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A vicious world

by Joseph Aaron

Well, I just celebrated a milestone birthday. A big milestone.

Which reminds me, as tends to happen to us old geezers, of two stories from my youth.

It was when I was just out of college, just starting out and money was tight. As it happens, I missed a payment on a car loan. Someone from the bank where I got the loan gave me a call, and in a really kind and gentle way, asked me if I could pay it in the next couple of weeks because he didn’t want me to get a bad mark on my credit rating right off the bat. He said he’d make sure nothing was reported for a while, and to be in touch when I was able to make the payment.

Then not long after, I wasn’t able to make a payment on an insurance policy.

Also not a good thing when you are trying to establish yourself. What happened next awes me to this day. My insurance guy, who had been my dad’s insurance guy, and who was this sweet Jewish man, called me and told me he sent in the payment for me because he didn’t want me to lose the policy, and that he was fine for me to pay him back when I was able.

Try really hard to imagine such a thing happening today. You can’t, because it wouldn’t. The bank would be very quick to hit you with a late fee, report you to the credit agencies and penalize you in whatever ways they could. The insurance company would tell you bye-bye.

You may recall that right after 9/11, we all said how it had changed everything. What many of us thought that meant is that we’d all be kinder to each other, more understanding of each other, see what really mattered in life, cling to true, caring values.

Well, it hasn’t worked out that way has it? The big companies that run this country are meaner, more heartless, more punitive than ever. Miss a payment and there is no sympathy, only penalties and ruin reigned upon you. Banks make it almost impossible to get a loan unless you can prove you don’t need the money, credit card companies hit you with interest charges that would make a Mafia don blush. And if you are late with just one payment, your already obscene rates get immediately raised by 10 points.

I have always been a very patriotic American, very high on this country, but I’m afraid I don’t feel that way anymore. Now, I will admit I’m a little raw about all this because I guess some things don’t change. As it happens, I’ve had a bit of a financial squeeze lately and so have been either late with some payments or missed some payments.

Remember that kindly old insurance guy who just went ahead and made the payment for me and said he trusted me to pay him back? Well, this time I didn’t ask an agent to put out the money for me, but since a policy was about to lapse and I didn’t have time to send a check from Israel to New York, I asked if I could I pay him by credit card and he in turn send a check that would get to the company in time. No, he said, that is against the law.

Against the law. I’m sure he was telling the truth, but why in the hell have we gotten to a place that it is against the law to help someone out? Nothing illegal or nefarious involved. Just help. But not in the world in which we live today.

I blame most of it on the Internet, which has robbed us of a sense of humanity, separated us from each other, coarsened our interactions. Instead of talking to another person, connecting with another person, these days you just text or email or tweet or Facebook, never having to hear their voice or make eye contact or take in their emotions.

And even worse, big companies use the technology to advantage themselves, but not you. Everything is voicemail, making it almost impossible for you to actually talk to someone. Good for them, fewer people to hire, up to you to figure out the prompts. And yet if technology can help you, they don’t bother.

As I said, I was late with an insurance payment. And so to avoid having the policy lapse, I called the company and asked if I could make a payment over the phone by credit card. No they don’t take credit cards. How about by check? No they don’t take checks over the phone. Can I make a payment via your website? No, their website doesn’t accept payments. Well, can you put the bounced check through a second time? No, we don’t do that. And by the way if your check doesn’t arrive in the mail to us by Monday, we’re cancelling you. But I’m out of the country. Nothing we can do.

That is a common refrain I heard as I have recently navigated my way through a rough patch of being late in making payments and bouncing a check or two. Nothing they can do, they all said. They just sit and read a script and show no emotion or compassion. Nobody has a direct line you can call them back on, nobody is willing to make any effort to help you out. No is what you hear most of all. I call it the demenschification of America and it is why Donald Trump is getting the reception he is.

Okay, I could go on about this, and I may cite other examples in a future column, but there are a few other things I want to touch on. One is the continued insanity of The Bibi. He is doing so much damage with his obsessive delusion about Iran, endlessly talking about how we shouldn’t be dealing with Iran because it is a state sponsor of terrorism, shouts death to America and its FORMER president said he wanted to wipe Israel off the map.

And yet, lookie here. The political chief of Hamas, yes Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, has confirmed that his organization is negotiating with Israel over a long-term truce and described the talks as “very positive.”

This is Hamas, whose official charter calls for the destruction of Israel. And yet The Bibi is working on a deal with them. Of course, he denies that, but he denies a lot of things. My point is that as with Iran, if you want peace, you negotiate with bad guys. That’s what the Iran thing is about, making a deal with bad guys to get them to do good things.

The deal is going through. There are not enough votes in Congress to stop it. And yet The Bibi, who supposedly understands the United States so well, is continuing to insult the president, alienate Democrats, pit American Jew against American Jew, separate American Jews from Israel. For what?  If he’s not going to stop the deal, why not stop the wreckage he is causing?

As the Times of Israel put it, The Bibi’s “relentless and vociferous lobbying against it is causing severe climate change in the already-not-so-warm ties between Washington and Jerusalem.”

The relationship “will suffer damage, possibly irreparable, in the long run. It’s a bit like global warming: The effects of Israel’s actions aren’t immediately visible, but their long-term devastating effects are undeniable… or are only denied by people with a particular political agenda.”

And yet, those with that agenda, are getting more and more vicious as the vote gets closer, even to their fellow Jews. Take Jerrold Nadler, a longtime and very pro-Israel congressman from New York.

Nadler committed what is to many Jews today the greatest sin possible. He came out in support of the Iran deal. And so the Jewish attack dogs have ripped him to pieces.

Of the attacks, Nadler said, “Of course it hurts. It’s emotional. Most hurtful is people asserting, shouting, that somehow I am anti-Israel. I’ve been a supporter of Israel my whole life.

“What bothers me about this debate is its incivility, excoriating people as traitors or dual loyalists. I am also deeply disturbed that some opponents of the agreement have taken to questioning the sincerity of people’s support for Israel (or their ‘Jewishness,’ if it applies) if that person believes” in the agreement, he added.

And then there’s the scorn being heaped on President Obama. A fascinating story in politico noted that Obama is linked with Jimmy Carter in being despised by right-wing Jews who don’t understand what a real friend is. Carter, who has shown amazing grace in dealing with his very serious cancer diagnosis, is someone Jews should be grateful to. As the politico article notes, “For many American Jews, it’s hard to recall that it was Carter who—through vision, hard work and indomitable will—forged a singular agreement that allowed Israel to keep peace with its Arab neighbors for nearly four decades and, more importantly, to use that halcyon time to advance economically and transcend the Arab nations in military and technological strength, creating a world where today Israel no longer has to fear a traditional military attack by any Arab enemy. That agreement, Carter’s 1979 Camp David accord with Egypt—one of the great triumphs of American diplomacy in the 20th century—saved Israel from the main existential threat that had shadowed the Jewish state since its founding in 1948. Does that sound like the legacy of anti-Semite?

“Barack Obama, whom some American Jews also suspect is anti-Semitic, may have just saved Israel’s existence again—and as profoundly as Carter did. However flawed, compromised and uncertain in its application, the Iran deal is the only thing in the past decade that has come close to stopping Tehran’s relentless march from a few hundred centrifuges to 20,000 and counting. That path would have led ultimately to Israel’s ultimate nightmare, a Mideast nuclear arms race that brings in not only Iran but rich Arab (and Israel-hating) countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“Despite a lot of bluffing over recent years about an Israeli attack against Iran, Israeli security experts know a military solution would be a meager stopgap at best, setting Iran back by only a few years, and driving its nuclear program deeper underground. The evidence that many Israelis quietly realize this—despite the incessant caterwauling of Benjamin Netanyahu—is that key members of Israel’s security establishment, the ones who would know, have tentatively backed the Iran deal or at least conceded that Israel can live with it.”

That’s the reality. Right-wing Jews like to live in a fantasy world, and it is only in the twisted world inside their distorted, paranoid heads that, as politico puts it, “the ones who have worked hardest to preserve Israel have managed only to earn Israeli and Jewish mistrust and contempt.”

Darn, I don’t have room to tell you how Israel’s most decorated soldier, Ehud Barak, just called The Bibi “weak and childish.” Maybe next time. Gotta go pay some bills.


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