America’s Slow Motion Kristallnacht

With each passing week since October 7, the outbursts of anti-Semitism in America have become more brazen, more widespread, more ferocious, and with fewer attempts to disguise its true character with academic jargon about colonialism. The Jew-hatred is completely out in the open now.

The most shocking example this previous week occurred at Hillcrest High School in Queens, New York, where students rioted in the hallways against a teacher who had attended a pro-Israel rally, forcing the teacher to lock herself in her office. The video of the incident conveys the true horror of the moment far beyond the printed accounts:

The steady unfolding of what ought to be understood as America’s slow-motion Kristallnacht summons to mind Leo Strauss’s haunting words in his preface to his early book about Spinoza, reflecting on what it was like to be a young Jew in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s:

The Weimar Republic was weak. . . On the whole it presented the sorry spectacle of justice without a sword or justice unable to use the sword.

This latter sentence comes to mind when surveying the reaction of leading New York public officials to the Hillcrest High School atrocity. New York City Mayor Eric Adams put out a Tweet:

A good start. Won’t be tolerated, the mayor says. So what actions does he suggest will be taken?

“Outreach.” To explain to students “why this behavior is unacceptable.” Straight from a “conflict resolution” seminar at an Ivy League school, where most of the noxious doctrines justifying anti-Semitism have been nurtured for a generation now. Yeah, I’m sure “outreach” will do the trick.

The response of the chancellor of New York’s public school system, David C. Banks, is even more indicative of “justice unable to use the sword.”

Again, a good start. So what is he going to do about it? More “outreach”? Yup:

“Open dialogue.” Facilitated by outside organizations!

It gets worse from here. If you don’t believe me, read his entire pathetic thread.

Memo to Chancellor Banks: You know what might work (though things may have passed the point of no return)? Expel every student who rioted. Fire every teacher who taught the noxious ideology that made students believe anti-Semitism is socially acceptable. Junk the curriculum and reading lists that propagandize this loathsomeness.

Of course no one in a position of responsibility in our schools or universities will do any such thing. “Justice without a sword or justice unable to use the sword.” Meanwhile the White House is worried about Islamophobia and violence this year against 24 LGBTQIA+ persons.

There’s another passage from Strauss’s preface worth revisiting and updating:

The election of Field-Marshall von Hindenburg [at age 78] to the presidency of the German Reich in 1925 showed everyone who had eyes to see that the Weimar Republic had only a short time to live.

Might a future historian someday record that

The election of Joe Biden [at age 78] in 2020 to the presidency of the United States showed everyone who had eyes to see that the American Republic had only a short time to live.

Too fanciful or alarmist? Recall that in 1987 Allan Bloom, in his famous book The Closing of the American Mind, wrote that contemporary America was “a Disneyland version of the Weimar Republic.” The irony here is that it is hard to say whether his invocation of Disney should be taken lightheartedly as Bloom meant it then, or deadly seriously, given the significance of Disney’s wokery as a sign of our republic’s perilous condition. It’s later than you think.

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