Opinion |

I Want 2017 to Be Over. I Never Want to See Anything Like It Again

For both Trump and Netanyahu, their worst enemy may turn out to be 2018. At some point, even the worst nightmares do end. At some point, people do wake up

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 29, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, May 29, 2017.Credit: STEPHEN CROWLEY / NYT
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

I want this year to end.

I never want to see anything like it again.

Think back to a year ago at this time. Up there in his tower, Donald Trump was gearing up to speedily make the United States of America as bad as Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel at its worst – from the top down, to turn it as nasty, as narrow-minded, as callous, as racist, as rigged, as smug, as small-minded, as undemocratic, as polarized, as paranoid, as deceptive, as corrupt, as bereft of checks and balances, as hostile to migrants and minorities and the media and the non-fundamentalist and the chronically ill and the left.

Which left Netanyahu's government only one direction to go - even worse.

I wish I had never learned what I learned this year:

- Benjamin Netanyahu thinks Jews are stupid.

- Both Netanyahu and Donald Trump think evangelical Americans are saps.

- Both men are dealing in a dangerous, world-threatening, nationally suicidal, individually life-crushing form of make-believe. And both are certain they're getting away with it. With everything.

- Both countries are now run by a man who thinks he should stay in power indefinitely. Even though a clear majority of his countries voters voted for someone else.

Why? Because this man believes – knows – that he has the right to rule. Because he's white. Because he's male. Because he's right-wing. Because he's so last century. Because he knows better. Because his rivals are pathetic. Because he's so freaking good at making his people afraid and weak and passionately, proudly resentful of the outside world.

Because he tells his people: Don't let these other people in. They're not like you. You can't trust them. They wanna cut you or maybe run you over and maybe invade your home and maybe rape you and your children and leave them to bleed out. They wanna take away your identity and take away your livelihood and, in the end, take away your country.

And these are two countries I deeply love. 

Both now led by men transforming a never-realized dream of equality and freedom and justice, into a retrograde nightmare version of their countries worst self.

I'm sick to death of a year of asking myself terrible questions. Like:

- What's the point of having a country of refuge built by refugees, whose leader vilifies immigrants, badmouths foreigners, denigrates asylum seekers, pretends to uphold religious freedom but in fact exalts the majority religion to the detriment of the adherents of minority faiths?

- What's the point of having a state of Israel, if it's just so that Jews can have a place where they lord it over non-Jews? 

- What's the point of a Jewish state if Jews have no place here, and certainly no home here, if they happen to be non-Orthodox, anti-settlement, supporters of equality and human rights for Palestinians and other Arabs? 

- And what's the point of having this United States of America, where the president cannot even allow anyone to kneel in thoroughly non-violent protest?

- What's the point of having a United States so gerrymandered, so voter-suppressed, so friendly to Klansman and Nazi, so reverent to Bircher and birther, so offstage-managed by the Kochs and the Murdochs and the Sinclairs, and, especially, by Vladimir Putin, that any non-Republican challengers face a deck stacked six ways to Sunday against them.

- And, for that matter, what's the point of a United States of America whose leader takes stand-down orders – on Syria for example – directly from the Kremlin?

What else did I learn this year?

That if time seems to be standing still, it may be because history has begun moving backwards.

Israel is fond of remarking that the world has only one Jewish state. But the number is now zero. 

Because if Israel were truly a Jewish state, its government would not treat non-Orthodox Jews as expendable trash. If it were a Jewish state, it would take seriously the bible's repeated admonitions to treat the non-Jew and the foreigner living in its midst, as it would the Jews. 

And then there's the matter of peace.

In a thousand ways, when he wasn't honing his Trump imitation, Netanyahu was entrenching the occupation and rendering it permanent. In a thousand more he declared dead the idea of peace through two states, identifying settlements as fully part of Israel, declaring in the West Bank that "we are here to stay forever," pledging to settlers that none would ever be uprooted, continuing to rule over and deny rights to millions of Palestinians by such methods as jailing children – and, were it up to his education minister – imprisoning for life a 16-year-old girl for the offense of slapping a soldier.

In a thousand more, Netanyahu brought the occupation and its apartheid and Jim Crow realities home with him, injecting it at every opportunity into what used to be called Israel proper. 

This was a year in which an Israeli government obsessed by the Holocaust signaled that it had nothing to say about genocide, as long as it was confined to potential arms customers like Myanmar.

Over this year which felt like an eternity, Netanyahu has tied his fate to Trump's at every opportunity. Both men, under constricting investigations, need to gamble at this point, and Netanyahu has put all his money on Trump.

So much so, that Trump's wars may now be Netanyahu's wars, America's isolation may be Israel's isolation, Trump's fate may be the fate of the Israeli right.

In a thousand ways, Trump has alienated the world with which America needs to trade. In a thousand more he has alienated the allies with whom America has for decades guaranteed its security. All the while, he has taken perverse pains to ignore evident signs of climate change, governing as if there were no tomorrow - a prediction which his scorn for science may be fast bringing closer to reality.

In all, both men seek to persevere by stoking their supporters' worst nightmares, at the same time exploiting the despair and disarray of their opposition, promoting at every turn the fiction - the ultimate excample of  political make-believe – that they are, both of them, irreplaceable and invincible.

Which brings us to the end of the year. And the possibility – borne out by polls, by desperation, and by what may be a resurgence of activism, organization, and voting by the center and left - that, for both men, their worst enemy will turn out to be 2018.

At some point, even the worst nightmares do end. 

At some point, people do wake up.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: