Escaping the WASP standard

Tim Kearns

Only in America could we have an election where we have to choose one of the Three Stooges for president and Moe isn’t one of them. Gore and Bush have done little to show their leadership to Americans. Gore is Larry, a quiet stooge who occasionally makes a bold statement, then credits himself with the invention of the Internet. Bush is Shemp, a stooge called in to replace a family member who couldn’t have the job anymore. His statements are no more brilliant. When forced to defend the death penalty in Texas, all Bush could muster was he hadn’t knowingly executed anyone innocent. That takes a load off my mind. The two bicker over who is dividing or uniting the country, so our media has become interested in issues that shouldn’t be issues. Take the craze over Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman. While Lieberman was a surprise to the media, the issue is more about his Judaism than his legislative achievements and personal opinions. No wonder no one votes in this country. Like him or not, Lieberman should get more respect than he’s receiving. Every story describes him as “Joseph Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew.” Is this even relevant? Though we have made progress with race relations, gender equality and even in gay and lesbian issues, we’ve left religious tolerance in the past. Articles fill news magazines pondering whether America is ready for a Jewish vice-president, or whether Lieberman’s selection will significantly hurt or improve Al Gore’s chances at the presidency. But why is Judaism such a major issue? Quite simple. The religious right. The religious right seems to have an increasing influence in government, furthering demands for school vouchers, prayer in schools, and last year, in Kansas, even ending the teaching of evolution as fact. While those things might not seem so abhorrent to Christians, in fact, the growing power of the religious right has made it so that religious freedom will be hard to come by if they continue to get their way. Can you really claim to have religion separate from government if publicly funded schools allow time for “personal prayers and reflections”? If they’re going to go that far, there are lots of other things that teenagers would like time for in high school. Perhaps we should grant time for people to smoke or sleep during class. But the religious right continues to increase their influence and move Bush closer and closer to their back pocket. While it’s not uncommon to see interest groups aligning themselves with a candidate or a campaign, it’s a frightening idea to think that the Republican party will simply become the Evangelical wing of the United States of America. In this way, Lieberman becomes a torch bearer, a beacon of light for those hoping to escape the WASP standard which has become pivotal to government. His Judaism represents progress but only if we can begin to look past it. If, for years, we will be reading about Senator Joseph Lieberman and see him described as a Jew, rather than simply a democrat, our progress will have been a joke. We still see a lot of hatred in this country, for a lot of different groups. Certainly different religious groups face this discrimination, but every time the media describes Lieberman as a Jew, it is simple discrimination. After all, in time, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas became something more than African-American Supreme Court justices and John F. Kennedy isn’t always described as America’s only Roman Catholic president. However, in these allegedly understanding times, we should have already moved past Lieberman’s religion and on to the man himself. Democrats should want this to prove that he has had a successful career in the Senate, and Republicans should want to move on to stress Lieberman’s conservative ideals on issues like family values to discredit him to hardline liberals, if any still exist in America. Simply put, it’s time that Lieberman becomes something more than a religious label. It’s time he becomes a public figure of respect. After all, it’s better than having to listen to Larry and Shemp argue.