Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Blog to Take Over the World (Part II)

(Part I)

Take, for example, one of the more polemical posts I have written, my discussion of Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky and the speech he gave in honor of my grandfather, which some might see as contradicting my previously stated ethos. Admittedly I received a lot of criticism for that post from people who saw it as a personal attack on Rabbi Kamenetsky. That was not my intention. For one thing this was hardly a full on vitriolic, foaming at the mouth assault. I did not accuse him of being a child molester or of helping child molesters. I did not question his patriotism to this country or his love of the Jewish people and Israel. I even praised him as a good speaker. My only qualm with him was that I thought it was the wrong speech for the audience and it was delivered in a manner that was ill suited to the circumstances. In the end I questioned his ability to be a leader of the entire Jewish people. As far as I am concerned the last part was not even a criticism of him at all. He is the head of the Philadelphia yeshiva, a position he is well qualified for, and he is not trying to be anything else. For that matter I myself am not cut out to be a leader of the entire Jewish people and, while we are at it, I am also not qualified to be an Olympic athlete, an astronaut or the president of the United States. This is not an act of self criticism; it is simply a statement of fact. In the end, the real target of this post was not Rabbi Kamenetsky, but those who would seek to put him on some sort of pedestal and declare him to be the leader of the Jewish people.

In essence this post, like many others, was anti-Haredi. Haredim serve as a Demosthenes for me; they represent an ideology that I can counter. Also there is a personal element. Since I grew up connected to the Haredi world and to a certain extent I still am today, they are a major dialectical opposition. One of the major issues running through my blog is my attempt to answer the question, why am I not Haredi. (I also confront questions such as why am I not a secular materialist or why am I not a modern liberal.) As such it can only be expected that I would be less than supportive of a Haredi rabbi. That being said there is a very big difference between my "attacks" and the kind of attacks on Haredim you will find in DovBear and Failed Messiah. To put what I said in a different context, I treated Rabbi Kamenetsky more gently than I treated J. K. Rowling, Libba Bray and Stephenie Meyer when I felt the need to criticize them. Now all three of these authors are people whose work I actually admire. I see myself as advocating for them. I am an intellectually honest person, though, so I am also willing to call out those who I see as one of “my” people when they mess up. I do not see myself as being on Rabbi Kamenetsky’s side so it makes perfect sense that I would call him on it when he fails at something. At the end of the day, though, I kept my criticism of him at a civil and respectable level. Just because someone is not on your side does not mean that you do not respect him. In fact it is a healthy thing to respect ones opponents. It keeps you intellectually honest.

Here is to the Locke school of blogging. I have been blogging for nearly two years now. I may not have gained much popular traction, but I like to think that I have put out a quality product, albeit one that I am still working to improve on. I have done my best to keep the polemics and ad hominum attacks to a minimum. If nothing else I hope this blog can be something that people of all stripes, even those who may vehemently disagree with me, can read and respect. If anyone wants me to run for world leader, I am busy at the moment, maybe in two or three decades.

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