Bob Schwartz

The Slippery Slope Philosophy: How Israel Is Like the NRA

Israel is under real existential threat. The modern state exists because a portion of modern Jewry was not only under existential threat, but actually found itself decimated. This is incontrovertible. Not again, never again.

But existential threat offers possibilities and opportunities. You can engage in deep, serious, measured and open consideration of exactly what that means and how to respond. Or you can treat is a license to do anything, and to reject and attack all those—even Jews—who suggest you can’t necessarily do anything. Giving a moral inch is giving a moral mile, and it is a slippery slope. This is currently Israel’s posture.

This is precisely the position of the National Rifle Association regarding guns and the Second Amendment. It is all or nothing. Even a hint that the Second Amendment might be conditional is dangerous. The next thing you know, “they” will be coming around to take your guns. That can’t be allowed to happen, no matter how many people are killed or injured, how many innocent lives ruined, in the meantime.

Sorting through values is hard work, and the conclusions can be inconvenient and costly.  Easier to deal with absolutes. That way, you can sleep righteously and soundly, without worrying about the victims of your carelessness.

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Trump v. Moses: Grievances Win Over Vision

People can be complainers. Grievances can be powerful. Just ask Trump. Or Moses.

Prior freedom and miracles were not enough for the Jews at Mount Sinai. While Moses goes up the mountain, for what turns out to be a monumental visionary moment, the people head in an entirely different direction. They are still chronically unhappy and complaining about their lives and the way things have been going, and so engage in all sorts of crazy behavior. In that story, the vision does end up prevailing, but only after lots more tzuris (troubles) and mishegas (craziness).

The only chance for vision to prevail over grievance is for there to be an actual coherent and enlightened vision, and for there to be widespread confidence among people in that actual vision. Otherwise people, who are just human, will complain—sometimes selfishly and shortsightedly, sometimes justifiably. And they will channel those complaints into strange behaviors and choices.

In America, there are a lot of people with grievances. And there is a vision vacuum, at least among those whose supposed structural mission is to be practical visionaries (for example, Democrats and religious institutions). Even with miracles behind him, Moses had a tough time. Without miracles or vision, in elections and at other times, we may be seeing a lot more golden calves.