[Norm told me more than once to my face that, even when it was used ironically, he detested the term “Decent Left”—not least of all for its presumption of moral superiority. It was used in to mock him (and the rest of us) on more than one occasion, but he never to my knowledge used it of himself. Because of that, I’m pretty sure that he would have disliked this article—respectful, admiring and well-written as it is.
As with the other entries in this archive, I have cleaned up the HTML source of the text of this essay for mark-up consistency, typography, semantic tagging, and formatting; but, despite my strong reservations, I have not changed its title or content. I just felt I owed it to Norm to add this note.]
[first published in the The Tower magazine]
Until his final blog post, Norman Geras dedicated his life to showing that you can be a faithful member of the hard Left without submitting to the temptations of anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Semitism.
When I heard the news that blogger, activist, and political philosopher Norman Geras—known affectionately to all of us as “Norm”—had died on October 18, 2013 at the age of 70, the first thing I thought of was, strangely enough, the day of the September 11 attacks. A native New Yorker, I was far from home when the attacks occurred, and I learned of them from a stranger on a quiet train platform in Hungary. Like many Americans overseas, I was promptly stranded for days, trying to find a way to get back to the United States. I made it as far as London, and was made to wait there indefinitely.
To add insult to injury, I had just been robbed. So there I was, living on limited, borrowed funds, barely enough to pay for the use of Internet kiosks and despondent visits to pubs. During one of these visits, I happened upon a large Englishman slumped in front of a pint. He had a tabloid open to a picture of a radical Muslim, who was demonstrating either against the U.S. or in favor of the attacks. I grimaced and felt forced to say, “I’m from New York.” He gestured toward the guy in the picture and, with a look of bovine malice, replied, “Well, I think he’s got a point.”