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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Whatever Happened to Student Power?

Jul30

by: Raanan Geberer on July 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

Picture of a high school classroom.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Schplook.

What will the high school of the future be like? Different. It will surely be freer; students will be more independent. High school students of today haven’t reached any peak of possible maturity. The students of tomorrow will be more mature than we are. Just as administrations have already become more liberal about dress codes, so tomorrow they will become more liberal about studies. And `formal education’ will become less formal.

These words from the anthology “Our Time Is Now,” circa 1970, edited by John Birmingham, call attention to a part of history that is all but forgotten: the student power movement in American high schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The stereotype is that all the action as far as demonstrations were concerned took place in the universities, and that if it did spread to high schools, those younger students were copying their elders. Another stereotype is that students were mainly protesting the “big” issues, like civil rights and the war in Vietnam.

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My Last Day of Sunday School

Jul29

by: Rachel Ida Buff on July 29th, 2015 | 21 Comments »

It was the last day of my career teaching religious school at Congregation Eretz Yisrael, but I didn’t know it yet.

Jewish schoolchildren with signs in Hebrew around their necks.

Credit: Creative Commons / surlygirl.

When I arrived at my classroom that morning, two Israeli teenagers, a young man and woman, were standing outside my room, looking uncertain. I recognized them as the shin-shinim: Israeli students who come to the United States after high school, delaying their entry into the Israel Defense Forces for a year. Under the aegis of the Jewish Agency for Israel, these young people act as cultural ambassadors, linking American Jewish communities to Israel.

I took a deep breath and forced a smile. “Are you coming to my class?” I asked.

The young man, strongly built with close cropped hair, nodded affirmatively. The young woman smiled hesitantly, flicking a hank of long, curly hair behind her. The shin-shinim come in pairs, invariably a young man and woman. I wondered for a second why this is, whether they are supposed to represent the possible procreation of the nation of Israel, before suppressing a sigh and inviting them in. I imagined my careful lesson plan flying out the window of our basement classroom.

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60th Anniversary Of Russell-Einstein Manifesto Now Reinforced By Climate Change and Teilhard’s Warning

Jul27

by: on July 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

"Notice to the World...renounce war or perish!...world peace or universal death". Sixty years after Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell issued their manifesto about the growing threat of world war, the globe continues to face the prospect of nuclear annihilation coupled with the looming threat of climate change as well as Teilhard’s ominous warning: Love one another or you will perish: Allen L Roland, PhD.

“We have reached a decisive point in human evolution, at which the only way forward is in the direction of a common passion- Either we must doubt the value of everything around us, or we must utterly believe in the possibility, and I would add, in the inevitable consequences of universal love.” Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy.

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The Noncontroversial Essence, Part 2: Unpacking and Transcending Worldviews

Jul27

by: on July 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

My new teacher desk

"My New Teacher Desk

Carla (not her real name) works in an organization that brings violence prevention programs to schools. She described her challenge in bringing the program to a particular school where she sees a clash of worldviews. This is an alternative school with values of inclusion, equality, and such, and yet many in the faculty tend towards a more authority-based worldview. She was wondering how it might be possible to get differing worldviews to move in the same direction together. Would a needs-based approach be sufficient?

In thinking about Carla’s school, I told her I would not be focusing on worldviews, because to do so separates and polarizes. I would, instead, be looking for what’s really important to all, regardless of what paradigm they live in. I call this the “noncontroversial essence.” In my last post I wrote about how I facilitated opponents to reach a solution to a decade-long acrimonious legislative dispute by first establishing what they held to be the noncontroversial principles on which they could agree.

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Uri Avnery and Jeffrey Sachs on the Iranian Nuclear Deal

Jul23

by: on July 23rd, 2015 | 9 Comments »

Editor’s note:

Avnery is sage in his analysis, but too much into big-power-politics thinking for comfort. As a result he underplays the role of ideology, and understates the evil deeds of the Iranian mullahs against their own people. Some people respond to the balance of power argument, then, by saying that Iran is more serious about ideology and hence might be willing to do a first strike on Israel even if that did lead to their own destruction. But here we agree more with Avnery–it is precisely because of their ideology that makes them want to remain the society that brings Islam to the world. To be the advocate for a growing Islam, rather than its grave-digger, a Muslim Iran has to avoid being wiped out by a second retaliatory strike by Israel should the Iranians use the nuclear weapons they will likely eventually acquire in ten or twenty years. It is only as a second retaliatory strike that the Iranians would need an atom bomb to use against Israel or the U.S., GOD FORBID, and that is not an unreasonable desire on their part, though we hope they never get such a weapon and we hope that neither Israel nor the U.S. ever engage in a first nuclear strike against Iran or any other country.

Best scenario is for a worldwide disarmament of all nuclear weapons with the same kind of strict guidelines this deal imposes on Iran (including disarming the US, China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, etc.). Short of achieving global nuclear disarmament, the most likely outcome in the next few decades is Mutual Assured Destruction, the strategy that kept the crazies who ran the U.S. and Communist Russia from using nuclear war against each other. In postponing the development of a nuclear weapon, the treaty now going before Congress deserves our support, because it might postpone an American/Israeli attack on Iran that would be even more disastrous than the Iraq war proved to be hopefully it will be the prelude to a new era in which the people of Iran can non-violently replace the mullahs with a more human-rights respecting regime that might even make peace with Israel once Israel ends its occupation of the West Bank and acts in a spirit of generosity toward the Palestinian people. But since Israel is unlikely in the coming years to do that, the best we can hope for is a balance of power, and this agreement is a hopeful move toward that end.

That will mean, sometime in the next twenty to thirty years, Iran will have a nuclear weapon that will keep Israel or the US from attacking it–a sad prospect, but probably the likely outcome whether or not there was a nuclear deal with Iran unless the US was really ready to invade Iran and fight a ground war that would be far less easy to win than the war with Iraq, and far more likely to spur global wars and domestic terrorism far more dangerous than the balance of power between Iran and Israel that Iran’s eventual nuclearization would produce. What a MAD world–yet this is what will likely happen unless the West really takes a whole new path toward generosity, peace, and nuclear disarmament.

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

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Sweet Blossoms out the Crater: A Review of Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

bodymap book

With all the celebrations of gay same-ness after the Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage, I am grateful for Leah Laskhmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s filthy gorgeous poems, which remind us how queer desires still have the power to fuck shit up. The poems in her collection Bodymap demonstrate how queer desires–for each other, for ourselves, for something different – can provide a roadmap for moving toward freedom.

Reading so many poems about raw, dirty, queer crip sex made me think about Yasmin Nair’s recent argument that radical sex does not always translate into radical politics. While I agree that we can’t assume that any particular kind of sex is necessarily revolutionary (don’t we all know kinky people with regressive politics?), the poems in Bodymap serve as an argument that queer desire can–and should – fuel us to challenge the social order and reclaim the full humanity of those whom capitalism discards – including queers, people of color, working class folks, poor people, immigrants, undocumented people, and disabled folks.

What shines through every single poem is how hard Piepzna-Samarasinha has had to fight to love her queer, femme, disabled, brown working class self in a world that doesn’t always love her back. Her determination to love is generous; it starts with herself and then spreads its shimmering wings out to encompass all of us who have been marginalized and fucked over by systems of oppression.

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The Confederate Flag: Heritage or Hate

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Silent Sam, the Confederate Soldier's memorial at the University of North Carolina.

Silent Sam, the Confederate Soldier's memorial at the University of North Carolina. Credit: CreativeCommons / Don McCullough.

Last year for the first time I visited Martha’s Vineyard, a vacation island off the New England coast beloved by many African Americans and others. President Obama and numerous black dignitaries were visiting and a series of Harvard-sponsored lectures highlighted the progress and plight of Black America. Drifting off by myself I noticed a discordant note: sitting near one ferry dock is a statue of a Confederate soldier. The work was put up a generation after the Civil War as a sign of white American reconciliation. Few black people I talked to noticed it.

What a difference a year makes. Several weeks ago, the nation was forced to confront the undead ghost of the Confederacy. A deranged, Confederate flag-loving, twenty-one year old slaughtered nine people as they prayed in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The young killer raved about blacks raping white women and wanting to take over the country. In the wake of the murders, calls mounted for the lowering of the Confederate battle-flag in South Carolina public places. On Friday, July 10, many state residents came together to see the symbol officially taken down in the state capital.

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The Noncontroversial Essence: Bringing People Together

Jul10

by: on July 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Locked_in_combat_no_retreat“Let’s just face it… There’s a philosophical difference here, and there’s no point in dialogue. Some of us think that a presumption of joint custody is just not a wise thing to do, and that’s all there is to it.” Ben (all names are fictitious), one of those present on a conference call in November 2012, said something like this. He was representing a group of lawyers, and this was his way of letting me know that he wasn’t going to support the attempt to bring everyone together to seek a collaborative solution to the acrimonious debate about child custody legislation that was raging in Minnesota at the time. It’s a classic example of how many of us have been trained to think: since there isn’t a way to resolve differences of this nature, the only path is to duke it out, and whoever gets the most votes wins (our modern “sublimation” of fighting it out physically).

Until that moment, we were going back and forth and round and round in that conversation, with people being, at best, lukewarm about the prospect of sitting in a meeting for a day with other stakeholders. The tension, and the mistrust that gave rise to it, were high. Still, within minutes, we had the first breakthrough in what became a succession of extraordinary moments over the course of two legislative sessions.

What I am writing about today is what I did in that moment, and in countless other moments in that project and in everything that I do when I work with groups, organizations, and even individuals.

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The Emerging Truth about Junipero Serra and the California Missions

Jul10

by: Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on July 10th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions written by Elias Castillo.A Review of A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions by Elias Castillo

Craven Street Books, 2015

Reading this book set my third chakra racing while my sense of moral outrage boiled over. Yet it is presented in subdued and sober terms, with fact after fact and story after story, building a sure case against the canonizing of Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra. The author, Elias Castillo, a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, tells the truth of the fabled and now postcard-like missions of California, a truth that has often been hidden away in libraries containing correspondence and comments from the days of the mission founding while a myth of benign relationships with the native peoples has been promulgated instead.

In this book Father Junipero Serra, called by some the “Father of California,” is exposed in damning detail as the father of a system, the mission system, that systematically destroyed the culture of the indigenous peoples of California, who had lived at peace with the earth and more or less at peace with themselves over millennia until the Spanish arrived. With Castillo’s new research in hand, it makes all the more scandalous the current effort, supported by two Opus Dei archbishops and the Knights of Columbus, to canonize this sadistic person who is a poster boy for colonization and racism. Why, why, why is Pope Francis going ahead with this canonization? Who profits from it?

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Marriage Equality

Jul8

by: Lynn Feinerman on July 8th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Get Married, Get Equal!

Credit: CreativeCommons / Victoria Pickering.

“Love is legal” tooted the headlines this past week, as we all rejoiced at the expanding vision of who is an “upstanding citizen.” Pride Day parades enthusiastically celebrated the inclusion of non-heterosexual love matches. As well they might.

For me, the most telling commentary on the SCOTUS decision was a one-liner: “Now it is no longer called ‘gay marriage,’ only ‘marriage.’” When I heard that line something in me realized that the gift the gay community may have given all of us is the framing of a vision of two EQUALS, two individual human beings, electing to establish an order in their relationship that has the potential to support the expansion and inclusion of community – a wider community, even deeper community, perhaps. Shall we say, a more enlightened love?

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