It is indeed a joyous time: the last American POW is finally home. Who can deny that the U.S. military has indeed fulfilled its promise that it will leave no man (or woman) behind? Sargent Bowe Bergdahl has hardly been released, however, when the magnificent, wonderful story of courage and patriotism was transformed into, in Jon Stewart’s words, a complicated, clouded, controversial story. He has been called a deserter, a traitor and a coward. It seems as if even our soldiers are not guaranteed our respect after risking their lives for our freedoms.
As a Muslim, should I care? As an American, I certainly should, because my hope is that every soldier comes home safely to his or her family. The problem is, of course, that controversy inevitably follows anything even remotely connected to Muslims today. In the case of Bergdahl, who remained for five years in Afghanistan in the custody of the Taliban, there are indeed a myriad of connections that make me uneasy, but perhaps for not all the same reasons as Republicans.
True, there is the issue of the five Taliban released from Guantanamo Bay in a prisoner exchange. Who knows what they will be up to after their release? For many, that’s a serious concern. It should be, because unconstitutional imprisonment and torture is bound to make people even angrier with the U.S. government. Who knows when or where we’ll meet those five again.
I know this is a difficult time for you and your family, which is partly why I’m reaching out, to let you know that I feel a deep kinship with you, despite the many differences in our circumstances and perspectives. While you lean conservative in your political views, I am an unyielding progressive. While you reside in a small town in Idaho, I am composing this from Pittsburgh, the city in which I live. And while your son was held captive for many years by the Taliban – while you struggled to secure his release with the determined focus only a father’s love could generate – I have struggled in a different way, working to move beyond the terror attack which injured my wife in Israel, an attack which has propelled me to fight for the human rights and dignity of my so-called enemy.
Despite these differences, our struggles have shared several fulcrum points, and these points have made it so difficult for me to watch politicians and the media exploit you and your family’s pain. There are moments this past week in which I have trembled with anger, have felt the need to lash out, to grip someone by the throat and scream, ‘Leave them alone’.
But I’m not a violent person. I’m a writer who acts with the pen, not with fists, and as such I’ve chosen to write to you in public as a way to support you in a country where so many want to reflexively do the opposite.
I hope this letter finds you in peace, and so I’ll begin again by saying שלום עלכם (shalom alechem), which is the Hebrew equivalent for the Arabic السلام عليكم (as-salam aleykum).
Peace be upon you.
Remember that montage in Love, Actually when all the couples and families are reuniting at the airport arrivals gate? That montage turned my heart to mush. And that scene in real life has the same effect. Since I was a kid I can recall loving to pick people up at the airport, or be picked up after a long flight; greeted by my mom beaming with smiles as I returned from a faraway trip or my boyfriend holding a bouquet of flowers and wearing a suit and top hat for the occasion.
My high school friends were in the marching band and we used to go to the SFO arrivals gate and play welcome music for random strangers just for fun. Throw in some free carnation flower handouts and we had ourselves an amusing night out. That moment of reuniting after a trip hasn’t lost it’s charm after all these years. In Love, Actually, the British Prime Minister, played by Hugh Grant, says:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
Of course, since 9/11, security protocols have pushed arrivals gate greetings out to the baggage claim area. Nonetheless, the ritual continues.
by: Viji Sundaram on May 26th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
(Cross-posted from New American Media)
SACRAMENTO – Irma Montoya, 53, had to wait for three years to get her hip replaced. Her severe pain finally triumphed over her fear of deportation and prompted her to seek the medical care she needed.
Montoya still needs access to health care because she has been diagnosed with diabetes and cancer, but she’ll have to wait for treatment because the hospital has placed her on a waiting list, said her son, Alessandro Negrete.
“I can’t wait to see the bill passed,” said Negrete, 31. “The first thing I’ll do when it happens is get my mom checked for everything and get myself a physical, too. I haven’t had a proper doctor’s visit since I was seven years old.”
Negrete was speaking about a bill introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which will allow California to fund an expansion of health care to cover its low-income residents who are living here without documents.
Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of The New York Times, fired the paper’s Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, after she served only three years as the first woman in this top position. Though reports conflict over the cause of the firing, Sulzberger claimed that “I chose to appoint a new leader of our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects….”
Abramson seems to have talked with top officials at the paper about the apparent discrepancy between what she is paid in her position compared to a substantially higher salary paid to men who previously held the same rank and title. This, together with allegations over Abramson’s supposed brusque personality and management style “may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy.’”
According to The New Yorker, “Abe Rosenthal, an executive editor during the late seventies and eighties, was never considered a subtle personality, to say the least. And so there is a reason that gender has been widely discussed in relation to Abramson’s firing and how she was judged, even if it was not the decisive factor.”
Regardless of what was the basis for her firing, it is clear that social customs and norms reinforce many shared preconceptions about the sexes in and out of the business world. Some of these may be inconsistent or even contradictory, but they share the common element that they prescribe rules of conduct for us all. These preconceived notions, or stereotypes, become standardized mental pictures that societies hold representing oversimplified opinions, attitudes, of judgments.
by: Tikkun Administration on May 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
“The violent behavior of the soldier videotaped aiming his rifle at a Palestinian teen, setting off a storm in the media, especially the social media – was not exceptional.”
So said veteran Israeli reporter Amira Hass in a recent issue of Israel’s most respected newspaper, Haaretz. You can read her story on the Haaretz website.
From Tikkun‘s standpoint, we need to point out that there’s nothing unusual about this behavior: occupying armies regularly brutalize the populations they are sent to police as part of the way they justify to themselves their presence on the streets of someone else’s cities or villages. The task itself is dehumanizing not just for the occupied but also for the occupier.
by: Dovid Gottlieb on May 15th, 2014 | 8 Comments »
A psychiatrist asked to consult with me about a problem. He had lived through five failed relationships in a row. Each ended when the other party left him. He could find no reason for the failures. “Rabbi” he explained, “you must understand that I gave each of them everything anyone could wish for. Unlimited money, my time and attention [I never let work or anything else distract me from my responsibility to each of them], my deep understanding of human nature to provide whatever they might need, want, or even fancy. With all that – in spite of all that – each left me. What could possibly account for it?”
I was able to understand his frustration because of my own history of feeling as he did. As a man, and a teacher, casting others as needy and myself as provider came very naturally. It was a struggle to learn where this stance misses the mark. But I finally did learn it from my wife. With her insight in mind, I asked him: “And what did each of them give you?” He answered: “Give me?! Rabbi – I am a giver, not a taker. I asked them for nothing, gave them everything, and yet they walked out on me!?” I answered: “Well, maybe that is precisely what they needed to give to you. To feel validated by what they could do for you. Everyone needs to be needed.” The idea was utterly foreign and unacceptable to him and that is where the conversation ended.
I learned this from my wife when we were counseling a young man who was looking to get married. He presented his “wish list” – the characteristics he desired in a spouse. Compiling such a list is good preparation for the search for a spouse since it takes considerable self-understanding to recognize what one needs and what one wants in a marriage partner. Then my wife added two thoughts. First: “You need also another list – your give list. What can you share, support, encourage, inspire, model or teach a spouse? When you meet a possible match, and each of you has both lists, then see if your give list matches the other’s wish list and vice versa. If so, you have a good chance for a profoundly integrated relationship.”
Second: “And don’t think this is just altruism. It is in your own best interest. Imagine you meet someone who has everything on your wish list and is willing to marry you – but does not need you at all. Would you be happy? In a healthy relationship you need to be needed.”
It was this second thought that I tried to share with the psychiatrist. He did not even recognize his partner’s need to be needed. The illusion of giving when really representing the other as needy and dependent and thereby bracing one’s own fragile ego is a common male problem. It came as a revelation to me to learn that true giving must include showing one’s own needs.
by: Beth Kissileff on May 12th, 2014 | Comments Off
I Believe in Zero: Learning from the World’s Children
by Caryl Stern
New York: St Martin’s Press
With so many scandals about money for charity being diverted to the pockets of corrupt CEOs, it is refreshing to listen to a president of a charity who tells a global story about how her Jewish values and family history lead her to work to aid children around the world. Caryl Stern, the President and CEO of the US Fund for UNICEF, has written an interesting and affecting account of her trips to various countries in need of poverty relief and of the real abilities of the citizens in developed countries to make a difference to those in need globally. “Zero” in the title of Stern’s book, refers to UNICEF’s bold aim: ZERO hunger, poverty and disease.
Prior to her work at UNICEF, Stern was the Chief Operating Officer of the Anti-Defamation League. In this book, which reports her experiences in her new job, she recounts what she experiences in each place she visits. In Mozambique, she visits clinics that care for severely malnourished children and those that help people with AIDS. Stern presents facts and statistics – over half of Mozambique’s population lived in poverty in 2007 – along with personal accounts of people she meets whom her organization helps. In this place so far from her Queens home, she seeks out a synagogue where she feels “strangely and unexpectedly at home” although there are only seven Jews remaining in the country, most having fled during the civil war that ended in 1992.
by: Tikkun Administration on May 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
What did you think of Tikkun‘s Spring 2014 print issue? We’d love to hear your responses to its lively debate about the American Left, liberalism and democracy.
Illustration by Brian Stauffer
We’re particularly curious to hear your thoughts on “What Do the Suicides of Fifty-Year-Old Men Reveal?” a provocative article by Margaret Morganroth Gullettein our current print issue.
In this sobering article, Gullette reveals how suicide has become a public health emergency for middle-aged men in the United States, exposing a deeper economic and existential crisis. Gullette explores how the American Dream, which promises not only rewards for hard work but also increased economic prosperity within one’s lifetime, is exposed as farce through the widespread phenomenon of unemployment and suicide among middle-aged men. What deeper changes to capitalism need to occur to end this suicide epidemic?
Tikkun‘s print articles are usually only available to subscribers who are logged into our website, but our publisher has agreed to make this one article freely accessible for one month! You can read it here.
At 6:23pm yesterday, the state of Oklahoma initiated its effort to kill Clayton D. Lockett. Twenty minutes later, after being declared unconscious by a physician, Lockett cried out, “Oh man,” writhing in pain. Addled by this unexpected display of pain, one of the executioners said, “Something’s wrong.” Soon after, the window to the observation room was covered and media were escorted out of the room.
A state official later reported that Mr. Lockett died of a heart attack at 7:06pm.
The fact that this unexpected scene was preceded by months of arguments by lawyers about the constitutionality of resuming executions in Oklahoma guarantees that a debate about the death penalty will ensue. Those who have argued that this ultimate form of punishment is “cruel and unusual” will make last nights scene their case in point. The Governor of Oklahoma has already declared that a thorough investigation of what went wrong will take place before any other executions go forward. Privately, in conversations at home and on their computers, many will say, “Did he suffer? Sure. But why shouldn’t he after what he did.” Most national polls show that support for vs. opposition to the death penalty is about 50/50. Both sides will have plenty of people to argue.
But I think it would be the greatest of tragedies if we did not notice that what happened in Oklahoma last night reveals perhaps our deepest national self-deception-that, no matter what goes wrong, we will fix it because we are in control.