(NewsNation) — My exchange with Ye on Monday’s show went viral. What does it mean?
Likely more of you are watching. Great. But this is not the head of the hate parade.
This is about us coming together to condemn bigotry. Antisemitism is on the rise — attacks are up, hate online is up, and it’s not a coincidence that there’s also a rise in white nationalism. This is getting worse, and this celebrity being paraded as a soundbite machine of antisemitism’s greatest hits is a problem that points to this bigger problem of hate on the rise.
As for him, two things can be true at once. The man is spouting antisemitism, period. I went at him about his responsibility and his wrongness. However, he can hold bad beliefs and also be struggling, and by all accounts, he is. That matters, too.
It matters that people are fine saying there is something wrong with him and calling him unstable, but only as an insult. Playing into any stigma that having a mental illness is weak is a problem, and my asking and being concerned that he is not healthy is not an excuse or mitigating anything. His words are not excusable. But it’s an explanation as to why he may not be in control of what’s coming out of his mouth.
What matters now is not so much to traffic in what he is saying, but rather why he is saying it and who is fanning the flames of this dumpster fire. Why is the man formerly known as Kanye West being celebrated by Fox News and social media’s furious few on the far right?
It’s interesting he changed his name. Sure, there are his personal reasons, but he also has a new identity as a wedge in the battle of left and right. That’s one reason, I believe, so many are letting him fulminate about antisemitism.
What he is saying is antisemitic. Period. But it also allows for the owning of the left. And no, I am not impartial on any suggestions about Jewish people: I love my Jewish brothers and sisters, and I have tremendous respect for the faith.
Part of my family is Jewish. Men and women in the family we have chosen for ourselves are Jewish. Being called mishpukah — Hebrew for extended family — is a great source of pride. I am not open to any suggestion of animus about them.
However, this need not be personal to penetrate. We all know it is not fair to demonize a faith or any group — not here, and especially not to a group that has such a present threat and a past of persecution.
It doesn’t matter that the speaker is Black or a billionaire or a big star. This is such an obvious point that I was surprised he went relatively unchecked in interviews — until mine.
This is not about free speech, as some of his newfound political pals suggest. This is not about the First Amendment. The Constitution does not make it OK to say whatever you want without consequence.
The First Amendment is about Congress making no law to restrict free speech, seek redress or to force faith upon us, yes. But there is every bit a reciprocal right for the rest of us to expose and reject what someone says. Antisemitism is anti-American. Having the right to say ugly things doesn’t make it right to say ugly things.
This also isn’t about my giving him a platform — he already has a huge one. This was about countering what his platform has already afforded him. I could have said nothing, but what you ignore, you often empower.
A good instruction for what we should do with the opportunity of his invective comes from Judaism. This has been a week of celebration of their new year — Simchat Torah — that ended with a pledge to continue the work of faith and trying to get better. We all need to come together out of common concern for decency in our politics and in our society. We are better than what he, or Ye, is putting out there, and the enthusiasm from others for his words is a concern.
My father learned from his counsel, the Rabbi Israel Moshowith, that all that matters are the ideas of tzedakah and tikkun olam, that we are here to repair the universe and complete the work of creation. It is up to us to refuse to surrender to the ugly and obvious, and to push for better and more decent dealings no matter our disagreements. We are better than what is put out there and celebrated as free speech.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.