At least one Republican has taken the anti-choice stand to a new level, and it has nothing to do with reproductive rights. Rep. Steve King of Iowa says, “I don’t understand how Jews in American can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their President.”
The absurdity of his question is only equaled by how didactic he is; telling people “how they ought to be.”
How does he define Jew? Is it the ethnic heritage of one or both parents; is it the beliefs that an individual has chosen at a certain age, or is it their sense of humor? As for Democrats, it might be a good first step for him to learn that generally Democrats do not “follow the leader” the way Republicans tend to do. The problem with the damn Democrats is that there are just too many of them who think for themselves. And that takes us right to the heart of his problem.
Is he saying that each of us should be guided more by our religious beliefs than our political beliefs? If so, then it might not be applicable for many in the progressive community who lean more towards being agnostic or atheist. And yet many of those progressives were “born Jewish.” That does not mean that they embraced any faith, only that one or both of their parents were Jewish. They may take pride in the Jewish heritage, the accomplishments of many Jews, and the humor that tends to resonate among Jews. But they don’t subscribe at all to “teachings” in the Bible, and they do not consider the words of a rabbi to be of any more significance that those of anyone else. This perspective falls under the category of critical thinking, and it seems that Rep. King was absent the day they taught that.
No doubt there are many Jews who take religion seriously, and it is difficult for them to separate their religious views from their steadfast commitment to the state of Israel. For them, the tenets of any political party will always be secondary to their religious beliefs. But the Jews whom Rep. King is questioning are not blind followers of the religion. Rather they are individuals who fall along the “Jewish spectrum.” Their places on the spectrum are largely a result of their upbringing and how much they value and utilize independent thinking.
Kings’ remarks did not resonate that well either with very religious Jews. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, a leading global Jewish advocacy group, said, “It’s a painfully wrongheaded understanding of American Jews, and this kind of collective description should have no place in American political discourse. American Jews, like other faith and ethnic groups, are a very diverse community in their thinking, in their policies and in their voting behavior.”
This is probably all news to Mr. King, as well as to many of the fundamentalist Christians who populate his congressional district. It’s frustrating to hear him talk, because it’s now been more than 50 years since we began stressing the values of diversity in the education we offer to our children. On second thought, I might be wrong about that. I have a fear that accepting diversity requires more critical thinking than some people want in their schools, and thus these schools educate people like Steve King. Okay, fellow agnostic and atheist Jews, we have our work cut out for us.