by Constance Daley
St. Simons Island, Ga.
October 5, 2010
THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS
BRADENTON, Fla., Oct. 2, 2010 -- As leaders and groups emerge throughout history, it is a universal precept that they are tested by trial and tragedy.
Such events have been visited upon almost every people that ever lived, from ancient times to the present. Many of those peoples and their nations did not survive challenge; among the few who have survived, only a handful prospered; among them are the very few who triumphed.
As an American Catholic of Irish descent, I am a member of the very few, a race of hardy, intelligent, productive people who survived multiple conquests, a deliberate famine and mass migration to finally find freedom, and so prosper and triumph in the United States.
Many of my fellow Irish-Americans are at the top of many professions; I'm proud that someone who shares my exact same name, Joseph Patrick Shea, was the managing director of Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm that held the top floor at 1 World Trade Center. Joe Shea was the top man at the top firm at the most prestigious business address on earth until Sept. 11, when a radical few of yet another resurgent people, the Arabs, also long tested and tried if not triumphant, destroyed him and nearly his firm when they leveled the World Trade Center.
The Armenian people are also survivors, not only of endless persecutions and murders perpetrated by the Arabs, Persians, Turks and Russians, but several deliberate attempts at genocide that very nearly destroyed them. They, too, have survived enormous challenges to maintain an independent identity which has also prospered, if not yet triumphed, in America.
We tend to forget the genocide that was aimed at the Tutsi people of Rwanda by their neighbors, the Hutus, killing nearly a million of them.
We rarely remember to count the black Americans kidnapped in Africa, brought here as slaves, squeezed into depressed, sprawling ghettoes and discriminated against at every level of American life; even with a black President among their achievements, and great leaders in music and the arts, half of black children will not finish high school, and a quarter of them has either been arrested or imprisoned at some point in the past four decades.
Despite the individual triumph of President Barack Obama, and the casinos that have been minting money for American Indian tribes, or the shaky peace that governs Rwanda, I don't think anyone would call the Irish, or any of the above, or the Armenians a "chosen people." No one would say that of the Arabs, the Chinese or the Indians, who mostly continue a test of suffering from ignorance, poverty, disease, hunger and oppression into the 21st Century.
The Jews are another matter. They have suffered almost since the time of Abraham from persecution, famine, betrayal, displacement, discrimination and unjust libels. Far more so than any people in the past two millennia, they have suffered, survived and struggled for identity and nationhood. And while there have been a great many sieges of mass murder perpetrated against the many peoples of the world, none has devastated and destroyed a people so much as the 20th Century Holocaust that took the lives of 6,000,000 Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe; many died in other theaters of the Second World War, and their death represented the loss of two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.
And who would not say they have survived, prospered and triumphed? The State of Israel is a concrete triumph. The Jewish people of America are at the top of numerous professions, they do run the entertainment industry, and are enormously influential in the worlds of law, medicine, news, banking, the arts and education. They are the richest per capita of members of any American religious denomination (followed by the Irish Catholics, I'm proud to say), and they are prominent in both houses of Congress and the White House. They are triumphant in the sense that they need not apologize to anyone for their success; and they are the last to complain of unequal access to education, health care and other benefits of American life.
They, in fact, are the chosen people. Measured against other populations and the entire length and breadth of history, they are the shining triumph of humanity. And since they sit at the top of a very large heap, and intend to stay there until a new strategy for humankind emerges, they remain the targets of hatred, jealously, terrorism, bias and betrayal.
The most successful people on earth have developed the most successful defenses on earth. They try not to marry outside their faith so as to strengthen its unity; they respond in kind when they are attacked, both as a culture and as Israel, their nation; and they sometimes overreact, as they did against the many and frightening but mostly harmless missile attacks from Gaza, for which they killed almost indiscriminately 1,000 persons in Gaza; or when they sent commandoes to land on a Turkish aid flotilla, and suddenly killed 11 of the passengers.
The Jewish people also rose up in angry reaction at the drunken comments by actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson, to a Jewish police officer during a DUI traffic stop near Malibu. The chief of Paramount Studios, Brad Grey, then called for "shunning" Gibson, invoking an ancient Jewish practice that, coming from Grey, was the equivalent of a fatwa and could end his meaningful career.
Again, on Friday last, they reacted angrily to the mostly innocuous comments by CNN daytime anchor Rick Sanchez to a comedian's question on Sirius Radio. Sanchez implied in his response that Jon Stewart was a bigot, and that there are many others "like" Stewart (Jewish, that is) who are "liberals" (I thought Sanchez was a liberal, honestly, and I watched him daily) at CNN who had discriminated against by keeping him on the "second tier" of anchors. Sanchez said, "I'm telling you that everyone who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah." he said. "I can't see someone not getting a job these days because they're Jewish."
The long and arduous defense of freedom of speech by American Jewish intellectuals short-circuited upon hearing that; their well-established ideals did not inhibit a cultural counterswipe that has probably destroyed the career of one of the very few prominent and successful Cuban-Americans - not to mention an egomaniac, which was Sanchezís real problem.
Our human struggle for survival has engraved in all of us defensive reactions to certain kinds of provocations. I went to great lengths to save the life of a wandering blue bug, as I reported here recently, but I'll usually stomp on a moving cockroach and automatically swat at a fly. Who knows why? My excuse is that I have an obligation to preserve life. But when a substantial part of an entire people reacts to a provocation by an individual, the outcome is unusually harsh, and in some form, that one person dies, literally or figuratively. Sanchez, at this moment, is dead.
A Gainesville preacher recently tried to reverse that equation and insult the entire world of Islam by burning one or more Korans; what he probably did not expect was that the entire spectrum of American society, and all of Islam, too, would turn against the idea and swat him and his outrage into oblivion. It's unfair, perhaps, to pit a 200-lb man against a 1-oz. cockroach, but that is how we are built: bother us and we act. There may be compassion in the wake of that first reaction, and often is when Jews are involved, but if you bother some people, watch out.
What is the Rick Sanchez incident to tell us, then? That's what stimulated these thoughts tonight. I would still predict he'll get some sort of reinstatement, but no apology. Yet I am bothered by what CNN has done, and even I felt a little revulsion as I started to tune in today, then changed my mind. I hate FoxNews for its lies and overt bias, and don't care much for MSNBC even though it always on the side of right - I guess because it often is. I can watch Bay News 9, our local, mostly objective, all-news station in the Tampa Bay region only so long before I hunger for more national news. By choice, I was without a tv for 33 years, and far better off, yet who can throw away a 32" flat screen?
I don't know what the hell I'm going to watch now; the triumph of the chosen people has ruined CNN for me, because it so dramatically overrode free speech rights, for which I have risked everything I had (disclosure: I don't have anything, anymore).
So struggle on, my dearest Irishman, myself; with luck, you will survive and prosper; don't expect a triumph.