I often think about Kristallnacht, that terrible night in Germany when it became unmistakably clear what the Nazis intended for the Jews. Almost a hundred Jews murdered, tens of thousands deported, windows smashed, businesses seized -- and hundreds of synagogues burned. Quite the "November surprise," if you will. But even after this horrific orgy of violence in 1938, there were many German Jews who didn't get it, who thought they were safe, who thought this was where it ended.
Now we know better. We say "Never again." But look around you, gentlemen. History does repeat, and in this case, with spooky echoes of Germany's darkest decade. A bad economy. A search for someone who can be dehumanized and blamed. The cries for "justice". And then....?
How would we recognize Kristallnacht if it happened today?
My fear: It's on the horizon, and coming closer every day.
Today "The Other" is Barack Obama. At a McCain-Palin rally the other day, there was a cry from a yahoo in the crowd: "Off with his head!" John McCain and Sarah Palin have not condemned that man. Indeed, they promise to ratchet up their "questions" about Obama in the final weeks of the campaign. At this point, it seems, they'd find nothing upsetting if the audiences at their rallies showed up with torches and pitchforks.
Jews, above all others, should fear this kind of hate speech. It may start with the demonization of one black man. Then it will move on to greedy Wall Streeters and "Jewish bankers" and a "liberal media" owned and controlled by Jews. [It's already happening: The Anti-Defamation League reports "a dramatic upsurge in anti-Semitic statements" on financial message boards on the Web. ] And then -- it sounds crazy, but it sounded crazy to many Jews in Germany -- the mob will come for us. Because that's where this goes. It's where it always goes. No matter where it starts, it ends with the Jews -- we're the ultimate "Other."
Well, they may go for Muslims this time around instead. But the point is made. Can anybody move McCain to compassion?