The toxic level of divisiveness in American political life today is driving families and friends apart and hurting our country. The hatefulness and intolerance that fuel it must be called out wherever they appear. Let’s stop looking for someone to blame and start looking in the mirror.
It showed up in our own community last week when the board of the Franklin Hills Country Club voted to cancel a scheduled fundraiser for Lena Epstein, a Jewish woman running for the open seat in Michigan's 11th Congressional District, indicating that it did so because she openly supports President Trump.
Many of us were appalled when we learned that the country club canceled Epstein’s fundraiser at the last minute, in reaction to hateful comments and the threat of protests, by a non-member, living outside the community. We have hosted political fundraisers at Franklin and other country clubs over many years, supporting conservative political thinking, and never had an experience like this.
Franklin Hills Country Club was founded in the 1920s by Jews who no doubt experienced the discrimination against Jews by employers, universities, clubs and other organizations that was common at that time. It is shocking that this type of political bias against Epstein, whose family members are longtime members of Franklin Hills, was supported by the current board.
This incident was widely reported in the national media. It is embarrassing for the club, our community and our state. More to the point, it accomplished nothing except to increase the negative activity going on in politics.
We have just entered a sobering period of the Jewish calendar — the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, the day of destruction and desolation for the Jewish people. The sages of the Talmud say the Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam, baseless hatred. When friends and neighbors turn on one another and engage in hateful rhetoric and name-calling, we all must pause and think. We cannot let anger, hate and intolerance drive the day. I worry that if our community leaders and our political leaders endorse this kind of behavior, the damage done to our country will be severe and multi-generational.
It’s time to return to civility, to seeing the humanity of the people we disagree with, to acting like grownups — let’s look in the mirror and remember who we are — and to showing respect for our fellow Americans and the amazing country we are all privileged to share.
Robert Schostak serves on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition and is a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.