The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of so many others in Arizona has elicited a number of policy suggestions, from gun control to private protection for elected officials, to banning incitement to violence on websites either directly or more subtly (e.g., Sarah Palin’s putting a bull’s-eye target on Giffords’ congressional district to indicate how important it would be to remove her from the Congress).
On the other hand, we hear endless pleas to recognize that the assassin was a lonely and disturbed person whose choice of Hitler’s Mein Kampf as one of his favorite books reflects his own troubled soul, not his affinity to the “hatred of the Other” that has manifested in anti-immigrant movements that have spread from Arizona to many other states and in the United States and has taken the form of anti-Islam, discrimination against Latinos, and the more extreme right-wing groups that preach hatred toward Jews.
The problem with this debate is that the explanatory frame is too superficial and seeks to discredit rather than to analyze. I fell into this myself in the immediate aftermath of the murders and attempted assassination. I wrote an op-ed pointing to the right wing’s tendency to use violent language and demean liberals and progressives, and its historical tie to anti-Semitism and anti-feminism. Once I heard that the arrested assassin had a connection to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, I reacted from my own childhood pain at realizing that most of my extended family had been murdered by the Nazis. So I pointed to the current violent language used by the right-wing radio hosts and some of the leaders and activists of the Tea Party, and how their discourse helps shape the consciousness of those in pain and provides them with a target.
But the problem really is much deeper, so I’m sorry I put forward an analysis that was so dominated by my own righteous indignation that it may have obscured a deeper analysis, and mistakenly insinuated that all Arizonans were responsible for the racism in the current policies toward immigrants and that all people on the Right embrace the hate rhetoric of some of their most extremely popular hate addicts like Glenn Beck, or the ignorance of history that led Sarah Palin to label as “blood libel” the criticisms directed at her. Some people even thought that in mentioning that Congresswoman Giffords is Jewish that I was somehow suggesting that I would care less if she were not — so I also apologize for being sloppy enough to allow that interpretation — very far from my intent, since I believe that all people are equally created in God’s image, and for that reason I’ve been an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians (though also a critic of Hamas’ violence against Israeli civilians).
Because it involves a suggested electoral strategy for the liberal and progressive forces in the U.S., we at Tikkun cannot endorse Rabbi Lerner’s perspective – we are a 501 c-3 and do not engage in supporting or opposing candidates for office. Still, we thought you might find his perspective of considerable interest, as did the editors of the Washington Post. So we are calling it to your attention and will probably post it at Tikkun.org on Sunday.
And needless to say, we are very interested in what your reactions are to his ideas, and may even in the Spring issue of Tikkun or on our www.tikkun.org conduct a discussion of it – we are allowed to discuss these things, just not to advocate. So send your reactions straight to him: rabbiLerner@tikkun.org (if you haven’t written him before, you may get a Spam Arrest notice, and all that means is that you have to click where it says to click, then copy some letters that they show you to prove that you are a person and not a machine, and then you’ll never have to do that again to write to him.)
It is with great pleasure that we bring you the Spanish translation of the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or ESRA. Written by Rabbi Michael Lerner and Peter Gabel, and developed in collaboration with the Network of Spiritual Progressives, this Spanish version was translated by José Luis Sanchez (and proofread by me).
We hope this enables more people to get excited about the ideas of the ESRA. Please pass this post or the entire text around to any Latino organization or individual you think might want to get behind it. Also, remember that we are looking for people who can translate the ESRA into Hebrew, Arabic, French, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and other languages. If you know anyone with these language capabilities who would like to do it, please ask them to contact Rabbi Lerner at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are interested in translating other Tikkun articles and NSP materials as well.
Por favor, circule este documento y procure el endoso de consejos municipales, legislaturas estatales, senadores y congresistas federales, partidos políticos y organizaciones cívicas, religiosas y profesionales.
Por favor, firme y endose la Enmienda de Responsabilidad Ambiental y Social (ESRA)a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos.
As the two year reign of the Prince of Orange (Boehner) begins, my cochlea cringes in anticipation of the bombastic pre-2012 negative advertising Rove has promised to produce beginning November 3rd. We should consider a grassroots effort to amend the Constitution.
Linda Pedro, a friend of mine, led an eight mile pilgrimage through nsow and sleet in her wheelchair
A New York Times map depicting Republican gains (indicated by striped areas) in the House of Representatives
1. Don’t let the media frame this as a defeat of progressives. Had Obama embraced and fought for a progressive agenda, even if he had passed none of it, he would have entered the 2010 elections as the champion of the huge idealism of the American people that was elicited in 2008 and which would have led the Democrats to an electoral sweep in 2010. Being seen as fighting for the needs of ordinary people — never letting anyone forget for a moment that he had inherited the mess that Republican and pro-corporate Democrats had created, positioning himself as the champion of those who resented the Wall Street and corporate interests — his popularity would have grown; he could have won a much bigger victory for the Democrats in 2010, and that would have allowed him to actually legislate the policies of a progressive vision.
Had Obama refused to give more money to the banks and Wall Street unless equal or greater amounts were allocated for a visionary New Deal-style program for jobs and a freeze on mortgage foreclosures; had the Democrats refused to fund the escalation of war in Afghanistan; had they advocated for “Medicare for Everyone” instead of passing a plan that forced 30 million people to buy health care, but puts no serious restraints on the costs that insurance companies or pharmaceutical can charge; had Obama fought courageously for a carbon tax and ended the bargain taxes for the wealthy; had the Democrats insisted on stopping the harassment of immigrants; had the Obama Administration called for a national effort to overturn Citizens United, such as the ESRA (the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution); had Obama set up public forums at which his supporters could give him public feedback and used the web creatively to allow his supporters to weigh in; and had Obama consistently spoken honestly to Americans about the constraints he was facing and who was putting pressure on him to do what… there would have been no electoral defeat.
It wasn’t the progressive agenda that got defeated, it was the corporate-military accommodation of the Democrats and Obama who couldn’t address popular outrage, not only at the economic problem, but at the way we had been manipulated in 2008; and the humiliation many felt at having allowed themselves to hope that someone in politics would fight for what they said they would fight for.
2. Challenge the elitism in the Left. Whenever you hear someone saying that it is the stupidity or reactionary nature of Americans that led to this defeat, remind them of why, absent any other voice that they would encounter expressing their outrage, it was rational for Americans to be attracted to the right-wing voices that were expressing that outrage (albeit with programs that will actually make things worse). When Americans thought they had a chance at progressive change, they voted for it in 2008 — so they are neither stupid nor reactionary.
Faced with July 4th celebrations that are focused on militarism, ultra-nationalism, and “bombs bursting in air,” many American families who do not share those values turn July 4th into another summer holiday focused on picnics, sports, and fireworks, while doing their best to avoid the dominant rhetoric and bombast.
This year that kind of celebration is particularly difficult when many of us are in mourning because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We in the Network of Spiritual Progressives believe that avoiding July 4 or turning it into nothing more than a picnic with friends is a mistake for progressives. There is much worth celebrating in American history that deserves attention on July 4th, despite the current depravity of those who lead this country, though the celebration-worthy aspects of our society are rarely the focus of the public events.
We also acknowledge that in the twenty-first century there is a pressing need to develop a new kind of consciousness — a recognition of the interdependence of everyone on the planet. A new revolution is necessary — one in which our actions reflect a realization that our well-being depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet and of the planet itself.
We’ve designed the following material as a possible guide for individual families or for public celebrations that share the values we hold. We hope that families will reflect on the themes raised in this holiday guide at their celebrations, and that churches, synagogues, unions, community organizations, and neighborhood associations will incorporate this material into their public celebrations of July 4th.
Here’s our official Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) report, followed by ideas for attendees and those who wished they could have been there about how to do pursue the ideas and work. If you would like to buy recordings of the conference or parts of it, please go to this page at ConferenceRecording.com.
Rev. Ama Zenya and Rabbi David Schneyer at the conference
The NSP/Tikkun conference was a terrific success.
500 people gathered at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C. and heard some of the most amazing speakers address the question of what is the nature of the political and spiritual crisis that we are facing in the world today, and what to do about it.
NSP co-chair (and Catholic Benedictine Sister) Joan Chittister led off with a powerful appeal for compassion as a central theme and NSP chair Rabbi Michael Lerner explained how the Global Marshall Plan and the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment were ways of giving substance to the central theme of the conference: Creating the Caring Society–Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.
Edwin Rutsch just sent me this link to a video he took of Michael Lerner at a recent event. If you want the one minute version of what the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) is about — the elevator pitch — go to minute 3:15 below, and go to around 5:50 for Michael’s take on moving social energy towards hope and love. Later in the piece he outlines the ESRA (Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the constitution) and the Global Marshall Plan, the two key proposals of the NSP that are a focus of our DC conference this weekend.
Michael’s work — and this video is a good example — constantly challenges me to think about the differences between personal spiritual transformation and collective activism for creating a caring world. They are related but distinct, and exactly how they relate is not easy to understand.
When you ask “spiritual” or religious people how the world will change, the most common answer is some version of “one person at a time.”