Many people of all faiths are generally familiar with the story of Passover, or Pesach, but other than observant Jews, most are likely less knowledgeable about one of the prayers that is recited during the Seder, the ritual feast marking the beginning of Passover.
Dayenu is probably the most popular Passover song but more importantly demonstrates an appreciation for each individual step in the process of the Exodus from the land of Egypt by basically saying “if God had only done THIS much, it would have been enough for us.”
For those familiar with the Passover story, the acknowledgements are recognizable.
“Had God brought us out of Egypt but not executed justice on the Egyptians, dayenu!”
(It would have been enough for us.)
It continues through 14 additional expressions of gratitude, starting with
“Had He executed justice on the Egyptians but not executed justice on their gods”
and ending with
“Had He brought us into the Land of Israel and not built the temple for us…”
This sentiment seems to be largely lacking in society today, where we seem consumed with first world problems and that’s an understatement with a seemingly perverse hierarchy of need.
Our attention is focused on designer clothing, sports, the Kardashians and other comparatively unimportant affairs while many across the globe live in abject poverty, not knowing where their next meal is coming from, or perhaps forced to try and survive in a war zone or in a society that condones abuse.
And yet, where we have made real progress in our society in evolving past the barbaric behaviors we may have exhibited in the past, it sometimes sounds as if we haven’t.
The left seems destined to dwell on the mistakes of the past and continue to punish people in the here and now for the mistakes of their forefathers. The Democratic Party and media outlets such as MSNBC are quick to play the race card in almost any instance where there is criticism of someone who may be a minority.
While we cannot say that racism has been completely eradicated, we have made huge progress, as evidenced by an African-American in the highest office of the land, not to mention two prior Secretaries of State under the previous Republican administration occupied by the party most often accused of racism. Blacks in this country are prominent in every walk of life and yet, we are still dwelling on the negative. While we should never be satisfied until our society truly behaves as if we are color blind (both on the right and left), where is anyone saying “dayenu?”
The debate over gay marriage has taken on the same flavor and to some degree that is understandable; while gays certainly have not had to endure the type of civil rights struggle that blacks went through, there is no doubt that a substantial percentage of the population disapproves of their lifestyle. Because gays push so vehemently for marriage and opponents demand we adhere to a definition of marriage that has nothing to do with our Constitution, the simple solution is overlooked by almost everyone.
Government has no business being involved with “marriage” at all. Since a union is largely the foundation of our society, however, they should continue to be recognized as a legal contract and ALL couples should be able to have a civil union or domestic partnership with the same legal rights. Clergy then, can perform “marriage” or holy matrimony. Everybody wins.
Dayenu. Or so we could hope.
Meanwhile the right seems to lack the ability to move beyond some sort of ideological purity test for candidates and issues. While the far left has become more militant in some of its agenda, to a large extent the right has done the same to the great detriment of finding common ground. Regardless of who is the chicken and who is the egg, the cycle is unproductive.
Many conservatives seem to feel that they can’t compromise on their principles and as such, look for candidates further and further to the right, a strategy that obviously didn’t work well in the last election. While some Tea Party candidates continued to be successful in sympathetic areas, the nation as a whole rejected the perception of an old, white, anti-woman GOP that failed to make the case that it cares about everyone equally including minorities, women and gays. With a questionable record on many fronts, the time should have been ripe to limit Barack Obama to one term but the GOP faithful barely got past the most conservative candidates to Mitt Romney, perceived by some to be moderate but by most to be fairly conservative.
Meanwhile, John Huntsman, a conservative who actually had broad appeal among Democrats and independents and would possibly have been ELECTABLE, was unable to get any real traction and dropped out of the race early on.
It truly begs the question: would Republicans rather have a liberal Democrat in the White House than a moderate Republican? It is a simple truth that those who stayed home on Election Day essentially contributed to making that happen.
And what if Huntsman had been nominated and elected, as he quite probably could have been. In view of the current occupant of the White House (again), could there have been a resounding “Dayenu?”
While it is generally understood that you want to find the most conservative electable candidate, that is not what typically happens.
Despite widespread acknowledgment of Huntsman’s conservatism by numerous reputable leaders, he never garnered significant support in the primaries. That is also in spite of his record as governor of Utah. His broad-based appeal is evidenced by winning re-election in 2008 with nearly 78% of the vote and leaving office with approval ratings over 80%.
The irony was not lost on the Obama campaign. On November 20, 2012, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina suggested that the Obama campaign believed Huntsman would have been a particularly difficult candidate to face in the general election. Messina said that the campaign was “honest about our concerns about Huntsman” and that Huntsman “would have been a very tough candidate.”
The list goes on; we increasingly fail to look for incremental steps and instead act as if everything is all or nothing. For a country so desperately in need of tax reform, there is common ground to be found amongst everyone who wants to get special interest legislation out of our tax code, which is something we can’t rely on legislators to do. We have to demand it.
But we don’t. Instead, the far right demands we have only a consumption tax where everyone pays exactly the same rate, while the far left wants to increase the income tax to something confiscatory, harboring a belief often held but rarely expressed: if you have that much money you shouldn’t. No, “you didn’t build that” and even if you did, you probably cheated and no one needs all of it anyway. The people can’t agree on a drastic improvement (by any standard) and so, the status quo continues.
Change rarely comes in massive instantaneous overhaul; it is achieved through years of effort, often overcoming long-held beliefs that present a challenge even when they are outrageous in retrospect. Usually it’s one step at a time. But apparently in a world where technology has led us to expecting everything yesterday, that doesn’t fly.
As a society we need to start focusing on the things we can agree on and that means actively looking for them. We can disagree about what actions create more problems but we can start with are common sense approaches that may not solve every problem but at least eliminate some of them.
For many of us, dayenu!