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Joan Rivers Was No Gay Icon: An Open Letter to the Gay Community

Sep15

by: Nicholas Boeving on September 15th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/David Shankbone

Icon. We throw the word around, but do we really know what it means? It found its way into the English language from the original Greek word used for likeness or image (eikṓn). In other words, icons are reflections of what a given group of people hold to be sacred. Given the recent passage of Joan Rivers, and the bewailment of her death as the loss of a great gay icon, I think it’s time to have a frank discussion of just what it is we DO hold sacred in the gay community…and why. We do not ask ourselves this question often enough.

Some have expressed bewilderment as to why Joan Rivers even attained the status of “icon” in the gay community in the first place. To understand this, you must first understand, psychologically speaking, some of the purpose(s) humor serves. Both Plato and Aristotle (yes, they did agree on some things) say that we laugh at the wretched, the fat, the miserable and poor because it asserts our own superiority. Sound familiar? Thought so. Going further, psychiatrist George Eman Vaillant categorized humor as a specialized defense mechanism; in other words, some things are too painful to confront or too terrible to talk about so we just deflect against them.

But let us ask ourselves: just what is it that we’re defending against?


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The name of the Goddess

Sep15

by: Genevieve Vaughan on September 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons/torbakhopper

The escalation towards war is continuing, the media is beating the drum and tension is increasing every day. In the Middle East the new enemy is ISIS. When I first heard the term I thought of the great Egyptian Mother Goddess of that name. Did this terminology mean that the US would soon be fighting against the Mother Goddess? In a way this is true. Wars are always patriarchal; men against men, and mothers always suffer. All their years of love and work are gone in the flash of a gun or a bomb. The Goddess is discredited and disempowered by war.


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Lauren Szabo Finds Art Out Of The Mundane

Sep10

by: Olivia Wise on September 10th, 2014 | No Comments »

Olivia Wise conducted the following interview with Lauren Szabo to inquire about her experimental and esoteric artwork.

Prompted by childhood memories of LA fires and earthquakes, you have been painting scenes of deconstruction for over ten years. Could you start by talking some about what “deconstruction” means for you, and how you define it?

Deconstruction is urban decay. It is when man-made construction is in a state of decomposition. It is a subject in which its materials are returning to an organic state. The subjects are man’s invention intercepted nature’s hand. Deconstructing subjects illustrate the concept of time and its life cycle.

What sustains your ongoing interest in deconstruction?

I follow my gut and try to remain honest about what moves me. I cannot tame what inspires me, and I am constantly finding subject matter that inspires me to paint. When I find my subjects I am hit with intense interest, intuition, and passion. I have often thought the series would end, but instead I feel it is evolving.


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A Real Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

Sep10

by: Sigfried Gold on September 10th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

meditation

Prayer without belief in a supernatural listener is not the same as meditation, but is it worth the extra effort you'd need to bring to it as a non-believer? Credit: Creative Commons/Sebastien Wiertz

Sam Harris has just published Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion (Simon & Schuster, 2014), and for those of us who care about such things, a call to spirituality from one of the New Atheism’s four horsemen is a cause for rejoicing. This book, however, does not quite deliver on its promise. In a review I wrote for Skeptic I discuss some problems with Harris’s argument and approach. Here, though, I want to describe the book I wish Harris had written, a book that could really serve as a guide to spirituality without religion for readers skeptical as to why they should be interested in spirituality at all but willing to consider it seriously and maybe even to give it a try.

Spiritual Experience, Spiritual Practice, Spiritual Wisdom, Spiritual Community

A guide to spirituality without religion should give a broad account of what spirituality is and why people do it, without, of course, relying on the metaphysical assumptions of religions. So, sure, you can be spiritual because that’s what God commands or that’s the way to escape suffering in future incarnations; but in terms of this life, referencing nothing beyond the material, psychological and social realities of this world, where does spirituality fit in?

What needs to be resisted here is any single idea of what spirituality is for and how it’s done. We can do it for the earthshaking transcendent experiences we luck into once in a while, we can do it to give our lives a sense of purpose, we can do it to get through a rough patch, we can do it because we need a rest and zoning out with our eyes closed chanting a mantra is probably healthier than zoning out in front of the television, we can do it to explore and strengthen our ethical commitments, we can do it to deepen our connections with and compassion for other people or other creatures.

And the ways we can do it are legion: we can meditate or engage in less formal types of contemplation or reflection, we can pray, we can sing, we can consult spiritual leaders or any kind of trusted adviser, we can commune with nature, we can intentionally try to infuse everyday activities with serenity or love or awareness, we can light incense or candles, we can read things that might inspire us, we can engage in charity or social justice work, we can participate in rituals alone or with others.

What a guide to spirituality without religion should offer, though, is not just a broad account of all the various forms of spirituality, but some discussion of the particular challenges involved in practicing these for people who are unwilling to accept the tenets of any particular religion. For instance, can you pray if you don’t believe any otherworldly being is listening to you? You can, but you may have to think about it in a different way than people usually think about prayer. Prayer without belief in a supernatural listener is not the same as meditation, but is it worth the extra effort you’d need to bring to it as a non-believer?


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The Deportation Strategy

Sep9

by: La Opinión on September 9th, 2014 | No Comments »

President Obama immigration reform

Credit: Creative Commons/NBC News

Crossposted from New American Media

President Obama’s decision to put off any executive action on immigration until after the November elections, write editors of La Opinión, reflectsa victory by nativist Republicans in politicizing the immigration debate and shows that in Washington, undocumented immigrants are seen as expendable. Atthis point, editors write, it is hard to believe that there will be any executive action after the election.

In the end, it is another promise followed by disappointment that will cost about 70,000 deportations, and that is in the best of cases. That’s if the new deadline is met for President Obama to take executive action on immigration to ease deportationsafter the legislative elections.

The rationale for the new delay is explained as an action to prevent politicizing the issue prior to the November elections. Unfortunately, it is too late to fulfill that objective.

The decision’s delay by the White House is already a Republican victory in politicizing the immigration issue. The Democratic president who last June assured the public that by the end of the summer he would adopt “recommendations without further delay” in what would be an executive order on immigration, yesterday announced through anonymous sources that there would be yet another delay.


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Behaving Like Jews

Sep3

by: Melissa Weininger on September 3rd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

I am going to behave like a Jew
and touch his face, and stare into his eyes,
and pull him off the road.
-Gerald Stern, “Behaving Like a Jew”

It’s been almost a month since a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. In the wake of the shooting, residents of Ferguson concerned about police brutality and racism turned out in the streets to protest peacefully, and were met with tanks, riot gear, and tear gas. A small number of people were involved in either looting local businesses or throwing bottles and other small-scale weaponry, which was used to justify the police crackdown. Journalists, local politicians, and scores of people doing nothing but exercising a constitutionally protected right to free assembly were arrested and harassed.

During this period of unrest, my Facebook newsfeed was full of outrage and despair. But very little of that passion was directed at Ferguson. Instead, it was largely about Operation Protective Edge, in Gaza. Every day I was greeted with scores of articles defending Israel’s right to defend itself, justifying the scale of force in Gaza, and reporting on both rocket fire and tunnels dug by Hamas into Israeli territory. To be fair, however, I also saw numerous articles reporting on peace demonstrations, critiquing the scale of Israeli response to rocket fire, and mourning the loss of life on both sides.

Though this is merely anecdotal, it seems fairly representative of the institutional American Jewish response to events in Ferguson. While individual rabbis and Jewish leaders have called attention to and even protested against the violence in Missouri, and many articles, including those in Tikkun, have argued strongly for a Jewish ethical obligation to the Ferguson protestors, major, mainstream Jewish organizations have been largely silent. The Anti-Defamation League offers a lesson plan for talking about Ferguson with students on its website, but its only official statement is a denunciation of the presence of the New Black Panther Party at the Ferguson protests. Of the mainstream American Jewish religious movements, only the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism issued a press release regarding the violence in Ferguson.


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What to Do About ISIS

Sep3

by: David Swanson on September 3rd, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Tikkun seeks to present a range of views that you wouldn’t hear in the mainstream media, without necessarily endorsing those perspectives. Please remember that Tikkun‘s own position is articulated only in our editorials.

In my view, the important article by David Swanson that I’m sharing below may be underestimating the venality and murderous nature of the ISIS coalition that he describes. Unlike Hamas and unlike the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ISIS appears to have genocidal intent toward Christians and Shia Muslims (and possibly also toward Sunnis who don’t share their perspective and almost certainly toward Jews).

On the other hand, I know that I don’t know who they really are or even what they are really doing. I’ve read enough lies about previous run-up to wars in the Western media to know not to believe anything I read, but only to consider that the media’s account is one possible way of viewing the reality.

I also know that the gruesome accounts of murders committed by ISIS are shocking to a U.S. audience in part because the far greater number of people killed by the U.S. interventions in the Middle East, South East Asia, Central and South America have never been presented in an honest way to the American people. Most of us have not heard the gruesome details or stories of the families that have lost loved ones as a result of U.S. military and CIA actions.

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Empathy Workshops in Oregon

Sep3

by: Tikkun Admin on September 3rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Rabbi Michael Lerner will be the keynote speaker on Sunday evening, Sept. 7th in Ashland Oregon at the Awards Dinner held by the Peace House. You can purchase tickets here or by calling 541-482-9625.

Rabbi Michael Lerner and Cat Zavis, executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and empathic communication trainer and mediator will co-lead two separate workshops, Sept. 7th and 8th. Both workshops will be held at the Peace House at 345 S. Mountain Avenue, Ashland, Oregon.

Sunday, Sept. 7th from 2:00-5:00pm, Rabbi Lerner and Cat Zavis will co-lead a workshop called: Grieving for Israel and Palestine: a training on how empathy can become a path to Middle East peace. The cost for this workshop is $20.00.

In this 3-hour workshop, you will learn techniques to deal with your distress, rage, and upset about the situation in Israel and Palestine and also have opportunities to learn and practice skills for hearing those who don’t agree with you and expressing yourself more effectively. You will leave feeling empowered to engage in healthy discourse, even with those with whom you disagree.

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6 Reasons that Debunk the Myth of Islam Promoting Hatred of Jews and Christians

Sep2

by: Ro Waseem on September 2nd, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Amidst the tragic situation in Palestine these days, a few Muslims seem to have found a way to express their anger and frustration. No, not by constructively doing anything about it, but by bashing Jews and hailing Hitler as a hero! Wrongly equating the actions of the Israeli government with Judaism, they continue generalizing approximately 15 million Jews – painting them all with the same brush!

A few days earlier, as I was browsing through my Facebook news feed, I came across this meme praising Hitler for killing Jews, with the hashtag #Hitlerwasright:

Hitler meme

Exasperated as I was, I tried to maintain my composure and calmly responded to this individual that there are many Jews who condemn the actions of the Israeli government, much like us Muslims who condemn the actions of Jihadist terrorist groups, and so it is naïve to generalize all Jews based on the situation in Palestine. Without taking a minute, he responded back to me quoting the Quranic verse that “asks Muslims not to be friends with Jews”, justifying his bigotry through the Quran!

Checkmate? Probably, if I hadn’t known better!


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What Ella Baker Taught Us About Ferguson And Gaza

Aug26

by: Dorothy M. Zellner on August 26th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Ella Baker

"In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed."-- Ella Baker Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

In late June I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, for the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer, where some 1,000 of us met after decades and celebrated the heroism of young volunteers and local African Americans who struggled and died for the right to vote. We talked about the way forward to eradicate still-existing racism in the country and we called the names of all our dead, a list of men, women and children whom the nation has never mourned.

As a recruiter for Freedom Summer and staff member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) fifty years ago, I had the honor of being approached by several volunteers whom I had helped select and who told me that going to Mississippi that faraway summer had forever changed their lives.

What propelled me into the civil rights movement in the first place as a young woman was the exhortation I had received from my secular Jewish progressive parents: that it is unethical to stand idly by while people are oppressed and suffering. What SNCC taught me was that I needed to act in my own community. It took me some time to put all of this together but finally, eleven years ago, I went to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for the first time. Based on what I saw with my own eyes and the anguish I felt in my own heart I became a Jewish activist against Israeli governmental policies of injustice and inequality.


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