Two wondrous news stories this week got me thinking about our upcoming — and disastrously non-wondrous — presidential election.
Neither of the stories had the slightest thing to do with electoral politics. Quite the opposite. They are rather amazing “feelgood” stories. Neither has anything to do with the U.S. or politics at all. But both are about the triumph of individuals or small groups over decades, or even millennia, of adversity.
First is the tale of Ysrael Kristal. He just celebrated his bar mitzvah.
He also just got named as the world’s oldest man by Guinness. Yes, he finally celebrated his bar mitzvah at the age of 113.
As a young boy, Polish-born Yisrael Kristal looked forward to turning 13 when he could celebrate his bar mitzvah, the Jewish coming-of-age ritual. But that was 1916 and World War I crushed that hope. Little did he know that he would wait a century for that ceremony.
Kristal barely survived the next world war as a prisoner in Auschwitz. After WWII, he rebuilt his life in Israel, raising a family and opening a business. Earlier this year, he was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest man.
Some accomplishment, eh? And after so much tragedy and loss.
Then there are the Lemba people of Zimbabwe.
They are black Africans. Physically, they resemble other sub-Saharan tribespeople. But their own legends and traditions have told them they are Jews. Part of the Diaspora. From Israel. And what do you know? A few years ago, DNA analysis backed up those legends.
Lemba men carry the Cohen Modal Haplotype, a set of Y chromosome characteristics typical of the Jewish priesthood, at about the same rate as that of major Jewish populations. For many, the genetic findings validated the Lemba’s connection to Judaism, further inspiring their quest to reconnect with the faith. Their relationship with the larger Jewish community is now helping them preserve their culture and look out for vulnerable community members just as Lemba traditions once did.
And now they’re building their first synagogue with help from a U.S.-based group that serves isolated, emerging, or returning Jewish communities. This and other help come at a perfect time, when the tribe has been struggling to take care of itself and its members.
So after 100 years Ysrael Kristal celebrates his coming of age and after thousands of years, the Lemba discover their true identity and begin to build a spiritual base to match their cultural and genetic one.
But why would their heartwarming stories bring me to think of the no-good-news election lying less than a month ahead of us?
I’ll get to that in a second, but first I have to say I’m speaking only for myself when I talk politics. The Zelman Partisans as an organization takes no position on the presidential race (or any other). A couple of our board members are Trump supporters. A few more of us here on the blog consider Trump to be, shall we say slightly untrustworthy on Second Amendment issues and all other issues of life, liberty, and the universe. No one hereabouts is insane enough to v*te for Hillary Clinton because even though she lies about everything else, we believe her 100% when she says she wants the “Australian option” on our guns and gun rights.
But I think it’s clear to most everybody that this election is a rolling catastrophe, and that — whoever wins, whatever happens — the catastrophe will continue to roll long beyond the inauguration of the next president of the U.S. We are in angry, desperate, perilous times — and may only be at the beginning of them.
Maybe these perils will pass and we’ll emerge safe and prosperous in a few years. But maybe we’ll end up in WWIII. Or a deeper-than-ever depression. Maybe we’ll end up with either “left-wing” or “right-wing” brownshirts in the streets. Curbs on free speech. Border walls that fence us in but fail to fence others out. Increasing surveillance, with increasing “security” breaches that leave us far less secure. No matter who wins, we’ll almost certainly end up with further restrictions on our gun rights (perhaps mild, perhaps draconian). We are already so polarized that it’s certain that the losing side will nurse grudges while the winning side gloats and tries to wield power by executive diktat. Faction will continue all-out-war with faction and any illusion of the rule of law or respect for the poor old battered Constitution will be shattered. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the indomitable bureaucracy will march on, controlling life more and more — as it always does, no matter what party imagines it’s in power.
You can argue all you want about which side is less bad. But you can’t credibly argue that our immediate political future looks good.
We are in for hard times. And our freedoms — any of them, probably all of them — are going to suffer.
Quite possibly in the next few years and beyond, we’ll have moments, and more than moments, years, maybe decades, in which we lose both freedom and hope. We’ll despair. Some of us will be tempted to surrender. Friends will betray friends. Causes will implode. Losses will pile up. Injustices will pierce us to the heart. Good people will be punished for harmless deeds. Innocent people will be forced to turn outlaw. Many will suffer. Many will break down in grief.
So for those moments, I point you back to Ysrael Kristal and the Lemba Jews of Zimbabwe. They were lost but now are found. They suffered but ultimately triumphed.
And so bloody damn well will the keepers of freedom and the defenders of individual life.