To Stay or Go?

This week, at the annual AIPAC policy conference, different groups of attendees refused to listen to the remarks of presidential candidate Donald Trump. Some rudely walked out during his speech. Others, in a seemingly more polite fashion, simply refused to attend the session and chose to engage in Jewish Kumbaya activities instead.

Leading up to the event — and all this week — I thought hard about the well-publicized promises to boycott Trump’s invited comments at AIPAC. While it is true that the candidate has made lewd, mean-spirited, and inappropriate remarks about many different groups of people during his campaign, which of the other candidates hasn’t? Or, if the others’ positions have been more polished and pareve, are their morals, ethics, and behaviors above reproach? Trump is a political wannabe who has hit an American societal nerve. He’s exposed a deeply rooted virus that can no longer be ignored (see Geopolitics, The Roots of Trump’s Strength, by George Friedman). He is willing to say things out loud that others across the country are only brave enough to think.

If I had attended the AIPAC conference this year, I would have stayed to hear what the man had to say.

Jewish tradition is based on listening, studying, questioning, and then questioning some more. We are known for “two Jews, five opinions.” Never will we all agree on anything. Ever. Even our rabbinic sages, Shammai and Hillel, were notorious for their arguments and disagreements. The former was known for being right-wing and inflexible while the latter was more moderate and compromising. Shammai’s style was abrupt and off-putting; Hillel’s was more approachable and inviting. Both were respected, yet Hillel’s decisions became more widely accepted and embraced. The bottom line, however, is that they and our other sages argued and debated each and every issue…and no one walked out.

In this day and age, everyone is supersensitive and concerned about being politically correct. Every word someone utters is scrutinized and analyzed for its intent, innuendo, and truth. Now I’m not saying it’s okay for Donald Trump to say hurtful things to or about others. (For the record, it’s also not okay for politicians to mislead or lie to the public.) But I personally feel our society has taken all of this way too far. America has become a laughingstock in countries around the world. (Trust me. I’ve been abroad and I’ve been embarrassed.)

If Mr. Trump gets elected president, the walkers out will not leave the country. Will they disconnect themselves from all media sources then? Will they advise others to ignore presidential decisions? What does walking out at AIPAC really accomplish?

At the end of the day, I want my children and grandchildren to be open to listening to others’ thoughts and opinions. They don’t have to agree with the messages nor do they have to like the person speaking, but they should listen. A certain truth might lie within. It is the proper and politically correct thing to do.

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