Posts Tagged ‘George Orwell’


I’m thinking about running for President in 2020, but two factors give me pause. One is my age. I’ll be 76 then. Of course, a President Trump would be 74 prior to re-election, or a President Clinton 72. It’s the second factor that worries me.

I may have to prove I’m an American-born citizen. Obviously, President Trump wouldn’t make a fuss. As Trump informed the nation last week, “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.” But how about Mrs. Clinton? Will she target me for Birther 102?

Like President Obama, I’m a member of a minority religion. Yes, a Jew, Joe Lieberman, ran for vice president on the ticket with Al Gore in 2004. And Bernie Sanders gave Hillary a run for her money in the Democratic primaries. Still, I imagine that the same people who fear a Muslim in the White House breathed sighs of relief. Although I don’t think they’re Hillary supporters.

Also like President Obama, I have a foreign-born father. My dad was 2-1/2 when he came to the United States—an immigrant! My mother was born in Manhattan—she claimed. I’m under the impression I was born in the Bronx, but doubts could arise. Red flag: my parents were living in Queens at the time.

My alibi? My folks previously lived in the Bronx where my sister was born. My mother wanted to keep her obstetrician. Given lighter traffic then, my father could quickly drive my mother to the birthing hospital.

Question: Does that story sound shaky?

Another question: How much insanity can Americans take? Hillary Clinton didn’t start the birther movement. Worse, Trump railed on for years then, after conceding, never owned up or apologized. So yes, I’m more than skeptical when the Donald claims credit for clearing up the question of Mr. Obama’s birth and promises to “make America great again.”

Yet I suspect that Trump sees himself as a hero. I imagine he’ll feel slighted if President Obama fails to host him at a White House dinner and award him a gold (has to be gold) medal. After all, if the New York Mets or the New York Yankees win the World Series—or even the pennant—Trump probably will take credit. (Otherwise they’re losers.)

In George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, Big Brother declares that “black is white” and “war is peace.” Language functions as a key tool for government oppression because truth becomes whatever the forces in power say it is. As the Greek dramatist Aeschylus wrote, “In war, truth is the first casualty.” Truth doesn’t fare well in politics, either. With Trump, it’s no mere casualty. It’s a fatality.

As to my 2020 presidential run, I remain on the fence. Sure, I’d love to fly around the world on Air Force One, as I explained in a previous post “My (Maybe) Run for the White House” (5-16-14). I might upsize the national chanukiah. But to date, only my parents along with clerks in the Bronx (New York) and Bexar County (Texas) court houses, the U.S. Army and the State Department (my passport says I was born in the Bronx) plus my wife have seen my birth certificate. I prefer to keep it that way.

Or am I hiding something even I don’t know about?

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My January 15 post, “Loyalty and Betrayal,” explored the unwillingness of many people to disagree with a group to which they belonged—even when they knew something was wrong. Two more examples highlight the danger inherent in giving up independent thinking and submitting to mind control.

Fundamentalist religious sects long have abounded. Judaism has its share. Many ultra-orthodox sects are part of the Hasidic movement founded in the 18th century. Hasidism sought to replace a dry intellectual approach to Judaism with a direct, spiritual approach. The movement soon ossified. Hasidim removed themselves from the rest of the world—and much of the Jewish people.

The story of Shulem Deen proves instructive. The former Sqverer Hasid tells a sad, shocking yet inspiring tale in his memoir All Who Go Do Not Return (Graywolf Press, 2015). Deen grew up in a Hasidic family in Brooklyn and wound up studying at a Yeshiva in New Square, a small town in New York’s Rockland County. Many ultra-orthodox Jews have retreated there.

Deen studied Torah and Talmud but precious little English—he was a native Yiddish speaker—and math. A secular education is a necessity for making a living. This was of little concern to the Sqverer Hasidim and their rebbe, an all-powerful leader. Yeshiva learning kept Sqverer boys apart from the “other.” Nonetheless, Deen attempted to know about the rest of the world. He also questioned Sqverer beliefs and the very existence of God.

But Deen was part of a rigidly organized community. Per tradition, a wife was chosen for him. He married at 19 having previously met his bride for no more than a few minutes. An older man gave him a cursory lesson about sex. It was little help. Over time, Deen and his equally ignorant wife figured out enough to have five children.

Deen learned more English, got jobs in Manhattan, and surreptitiously connected with the world through TV and the Internet. He wrote a blog and found many other Hasids and other ultra-orthodox Jews asking the same questions. Interestingly, they didn’t all want to leave their communities, which offered familiarity and warmth to those who followed their rebbes’ dictates. But inquiry was forbidden. Ultimately, Deen’s community excommunicated him. His wife sought a divorce. She and his children turned away from him.

Deen now lives in Brooklyn. He wears standard American clothes. He also shaved off his beard and payess (sidelocks). Life poses challenges, but he is continually learning. His writing career has blossomed.

This leads me to the contest for the Republican presidential nomination. The party hierarchy has basically disowned frontrunner Donald Trump. Competing candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have vilified Trump. (Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican candidate, called Trump unfit.) Yet all the other candidates said that they would support Trump if he won the nomination.

Does it make sense that many Republicans would so hate the “other”—Democrats and modest Republicans—that they would support a man they believe disastrous for America? Does it make sense that anyone would abandon his or her right to think and act independently, and tow the party line in Orwellian fashion? (Black is white, war is peace.) Yes, people want to belong. But at what price? It seems bizarre. Probably not to Shulem Deen

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In George Orwell’s novel 1984, Big Brother, the symbol of tyranny, declares that “Black is white, and white is black.” This marks just one example of “doublethink,” which twists truth and falsehood. But doublespeak is more than fiction, as we learned in Gaza last week.

On Saturday, Palestinians celebrated Hamas’ twenty-fifth anniversary marked by the first-ever visit to Gaza by Hamas’ political leader Khaled Meshaal. Doublespeak was the order of the day. Yet Meshaal also spoke quite plainly with no attempt at deceit.

Let’s go first with the blatant lie. Hamas claimed victory over Israel in their recent hostilities. Following the declaration of a truce, Gazans celebrated their triumph. How obvious was Hamas’ victory? As obvious as their unguided rockets killing six Israelis and doing some property damage. I’m not sure that any other nation or group has won a war by inflicting so few casualties—although every life lost is precious—and so little damage.

The fact that 170 and perhaps more Gazans were killed—and the civilian lives among them also are precious—in no way seemed to diminish Hamas’ triumph. Why would it? Those casualties represent martyrs sent directly to heaven by Israeli missiles, which were guided with considerable precision towards military targets, often located in civilian areas of densely populated Gaza. The upshot? Being on the high end of a 28–1 kill ratio with considerably more damage to infrastructure—victory photos show many Gaza buildings in ruins—defines winning.

But black also can be black. Meshaal made no attempt at subterfuge when he told an adoring crowd he would never recognize Israel and vowed to “free the land of Palestine inch by inch.” Perhaps some in Europe and in other regions of the world took that as a statement devoted to peace and brotherhood (other than the Islamic kind). But Meshaal left little room for doubt. “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land,” he said. And, “We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take.”

All this leaves the future a bit murky. Critics expect Israel to negotiate peace with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. I’d like that, too. But while Abbas says he wants a peaceful solution and vows no violence, he seeks unity with Hamas. And he never disavowed Meshaal’s remarks. On Monday, Meshaal repeated his own desire for Palestinian unity. Again Abbas, that seeker of peace, made no response.

So do me a favor. If you know how a united Palestinian people can negotiate a peaceful two-state solution while also seeking the destruction of Israel, let me know. For now, I can only conclude that in the Middle East—and among those in the West who would rather engage in fantasy than reality—black and white can be one and the same. Which leaves everything at least fifty shades of gray.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at SAN CAFÉ is available at, and