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Archive for the ‘Inter-Culturalism’ Category



Celebrating Black (Muslim) History Month

Feb24

by: on February 24th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

A brand new year, another February drawing to a close. We all know this month is Black History Month, and the overall impression I’ve got from people who are not black is that nobody truly cares about black history except for African Americans. Granted, PBS airs some specials, and our kids learn about important African American figures in school, mostly the high-profile ones such as Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and a few other prominent black activists. for the average American, that’s the extent of our understanding of or participation in Black History Month. Other than that, we defer to the African American community and allow them to claim this “celebration” as their own.


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Why Are So Many White Men So Angry and What Can We Do About It

Feb21

by: on February 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Michael Kimmel’s popular new book Angry White Men, describes the rage of American men who have been cast out of their dominant roles within the economy, the family and personal life. The book does not discuss mass murder, but the fact that men are killing large numbers of people in America indicates a level of rage with no socially constructive outlet. Kimmel correctly notes the way white men are demoted from the economic and social dominance they once had. He blames white men’s now lowered position on two developments. One is a vaguely referenced “neo-liberal agenda”. The second is the movements for economic, political and civil rights for women and minorities. The civil rights and the feminist movements permitted more minorities and women to compete for jobs formerly reserved for white males.

The book explores a wide range of white male attempts to recoup their lost hegemony. One is “hate radio” where voices like Rush Limbaugh’s channel men’s confusion over their changed roles into hatred for “feminazis” and minorities who take “their” jobs.

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Peace Through the Hijab

Jan31

by: on January 31st, 2014 | 19 Comments »

Courtesy World Hijab Day

Stereotypes are hurtful, no doubt about it. They assume things about an entire group of people by those who have less than an iota of knowledge about the group. It shrinks each individual in the group to the lowest common denominator, or even to something unrelated entirely to the group. And it’s doubly sad when stereotypes are perpetuated not just externally but internally as well.

Today, perhaps no other group faces more stereotypes than the Muslim woman. The adjectives – I call them labels – used to define her range from the inaccurate to the offensive and even sometimes laughable. Submissive. Oppressed. Quiet. Homemaker. Religious. Devout. Covered.


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Glory, Fame, and Ambition: the Custer Model

Jan29

by: on January 29th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

George Armstrong Custer. "The last thing we need in our homes, workplaces, and national leadership is a Custer," Kurth writes. Credit: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration.

When I was a girl, my father called me a “glory-hound,” and I was embarrassed and indignant, probably because it was so true. Most writers, it seems, long for glory, fame, acknowledgement. Some of that is a human need to be seen and valued, an experience we all deserve. But lately, I’ve been seeing a very real danger in the obsessive pursuit of fame and even the pursuit of achievement.

What could be wrong with “following your dream” or “being all you can be?”

In a radio interview, a spiritual author writing a book about a religious icon, mentioned a key moment when she was allowed to see the icon. At that moment, her companion and guide, an elderly man, was so affected, he collapsed to the floor. Her reaction was something very close to, Oh, that’s all I need: a dead guide on my hands.

Wow, I thought. Doesn’t a spiritual quest draw us closer to others, make us sympathetic to their suffering and possible death? That moment is undoubtedly not typical of the writer’s attitude overall, but it made me certainly made me ponder ambition, my own and others’, and where it stands in the way of humanity. Where do we find ourselves seeing others and even their suffering as mere obstacles to our goals?

Custer: A Far Scarier Example

Soon after hearing the radio program, I watched a PBS feature on Custer, a horrible and disturbing story. My mind kept flipping back and forth between two visions. One was a popular picture of Custer in his time, glamorous Custer, a “gallant” triumphant competitor, a rule-breaker and risk-taker, adventurous, courageous, confident, dashing, a man who dressed with flare and had a passionate romance with an equally high-voltage woman, his wife, Libby. This, I thought, is the archetype of success in our culture, the fireworks person, the Steve Jobs, the important one who drives himself beyond human limits and achieves fame, power, and money – and makes us feel bad about ourselves.

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Nelson Mandela: A Jewish Perspective

Dec6

by: on December 6th, 2013 | 7 Comments »

Jews love and loved Nelson Mandela. He inspired us with his insistence that the old regime of apartheid would crumble more quickly and fully when faced with revolutionary love and compassion than when faced with anger and violence.

Mandela also challenged us to think deeply about whether the current situation in Israel/Palestine reflects the ethic of compassion that is so central to Judaism.

Credit: Creative Commons/Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Some people on the Left reject Mandela’s strategy. “How can one be openhearted toward one’s oppressors?” they say. “Fostering compassion toward oppressors will undermine the revolutionary spirit needed to defeat the evil ones.”

Yet Mandela showed us the opposite – that one can generate more solidarity and more willingness to take risks in struggle when one can clearly present one’s own movement as morally superior to the actions of the oppressors. Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement claimed this moral superiority through being able to respond to the oppressors’ hatred with great love. When Che Guevara said, “A true revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love,” he was alluding to this same truth. And this is what the Torah teaches when it instructs us to “love the stranger” (the “other”).

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Why Mandela Forgave the Butchers

Dec6

by: on December 6th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Mandela with Desmond Tutu

Back in the early 1960s, black South African lawyer and activist Oliver Tambo was asked to describe a colleague who had just gone to prison for resisting white minority rule in that country. He replied that this man is “passionate, emotional, sensitive, quickly stung to bitterness and retaliation by insult and patronage.” Tambo was talking about his law-firm partner, Nelson Mandela – remembered today for his grace, humor, and empathy, as well as his remarkable courage and leadership.

What happened to Mandela in prison, what changed him so radically, is still a bit of mystery in my mind. He was often asked about a slice of this question – how he let go of the anger he felt specifically toward whites – and his responses were usually of a fairly standard therapeutic variety. Bill Clinton, in an interview aired last night by CBS Evening News, related one such exchange with Mandela.

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An American Muslim Thanksgiving Journey

Nov27

by: on November 27th, 2013 | 9 Comments »

This year will be the first time my family officially participates in the tradition of Thanksgiving, despite having lived in the United States for the last 15 years. That’s not to say I’m against American holidays, but being an American Muslim often implies conflict in terms of national and international observances. So while other immigrants are quick to participate in the celebrations of their adopted countries, American Muslims like me, who identify strongly with their religion, find it difficult to tread this path lightly. Here’s why.


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Rejoice: Openly Socialist Candidate Wins Seattle City Council Seat

Nov18

by: on November 18th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

(Flyer for Sawant/ Credit: CC-BY-NC-SA by Natalie Woo)

It’s true. Seattle elected a socialist candidate to its City Council. Kshama Sawant, a 40-year-old community college instructor and immigrant, is the kind of socialist spiritual progressives can feel delighted about. She ran on an Occupy platform of raising the minimum wage a hefty $5 to $15/hour, instituting rent control, public ownership of utilities, expanding paid sick leave, increasing citizen oversight of police, and taxing millionaires. She even said, under prodding, that one could make a case for nationalizing Amazon and Boeing; it wouldn’t happen, and she wasn’t running on it, but one could make an argument. And she was still elected.

How did she do it?

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Proof of Religion

Oct13

by: on October 13th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard famously said, “Once you label me you negate me.” But despite this, it seems that as human beings, we love labels. We spend much of our lives labeling not just others but ourselves as well. Skin color, race, education level, professional qualifications… you name it, we’ve got it and using it with gusto. Some labels – like doctor, author, white person – we apply on ourselves with pride, while others – black, dropout, druggie – are pasted on our psyches by others without our consent. It’s also an undeniable fact that labels, positive and negative, lead to stereotypes more frequently than they lead to motivation or greater self-esteem. Yet we continue to label ourselves and others without regard for consequences. A particularly dangerous label in the current national political and cultural situation is religion. As a culture we have started looking at people through “God glasses” – asking people what they believe in, assuming their religious preference based on their accent, color and most importantly their dress. It’s no longer a private matter, and it almost always results in discrimination.


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Born to Belonging: Praying the Primal Elements

Oct8

by: Larry Rasmussen on October 8th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

We would all be well advised to listen to the counsel of Wendell Berry, who has been for the past fifty years America’s foremost teacher on the subject of the wholeness of creation. “To cherish the remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal,” he warns, “is our only legitimate hope for survival.” There is no more effective way to cherish the remains of the Earth than first, to recognize the primal elements of earth, air, water and fire as sacred and therefore worthy of reverence. Then, as we perceive more deeply the wholeness of creation, we understand as well that we have been born to belonging to the sacred primal elements, of which we are composed and without which we could not live.

(CC-BY-NC-SA by www.martin-liebermann.de)

From the moment we are born until our death, we need air. Likewise water. Our body mass is, like the planet’s, 70 percent water. As the descendents of Adam, whose name derives from the Hebrew word adama (soil), we are groundlings, earthlings, the good clods who became the cultivators. We are creatures of dust, a little water, and the breath of God. Our identity is in our belonging to the sacred elements, a heritage that unites us with a past stretching back millions of years; yet, this identity has current implications as well. We live in a period of transition from an industrial-technological civilization to an ecological civilization, a transition that some have called the greatest that humans have ever faced. This transition marks the emergence from the Holocene Age to the Anthropocene Age.


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