There are many disturbing elements to the unfolding economic crisis. The credit crunch, the decline in the value of retirement savings and the possibility of further suffering to come are enough to depress the most-determined of optimists.
But, just as troubling, is the buzz about a resurgence of anti-Semitism among Internet bloggers and message-board posters blaming the country's troubles on the Jews. The Anti-Defamation League issued a report last week that warned that "age-old canards about Jews and money are always just beneath the surface."
In the tradition of the fraudulent anti-Semitic tract Protocols of the Elders of Zion, any downturn in the economy will always bring out comments that attempt to link Jews with financial crises. And in today's Internet culture, in which any fool can post messages, no matter how vile, on the Web sites of respectable publications, such lies can be spread more easily than in the past.
But before we jump to conclusions about a change in the way Americans view Jews, we should all take a deep breath.
As doleful as the news on the business pages may be, this is not 1929. Nor is it 1938. Anti-Semitism has long since been confined to the fever swamps of the far right and the far left in this country. Though it may continue to simmer there, the notion that a recession will bring hate into the mainstream is entirely unfounded.
If there is a danger of a rise in anti-Semitism, it comes from the Arab and Muslim world, which has embraced traditional Jew-hatred, as well as anti-Zionism, as a crutch to explain their own society's failures. It is this lethal threat that we should worry about, not the unlikely prospect that Wall Street doldrums will transform the United States into a rerun of Weimar Germany.
Some economic analysts continue to urge us to have faith in the markets, which they think will inevitably rise just as they have fallen. We don't know what the economic future will bring, though we hope that advice is true.
What we do know for sure is that, even in hard times, we must have faith in America. Our republic and the values of liberty for which it stands remain strong, no matter what the Dow Jones Index reads.