Rashida Tlaib will learn quickly enough, when you mud-wrestle with the president in public, you do not look wholesome when you emerge from the ring. In our current episode, we see the member from Michigan facing off against Israel, with Trump, not surprisingly, in Israel’s corner. Somehow or other, Trump and Netanyahu maneuvered her into the following statement:
Silencing me and treating me like a criminal is not what (my grandmother) wants for me,” she wrote. “It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in – fighting against racism, oppression and injustice.
Talk about bringing family into a political discussion, and involving politics in your family life.
Tlaib’s proposed trip to Israel started out as a congressional visit, with a side trip to see her grandmother. When Netanyahu and Trump challenged the visit on political grounds, Tlaib rightly said, “Forget it. I’m sure the two of you can manage Israeli-American relations without me.” Then everyone, including the press, wanted to bring Tlaib’s visit to her grandmother into the picture.
Journalists always look for an angle, but they misfired on this one. They wanted to make Tlaib look good, but has no good way out as they pester her about why she doesn’t go. Yet she has options superior to the one she chose. She could make a personal trip to see her grandmother, and drop the political component of the trip, or she could stay in the U. S. and drop the subject.
With her comment above, Tlaib joins journalists to make her grandmother a pawn in the notoriously fraught discussion of U. S.-Israeli relations. Charges of anti-semitism fly, especially when Ilhan Omar – who planned to make the trip with Tlaib – is involved. Meantime, the president appears to regard American Jews as citizens of Israel. He clearly regards American Muslims as not truly American, which makes Tlaib and Omar congressional moles.
Thus does Tlaib’s trip to Israel, for diplomacy and a family visit, degenerate into the spectacle we have seen the last couple of weeks. It reminds one of Hillary Clinton’s invitation to Khizr and Ghazala Khan – who lost their son in the Iraq war – to speak about their grief at the 2016 national convention. Trump stepped in to stir things up in that instance, too. Before anyone could yell “STOP!”, the Khans became pawns in the nation’s bitter political discussions about misbegotten wars, poisonously mixed with patriotism and religion.
Our political divisions fester enough without family and religion involved. Our constitutional system tries its best to protect these pursuits from politics. Why would we deliberately bring public disputes out of the political arena, and let them infect areas of life we want to protect? This kind of thing happened before Trump, and now we have let the president make it worse.
We used to quarantine people with deadly diseases like leprosy or tuberculosis. Why do we not do the same to protect ourselves from political leaders? Their deadly, divisive methods threaten every one of us. I am not exaggerating here. We have seen political conflict break out all over the country. If we cannot contain these conflicts, they will destroy every element of our private lives, including our families and our religious institutions.
So leave family – and religion – out of politics. Let politicians manage their own dirty business. We follow the rule, do not discuss religion and politics at the family dinner table. The corollary holds equally: do not bring family and religion into political debates. If you want to see what politics does to families, look to the southern border. As for religion, the founders wanted to keep sectarian differences as far away politics as possible.
Politicians may stir up trouble for their own benefit. Journalists may abet them. Politicians snipe at each other constantly. Journalists record every mud splat. If we want to remain unsoiled, we should avoid both groups.