Letter to the Editor: Observing Lieberman (Vol. 66, Issue 2)
To the Editor:
It is with both respect and a troubled heart that I write you today in response to an article that I read in The Observer, Ms. Adina Levine's “Loyalty and Lieberman.” From what I have observed of the Senator, I feel confident in saying that the position espoused in Ms. Levine's article runs counter to everything Joe Lieberman stands for as a politician, an American, and a Jew.
It goes without saying that for world Jewry, Israel's welfare is of great importance. However, that should by no means be the deciding factor and sole reason for electing any person to one of the highest positions in the land. Nor is religion sufficient reason for voting for one candidate over another.
Ms. Levine contends that “we have an obligation to vote for Lieberman as one of our own, and let the rest of the world vote for him because of what he stands for." With all due respect to Ms. Levine, this type of rhetoric is not only narrow-minded and possibly bordering on bigotry, but also is undoubtedly a just cause for anti-Semitic sentiment. Young Americans live in a most exciting time: one in which our differences should be celebrated and the welfare of all, the utmost priority. But we, as young American Jews have an even greater responsibility to support those agencies, organizations, and politicians who strive for freedom and liberty for all. For in doing this, we also ensure our right to live as Jews and as contributors to America. “Vote for [Lieberman] because he shares the same values as you in regard to the most important issue: Israel” - wrong. Vote for Lieberman because he is a man of intellect, sincerity, compassion, honesty, honor, and responsibility.
Let us suppose that there would be a situation where there was a political candidate representing some other ethnic minority. Let us suppose him to be a black candidate, or a Hispanic, or an Arab. How would we react to outcries from that group encouraging their members to vote for him simply because he was “one of them,” without regard to his policies, qualifications, or stand on issues. We would undoubtedly view these people as a group of mindless sheep being led by their shepherd. If society learned anything from the pre-World War II years, it learned that you cannot blindly follow any prospective leader without conscientiously studying what he represents. Voting for someone because he is “one of us” is no different than voting for someone because you like his taste in clothing.
This idea is not limited to common sensibility, but Judaism too preaches such behavior. The Rambam in Hilchos Malachim (Laws of the Kingship), clearly lays out specific qualifications and characteristics necessary when choosing a leader. One cannot simply choose a leader because of some superficial or shallow reasoning. Democracy likewise demands that voters be educated and vote for the people who will best serve our entire nation. If voters do not adhere to this principle, democracy cannot continue to function effectively.
In preparing to vote in this election, I have taken the time to educate myself about the issues, the priorities, and the sensitivities of the candidates. Our votes are too precious and the right to vote too important to be taken casually. This November 7th, I will cast my vote for the Gore/Lieberman ticket, not because Joe Lieberman is Jewish, but because he and Mr. Gore embody the values and ideals essential to protect and shape this country's future.
Josh Kahane YC '01