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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Social Justice Warriors, Unite!

Apr27

by: Reid Madden on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

“Why is ‘Social Justice’ a toxic phrase in common conversation?”

My roommate recently showed me something online, but what he said got me thinking. He told me “social justice warriors probably hate this.”

What does that phrase even mean, “social justice warriors?” I decided to look up what it meant on Urban Dictionary: admittedly not the best source for information, but this is what I found: “A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow and not well-thought-out way.” These people do not “necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.” They do it to be popular.

So how do these people make social justice look bad? After all, protesters all over the world use the Internet to organize and rally support. Social media was a huge force in the Arab Spring protests that eventually toppled regimes. Using these networks at home has created huge firestorms around net neutrality, which recently forced the FCC to adopt net neutral protocols. Using mass media has always been in the toolbox for enacting social reforms. Social reformers like Martin Luther King Jr. are regarded as heroes. Universities from Miami University to Merrimack College to my own, Hamline University, offer majors in Social Justice, training the next generation of reformers.

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Interfaith Service and Vigil Protest Laws Criminalizing Homelessness

Apr27

by: Lydia Gans on April 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Berkeley City Council is once again moving to enact laws more cruel and dehumanizing than ever. It’s not the first time that they will have passed laws increasingly targeting homeless people. Panhandling within 10 feet of a parking pay station would be a crime. Putting personal objects in planters or within three feet of a tree well would be a crime. Poor people will have to have a tape measure handy to make sure they’re not committing a crime. As a matter of fact just about anything that a homeless person needs for sleeping, tent, mat, sleeping bag, cannot be left on any sidewalk any time of day. Nor can personal items be attached to trees, planters, parking meters etc. etc. and oh yes, it would be a crime to sit against a building.

Voices of protest are being heard. Members of the interfaith coalition of more than 40 congregations, including Buddhists, Quakers, Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, are speaking out against the city’s criminalization of homelessness. On April 9 they held a protest ‘in solidarity with homeless people’ at the downtown Berkeley BART Plaza. Starting at 5 o’clock with a meal and an interfaith service it concluded with a sleep-out at the Plaza until 6:30 Friday morning.

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The Grandmothers

Apr24

by: Peter Balakian on April 24th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

An aerial view of thousands of people marching for the Armenian genocide.

Formal recognition of the Armenian genocide is growing not only in the countries of the diaspora, but in Turkey itself. Above, the Armenian March to Remember Genocide in Hollywood, CA. Credit: CreativeCommons / JR Woodward.

I was standing under Halogen spot lights spoking the white walls of a chic art gallery on Istiktal Street in Istanbul, a bustling pedestrian avenue of boutiques and restaurants, as I shook hands with three young Turkish fiction writers. Their publicist from their publishing house Yapi Kredir, led us to the table where we each had a small microphone and a name card in front of us, which for me was a kind of identity card. Three Americans, three Turks, all were writers of fiction but me. We had English translations of our Turkish colleagues’ works, and I felt the silence in the room grow as we moved between Turkish and English.

I was here in Istanbul in late October of 2014 to read in public for the first time. I agreed to join a group of American writers organized by the poet Christopher Merrill who directs the Iowa Writers International School at the University of Iowa. The project was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy as a cultural reading tour to Turkey and Armenia. The underlying concept was to foster some kind of dialogue between Armenians and Turks on the eve of the centennial of the Armenian genocide.

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Talk to Others, Transform Yourself

Apr24

by: Tim Brauhn on April 24th, 2015 | No Comments »

I took Interfaith Youth Core up on their challenge for Better Together Day on April 14th and reached out to others of faith or philosophical tradition to have a conversation about what they believe and what values inspire them to do good in the world. I did this because I believe that when it comes to religion, we’re too often told that our differences define us. I’m for fixing that. Join me.

I’m a Catholic. For the past nearly-decade, in my work as an interfaith leader and through my job at Islamic Networks Group, I’ve been lucky to meet a huge variety of non-Catholics. I’m talking denominations and sects and sub-sects and sub-sub-sects of faiths from all around the world, and even a few who believe that they are from another planet. Many of these interactions have been casual, unremarkable even, but on occasion, I’ve found myself challenging my own stereotypes and misperceptions about other faiths.

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Misrepresentations of Trans Women in Media

Apr23

by: Brian O’Callaghan on April 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

A portrait photograph of a transexual Thai woman.

The reality for many Trans people in Asia is far from utopian, but there is little of the overt discrimination and violence prevalent in other parts of the world. Historically, there has always been space for a third gender in Eastern cultures. Credit: Author.

To see more photographs from Brian O’Callaghan’s “Transitions,” visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.

When I began photographing and interviewing Trans women in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I had to acknowledge to myself that I knew very little about the myriad of gender identities that exist. I had never really encountered positive Trans visibility until I lived in Asia. I began to see that my hetero-normative worldview was reinforced through the media and society at large. Even though I identify as an openly gay man, my notions about gender possibilities were policed. An essential lesson I learned from this project is that, there is not just one Trans story or experience. The women I interviewed wanted to share their stories in the hope of changing perceptions of what it means to be Trans.

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Moving towards Collaboration: Lessons from the Field

Apr22

by: on April 22nd, 2015 | No Comments »

How will change come about in the systems that govern our world and our daily lives? Will it take many individuals within the system undergoing massive personal change, as so many believe is necessary?

Systemic Personal change graphic

Does the flow go in only one direction? Or in both? Credit: Dave Belden.

 

I’d like to believe that isn’t so, because I just can’t see how waiting for so many individuals to change would create, fast enough, the systemic changes needed to end poverty, transcend violence, or attend, to any meaningful degree, the spiraling resource depletion and climate change we are creating for ourselves and our children. Perhaps this is why, going back to school in the early 90s, I chose sociology as my field, hoping to gain enough knowledge and insight about an earlier version of that very question.

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Earth Day 2015

Apr21

by: Jeffrey Vogel on April 21st, 2015 | No Comments »

All living things, large, small, and in between, share in the precious gift of life on Earth. However, it is only we humans, with our large brains enabling us to be self consciously aware of this gift, that are the only creatures to celebrate Earth Day. As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day let us remember that this grand unifying perspective was made possible by one of our nation’s greatest gifts to the world, the first stunning photo of Earth from outer space taken during the Apollo moon missions. This awesome image of our beautifully round whole Earth, suspended in the vast blackness of space, is humanity’s crowning achievement on our long and frequently tortured path in trying to make some sense of our often overwhelming self-conscious existence; the climax of the long collective urge of humanity to explore our surroundings. This new perspective of the Earth takes our self consciousness to a whole new dimension enabling us to feel part of a much greater self — the whole Earth.

A view of planet Earth from space.

Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

As supremely self conscious beings, humans are acutely aware of their mortality and therefore face the question: Why am I here? Human history has been largely determined by humanity’s attempts to answer this crucial question. To find an answer we look for symbols to identify with, to give us a sense of connection and belonging. These symbols range from family to tribe, from nationality to religion, from political party to ethnicity, from wealth to power, from designer clothes to team loyalty. But these identifications and affiliations often devolve into intolerance, violence and warfare as the various groupings strive for supremacy.

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Rewriting Religion: How Blogs Create a Modern Version for the LGBTQ Community

Apr21

by: Patrick M. Johnson on April 21st, 2015 | No Comments »

The Facebook Profile page of the Gay Traditionalist Catholic Group.

Blogs and social media have made it possible for isolated and discriminated-against people of faith to safely contend with the messages they encounter within religious discourse.

When you grow up in a religious environment, it has the potential to become a large part of your identity. It should be noted here that this is not the case for all people raised within a religious household, however it has the potential to become a way to identify yourself within society, as well as to help shape and form your moral and ethical guidelines and views of the world. However, this can occasionally conflict with other aspects of your identity, particularly when one identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.

While there are religious denominations and beliefs that are very accepting of those within the LGBTQ community — the Unitarian and Episcopalian Churches are prime examples — this is not the case with all religious beliefs. While there is sometimes an easy knee-jerk reaction to proclaim that those who identify as homosexual should just switch their beliefs to a sect that is accepting (an opinion I have seen stated in more than one discussion about this topic), that is not always desired, as the core beliefs that come along with religious convictions are not (and should not) be that easily swayed. This represents the common way this debate is usually framed (especially among non-religious individuals or among LGBTQ individuals who are religious but belong to a very accepting church, such as Unitarian), which is the question, “How can you believe in a religion that doesn’t accept or tolerate your lifestyle?” It is seen as much easier to simply find a religion that fits your life and modify your beliefs to mold to that, rather than live in a state of cognitive dissonance where you know that your life and your religious beliefs are (at least on occasion) at odds with one another.

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Voting in the WZO Election Does Matter

Apr20

by: Larry Lerner on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

We cannot change the results of the last Israeli elections. Netanyahu will serve another term as the prime minister, only this time of a more right-wing government. This is an unfortunate fact.

Though you can’t change the results of the election, you can still have a say over what happens in Israel.

Just as groups on the Israeli Left face increasing marginalization, so too do progressive Zionist organizations in America. The American Zionist Movement (AZM) is holding an election to determine the views of American Jews for the World Zionist Congress, which takes place in October 2015. Much like Israel’s Knesset, there is a progressive slate of delegates that represents liberal Zionist ideals in the face of hardliners. It is the combined slate of Ameinu, Partners for a Progressive Israel, Hashomer Hatzair, and Habonim Dror. We call this the HATIKVAH slate.

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On the way to Sinai (on racism and economic justice)

Apr20

by: Aryeh Cohen on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

We are on a journey. This period that we are now moving through, the seven weeks that start on the second day of Passover and end at Shavuot or Weeks,  the next holiday in the calendrical cycle, is a journey from Egypt to Sinai. It is deeply symbolic that as the first day of Passover was waning this year, we were marking the 47th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year that anniversary was marked amidst the outcries of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, amidst the sounds of gunshots and the cries of unarmed black and brown men killed by officers of the law, of the state.

Police beating a black man.We are on a journey—but where are we going?

We know where we are coming from. We are coming from the Egypt of the three evils, as Dr. King described them, racism, poverty, and militarism. As the Yiddish proverb goes: any place can be your Egypt, any place can be your Promised Land. Today in the United States we are facing these same interrelated issues. Poverty overwhemingly impacts communities of color. Communities of color are impoverished by mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Those people are then barred from the right to vote, have a harder time getting housing, or a job. As Michelle Alexander has argued, this is the new method of social control, of racist social control. A new Jim Crow in impact even if not in explicit intention. The police and incarceration regime are more and more militarized. While there are exceptions, the pictures that the whole world saw of police officers in Ferguson, MO in camouflage uniforms pointing assault weapons at unarmed civilians, is more often than not the rule.

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