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Our Continuing Downward Spiral (December 2017)

Rabbi Mike

Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” borrowing from a 19th century minister, Theodore Parker. It is a wonderful sentiment, optimistic in its outlook, and I truly would like to believe it. Sadly, the moral arc of our own country is bending in the wrong direction, and it has been for quite a while.

Tomorrow in Alabama voters will elect Roy Moore or Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate. Much of the attention on Moore has been focused on the credible accusations of child molestation by several women. If that were the only black mark against him, dayenu—it should be enough to disqualify him from holding any elected office, let alone being a U.S. Senator. But there is much more. He was a birther; he has neo-Confederate ties; he siphoned off substantial amounts of money from a charity when he was its president; and he has made virulent anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements over the years. There is more, but this should suffice. Any one of these, in my opinion, makes him unfit for public office. Collectively they depict a despicable human being.

As I write, the outcome of Tuesday’s election is uncertain, the polls suggest a “nail biter.” But this very fact--that a man of such low moral character stands a good chance to win tomorrow’s election--is an indication of how much we have lost our way in our beloved country. The arc is not bending toward any semblance of justice.

And it starts at the top. In 1991, Ku Klux Klan former grand wizard and Nazi sympathizer David Duke was in a close race for Louisiana governor. Duke was the Republican candidate, and the Republican President, George H.W. Bush, denounced Duke as unfit to hold office, which most observers agree helped the Democratic candidate to win. Contrast that with 2017, when our president has not denounced Moore as unfit for office. On the contrary, Donald Trump has given Moore his unqualified support, even recording a robo-call on Moore’s behalf. (Thank you to Margery Eagan for this comparison in her op-ed in Monday’s Boston Globe). Sadly, no surprise here. We all know about Trump’s boasting of his sexual crimes, and thankfully now several of the women whom he assaulted are again speaking out and reminding anyone who may have forgotten. Trump began his political career as a birther. We cannot forget his remarkable moral failure in the wake of Charlottesville. He is a bigot who has made unforgiveable statements most notably against Mexicans and Muslims as well as other minority and disenfranchised groups. No wonder he is supporting Moore—Moore is his mini-me!

I will be pleasantly surprised tomorrow if the voters of Alabama come to their senses and elect Doug Jones. However, the fact that Moore is still in the race, and contending, is sad. I want to be outraged and filled with moral indignation, but instead I’m feeling saddened and alarmed. We are in a downward spiral. I hope and pray for good news tomorrow. Perhaps the good people of Alabama can nudge that arc ever so slightly back toward justice, fairness, and a country with a sound moral compass.

Sun, July 5 2020 13 Tammuz 5780