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The Limits of Loyalty

Spiritual Stew

The Limits of Loyalty

Honest to goodness, I had started a blog with this title a week before our president recently decided that Jews who voted for Democrats were ‘disloyal.’

I fully understand that political systems, to one extent or another, are built on loyalty. Leaders trust in the loyalty of insiders and supporters to keep things positive and not be constantly criticizing efforts in the public forum. These people support the program of the leader or the movement even if they have a few qualms. They swallow their critiques either for a greater good, or for their own personal interests. As coalitions are built and trust established, people may come to increase their loyalty as they see greater evidence of productivity or personal gain.

As cognitive dissonance increases, it becomes harder to maintain the boundary between the object of our loyalty and our own positions. So especially in today’s political setting, at every point where loyalty is in conflict with other principles we hold, it is important to consider whether this loyalty is worth the compromises or even the lies that are required to remain ‘loyal.’ Some cultures hold loyalty higher than others. Many countries in Africa and eastern Europe, for instance, value personal loyalty to the extent that any criticism of people in your own party is not well tolerated. This kind of loyalty means a pervasive secrecy of true feelings and obviously leads to an ‘us/them’ polarity that makes it difficult to have nuanced discussions about complex things. Like Israeli policies in relation to the Palestinians, for instance.

I feel badly for Republicans (and Israelis) who have had their loyalties marketed for such awful agendas so often lately. We need to remind each other over and over again that loyalty is no excuse for blind unanimity, lack of transparency, or stifling healthy discussions about how we can be better together.

In relation to the slander against 'disloyal' Jews who vote Democratic, even the ADL attacked this, noting that "The charge of disloyalty has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries." It was a base appeal designed to further the divisions between Jews themselves as well as 'loyalists' and people Trump believes are the enemies of Israel and the United States. 

Our country is based on the awe-inspiring notion of democracy that actually values free access to truth; lively, respectful debate; and cherishes the engagement that can produce a better government and richer relationships.  I am loyal to this notion above all.