Every year, there’s a quiet debate among Jews in December when New Year’s rolls around. Observant Jews remind those who choose to celebrate that Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, and that the Jan. 1 national holiday marks the circumcision of Jesus. Meanwhile, the majority of secular Jews shrug and ask where’s the party?
But like last year, there will be few parties this New Year’s Eve. Covid has continued its relentless pace, and now Americans are bracing for an ominous January. The Omicron variant shows no mercy in our deeply divided country. It finds its way into the bodies of all faiths, all races, and it doesn’t have mercy on Republicans or Democrats.
The last two years have taken an immense toll on many Americans. Conspiracy theories now rule the day for many, with those seeking to blame others for life’s disappointments. Modern America reached a new low on Jan. 6 this year with the insurrection at the Capitol – fueled by the former president’s rhetoric and assertion that the election was “stolen.”
What followed would have shocked the 416,000 American soldiers who gave their lives on the battlefields in World II to preserve democracy, and the 16 million who enlisted to fight fascism. These days, swastikas are being drawn by Americans in every state of the union in schools, parks and on houses of worship. Some members of congress and elected state officials openly sympathize with white supremacists – a group that is now considered the biggest domestic threat to America, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
If that isn’t enough to make you ponder the fragility of democracy, then have a look at a March, 2021 study that reported that 15 percent of Americans agree with the QAnon statement that the U.S. government, media and financial worlds “are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”
There is much to ponder in this polarization that grips America, and threatens to break our democracy apart. We can’t solve our nation’s problems by yelling past one another. We need to cut through the lies of social media and engage in civil discourse with our neighbors. America needs to tame its fury and find common ground. If we don’t, the options are almost unthinkable.