4/6/08

TNR: Marting Peretz on Obama and His Minister

Martin Peretz in The New Republic (Standing By His Man by Martin Peretz, Why Barack Obama was right not to repudiate his pastor. Dated April 23) ruminates on the implications of Obama's issues. Peretz says some illuminating things about his relationship with his own rabbi that do make any guilt by clergy association attack less credible:
We are all linked to the places from which we came, though some of us have moved very far from them. My relationship to the different rabbis whose sermons I have not just heard, but heard intently over more than 50 years, would make a very difficult narrative--not quite as difficult as a narrative about my father and me, but up there. I now attend a synagogue in New York with my children and my grandson. I love the synagogue; I do not love the rabbis, for I do not really know them personally. More to the point, I do not love their sermons. Two years ago, Yom Kippur, the rabbi parsed a banal speech by Bella Abzug, the old and (if truth be told) faithful red mama, as if it were a sacred text. Feh. One of this congregation's ingenuous innovations to the routine confessional of sins ("We lie. We cheat ...") in the prayer book is the following: "We rush towards war and crawl to peace." This is a lie! Why do I still pray with this assembly? Because, aside from the offending "hip" politics of the rabbis, there is an all-embracing warmth that suffuses the fold. There is beautiful music. The service is almost all in Hebrew. Still, my then-not-quite-four-year-old grandson said to me on the way out, "I have never felt closer to God." Dayenu, as we say on Passover: "It is sufficient." Or, as one of the songs of the tradition known to almost every Jew puts it, Hinay ma tov: "How good it is for brothers to sit together."
Peretz also makes clear later in the essay his negative views of the Clinton campaign, well-expressed impressions that we agree with:
But there is a new game in town, and it is finding men and women for Obama to repudiate. I know about political campaigns and how they attract both fossils and novices. A new candidate lures more of both than a veteran. Indeed, if you look at Clinton's campaign, you'll find that there are almost no fresh faces--and, thus, no fresh minds--in the coterie; and it is a coterie. It is a closed and nasty circle which learned its bad habits from Bill. That's why it is making one mistake after another. The rule is: Never be gracious if you have the chance to be vicious. The non plus ultra of this style was the still greedy ex-president suggesting that, while his wife loved her country, Obama didn't love his.
Here is the link.

1 comment:

bryce said...

The article provided the distinction, a major one, between Peretz and his rabbi on the one hand, and Obama and his pastor on the other:

"I do not love the rabbis, for I do not really know them personally."