Readers Respond: Letters from Spring 2012
A NOTE ON LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
We welcome your responses to our articles. Send your letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please remember, however, not to attribute to Tikkun views other than those expressed in our editorials. We email, post, and print many articles with which we have strong disagreements, because that is what makes Tikkun a location for a true diversity of ideas. Tikkun reserves the right to edit your letters to fit available space in the magazine.
ADDICTION AND STRESS
Your two articles on addiction (Tikkun, Fall 2011) were of great value but could have been strengthened by addressing root causes of addictions to chemical substances, sex, gambling, shopping, overwork, and other compulsions. Dr. Gabor Mate’s book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts presents a strong case that many or most addictions stem from the brain’s inability to produce chemicals necessary to react to stress. This inability is closely related to a failure to provide infants with the gentle and long-term nurturing necessary for their brains to develop normally. Lack of nurturing is itself influenced by socioeconomic demands on both parents to work. Child abuse also has a powerful impact on brain development and function.
THOUGHTS ON TWELVE-STEP
Thank you to Nicholas Boeving for his article on addiction (Tikkun, Fall 2011). For me, the idea that addiction is a disease that I could put into remission with the help of a relationship to a Higher Power saved my life. It was an entry point of understanding that I could use to do whatever it took no matter how unsavory the task. At the time, prayer and self-inquiry were extremely unsavory to me. But as years passed, I became dissatisfied with the twelve-step model as it is full of the language of conquest. As I learned about meditation (which could be construed as listening), I became turned off by the idea of prayer (it seemed too simplistic to think that God is some guy in charge who really has time to listen to the pathetic requests of all these “sinners”). Eventually, my search for a means to stay out of addiction in ways congruent with what felt right brought me to some powerful practices, all related to ways of creating a shift in perception, a shift in consciousness.
Browns Valley, CA
Michael Lerner replies:
It is a mistake to seek one single cause for drug addiction or one single solution. But if we did want to prioritize, the first priority should be to create loving and supportive communities that seek to provide material, psychological, and spiritual caring for everyone. This is what Tikkun means when we call for “The Caring Society—caring for each other, caring for the earth.” Short of that, and when faced with the dynamics of the competitive marketplace and the ethos of materialism and selfishness of global capitalism, it’s astounding that more people aren’t addicted to drugs. The call for an end to the addiction to various substitute gratifications like drugs, alcohol, television, money, sex, food, etc., is the call for an end to the conditions that require illusions and substitute gratifications.
THE CHALLENGES OF PEACE
I am a citizen of Israel, a mother of three children, and a nurse by profession. I listened to Rabbi Lerner’s moving words as expressed in the Chicago interfaith conference shared with the Dalai Lama in July 2011. Many people in Israel love all mankind regardless of religion, race, and nationality. All we want is calm and peace. We want to live. It is our basic human right. Unfortunately, my parents, my children, and I have been literally fighting for our existence since we were born. I am of second generation to the Holocaust, in which all my father’s family perished. My mother was born in Jerusalem, from which she was deported during a war that killed her brother. I grew up carrying with me the Holocaust and the scars of countless wars. Today, the reality is that I live in a small country struggling for existence, surrounded by enemies (see the fragile peace with Egypt) who would not acknowledge its existence. I do not know what hatred is. I’m ready now, at this moment, to love the stranger and the neighbor, ready today and right now to conclude a peace treaty with them.
But contrary to my wishes, my son, a young man of twenty, is serving in the army; my daughter of twenty-six is a university student in Be’er Sheva, a city often bombarded from Gaza. I myself live on a kibbutz in northern Israel under continued threat. I have lost many friends in wars, and as things look today (Arab Spring, the threat from Iran, the spread of terrorist organizations and radical Islam), even my grandchildren probably will have to serve in the army, if we survive until then. Nice words are wonderful, especially when you and your loved ones live in the safety of the United States. Love is a divine gift. I practice love every day and every hour. But it is hard to talk about love with someone who does not speak the language of love. It is very difficult to talk peace with someone who does not recognize my own existence. It is hard to talk peace with someone who hates his brothers, not to mention hating me. I know that Islam also has a different way—that of love, compassion, peace, and harmony between humanity and the faith. I am a great admirer of Sufism and its great poet Jalal al-Din Rumi. This branch is condemned by Islam as cufur. I am a great admirer of the Dalai Lama, but I cannot avoid thinking of his people who are oppressed, imprisoned, murdered, and disappeared every day in Tibet. Monks light themselves on fire. Women are being sterilized by force. Despite the love, compassion, and other beautiful words, they have no savior. Most Israelis feel, think, and live like I do, Rabbi Lerner. I hope you will remember these things when you make public speeches with a lot of pretty and lofty words.
Kibbutz Sarid, Israel
Michael Lerner replies:
I also want you to be safe and secure. But that cannot happen as long as Israelis are blind to the history of expulsions of Palestinians, first from their homes inside Israel (1948–49), then from settlement-occupied lands in the West Bank from 1967 to the present. These expulsions are discussed in more detail in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine. You can also read about this history in even greater detail in Benny Morris’s study Righteous Victims and Idit Zertal’s book on the settlements. Unfortunately, the Israeli educational system is as blind to this as the American educational system has been blind to the genocide of Native Americans and the huge suffering caused by slavery and then by segregation.
Sadly, there will be no safety for you or your children until the Israeli public, and all the loving people like you, deeply understand the details of this process of expulsion of Palestinians and then move to rectify this huge injustice. At the moment, there is little motivation for many Israelis to demand that kind of societal re-education. Because I care deeply about Israel, so much so that my son served in Tzanchanim (the combat unit of the Israeli army that is the equivalent of our paratroopers), I cannot cease from calling for a new ethos of love and generosity on both sides.
OUR RELATIONSHIP TO MEDICINE
(A response to Boeving’s article): We seem to have developed an erroneous mindset that mistakes fighting symptoms for curing the cause. In the case of our relationship to “drugs,” the problem is not in the substances or the people who seek benefit from their use, but in the intensive, deceptive marketing of panacea. People thus become conditioned to believe not only that medicines will cure, but that we are dependent upon them, powerless. A more useful paradigm would be to see them not as authoritative, but as tools. We do the work, use our own power to heal, grow stronger, face and overcome our issues and ills. In a great variety of cases, various tools can help us—allies, not tyrannical powers.
Michael Lerner replies:
It is a mistake to seek one single cause for drug addiction or one single solution. But if we did want to prioritize, the first priority should be to create loving and supportive communities that seek to provide material, psychological, and spiritual caring for everyone. This is what Tikkun means when we call for “The Caring Society: Caring for Each Other, Caring for the Earth.” Short of that, and when faced with the dynamics of the competitive marketplace and the ethos of materialism and selfishness of global capitalism, it’s astounding that more people aren’t addicted to drugs (and we’re not really aware of the extent of drug addiction because many of the addictions are now legal and hence not counted). The call for an end to the addiction to various substitute gratifications like drugs, alcohol, television, money, sex, food, etc., is the call for an end to the conditions that require illusions and substitute gratifications.
TIKKUN AND OCCUPY WALL STREET
Your fall editorial almost coincided with the first day of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which I attended, and I couldn’t help thinking that Rabbi Lerner was here in spirit and giving us all that extra little push to get out and manifest our discontent with the status quo. If anything, Michael anticipated the demonstration with his Global Marshall Plan and the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendments, and I kicked myself for not having any copies to give to the people in Zucotti Square, especially two weeks later, when we had at least 15,000 people in Foley Square. Michael Moore gave a great speech by the mouth microphone, and I believe Michael Lerner would have signed up thousands had he been there. It is good to know that the magazine is alive and well and as well edited as always.
The Emunim strategy is reprehensible. The strangle hold on personal rights by the far-right, Orthodox-controlled agency is discriminatory. The treatment of Arab Israelis by the Israeli government is shameful. Still, I wonder, where was the Palestinian cry for a state when Israel was attacked in 1948 and when Jordan controlled the West Bank? Shouldn’t Palestinians’ claim to have a future Muslim state cause them to recognize Israel as a Jewish state? When the Palestinians can say to their own people and to the world that Israel has a right to exist, a path for peace will be opened. It is too easy to blame the Israelis for not trusting the Palestinians to maintain peace when they will not even recognize Israel. Two thousand years of expulsion, massacres, and discrimination makes any people very cautious. Let the supporters of J Street put pressure on the Palestinians to recognize Israel and stop teaching their children that killing Israelis is righteous.
Joseph W. Boston
A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON POLICING
I’m forty-four years old, retired military (multiple branches), and a disabled veteran. I served in the special operations group for close to twenty years. I am on my second marriage, and my wife is a police officer. I have spent much time abroad in many different countries in the Middle East working hand in hand with people some see as the enemy. I say all this so you can understand that I have some firsthand experience and in hopes that you can possibly see that I may have a different perspective to share.
I have read many blogs and articles from Tikkun, but I feel that some lack the full 360-degree perspective; this is one of the main reasons I would like to help, to write or contribute to other writers—to share another view on things. When a story has a 360-degree view from all sides, it makes it an informative article.
One view I have that is somewhat different from many concerns policing. Many in society believe that citizens’ rights are violated in many ways by the police or in other areas such as police brutality and racial profiling. My view is somewhat simple and can radically reduce any of those issues: that is to start policing ourselves so others don’t have to.
While reading a recent article, “A Restorative Circle in the Wake of a Police Shooting,” I couldn’t help but think that a common theme to articles about this subject is in the way of describing the incident. This isn’t the 360-degree perspective and has a few discrepancies that are hard to overlook. These errors make the article as a whole biased and inaccurate and make the reader feel like the writer didn’t commit to the topic.
John T. Williams was walking down the street with a knife, described as small but, either way, visible knife. The fault I find here is that thousands of people walk the streets of Seattle each and every day and I can say that most if not all of them are walking around without a visible knife. Does a carpenter walk down the street with a visible hammer as one of his tools of the trade? No. If self-policed, he might still be alive today.
John T. Williams was likely staggering due to intoxication and drinking in public. Again, something that could have been self-policed, or maybe one of his many friends or family could have expressed something like, “Hey John, I don’t think it’s a good idea, walking around drunk with a knife…”.
John T. Williams wasn’t exactly an upstanding citizen of Seattle and has been arrested by many officers for wielding his knife, making threats to other citizens with his knife, and of course public intoxication. Why wasn’t any of this addressed?
Poor research: The article states, “And a year before, two Seattle police officers were shot and killed while parked in their marked car.” Actually one was killed: Officer Timothy Brenton; the other officer wasn’t hit and actually got out and returned fire on the suspect. This wasn’t the only reason police “were on edge, with a heightened concern about their own vulnerability and well-being.” During the same time period four other officers were killed/executed while having coffee before their shift. If the writer actually researched this full circle, she would have known that.
This article comes from a common perspective and is somewhat single-sided. How about the view from people that are angered by events like this and mad at the people who blame the police?
To come full circle with this, it would be nice not to see people drinking in public or being publicly intoxicated or implying that some are above others in some way, shape, or form.
“Lack of respect shown by many newer officers”: Lack of respect? Really? Last I knew, you had to earn respect; respect is not just given. Did they earn the respect by being functional people in society or are they just assuming that they get respect because they’re American Indians?
The John T. Williams Project: Respectfully, I just have to wonder if this would have happened if he was still alive. Is this just a peace-pipe offering to just settle?
This is just another view. This view in many ways is shared by many here in the greater Seattle area. These views are often not talked about but nevertheless should be addressed.
I have a deep respect for Native Americans that take pride in their Heritage, but the article doesn’t even come close to showing the lack of respect shown not only to the police officers that have had a history of contacts with Williams, but to the citizens of Seattle and to his own tribal heritage.
(To return to the Spring 2012 Table of Contents, click here.)