Saturday, April 16, 2011


In Moses the Heretic, my second novel, I attempted to tackle the topics of Middle East Peace and Jewish-Islamic relationships. The experience of writing that book gave me the opportunity to reflect long and hard about what is missing from the peace movement. And the answer, at least for me, was clear: we need to see Arabs/Muslims taking public positions in favor of Zionism and Jews/Israelis taking public positions in favor of Palestinian Nationalism.

In the book, I called for a “Singing the Other’s Praises” campaign. It would involve pairs of Jews and Arabs taking to the airwaves and explaining why these so-called “enemies” are really just two sets of cousins who are part of a common family, known collectively as the “House of Abraham.” I figured that there would be no more powerful way of drumming home the beauty of the Zionist narrative in the minds of the public than for them to hear it expressed from the lips of a Palestinian Arab. And there would be no more compelling way of drumming home the beauty of the Palestinian narrative than for the public to hear it expressed from the lips of an Israeli Jew. If only the world could witness the ability of these “combatants” to internalize the truth and justice claims of their cousins, I reasoned, the barriers that have been building for decades would surely begin to fall. And we would all realize that both sets of cousins deserve their own “peace of oith” … their own particular zone of autonomy … just like each set of cousins in a middle-class American family has a home of its own.

That, at least, was my vision for peace. And while it might sound utopian to some, you have got to concede this much: it’s not like any other approach has worked. We’ve had many decades of Jews fighting publicly for Israel and Arabs fighting publicly for the Palestinians and the result, for the most part, is enmity and fear.

These last couple of weeks, while I have continued to spend much of my spare time on Middle East Peace activities, my thoughts have increasingly turned to the domestic problem de jour here in America: the gargantuan national debt. We used to think of the debt in terms of millions … then billions … but now, we’re talking trillions. Many trillions. Taking on that behemoth is beginning to sound as challenging as solving the Middle East Peace conflict. And in each case, the problem seems worse and worse with every passing year.

So what do we do? How about whipping out a “Singing the Other’s Praises” campaign? I’m quite serious – let’s pair up a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat, and have them take to the airwaves together. Talk radio. Fox News. MSNBC in the evening. CNN. Local news. Wherever there’s a microphone, pairs of politicians should grab the mike and chatter away. But the catch is that each politician would have to stay in character – and that would involve what Hollywood calls “playing against type.” It would become the job of the liberal Democrat to talk about how we can no longer afford the magnitude of entitlements that we’ve enjoyed during our nation’s economic peak. This includes entitlements for that most beloved of Democratic fundraisers, the obscenely wealthy trial lawyer, and entitlements for the those who believe that once you reach 65, you have the God-given right to spend bazillions of taxpayer dollars on every possible end-of-life treatment imaginable and without regard to cost. As for the conservative Republicans, it will fall to those politicians to talk about the need to restore some semblance of fairness to how we finance our government and to how we spend our scarce governmental resources. So they would be the ones to express the need to increase taxes on the wealthy, curb defense spending (and wars of choice), and eliminate the tax loopholes and subsidies that large corporations seem to view as their privilege.

Just consider what such a campaign would sound like. For starters, everyone would be speaking the truth. Lord knows that the present system of expenditures and revenue generators is untenable, and the only way it has been allowed to continue is that each side can point to how unreasonable the other side has been. With a “Singing the Other’s Praises” campaign, however, those who are truly serious about debt reduction would stop the finger-pointing and start giving credit where credit is due. Just as with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, both parties have a point when it comes to identifying the causes of the ballooning national debt. It is now time to get together and take on these causes. It’s not hard to figure out what they are; the difficulty lies in politicians summoning the political will to fight their party’s establishment. But if those politicians could pair up with people from the other side who truly have their back, maybe they could summon the needed political courage. In fact, if a national campaign were to begin in which people took on corporate welfare, an ever-expanding military complex, and the insatiable appetites of those from every stratum of the economy who have grown addicted to federal handouts … we just might be able to put our house in order.

Utopian? Sure -- if you think I mean that all of a sudden, every politician in America is going to join this campaign. But all we need is for the campaign to grow two at a time … like the animals arriving in Noah’s Ark. And surely, such politicians exist. Let’s hope they find each other, and fast … before the National Debt balloons from trillions into quadrillions.

Millions, billions, trillions, quadrillions, quintillions, sextillions … pretty soon, you’re talking real money.

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