The City I Imagine

Donald Trump does not frighten me much. His supporters, however, frighten me plenty. He and they are not citizens of the city I imagine.

The city I imagine equally values Chanuka, Diwali, Ramadan, and Christmas. Chanuka, the Jewish festival of light, ends on the 2nd day of Tevet, just one week before another Jewish traditional day is observed: the fast day of Asérah Be’Tevet – the 10th of Tevet. The nearness of these traditional days fascinates and teaches me.

Asérah Be’Tevet remembers the war between a majority culture – Bavli (Babylonian) – and a minority culture – Judaism. Chanuka remembers the war between a majority culture – Hellenism (Greek) – and a minority culture – Judaism. It never occurred to the Bavli to fight a war for cultural domination.

Nebuch’adnetzar, king of the Bavli, was content to let the folkways of his subjected nations predominate. This was not the way of Anti’ochus, king of the Seluecids, who led an empire in which Greek culture and a Greek political elite dominated. These wars, 350 years apart, are quite different from each other and the consequences of each are startlingly different.

The siege of Jerusalem was a tragedy. The Jewish traditional response to tragedy is to fast. Asérah Be’Tevet is a “minor” fast day (observed from sunrise to sunset). Chanuka is a minor holy day period of eight days which commemorate the re-dedication of the Second Temple by the Jewish priest-warriors – the Hashmonim (Hasmoneans, or “the Maccabees”) who refused to permit Hellenistic culture to predominate.

Jews observe Chanuka by lighting candles to be easily observed by passers-by. There are, I think, 74 Jewish traditional days each year on which candles are lit. None except Chanuka are lit publicly. I am taught, I think, that a dominant culture is one thing, and a predominant culture something quite different. The city I imagine is one culture, a dominant culture formed from many smaller cultures. The city I imagine is not the city imagined by Donald Trump and the people who support him. They city they imagine is one culture, American culture, whatever that means.

Donald Trump and his supporters represent the modern Anti’ochus. The city I imagine actively rejects everything Donald Trump and his supporters represent. No idea promoted by Donald Trump and his supporters is a good idea.

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