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Trump: The 2016 Election and the Rise of American Fascism

May5

by: Frederic C. Tubach on May 5th, 2016 | 6 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Tikkun does not and cannot endorse or oppose candidates or political parties. We are actively seeking articles in support of any candidate for the US presidency and from any political party.

“Willst Du nicht mein Bruder sein, so schlag’ ich Dir den Schädel ein (If you don’t want to be my brother, I’ll smash your skull in)”

This Brownshirt slogan reflected the mindset of fanatic Nazi supporters, the street thugs who played an important role in helping Hitler destroy democracy in Germany and replace it with absolute power over a disoriented population. This extraordinary transformation took place within a four-month period between November 1932 and March 5,1933, the date of he last free election in Germany. Anyone who has studied this fateful moment in German history cannot fail to notice the similarities with what is currently happening in the United States.

Presidental candidate Donald Trump. Source: Flickr (Gage Skidmore).

In November 1932 the Nazis did well in the elections, but the traditional democratic parties on the right and left believed Hitler’s effectiveness would be short. After all, they reckoned, people would soon unmask the slogans for what they were – empty phrase-mongering. However, and tragically, the insecurity of the populace increased dramatically after the parliament building was burned down on February 28, 1933. A week later the March 5th election swept the Nazis into power thus ending democracy in Germany. The Germans clamored for a strong man with simple ideas who would empower them and free them from the victimhood that would be forced upon them by Soviet communism from the outside and from ineffective party babble on the inside.

American fascism is on the rise under the Trump banner. At first glance this claim may seem exaggerated, because there are no visible swastikas and no head-bashing armed storm troopers, and Trump uses none of Hitler’s hyperventilating antics. But what Trump and Hitler have in common is their approach to politics, which is/was radically new and geared to contemporary problems and uncertainties. The newness in both cases gave these two fascist movements added power at the onset.

The similarity between the two movements is striking when it comes to dealing with those who do not agree with them: dissenters are not just wrong, they are unpatriotic. This kind of fascist patriotism is most effective when expressed through collective action. Three examples will illustrate what I mean.

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Wrestling with God: Church Shootings and Gay Wedding Cakes

Apr15

by: Reverend Max Lynn on April 15th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Transcribed from the sermon preached July 12, 2015
Scripture Readings: Genesis 32:22-32, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1865 painting by Alexander Louis Leloir)

The story of Jacob’s wrestling match with God falls between the stories of Jacob’s tricking his brother Esau out of his inheritance and their reconciliation. You may remember that Jacob, the younger son, conspired with his mother to trick his father into giving him both the first born birthright and blessing. Gypped twice by his brother, Esau was fuming, and promised to kill his brother after his father died. Now Esau did alright for himself despite Jacob and is coming with an army. Jacob, hoping for forgiveness and reconciliation, sends out a sequence of offerings to soften his brother’s anger.

Awaiting the actual meeting with his brother, Jacob is camped along a river. As it becomes night, Jacob runs into a man who seems to be the guardian of the river crossing. They wrestle all night. Eventually, Jacob decides this guy is related to the divine and asks for a blessing. Jacob won’t give up so the guy injures Jacobs’s groin. But Jacob still won’t give up and demands a blessing. Finally, the guy blesses Jacob with the new name Israel, because he has struggled with God face to face.

If all goes according the convention in the culture, Jacob is not someone who gets to be primary protagonist in scripture. “Bless me, make me a cake,” he might say, and his father would say, “no, that is not the way it goes. You don’t get the blessing. The established order says your brother gets the blessing.” On the one hand Jacob is a bit of a snake. On the other hand, who came up with the conventional order anyway? This bucking of the conventional culture is going to reverberate in the story of David, the young brother who makes his way from musician to giant killer and then king. This theme runs through scripture: don’t give up, be faithful to God, wrestle with him enough, and you just may get a blessing.

The other night I went over to St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church to hear Cornel West. Now one might be tempted to look at the ongoing struggle of the African American Community and just say, the heck with God. Certainly more and more people have decided God is not making much of a difference. God is not preventing racist lunatics from shooting down church folks. God has not ended racism. God has not ended poverty and violence and discrimination. Meanwhile Central America is turning into a present day Sodom and Gomorrah, where society is disintegrating before the raw violence, corruption and disrespect of human life to such a degree one might be tempted to just erase everything and start over.

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All Real Living Is Meeting

Dec2

by: Matthew Gindin on December 2nd, 2015 | Comments Off

All real living is meeting.- Martin Buber

As is so often the case, the events of the last weeks and their questions resonated with the parshayot (torah readings). How should we relate to the other that we fear? Who are our fellow travellers? Where is God in the tortured conflicts of our time?

In the Bible portion Vayetze Jacob leaves Be’er Sheva in the Holy Land and goes north to Haran. The Hasidic commentator the Sfas Emes points out that this symbolizes the soul leaving behind the well (be’er) of Shabbat (sheva) to go into the materiality of the world- from the place of p’nimiyut (internal spirit) to the place of gashmiyut (worldliness). In parshat Vayishlach, last week’s portion, Jacob is returning to the Holy Land and therefore to the place of p’nimiyut, which besides internality can also paradoxically mean the Face (panim). Jacob will descend into his own depths and emerge to a confrontation with the face of the Other.

“And Jacob was left alone (levado)”(Genesis 32:25). The Midrash says, “Jacob was left alone (levado)”- this is like the aloneness of the Holy One who pervades all the universe (Genesis Rabbah, 77:1)”. How is Jacob’s aloneness like the aloneness of God?

The Holy One’s aloneness is described as ein od milvado -there is nothing besides Him alone (Devarim 4:35). On one level Jacob is in a place of great aloneness where he must rely on his own resources (Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dynov, Igre de-Kala, quoted by Rav Itamar Eldar). This is one way in which his aloneness is like the Holy One’s- it is an aloneness of self-sufficiency. Further R’ Tzvi Elimelech and others connect this verse to another one from Isaiah: “And human haughtiness will be humbled and people’s pride be brought low, YHWH alone ( levado) will be exalted on that day (Isaiah 2:17)” Here Jacob lets go of pride and self and thus attains to an “aloneness with the alone”. Jacob’s aloneness is one where he comes into an unmediated meeting with the Divine presence, as taught by the Shem Mi-Shmuel (Vayishlach 1878). This last type of aloneness is a seclusion even from ideas of self and other, past and future. Jacob enters into a deep stillness where he transcends stories about himself and his brother. Jacob is alone, but not in the sense of isolation. In this aloneness his consciousness becomes unrestricted, and it is in this sense that his awareness “pervades all the universe like the Holy One”.

It is from this ultimate place that the Other can be met completely, free from the cage of concepts based on the past. Here transformation of our attitude to the other can really occur, even if we only glimpse this state briefly. Without it, change tends to be more superficial.

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The Reign of Absurdiocy by Uri Avnery

Nov27

by: on November 27th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

There is no such thing as “international terrorism”. To declare war on “international terrorism” is nonsense. Politicians who do so are either fools or cynics, and probably both. Terrorism is a weapon. Like cannon. We would laugh at somebody who declares war on “international artillery”. A cannon belongs to an army, and serves the aims of that army. The cannon of one side fire against the cannon of the other. Terrorism is a method of operation. It is often used by oppressed peoples, including the French Resistance to the Nazis in WW II. We would laugh at anyone who declared war on “international resistance”.

Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian military thinker, famously said that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”. If he had lived with us today, he might have said: “Terrorism is a continuation of policy by other means.” Terrorism means, literally, to frighten the victims into surrendering to the will of the terrorist. Terrorism is a weapon. Generally it is the weapon of the weak. Of those who have no atom bombs, like the ones which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which terrorized the Japanese into surrender. Or the aircraft which destroyed Dresden in the (vain) attempt to frighten the Germans into giving up.

Since most of the groups and countries using terrorism have different aims, often contradicting each other, there is nothing “international” about it. Each terrorist campaign has a character of its own. Not to mention the fact that nobody considers himself (or herself) a terrorist, but rather a fighter for God, Freedom or Whatever. (I cannot restrain myself from boasting that long ago I invented the formula: “One man’s terrorist is the other man’s freedom fighter”.)

MANY ORDINARY Israelis felt deep satisfaction after the Paris events. “Now those bloody Europeans feel for once what we feel all the time!”

Binyamin Netanyahu, a diminutive thinker but a brilliant salesman, has hit on the idea of inventing a direct link between jihadist terrorism in Europe and Palestinian terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories.

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A Hindu Call to Action in Fighting Climate Change

Nov25

by: Murali Balaji on November 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s Note: A version of this piece first appeared on the Huffington Post.

At the end of this month, leaders from around the globe will convene in Paris for the latest round of talks to combat climate change and global warming.

For the first time, Hindu teachings will take a prominent role in this effort, as a growing coalition of Hindu organizations, leaders, and interfaith allies are ramping up efforts to protect Matru Bhumi through the Bhumi Devi ki Jai! A Hindu Declaration on Climate Change.

The declaration, first signed six years ago, is now back on the frontlines as the majority of world leaders are finally acknowledging the reality of climate change and the urgency of fighting it.

The declaration, authored by the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies and the Bhumi Project, with support from the Hindu American Foundation, is a call to action for the world’s approximately 900 million Hindus to take the lead in combating global warming. As Hindu leaders note, the effort highlights the natural leadership of Hindu scriptures in calling for action.

The declaration, in part, reads:

“Today, with the 2015 Paris Climate Conference nearly upon us, members of the global Hindu community again urge strong, meaningful action be taken, at both the international and national level, to slow and prevent climate change. Such action must be scientifically credible and historically fair, based on deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through a transition away from polluting technologies, especially away from fossil fuels. A transition towards using 100-percent clean energy is desperately needed, as rapidly as is possible in every nation. Doing so provides the only basis for sustainable, continued human development. It is the best hope for the billions of people without electricity or clean cooking facilities to live better lives and reduce poverty.”


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Life in Kabul Goes on Under the Helicopters

Nov12

by: Brian Terrell on November 12th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

When I arrived at the Kabul International Airport on November 4, I was unaware that the same day the New York Times published an article, “Life Pulls Back in Afghan Capital, as Danger Rises and Troops Recede.” My friends Abdulhai and Ali, 17 years old, young men I have known since my first visit five years ago, greeted me with smiles and hugs and took my bags. Disregarded by soldiers and police armed with automatic weapons, we caught up on old times as we walked past concrete blast walls, sand bag fortifications, check points and razor wire to the public road and hailed a cab.

The sun was just burning through the clouds after an early morning rain and I had never seen Kabul look so bright and clean. Once past the airport, the high way into the city was bustling with rush hour traffic and commerce. I was unaware until I read the New York Times on line a few days later, that this time I was one of only a few US citizens likely to be on that road. “The American Embassy’s not allowed to move by road anymore,” a senior Western official told the Times, which reported further that “after 14 years of war, of training the Afghan Army and the police, it has become too dangerous to drive the mile and a half from the airport to the embassy.”

Credit: Brian Terrell

Helicopters now ferry employees working with the United States and the international military coalition to and from offices in Kabul we are told. The United States Embassy in Kabul is one of the largest in the world and already a largely self-contained community, its personnel are now even more isolated from Afghan people and institutions than before. “No one else,” other than US and coalition facilities, the Times reports, “has a compound with a landing pad.” While proclaiming its mission there “Operation Resolute Support” for Afghanistan, US officials no longer travel on Afghan streets.

We have no helicopters or landing pads, but the security situation in Kabul is also a concern for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a grass roots peace and human rights organization that I work with and for our friends in the Kabul-based Afghan Peace Volunteers that I came to visit. I am fortunate with my grey beard and darker complexion to more easily pass for a local and so I can move about a bit more freely on the streets than some other internationals who visit here. Even then, my young friends have me wear a turban when we leave the house.


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Jay Janson on Veterans Day

Nov11

by: Jay Janson on November 11th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Editor’s Note: In sharing articles in Tikkun, we often print articles with which we don’t agree to make Tikkun a lively forum for ideas​. This article ​is a classic case. Though Jay Janson has a very strong point in critiquing the way that veterans lives have been sacrificed to serve the imperial goals of America’s elites (as has been true for veterans in almost every war in history as people died to serve their own country’s elites), it is not true when thinking about the veterans who served the North in the Civil War nor those who fought the Second World War. War is almost always wrong, but many​ those who fought them have often been motivated by goals quite different from the goals of those who instigated the wars.

We at Tikkun want to see an end to all wars, but we don’t want to negate the decency and even idealism of many who have fought in these wars, an idealism that has often been manipulated by unscrupulous leaders like, in the case of the U.S., Presidents Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Bush, and perhaps Obama also (in his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq), and by advisors like Henry Kissinger and Vice President Cheney, and the list could go on and on on. Of course, it makes sense to emphasize that soldiers engaged in human rights abuses during those wars also do not deserve to be honored, as for example the Nazis, Stalin’s Soviet armies in the 2nd world war, and some U.S. soldiers in Vietnam and Iraq, not to mention that role of the School of the Americas in training South and Central American soldiers and police in torture techniques (and that School still persists at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA).

Indeed, we do not deny that there is something fundamentally evil about every war-and the untold abuses of others that almost always accompany every battle and every army. We want to see them all ended, right now.

​ And individual soldiers have some responsibility to make determinations for themselves about whether the war they are being asked to serve in has any moral legitimacy. I sent my draft card back to my draft board in 1968 and told them that if they drafted me I’d use the opportunity to organize my fellow soldiers against the Vietnam war. Certainly in the present period in the US, Veterans Day would be a good time to HONOR THE REFUSENIKS WHO Would NOT SERVE IN AMERICA’s IMPERIAL WARS. The Quebec Chapter of the NSP–Nework of Spiritual Progressives under the leadership of former American war resister Isaac Romano has made support for resistors an important part of their activities.

So Jay Janson’s point deserves a lot of public attention, but won’t get it because it doesn’t include these kinds of more nuanced reflections. Yet in its outrage at war, and its constant reminder that we should not celebrate all veterans but only those who did not consciously aid in manipulating us into wars and did not engage in activities like those in Guantanamo and the dozens of other torture centers run by the U.S. military and intelligence forces around the world, Janson has an important point that should be discussed by everyone on Veterans Day. And we should insist that the best way to honor Veterans and all they went through is to end all wars starting NOW.

-Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun


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The End of Harper’s Canadian Civil Religion

Nov10

by: Ed Simon on November 10th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party’s overwhelming sweep in the Canadian national elections on October 19 was more than just voters’ repudiation of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party, but it was also a rejection of the strange version of Canadian civil religion the former Prime Minister was attempting to construct. Harper is from oil-rich Alberta and in his nine years as leader of Canada promoted policies that seemed more at home in the Republican Party of the United States than in socially and economically liberal Canada. An evangelical Christian, Harper symbolically placed the origins and future of the country with a mythic North while arguing for an increasingly jingoistic military. With the increasingly melting ice in the Arctic revealing previously inaccessible mineral wealth as well as a navigable Northwest Passage, Harper had tried to position Canada competitively against other national claimants in the region. Part of that center piece was (some might say cynically) rediscovering Canada’s origins as a “Northern Country.” In a way, Harper’s orientation of Canada towards the “North” wasn’t dissimilar in intent and tone to the United States’ mythologizing of the “West,” and similar economic, military, and political motivations underlay both. As the former prime minister had said, “Canada’s Arctic is central to our identity as a northern nation: It is part of our history and it represents the tremendous potential of our future.”


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Islamic Environmentalism

Nov8

by: Stephen Wollaston on November 8th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

Editor’s Note: This piece was adapted from the author’s book, entitled “Pathways of Green Wisdom: Discovering Earth Centred Teachings in Spiritual and Religious Traditions,” published by Greenspirit: http://www.greenspirit.org.uk/

For all Muslims, the whole of Earth, which has been entrusted to humans by God to protect and preserve, is seen as a divine gift and blessing from God. Earth itself is looked upon as an expression of beauty. Beauty being an attribute of God, and ‘the beautiful’ being one of God’s ninety-nine divine names in Islam. In the book Sufi Light, Ahmad Javid points out that, “The universe reflects the stunning beauty of its supreme Creator and displays His qualities constantly in every moment … Not only [do] all things come from God but in a way they also manifest God”.

In an essay on Islam, humankind and Nature, Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz informs us that, “As we learn about nature, it becomes abundantly clear that the entirety of nature is an integrated whole”. The Qur’an itself mentions both environmental and cosmic harmony created by God, how the sun and moon, plants and trees all submit to God’s design and balance. (55:5-9). Because of such mystical insights it can be seen that the whole Earth offers profound and constant opportunities for Muslims to be aware of God’s presence. A famous passage in the Qur’an in fact tells us that God is closer than our jugular vein (50:16).

 

Environmentalism

 

The Qur’an calls for all Muslims to “walk humbly on the earth” and promote “peace” to “the foolish” (25:63). From an Islamic perspective, because God has created all things and species, all forms of life ultimately need to be cherished and preserved. The Qur’anic saying advocating “no compulsion in religion” (2:256) reminds Islam’s followers and others that the Muslim tradition, in its purest form, is about unity, harmony, peace-making actions and nonviolence, which applies not only to humans but to the world at large. The idea of unity (tawhid) in particular, which is traditionally seen to be about God’s oneness, Muslim environmentalists also consider to be about all-inclusiveness, Richard C Foltz informs us.

Verses from the Qur’an also invite Muslims to “remember God’s blessings” (7:74), to “not corrupt the earth after it has been set right” (7:55), and to “not seek to spread corruption in the land” (28:77). Although some may interpret these passages to be only concerned with blessings God has bestowed on humans and human justice and nonviolence, it is accepted amongst green conscious Muslims that they can be expanded to include wider issues of environmental awareness, care, corruption and damage. In his masterful collection of teachings Spiritual Gems of Islam, Imam Jamal Rahman beautifully expresses the fact that, “Once we have begun to see ourselves as manifestations of the Creator, the next step along the spiritual path is to view our fellow beings with the same compassionate eyes”.

Foltz also informs us how, “It is often argued by Muslim environmentalists today that the Islamic legal tradition (sharia), in both its Sunni and Shi’i variants, if applied to the letter, contain adequate restrictions to ensure a use of natural resources that is both sustainable and just”. In the excellent book Green Dean, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin mentions how mosques themselves, as centres of religious community, are perfect places for promoting and being examples of green awareness, such as considering how much energy is used to light and heat mosques, and using better alternatives to plastic and paper cups and plates for any mosque based activities. At the holy mosques of Medina and Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the water used for ritual bathing (wudu) is recycled. In India, some mosques have huge tanks/pools for large crowds to use for ritual ablutions for the purpose of saving and reusing water.

Living at a time when people would have naturally recycled, the Prophet Mohammed himself would have wasted little. According to his wife Aisha, he recycled things when they could be fixed and repaired his own shoes and mended his own clothes, even though he would have had people around him who could have done these things for him.

 

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Despite Promises from de Blasio, Surveillance of Muslim Communities Continues

Nov6

by: Jews Against Islamophobia on November 6th, 2015 | Comments Off

Jews Against Islamophobia (JAI) and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) are outraged to learn that the NYPD has continued to spy on the Muslim community and calls on the Mayor and City to put a halt to this discriminatory practice immediately. Despite Mayor de Blasio’s statement when he took office that it is unfair for law enforcement to single out people on the basis of their religion, the Gothamist reported that an undercover NYPD officer had been spying on a group of Muslim students at Brooklyn College as late as December 2014, eight months after he took office.

Pretending to have converted to Islam, the undercover NYPD officer spied for four years on women from the Brooklyn College Islamic Society solely because they are Muslim. Such surveillance undermines civil liberties and injures the people and community being targeted.

In 2011/2012, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press series documented that the NYPD had engaged in a far-reaching surveillance program that burrowed deep into the lives and institutions of New York-area Muslim communities. Informants were placed in mosques, Muslim student organizations, and Muslim-owned bookstores, businesses, and cafes. Some infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses at six branches of the City University of New York, as well as at colleges outside the City.


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