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Final report from Jerusalem

Jul8

by: Cherie Brown on July 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Dear all,

Credit: Creative Commons

It is Tuesday morning in Jerusalem and I fly home to DC early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. It is hard to believe a month has passed.  I am sad to be leaving Israel, to be leaving all the people here I love, the views of the Old City from our apartment window, the sights and smells of the Shuk (the Marketplace), and all the beauty and the complexity of this wonderful, ancient place. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to coming home.

This last week has once again been a week of amazing contrasts. This past Tuesday night, we were on Jaffa road (where our apartment is).  We were just walking to dinner, when we got caught in an ugly, racist mob scene with hundreds of young, mostly Orthodox Jewish men, throwing rocks, pulling Arabs out of stores, shouting,  ”We want revenge” and “Kill Arabs,”  and waving banners proclaiming,  ”We are all Kahane”.  I have never been more pained– or more terrified.  What has happened to our people?

The horrible events of the past week, the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers and the horrific revenge killing of the Palestinian teenager only added to the information I had been receiving all month from the tours to Hebron, the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills, and the Negev.  All together, each event and each tour has given me a stark, realistic picture, not only of the horrors of life for Palestinians under the Occupation, but also, the depth of collusion, rigidities, and racism of the settler movement, the Israeli army, and the Israeli government — and it’s leadership.  The events of this past week only confirmed what I was already learning and witnessing on the ground all month.  

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Stars and Stripes as Symbols of Pride and Weapons of Hate

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2014 | No Comments »

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ‘em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees.”

Woody Guthrie, Deportees

Credit: Creative Commons

I am struck this week by the juxtaposition of images: one where soccer (football) fans exaltedly and with a sense of pride lifted and feverishly waved the Stars and Strips to cheer on their team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup playoffs in Brazil, the other where U.S. citizens wrathfully and with a sense of scorn lifted and viciously waved those same Stars and Strips to protest and banish Homeland Security bureau buses carrying migrant children and families in Murrietta, California from entering a Border Patrol processing center in their community. Eventually, protesters forced the three busses to turn around and drive back to the Border Patrol facility in San Diego.

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On Safety and Umbrage

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

Have you been reading lately about “trigger warnings? “These are alerts to those who find themselves in a college classroom or other public setting, warning them that some of the material they are about to experience may upset them. The idea is that those who have had traumatic episodes – assault, for instance – might experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder if they see or read depictions of powerfully similar and evocative experiences. A piece in the New York Times back in May mentioned The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, and Greek mythology as possible “trauma triggers” identified by on-campus advocates of “trigger warnings.” The article has by now acquired nearly 1400 comments, and the conversation still seems to be picking up steam.

When I first read about this, I was reminded of my induction into gender politics many years ago. I fell in love with someone who lived in a collective household, so I moved to Portland to live with him. I had been an activist for years, but mostly in other realms – pro-peace, anti-draft, civil rights – where feminism had made incursions but was still insurgent. I’d read some of its primary texts and participated in discussions with other women, influencing my own life, to be sure. But still, nervous at my initial vetting by some of the women of the commune, I made a major faux pas: the word “chick” was still in current use in my corners of San Francisco, but in the commune, when I referred to “this chick,” it dropped like a bomb.

It only took one bomb for me to get the point. Like many children of immigrants, I’m good at picking up and internalizing the customs of the country. So I quickly learned some of them – how to talk and how to dress, things like that. But I balked at others. In a discussion of pre-teenagers, the thought-leader of the household corrected me: I should refer to “junior high school women,” not girls. (I never heard anyone say, “It’s a woman!” upon learning of a baby’s birth, but that doesn’t mean it never happened.)

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Reflections from Jerusalem: The Murdered Teens, Hebron, and the Future of Israel/Palestine

Jul1

by: Cherie Brown on July 1st, 2014 | 2 Comments »

At four in the morning on Tuesday, I find myself wide awake. The devastating news that the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found just came in last night. I had been attending a Teachers’ and Leaders’ class in co-counseling taught by the leader of the Israeli co-counseling community, so we didn’t hear the news until we were in a car on our way back to Jerusalem.

A candle light vigil for the three murdered Israeli teens

Credit: Creative Commons.

Soon after hearing the awful news, a screaming fight broke out in the back seat of the car I was in between two co-counselors. One is a long time peace activist. The other is an ultra Orthodox woman who knew many people in the Yeshiva where the three murdered boys had studied. Each was screaming at the top of their lungs at the other, “You don’t understand anything.” One claimed the other had no sympathy for the murdered Israeli teenagers but only cared about Palestinians. The other screamed back, “You don’t see the outrageous things being done to Palestinians under the Occupation. You have no ability to listen to the other side.” And here I was in the front seat; it’s almost midnight and they are non-stop screaming at each other. The news that the bodies had been found brought up such painful, raw emotion that even these two seasoned co-counseling leaders temporarily could not use their own co-counseling listening skills. I kept thinking how much harder it must be in crisis moments like this for those who don’t even have these listening tools.

There are three events of the last few days I want to write about. All three are deeply etched in my heart as I continue to be confronted by the realities here and search to think through new ways to view what I am learning.

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Patriarchy, Religion, & the Supreme Court

Jul1

by: on July 1st, 2014 | No Comments »

The owners of the businesses have religious objections to abortion, and according to their religious beliefs the four contraceptive methods at issue are abortifacients.”

- Justice Samuel Alito, in the majority opinion, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

Credit: Creative Commons

We can add “Justice” Samuel Alito, “Justice” Anthony Kennedy, “Justice” John Roberts, “Justice” Clarence Thomas, and last, but certainly not least, “Justice” Antonin Scalia to the oxymoron list since this Supreme Court decision amounted to anything but justice. The five men voting in the majority denied the rights of women, most particularly working-class women employees at “closely-held” (family owned with a limited number of shareholders) for-profit corporations, which actually includes most U.S. corporations, control over their reproductive freedoms generally extended to women at other companies.


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How to Create the Ideal Government and Society

Jun30

by: Roger Copple on June 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

This article is not specifically about the exploited working class, the disappearing middle class, or the still-controlling ruling class. Instead, it is about describing how local, state, and the national governments can be improved, preferably under a new national constitution. It is not just about government; it expresses my worldview on several topics.

Some hardcore pragmatists and realists think it is foolish to contemplate ideas that may take 100 years to implement. But to idealists–visualizing the actual goal or dream is what energizes us. In the first half of this long article (I apologize), I identify some of the major political and religious groups in the United States; and then, in the second half, I propose a fair system that levels the political playing field among these diverse groups.

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Remembering Stonewall—and Continuing the Struggle for LGBT Liberation

Jun28

by: on June 28th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Forty-five years ago on this date, New York City Police officers burst into the Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village, conducting an early-morning raid to hassle the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patrons who frequented it.

Feeling they had been harassed far too long, those present at Stonewall challenged police officers by flinging bottles, rocks, bricks, trash cans, and parking meters used at battering rams. They continued to do so over the next five nights.

Even before these historic events at the Stonewall Inn, a little-known action preceded Stonewall by nearly three years, and should more likely be considered as the founding event for the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, asexual, and intersex (LGBTQAI) movement. In August 1966, at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, in what is known as the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, trans* people and gay sex workers joined in fighting police harassment and oppression. Police, conducting one of their numerous raids, entered Compton’s, and began physically harassing the clientele. This time, however, people fought back by hurling coffee at the officers and heaving cups, dishes, and trays around the cafeteria. Police retreated outside as customers smashed windows. Over the course of the next night, people gathered to picket the cafeteria, which refused to allow trans* people back inside.

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Personal Reflections from Jerusalem

Jun28

by: Cherie Brown on June 28th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

I traveled to Jerusalem this summer to spend a month living in Israel and to learn as much as I could about the on-the-ground realities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, I wanted to offer my support and resources to the co-counseling community in Israel.

Co-counseling is a process whereby people are trained to exchange counseling help with one another to free themselves from the negative effects of unhealed grief, rage, and fear. One of the goals of co-counseling work is to identify and heal from past experiences of trauma and group oppression to be able to think freshly about all current situations.

There are communities of people in all different parts of the world that do co-counseling with one another. Co-counselors in Israel are using the tools of co-counseling to heal from any feelings of powerlessness, discouragement, or isolation that can make it difficult to sustain leadership over time and with others on Israeli-Palestinian peace work and all social justice work.Upon arriving in Jerusalem, my husband and I settled into an apartment right next to the Machaneh Yehuda – an incredible open-air market with streets of stalls and all kinds of produce. Our apartment was on the 14th floor, giving us a panoramic view of the Old City from our window. Each morning we woke to a spectacular view of the Old City before us. After having been in Jerusalem for a week, I settled into the daily rhythms of life and led a gathering for the co-counseling community in Jerusalem.

I kept finding how eager people were for contact, for connection, and for breaking the isolation of being Israeli – with the current separation of Israel from so much of the rest of the world. For example, the husband of one of the co-counseling leaders who came to my gathering had just had a life-threatening stroke, soI gave her counseling time, including giving her the space to heal about her incredible grief at the very real possibility that he might not make it. A Mizrachi woman initially was furious with me, saying how dare I ask this woman to look for even one minute at giving up hope about her husband. The Mizrachi woman went on to say, “We here in Israel are the walking dead, and we can’t afford to allow one another one second even in a co-counseling session to feel any feelings of hopelessness.” After screaming at me, she fell into my arms sobbing, and afterwards everyone present said how helpful it is for allies to offer a place for Israelis to be able to express the deep feelings of hopelessness that sit right under the recordings of forced hopefulness.

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Does Everyone Want to Be Rich? Reflections on a Trip to China

Jun27

by: on June 27th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

I am writing this piece on the airplane, on my way home from two weeks in China, where I’ve wanted to go for at least 25 years. I wanted to see, with my own clearly biased eyes, what life is like there. In part, to have some pre-rudimentary understanding of another culture that’s had such a long tradition and which has given so much to the world. In part, to understand how a country with SO many people can function. Originally, I also wanted to have some grasp on what real life communism means. Although I guess I missed that boat, I still felt a deep pull to be there.

Liu Yi, at right, and friends with Miki in Shanghai, 2013

Liu Yi, at right, and friends with Miki in Shanghai, 2013

Then the opportunity came when I met Yin Hua and Liu Yi a year ago, while passing through China (see In Defense of Complexity).

My passion for supporting fledgling Nonviolent Communication (NVC) communities in the world, along with my deep desire to offer the tools of collaboration to people working in NGOs, served as the impetus for arranging this trip.

With the warmth and depth of connection I felt with Liu Yi, with her extensive knowledge of and connections within the NGO world, with her willingness to embark on the unbelievable amount of work that it takes to organize a visit of a foreign trainer, and with Yin Hua’s support of the project, the road was clear for the trip that just ended.

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Pro Bono Blues

Jun27

by: on June 27th, 2014 | No Comments »

Have you noticed? Money changes everything. Almost daily, I get into conversations about compensation and fairness. Sometimes I even start them. But whoever starts them, by the time they get going, there’s always so much gray area that I have trouble finding my way to daylight.

I’m interested to know what you think. Let me share a few stories and a few questions that may cast some light on the subject.

Work or play? I work with many other artists who care about social justice and planetary healing and want to do our part. We get asked to contribute in various ways. Will you perform at our event? Will you donate a piece to our auction? When everyone is being asked to contribute – not just artists – that can feel just fine. But often that’s not the case. The people who mastermind the event, who set up and run the tech, who create the advertising, are being paid, but the artists are asked to volunteer.

This difference reflects some real challenges for those who wish to give art and culture their true value, those who understand that artists’ creativity is needed to surmount overwhelming challenges, to nourish our collective resilience, social imagination, and empathy. It seems to reflect the popular notion that artists are having too much fun for what they do to really be considered work: Sure, I’d like to sing and dance all day and get paid for it too. It devalues artists’ contributions, ignoring what we now know about the ways that stories, images, metaphors, and participatory actions can change more minds than the wonky work of white papers (which is almost always compensated). It seems to short-change organizing strategy itself, treating artists’ work as mere embellishment rather than a powerful path to change. These are hard attitudes to alter, because they are deeply embedded in the common culture. What would you do to transform them?


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