Compassionate Conservatism in the Morg Lounge?
If the 2004 election results were broadcast on any television network other than Fox News, nobody in the Morg Lounge would have known about it. Roughly 15 to 20 pro Bush students settled in the front of the TV at 7pm, just as the first exit polls were closing. They remained in their seats until the election wasn’t decided, later that night.
Early on, chants of “Bush! Bush! Bush!” amplified as the incumbent’s electoral votes mounted steadily. A triumphant aura slowly permeated the lounge.
Texas, Georgia, and Oklahoma fell into the Republican’s grasp, at which point an appropriately named can of Arizona Iced Tea fell out of one student’s grasp. The can crashed onto its side, as cold brown iced tea trickled down to the floor. The ensuing puddle was not deep, some would say neither were the two candidates, but it did make a mess and warranted a thorough clean up job.
Wouldn’t you expect at least one of the students to take responsibility and wipe up the puddle? Surely these Bush lovers, in the shadow of their leader, would stand resolute, take initiative and thwart this axis of teavil before it spread into a sizable nuisance.
Confounding, to these few, the practice of cleaning up after yourself just doesn’t wash.
On a night of elections, this coalition of the spilling elected to watch the presidential outcome with a pond of splattered liquid at their feet, rather than exert any energy towards such an inferior task as cleaning up. Perhaps they believed that the broadening puddle would evaporate, much like John Kerry’s authenticity. More likely, they assumed that somebody would come and do their dirty work.
They assumed correctly.
In walked a custodian. This twenty-something non-Jewish male noticed the puddle and immediately retrieved his mop and a yellow caution sign. Expressionless, he mopped up the mess; nobody made eye contact with him, and he reciprocated the gesture. There were no offers to help or extensions of gratitude. How rarely this happens?
At precisely this point in the night, George Bush was reported to be ahead by 5 percentage points in the battleground state of Florida. Students cheered lustily. The scene had reached its symbolic and disgraceful climax. The ignored janitor was enveloped by intones of “Lets Go Bush” while personally cleaning up the mess made by a self-assumed higher rank.
Embarrassment was felt by anyone who witnessed this incident play out in Morg lounge on election night. Does this stream of behavior flow gently with the outlook of most Yeshiva students? Did it expose a collective divorce from responsibility, or was this episode merely an aberration? Truth be told, I don’t know the answer.
Those Jewish voters who felt a gravitational pull toward the Democratic imperative for social justice, yet still stepped up and voted for President Bush because of his unwavering support of Israel, are to be admired. However, being a single-issue constituent does not mean that you are to embrace yourself in one lone issue, shutting your eyes and ears to everything else around you.
Just as well, those loyal conservatives, who probably would have voted for Bush even if his defense of Israel was not so unequivocal, should not interpret the swinging pendulum of pro-Israel voters toward their candidate as a vindication of their entire political outlook, and more importantly, a repudiation of the Left’s.
The point here is less about your choice for president, and more about a contagious detachment from compassion and respect. Reinforcing stereotypes is bad enough, but total ignorance is disgraceful.
I was ashamed to be a YU student at that moment. Sure, let’s get all excited about politics and issues. But let’s not forget that our political outlook is supposed to be anchored in our values. I apologize to the custodian.