Rabbi Swartz Article – “Trump: Justice for All?”

On April 22, 2016, PA IPL Board Member Rabbi Daniel Swartz had the following article published in The Times-Tribune.

Trump: Justice for All?

daniel headshotNo one likes being treated unfairly. So it was no surprise when, on April 12, during a CNN town hall, Donald Trump complained about the Republican Party’s rules for selecting delegates: “I know the rules very well, but I know it’s stacked against me by the establishment.”

I agree — delegate rules are set up to favor political insiders. But party rules are not important — it’s what Mr. Trump does next. I don’t mean his next political move but his next spiritual move.

Beginning today at sundown, Jews around the world will celebrate Passover. Passover’s key teaching can be summed up quite simply: In every generation, each of us is supposed to regard ourselves as if we too had been slaves under Pharaoh and then had been freed and gone forth from Egypt.

In today’s political environment, that memory might be used to stoke anger and resentment, to fan the fires of vengeance. But that’s not what Passover is supposed to be about. Rather than seeing slavery through the lens of anger and marching toward revenge, we are supposed to view it with empathy and then pursue justice for everyone.

So what will Mr. Trump learn from a system that’s stacked against him? Will he drum up anger against the “establishment” or will something grander happen?

Imagine how radically different the campaign would become if tomorrow Mr. Trump said, “My treatment at the hands of the RNC has made me rethink my priorities. Having experienced unfair treatment, I pledge to help all who have had the rules stacked against them.”

He could, for example, work for universal, high-quality preschool. A good preschool gives children lifelong learning advantages and helps make them more productive citizens. But quality preschools are expensive. Thus, rich children get this advantage, while poor children fall farther behind.

He also could come out in support of the Green Climate Fund. Right now, people in the poorest countries in the world are suffering from the worst effects of climate change — floods, droughts, the spread of mosquito-borne disease. And what’s most unfair about this situation is that these countries are suffering because of more than two centuries of fossil fuel use by the richest countries of the world, while they have benefited the least from fossil fuels. The Green Climate Fund tries to bring some measure of justice into that equation. Nations that have benefited from fossil fuels pay into the fund to help these poverty-stricken nations deal with the consequences of climate change.

He could try to inject some sense into the “bathroom” debate. He could publicize the fact that, according to statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, more than two-thirds of all hate-crime homicide victims are transgender women, mostly women of color. More than 50 percent of transgender women will be sexually assaulted at some point during their life. They are being cast as “predators” — but in reality, they are the precisely the people most in need of protection.

I could go on with the examples: lower income African American youth, who face a very different court system than wealthy white youth; inequities in public school funding; a debt system in which the poorest pay the highest interest, while the well-lawyered (including Mr. Trump) can take advantage of bankruptcy rules stacked in their favor.

I’m sure readers could come up with their own example.

I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the Festival of Freedom than all of us, including candidates, joining together to pursue justice and freedom for all.