“Building a Boat and a Tower”: Re Genesis and the Election

JTS:  …In fact, our Torah portion includes two dystopias, each of which relates to a distinct constellation of political fears. The first presents as a natural catastrophe—rising flood waters that will wipe out all human habitations on land—but which the Torah ascribes to the consequence of human irresponsibility. A flawed hero manages to salvage what can be saved and rebuild society, but only after it suffers grievous losses.

The second calamity is more of an imagined disaster than a present threat, one in which fear-driven policy leads to self-inflicted damage. The builders of the tower of Babel are terrified of being dispersed across the land and losing their identity. They respond by building a huge skyscraper to “make ourselves a name,” but are instead dispersed both physically and culturally, becoming estranged and distanced from one another.

It would be simplistic to draw an analogy between the two calamities of Parashat Noah and the two sets of fears expressed by our political parties. Still, it seems that Hillary Clinton voters are not infrequently concerned about calamities such as climate change, warfare, and failed economies—catastrophes that are caused or exacerbated by human misconduct and which have the capacity to destroy entire cities, if not nations. In this they are like Noah and his family. Donald Trump voters, on the other hand, resemble the builders of the tower. They are animated by fears of immigration and lost hegemony, both cultural and financial. They respond with support for a literal tower builder whose famous name is their rallying point to strengthen and concentrate their cause…  (more)



Updated: November 5, 2016 — 10:18 am