There are moments every once in a while when it seems as if everything comes together perfectly — when personal, political and global issues of our era all enter into a strange harmony.
This week was one of those moments.
This week I observed Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Politically, Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments went viral this week. Globally, this week marked the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
There are 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Those days are meant to give each person time to reflect on sins of the past year and then repent. We blow the shofar, or ram’s horn, multiple times throughout the services. It’s an interesting sound, but has never meant much to me. But this year, I felt it penetrate my innermost thoughts. I could feel the sound reverberate in my head, shaking something loose.
By now, I’m sure you all have heard of the deeply revealing comments Governor Romney made at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser he held in May. If not, I’ll let the Governor speak for himself: “There are 47 percent [of Americans] who will [vote for Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims … my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Seriously, I can’t make this shit up.
On Monday, thousands of people in New York City and around the world marched in the streets to honor Occupy’s one-year anniversary. My Twitter feed started blowing up with live updates and ironic hashtags. I’ll admit to being glued to my computer for most of last October as marches, direct actions and violent police crackdowns were live-streamed directly to my computer. The Occupy movement may not have succeeded in forging a brand new society, but it did shift the national conversation dramatically.
This shift is where these three separate events of the week come together. For once, people were talking about the massive income inequality in this country and demanding that the rich pay their fair share.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah (and the Occupy anniversary), more than 2,000 people gathered in Zuccotti Park in New York City in a service organized by a group calling itself Occupy Judaism. During the sermon, the rabbi highlighted the common theme that runs across the three events of this week: “The Torah reminds us again and again — you didn’t earn what’s yours by your hands alone. You earned it with the blessing of the creator, who also blessed you with the good fortune to be able to share with those in need.”
Mitt Romney was never going to be the poster child of the right wing. In his heart, he’s simply a politician who believes what he thinks people want him to believe. Just go online and check out some of his statements when he ran for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Ironically, he has become a poster child for all that the Occupy Movement stands against. He hides his money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. He refuses to release his tax returns because they embarrass him. He openly called corporations “people” and supports the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. He labels those who were not given the same opportunities as he as “dependent on government” and self-appointed “victims.”
During Rosh Hashanah, my grandfather told me that he had never known a time of greater partisanship and division in this country. There is an undeniable drama that exists in this moment that we live in.
I think it’s that drama that moved me during the shofar blasts this week. It forced me to wake up and smell the goddamn roses. Action needs to be taken.
This election is far too close for comfort. Romney’s “47 percent” comments reveal the extent to which he will go to pander to his far-right-wing donor base. Once elected, he’ll be forced to bend to their interests — at least until he wins a second term — I shudder just writing that. Students were instrumental in the election of Barack Obama four years ago — let’s do it again this time. Get registered and go vote.
So let me take this opportunity to wish a happy, healthy new year to Barack Obama, to Occupy Wall Street and to all of you — even you, Mitt. May it be a year to take advantage of this exciting moment in history we all live in. May it be a year when together, we secure a second term for President Obama.
Yonah Lieberman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.