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Are you ready for a radical way to become much more politically effective?

Feb23

by: on February 23rd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Primary Votign

We all know that sending your congressional representative a letter is more effective than an email, and that a phone call is more effective than a letter. We all seem to get that. The Tea Party has shown that there is an even more effective approach – show up in person in large groups at town hall events or other public meetings with your representatives to voice your opinions vigorously and ask them some tough questions. If they fail to schedule public meetings, show up at their offices (but be kind to the staff people that you meet there, you want them on your side). We’re starting to do that, and that’s great.

But the Tea Party has shown that there is an even more effective tactic than this (and this is where things get radical) -

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Going on the Offensive: A State-Based Strategy for the Democratic Party

Feb22

by: on February 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »

Although Tikkun does not endorse candidates or political parties, we here send out editor-at-large Peter Gabel’s imaginative article on how the Democratic Party can regain the idealistic ground to begin to set the agenda for a progressive politics, instead of remaining restricted to a defensive posture in response to the agenda being set by Donald Trump.

This article originally appeared on Truth-out.org.

Having lost control of the White House, Congress and probably the Supreme Court, the Democrats appear consigned to a defensive, resistance-based role in the coming years. But this is only true in the federal arena. By thinking imaginatively about how to channel their very substantial support within many of the nation’s largest states into collective political action, the Democrats may actually be able to go on the offensive in presenting and carrying out a socially progressive, idealistic agenda in a way that they have not been able to do for decades in the gridlock of Washington politics.


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Broken Hearts Bring Hope

Feb21

by: Susan Bloch on February 21st, 2017 | 3 Comments »

When a Seattle mosque was burned down, an unlikely alliance of kids gathered outside to support those who had lost their place of worship. Holding signs that said, “We Stand with our Muslim Neighbors,” were kids with yarmulkes, hijabs, and others wearing golden cross earrings. These kids later came together at a Kids4Peace and Muslim Association of the Puget Sound-AMEN Conference, united in their fight against Islamophobia. They were here to learn the power of advocacy in the media.

Making sure her hijab was securely pinned in place, twelve-year-old Sabreen Tuku, a 14-year old American, Muslim-Ethiopian girl, stepped up to the podium, her voice unsteady. “I have a dream,” she began. “I dream that one day every person, no matter their ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation, will be treated respectfully. One day, I want to walk down the street and not have to fear . . . only feel love and acceptance.”


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Loving America and Resisting Trump – The New Patriotism

Feb16

by: Frida Berrigan on February 16th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

Editor’s Note:  From the start of Tikkun magazine close to 31 years ago, we’ve been trying to convince people on the Left that we should be embracing and celebrating all that is good in the U.S. even as we critique what is not. Lets understand its appeal both in the U.S. and around the world as a compensation for what is so hurtful in the global impact of capitalist consciousness. The center of capitalist ideology is its self-justifactory fantasy that the system is based on a meritocracy, so that those who are making it are successful solely because they deserve that success.

  • The hurtful consequence is that most people who haven’t “made it” are taught that this is their own fault–and that causes great deal of pain for a large swath of people who end up blaming themselves, not understanding that it is the whole class structure that guarantees that only a small section of people will ever move up the class ladder. No wonder that they turn to right wing forms of  religion and nationalism, because in those communities they are accepted as valuable just because they are a creation of God (in the religious world) or as a member of nation x, y or z (in the world of nationalism).
  • That desire to be valued just for who they are and NOT because of what they accomplish in the competitive marketplace is a fully legitimate desire. That’s one very good reason why liberals and progressives need to take up and build a progressive patriotism that simultaneously rejects the “America first” forms of nationalism with their racist and chauvinist elements.
  • Every year we at Tikkun send out a scrpt for a progressive July 4th celebration of America that affirms the good while acknowledging all that deserves to be ruthlessly critiqued–the genocide of Native Americans and the continuing racist legacy of slavery and the suppression of the rights of women, gays and lesbians, and the manipulation of nationalism to undermine the struggle for equality, social and economic justice, and environmental sustainability.
  • But unless we do that and other public embraces of what is good in America even as we critique what is not, Trumpism or other variants of a fascistic nationalism are likely to grow here just as variants of fascistic nationalism are growing all around the world!
  • If you think there is something important in the analysis presented above, please post it on your Facebook or other social media, on your own website. Don’t wallow in despair at the latest horrors of the Trump presidency– how about bringing your friends together for an evening or weekend brunch or afternoon to talk about this article and about our strategy to overcome Trumpism which you can send to them beforehand–read it at www.tikkun.org/strategy.  Please encourage your friends to join our NSP–  Network of Spiritual Progressives and support Tikkun and to sign up for our online training for spiritual activism in the age of, ugh, Trump at www.tikkun.org/strategy. At the very least you could up your level of support for Tikkun or the NSP (how about giving us a dollar a day? Never say “I didn’t know what to do in those dark days” because joining our efforts in the ways we are proposing in our strategy and in our training are precisely the things that everybody could do–and we are putting that right in front of you!!!

Rabbi Michael Lerner   rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

The article below appeared first in TomDispatch.com, our media ally. 

So reality has inexorably, inescapably penetrated my life.  It didn’t take long. Yes, Donald Trump is actually the president of the United States. In that guise, in just his first weeks in office, he’s already declared war on language, on loving, on people who are different from him — on the kind of world, in short, that I want to live in. He’s promised to erect high walls, keep some people in and others out and lock up those he despises, while threatening to torture and abuse with impunity.


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Trump, Netanyahu, and a Roadmap for Disaster

Feb14

by: Rebecca Vilkomerson on February 14th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, we can look to Israel as an alarming roadmap for where the Trump administration would like to take the United States. The two leaders, who share a similar worldview, will likely compare notes on building walls and banning people due to nationality and religion, and discuss their hawkish policies on Iran, expanding illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Its recent mild criticism of settlements notwithstanding, the Trump administration has demonstrated a disturbing alignment with the far-right in the Israeli government and settler movement that is encouraging Israel to further cement its occupation and a de facto one-state reality with separate and unequal policies for Jews and Palestinians. In other words, apartheid. Israel may be a few years ahead of the U.S., but the “shared values” of racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia are increasingly manifest here too.

Standing outside Terminal 4 at JFK the morning after Trump’s executive order barring refugees and Muslim immigrants – with hundreds, and then thousands, of people protesting, I thought about my recent trip to Israel. Israel already has its own walls and restrictive, anti-refugee and anti-Muslim immigration policies, and I have plenty of Palestinian and Muslim friends who have been turned away when they try to enter. But I sailed through border control without even a question due to my Jewish identity and Israeli family. Israel employs a discriminatory immigration system that encourages Jewish immigration from around the world while preventing Palestinian refugees, who it expelled, from returning to their homeland. Israel also has laws denying entry to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, and takes a hard line against asylum seekers. In short, all the policies that have inspired protests not seen in a generation in the U.S. have already been in place in Israel for decades.


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Movement of the US Embassy to Jerusalem

Feb13

by: Maya Haber and Larry Lerner on February 13th, 2017 | 5 Comments »

MEMO TO PRESIDENT TRUMP AND PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU

THERE’S A REASON WHY EVERY PRESIDENT SINCE JOHN F. KENNEDY HAS NOT MOVED THE US EMBASSSY TO JERUSALEM AND EIGHTY FOUR COUNTRIES HAVE THEIR EMBASSIES IN TEL AVIV AND NONE ARE IN JERUSALEM

The facts of the matter:

The Fourth Geneva Convention (1948) prohibits countries from annexing territories conquered in war. The UN Security Councils there ruled that the annexation of East Jerusalem ws illegal under international law and are not recognized by the international community. This is in response to WWII where Germany conquered countries and made them part of greater Germany. Russia also wanted to make countries such as the Baltics and Crimea part of Russia.

The international community regards Jerusalem as a city whose final status willl be determined in direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.. Both sides want Jerusalem as their capitol.

Three main reasons to oppose moving the embassy to Jerusalem.


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Impeachment as a Moral Referendum

Feb9

by: Brooks Berndt on February 9th, 2017 | 6 Comments »

While I have been heartened to see articles in the  New York Times  and elsewhere about religious leaders issuing statements against Trump’s executive orders, the continued barrage of blows from the new administration has made the tactical state of the “resistance” seem like handwringing in the face of a pugilist. It begs the question of how to escalate the response of faith communities to a level of greater efficacy. The high levels of opposition in the general public to the current administration has opened up conversations about courses of action that – with the right organizing – could potentially shift from “totally-hard-to-imagine” to “maybe possible” to “very-much-doable.” Among those courses of action, impeachment is the one that is currently building the public sentiment necessary to move along this continuum of potentiality.

Before beginning a discussion of impeachment, however, consider another course of action that has been discussed. The inspiring work stoppage by taxi drivers at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in response to Trump’s immigration ban immediately evokes the potential power of workers. Could workers and their faith allies organize on a larger scale to inflict an economic cost that damages the corporate underpinnings of the Trump administration? Jonathan Rosenblum’s  analysis of unions in the Trump era  suggests that the current state of many unions is not ready for this at the moment. Add to this the unlikelihood of those of us outside of unions participating in a general strike anytime soon.


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Craven, Contemptible, Political Hackery

Feb8

by: on February 8th, 2017 | 5 Comments »

craven: having or showing a complete lack of courage

contemptible: not worthy of respect or approval

political: involving, concerned with, or accused of acts against a government

hack: a person who works solely for mercenary reasons

–ery: the practice of

–Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Let us be clear. When Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority in the United States Senate voted to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren as she attempted to read from a document that had been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and kept out of the Senate record, they showed their true colors as craven, contemptible, political hacks. Under the cover of Senate Rule 19, using the same tortured, twisted hermeneutical logic that led him to think he and his party were not acting against the US Constitution when they stole a nomination to the Supreme Court under President Obama, McConnell trashed the first amendment to the Bill of Rights on the Senate floor.

Fortunately, this nonsense only had authority on the Senate floor, and Senator Warren was able to continue to read a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 by Coretta Scott King in opposition to the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship. If it is true that past is prologue, the concern then, as if is now, was that Sessions would not uphold voting rights for all citizens of the United States.

Coretta Scott King said in her letter:

“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
In a written statement to the Judiciary Committee, King testified to “politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions” on the part of Sessions and “. . . indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws.”

Unfortunately, her words still resonate in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act with a number of states instituting laws that make it more difficult for citizens to vote, especially minorities, the poor, and the elderly. The current president of the United States has made unfounded claims of voter fraud that only feeds the myth that widespread voter fraud exists and that laws that actually restrict legal voting are necessary.

King wrote of the importance of the Voting Rights Act to our democracy:
“The Voting Rights Act was, and still is, vitally important to the future of democracy in the United States.” She wrote about voter intimidation and Sessions’ participation in it:

“The actions taken by Mr. Sessions in regard to the 1984 voting fraud prosecutions represent just one more technique used to intimidate Black voters and thus deny them this most precious franchise.”

She wrote of the long way we as a nation have to go “before we can say that minorities no longer need be concerned about discrimination at the polls.” She says further:

“Blacks, Hispanics, Native American, and Asian Americans are grossly underrepresented at every level of government in America. If we are going to make our timeless dream of justice through democracy a reality, we must take every possible step to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution is honored.”

More than thirty years ago, then chair of the judiciary committee, Strom Thurmond, wanted to keep Coretta Scott King’s words out of the Senate record. In February, 2017, Mitch McConnell tried and failed to do the same thing. After he silenced Senator Warren, some of her male Democratic colleagues completed the reading. He did not silence them. In the end, Coretta Scott King’s words were heard.

Political pundits are reading this event within the context of presidential politics. Are the Democrats still angry about the outcome of the 2016 election? Is this the first step by Senator Warren on the road to a presidential run in 2020? Neither of these questions gets to the heart of the matter.

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Amona is the Brazen Face of the Occupation

Feb7

by: Maya Haber on February 7th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

The Israeli police have finally moved to evict the forty families residing in the illegal Amona outpost. Anticipating the police operation, some rabbis called on the public to converge on Amona and resist. As a result, police arrived to face hundreds of mostly teenage settlers. A real battle erupted as the young settlers fortified their positions, poured oil on the main settlement road, burned tires, hurled rocks, shoved and cursed police, and barricaded themselves in houses. The police had to forcibly drag settlers from their homes, kicking and screaming while several Knesset members offered the settlers support. The entire melee was broadcast live on Israeli television. Settler teenagers have wounded over 60 police officers with stones and acid.

The occupation creates a topsy-turvy system where settlers have the power to invert legal hierarchies. Religious zealots commit violence, dispossess innocents and subvert the democratic state since they, not the state, exercise authority.

Palestinians, on the other hand, are not just thrust into a separate legal system administered by the IDF. This system places Palestinians into a juridical labyrinth that reinforces subservience not simply through punishment but also via procedural dysphoria.


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Mary Tyler Moore, the Hollywood Reds, and the Rise of Social Television

Feb6

by: Paul Buhle on February 6th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke looking to the left. I was not watching much television at the high point of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but I should have suspected something when some of my good friends, TV watchers and veterans of the Women’s Liberation Movement, mourned its passing in 1977 and perhaps even more, the early cancellation of the spin-off, Rhoda, a seemingly Jewish career woman’s saga, a year later. As recalled in the last few days by the death of the MTM star, the show and the persona obviously bolstered the vision of millions of women entering the job market determined to achieve and not to be treated as mere subordinates.

By sheer coincidence, in the early 1990s, I found myself getting the story of the Hollywood Blacklistees (most of them writers, and a large majority of them Jewish) through personal interviews of old timers, an effort filled out by looking at their work, film and television, as much as I could. Lots of surprises met me, like the lead co-writer of the best Abbott and Costello films ending up a valued scriptwriter for Lassie,Flipper, and Daktari, or another blacklisted writer who had few credits in film but more in radio and then television, shaping The Danny Thomas Show behind assorted fictional names. Or what I now think of as non-surprises, learning that my two favorite shows, as a kid, You Are There and The Adventures of Robin Hood respectively, had been largely written by mostly Jewish Reds on the run from the FBI and the blacklisters. The Mary Tyler Moore Show turns out to be a curiously connected story, destined to be central to a large phase of television history.

Things were happening, which is to say another generation of TV viewers had come to be seen as the new consumers, by 1960. As the Kennedy Era opened, there was a growing sense that social themes largely vanished after TV production had moved from New York to Los Angeles – and shifted in theme from live drama to omnipresent Westerns – were going to be more popular again. Sharp constraints on many topical themes remained firm, but a very few interracial dramas now crept in, along with the occasional dramatic shows starring women. These efforts made little headway. Then came The Dick Van Dyke Show or rather, Head of the Family, opening to small viewership in the Summer 1960 season.

Here’s the backstory: seasoned comedian Carl Reiner, who later titled his memoir Paul Robeson Saved My Life, was called in by producer Sheldon Leonard, another friend in the vicinity of the Hollywood Old Left in film and radio during the salad days of the 1940s. Reiner had written a somewhat successful Broadway play (later a small film) about the life of a television scriptwriter, based loosely upon his own life, and recast the material once more for television, offering audiences something uniquely urban and Jewish-inflected. Head of the Family, as a sort of insiders’ comedy, attracted interest among the critics, but was no hit. Now comes the decisive turn.

Sheldon Leonard, then best remembered for playing film mobsters, set up a new production company, with partners Reiner, Danny Thomas, and TV personality Dick Van Dyke, for a show closer to the tested-and-tried, stage-and-film Neil Simon formula (status anxiety, big city daily life, etc.) than anything tried so far on the small screen. The lead would be Dick Van Dyke and established television comedienne Mary Tyler Moore, with the veteran Jewish comedian Morey Amsterdam now as a supporting or rather, shpritzing scriptwriter.

Reiner and Leonard needed a new head writer. They called in an old and trusted friend: blacklistee Frank Tarloff, my (much later) interviewee, who had abandoned Danny Thomas and television at large for a breather, writing films in Britain. It was a marriage made in heaven, arguably even better than fictional Robbie and Laura. The Dick Van Dyke Show, whose stars had matching JFK and Jackie-style hairdos,added to the emerging sitcom formula innovative camera techniques, giving even the live studio audience the feel of watching something like a movie being made in front of them. It was a movie of the bright and funny, complicated personalities, somehow “Jewish” even when genetically Gentile, in the entertainment-writing world. Walter Bernstein, one of those writers on other shows, captured it perfectly again in The Front, a film made possible by Woody Allen, a youngster who knew the aging crowd of Jewish funny men very well. The ambience of The Dick Van Dyke Show was so charming, TV critic-historian David Marc quipped, rewriting the famous mordant phrase of Theodor Adorno,that “If there can be no poetry after Auschwitz, at least there can be New Rochelle,” the not-quite-Manhattan locus.

The magnetism of the stars and supporting cast also had another side that began to fulfill one of the blacklisted-and-persecuted Hollywood Old Left’s long-standing aspirations. Office, elevator and crowd scenes had African American actors, seen not in the standard TV menial roles like maids or butlers or performers in variety show acts,but as one more anonymous set of office-going professionals. Otherwise on the show, “Social Rules” as understood in 1950s American life were to be kidded continuously and in settings unfamiliar in various ways – without ever going too far. Dick Van Dyke got bar mitzvah lessons in one episode; in another, the happy couple, awarded at a banquet for their contributions to interracial progress, accidentally dip their hands in black dye and confront monumental embarrassment before the crowd of over-earnest, interracial liberals.

The Dick Van Dyke Show was a monumental hit (1961-66) and the spin-offs destined to be yet more memorable. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1971-77), yet stronger in character-driven humor, notoriously offered Mary as the independent career woman seeking something more important to her than catching a man, although definitely still given to embarrassing laugh-moments. As the associate producer of a television station in Minneapolis, she counted. Her bosom-buddy Rhoda, most definitely Jewish and at least as independent-minded, got her own show, albeit short-lived. And something else happened.

Lou Grant (1977-82), with lefty Ed Asner reprising his role as Mary’s boss but in the toughened status as journalistic muckraker and all-too-obviously Jewish radical, was arguably the first dramatic show to take on America’s imperial crimes, along other calculated crimes and disorders in high places. Red-baited continuously, Asner was as much as chased from the air, although he had his revenge in leading the Screen Actors Guild and serving as a burr in the saddle of the CIA-linked AFL-CIO leadership of the age. By that time, M*A*S*H, had long since spun off from a film co-written by Ring Lardner, Jr., one of the most famous of the blacklisted screenwriters, and was well on its way to becoming both the most watched (through residuals) and most peacenik series in television history. For that matter, Norman Lear’s comedies, All in the Family, the definitely Jewish Maud, and others – made possible by the quiet participation of blacklisted writers and their friends, had firmly established what might be called “social television” if never “socialist television,” once and for all. No surprise, Lear himself also had a long history with the Hollywood (Jewish) Left. Hello Roseanne and The Simpsons among many others to come, and for that matter Saturday Night Live, a while back: there was an audience for this stuff.

Mary Tyler Moore, the actress, had done her work. After MTM, she receded gradually from public life, despite films, television, and a campaign for public health attention to diabetes (from which she herself suffered, for decades). The big moment had passed for the creative team of writers and producers who had come of age just before or during the Second World War, with the vitality of the Popular Front all around them. Like the blacklisted screenwriters and directors, active in dozens of more and less memorable films under the blacklist and after, the aging stars who had known them so well continued on where they could, as long as they could.

Critics who snarled at television have always dismissed these social moments in popular entertainment as irrelevant or worse, good-tasting lures to the unwary liberal viewer. One of the stranger Cold War liberal tropes, familiar in the writings of Arthur Schlesinger Jr., among others, merged the alleged Communist conspiracy with the commercial-culture conspiracy, perhaps conspiring together to poison the prospects for “real culture” among the masses, as rock music allegedly ruined the taste for classical music. We hear less from the Snob Party these days, but they are always likely to return, generally reaffirming the virtues of liberal democracy American-style, also hawkish and empire-style, in a world of barbarisms. Those of us who have always enjoyed “a good show,” meanwhile, nurture warm memories about Mary Tyler Moore and the shifts in mass media that her work helped bring about.

Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner’s Hide in Plain Sight, a sequel to their Radical Hollywood, offers the details on the saga of the blacklisted Hollywood Left after 1950.

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Paul Buhle, the thirteen-year-old of 1957 who wanted to be a science fiction writer when he grew up, but became a historian and comics editor instead.

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