ArnoldHellerPsychologists define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you (Google). On Yom Kippur, Jews ask God to forgive their sins and atone by fasting to learn that repentance is hard.

Forgiveness, however, does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses (greatergood.berkely.edu). I forgive the now very democratic and peaceful German people but will never let them forget the national stain of the Holocaust. In contrast, I can never forgive Adolph Hitler and willing Nazi executioners who committed the ultimate diabolical crime and collective sin.

As a Jew and an American, I am deeply offended and troubled by President Trump’s two-and-a-half-year record of over thirteen thousand lies. I reject and resent his moral equivalence gestures that encourage neo-Nazi crazies to climb out from under rocks and attack minorities. Trump’s hateful speech possibly sparked two far right maniacs to enter synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego and wantonly shoot a dozen Jews to death.

The two mass murders of Jews praying in synagogues were the first in US history. Other amoral Trump firsts are demonizing Jews with a disloyalty label, gaslighting the nation, and warring against facts, science, truth, and the mainstream media.

Are these unpardonable sins for an American president? If as some Christians claim that God made Trump president, then I must ask if God is missing in action, if not dead.

I understand and accept why many Jews voted for Trump in 2016. Three very close relatives that I love voted for Trump because they liked his policies, if not him. James Comey’s last-minute investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails made her appear suspect too so why not consider Trump who was fresh in comparison.  

Trump’s indecent, erratic, and utterly corrupt behavior to date should disqualify him to reasonable voters who have the nation’s best interests at heart. Trump’s being awarded a second term unrestrained by reelection threatens our democratic processes and nation’s soul. Historians of the future may well determine the forty-fifth presidency as an American Dark Age.

Should we, in conclusion, consider holding Jews who vote for Trump in 2020 partially responsible for the fate of the country if he’s re-elected? If Trump is an unforgivable candidate, are Jews who vote for him a second time deplorable?

If they are still part of Trump’s base, are they condoning racism and white nationalism? Or excusing authoritarians, cranks, and reactionaries? Or skewing dangerously uninformed, forgetful, naive or misguided?

Or simply not loving their children and grandchildren enough?

Arnold Heller

Chair, Atlanta – Ra’anana Sister City Committee

Author of Dues – The Coming of Allie Cohen

 

Published in the Atlanta Jewish Times September 30, 2019