I was reading the Torah a couple months, well actually I read it every week as part of my Sabbath practice, but a couple months ago the Torah portion focused on bribery and stirred me to thinking (the Torah has that effect on me!). Specifically, Deuteronomy 16, sentence 19, states that “You shall not judge unfairly, you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.”
This simple little sentence has a lot to say about our current political structure, wouldn’t you say? “Don’t judge unfairly.” What could that possibly mean? Well, I take it to mean that we should not judge others lest we understand the path they have walked. This speaks to me about being empathic.
What about “you shall show no partiality”? Well that seems obvious enough, if you are a judge or have a position of power that allows you to make decisions that impact others, don’t be partial. Don’t let your biases get in the way of making sound decisions grounded in the facts. But it can also be applied in more mundane situations – as a teacher, parent, friend, lawyer, etc. When I read this as applying in all circumstances (the Torah does not seem to limit its application), what I take it to mean is to find a path of compassion, look at the situation from all sides, don’t assume one person is right and one wrong. That’s rather powerful. Reminds me of Rumi’s poem:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
OK, this last email pushed me to my limit. The subject line heading read: “Barack needs you, right now.” You’ve got to me kidding me. Barack needs ME? For what? Well Michelle (the email was sent from Michelle Obama), before I am willing to help Barack, I’d like to see Barack help the people of this country – the people who voted for him, who went doorbelling for him, who stood up for him because they believed in his message of “Yes We Can.” President Obama, your policies, practices and actions since taking office in 2009 are completely opposite of what you said you would do and I will not support you, so stop asking. In case you are wondering why, here is a list of a few of the things you have done that I do not condone and hence why I won’t give you any money or support.
Credit: Flickrcc/Storm Crypt
- Instead of helping the working class and poor people, you have aligned yourself with Wall Street and the corporate giants of the world.
- Instead of ensuring protection of our food supply, you have appointed Monsanto executives to your government.
- Instead of thanking whistle-blowers for uncovering the corruption and violence in our government and private agencies (as you said you would), you are hunting them down and prosecuting them.
- Instead of ensuring the protection of constitutional rights, you have signed into law the NDAA – allowing for unlimited detention without charges or a trial.
- Instead of upholding the law and following a path of peace and nonviolence, you have dropped drones and killed innocent children, women, men and community leaders.
- Instead of protecting the environment, you appoint people in your government who are hell bent on destroying our environment.
- Instead of confronting issues of race and racism, you talk platitudes while considering appointing the NY police commissioner, Kelly, the one in charge of the controversial stop and frisk policy in NYC that has led to the harassment of black and brown men at alarming rates, as the head of Homeland Security. All the while claiming that Trayvon Martin could have been you or your son.
The environmental crisis is the no. 1 spiritual challenge facing the human race in the 21st century.
Spiritual Progressives should provide leadership in this struggle. We understand the dimensions of the issue, understand that we cannot save the planet without defeating the globalization of materialism and selfishness which provides the engine for unlimited exploitation of the earth without regard to the future consequences, and understand that a serious environmental movement would not only be involved in the day-to-day challenging of the worst offenses (as will happen at the demonstrations this weekend) but would ALSO be seeking to change the fundamental underlying assumptions about what is rational, productive and efficient in our economy, politics, and daily life. That is what we do with our “New Bottom Line” which is at the center of our Spiritual Covenant with America, and with our proposed ESRA–the Environmental and Social Responsiblity Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
No wonder then, that the Network of Spiritual Progressives has joined with over one hundred other organizations to support the Forward on Climate Rallies this Sunday, not only in the big rally in D.C. but also in the many other rallies around the country. Below is a list of locations we just received. If you can, bring copies of the ESRA to the rally, and signs indicating that you are one of the many Spiritual Progressives involved in this struggle (because doing so will encourage other spiritual progressives to feel safe to come out of the closet despite the religiophobia many people report experiencing in some liberal, progressive and/or environmental circles–and it will help alert secular demonstrators that they have spiritual progressive allies in this struggle to save the earth).
Hope to see you there this Sunday at one of the many sites!
by: Rick Staggenborg on February 12th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
I swore I was not going to write about the gun debate that has followed the latest mass murder. It seemed an exercise in futility. Trying to convince people that they are wrong on gun control is like trying to influence their views on abortion. Attitudes and opinions are fixed on the issue. There is little chance that one more opinion will change them. Recently, the conversation took an interesting turn, one that is new to the ongoing debate on gun control. The idea that we have to have personal weapons to fight our own government went from being a fringe idea to a mainstream argument, defended by conservatives and many pro-second amendment liberals.
It has been obvious to every thinking American for some time that something is terribly wrong with our current government. If we could agree in what that was we might be able to fight it without resort to guns. The nation is nearly evenly divided between those who fear a socialist takeover and those who believe that the problem is growing corporate dominance of government to the extent that it is leading to fascism, if it has not already arrived. If we do not come to a common understanding of what has gone wrong with the US system of government, it is likely that the incidence of political violence will continue to increase until we are subject to a violent crackdown by the very police state that so many of us fear.
by: Rick Staggenborg on January 29th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
By March 1, Congress will have had to face the budget cuts mandated by the failure of the Simpson-Bowles commission to come up with a plan of deficit reduction that would satisfy both Republican and Democratic leaders. The failure to come up with such a plan pulled the “trigger” of a gun that is being held to the heads of poor and middle-class Americans. They will see draconian cuts in social services if the Democrats hold true to form and compromise with a Republican Party that puts defense spending and tax breaks for the rich over the interests of the majority of Americans. Predictably, Democrats undermined their own ability to pass legislation protecting the interests of the People over those of their corporate patrons. Having vowed to protect the social safety net, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caved in to conservative Democrats who opposed serious filibuster reform and traded away the power to control the outcome of the latest round of the fight over how to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Now we have a situation where the majority of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle accept the fallacy that the only way out of the debt they created is to impose austerity measures that target Medicare and Social Security. These are the primary protections against the depredations of a system that puts the interests of the rich over those of ordinary citizens. Their proposed solution to the problem of their own making is to protect the wealthy individuals who fund their campaigns and neglect the needs of the people who actually elected them. While this strategy has provoked riots and international strikes in Europe, many Americans accept this as a sensible solution. They fail to understand some basic facts.
Eli Zaretsky is one of many Tikkun Daily bloggers, and the blog posts on Tikkun Daily and articles on www.tikkun.org are all perspectives we value but do not necessarily agree with. For example, in Zaretsky’s recent blog post, “The Obama Presidency: An Assessment,” we think Zaretsky a bit more negative about Obama than we feel. On the other hand, Zaretsky reads as a good counter-balance to the wild claims of the New York Times on Jan. 22, 2013, which stated that Obama’s second inaugural speech presented a progressive worldview. What Obama did was to list a set of liberal issues, including the need for government to play a role, supporting fair treatment for immigrants, and including gay rights — causes that did not get the support they needed through most of his first four years till he started running for reelection.
There was no unifying theme or progressive vision, no critique of the role of corporations in pursuing self-interest at the expense of societal well-being, no challenge to the distorting role of big money in elections and a reiteration of the basic foreign policy that both Democrats and Republicans (but not progressives) have pursued for the past decades in which we (the United States) try to get our way and serve our economic and political agenda around the world without much sensitivity to the need, much less the human rights of others (in fact, Obama may well be remembered for having initiated an extensive use of drones and for signing on to a policy of legitimating lifetime imprisonment without trial of those suspected of being terrorists).
I hope you’ll read both of my post-election reflections, though they do have slightly different foci. On the home page of Huffington Post this Monday morning you’ll find my article “In Praise of the American People“,while on the home page for Truth-Out.org you’ll find a report of what liberals and progressives have been sharing with me in regard to their concerns that Obama will only be a “lesser evil president” unless we ourselves organize to become as effective a pressure on him and Congressional Democrats as the Tea Party was on Congressional Republicans in the past four years. Please check it out here.
by: Rick Staggenborg on February 8th, 2012 | 2 Comments »
The people of the United States face threats to their safety, health, and economic well being that are not being addressed by Congress. Congress has a favorability rating in the single digits, yet we continue to re-elect the vast majority of its members every two years. The reason is that most Americans seem afraid to face the greatest threat: that the Democratic experiment may fail because of rabid partisanship, for which we are ultimately responsible. The dangers our government is failing to address pose a threat to the rest of the world given the economic and military dominance of the United States over other nations.
If we want a government of, by, and for the People, we must achieve consensus on where we want our leaders to take us. That requires forging a consensus on what kind of America we want to leave our children. This is the crux of the dilemma in which we find ourselves. If we cannot agree on what we want our elected officials to do, then they will continue to do as they please. That is generally to keep themselves in office by catering to the interests of the special interests that pay for their obscenely expensive election campaigns.
by: David E. McLean on November 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Among other things, I teach business ethics at the university level. I have also been a consultant to Wall Street firms for some 20 years, and have worked in various capacities on the Street since I graduated from high school, in 1979. I know a few things about what ought to be; I know a few things about what is.
I visited the Wall Street protest site in New York City, at Zuccotti Park, on Saturday, October 1. Subsequently, I read Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column on the subject of the protests, known as “Occupy Wall Street” or, alternatively, the “99 Percenters” (the protests have in recent days and weeks spread across the country, taking on other names). I agree with almost all of what Kristof wrote, which both applauded the protesters and puzzled about their actual objectives.
Like Kristof, I think that the protests and demonstrations are healthy and important, but the absence of visible leadership and “authorized” spokespersons, and the lack of a plan or list of demands, may very well lead to the protest’s (movement’s) demise, giving comfort to those who wish to continue the plutocracy that exists in this country. Kristof was right to suggest a few concrete proposals that the protesters might run with.
by: Rick Staggenborg on November 5th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Activists rally in Washington, D.C. in January of 2011 for an amendment overturning Citizens United. / Flickr, Public Citizen
When Adbusters Magazine called for an occupation of Wall Street, it recommended that occupiers have a specific political goal in mind. Their short list of suggestions included calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood, the Supreme Court doctrine that corporations are people with constitutional rights, among them the “right” to contribute unlimited sums to elect candidates of their choice.
The occupiers have been criticized from both the left and right for adopting an anarchical process that has led to no clear demands other than that all of the problems besetting 99 percent of Americans be addressed. The problem is that with members of Congress so beholden to corporate money to stay in office, none of the things that must be done to redress their grievances will occur when the interest of We the People conflict with those of the corporations that control the levers of power in the U.S. government.