Yesterday afternoon, a now-former member of the Malden (MA) Democratic City Committee’s disciplinary committee sent an email mentioning me to a number of people. In doing so, she violated a written promise of confidentiality.
This was an astonishing and deplorable breach of faith. The former member was right to submit her resignation, but should have addressed herself to the Ward Chair or Secretary alone.
That she saw fit to broadcast her remarks was wrong. That she communicated them to all save myself was cowardly.
The context of this entire matter has been my effort over a span of years to bring our local Democratic Party into more active opposition to American fascism and Republican totalitarianism, to be more than a social club. The former member had insisted that I adopt Reinhold Niebuhr’s “serenity prayer.” In this context, to require an atheist Jew to conform to this Protestant invocation is inappropriate and un-American.
Inchoate antisemitism is rife in our little neighborhood branch of the Democratic Party, to an extent that would have astonished me only a few years ago. People complain that I talk funny and use big words. Richard Wagner (in “Music and Jewishness”, 1856) started from the question, “Why do none of us like Jews?” One answer for Wagner was that Jews use weird words and they talk like they're not from here: “Words and constructions are hurled together in this jargon with wondrous inexpressiveness... the sole concern is talking at all hazards, and not the object which might make that talk worth doing.”
People sometimes complain that I am loud and angry. In the face of caged children and murderous police, they would prefer cringing acceptance. It makes for better barbecues. Hannah Arendt (in The Origins Of Totalitarianism) observed that “As far as the Jews were concerned, the transformation of the ‘crime’ of Judaism into the fashionable ‘vice’ of Jewishness was dangerous in the extreme. Jews had been able to escape from Judaism into conversion; from Jewishness there is no escape.”
This appalling antisemitism aside, it is absurd to expect no disagreements or disputes within our vast party. People will disagree, sometimes profoundly. Styles differ. Rights do not depend on being likable. Amity is nice, but not if the peace it brings is a well-tended grave in some corner of totalitarian America.
I have worked hard for the Democratic Party of the United States and for the ideals it represents. I have donated more than I could afford, and driven thousands of miles to attend hundreds of meetings, rallies, and conventions. Many of you have eaten some of the hundreds of election-day kolaches I baked at 4am, or served yourself from the gallons of vegetarian posole I have cooked for you.
I deserve better of you. Your neighbors who were not your schoolmates, neighbors who grew up in Chicago or Chengdu, deserve better of you. So does The Democratic Party.