Politics is the essence of civilization, It's the ideal way to deal with inevitable disagreements. Lots of argument, then voting (either mass electorate or within a governmental forum) and accepting the results.. Until the next opportunity to argue and vote.
Criticism is welcome, and essential.
All this separates the civilized from those of authoritarian cultures who accept rule from above, and the more barbarian of the species who employ deadly violence to deal with disputes.
To be sure, even civilized political animals may have to employ violence against the anti-social, or those who would attack.
And to preserve one's sanity amidst politics, it helps to remain somewhat above, or apart.
Politics is fascinating to watch, offers some fun and other rewards to participants, as well as opportunities to decide who will govern, and what they will do. Yet intensity should be avoided. Taking too seriously one's own posture or those of competitors is the way to a headache or worse.
It's all wrapped up in an expression that I have included in virtually all the courses I have taught about politics and government, "Every day you have to eat some shit."
I recognize that the language will offend some. It has led an editor who regularly publishes my notes to exclude those using such words.
By now, however, with "chickenshit" part of White House discourse, I can hope that my use of an epigram important to the politics of civilized places will pass muster.
The meaning is that we cannot have all that we want in terms of public policy. Some of what governments do, or do not do, limits our opportunities. And there are issues best avoided, even if doing so violates one's sense of what is important and right.
Living the political life requires frequent judgement, and a good deal of subtlety. It's not for idiots.
Current cases in point are, Should Jews (or Christians) be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount? and Should Jews be allowed to live in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem?
My preference is to say yes to both, but to defer for the sake of not provoking neighbors who do not share our culture, and who include among them many who qualify for the label "barbarian."
Don't get me wrong. I work, converse, and enjoy interacting with Muslims who are as civilized as I. I also recognize that some Israeli Jews might not qualify for the label of civilized. Yet there is a cultural border between our communities, defined by the proportions of those on each side, who differ markedly--among other things--in their tolerance for diversity and inclinations to violence.Few of us go over the line to political violence. And most of those inclined to force on domestic matters are the ultra-Orthodox, concerned about Shabbat, pork, graves, women, or other matters not on the majority's agenda. And they tend to go no further than burning garbage bins, yelling curses, and throwing a few stones, with significantly less intensity or skill than shown by Arab stone throwers.
My guess is that if Israeli Jews wanting to pray on the Temple Mount put the issue to a vote, they would lose badly. Among the arguments that would be used against them is opposition to those who would go further and demand the right to build the Third Temple and reestablish the ancient rites of animal sacrifice.
Josephus wrote about 200,000 creatures killed and burned ritually on a typical Passover, producing great quantities of smoke, stink, blood, and water pollution. Imagine the outcry about animal rights and the environment.
Also imagine the response of Muslims.
Among Israel's assets in international politics is the rabid intolerance of Muslims. Arguing against the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount, or the possibility of Jews to live in the State of Palestine does not play well among our civilized friends.
Among those most intense in their opposition to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount are the ultra-Orthodox.
Their concerns are avoiding sacred ground, purity, i.e., no red heifer to purify us Kohanim, and a fear of arousing the goyim.
The historical origins of ultra-Orthodox concern for the goyim may come from Jews' experience with the Romans and then with the Christians of Europe. Now their posture applies to the Muslim neighbors of modern Israel.
Along with the disinterest or opposition of secular Jews and many of the Orthodox, the opposition of the ultra-Orthodox assigns the Temple Mount movement to a shaky place on the fringes of Israeli politics.
An imperfect indication of popular support appeared in the 300 or so people who demonstrated in Jerusalem against the shooting of Yehuda Glick, with Housing Minister Uri Ariel doing his best to promote Jewish prayer and eventually a Temple on the Mount. At about the same time, several thousand gathered in Tel Aviv to mark the 19th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, and to hear Shimon Peres in behalf of peace.
Most likely a considerable majority of Israelis do not identify with either of those demonstrations.
Jews' rights to live in hostile Arab neighborhoods overlaps with Jews' rights to pray on the Temple Mount.
It's a hard to resist a demand for freedom of residence, especially by someone who passed through the era in the US of Gentlemen's Agreements, Restrictive Covenants, and Jewish quotas in higher education.
My own neighborhood of French Hill and my own apartment building has accepted Arab residents with no thought of having to provide them with the security necessary for Jews in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
Acceptance of others is part of tolerating dispute, and other elements of being civilized.
Yet against the right of Jews to live or pray where they will is the recognition of Muslim enmity, as well as the costs of security having to be provided, and the prospects of wider violence.
Jews will argue the points. Prospects are for more Jews in Arab neighborhoods, but no Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount. The combination may lack balance and offend as many as it delights, but that's where our politics have brought us, and where we are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.