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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Remembering and Rebuilding: Sandra, the Righteous Gentile

May12

by: Susan Bloch on May 12th, 2015 | 29 Comments »

When I heard the news that Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai massacre, was recently released from a Pakistani prison on bail, I stared at the TV in disbelief.He had been accused of personally planning and directing the three-day rampage at India’s commercial capital that killed hundreds of people. Yet the Lahore High Court had dismissed the detention orders issued by the Punjab government, claiming insufficient evidence for a conviction. Lakhvi’s meticulously executed plan had destroyed the lives of many deliberately targeted Westerners and Jews. Bullets were sprayed at local bystanders, including commuters at the crowded train station, and anyone who just happened to be in the path of Lakhvi’s well-trained gunmen.

His release made no sense. Confessions of two of the terrorists — recently executed, Ajmal Kasab and American jihadist, David Headley –confirmed that the accused had personally directed the gunmen by satellite phone from a safe house in Karachi. What was the judge thinking?

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Pay to Play: The Creeping Privatization of Public Education

May12

by: on May 12th, 2015 | No Comments »

A girl watches a cheerleading squad practice outside.

Participating in activities like dance, sports, and even graduation ceremonies are the norm for well-off families, but costs for gear, uniforms, and equipment are prohibitive for many. Credit: CreativeCommons / Beth Rankin.

This is the first of a short series of posts by Lita Kurth on the privatization of education.

Should the parent who paid the most get the best seat at graduation? Should the children of wealthy donors get private time with public school teachers? Should a choice parking space in front of the school be reserved for the highest bidder? Anyone with a child in a California public school knows how thoroughly riddled with private-school fundraising many schools have become. I admit to anguished feelings: I can’t entirely oppose fund raising because without such stopgaps, public schools have no art, theatre, debate, music, robotics, sports, or field trips – and some public schools lack all of these! In many cases, generous and public-spirited parents try to fill the enormous gap left by Proposition 13 and raise funds for all the kids, but inevitably, when a small group coalesces around a favored activity, one in which their own children participate, the precious cornerstone and sign of democracy – universal access – is marred, and at times, completely eroded.

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Acceptance Weighs More Than Denouncement

May11

by: Lubna Qureshi on May 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

On Sunday, May 3rd two gunmen were shot dead as they opened fire at the security guard, outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland Texas where, “Draw Muhammad” art contest was in progress. The gunmen planned to commit a heinous act of terrorism and in its pursuit shot the security guard on duty. The intended act of terrorism is as despicable as it can be so is the caricature drawing contest organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Though Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, exercised her legal right of freedom of expression yet her expression was not free from malice and spite towards Muslims.Of course, no one can stop anyone from practicing the First Amendment and the right to free speech. We Americans cherish the freedom to say what’s on our mind. However, freedom of expression becomes questionable when it focuses on maligning the faith or religious beliefs of any one, and in this case, 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

Many argue that the cartoon contest was an innocent art event, with a glitzy prize of $10,000, where artists from around the nation gathered to exhibit their artistic talents. Some state that mere caricatures of the Prophet of Islam should not offend anyone since it’s just ink on the paper. Yet many fail to understand why the cartoon depiction of Prophet Muhammad is so upsetting to the practicing Muslims. Therefore it is essential to understand the logic that fosters the high standard of devotion and loyalty.

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Field Office Annals, Part One: Filling A Need

May11

by: on May 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

When I applied to be a Cultural Agent and read the fine print about hosting an Imagining, I was already thinking about what was next because often times we have these events, they feel good, you get people excited — and then what? I really didn’t want to perpetuate that pattern.

Jess Solomon, Cultural Agent, Washington, DC

I couldn’t imagine here in Lawrence bringing these folks together, getting them all riled up and then saying, “Thank you for your input.” That’s not my style. It’s a small enough town that I think people expected more.

Dave Loewenstein, Cultural Agent, Lawrence, KS

The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, where I have the pleasure of serving as Chief Policy Wonk, has just launched weekly blogposts. (To stay current on everything this great project is doing, enlist as a Citizen Artist: it’s fun, free, and vital.)

In April for the first in this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the USDAC’s founding Cultural Agents, Jess Solomon from Washington, DC, and Dave Loewenstein from Lawrence, KS. Both signed on with the USDAC early in 2014 and organized inaugural Imaginings last summer.

On her website, Jess describes herself as Chief Alchemist at Art in Praxis, “Art + Culture At The Center of Strategy, Design and Community.” Dave’s website describes him as a “a muralist, writer, and printmaker.” And I will just say that everyone who knows either of them admires their energy, warmth, and prodigious abilities.

Dave and Jess opened the USDAC’s first two Field Offices – ongoing USDAC focal points for local cultural organizing and connecting-points for participation in USDAC National Actions such as this past January’s People’s State of The Union.


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Call Off the Warriors and Call in the Mediators (or psychologists or musicians)

May8

by: Edith Lutz on May 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Israeli soldiers standing next to a tank.

The perennially increasing military budgets of world powers have resulted in unprecedented militarization, in the middle of which often sits Israel. Peace, on the other hand, is a child of nonviolent communication and empathy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Palestine Solidarity Project.

Promoting the capacity for empathy and supporting measures that help to develop empathy would be the better way to pave the path towards peace in the Middle East — and perhaps the only viable one.

It would certainly be a cheaper one. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the total sum of the world’s military expenditures in 2014 amounted to 1,776 billion dollars. With $610 billion, the United States was far and away at the top of the league. The U.S.A. exported armaments worth more than $20 billion, making it the world’s leading exporter, too. In some cases the United States is very generous and offers additional military aid (supporting their own killing industry in the process). Israel, for example, is such a beneficiary. It receives military aid of about $3 billion annually. The U.S. has also helped with additional aid in special cases, such as the funding of the Iron Drone project with $429 million in March 2014 or with $576 million for the Tamir interception missiles in July 2014 (Haaretz,10 March/18 Aug 2014). Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. “In the interest of U.S. national security” and despite the protests of human rights activists, the States is going to resume its frozen military aid. President Obama has asked the Congress for $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt per year. (Reuters)

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Baltimore vs. Tel Aviv Comparison Obscures Key Differences

May8

by: on May 8th, 2015 | No Comments »

Cultural comparisons can be useful, but tread with caution!

In the case of the Baltimore/Tel Aviv protests, most people are focusing on the similarities rather than the differences. This is a major mistake.

It’s fair to point out that both American and Israeli societies need to reevaluate their attitudes towards difference, particularly in regards to race. People of color have been continually marginalized throughout history, and it is clear that we are not living in the post-racist society that many of us so eagerly want to believe in.

But the similarities must stop there.

To reduce the situations into “black vs. white” is to erase both historical context and what’s actually happening today. Not to mention the fact that it is demeaning towards both Ethiopian-Israeli and African-American populations. They are different people who are struggling with very different issues.

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The New Israeli Government is Worse than You Might Have Expected

May7

by: Ali Abunimah on May 7th, 2015 | No Comments »

You can also read this over at Tikkun.org.

A note from the Editor of Tikkun Magazine — A Quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society (our online web archive contains many valuable articles, but they are different from what is in the print magazine which can be obtained in paper or read electronically only by those who subscribe to the magazine):

The new Israeli government is a total victory for the most extreme elements in the extreme Right in Israel. The overtly racist party HaBayit HaYehudi, the party of the West Bank settlers, will control the Justice Dept. , the Education Dept., and almost all important government offices concerned with the Occupation of the West Bank. And they have secured a promise from Likud to bring forward a proposed law that would make it illegal for any nonprofit to receive funds from a foreign government without approval from the government. That is directed at the various Israeli peace, reconciliation, human rights, and dialogue organizations that get support from a variety of European countries who want to see peace between Israel and Palestinians.

To get a sense of who these people really are, please read the following, written last summer after the brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped as he walked down a street in Arab East Jerusalem by Israelis, set on fire and burnt alive to death, supposedly in “retaliation” for the brutal and outrageous kidnapping of three Israeli teens who lived in a West Bank Israeli settlement. I felt anger and horror at the murder of those three teens, and then the same upset at the murder of this Palestinian teen. But listen below to the story of what the woman just appointed to be the Justice Minister in the 2015 newly elected government of Israel, Ayelet Shaked, said in trying to justify the burning alive of that Palestinian teen. I do not subscribe to the view that Israel is seeking genocide against the Palestinian people, but it appears that its government now has in key positions people who do appear to justify a kind of holy war against Palestinians, and while I doubt that such a war will be waged in the next few years, and pray that it won’t, please do not underestimate the evil of some of the people now being put into positions of power in the new Israeli government (to see what I mean by evil, please read my editorial “Human Evil” in the Spring, 2015 issue of Tikkun magazine –subscribe now at www.tikkun.org/subscribe and then write to Leila@tikkun.org, tell her you’ve just subscribed, but don’t want to wait for the Summer 2015 issue and she will send you the Sprint issue).

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate?

May5

by: on May 5th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Within two of the most prominent monotheistic religions in the world, Judaism and Islam, tradition dictates it blasphemous and highly insulting for any person to physically depict their G*d in Judaism, and the Prophet Muhammad in Islam, even positively or respectfully. So why then did the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its leader, anti-Islam activist Pam Geller, organize their “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, a small suburb near Dallas? Geller offered a $10,000 prize to be awarded for the “best” cartoon caricature of Muhammad.

According to Geller, as well as the invited keynote speaker, far-right politician Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, the event was called as an exercise in free speech. Evidently, Geller chose the site in reaction to a pro-Islam gathering, “Stand with the Prophet” held there last January. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate groups, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization.

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The Present Hidden Holocaust

May4

by: Yanna Bat Adam on May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

As my physical body grows old and older, there is in parallel, an essence aware of itself that becomes younger and younger.

Two opposite movements that don’t contradict each other in any way as there is a sense of wonder in becoming older/younger at the same time.

When life is seen as a miracle even the Holocaust is perceived as a gift of the One and Only Force of Nature.

A painting of an eye with a heart for the iris, with a blue background.

A David State of Heart, Yanna, 2015.

When we are identified with our physical body, trying endlessly to meet its corporeal needs for food, sex, family, money, respect control and knowledge we see the world from the 1st story of a 10-story building.

This perspective does not enable us to see much.

Imagine you see the world from the angle of a crawling snake that continuously looks for something to hunt.

We are trapped like animals in a human form, trying to survive as best as possible as do other beasts. It sometimes feels that animals are more “civilized” than us “humans.”

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One Day, When the Glory Comes, It Will Be Ours

May4

by: Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis on May 4th, 2015 | No Comments »

Last week, as a straight Black ally, I attended a United4Marriage equality rally in Times Square anticipating the Supreme Court hearings today. Before I spoke, a religious leader hissed, “Read your Bible!” I said, “I read my Bible in Hebrew, Greek, and in English!”

What in the hell is going on? Why is that the question?

While the list of dead bodies — black and brown bodies, female, male, trans and gay bodies — lie dead in our streets; while Baltimore burns because there are no answers to the question of why one more Black man is dead; as a Black man is shot dead by police blocks from my East Village Church the question for me is, “What are we going to do about it?”

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