As Chris Cuomo says, “Let’s get to it.” I won’t hold you in suspense. The attacks on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman from the White House, from the Congress, from the citizenry are anti-Semitic. They’re pure and simple anti-Semitism. Now for a brief pre-amble to tell you how I know.
I spent thirty-three years as a professional tracking anti-Semitism, studying anti-Semitism, and combating anti-Semitism. As Justice Kennedy once said about pornography, “When you see it, you’ll know it.” Understanding it is ever-so-much more complex than recognizing it.
Historically, this country has had little serious threats internally from the left, not even socialism not less communism. Oh we have a socialist or two, now a semi-socialist, and there were of course the Rosenbergs, and yes a few successful intelligence infiltrations by the Russians and Chinese, but aside from Salem, the biggest witch hunt/hoax in American history was that perpetrated by the junior Senator from Wisconsin the infamous Joseph McCarthy. He was taken down, ironically enough, by the House Un-American Affairs Committee and Senator Joseph Kefauver. The virus we can’t seem to find the inoculation for is the hatred from the right.
A prime early example was the aptly named “No-Nothing Party.” It was anti-immigrant, anti- Catholic, anti-Jew. It is best known for a midnight raid on the building site of the Washington Monument. Its partisans became infamous for stealing a commemorative stone from the Vatican laying on the mall awaiting placement inside the walls of the monument along with its companions from around the world. The monumental stone was smashed, tossed on a horse-drawn flat-bed “truck” and dumped into the Potomac River.
Let’s jump to the 1970’s when Geraldo Rivera, then a talented, promising young journalist, who had not yet traded in those talents for opening old safes and other romps on television. Rivera had done a stunning piece of investigative journalism on the conditions Willowbrook mental institution’s mistreatment of patients. He followed that up by a piece called, “The Seeds of Hate.” In short it was an expose of anti-most everything in the heartland of the nation. The piece was ground-breaking not for exposing hatred but for being the first to expose Army veterans, armed with stolen tax-payer paid for armament as the core of the movement. It was also the first to bring to light the bending of Christianity into a hate-filled, religiously buttressed “cover” for hatred. A new church called, “The Christian Identity Church” was born. It has spawned other seeds of Satan. Look it up.
In the late ’70’s and early ’80’s there was a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan outside of Nashville, Tn. Over three thousand Klansmen and sympathizers gathered after a black man was mistakenly arrested for, yes, of course, rape of a white woman. Of course also it was a case of mistaken identity. After that the leadership of the Nashville Tennessean newspaper decided something had to be done. First it did a well-researched magazine insert on the Klan. Then it decided to infiltrate someone. I was one of three people who prepared an investigative reporter for what became a very successful infiltration of the two largest Klans and ended David Duke’s reign in Klandom. Yet David Duke has switched from a white robe to a charcoal grey suit and legitimizes his hatred in runs for office and by giving paid speeches mostly in Germany and Eastern Europe. Trust me I could go on, but there’s always google. There’s also contacting the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League. Or lil ole winemaker me.
Let’s then go back to Lt. Col Vindman, a refugee whose story is so typically American it shouldn’t even give pause for thought. His father left everything, and I mean everything save the family behind in the then Soviet Union and came to America to be welcomed as part of the tired, hungry, and poor. Vindman grew up with a deep-seated sense of gratitude and a desire to serve. He (and his brother) joined the military. He fought in Iraq, he was wounded in an IED explosion and awarded the purple heart. He made the military his career. The continuing good fortune for America was that he spoke Ukrainian and became a extremely well respected, well-liked intelligence officer moving up the ranks to where he is today.
But where is he today? Actually we don’t know because after his testimony he tsunami of hatred that came rolling down on him like the Johnstown Flood. It gave concern for his safety and that of his family. The United States Army, whose soldiers are taught never to leave a comrade behind, is going to put him in their version of the witness protection program. He and his family will be housed on an Army based and protected by his fellow warriors. G-d bless America.
Given the history above, it is not surprising. It is however mortifying. By obeying orders, doing his duty, he is now a target, and some feel a real target, not a political one. In this politically charged atmosphere Vindman’s story is the stuff of media sensationalism. Frankly, in times gone by it is as he would want it, a typical American story, one that played out just has his father had hoped it would when he spun the wheel and hoped it would come up red or white or blue.
But why Antisemitism? No one has called him a Jew-bastard. No one that we know of yet, has called him a commie the ’50’s code word for Jews. But wait–he was criticized for wearing his uniform. Of all the criticisms–wearing his uniform? The one that has a purple heart on it? Then there was a joke by a Ukrainian official that Vindman could easily, no questions asked, become Ukraine’s Defense Minister. Soon came the conspiracy theories and the joke was suddenly made to sound suspicious by those on the right. And then came the hay-maker. His loyalty to his beloved American for whom he shed blood, started to be questioned.
When one investigates something one looks for patterns, code words and phrases, actions that become the pieces in the jig-saw puzzle that begin to show you the picture. The picture here is anti-Semitism–at least from my perspective.
Bill Gralnick’s Sunday blog is this time an old story that wraps a hero in ugly conspiracy theories. A lighter read is his new book, “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn.” It is a Woody Allenesque half-memoir of his growing up years in Brooklyn. Have a look: Amazon.com or Barnesandnobles.com.
And as Bill says, “Read! Its good for both of us.”