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Anti-Semitism: The Bellwether of Dysfunction and Decay
It's time to put away this silly notion that the problems that plague America end at some partisan or left-right divide.
“When antisemitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system—a sign that the society itself is breaking down. That it is dying.”
Last Friday, Bari Weiss, founder of fellow Substack-hosted online publication The Free Press, gave the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyer Convention. It was, as Ilya Shapiro called it, a speech for the ages.
Bari Weiss is not a conservative. She is, as she described herself on Friday, a moderately pro-choice gay woman. She’s a center-left journalist who, once upon a time, was perfectly at home working at the New York Times. But in recent years, her Jewish heritage and commitment to classically liberal ideals placed her increasingly at odds with woke progressivism until she found herself, last Friday, addressing a room of conservative and libertarian lawyers barely a month after the worst Jewish pogrom since the Holocaust and offering a warning that “the proliferation of antisemitism…is a symptom” of broad and troubling political and cultural dysfunction and decay.
This idea of broad dysfunction and decay, not limited to any single party or side of the political compass, is something I have, with only limited success, been trying to communicate for years. It’s a “both sides” stance that has led to a lot of severed political ties and friendships with people and efforts in the broader “Never Trump” movement who tend to set aside all concerns with the trends and policies of progressivism because Trumpism and MAGA are “existential threats” and the left is at least “pro-democracy.”
It’s tragic that it has taken the shocking anti-semitic, pro-Hamas response of progressive activists for so many people to wake up to just how much the political dysfunction and decay America is facing is shot through the political movements and institutions on all sides of the compass. There simply is no magical partisan or ideological line of departure where the rot stops and, from that point on, all is well.
As Bari Weiss warns us, anti-semitism is a bellwether for foundational rot. The whole house is at risk of structural damage, not just the living room. We simply can’t afford to zero in on just one side’s evidences of decay and erect blinders to block out everything else. We can’t allow any sort of “popular front” mentality to convince us that one side is so much worse than the other that any excesses on “our side” can be ignored or set aside to be dealt with at another “less consequential” time.
The Daily Saucer is our place for freelance contributors and editorial staff to offer short takes on the news cycle, quick observations on the issues, and brief thoughts on broader topics. The views offered in this space reflect only the personal views of the authors.