Sep 202010
 
Yitzhak Rabin memorial, Tel Aviv, Israel
Image by ldjaffe via Flickr

Mr. Friedman does it again.  This provocative and chilling article further reveals the danger and insanity of the extremes on all sides.  His viewpoint has once again triggered new category ideas on what is essentially a blog about innovation.  For innovation to flourish you need civil discourse, trust and the freedom to pursue your ideas to their logical conclusions.

The reality is that today the discourse is increasingly less civil, the trust we need for civilization to hold is fraying and the “freedom” to pursue worthwhile ideas is being hammered into the ground by self interest, short sightedness and vitriol.

Where do “we” go from here? This will be a persistent topic on this blog as the conditions we need for the innovation our global “civilization” needs are under extreme duress.  And, by the way, it is our view that innovation is the only hope our species, and those that rely on what we do and don’t do will survive much less thrive.  Make no mistake that this in not just about the United States.  It is a striking new contagion in other countries as well.

Here are the new categories: Dire Warnings, Civilization

Doesn’t seem to be directly related to “innovation”?  Danger can drive great innovation (nothing like having our backs against many walls at once) but you need the “civil” part of civilization to embrace that innovation in time.  We are in a very tight race to the future.  As always, your comments and ideas are very welcome here.

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

I hate to write about this, but I have actually been to this play before and it is really disturbing.

I was in Israel interviewing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated in 1995. We had a beer in his office. He needed one. I remember the ugly mood in Israel then — a mood in which extreme right-wing settlers and politicians were doing all they could to delegitimize Rabin, who was committed to trading land for peace as part of the Oslo accords. They questioned his authority. They accused him of treason. They created pictures depicting him as a Nazi SS officer, and they shouted death threats at rallies. His political opponents winked at it all.

And in so doing they created a poisonous political environment that was interpreted by one right-wing Jewish settler as a license to kill Rabin — he must have heard, “God will be on your side” — and so he did.

Others have already remarked on this analogy, but I want to add my voice because the parallels to Israel then and America today turn my stomach: I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.

What kind of madness is it that someone would create a poll on Facebook asking respondents, “Should Obama be killed?” The choices were: “No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health care.” The Secret Service is now investigating. I hope they put the jerk in jail and throw away the key because this is exactly what was being done to Rabin.

Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.

Our leaders, even the president, can no longer utter the word “we” with a straight face. There is no more “we” in American politics at a time when “we” have these huge problems — the deficit, the recession, health care, climate change and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — that “we” can only manage, let alone fix, if there is a collective “we” at work.

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