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Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category



Arrivals Gate

Jun4

by: on June 4th, 2014 | Comments Off

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. 

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California’s ‘Health for All’ Bill Moves Forward

May26

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.

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He’s “Assertive,” She’s “Bossy”: The Double-Standard Language of Gender

May22

by: on May 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

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.

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Why Do Israeli Soldiers Bully Palestinians?

May16

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.

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Our Self-Sufficiency is Ruining Relationships — Here’s How to Stop the Cycle

May15

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.

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Jewish Values Go Global: A Review of Caryl Stern’s I Believe in Zero

May12

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.

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Tikkun Exclusive: What Do the Suicides of Fifty-Year-Old Men Reveal?

May12

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.

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Botched Oklahoma Execution Reveals Self-Deception

May9

by: on May 9th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

‪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.

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Investigating Christian Privilege: Its Time Has Come

May9

by: on May 9th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

As spring peers forth from the soil and tree limbs, the annual Easter Egg Roll, sponsored by the President of the United States and the First Lady, thrills elementary and pre-school age children each year. Also, in school classrooms throughout the country, students and their teachers dip hardboiled eggs into brightly colored dyes, and display Easter eggs of pink, yellow, blue, green, red, and lavender. Some students adhere bunny, baby chick, rainbow, or angel decals to their Easter eggs. Some paint flowers or clouds; some sprinkle glitter of silver or gold. An excitement wafts through the classroom as students imagine sharing their treasures with parents or caregivers, as teachers reward the good work of their charges with delicious gleaming chocolate bunnies. A palpable excitement fills the air in anticipation of Easter Sunday as children adorn classroom bulletin boards with images of the season.

As an educator of pre-service teachers in the university, I am gratified to find that an ever increasing number of Colleges of Education include instruction on issues of power and privilege related to our socially constructed identities. We know that teachers must thoroughly come to terms with their social positions (“positionalities”), the intersectional ways in which they are privileged as well as how they have been the targets of systemic inequities, and the impact this makes on their students.

Depending on our multiple identities, society grants us simultaneously a great array of privileges while marginalizing us based solely on these identities. Inspired by Peggy McIntosh‘s pioneering investigations of white and male privilege, we can understand dominant group privilege as constituting a seemingly invisible, unearned, and largely unacknowledged array of benefits accorded to members of dominant groups, with which they often unconsciously walk through life as if effortlessly carrying a knapsack tossed over their shoulders. A number of researchers have developed extensive lists (white, male, heterosexual, cisgender (“traditional” gender presentation), able-bodied, Christian, adult, age, socioeconomic class, physical size) charting the benefits and privileges accorded to individuals within differing dominant identity categories.

Many people (most likely the majority) consider the Easter events I outlined, played out in Washington, DC and in some schools in the United States, as normal, appropriate, and joyous seasonal activities. Upon critical reflection, however, others experience them as examples of institutional (governmental and educational) (re)enforcements of dominant Christian standards and what is referred to as “Christian privilege,” though presented in presumably secularized forms. They represent some of the ways in which the dominant group (in this instance, Christians) reiterates its values and practices while marginalizing and subordinating those who do not adhere to Christian faith traditions.

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Open the Eyes of My Heart

May8

by: on May 8th, 2014 | 13 Comments »

So begins a prayer that could well be sung while touching the feet of the newest life-size public sculpture of Jesus: Jesus the Homeless. Sleeping on a bench with his nail-scarred feet protruding from the hem of his blanket lies Jesus, adorning the front of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in the upscale neighborhood of Davidson, North Carolina.

The statue has sparked both commendations and disapproval from Davidson residents, one of whom even called the police thinking the statue to be a live person.

Pointless spectacle or profound statement?

Recently a friend and I were talking about the church as compared with other religions. When most people in the United States think of Buddhism they don’t think of the intolerance expressed in the Buddhist expulsion of Hindus from Bhutan or the anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka. They think of meditation. When most people think of Hinduism they don’t think of the Hindu communal riots against the Muslims. They think of yoga. When most people think of Judaism there’s a tension between the powerful Jewish stand for justice through the centuries and the current bad behavior of Israel. “If only Christianity could get to the place where Judaism is!” We laughed.

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