Perhaps we all can agree that 2008 was kind of a mixed bag. Amazing signs of renewal mixed with devastating news throughout the eventful year. Generally, the AJW retrospective of the past year occurs just prior to Rosh Hashana; but this week we will partake of the journalistic convention of looking back on the Gregorian calendar year that was, 2008.
Really, there’s nothing wrong at any time with reflecting on what has happened in our livesÂ —Â in our community and in the larger world – and doing teshuva, making necessary course corrections.
It was a year of some Jews behaving badlyÂ —Â Agriprocessors’ former CEO Sholom Rubashkin, financial scammer Bernard Madoff, et al. — and our community will be reckoning with the fallout from these scandals. The Middle East seems headed for a new round of turmoil, as Hamas ends its cease-fire with Israel and the Iranian regime continues its quest to attain nuclear weapons.
This year also will be remembered for the Wall Street financial meltdown, which was long in the making but gained velocity with the collapse of Bear Stearns in March. As U.S. home prices declined, the market for mortgage-backed securities took down supposedly reputable outfits, including Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia and Lehmann Brothers. The Bush administration and the Federal Reserve, fearing that the entire credit system would seize up, engineered a massive bailout of financial institutions, pouring tens of billions of dollars into insurance giant AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and others.
The unpopular Iraq War, and the mounting economic crisis, created widespread interest in the U.S. elections. The amazing, decisive victory by Barack Obama in the presidential election electrified America and the world. Of course, the incoming Obama administration will have an overflowing platter of issues to tackle in the coming years.
The election season also put the Twin Cities in the spotlight, as the Republican National Convention convened in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. Inside the convention hall, Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin were sent forth to joust with the Democrats. In the downtown streets, 3,500 cops from Minnesota and across the country, many in head-to-toe riot gear, fired liberal quantities of tear gas, pepper spray and incendiaries at mostly peaceful anti-RNC protesters. More than 800 people were arrested during the four-day convention.
Like the lingering economic woes, the prosecution of RNC protesters will continue in the coming year. At this juncture, I would like to thank the many Jewish World readers who have expressed concern about the situation of my son, Max, whom I wrote about at length in a Sept. 12 editorial (“First they came for the anarchists”).
For our family, life changed on Aug. 30, when a heavily armed SWAT team raided Max’s house in south Minneapolis. Max was not home when the raid took place, but was arrested on Sept. 1, Labor Day, and charged with a felony under the Minnesota version of the USA Patriot Act. Max, 19, and his seven co-defendantsÂ —Â the “RNC 8″Â —Â are now charged with “conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism,” and three other felony charges. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner apparently intends to bring this case to trial in the fall of 2009.
As you might expect, defending my son and his co-defendants against these serious, and seriously far-fetched, felony charges is a time-consuming and expensive proposition. If you would like to examine the issue of political repression further, or contribute money to the legal defense fund, you can do both online at: rnc8.org.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
— Mordecai Specktor
From the American Jewish World, Dec. 26, 2008