By Jan Creaser
When U.S. Presidential candidate and current Vice-president Al Gore named Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, Internet sites all over the country exploded with anti-semitic sentiments. Apparently, the only religion that flies in the States is Protestant Christianity. I say this because many harken this week’s "daring" move by Gore to the hubbub that surrounded John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith.
However, appointing an Orthodox Jew as one’s running mate should not be considered daring, but perfectly acceptable. Instead, American citizens should ask why it didn’t happen sooner and, while they’re at it, maybe they should ask, "why not a woman, a black, a Native American, a Hispanic, a Muslim?"
The reason it’s considered daring is because many right-wing Americans have a long history of spouting outdated morals and values to the detriment of every other group living inside and outside U.S. borders. It’s not only religion that’s a problem, it’s anything that smacks of minority groups finally gaining a foothold in American politics.
That said, some Americans need to get on with the business of educating themselves about their local and global community. As well, a focus on health care, civil rights and a way of thinking that doesn’t address anyone who’s not a white male Christian as "the other guy" would be a nice start.
The vice-president’s religion, like the president’s, shouldn’t matter when it comes to policy decisions; Americans should no more care that George W. Bush is a devout Christian than they should that Lieberman is Jewish. And when it comes to the Democratic Party, whose policies profess to defend the often-shunned minority groups in the U.S., the fact the vice-president might be Jewish shouldn’t matter either.
We all know politics is a dirty business and that it’s not often easy to separate one’s own beliefs from conflicting beliefs that reflect the best interest of one’s country and its people. However, ultimately it would be hoped that any politician–Christian, Jewish, atheist or otherwise, and particularly those associated with the Democratic Party–would critically analyze policy decisions based on the needs of all the people they serve.
This idea should be clear in a country that preserves the separation of state and church in its constitution. And, contrary to what some media pundits would have you believe, the religious right is not dramatically resurfacing in the U.S. After all, why else would Bush use democratic rhetoric during his acceptance speech as the Republican Party presidential candidate? Because he knows what many others know and what many others should learn quickly: religion doesn’t belong in the public arena.
What Joseph Lieberman will bring to the White House is a wealth of experience and his democratic perspective about the diversity of the country he wants to help run. His religion is only an issue if, as a secondary function, it helps break down the vicious stereotypes hurled at the Jewish community and other minority groups in the U.S.