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Archive for the ‘General News’ Category



Readers Respond to Our Conference Call with Obama

Aug6

by: on August 6th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

On July 30th, the Tikkun and Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP) community, along with a variety of other groups, was invited to a conference call with President Obama. During the call he spoke about the nuclear agreement reached with Iran and urged us to become active in supporting that deal in light of the ferocious opposition of the Republicans, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and many national American Jewish organizations. President Obama referenced the failure of peace-oriented people to stop the disastrous war in Iraq and urged us to become visibly engaged in supporting this agreement, which he said would prevent the only other possible alternative for those who want a denuclearized Iran, namely a war with Iran.

Of course, I had hoped that there would be a chance to engage directly with Obama, but he simply continued to do what he has done ever since we helped to elect him, namely talk tous but not with us. Still, many members of our Tikkun and NSP community tuned in for the talk and then sent their responses to me. Below is a representative sample of what I received in the ensuing hours.

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

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The Cost of Cowardice (part two)

Jul22

by: on July 22nd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

When it comes to passing gun regulations, the United States Congress is a group of cowards.

Congress-members of both parties use the second amendment as a fig-leaf to cover their cowardice while they dance to the tune of the National Rifle Association. Republican senators, with the exception of perhaps four, are completely in the pocket of the NRA. Democrats who will vote for gun regulations pay homage to “responsible gun owners” and “second amendment protections” before they speak about Band-Aid measures to prevent gun violence.

The cost of this legislative cowardice is high. In an average year, “over 108,000 (108,476) people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention.” In an average year for all ages, 32,514 people die from gun violence; 75,962 people survive gun injuries. On an average day, 7 children and teens die from gun violence. “Every day, 41 children and teens are shot and survive.” (These numbers come from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: http://www.bradycampaign.org/key-gun-violence-statistics)

Further, there is the monetary cost of gun violence. According to an article in “Mother Jones” magazine (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/true-cost-of-gun-violence-in-america), the annual cost of gun violence, based on 2012 data, is $229 billion dollars. “Mother Jones” reports:

“Even before accounting for the more intangible costs of violence, in other words, the average cost to taxpayers for a single gun homicide in America is nearly $400,000. And we pay for 32 of them every single day.”

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Sweet Blossoms out the Crater: A Review of Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2015 | No Comments »

bodymap book

With all the celebrations of gay same-ness after the Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage, I am grateful for Leah Laskhmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s filthy gorgeous poems, which remind us how queer desires still have the power to fuck shit up. The poems in her collection Bodymap demonstrate how queer desires–for each other, for ourselves, for something different – can provide a roadmap for moving toward freedom.

Reading so many poems about raw, dirty, queer crip sex made me think about Yasmin Nair’s recent argument that radical sex does not always translate into radical politics. While I agree that we can’t assume that any particular kind of sex is necessarily revolutionary (don’t we all know kinky people with regressive politics?), the poems in Bodymap serve as an argument that queer desire can–and should – fuel us to challenge the social order and reclaim the full humanity of those whom capitalism discards – including queers, people of color, working class folks, poor people, immigrants, undocumented people, and disabled folks.

What shines through every single poem is how hard Piepzna-Samarasinha has had to fight to love her queer, femme, disabled, brown working class self in a world that doesn’t always love her back. Her determination to love is generous; it starts with herself and then spreads its shimmering wings out to encompass all of us who have been marginalized and fucked over by systems of oppression.

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Looking Back: Rachel Dolezal and the Wages

Jun29

by: on June 29th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

Several weeks ago, the American media was transfixed by a story of racial “passing.” Now the story has been pushed off the front pages by the true tragedy of the massacre of nine African American congregants in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The media saturation bombing of Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane NAACP, looks increasingly trivial. In a country where black folk are seemingly eternally subject to violence, the story of Dolezal now seems trite. But why was the nation briefly so focused on her story? Ms. Dolezal, born “white,” was accused of disguising herself as “black.” She had become a community activist and had married a black man. In addition, she had adopted black children. Her parents “outed” her as white. They stoutly maintain that they are “Caucasian” (but one assumes not in the same way as condemned Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev). I find the jumbled facts of the case insufficient to explain the national furor. She and ISIS appeared on the front page of the New York Times on the same day. Dolezal may be personally mendacious and manipulative, but her construction of herself, however contrived, struck a raw nerve in the American psyche. The “white” woman turned ‘black” is even more transgressive than transgenders. Her professed bisexuality attracts less attention than her racial identification.

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Terrorism in Charleston: It’s About Racism, Stupid!

Jun23

by: on June 23rd, 2015 | Comments Off

The following written on a cardboard box, "terrorism / noun / 1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes".

Credit: CreativeCommons / Jagz Mario.

While all available evidence points to Dylann Storm Roof’s racist motives in his admitted mass murder of 9 worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday evening, June 17, in Charleston, South Carolina, still, a number of conservative Republican politicians frame the tragedy as either something we can never truly understand, or primarily as an attack on Christians, Christianity, and religious liberty.

According to South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”

Well, Governor Haley, I believe that in most instances of terrorism directed against houses of worship in the United States, the attackers’ motives were crystal clear: white supremacism!

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In-Between “Racialized” Category of European-Heritage Jews

Jun19

by: on June 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An older Jewish gentleman.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Thomas Hawk

Sometimes I don’t know which side of the wall I’m on.
—Wladylaw Szpilman, The Pianist

On numerous occasions, I have attended the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference, bringing together grass-roots activists from throughout North America as well as other countries around the world. At one of the conferences in the early 1990s, I was a participant in a well-attended workshop titled “Activists of Color/White Activists Dialogue” facilitated by two highly-respected activists: a woman of color and a white Christian man.

When the workshop began, the woman outlined the agenda for the next one-and-one-half hours: the workshop would concentrate on the concepts of “race” and dialogue across racial divides, and include two separate panels of participant volunteers: one composed of four people of color, the other of four white people. Panel members were to each, in turn, answer four questions put to them by the facilitators, first the people of color panelists followed by the white people panelists. The questions were: 1. “What do you love about being your racial identity?” 2. “What has been difficult for you growing up this racial identity?” 3. “What do you never want to hear said again about or seen done to people of your racial identity group?,” and 4. “How can people of other racial groups support you and be your allies?”

As she explained the intended focus and agenda, great confusion came over me: Should I volunteer? Well, maybe, but I really can’t because I’m not sure if either of the categories on which the panels are organized include me. I know for certain that I am not eligible to volunteer for the “persons of color” panel. But, also, I feel as if I somehow don’t belong on the “white persons” panel either. Maybe I should just listen to the panelists, which I did.

But, what caused my bewilderment? What got in my way of self-defining as “white”? From where was this feeling of not-belonging on either panel, or my feeling of in-betweenness coming? Thinking back, I came to realize that it stems, I believe, from both personal and collective experience.

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Goodkill… Or Not

May25

by: on May 25th, 2015 | Comments Off

Memorial Day seems a fitting time to review the movie “Goodkill,” now playing in theaters around the country. The movie, based on actual events, portrays a morally-conflicted and psychologically-tormented operator of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”), played by Ethan Hawke.

Even though the plot includes some obvious Hollywood enhancements, it presents some basic facts about drone warfare, facts that are little known to the U.S. public. For instance, drone operators accidentally kill civilians, but sometimes see that civilians (including children) are present and proceed (or are ordered to proceed) anyway. “Signature strikes” do not target individually-recognized terrorists, but groups that fit a particular profile. A “double tap” means that after a drone attack, a second drone targets rescue workers or people attending the funeral of victims from the first attack.

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Integrating Spirituality and Activism – How to Change the World

May13

by: on May 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?- Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot 1:14

Our world is riddled with tragedies: the epidemic of killings by police in the U.S. of African Americans, boats capsizing with hundreds of The Politics of Love and Justice Summitpeople fleeing war-torn countries in search of security, safety and well-being, children dying from illnesses stemming from malnutrition at alarming rates, women and girls being raped as victims of wars, and the list goes on. As spiritual seekers we desperately yearn for a day when peace and nonviolence, love and care, kindness and generosity as well as a deep connection with the sacred in one another and with the creative force of the universe reign.

Many of us, in our despair, turn to spiritual guidance and practices to soothe our pain and find solace. Feeling powerless to impact the enormity of the problem and recognizing that social change efforts often lack deep spiritual integration and wisdom, we instead decide to focus our energies on our inner work rather than align ourselves with larger social change movements. We find comfort in the belief that personal transformation alone can and will result in societal transformation.


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Acceptance Weighs More Than Denouncement

May11

by: Lubna Qureshi on May 11th, 2015 | Comments Off

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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U.S. Tops for Income Inequality and Incarceration, but Near Bottom for National Health

May5

by: Mark Karlin on May 5th, 2015 | Comments Off

Post-Its that say "end income inequality."

Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

When the New York Times starts posting articles warning of a dystopian future in the United States due to income equality, you know that the alarm bells are starting to sound even in the corporate mass media.

On April 28, the Times posted an analysis by reporter Eduardo Porter in its economy section. Porter bluntly stated:

But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind. Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.

Porter manages to find a glimmer of hope in the grim statistics about the real state of the union. However, his sliver of optimism is only due to the fact that the deterioration of the nation as a community is so bad that he believes it will ultimately force a political solution. “The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics,” Porter writes, “is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it.”

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