Last week, I did a post called “Your Democracy in Action,” in which I covered some of the ways local governments in America–and (spoiler alert) the Federal government, too–manage to waste time doing stupid things. And then, as if to emphasize my point, Ilhan Omar sent a tweet.
Ilhan Omar is a Congresswoman from Minnesota. She is a Democratic-Muslim-Somalian-American, which is an awful lot of hyphens to carry around with you. She also may or may not be anti-Semitic, and she is solidly anti-Israel (the two aren’t necessarily the same thing).
In case you didn’t follow this meshuganah story, it began when Rep. Omar tweeted that the American government’s support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins, baby.”* Apparently, she wasn’t referring to Benjamin Netanyahu, the beleaguered Prime Minister of Israel but, rather, Benjamin Franklin, who did not support Israel in any way, primarily because it was about 150 years away from existing. In fact, if you had mentioned Israel to Franklin, he likely would have thought you were talking about Israel Smith, a politician from Vermont who served in the House of Representatives and the Senate way back at the beginning of our country. At right is the only known likeness of Smith (really), which explains why he’s not on any of our money.
Franklin, however, is on our money, and it was our money that Rep. Omar was talking about in her hip, tweety way.
What she was trying to say (I think) was that financial considerations (in the form of campaign donations) have too much influence over American policy, a stance that’s difficult to disagree with when you consider that cigarettes and automatic weapons are still legal, and Mitch McConnell does everything he can to block campaign finance reform legislation.
Unfortunately, Rep. Omar made two grievous errors:
- She used Twitter, which seems to have the power to make any politician say unbelievably silly things (in real life, President Trump is a genius).
- She referred to something Jewish and something financial in the same tweet, which automatically brings to mind a stereotype that Jews are competent with cash which, as stereotypes go, isn’t all that bad. I mean, you never hear people say “those lazy Jews” or “he’s Jewish; of course he works in a convenience store.” As a Semite myself, I have to say that if folks are going to think something bad about my people, “handy with a bank account” is something I can live with.
But a stereotype is a stereotype, and if you say something that associates Jews with money, even if it’s a benign statement like “Moishe loaned me twenty bucks,” you’ll be accused of anti-Semitism, particularly if you complain about Moishe’s interest rate.
Of course, even if Omar didn’t intend to invoke that stereotype, she must know that she should tread carefully, what with her being a Muslim terrorist and all. And that’s especially true if you have tweets like the one at right in your past. (For the record, I’m less troubled by her anti-Israel rant than by her pro-Allah prayer . . . not because she’s Muslim, but because I hate it when any politician invokes any god.)
Anyway, Rep. Omar’s ill-advised “Benjamin” tweet started a firestorm, and her fellow Democrats raced to issue a resolution that anti-Semitism was bad. But then they had second thoughts. Why should Jews get special treatment? they thought. Why should Jews be the only ones politicians shouldn’t say bad things about?
And so they decided that it might be a good thing to also say it’s a bad thing to exhibit prejudice toward Muslims. But then people thought they were turning Rep. Omar into a victim. So they added the LGBTQ community. Then they added Latinos and Asian Americans to the list of groups Congress should not disparage. That led Rep. Eliot Engel (J-NY) to declare he was “very disappointed” there was not a separate measure addressing anti-Semitism on its own, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), to note that Wiccans, Mormons and disabled people had been left out.
Say what you will about Mitt Romney, but . . . no, really–apparently you can say what you will about Romney because his group was left out of the resolution.
Obviously, the President had something to say about all this because he has something crazy to say about everything. “The Democrats have become an anti-Israel party. They’ve become an anti-Jewish party, and that’s too bad.”
This coming from someone who once said to a Jewish audience, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.” And the best defense of him his wife could offer was, “He’s not Hitler.”
In the end it took a seven-page resolution to basically say “don’t be mean to anybody.” And remember, this was on the heels of the legislation I covered in that previous post that banned lynchings. It’s good to know our representatives are tackling the really tough issues of our day.
It should be noted, though, that the vote on the “don’t be mean” resolution was not unanimous. It was 427-23 in favor. All 23 naysayers were Republicans, so maybe they should have been left out of the resolution. “Don’t be mean to anybody,” it could have said, “except Wiccans, Mormons, disabled people and asshole Republicans.”
Meanwhile, our representatives wasted a tremendous amount of time arguing about this instead of doing what they usually do, which is arguing about other stuff.**
Ironically, it turns out that Ilhan Omar has something in common with Israel Smith, who you might remember from the third paragraph of this post.
Neither one of them is likely to show up on our currency.
See you soon.