COMMENTARY: What Is Liberal/Progressive Anymore?

  • By Joseph J. Honick 
Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick

As a Jewish kid growing up in lower economic Baltmore, MD, I learned pretty quickly the meaning of being different.


In kindergarten of a public school, I did not get to eat lunch with the other kids. Friday nights were “adventurous” as rocks could be expected if my mother lit Sabbath candles too close to windows where they could be seen. I would be frequently invited to come out with the other kids really to find out how tough I could be even that little. The steady diet of what this was all about actually became the “way things are”, and there was no discussion of liberalism, conservatism and all the rest.

In fact, after my “trial” period, many of these toughs became friends who would protect my father’s little store.

To insure a sound education, however, my parents enrolled me in an orthodox Jewish days school across town that required a trolley ride to a designated corner where the school’s bus would pick me up. School hours beyond third grade, incidentally, ran from 8:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m., sometime 5:30, with a full-scale usual public school curriculum accomplished between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Before that, as with other religious schools — Jewish and otherwise — the mornings opened with religious services and closed at the end of the day with evening services.

During the day, even as little kids, we studied in Hebrew, Aramaic and Yiddish, not because we were especially brilliant, but simply because we could, just as I believe all kids can do more than their parents and old-fashioned school systems allow them to do.

At home, we always had a couple of tin boxes in which we dropped whatever coins we could come up with, one was charity for the poor, called Tsedaka, though that really means “sharing.” The other was in hope of recovering the ancient land of the Jewish people, a place most know as Israel.

We also were taught respect for all people, no matter their race, religion or country of origin. After all, my own parents, along with hundreds of thousands of others, made their way from Ukraine to escape Russian persecution, only to find pretty broad rejection right here in the land of the free, whose Statue of Liberty invited those seeking freedom to get here as welcomed escapees. Many of those escapees, especially from Eastern Europe’s Jews also learned in the 1920’s even the United States imposed quotas of those with specific backgrounds and ethnicity.

Why do I tell you all this? Well, raised as we were in a philosophy akin to what eventually would be that of my later idol, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man with whom I marched as a very young man, along with perhaps a million others, the day he made this powerful “Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.


Yet today, those little tin can banks having helped to achieve a rebuilt land of Israel to which many of the 800,000 Jews driven out of Arab nations could escape, we find media sites not only anti-Israel but bordering on a kind of subtle anti-Semitism in how they handle, or mishandle, any approach to objective reportage of events where Israel and Jews generally are handled.
A most recent example comes to mind with the London Olympics where tens of millions of dollars (or pounds) were spent to avoid the very terrorism that took the lives of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches in the Munich games 40 years ago. Yet this latest alleged expression of world unity could find not one single split second to memorialize the singular tragedy that was only visited upon Israeli Jews. While that specific event was profoundly tragic, there were other events in which both Jewish athletes and Blacks were discriminated against. In the case of Jewish Olympians, track stars were withdrawn from the 1936 games in Germany to avoid an insult to Adolph Hitler.

Just as recently, 8 Israeli tourists in Bulgaria were viciously murdered. You would have had much trouble finding either reportage of that even or some editorial commentary in those liberal/ progressive media.

However, the tragedy of several Sikh’s murders in a Milwaukee area house of worship facility appropriately found their way to the “liberal/progressive” media quickly.

So today, we have media asserting their commitment to liberal and progressive ideals and expression — both of which I thought I had been raised to respect and had proved my commitment to by being out in the streets. It has not occurred to me that a a tiny bunch of people whose history in the U.S. and elsewhere could be so threatening. Yet, for generations, neighborhoods, industries and financial fields specifically indicated their rejection of Jews along with the more obvious Black race and certain others.

If there are positive words about Israel, you will be hard pressed to find them in very many publications, as if no such positives could exist. However, if Israel screws up, as with other nations, you will find it in capital lettered bylines, often by those of Jewish ethnicity as to show they themselves are not part of those “others.”

It is time once and for all, for those who claim to be truly liberal and progressive to drop their veils of hypocrisy and permit wider debates and commentary that might not share either their views or avoidance of contrary and relevant realities.

Until and unless such expansion occurs, media claiming to be liberal and progressive will have been guilty of the same kinds of prejudice as their opposites on the far right.

* * *


Joseph J. Honick is president of GMA International in Bainbridge Island, Washington. He is a contributor and other sites.




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