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November 10, 2016

Donald Trump has succeeded in awakening the beast in us. He has brought our baser instincts to the fore. The difference between him and us is that he says and does the things that decent men control and suppress. We are all attracted to women. Most of us manage to keep it to ourselves, neither speaking nor acting on the lusty urges that rise up out of us. Trump both speaks and acts on his urges, and enough white American men vicariously became Trump to enthusiastically give him a mandate.

Every two-bit psychologist knows that we react with strong revulsion only if something in us has been awakened. Otherwise, we would react with indifference. Our disgust with Trump’s predatory sexism is rooted in our struggle with the primitive in ourselves. This is also true regarding his racism and our own, his violence and our own, his indulgence of the animal that he, and we are.

Bibi Netanyahu is more subtle, but just as dark. He is a sexless Machiavellian, his lust is for power. But lust is lust, and Netrumpyahu is celebrating the arrival of a kindred spirit. Things have never looked so good for Bibi. If he brinkmanshipped his way through a troubled relationship with Barack Obama, humiliating the President and surviving, yet again, the mess he created, he can now breathe deep and warmly welcome Donald Trump.

What is common to these two “leaders” is their lure. They have drawn a following because a huge swath of both their constituencies share common values, values whose behavioral expression includes: screw everyone who gets in your way, lie whenever you want, exploit people’s fears and offer them magical solutions to their difficulties, demonize and blame the weak and subjugated people for everything, and emerge looking good. There are indeed many people for whom this is the chosen path, the followers of Netrumpyahu have left their better selves behind.

So now, what do we do? First, let us mourn our loss. We Jews sit shivah when someone dies. For a week we labor to process how much we miss the dear departed one. Let us mourn the passing of our hope for goodness and decency in government. Let us acknowledge that there is no longer a partner of any sort, not in Washington and not in Jerusalem. When Shivah is finished, we climb to our feet, venture out the front door and face the day after, and we look for our friends and comrades.

Today, 80 Israeli peace activists travelled from around the country to Sderot. Together, we heard mothers and kindergarten teachers who huddled in concrete sewage pipes with their children while missiles and mortars rained down on them in the summer of 2014. We studied the trauma of citizens and their prime minister’s manipulation of that trauma. We listened to their accounts of suffering. Some of them spoke of the parallel suffering across the fence in Gaza, the defenselessness of those women. But then, in small discussion groups, we moved to look forward. A young community worker spoke of his efforts to achieve small victories in working with traumatized people, returning hope to their hearts. The leaders of Women Wage Peace shared the joy of leading 20,000 committed women on marches across the country.

Curiously, openly, we explored new ways of reaching out to those who have resigned themselves to endless conflict. We debated the relative worth of inclusive approaches to the public vrs. more targeted tactics. We chipped at old concepts of “left” and “right,” birthing new ways of approaching a frightened and reluctant public. We networked, spawning possibilities of inter-organizational collaboration.

We know that depression is a function of passivity. We left Sderot determined to renew and re-vitalize our efforts, with pocketsful of each other’s calling cards. We drove home across the broad, arid plains of the Western Negev, heartened in the knowledge that soon the winter’s rains will green these fields, and they will, they must once again be lovely.

                                                                                                Yoav Peck, Sulha Peace Project


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