimidate me into going against what I knew instinctively to be true or morally correct. I didn’t always live up to this idea but it is the idea that shaped who I am.

As I grew up, it seemed obvious that a liberal ideology was morally correct. Liberals were supposed to stand up for what was right. But as I grew older I started to see things in a different way than many of my friends. I think it started with the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. President Carter was so inept and then Ronald Reagan came in and talked about peace through strength. No one wants war but there is honor in defending what is right. Cowering and hoping that things will change is what led to the Holocaust. I long ago made a pledge to myself that I would see the world as it was and not how other people said it was, and now for the first time, I was forced to act on that pledge.

Even little things started to irk me in their inconsistencies and misrepresentations. In 1984, when Walter Mondale was pressured to pick a woman as his running mate, he chose Geraldine Ferraro. Everyone said how courageous he was for picking a woman and I thought that given the NY Times and every liberal organization was pressuring him to pick a woman, courage at that point would have been to pick a man! It’s not that he was wrong for picking a woman, just that it wasn’t courageous; given the pressure he was under to do so.

It’s funny because people on the left point to the new media and say that these outlets preach to people who don’t know any better, thereby belittling people like me as being easily deceived when the exact opposite is true. My observations of the world led me to becoming conservative before there was a conservative media and when I saw the new conservative media pop up, I was happy to know that there were more people out there who saw the world the way I saw it.

Now in 2010, I’ve seen what my parents saw -- the resurgence of anti-semitism. I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime but I always promised myself that if I did see it, I would do what I could to fight against it. This anti-semitism is coming from the Muslim community and from left-wing groups and it makes no sense to try and be politically correct and pretend it is something else.

In the UK, many schools have dropped the Holocaust from history lessons because of fears that it might offend Muslims. Why would Muslims be offended by the teaching of the Holocaust? The fact that the UK education system has given in to this re-writing of history is shameful and eerily reminiscent of the giving in to nazism in the 1930s.

People keep saying that all Muslims are not terrorists, but was every German a nazi? Did people say “Don’t judge all Germans by the actions of a few”? The fact was that the few controlled the many and unfortunately, it’s the same today with the Muslim religion. I will believe that the Muslim religion is a religion of peace when people of the Muslim faith come out to protest the radicalism among them with the same fervor that they protest against a cartoon of Muhammad.

Recently, Juan Williams was fired from NPR for saying what everyone instinctively knows to be true – on airplanes, people will look at Muslims with suspicion and fear. While it’s true that most Muslims are not terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims and they, not other people, are responsible for that reaction. I would like to see the people who fired Juan Williams take a lie-detector test and be asked the question of whether or not they do a double take when a person with Muslim garb walks onto a plane. I would bet that they would fail the test if they said anything other than “Yes”.

In New York, people who call themselves liberal stand up for the rights to build a mosque near the World Trade Center. Does it matter that the people building the mosque don’t condemn the acts of terrorist organizations such as Hamas? Does it matter that it is being funded by anti-semitic organizations?

In Palestinian classes, Jewish people are portrayed to children as less than human. There are cartoons portraying Jewish people as money grubbers and monkeys. Why isn’t the world angered by these portrayals? Is it because the Jewish people haven’t threatened anyone? Are Jewish people worth less than others? These cartoons are no different than that of nazis. They would make Joseph Goebbels proud.

Ayn Rand once said “The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see”. It is exhausting trying to explain something that seems so self-evident yet it is an obligation, especially for me, to keep trying. I owe this to all the relatives of mine who died in the Holocaust.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Truth And Nothing But The Truth

I recently saw a movie called “The Invention of Lying” with Ricky Gervais. The movie took place in a mythical society where there was no concept of lying. I wondered what a speech by Barack Obama would look like if he had lived in this mythical society and had to tell the truth as he saw it. The speech might go something like this…

Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans: Two years ago I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Now let me be clear, I would have never been elected if everything was running smoothly in the country. I was elected because I promised that I would change and improve these things. I offered hope.

It’s been two years and while we are still at war, while our unemployment has skyrocketed up to almost 10%, and while our debt has grown to unsustainable levels, I am amazed that I can still get away with blaming the previous administration.

America elected me because we decided to move forward as one nation and one people. But some of you have decided you do not want to be one nation. Selfish people who watch FOX news and listen to talk radio -- unpatriotic people who have formed tea parties are trying to misrepresent and ruin the change I have proposed. If we are truly to become one nation and one people, then those of you who have ideas that are different than mine need to shut up and stop standing in the way.

People need to understand that I, as President of the United States, know better than you about what is good for the country. We need to get away from our colonial, imperialistic and nationalistic way of thinking about our country and about the world. We need to understand that we are world citizens, not just citizens of one country. We cannot afford the arrogance that has marred this country in the past. We are just one country out of many and we need to have relationships with other countries based on mutual trust and mutual respect.

As to the economy, we cannot afford another so-called economic "expansion" like the one from last decade – what some call the "lost decade”. I don’t personally know anyone who actually called it the “lost decade” but after this speech, there will be people who will start to use the term “the lost decade” and it will seem as if that phrase has been around for a while. It’s a little trick that I and my speech writers use to fool people. We create a new term and make it seem as if others have been saying it all along.

The economic expansion of the last decade was built on a housing bubble that was unsustainable. I have said in the past that the bursting of the housing bubble was caused by Wall Street greed and unregulated financial speculation. What I haven’t said, but what is no less true, is that by forcing banks to give loans to people who had bad credit and little assets, was that we were creating a situation whereby if the housing bubble burst, a lot of innocent people would be left holding the bag. As an advisor to ACORN, I personally played a big role in seeing that this policy of bad loans continued. This, of course, was done with the best of intentions.

In fact, many of my close associates have also played a part in the forcing of banks to give bad loans with the goal that home ownership is a right, rather than a privilege. These include Barney Frank, Andrew Cuomo, Chris Dodd, Franklin Raines and many others. The reasons for the financial collapse are very complicated and I rely on most of you to not take the initiative to look into what actually caused the crisis.

I know that most of you are tired if the partisanship, the shouting, and the pettiness in Washington. So in order to have a more civil and bi-partisan tone, people need to believe in me. I ask for your trust. My opponents on the other side of the aisle try to bring up facts to confuse people. We will have a much more civil and democratic society if my opponents would stop trying to throw their opinions into the political debate. This only serves to create a partisan tone in Washington. It would be much more beneficial to the country if you would simply accept that the financial crisis was caused by Wall Street greed and leave it at that.

We all hated to have to bail out the banks. It was about as popular as a root canal but it needed to be done. So I supported the last administration's efforts to create the financial rescue program. I know that I bring up the previous administration quite a lot. There are two reasons for this. Number one: When I do something unpopular or reckless, it is beneficial to me if the previous administration has also done something unpopular or reckless. Number two: If the unpopular and reckless thing I have done doesn’t work out, I get to blame the previous administration but if it does work out, I get to take credit for it.

We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions. We can't allow financial institutions, including those that take your deposits, to take risks that threaten the whole economy. From this point forward, I will see to it that only government will be allowed to take risks that threaten the whole economy.

In fact, many companies have now paid back their loans so it has been a complete success in staving off financial disaster. Therefore, tonight I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. Because I’ll be dammed if I’m just going to take that money and give it back to its rightful owners – you the people.

As to international issues, as most of you probably know, I was against the Iraq war right from the beginning. What many of you may not realize is that I was just as firmly against the surge strategy in Iraq that brought us the ultimate victory there. Nevertheless, I have ended the conflict in Iraq and see no reason to give credit to anyone other than myself (well maybe the soldiers deserve a little credit as well). The war, after all, did end on my watch.

Illegal immigration is looked at by some as a problem. And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system – to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation. We need to get more immigrants to come to the US, to offer their hard labor, to pay taxes, to fill jobs that Americans won’t do, and to register as democrats.

As to my healthcare plan, if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. I will listen to your ideas before I dismiss them completely. I will then point out that elections have consequences and that I am the president. If you continue to make noise challenging that my healthcare plan will do all that I say it will do, I will make sure that you are portrayed as an out of touch troglodyte who doesn’t care about average working people.

Now I will be the first to admit that my administration has had some political setbacks and some of them were deserved. My administration should have done a better job of communicating how bad things were. In short, we didn’t take enough advantage of the economic and international crises both at home and abroad.

I did not come here to do what was easy and I did not say that change would happen overnight. We can do what's necessary to keep our poll numbers high or we can do what's best for the next generation. Or we can create a crisis that we can use to our political advantage. We can spend so much money that we dig a hole so deep it is impossible to get out of and when we’re done spending us into insolvency we can blame it all on George Bush.

Thank you. God Bless You. And God Bless the United States of America.