Tikkun Daily button

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Ferguson: This is what losing democracy looks like

Aug21

by: Michael N. Nagler on August 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Ferguson police and protestors

Police and protestors engage in conflict in Ferguson Credit: Creative Commons/Loavesofbread

Some time back in the early fifties the U.S. Navy conducted an “exercise” to test bacterial warfare…in San Francisco!  They sprayed bacterial agents into the fog over the Bay to “see what would happen.”  Sure enough, some people got sick, and one elderly gentleman died.  When Norman Cousins, editor of the Saturday Review, discovered this through the Freedom of Information Act he wrote a stinging essay in the magazine.He said, “We are outraged, and we should be; but we have to realize that these are the wages of violence.  You cannot authorize a group to go out and defend you with military force and expect that that force will never come home to roost.”

This is the lesson we again seem to not to be learning from the violence – all of it, on both sides – unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.  Yes, what Officer Wilson apparently did on the night of August 9th was outrageous, inexcusable.  I say “apparently’” because at this time controversy and contradictory reports are still swirling and it may be a while before we know – if we ever do – the truth.  But even when we do, and no matter what it is, there is a deeper truth to which the mainstream media will never direct us to, and will, in fact, obscure by their attention to details and particulars of this event as though it occurred in a vacuum.  What I’m thinking of here goes even beyond the racial tensions underlying the scenario of the white officer and black victim.


Read more...

Love Is the Final Fight

Aug21

by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on August 21st, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: Southern Coalition for Social Justice

The first Tuesday in August is National Night Out in neighborhoods across urban America. Roadblocks stop traffic on one block or another as old men roll grills into the street and the young fellas gather for a pick-up game. Grandmas put their lawn chairs out on the sidewalk, and little girls skip rope double Dutch until they fall over on the ground laughing. I love these block parties. They’ve been a staple of summer life in Walltown since before we came here in 2003.

But I didn’t go to National Night Out this year. As much as I wanted to be with my neighbors, I couldn’t stomach the police dancing in the street and slapping high fives for one evening while they patrol Walltown like a militarized zone the other 364 days of the year.

Don’t get me wrong: I like the idea of a National Night Out. Local police partner with communities to “take back the streets” and create safe places for folk to be together. In places where violence has driven folks off their porches and out of the parks, coming together on the block can be a bold act of community building. Indeed, I’ve seen it happen right here.

But any partnership depends on trust, and my young neighbors have been teaching me how difficult it is to trust police culture in our neighborhood today. Beyond the age of thirteen, any young black man in Walltown knows that he is subject to being stopped on the street, asked for identification, frisked and possibly put in hand-cuffs while officers “check things out.” Jamal or Tyrone do not feel any better about this treatment for having seen Officer Brown do the electric slide last week.

Of course, they’re better than me at wearing the mask. They probably went down to the park last Tuesday to catch up with folks and eat a free hot dog.  But I can’t shake this reality that they’ve forced me to see. I can’t, in the words of Jeremiah, say, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.


Read more...

Non-Negotiable Rights

Aug20

by: on August 20th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

gender roles equality

Are men and women really different? Does it even matter? Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Haabet

Have you noticed how easily people fall into passionate disagreement over points that matter far less than the heat they generate might suggest? I see it all the time. Last week my blog shared ideas and observations en route to speaking at the Women’s International Study Center’s inaugural symposium. The Symposium was excellent. Everyone was so smart, thoughtful, and articulate, I thought the building might levitate. But even with that much brainpower in the room, two points of this kind impressed me.

Are women better? Some speakers suggested that equal rights for women were justified by the differences women would make: that surely, women would bring different values and energies to workplaces, institutions, and the halls of power, and that would be a great improvement for everyone. These differences often turn on conventional gender types: women would be more collaborative, less belligerent. They would bring a softness and kindness. They would value relationships more and competition less.

Maybe. Maybe not.


Read more...

Jesus Died With His Hands Up, Too

Aug19

by: on August 19th, 2014 | No Comments »

Rev. Jim Burklo has, for many years, had quite an influence on my spiritual and vocational journey. When I read this most recent of his “musings” I thought it needed to be shared with the Tikkun Daily community. So, with Jim’s permission… read on!

Jesus on the cross

Credit: Creative Commons-Flickr: Waiting For The Word

Michael Brown should not have been shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. His hands were up. He was unarmed. It doesn’t make any difference whether or not he had stolen earlier something that day. If he had committed such a crime, he should have been given appropriate justice, not a volley of bullets. At the time he was shot, there was simply no excuse for what happened to him.

Somebody else had his life stolen from him, too: a man named Jesus, killed for no good reason. Jesus also died with his hands up. He had been ethnically profiled by the Roman occupying army in Jerusalem, and was brutally murdered on a cross.


Read more...

In Memory of Robin Williams

Aug18

by: on August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Robin Williams saw us.

Robin Williams heard us.

Robin Williams paid attention.

Robin Williams

Williams wore both dramatic masks of comedy and tragedy in such a way that hid him from us and revealed us to ourselves. This is what great artists do. Credit: Creative Commons-Flickr: Hot Gossip Italia

Too many of us, myself included, see the Other only to the extent that we do not bump into each other as we move from here to there in the course of our day. Too many of us, myself included, do not want to look too closely at the human condition. And, when we do set a steady gaze on our humanity we too often look with shame and blame. We judge with a false consciousness created by a social and cultural system that undergirds a political economy that allows for and justifies economic inequality and an ideology that some people are just better and more deserving than others. We judge with a judgment that tells us that the pain that other human beings feel, that the tragedy they suffer will not touch us because we are different.

The life and death of Robin Williams show us that we are all vulnerable. Williams wore both dramatic masks of comedy and tragedy in such a way that hid him from us and revealed us to ourselves. This is what great artists do. However, Williams did his work with a virtuosity, brilliance, and purity that will cause that work to last through time.

An actor trained at The Juilliard School, Robin Williams was also a stand-up comedian who brought together a legion of characters to make us laugh and think. He was an improvisational genius, doing comedy on the jazz, and like Charlie Parker, he took an art form to an entirely new level. Many comedians do impressions and most are good at improvisation. The late great Jonathan Winters, a mentor and a friend of Williams, presented a comedic stream of consciousness that could cause one to laugh until it hurt. Williams did the same thing with more characters inside more situations at rapid speed. His carried inside his heart and mind a late 20th century and early 21st century global cast of characters that helped us see that our world truly is a global village.

Read more...

Palestinians Expressing Empathy for & Solidarity with Protesters in Ferguson

Aug18

by: on August 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

The scenes in Ferguson, with unarmed protesters being confronted by militarized police forces, is one Palestinians intimately recognize. Indeed, they even recognize the American-made brand of tear gas being used in Missouri. It’s the same issue Israeli soldiers fire regularly upon unarmed demonstrators in the West Bank, made by CTS in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

teargas2
On the left, an unarmed protester in Ferguson throws a tear gas canister back to St. Louis police.

 

teargas1

 

 

 

On the right, an unarmed protester in the West Bank town of Hebron throws a tear gas canister back to soldiers. Photo via Activestills.

 


Read more...

The Murder of Mike Brown: A Call To Action

Aug15

by: on August 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

The murder of Mike Brown and response by the St. Louis Police Department to nonviolent protestors is emblematic of the persistent racism in our country and disproportionate response to peaceful actions and protests. It was only 13 months ago when a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder for his shooting of Trayvon Martin and here we are again, this time with a police officer shooting an unarmed black man as, according to witnesses, his hands were raised — the officer was not in any danger.

And then the St. Louis police department, a week after the incident, finally announces the name of the officer who killed Mike Brown. Why a week? Well, one can only wonder, but during that week they uncovered a video of an African-American man who robbed a convenience store in the neighborhood and shoved the store owner, possibly laying the foundation for a defense case for the officer. Three witnesses to the shooting of Mike Brown say that he had his hands up when he was shot dead. How dare the police department attempt to justify the killing of an unarmed civilian because he might have stolen a box of cigars earlier that night? Once again the victim is being demonized and the very government that is meant to protect and serve ALL is instead unwilling to champion the victims of classism and racism in America.

Why should anyone be surprised? This is not new — Obama abandoned those who voted for him when he bailed out the banks rather than the individual homeowners who were the victims of the scandal, our Congress does it every time it approves more corporate welfare while cutting welfare for individuals and demonizing recipients at the same time, and it is done every time a woman is asked what she was wearing when she was raped.

Institutional racism and perpetuation of blaming the victim is alive and well in our country and results in the murder of innocent African American men and now free speech and assembly, in protest of that racism, is on the butchering block as well.


Read more...

We, Thee & Me

Aug12

by: on August 12th, 2014 | No Comments »

I’ve been researching women in the arts and culture for a presentation next week at the Women’s International Study Center’s inaugural symposium. There’s ample information online, and it all tells an unsurprising story (if you’ve been keeping your eyes open).

Credit: Creative Commons

There’s more arts work by women out in the world, and also more work that depicts women as objects for others’ pleasure or service. Compared to a few decades ago, there are significantly more women in galleries, museums, orchestras, theaters, and so on, but nothing like a proportional representation of women in the population. At the upper levels of prestige institutional culture, women are scarce: one conducts a major orchestra, a handful head large dance companies and museums, fewer than half as many get museum and upscale gallery shows as men, etc. There’s more activism all the time, with organizations in every cultural sector working on inclusion, representation, and education to even the score. (There’s a good selection of links at WomenArts.)

Perusing the numbers, my mind leaps to a black-and-white conclusion that men, the gatekeepers, keep women out. But a report done a few years ago on gender bias in theater keeps nagging at me. Some of the findings illustrate the logic of entrenched bias. There are more male playwrights and they submit more scripts, so ipso facto, more scripts by men will be produced. To change that, you have to tinker with the supply side as well as the decision-making process: how to get more women to write and submit scripts — that isn’t exactly rocket science. In fact (albeit more gradually than the pace of change I would like to see), more women become active in each cultural field every year.

But the finding that nags me is this; in a blind study of scripts (the same script was submitted to comparable theaters, half under a man’s name, half under a woman’s), women’s plays were ranked lower in terms of quality, economic prospects, and audience response. The thing is the lower rankings were delivered by women. That’s right. Female artistic directors and literary managers ranked the script lower when a woman’s name was attached, while their male counterparts ranked the woman’s script the same as the man’s.


Read more...

Empathy Is Dead in Israel: Effects of a Forever War

Aug8

by: on August 8th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

Israel Defense Forces Gaza border

Israel Defense Forces near the Gaza Border in July Credit: Creative Commons-Flickr Israel Defense Forces

Much has been written about the silencing of anti-war dissent in Israel by a populace almost universally supportive of military action in Gaza. Such support – inspired by feelings of vulnerability amidst rocket fire and informed by the country’s rightward shift – has made speaking out against the violence not just uncomfortable, but dangerous. Not a single anti-war demonstration in the past month has concluded without participants being attacked and beaten by nationalistic counter-protesters.

And yet, while the silencing of anti-war dissent has been a troubling manifestation of Israelis’ support for war, even more troubling has been the societal numbness; the societal disregard for Palestinian suffering which has been manifested in unsettling, and sometimes shocking, ways.

It’s not bombastic to say that empathy is dead in Israel right now from a societal standpoint, a metaphorical casualty of the current violence. Evidence of this isn’t just being seen in statistical polls, but in a seemingly endless stream of incidents. Consider the following three, representative of a real phenomenon few in Israel deny:

  • Israeli soldiers prank called a Gaza hotel, joking about it being bombed.
  • A moment of silence in Jerusalem’s artsy theater for those killed in Gaza is met with shouts of “Shame!” and “You’re raping the audience!

These scenes are just three representing countless such episodes happening online and in everyday life. Of course, they’re not scenes taking place within a vacuum. A conflict is ongoing. Israelis have had to run to bomb shelters with each rocket attack. People are being traumatized by the constant threat of war.


Read more...

Reflections on the War in Gaza

Aug7

by: Shmuel Chesed on August 7th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

A Gaza family stands in wreckage.

Images like this have sometimes made the author think, "You are complicit in the death of the innocent!

“You are complicit in the death of the innocent!”

The images call out to me in a personal way. The image of a young dead child being carried by a man near destroyed buildings. Demonstrators in Spain hold up the palms of their hands that they painted red. The images are directed against the silent – against me – screaming that “the blood of innocent is on your hands!”

But, but, but… I can neither dismiss nor accept, with confidence or certainty, the arguments and justifications of Israel’s killing or fighting and the way it is done. A little voice in my head is asking whether these justifications are in fact valid… In fact when I think of most of my Jewish friends or the people I see at shul, I would be reluctant to voice my deep reservations about the justifications. On the other hand, I feel guilty even repeating them privately to myself. It feels like an act of treachery against my Arab friends. “You are defending the indefensible,” one of them said to me some years ago when I publicly repeated some of those arguments at a session with university students.

I am hurting. I feel depressed and heavy. I feel tired and unmotivated.

Accusation. Justification. Refutation. Accusation. Justification. Refutation. Counter-argument. An exhausting dance inside my head.


Read more...