Ch-Ch-Changes, Plus Personal C-C-Confessions

Adam Corolla has a wonderful and important new video for Prager University about the amazing, and oh-so-necessary human capacity for change.

First the video, and then a personal confession.

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Once upon a time I used to believe some pretty foolish things. Jewish, lower-middle class, born and bred in Brooklyn, my family were (and many still are) doctrinaire Democrats.

I was taught that Republicans were for rich people and Democrats for the poor. I was convinced that Republicans were—every last one of them—anti-Semitic to the core.

Naturally, it was an article of faith in my family that FDR saved the United States from robber barons, and the best friend Jews ever had. Never mind that FDR’s New Deal only prolonged the Depression. Never mind that FDR refused to open America’s shores to desperate Jewish refugees. Never mind that FDR pledged to Ibn Saud that he would never support a Jewish state in the Middle East. The FDR cult of personality—a substitution for religion and G-d— still holds firm in the minds of ossified Jewish Democrats.

Desperate to learn about movies, art, and literature, I refused to settle into my yeshiva environment and struck out for a secular college where, presumably, I would discover an open environment devoted to expanding the student’s mental horizons.

This was true—but only up until certain vivid red lines.

Yes, we eager students studied history, literature and art. But soon enough it became clear to me that a massive amount of time was spent on Marxist theory, a material view of the world. Still observant, still wearing a yarmulke, I would ask about religion, about the spirit. With deep condescension, my professors informed me that we live in a post-religious world. Religion, I was lectured, was the opiate of the people.

I wondered, but never had the courage to suggest, that perhaps Marxism was the opiate of the elites.

My friends and professors raged against the war in Vietnam. But my father served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army and I could only cringe when my friends called U.S. troops baby-killers and Stormtroopers. I never went to any protest marches. I just sat in the dark and screened movies.

One afternoon, I watched a Vietnam protest on TV. Suddenly, I saw something deeply disturbing at the edge of the frame. A Palestinian flag was held aloft by a bunch of kaffiyeh wearing agitators who were chanting “Free Palestine.”

Something was wrong.

What were these Arab terrorists doing at a Vietnam protest?

It took me a few years to understand that American liberalism had been hijacked by radical leftism. Great and brilliant Democrats like Daniel Moynihan and Scoop Jackson were replaced by radical, simple-minded demagogues like Ted Kennedy and Bella Abzug.

It took me a few years to perceive that American Christians were different than European Christians.

Karen and I changed at the same gradual pace. We never really sat down and formally discussed our political and social evolution. We were on the same wavelength.

Jimmy Carter was the last straw, the last Democrat for whom I voted. When I pulled the lever for a Republican for the very first time, my entire body trembled. I felt like a traitor.

As we raised our children, as we climbed the economic ladder, we more fully understood the virtues of free enterprise, a Constitutional Republic, and the blessings of liberty. We recognized that some of our—Israel and Judaism’s—best friends are pious Christians of all denominations.

I have changed on a deeply personal level. No longer do I count on clever sarcasm to level opponents in debate. I try to listen and respond thoughtfully to those who disagree with me. Frequently, I simply withdraw to a private corner rather than enmesh myself in a nasty ideological battle with friends or family.

I’m a better and wiser person now than at any time in my life. When I meet people who hold the exact same ideological beliefs they held when college or grad students, I feel sorry for them. They are flowers that never bloomed. Frequently, these are people who lead marginal and/or dysfunctional lives. Always, they wallow in myriad social and personal complaints, and show a distinct inability to appreciate, to be grateful for, well, most anything.

But—

—two things have never changed.

I fell in love with Karen when I was 9 years old and my love for her has only deepened.

And my love for movies remains undiminished.

Some things are, blessedly, eternal.

And now, David Bowie’s “Changes”

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28 Comments

  1. Posted January 22, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    New to the blog (your post Jew Without a Gun is what brought me here; link was shared on a Facebook page I am a member of) and I’ll be back, most definitely.
    I grew up in an evangelical Christian faith – and was taught that we are, in a way, descendents of the Jews. Some of us even wore the Star of David as a way to identify with those early Jews who had the courage to follow Christ.  Also grew up in a politically conservative household which, living in New England, made us odd – extremely odd. Yet we persevered. True to the expected pattern, in my late teens and through my 20s I became liberal – trending far left for a long time.  My 30s were a graveyard for politics and religion and in my 40s – bam – trending to the middle and proceeding to the right.
    Fast forward to 2010: my husband and I convert to Catholicism and become more faithful Christians than we ever have been before.  And our politics get more conservative – which still makes us extremely odd in New England.  I call it the liberal wasteland for a reason; home of the Kennedy Clan, Barney Franks and all that is blue.
    Yet even during my dark liberal years – I never thought the Jews should have anything less than Israel for themselves.  No conditions.  I am tired – sick & tired – of being called a racist, homophobic bigot who hates women (esp. considering I am a woman) just because I am conservative.  At times we are the party punchline and we no longer sit back quietly and take it.  We are unfailingly polite and will willingly engage in discourse that is similarly polite.  But start using our politics as a joke to kick off some laughter and the gloves come off.
    Anyway – just wanted to say that I love your blog and am very happy to have found a new place to read what like-minded people have to say.  These places are getting sparse these days.
    Thank you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 22, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Kris:

      Welcome to Seraphic Secret.

      Karen and I took a walk the other day and both of us fondly remembered our vacations in New England during Autumn, our favorite season when the leaves turn and whisper in the wind.

      Anyway.

      Thanks so much for your comment. Quite a few of our readers probably have similar bios.

      G-d bless you and yours.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. OBloodyHell
    Posted January 19, 2013 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    Robert, you should look up Neo-neocon. You both went through transformative political changes, and might find it interesting to write a column for each other about how you switched sides, especially if you asked each other some questions after each of several drafts, to find out what each of you thought about the different events that changed you. Not so much collaboration but shared insights on how each of you looked at things that the other thought significant, looking back from now.
    Could be a pretty interesting pair of pieces. Just an idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 20, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      OBloodyHell:

      Neo-neocon and I are cyber-friends. Thanks so much.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. OBloodyHell
    Posted January 19, 2013 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    “Karl Marx is to economists what Khalil Gibran is to philosophers. In the
    real world there is no Marxist program, but inside the human brain he tickles
    the mood centers.”
     – Alexis A. Gilliland, ‘Long Shot for Rosinante’ -

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Posted January 18, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Been in Eretz Yisroel for a wedding and just read this entry…  and the comments.   Interesting.
    I am a convert to Judaism.  My Jewish wife and family and I became frum; “ultra Orthodox” Jews in 1993.  My children are all involved with learning or teaching Torah full time (they are “rabbis,” as it were).
    My very religiously involved Episcopalian Christian family were/are educated; intelligent; business professionals that didn’t have an antisemitic bone in anyone’s body.  I largely attribute this to good upbringing and a Southern gentility (my parents grew up in Alabama) that prohibited prejudice as something that was low class and simply rude.  My parents and grandparents were simply too polite to be bigots.  My 90 year mother is also the most tolerant individual on the planet and has consequently moved to the Left in her views regarding Israel and politics.  Alas, it dismays her that “we” (Conservatives; Orthodox Jews; Republicans; Right Wing Israelis; etc.) are so “intolerant.”  As she is my mother, we do not discuss these issues.
    My one extremely successful; Vietnam Vet; cowboy; sort of Christian brother is Right Wing but only nominally supportive of Israel – he is obsessed with business and has no time for “issues.”
    Another brother became an Episcopalian minister late in life and now espouses the Liberal Christian philosophy that supports the Arabs called Palestinians and other Liberal social causes.
    Most Christians I know tend to be neutral on Jews and Israel.  If they have an opinion, it is that “if only Israel would…”, then maybe things would be better…
    There is a surprising lack of knowledge and interest about the whole thing.  It seems that most people want to blank out “world affairs” and focus instead on their own lives.  If they have any issues, they tend to fall into “saving the planet” and “climate change.”
    We live in a scary world…
       

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Moishe:

      You should write a book about your journey to Judaism. Fascinating!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Miranda Rose Smith
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Dear Robert: Isn’t your cousin, Dov Hikind, a Democrat?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Miranda:
      Dov is a solid Conservative Republican. But because the Jews in his district would rather die than pull the Republican lever, Dov registers as a Dem.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. kishke
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    The first election in which I was old enough to vote was Carter-Reagan. I was really eager to vote for Reagan, as was everyone else I knew. Since then, I have voted Democrat only once, in a protest vote against the anti-Israel bias of Bush I.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 16, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Kishke:

      Most Orthodox Jews—probably 85%—like you and I vote Republican. We already have G-d and religion. The liberal branches of Judaism need a G-d and religion substitute. Hence, the progressive ideology and cult of personality—Obama as Dear Leader—fills in the spiritual void.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. sennacherib
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    My religious bona fides: Catholic, dogmatic Sarduccian (peace be on the Guido).
    My chief interest has always been history and I have never seen as much nonsense written about anybody as have been the Jews.  If it hadn’t proved so dangerous and wicked, it is so uniformly ridiculous that would one suspect it was a poduct of Monty Python. Of course the jews are not without their failings (difficulty traversing the wilderness with Moses would be like taking 40 years to get out of West Virginia. Thank God they weren’t guiding Lewis and Clark), who doesn’t. Well that’s the rant for this morning. I have to finish “The Sons of Katie Elders of Zion”. I love westerns set in Utah!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. GW
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Robert, your line, “Marxism was the opiate of the elites,” made me laugh out loud.  It is one of – if not the – most insightful lines I have read in years.  That is one I shall be using for years to come – with appropriate attribution of course.  Actually, I could hear those words coming from Thomas Sowell – a man who, as you probably know, started adulthood as a committed communist, a man who actually used to read Pravda daily, only to evolve into an iconic free market economist.  Talk about your evolutions.
     
    I started adulthood right of center and have only moved rightward since.  I’d like to think that I have kept an open mind and that my movement to the right has been a function of intellectually honest research and assessments.  That said, I always have had great respect for some on the left – particularly Moynihan and Zell Miller in particular – whom I believe arrived at their positions with the same degree of intellectual honesty.  That is a trait wholly absent from today’s far left.  
     
     
     
     
        

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    As it was with both you and Johnny, the last time I voted for a Democrat was Jimmy Carter in 1976.  Sadly,  it took another 16 years for me to drop my party affiliation.
     
    My husband and I are evangelical Christians and have never been anti-Semetic.  In fact, one of the first events we attended after we were married was an Israeli bond rally at a temple in Tulsa at the time of the Yom Kippur attack.
     
    I read once (probably in National Review) that Roosevelt talked as if he favored Jewish people, but then refused their entry into America before WWII.  Nixon spoke like an anti-Semite, but supported Israel. 

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Posted January 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    You speak directly to my heart Robert. Very well said.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  11. Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in a white, working class neighbourhood and don’t recall anyone saying anything about the Jews, except that Jesus was one. As a child, I was firmly convinced that the Jews were like the Hittites or the Levites – a Biblical tribe that had passed into history. That was until I learned about the Holocaust. 
    The first overt anti-Semitism I ever heard was paranoid babbling from a high school friend, whose dad, a Hungarian immigrant, believed in the whole Protocols package, right up to a firm belief that the world was going to go fireball when the Jews all booked flights to Israel to board the starships they were building there secretly. That kinda clinched the nutbar flag for me. 
    All the liberals I ever knew were convinced that conservatives were anti-Semites. I have never met a conservative anti-Semite. Quite the opposite – the ones I associate with are all Zionists. The closest I come to them are in the comments section at Taki. They are truly pathetic.
    Growing up is a constant process of questioning. My family are all liberal/leftists, and the family’s allegiance to the Liberal parties of both our province and the country is nearly total; I think I’m the only Tory in the bunch, probably ever. The great revelation of college for me was how many people professed to speak for “the people” without actually having known any of them. I think the people, such as I experienced them growing up, might have been an unpleasant shock for them. 
    And it was my wife, another sole conservative in a (wildly) liberal family who accelerated my progress right, and back to the Church of my upbringing. I was heading there, but it was nice to have someone to go there with; you seem to have been blessed with a companion for your journey for much longer, Robert.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. Bob
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I became a Christian at the age of 13 and have been an evangelical Christian minister for 43 years.  Before that, my family went to church only nominally and not very regularly at that.  I grew up in a small town in Louisiana and had never encountered any Jews.  Nor did anyone I know ever even mention Jews in any context, good or bad, that I can remember.  The Christians who helped me to grow in my faith also taught me to love the Jewish people and the nation of Israel for the sake of Jesus (who was a Jew), as well as the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles.  The Christian faith has its roots in Judaism, and the first believers in Jesus were all Jews.  Indeed, a better understanding of Christianity requires a broad familiarity with Judaism, and the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (which Christians refer to as the Old Testament).  The Apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) wrote to the Romans concerning Israel, “to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.” Christians are indebted to the Jewish people for much and anti-Semitism is completely incompatible with genuine Christian faith.  Indeed, I submit that one cannot be a true Christian and be anti-Semitic.  I have been an ardent Zionist from my youth and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  Shalom.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

    • Solaratov
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      “…anti-Semitism is completely incompatible with genuine Christian faith.  Indeed, I submit that one cannot be a true Christian and be anti-Semitic.”
       
      I have always believed this to be so. Ever since I was in my early teens.
      No one taught me that. It just seemed to be the right thing.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  13. Barry
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Great stuff, Bill.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Bill Brandt
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I think traditional “church” Christianity here is fading – it is the evangelical movement – Protestants and Catholics – that has stayed strong. I remember going to a church in Landstuhl, Germany while in the Army and remembering how gray everyone was – but me.
    But for beauty listen to “Silent Night Holy Night ” in its native tongue – Stille Nacht Heilige Nacht
    Then I went to the cathedral in Melbourne, Australia – Sunday Service – could easily seat 4,000 – and I would be surprised if 100 were there.
     
    I am with Johnny – that is a great line – Marxism is for the “political elites”. Amazing that they are blind to history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Larry
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      It is a brilliant line!
      You’re right Bill about those who are serious about their religious beliefs. Robert’s point about the leftism (at best, Marxism-lite) and Jewish tendency toward it as if it were the only approach to tzedakah is important as I see it. Dennis Prager & I discussed this once when he came to town and continued it briefly in e-mail. Several ideas went back & forth for a little while. Many possible explanations, none uniquely satisfying. Even Rabbi Berel Wein brings up a historical aspect in a brief essay at http://www.jewishhistory.org/haskalah/.
      I think too many Jews in America cease thinking deeply when they express misplaced admiration for FDR and refuse to see what the Democratic Party has become. It’s some sort of emotional reaction leading to a trope, not a considered opinion. (How far that party has departed from the Jeffersonian ideals of its origins. I outlined that history briefly in a comment at http://adrianvance.blogspot.com/2013/01/thomas-jefferson.html.) Having been surrounded by leftist Jews most of my life, during which times I have to struggle — sometimes a losing battle — to hold my thoughts, I sometimes regret that I wasn’t raised Orthodox where I might feel more akin to more similarly thinking people.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  15. Karen Singer Avrech
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic description of our evolution and englightenment. Perhaps the love endured and even deepened because we changed together.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  16. Johnny
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Marxism is the opiate of the elites – that’s a great line.
     
    American Christians really are different from European Christians – we go to church and want the government to keep their hands off our faith.
     
    I grew up in a Catholic family and my father was a strong union man. Sounds very similar to yours in believing Republicans (Eisenhower and Nixon) were evil while JFK was a notch below the Virgin Mary. I doubt there were any Jews living in our neighborhood but I suspect it was just as much a Democrat stronghold as any heavily Jewish precinct. 1976 was my first presidential election and was the last time a Democrat will ever get my vote for president.
     
    Corolla is interesting because he talks about how his mother didn’t want to change enough to get a job so they could get off welfare. Do the two of you live in some island of sanity in the swamp of Los Angeles where the people that think Barbara Boxer is a wise statesman are denied entry? She got a letter from Chuck Hagel who professes to have changed from the guy that complained about the Jewish lobby and voted against Iranian  sanctions. Yeeeeeeaaaahh, riiiiiiiight! No need to change his stripes when the Democrats can just wave his letter as they vote for him.
     
     

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. K
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    This post goes right to the heart of the problem, Robert. A great read and a great way to start my morning!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      K:

      Thanks so much. Written after my morning walk at 5 a.m. which clears the mind.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • OBloodyHell
        Posted January 19, 2013 at 4:34 am | Permalink

        Thanks so much. Written after my morning walk at 5 a.m. which clears the mind.

        Strange. My morning walks at 5am are generally to deal with the bladder or the stomach. I find them of little benefit to the mind.

        :^D

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Barry
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Robert:
     
    I see you are still receiving inappropriate comments. Really unfortunate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Robert J. Avrech
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Barry:

      Yup, my faithful readers in Pakistan.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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