Dershowitz and Other Despicables: A Band That Lost the Beat

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“Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”
— Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

Did you read the recent article in The New Yorker about Alan Dershowitz, Trump’s icky apologist and Jeffrey Epstein’s fellow party animal and pedophile? I did, and it kinda made my fingertips feel a bit slimy just holding the magazine.

As an old timey liberal, some of my admired friends and associates in the civil rights and anti-war movement were Jews, most of them originally from New York. As a fresh-faced kid, idealistic as all get out, I conflated the inexpressible horror of Buchenwald and Auschwitz with the notion that victimization had ennobled all Jews, sensitizing them to racism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism and intolerance in ways others hadn’t been. In my book, Jews were the good people. They were everywhere to be found in the civil rights movement, for instance, and they had been historical figures in a range of struggles for rights for workers and women long before the Nazis decided to try to remove all of them from the planet. In fact, one of the ways hatred and fear of them was ginned up so successfully was by making Jews and Communists synonymous. The right wingers in Germany (and in the U.S.) were pretty good at concocting narratives that demonized people, even when the tale they told made Jews the emblem of both predatory capitalism AND confiscatory anti-capitalist communism. It was a neat trick that worked back then, and the right is still playing both sides of that street to this very day.

So, I’m wary about mentioning Dershowitz and Jews in the same bit of commentary. But I must. He has made his identity as a Jew fairly front and center in his long public life, a life that doesn’t do much for the image of Jews as the good guys.

But ascribing good qualities to an ethnic group is racist, too, and the illusion I bore that made Jews the good people was bound to result in disillusionment. And a good thing it was, too, because living with illusion is never very healthy, nor is racism or ethnic generalizations of any kind, even when the qualities ascribed to particular groups are thought to be benign or well-meant. I went shopping for the good people by category–blacks, Jews, women, hippies–and I couldn’t find ’em anywhere. Corruption is an equal opportunity employer.

I did find good people everywhere, however. I know better than to touch the idea that a few bad apples can be used to defame an entire group of people. I know the dangers so often employed by those on the far right to introduce the tale of “welfare queens” in order to stereotype an entire race, or to arrive at a sweeping bit of racism that concludes that all Mexicans are rapists, all Muslims are terrorists, or all Jews are greedy sons of bitches. So talking about guys like Dershowitz at all is to tread a very slippery slope.

But no discussion of the corruption we’re currently drowning in is possible without at least some recognition that people like Dershowitz are specimens of how people who start out with the best intentions can be seduced by money and power, their moral compass broken, their values trashed, their perfidies rationalized, their fall from grace broken by parachutes of lofty excuses. Dershowitz could be used as Exhibit A in a legal case meant to show how a perfectly good mind can be sent off to law school with his father’s words ringing in his ears (“it is the duty of a Jew to represent the underdog”) and then find that idealism pulverized and that good mind prostituted and capable of being used to justify people and things that shouldn’t be justified.

Michael Gold’s novel, Jews Without Money, was drawn from his experience as a poor child of Jewish immigrants who struggled against poverty and anti-Semitism in New York at the turn of the 20th century. It can be read as an ancestral rebuke of people like Alan Dershowitz, now a very rich Jew who stood on the shoulders of those earlier Jews, who benefited from the battles they fought, and then lost his soul on his way to wealth. Jews surely have no monopoly on that sort of forfeiture, nor does the death of six million or so in the death camps and gas chambers prevent them from stealing land and brutalizing Palestinians in ways that seldom do them credit.

Nor does Dersh the Douche.

Now that Jeremy Epstein is dead while in William Barr’s custody, there’s a very bad stink in the air. Something very rotten has been going on among the boundlessly rich and powerful, far worse than we might have thought. The international oligarchy from Russia to Riyadh, from D.C. to Dubai, from Texas to Tel Aviv is beginning to reveal depths of decadence on a scale that would make Caligula smile. Maybe that’s what’s been bubbling up in popular culture, in stuff like Game of Thrones and other mass entertainments expressive of the dawning suspicion of how wicked and Machiavellian the highest levels of wealth and privilege are, how dirty, how absolutely corrupted by the absolute power of their wealth.

Guys like Dershowitz cannot be excused for complicity in the corruption, the perversions of flesh and the spirit, the slimy manipulation of justice to favor fascism, the ascendancy of evil, and the merciless power of big money and bad men.

You lie down with dogs, you rise up with fleas. Dershowitz is about as flea bitten as they come, as mangy a dog as the insufferable Rudy Giuliani, a cur as low down as Dr. Ben Carson, as dirty as bitches like Kellyanne Conway or Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as amoral as the politicians who remain silent and the corporate CEOs who underwrite Trump and his despicable cohorts .

Anne Frank was arrested 75 years ago this month. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp six months later. The famous last words found in her diary read: “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are still truly good at heart…” She was not yet 16, an innocent. You know, like the girls Jeffrey Epstein trafficked in, and Alan Dershowitz accepted massages from, though he assures us that he didn’t take his underwear off. Bill Clinton tried smoking pot a couple times, but “didn’t inhale.” And Donald Trump “doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” not even the bones with the spurs.

Jesus weeps. Moses, too. Buddha is bummed. And Allah ain’t none too happy, neither. And so it goes.

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