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The Great Comic Book Heroes

Nov10

by: Paul Buhle on November 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

A man in a suit is talking on the telephone under an electricity pole and wire. Another man in a suit stands behind him.

Cousin Joseph: A Graphic Novel by Jules Feiffer

To begin to introduce Jules Feiffer, to any reader of cerebral comics older than fifty, is probably absurd.He has been around so long and played a handful of roles so central to the development of an evolving American comic art that it would be almost easier to define Feiffer without comics than comics without Feiffer. But the strange contours remain fascinating.

So let us try. Comic art took a considerable leap forward with The Spirit, a strip “packaged” by its creator, Will Eisner, for the daily press, and joined through the same creator to the firm Eisner and Iger, which similarly packaged (i.e.,actually did everything but print) comic books for a dozen or more firms during the apex of the field in the 1940s. Teenaged Jules Feiffer worked in this little factory setting, and has, in his way, borne the signs ever since. The Spirit was politically bland and reactionary, but its form was pretty revolutionary, cinematic, and theatrical (Eisner’s father was at times a set-designer for the Yiddish theater in the U.S.), with flowing motion and intriguing backdrops.


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Review of After One-Hundred-and-Twenty by Hillel Halkin

Nov10

by: Paige Foreman on November 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

Photo by Tom Hilton. Source: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/).

Berkeley recently decided to take a break from the drought – it rained all day on Friday, and I remembered asking my father why the rain falls when I was a little girl.

“The angels are crying – someone just died,” my father replied.

“Really?”

“I don’t know,” my father shrugged. “But it sure is a nice idea.”

In the final chapter of After One-Hundred-and-Twenty, Hillel Halkin describes a long midrash about the death of Moses. The Torah is silent about how Moses reacts to his death, but the Rabbinic commentary fleshes out Moses’ humanity. The way Moses reacts to his impending death is not all that different from how most humans react to death. Moses argues with God, evades angels, and begs to live on as an animal. In the end though, Moses’ life is taken by God with a kiss and within sight of the Promised Land that Moses never reaches. After the death of Moses, God wept, and I wondered if it rained that day.

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With a heavy heart . . . and then . . .

Nov9

by: on November 9th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

I’m trying to pick myself up since the election results came in and finding it extremely difficult. While I thought Trump would win, the actual experience of it is altogether different. I have been in shock and like so many of you have been trying to do what needs to be done and yet have not been as able to be as fully present as I would like. So I have largely been silent. Yet slowly, very slowly, I am finding my voice.

And I want to share a few thoughts.

First, please, please take as much time as you need to come back to your highest, most centered self. It will be impossible to heal, repair and transform our world, if we do not deal with our own shock, rage, and grief. We must, each of us in our own way, take the time we need to come home to ourselves. What is it that nurtures you? Who helps you be your highest self? Who provides you unconditional love? Who makes you laugh? Where do you go when you need to grieve? What offers you the greatest solace? Take the time to love and nurture yourself. Offer love and nurturing to others.

Second, when I think of the movements that inspire me, I think of all the nonviolent movements over history. Movements steeped in deep and rich spiritual traditions of refusing to see the ‘other’ as your enemy, refusing to demonize, refusing to pick up arms, refusing to close one’s heart. Where people somehow, often miraculously so, stood in the face of tanks, guns, violent attacks on their bodies, and forces far greater than they to insist on the power of love over the love of power, the power of truth over the power of hate, the power of compassion over the power of fear. We see this today in Standing Rock. This is the path forward. We must refuse to demonize and hate and instead need to dig deep, very deep, to the core of our being – our beating hearts – to find a depth of love and fortitude that perhaps we did not know resided within us.

Third, and from that place we need to organize. I have created a four-session training that addresses the psycho-spiritual suffering that people experience in their lives and in our society. It has modules with readings, recordings, and exercises that provide the tools and skills you need to build a local NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) group and be a spiritual change agent. If you are interested in receiving the training, please email me at  cat@spiritualprogressives.org. We need to find a way to love each other across our differences – to see the humanity in each and every person. To see each other’s brokenness and imperfections not as fundamental flaws, but as scars and wounds that have been inflicted upon each of us through a history of missed connections, misunderstandings, parental projections of pain, and societal structures and systems that fail to see our value beyond our capacity to produce and consume. This training does that and so much more. It provides a framework for understanding the psycho-spiritual crisis in our society and the tools to help others understand it, as well as giving concrete visionary proposals that if adopted would create meaningful and lasting change. Join our efforts.

Fourth, we need to recognize, and this may be the hardest of all, that simply doing the inner work on oneself without simultaneously engaging in societal transformation to heal, repair, and transform the world is a fool’s errand. The two are intricately connected. We will not attain the spiritual depth, connection, and wholeness we seek unless the world changes and the world will not change without us changing. They go hand-in-hand.

If this speaks to you, please consider supporting  our work, not only with your dollars, but also with your time and energy. Contact me (cat@spiritualprogressives.org) to get involved. Come to our conference  this weekend or watch it on livestream (www.tikkun.org/30thcelebration).

This is the time my friends. We are in this together. We, atTikkunand the Network of Spiritual Progressives, are doing the work that, if embraced, really could heal, repair, and transform our world – work that is now even more desperately needed than we thought previously. We will not be silenced. We will continue to speak truth to power. We will continue to bring our fullest selves with our loving, broken, scared hearts and provide the spiritual guidance, compassion, and fierce truths that have inspired people for the past 30 years. Won’t you join us?

With a very heavy heart,

~ Cat

We Need a Revolution: Overcoming Fascism with a Movement of Love

Nov8

by: Martin Winiecki on November 8th, 2016 | No Comments »

November 9th, the day after the U.S. election, will be a peculiar anniversary. On this day in 1938, more than 1000 synagogues and 7000 Jewish businesses were burning all over Germany, set ablaze by Nazis. Going down in history as “Kristallnacht” or the “Night of Broken Glass,” this dreadful event marked the beginning of the Holocaust, resulting in six million Jews killed in less than seven years.

History reverberates in an eerie manner these days. In the United States, the anger and hatred that has long been boiling in millions of people has now found its political outlet.

No matter whether or not he will be elected president, Trump’s success has been unprecedented and overwhelming. His simple message resonates in large parts of American society, in people who have long felt betrayed, abused, and disenfranchised by an alienated ‘establishment.’ Trump wins against all reasoning of decency because he recklessly breaks what his supporters most despise: ‘political correctness.’ He understands how to play the emotional piano of the masses; he’s the ultimate caricature of a society teeming with universal corruption and sexual perversion.


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South Africa Then, the United States Now, and the Meaning of Politics

Nov7

by: Stephen Clingman on November 7th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

There are of course many differences between South Africa and the United States, some of which struck me when I first came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student in the early 1970s. One of them – then – was the length of telephone cords. In the U.S. you could walk all over the ground floor of a house, telephone base in one hand, receiver in the other, as you talked, while in South Africa you would be more or less tethered to the wall where the single base (there was almost always only one telephone per household, if you could get one) was plugged in. Then there were light switches. In the U.S. you flick them up to turn on the lights, while in South Africa it is down. For many years, down seemed to me much more logical – and in a way it still does, though don’t ask me why.

On that first sojourn in the U.S., I found myself living, for a year, in Fremont, Nebraska. How I ended up there is a story all its own. Like everyone else, I wanted to be in New York or California, but found out later that my parents wanted me to stay with a Jewish family. There was one in Fremont (were there none in New York, I wondered?), so that is where I went. There I found other differences. I remember my surprise at seeing white janitors in the school, where such work in South Africa was always done by black men, who were frequently called boys. Moreover, these American janitors were treated with respect, like full and fully conscious human beings. Other differences were not so engaging. Early in my stay, I found myself playing ‘Mr Bojangles’ on a July 4th float saying ‘Re-Elect the President’ – despite my vociferous objections to the latter. The President was of course Richard Nixon, but in class on the day of the election we had a mock ballot, and I was one of three students to vote for McGovern. When I spoke to my English teacher of my fondness for Dostoevsky, she said she had never read ‘those Rooshians,’ and most of the community among whom I lived had never seen the East or West Coast, let alone been outside the country. Yet I learned a lot about middle America – not to condescend, about kind hearts if sometimes closed minds, about lost aspirations, football, and cheerleaders. I even played football, as the school’s and maybe the state’s only soccer-style kicker.

As for the country, the United States, it was in the midst of a vicious and draining war in Vietnam, and I met people whose lives had been directly imprinted. I myself, strange to say, was in the midst of military service in South Africa, to which I had been conscripted like all seventeen- and eighteen-year-old white males. Of course I had not wanted to go, but there seemed to be no alternative except prison or exile, neither of which seemed viable at the time. My year’s service had been broken up by the exchange program, and when I returned I had to go straight back into the army. To me, being there was an utterly absurd experience defined by incompetence, dullness, venality, and stupidity. I did my best to resist in various ways, going AWOL on weekends when I could (even from guard duty, for which the statutory penalty, we were told, was death by firing squad), insisting on remaining a private when they tried to put me on an officers’ training course, and adopting the soldier’s last recourse when other options fail, that of the most unconscious kind of sleep. Fortunately, I never had to fire a gun except at a shooting range – and even there we cheated, to bump up our scores. Nor was I involved in any overt acts of repression. But merely being in the apartheid army was a reality of lasting shame.


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After Next Week’s Election, What’s Next for Progressives? Come to Tikkun’s Strategy Conference Nov. 12 & 13

Nov4

by: on November 4th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Register here: www.tikkun.org/30thcelebration

How can we heal this country after such a divisive election? What’s next for progressives? What will happen to the energy of the Bernie Sanders movement? Will it wither and die?

Tikkun magazine (as a way of celebrating its 30th anniversary), the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and the Metta Center for Nonviolence are bringing some of the nation’s top activists and social change leaders together in Berkeley the weekend after the election to chart a path forward for fundamental change.

What: A two-day strategy conference for liberals and progressives about what direction the left should take after the results of the November election.

The first day will begin with a session led by nonviolent activist Michael Nagler that will focus on “the New Story” of the universe and how that impacts our way of thinking about politics. The afternoon sessions will surround a psychological understanding of American politics and the role a New Bottom Line of consciousness (where our society is built on values of love and justice and not on profit) could add to transforming both the political arena and socio-cultural spheres in coming years.

The second day of the conference will be led by Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun’s Editor-at-Large Peter Gabel, and Cat Zavis, the executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, who will share reflections on the contemporary reality of Western societies and the changes in consciousness necessary to overcome every form of “demeaning the other” and also overcome the forces that are engaged in destroying the environment.

The conference will end with a ceremony to give out the Tikkun Award to a few of the many people whose lives are embodying Tikkun‘s message of global healing and transformation. This year’s awards feature noted peace activist and singer Holly Near, award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, Israeli human rights activist Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Stanford history professor and editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Clayborne Carson, cultural anthropologist Nancy Scheper-HughesAaron Davidman who created the play “Wrestling with Jerusalem,” and Fania E. Davis who founded and is the executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth.

When/Where: Veteran’s Day weekend in Berkeley, California. On Saturday, Nov 12, the conference will be from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. at the Northbrae Community Church (941 The Alameda). On Sunday, Nov. 13, the conference will be held from 1:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church (2024 Ashby Ave.). Contact: Staci Akselrod Ÿat 510-644-1200 Ÿor staci@tikkun.org www.tikkun.org/30thcelebration

The Kapp Putsch and Modern Memory

Nov4

by: Michael N. Nagler on November 4th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

On March 13, 1920, right-wing elements of German society along with some military units, particularly the Freikorps, or volunteer corps, smarting from the humiliating conditions imposed by the victorious allies at Versailles, and alarmed by the mildly democratic policies of the year-old Weimar government, staged a Putsch (coup) in Berlin, led by Wolfgang Kapp and Walther von Lüttwitz. The Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch was a resounding failure – in one respect. Kapp quickly declared himself Reichskanzler (sound familiar), but the Weimar leadership, already partly in exile, called on all Germans to strike. The resulting general strike was so effective that the putschists simply could not rule the country. In three days they themselves were in exile, or prison. The successful resistance has long held an important place in the canon of successful nonviolent actions catalogued by Gene Sharp in his pioneering works on nonviolence. Though it was marred by some fighting (and had a violent aftermath, as communists and labor unions tried to take over) it was in fact a classic example of the power of civil resistance to protect a democratic order from takeovers or invasions.

But that was not the end of the story. One putschist who had been flown in to Berlin to participate keenly watched the chaotic events unfold. His name was Adolph Hitler. He admired the energy and ruthlessness of the Freikorps, with their swastika-marked helmets, and noted the putsch leaders’ mistakes (including timing). Before long he set about appealing to the same anger Kapp and the others had manipulated, only more effectively, and played heavily on the ruthlessness. By 1935 he could triumphantly declare, Ich habe in fünfzehn Jahre die Deutsche Nation gerettet, durch meinen fanatischen Wille: ‘I have rescued the German nation in fifteen years through my fanatical will.’

There are two lessons from these chaotic events that we, too, can learn; in fact, we ignore them at our peril.

One. It definitely can happen here. While our democratic institutions are far more robust than those of the fledgling Weimar republic, which itself had been installed by a recent revolution, they are weakening under attacks now from all sides. If Donald Trump fails to win the presidency next week, by the grace of God, he has nonetheless gained shocking support, and done so by appealing to precisely the same unspecific indignation, xenophobia, scapegoat logic and inflated egos as Kapp and his “conservative” backers — not excluding the same dark hints of violence. If our democratic institutions are stronger than those of the fledgling German republic, our general culture is if anything more violent, thanks to the development (and abuse) of modern mass media — and the flood of weapons. Trump is failing at least in part, maybe entirely, because he is not the fanatical, ruthless, inhumane personality Hitler was — but who’s to say such a maniac could not appear next? We have had the shot across the bow of our democracy.

Two. Nonviolence is the way out. But nonviolence cannot simply mean you wait for the putsch to happen, then rush out into the street and non-cooperate. That is a stopgap — if it works. It has to mean a complete overhaul of the cultural factors that have led to our putting more fellow citizens in prison per unit population than any comparable democracy, having more guns than people and a higher rate of murder or suicide by orders of magnitude, a larger military budget than most of the world’s countries put together, and a foreign policy apparently incapable of any response but endless war. Throw in an addiction to media violence that indoctrinates the minds of children from the earliest ages, and the picture is not reassuring.

What is reassuring is that nonviolent alternatives to all these factors are already present, across the board. Economically and socially alternative communities are springing up all over, along with a sprinkling of “public benefit” corporations that work to a far more humane and inclusive bottom line and often are democratically owned, or at least managed, like Berrett-Koehler publishers, like Kickstarter, to mention two examples. Nonviolence is slowly being recognized as a subject for research and education (189 U.S. schools at various levels have peace studies programs, at last count, and thousands have at least one peace/nonviolence course). Civil resistance is being more often and sometimes more accurately practiced, as we’ve seen here from Occupy to Standing Rock, with many episodes in between that are not cited by the media. As nonviolence scholar Erica Chenoweth told me recently, “nonviolence is the technique du jourfor uprisings now.” And not just uprisings. A worldwide institution called Unarmed Civilian Peacemaking (or Civilian Protection, in any case UCP), descended from Gandhi’s concept of a Shanti Senaor ‘peace army,’ is operating in some of the most dangerous pockets of global violence — yes, including Syria — and to very good effect. UCP has been seriously discussed at the UN and received substantial support from some European governments (not American). And for the long term, perhaps this may be the most important of all: freethinking media, like what you’re reading right now. We should be learning about and supporting all these inspiring developments. What they’re up to, and why it’s working, has to be far better known and far more systematically developed; otherwise we might be heading for a particularly nasty case of history repeating itself.

This article appeared on Pace e Bene and was republished with their permission and permission from the author.

Professor Michael N. Nagler is the President of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and the author of The Search for a Nonviolent Future.

Community Horror? American Artists at Work

Nov3

by: Paul Buhle on November 3rd, 2016 | No Comments »

Two hands holding a black box over a table.

Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’ The Authorized Graphic Adaptation by Miles Hyman

Dread seems to have become the unitary emotion of the day, reinforced by stern warnings of insecurity all around, interrupted mainly by pharma ads offering relief of almost every non-lethal dread. Perhaps life (and death) were once simpler, or perceived to be simpler. “The Lottery,” an allegorical or non-allegorical short story by Shirley Jackson exquisitely touched the Dread button almost seventy years ago – at the time, the most popular story in New Yorker history – and comes alive today, if “alive” is right word, in a notable graphic novel adaptation.

For those interested in the history of comic art, this rings a certain bell or perhaps two or three. The saga of a village choosing, once per year, to stone to death a villager chosen by lots, might be in the horror vein, although personally, I see it as much more sci-fi. Horror comics, driving sales of comics skyward in the later 1940s and early 1950s, also led to suppression by way of a Comics Code that would be enforced through concerned (mostly Catholic) threats of boycotts. If sometimes well crafted, horror comics were certainly not cerebral. Sci-fi comics, given to themes of post-nuclear civilization, or of bitterly disappointing space travel, never sold so many, but had a more artistic touch, not to mention progressive sentiments. Both genres reached a peak in EC Comics, the backdrop to Mad, with some of the key artists carrying their talents over effortlessly to brilliant satire.


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“Fighting in the Captain’s Tower”: In Defense of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

Oct21

by: Rodger Kamenetz on October 21st, 2016 | 5 Comments »

When I was 15, in the spring of 1965,I found myself marching on the old Baltimore Washington Highway with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. We were on our way to Washington, D.C., to protest the murder of Reverend James Reeb in Selma.

To keep myself occupied for the long miles, I recited “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” out loud, a poem I greatly admired and had committed to memory.

Now I don’t know why at 15 I found this love song so compelling. Maybe I took pleasure in knowing Prufrock was even wimpier with women than I was. I could mock his waspy tea party social life, his gentlemanly repression. It’s odd considering that a Jew-hater wrote it, but Eliot’s poem made me proud to be down to earth, frank, and Jewish.

That’s why I liked the “Love Song” – but I also loved it. I loved the music and the drama, the precision of the imagery, the magic of the rhythms, and the overall architectonics. I never realized before how a poem could be not just a lyrical statement, but an entire world. The raw modernity of the diction was refreshing: “like a patient etherized upon a table” sounded new to me compared to the poems I’d read in school. I liked the mix of high and low culture: “sawdust restaurants with oyster shells” and “In the room the women come and go/talking of Michelangelo.” But especially the ending as the meter returns to iambic bedrock and bursts into song:

We have lingered by the chambers of the sea

By sea girls wreathed in seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us and we drown

Eliot met me at the beginning of my lifelong love affair with poetry, and the mermaids (or were they sirens?) were inviting me from the flats of suburban life into the ocean of the archetypal.

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Ever-Dying People: Review of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Oct13

by: Brian Bouldrey on October 13th, 2016 | No Comments »

Here I Am, A Novel, Jonathan Safran Foer

Jacob Bloch, the grandson of Isaac, a survivor of the camps, and Julia, an architect who has never had her designs built, have three sons: Sam, Max, and Benjy, wise and lovely kids. Jacob’s father Irv is an outspoken enemy of Arab states and his opinions lean on the rest of the family: his blog manifestos are pretty much the opposite of what you would find inTikkun. They all live in Washington, DC. Sam, the eldest of the Bloch children, is studying for his bar mitzvah, but has been caught writing a list of vile racial epithets, quite out of his character, but perhaps under the influence of his grandfather.

The rabbi brings Julia and Jacob in to discuss their son’s sin, and threatens to disallow Sam’s bar mitzvah, a much anticipated event that arguably keeps great-grandfather Isaac alive. Sam claims he did not do it, though the words are in his handwriting. Jacob, his father, believes Sam. Julia, his mother, does not. This is the first sign of a rift in their sixteen-year marriage, one that has been full of love, tradition, organic mattresses, and goofy and touching family rituals. And then Julia finds a burner cell phone that Jacob has been hiding from her, full of filthy texts to another woman. “There is not a single story about a cell phone that ends well,” a friend cautions Julia, but that doesn’t mean the story isn’t a great one.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, a massive earthquake has devastated Israel and all the Arab States, which escalates tensions to the brink of warfare before our very eyes. Family friends of the Blochs, a sort of mirror family with Tamir, Rivka, and their sons Noam and Barak, live in Israel; and while Noam has just started his commitment to the Israeli army, Tamir and Barak come to Washington for Sam’s bar mitzvah, and the earthquake leaves them stranded, while Noam heads to battle.

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