The Declaration of Independence avoided word games. The source of real political power is “Nature and Nature’s God,” thereby uniting a deist like Jefferson with a Unitarian like Adams and a believer in Providence like Washington. The point was simply that the ultimate sovereignty belongs to the deepest reality, not to a privileged person, class of persons, or government.
Thus, America’s Founders made the case that any and every human government is answerable to something above. King George or the British Parliament can make all the decrees and pass all the laws that they want – they cannot take away certain rights, because that power is reserved only to the supreme reality. They are, as the Declaration declares, “unalienable.” All citizens are alike, and there is no one set by nature to be the dispenser of political rights save the being of the reality that is higher than our own. Those in government and those out are alike in possession of these rights.
It is for this same reason that when the Bill of Rights was drawn up, the freedom of each person to relate to that higher reality in his or her way was set out at the beginning.
It is no wonder, then, the devotees of infinitely expanding government run afoul of the First Amendment. Unlimited human power over others does not reflect the great reality that sustains us. Those who try to expand their power without limit set themselves up as an exclusive god, a being fundamentally different than those who are the subjects of the ruler or ruling class’s power. The more of an ideologue the big-government believer is, the more he or she will resent those who are loyal to something greater than their government, and who, if push comes to shove, will listen to Nature’s God and not Hizzoner the Mayor.
New York’s latest mayor has already acquired quite a reputation for belligerence against his city’s Jewish community. Take this April, when a Jewish funeral was held that swiftly attracted a crowd of thousands. The funeral had been coordinated with the city’s police department, and the police were actively involved that day by design. When the numbers turned out to be far larger than safety permitted, the police did not, in their normal way, divert and limit access, as they do every year on New Year’s Eve and on other occasions. The mayor turned out at the scene and did not lead it to a happy conclusion. Knowing that a failure had occurred, and believing as a matter of policy that in any given conflict, government (his government, that is) is right, the mayor’s only contribution to the situation was to tweet out a public censure that seemed to blame the entire Jewish community for the latest of his failures at city administration.
In the heat of the moment, Hizzoner had been intemperate and did not specify that he really meant to censure only a certain segment of the city’s Jewish population — the so-called “ultra-Orthodox,” those people who so publicly and proudly live a life in which their prime allegiance is to God (as they understand Him, without seeking de Blasio’s approval), and don’t care at all if such thinking has grown unfashionable among other powerful segments of society.
Liel Leibovitz’s lead article in Tablet last week skewered de Blasio (once again) for his latest outrage. The mayor was even easier to roast than he was in April, for he had doubled down and backed his words with hateful actions, as Leibovitz describes and as I will outline below.
In April, the mayor had dressed his hatefulness in the patronizing language of Big Nanny government. He so publicly objected to these Jewish communities because they were helping the spread of the virus.
Who can object to trying to keep people safe, right?
One can object when the same actions done by others closer to the mayor’s worldview and politics receive no censure at all from de Blasio. He departed at that moment from principle to carve exceptions based on his own political preference. He allowed a massive outdoor rally against racism in June, arguing that it was simply in another league and categorically more important than the desire of devout religionists to pray together.
He could not defend the rally as a lesser health risk. Rather, the rally was simply more important from the perspective of his private set of values than the risk of the virus. In other words, health concerns are secondary to first principles — as long as they are his first principles. That’s de Blasio’s religion, and in his kingdom, he establishes his religion as law. Who should care what a bunch of white guys in wigs said about not establishing a religion by the powers of government?
What’s worse than that?
What’s happening now is worse. As Leibovitz points out, the mayor has set into action a plan for distribution of the new vaccine. He has announced that the distribution is not random, but rather he is targeting the areas at greatest danger first — by the numbers, science driven.
Except when it comes to the people he is stuck on, like Brer Rabbit punching the tar baby.
The dense neighborhoods of Brooklyn where so many of the most publicly devout Jews live are among the hardest hit by the virus in the city, by the numbers. Living a life in which community is highly valued, where people gather together twice a day every day in small synagogues to pray, the virus ran rampant when it initially broke out in the city late last winter. And for all that people wear their masks and do what they can, dense populations throughout history have always been places where plagues have thriven best.
So of course, those neighborhoods have the statistics that would give them near-top priority for the vaccine. Because when it comes to medicine, we treat the illness and leave blame, if it must be fixed, till later.
But not for Comrade Bill the mayor. He has passed over the Boro Park and Crown Heights and Williamsburg where most of those kinds of Jews he has targeted are to be found.
(Perhaps one may be leery of the vaccine and might consider this passing-over a blessing. Well and good. I certainly agree that there can be a providential silver lining in bad things. The point is, Bill should not be forcing that decision on them. The point is, his principles have proven secondary to his antipathy.)
If one really believed that Hizzoner was moved by science and principles of public health, as he says he is, then his passing over those neighborhoods would be mysterious.
But there is no mystery here. Bill is using government power to enforce his beliefs and to mete out just punishment to those who heretically believe something is more worthy of allegiance than government – and aren’t afraid of consequences. Aha, a test of faith, and Bill responds with an act of faith, or, as they used to say in Spanish during the time of the Inquisition, an auto-da-fé.
Let the fire rage through their community. It is serving the highest value in de Blasio’s religion, the one he’d like to enforce and will as long as he has the power to do so.
Look out for other Comrade Bills in your own neighborhood, in your state, and barring a miracle, in our federal government. They may not be cleverer than Bill in going about their business, and their targets may not be just Chassidic Jews. But they always think their day is coming, and the blood these sharks smell in the sea of power may be your own.