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May 08, 2008

Productive aging and unproductive speaking

The Jewish Council for the Aging had its annual dinner last week, honoring Phil Donahue with the "Productive Aging Award."

Now, if you have even a clue about Donahue's career, including the fact (announced by JCA at the link above) that he was "the Executive Producer of Body of War," a documentary about "Tomas Young, a severely disabled Iraq War veteran and his turbulent postwar adjustments," you might think it would be appropriate for a non-political organization to ask the man to keep his speech non-political.

Then again, in the Jewish community, as in so many sectors of the left wing in this country, no one has ever spoken to a person who didn't agree with the whole litany of left-wing dogma. It's the old virtual echo chamber out there.

So Donahue did what any sentient being would have predicted: He used his speech at JCA to deliver a 45-minute tirade against Bush, the war, and today's leadership generally. The news article in the Washington Jewish Week is not online, but here is the key paragraph:

In his remarks, Donahue decried President George W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, blasted those who call war critics and other dissenters unpatriotic, lamented that news media have cut foreign news bureaus, complained that the Jeffersonian ideal of democracy is "running off track" and wondered if today's leadership would support the Bill of Rights.
The article says that Donahue received a standing ovation when presented with the award, but "mild applause" at the end of his tirade (possibly because the people in attendance were impatient for dessert). The article also portentously notes that Donahue "did not mention the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

The other cute little nugget in the article is that Donahue traced his awakening to a 1960s meeting with Noam Chomsky, "who told him, 'Never trust the state.'"

So the question is: Negligence or recklessness on the part of JCA? I vote for the latter. I figure what most likely happened is that they decided to honor Donahue, and no one worried about the politics, because they all are in basic agreement with him. But they probably just didn't expect him to say publicly at the dinner what they all say privately.

From my perspective, as a minor contributor to JCA, there are plenty of organizations out there in need of money that don't give honors to loud-mouthed left-wing fools. And I intend to give the money that I used to give to JCA to one of those organizations.