The Railroad on Facebook
The Dozens: Obama and schoolyard bravado
When I was a kid there was a phenomenon in the schoolyard called “the dozens” and, as far as I know, it still exists today. Coming from New York City I had a few opportunities to play it, though I was never any good. It a children’s game where two contestants insult each other with the insults increasing in nastiness. The goal of the game is to get the other guy to give up, unable to top the last insult that his opponent has lobbed at him. Or, in the worst case scenario, because one of the pair gets angry due to a particularly clever insult and loses his edge.
Truth is not important in The Dozens. The reason that the game never gets ugly or violent is because neither party is required to tell the truth and no is expected to take the insults seriously. As children become adults they retain the talent of putting each other down to control a situation and often learn to depend on it. The difference is that it is no longer a game. Sadly it starts to be used when the stakes are higher and people want to defend their questionable point of view or their questionable actions. There’s no more real truth to it than there was in playing the dozens. And, like the dozens, the goal is make your opponent loose his cool, as if pissing someone off is the same thing as having the truth on your side.
The best example of this barely adequate verbal technique is the proliferating court shows where plaintiff or defendant often resort to character assassination to bolster their case. A landlord who is suing someone for back rent might be attacked by the plaintiff who claims that the landlord is a pothead or the landlord is promiscuous.
When the President of the United States uses the same technique, we know that we’re in trouble. Recently our President tried to take the focus off of what can only be described as terrorists by mentioning a random historical fact about Christians of the distant past. Or should I say a minority of Christians from an era which is cloaked in mystery and the mists of time.
What is most disturbing is that the President seems to consider Christians as his “dozens” opponent, telling them that they shouldn’t “get on their high horse” because they carry the taint of a piece of history that is not fully understood. I am not a politician but I would expect that, under the circumstances, he would engage in bridge building, even if his ideas don’t fit in with mainstream views. If we are talking about the murder of Christians and Muslims perpetrated by extremists within the last few decades, why does the discussion of Christians even come up. What does a Baptist in the south or a Catholic in the Northeast have to do with the imminent danger of terrorism here and abroad? The only moral reaction to savage murders is to think only of ways of stopping it. The fact that he would try to deflect our horror over the activities of ISIS with irrelevant facts shows that he doesn’t have the strength of his convictions.
What ISIS is, is a group of terrorists who kill anyone who doesn’t agree with their agenda. If, as the President portrays them, the crusaders were murderers. then he should condemn ISIS for the same reason. Murder is not specific to any religion. It is the most fundamental crime in any society and can’t be tolerated. What makes Obama’s remarks worse is that ISIS and other extremist groups have killed thousands of Muslims as well. What is his justification for defending any of these murderers?
I am Jewish. Among Jews there is a phrase: “Never Again”. Most of you can guess that this refers to the Holocaust. Yet any Jew who takes faith in God seriously knows that this phrase applies to everyone. There are many who wish to separate people, a group that may unfortunately include our President. If you truly believe that we are all God’s children then “Never Again” applies to everyone who does no harm to anyone else.
I’m not sure of President Obama’s reasons for saying such incredibly ass backward things but, for the first time, I am wondering what his goals are. There is a standard for the highest office in the country and he has begun to fall short.