Lemmings are known for their mass suicide: jumping off cliffs, to die in the sea. Americans are not known for mass or individual suicide.
An Israeli man who was stabbed in the neck has been criticized by Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the Peace Now organization for fighting back and killing his attacker. Given that the alternative for the victim was to let himself be killed, Oppenheimer was effectively advocating a form of assisted suicide. A similar view was held by another great peace advocate. Gandhi said the Jews should have committed national suicide during the holocaust, and simply let themselves be killed.
The lemming mass suicides were dramatic, stirring the hearts of television viewers just twelve years after Gandhi counseled the Jews to follow the same path. Audiences would have been glued to the screen to watch people with yellow stars sewn to their clothes, commit national suicide by willingly stampeding to their deaths.
Suicide at Masada
There is actually a story of mass suicide by Jews at the fortress Masada, but it took place before the advent of transportable recording equipment, approximately two thousand years ago. The best we can do is to re-imagine the story from archaeological remains, and the historical account of Josephus. The television series were reconstructions (in 1981, 2002 and 2015), rather than actual recordings of events, allowing for greater artistic and political license. The heroic story of a thousand men, women and children who committed national suicide rather than surrender to the Romans gripped the imagination of the world, and of the nascent independent Jewish nation.
Stories abound as well about Jewish communities during the Crusades who committed mass suicide rather than submit to the crueler predations of the Crusaders. While the rabbis who permitted this were praised in some quarters, they were roundly criticized in others.
Do such suicides set a precedent? Is the leader of Peace Now following Jewish tradition when he says a victim of terrorism should refrain from fighting back?
The Masada story has been seriously called into question. Yigal Yadin, the lead archaeologist who promoted the heroic tale of national suicide has been accused sacrificing truth for the sake of myth. There are too many questions about interpretation of artifacts, too many archaeological remains that don’t fit the story. While there may have been suicides, they likely did not take the shape or scale of the heroic account promoted by Josephus and Yadin.
Suicide is often a response to stress or depression. But it’s not a Jewish response, especially to life-threatening situations. Josephus, a Romanized Jew, gave a Roman cultural inflection to the story of Masada. The silence of the Sages of the Talmud on an alleged act of national suicide speaks volumes; either they disapproved, or it didn’t take place.
Contemporary Individual Suicide
There are many ways for individual suicide, using a knife, a gun, or a noose. A person can instruct his doctor to give him a lethal dose of medicine, or provoke a policeman into shooting him (“death by cop”). He can climb into a poisonous snake pit, or bring the snakes into his home.
Contemporary National Suicide
There are many ways to commit national suicide. If you weaken the forces that protect a country from its foes, then it’s easier for them to stab its citizens in the neck, whether literally or metaphorically. When the police are prosecuted for protecting citizens, the level of protection will naturally drop. When laws prevent people from defending themselves, the foes of the nation, whether foreigners or citizens, have a free hand. The country becomes the poisonous snake pit.
When a nation is told by its leaders that it is sinful, that it is a source strife around the world, that nation will turn upon itself. The Biblical exhortations of Isaiah are happy children’s stories, compared to the evils impugned by “progressives” on America and the Western world. When the President’s Church Minister says “God Damn America,” you have to wonder if the leader of the free world answered “Amen,” and took upon himself the responsibility of making it happen.
Citizens of America, Canada and the Western world are being told by people such as Yariv Oppenheimer that it’s wrong to defend yourself against someone trying to kill you. The citizens of Cologne, Germany, were told that rape doesn’t matter; better not to offend the perpetrators. Sexual trafficking of children is kept out of the news. And governments, to the chagrin of their populace, bring in more and more “refugees,” whose ethnic or religious group is responsible for most of this crime.
It seems that America, Canada and the Western world are rushing headlong over a cliff, like the lemmings. But it’s not as simple as it seems. The lemmings didn’t willingly jump to their deaths. They were pushed by film crews anxious for a good story.
Americans aren’t metaphorically jumping off cliffs either, clamoring for wholesale immigration of people who want to change the nature of the country. Witness the wild popularity of Donald Trump, Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen. They’ve tapped into national revulsion to filling your home with snakes, many of which are poisonous. Trump et al are considered pariahs or clowns by intellectuals and pundits. Like the lemming film-makers before them, these myth-bearers are also anxious for a good story, or rather a feel-good narrative, and they are willing to push their country off a cliff in order to get it. It’s the same story in many European countries.
Suicide is unnatural, and a bad way to greet the future, and so people are resisting having their nation run off the edge of a cliff. It may not make for a pretty story, but the alternative, killing the character of your country, is much uglier.