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Seeing Donald Trump: How a Sensible Empathic View of Him Can Help Progressives Stop Him

Jul19

by: John H. McFadden on July 19th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

[Editor's note: Tikkun does not endorse or reject any candidate for office or any political party (we are prohibited from doing so by our IRS non-profit status). We do publish on Tikkun Daily and on our website articles from selected boggers and sometimes from submissions directly from our subscribers or members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, usually without comment, but hoping our readers understand that articles on our web or Tikkun Daily do NOT necessarily reflect our editorial stance which you can find ONLY in the editiorials I write in the print edition of the magazine. Nevertheless, because many of our readers are spiritual progressives, the articles on the election on our blog or website can sometimes seem to give more positive attention to one candidates and less for another candidate. For that reason, we want to again urge our readers to write to us with your feelings and thoughts about the presidential candidates and political parties least likely to be predictably what you'd find in Tikkun, in the hopes of having a wider range of views and a wider range of supporters of positions that we editorially oppose. Send those to Ari@tikkun.orgor torabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com(along with a one or two sentence bio and your email and snail mail addresses, please.]

If in this article I do a good job of creating a sensible empathic explanation of Trump’s troubling behavior, I’ll evoke what at first to my fellow critics of him must seem impossible, much less undesirable. I hope to evoke compassion for him as the innocent victim of influences beyond his knowledge and, therefore, his control. But why strive to evoke compassion for horrible people? I believe this compassion-evoking view of any person is more credible than the degrading view held by nearly everyone. Incidentally, I’m one of those haters – Trump disgusts me. But it’s vital, I believe, to at least able to be angry at and feel compassion toward practically everyone.

The practical point of this empathic explanatory view? Perhaps most importantly regarding Trump, we must have a credible view of him and his supporters to plot an effective strategy for preventing him from winning the Presidency. That ought to be unarguable. And empathic explanations make the best sense of people. Of course, Trump may alienate the populace enough to derail his bid, but as of this writing, the polls haven’t tipped against him enough to quiet our worries about the possibility that the perhaps the most dangerous man to every run for this office will win the election, the growing number of Republicans for Hillary notwithstanding.


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Grief

Jul15

by: on July 15th, 2016 | 18 Comments »

Soon after the news from Nice popped up on my newsfeed an old friend wandered into our shop. Last I’d seen her she had told me that her partner of 16 years had died after a long battle with cancer. She was leaving town, then, and I wasn’t sure if or when I’d see her again. Now here she was, grieving, in need of a friend to talk to. I closed my computer and for the next hour and a half, except when briefly interrupted to help another customer, I spent the time talking… actually, mostly listening.

Grief.

The other day another woman was standing outside our shop looking lost. I went out and asked what was wrong. “I can’t remember where I parked my car.” I told her that it happens to all of us. “I just lost my husband and ever since he…. My brain just doesn’t work right anymore.”

Grief.

Most people would walk by my friend and this other woman and not notice that something terrible had happened to them.

Grief.

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Social Justice and Theater at a Time of Crisis

Jul14

by: on July 14th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Augusto Boal at Riverside Church, NY City, in 2008

All of last week I was at a Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) training. I was drawn to the intensely evocative and provocative forms first created by Augusto Boal in the 1960s, designed to support marginalized groups in creating social change. Intuitively, I sensed these practices could support the rudimentary role play forms that are part and parcel of learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC) and dramatically (pun almost not intended) enhance NVC’s social justice applications.

This week became a thick, rich, powerful, challenging entanglement of the personal, the symbolic, and the political as a group of 36 of us from across many social divides and several countries grappled together with our experiences and all else that unfolded that week. By necessity of care for our agreement to protect the specifics of what happened in the room, most of the below is only about my own experiences and lens.

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Poem on the Murders

Jul12

by: Anita Barrows on July 12th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

Phliando Castile was an African-American Nutrition Services Department supervisor at a Montessori School in suburban Minnesota. He was shot dead by police on July 6 after being stopped for a broken tail light. His girlfriend, Diamond Lavish Reynolds, immediately began narrating his murder on her phone (sent out via Facebook) as she sat beside him while he was dying in the car. Her four year old daughter, also in the car, witnessed everything.

This is for you, Diamond Lavish Reynolds,

before your name disappears among so many

others, before your voice

is forgotten, before you wake up

one morning, still just 24, your child

beside you, and find only the goneness

on the other side of the bed.This is for you

on the morning you wake and wonder

what you are going to do now

with your life, how you are going to talk

to the four-year-old child who saw the cop

fire the gun at Philando, the child you called

your “angel,” your first consolation.

This is for you when the news has stopped talking

about what happened, when the news has passed on

to other deaths.This is for you

in this country of guns, of cruelty, of dismissal;

for you, Diamond

Lavish Reynolds, on some humid morning

in August, as you push the blankets

away, your child

curled in sleep, so small,

and walk into the bathroom and look for the first

time in weeks carefully

at your face in the mirror, ask yourself how

you are going to live

now with only this absence,

one of your eyes consumed with grief, the other

with outrage.How can we hold this

with you, how can we make your tears not

another deleted narrative?

Anita Barrows is a poet, translator, and psychologist in Berkeley, California. She is a professor at The Wright Institute and maintains a private practice.

Dehumanizing and Delegitimizing

Jul8

by: Mazin Qumsiyeh on July 8th, 2016 | 8 Comments »

There is a growing movement of applying Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions
(BDS) on Israel just like we did to defeat apartheid in South Africa.
Zionist apologists are understandably declaring war on this nonviolent and
moral movement. In many countries including several states in the USA,
there are attempts to delegetimize the movement and declare BDS illegal. Of
course this is contrary to the principles of free speech and free
association. People’s right to boycott was recognized in key legal
precedents but more legal challenges are needed to dispel the myth that
engaging in BDS is somehow illegitimate. Israeli apologists around the
world engage in all sorts of dirty tricks to keep the racist system going
(a racket to keep the flow of cash if I may say so). Having faced Israeli
apologists in public debates, many do not want to debate again because they
lose badly as they attempt to delegitimize and dehumanize their victims.
They have no facts and they are defending injustice. So they resort to
personal attacks and strange racist mythologies (for example that we
Palestinians sacrifice our children for publicity or that we “hate Jews”).
This is expected from colonial power to dehumanize their victims.

Elie Wiesel died recently. He spent most of his life defending Israel and
dehumanizing Palestinians. He was challenged on many occasions to say
something about the Palestinian victims and all he could muster was
regurgitating Zionist lies about colonizers needing to “defend themselves”.
Here is what a real prophetic Jew  (Sara Roy who teaches at Harvard) wrote
on September 9, 2014

Mr. Wiesel,
I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York
Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas
and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully
veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children
included.  As a child of Holocaust survivors—both my parents survived
Auschwitz—I am appalled by your anti-Palestinian position, one I know you
have long held. I have always wanted to ask you, why? What crime have
Palestinians committed in your eyes? Exposing Israel as an occupier and
themselves as its nearly defenseless victims? Resisting a near half century
of oppression imposed by Jews and through such resistance forcing us as a
people to confront our lost innocence (to which you so tenaciously cling)?

Unlike you, Mr. Wiesel, I have spent a great deal of time in Gaza among
Palestinians. In that time, I have seen many terrible things and I must
confess I try not to remember them because of the agony they continue to
inflict.  I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot into crowds of young children
who were doing nothing more than taunting them, some with stones, some with
just words. I have witnessed too many horrors, more than I want to
describe. But I must tell you that the worst things I have seen, those
memories that continue to haunt me, insisting never to be forgotten, are
not acts of violence but acts of dehumanization.

There is a story I want to tell you, Mr. Wiesel, for I have carried it
inside of me for many years and have only written about it once a very long
time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot
patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the
door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it.
Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them
with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began
screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying
desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers’ legs and feet. After
a few more seconds of “play,” the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving
the terrified child to its distraught mother.

Now, I know what you must be thinking: this was the act of a few misguided
men. But I do not agree because I have seen so many acts of dehumanization
since, among which I must now include yours. Mr. Wiesel, how can you defend
the slaughter of over 500 innocent children by arguing that Hamas uses them
as human shields?  Let us say for the sake of argument that Hamas does use
children in this way; does this then justify or vindicate their murder in
your eyes? How can any ethical human being make such a grotesque argument?
In doing so, Mr. Wiesel, I see no difference between you and the Israeli
soldiers who used the baby as a soccer ball. Your manner may differ from
theirs—perhaps you could never bring yourself to treat a Palestinian child
as an inanimate object—but the effect of your words is the same: to
dehumanize and objectify Palestinians to the point where the death of Arab
children, some murdered inside their own homes, no longer affects you. All
that truly concerns you is that Jews not be blamed for the children’s
savage destruction.

Despite your eloquence, it is clear that you believe only Jews are capable
of loving and protecting their children and possess a humanity that
Palestinians do not. If this is so, Mr. Wiesel, how would you explain the
very public satisfaction among many Israelis over the carnage in Gaza—some
assembled as if at a party, within easy sight of the bombing, watching the
destruction of innocents, entertained by the devastation?  How are these
Israelis different from those people who stood outside the walls of the
Jewish ghettos in Poland watching the ghettos burn or listening
indifferently to the gunshots and screams of other innocents within—among
them members of my own family and perhaps yours—while they were being
hunted and destroyed?

You see us as you want us to be and not as many of us actually are. We are
not all insensate to the suffering we inflict, acceding to cruelty with
ease and calm. And because of you, Mr. Wiesel, because of your words—which
deny Palestinians their humanity and deprive them of their victimhood—too
many can embrace our lack of mercy as if it were something noble, which it
is not. Rather, it is something monstrous.

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern
Studies, Harvard University.
——————-
Max Blumenthal similarly wrote a poignant reflection on the hateful
tribalist opportunist Elie Wiesel
http://www.alternet.org/print/grayzone-project/huge-part-elie-wiesels-legacy-being-whitewashed

But our problem is not with Wiesel now, he is gone. Our problem is with
those who are around trying to go more right wing hoping somehow that saves
the silly notion of a “Jewish state”. It is not less crazy than an Aryan
white state or an Islamic state or a Christian state. All such concepts are
destined for the dustbin of history. Isn’t it also boring to try to create
monolithic societies? Isn’t it time people respect other religions and
cultures and learn to share in equality this beautiful earth instead of
spoiling it?

>From here in Palestine we cry out for justice and for simple human rights.
The rights of refugees to return and the right to live in our lands
peacefully regardless of our faiths/beliefs. First do no harm. Here are my
reflections on our responsibility (the Savior in each of us) that I wrote
six years ago and is still relevant today
http://qumsiyeh.org/thesaviorineachofus/

Stay human and welcome to visit us in Palestine

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
http://qumsiyeh.org
http://palestinenature.org

Meditation on Pedagogies of the Traumatized

Jul8

by: on July 8th, 2016 | No Comments »

Print: Amos Paul Kennedy Photo: Gina Athena Ulysse

There is a mini-poster by the journeyman printer Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. on one of my bookshelves. This black block print on cardboard contains an equals sign with the caption “Equality is a special privilege for Blacks these unitedstatesofamerica.” The USA is spelled out in lowercase (as presented), as a single word, bracketed by the stars and stripes upside down ― a signal of distress. I also keep a copy in my office where I teach to look at everyday as a crude reminder that in the eyes of the law, Whiteness is supreme, we (Blacks) were never equal, and know full well, we still are not.

We live in a market economy, where the value ascribed to Black bodies remains high only when we reinforce the state of our original conditions as human chattel. Property. Slaves. We were restricted by a system of codes, rules that managed our behavior and manners back then. In a sense, we still are. Lest we were to forget, or if and when we dare to question this order of things, the price for our disruption is a lashing of one kind or another from the seemingly benign, to the fatal. In her award winning book, Citizen: An American Lyric, the brilliant poet Claudia Rankine puts it this way, “because white men can’t police their imagination, Black men are dying”. The fact of our Blackness to paraphrase Frantz Fanon, is non-negotiable, since our belonging in this society has always been provisional. Human chattel. Property. Slaves. As the great James Baldwin once wrote, “we could hope to arrive only by imitation.” We are rewarded in the myriad ways we are accorded opportunities to uphold and re-inscribe White supremacy. So the message, just in case we didn’t get the memo, is clear: This is a White world. The story of our existence therein is one of inequity that, at the least, requires our infantilization to thrive, and at best, our absolute submission to survive. There are no boundaries and protection. Respect is exclusively reserved for Whites only. It is their birthright. We must stay in our place.

I woke up too early this morning and broke my own rule by going to social media. I inadvertently saw Lavish Reynolds’ livestream video of the police killing of her boyfriend, Philando Castile, on my Twitter feed. Caught up, in a sense of outrage, disbelief, and shock, I tried to suppress it. I was still processing Alton Sterling as another victim of police violence days before, trying to decide whether to write about it. I decided against it (because I can), and also pondering like Roxane Gay ― what more could be said that has not already been said? My vocabulary does not need to expand to rephrase what members of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have been demanding in three words: Stop Killing Us!

I avoid these videos. There’ve been so many. They stay with you and threaten to desensitize you. They are numbing us to the spectacle of Black death according to Jamil Smith. More evidence of the normalization of a civilization predicated upon the near annihilation of a people and the fortification of a nation intimately structured with violence. That’s always been the hypocrisy in our moral values. We remain cavalier in our practices of discard and ‘so aghast’ by the racist rhetoric of he who shall not be named.

My FB feed contains continuous advice from folks warning each other to avoid encounters that will further aggrieve this trauma. Human chattel was always disposable. Property’s value depreciates. Slave need to be dominated. Each hashtag memorial, and media report that reverts to stereotypes, become new trigger points. Reminders of how White Power works. Last summer, the incessant assault on Black Lives prompted @eveeeeezy to suggest a more vigilant approach to self-care. It may have been delivered with comic relief, but “Calling in Black” was a cry of “Enough!”

Indeed, the devaluation, embodied or otherwise, takes its toll. #BlackLivesMatter made its way into the Ivory Tower with the student uprising last fall. Institutions, not made in our image, were forced to confront their Whiteness and their cultivation of “exclusionary practices.” Centuries later, we did not, and could not, escape the fact of our history. It has simply been digitized.

As an educator in an historically white institution, inspired by Paolo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I have been confronting this dilemma personally and pedagogically. I have been reorienting myself interrogating notions of belonging to figure out collective and sustainable ways to deploy my intellectual knowledge in a manner to be of service to a greater good. That is the story I tell myself knowing the greater good often subsumes us and leaves Black folks behind. I have gotten more involved in institutional matters with a mature awareness of the potentials and impossibilities of some interventions. We can’t keep running away from the past. Besides, social media has assured we can only run so far; the brutality that used to happen in private is now ever so public. My optimism wanes and my patience continues to be tried with each new extra judicial killing, each exoneration. Each one is more confirmation of the deep rootedness of our inequality. We bear the weight of history so unequally. It is written on our bodies and etched in the color of our skin. Human chattel. Property. Slaves. That is the undue burden, the inequity we live with, that simply cannot be undone unconsciously. Its transformation, if that (I am not naïve), requires so much more than will. To bring about a modicum of change we must not only intentionally attempt, but also be determined, to shift. It will not happen par hazard. Because history has seen to it that the exchange, use, and sign value ascribed to Black lives remains unequal to that of Whites. We are differentially positioned and invested.

What story do you tell yourself to assuage the comfort you find in the social luxury of being in an unmarked body. Your silence is your complicity. Where is your outrage as we all bear witness to this moment?

The Madness Continues and Jesse Williams Speaks Truth

Jul8

by: on July 8th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

In December of 2014, I wrote an essay where I connect police violence against African-American people to racism as a social psychosis. In other words, racism has made most people in the United States crazy, police included. (http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2014/12/09/blue-on-black-violence-racial-bias-and-societal-psychosis/) I discuss an essay – “A Superhumanization Bias in Whites’ Perception of Blacks” published in the journal “Social Psychological and Personality Science.” Fast forward to July 2016, and in the space of two days, two African-American men, in two cities, in two different parts of the country – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul– have been shot and killed by police. Both shootings were caught on video and broadcast widely. I shall quote myself:

“And the crazy is so crazy deep that many people affected by the crazy do not realize how crazy they are. The insanity causes us to misperceive reality, so that we see what is not really real and do not see what is really real.”

The madness continues.

Jesse Williams is an actor on the popular television show “Grey’s Anatomy.” In June 2016, he received Black Entertainment Television’s Humanitarian Award. In his acceptance speech, he referred to Tamir Rice, an African-American child who was killed by Cleveland police while playing with a toy gun. The young man was killed within three seconds of the police arriving on the scene. Three seconds.

Williams said in part: “Now, what we have been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.” (http://time.com/4383516/jesse-williams-bet-speech-transcript/)

In responding to the two killings in remarks from Poland, President Obama presented data. He said:

“And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues. According to various studies – not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years–African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African-Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites. African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African American defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost 10 percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.

“So that if you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population. Now these are facts.”
(https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/07/statement-president)

President Obama also spoke of systemic racism that renders poor communities of color basically out of sight and out of mind to the majority of the people who hold power in the United States. Thus, these communities suffer from a lack of quality education, employment, and opportunity. The president also spoke of building trust between local police and the communities they serve.

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Two-State Solution’s Chance Disappearing as Israeli Settlements Grow

Jul5

by: Allan C. Brownfeld on July 5th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

The chance for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is steadily eroding, members of the Middle East Quartet mediation group said early in July.

The Quartet, the sponsor of a peace process that has made almost no progress, is composed of the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union. The latest report calls on the Israelis to cease the construction and expansion of settlements, the designation of land exclusively for use by Israelis, and the denial of permits to Palestinians. It also recommends that Palestinian authorities stop inciting violence and work harder to combat terrorism.


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“African Exodus” Film Documentary

Jul5

by: on July 5th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

On June 20, 2016, I was privileged to see a screening of the film African Exodus directed by Brad Rothschild at San Francisco’s Sundance Kabuki theater, sponsored by Right Now: Advocates for Asylum Seekers in Israel and Ameinu. This troubling and moving documentary exposes the plight of African refugees fleeing to Israel to escape the horrific civil wars in Sudan and Eritrea. Some 60,000 refugees and asylum seekers found their way to Israel hoping to find safe haven and 45,000 remain. Many live in south Tel Aviv near the central bus station in squalid conditions, in limbo, and often going hungry. The Israeli government has labeled them “infiltrators” and denies them work permits. Many have been transferred to the isolated prison-like Holot detention center in the Negev desert, where they have been held for months to years.

Through interviews we get to know some of the asylum seekers, their stories, and their hopes. We learn of the horrific killings in Cairo on December 30, 2005 under Mubarak’s regime, causing many to flee across the Sinai in search of safety. We see the gratitude of a mother toward Israeli army troops for providing food and water to her children after the harrowing journey. We see the cruelty of Israeli government policy, which refuses to see their plight and treats them as pariahs, leaving them to languish in limbo. We see the spewing of hatred from religious Jewish nationalists, and the tremendous generosity of everyday Tel Aviv residents who embrace the “stranger” by setting up soup kitchens and collection centers.

Andrea Kruchik-Krell, founder of Microfy, is a powerful voice in the film. She was present for the after-film discussion.

Click here to view the heart-wrenching short trailer of African Exodus.

For further information on African Exodus or to show this film in your community, contact Morgan Buras Finlay at morgan.buras@gmail.com.

For Elie Wiesel

Jul5

by: on July 5th, 2016 | No Comments »

His breath made night light
He gave sound to silent truths
His fire inspires us.