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The Land of the Stupid and the Home of the Scared


by: on November 18th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

If we follow the lead of the GOP presidential candidates, the governors of 31 states and various candidates for higher office, we may as well stop singing the national anthem, or to be honest, change the words. Politicians who want to exploit the terroristic tragedies in Paris and in other places around the world to win votes based on fear are reprehensible. They have shown their true priorities, a willingness to say anything for a blessed vote.

On Friday, November 13, 2015, 129 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded in coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, the city of lights. Ongoing investigations have shown that one of the dead terrorists may have been carrying a Syrian passport that, at this writing, is thought to be a forgery. With that scant information, presidential candidates and the fore -mentioned governors have been rushing to say they do not want Syrian refugees coming to their states because the Syrians pose a security threat.

PLEASE. Give me a blessed break.

These people must think that We the People of the United States are stupid or that we have the memory of a mayfly, and its entire life expectancy is only one to twenty-four hours. These politicians must believe that the late Gore Vidal was right when he called the USA the United States of Amnesia. When we consider the acts of terror in the United States, I do not know of any that were perpetrated by refugees. The 9/11 attackers were not refugees but had come into the country as visitors. The Boston Marathon bombers were not refugees. Timothy McVeigh was a United States citizen.


Replace “Syrian” with “Jewish” and we’re back to 1939


by: on November 17th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

American Jews across the United States, repulsed by Republican leaders turning their backs on Syrian refugees fleeing terror, are mobilizing with uncommon unity to support them. That’s because as a community, we collectively remember what happened before the Holocaust, when many of us were murdered by Germany’s genocidal machine after being refused entry into the United States.

In the year 1939, a majority of Americans opposed admitting Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Some feared there would be Nazi infiltrators amidst the desperate Jewish masses. Others lamented that we couldn’t handle the burden. And too many expressed anti-Jewish sentiments to bolster their rejection of Jews fleeing violence in Europe.


After Paris: Say No to the Militarists and Fear-Mongers, Yes to a Strategy of Generosity


by: on November 15th, 2015 | 10 Comments »

For many years, we at Tikkun and the NSP–Network of Spiritual Progressives have warned that the domination and power-over strategies to achieve “homeland security” have been tried for over 7,000 years and all they have produced is more wars and violence, interspersed with short periods of peace that have, with the help of media and professional apologists for the existing inequalities, managed to hide from public view the degree of covert structural violence that every system of inequality and domination has required.

We have called for a new approach to “homeland security” – the Strategy of Generosity, as manifested in part in our proposed Global Marshall Plan (please download the full version and read it carefully at www.tikkun.org/gmp). It calls for the US to take the leadership with other advanced industrial societies to dedicate 1-2% of their Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty years to once and for all eliminate (not just ameliorate) domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care. But it is not only about giving this “objective caring” in the form of economic benefits but also about delivering subjective caring–so that people feel that this is not a bribe but an expression of a new consciousness emerging into the world. Until the powerful countries of the world are seen as mainly driven by a desire to care for the well-being of everyone else on the planet and the wellbeing of the planet itself, and to do so not only out of self-interest but also out of a new consciousness in which we all come to truly understand our mutual interdependence and oneness, what we saw in Paris this past week is destined to be an increasing reality in the coming decades.

The more fear of “the Other,” the more resentment and anger those others will have toward us, and the cycle of violence will become more a part of daily life not only where it already is (mostly in the countries of the Global South and East), but also in the advanced industrial countries. As fear grows, fascistic and racist right-wing forces will grow more popularity, their anti-immigrant policies will be portrayed as “common sense,” their empowering of domestic intelligence forces to invade our private lives will receive greater support, because people will never have heard an alternative path to security as supposedly liberal leaders seek to show that they too can be “tough.” Yet for those of us in the spiritual or religious world, the Torah command to “love the stranger” still resonates, and we could build a very different popular understanding if secular progressives and religious progressives were to unite behind the strategy of generosity rather than simply focusing on resisting the policies of the right.

People need to hear an alternative worldview about what brings on the violence and hurtfulness they see around them in this world. It is only when the people who want a world based on love and justice are willing to explicitly use those words, to explicitly and not just implicitly talk about a strategy of generosity as the alternative to the strategy of domination and fear, that others will feel safe to reconnect to that part of them that actually wants such a world but was afraid to look foolish in a society whose discourse is dominated by the need to show how tough you are to be taken seriously. Healing of our world requires psycho-spiritual sophistication to combat media cynicism and miltarist fear-mongering.


We Are All Hypocrites


by: on November 14th, 2015 | 33 Comments »

Here we go again. Paris is under a state of emergency due to terrorist attacks, and the world is mourning yet again. My heart should bleed, but I am completely numb by now. I don’t think there is a drop of blood left in my heart to shed for innocent victims of yet another heinous, barbaric attack.


Keynesian Economics and Neoliberalism: The Debate Rages


by: on November 12th, 2015 | No Comments »

As I read about the presidential candidates’ stated views, and as I watch the televised debates, I see the battle lines clearly drawn over competing ideologies separating not only individual candidates, but also differentiating political parties in the United States and also throughout the world concerning the structure and purpose of government.

One argument rests on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, a British economist who theorized that economic growth and reduced unemployment can be supported through governmental fiscal policies including spending to stimulate the economy, adjusting interest rates, and placement of certain regulations on market economics.

Another and competing philosophy has come to be known as “neoliberalism,” which centers on a market-driven approach to economic and social policy, including such tenets as reducing the size of the national government and granting more control to state and local governments; severely reducing or ending governmental regulation over the private sector; privatization of governmental services, industries, and institutions including education, health care, and social welfare; permanent incorporation of across-the-board non-progressive marginal federal and state tax rates; and possibly most importantly, market driven and unfettered “free market” economics.

These tenets taken together, claim those who favor neoliberal ideas, will ensure the continual growth of the economy while protecting individual autonomy, liberty, and freedom.

Neoliberalism rests on the foundation of “meritocracy”: the notion that individuals are basically born onto a relatively level playing field, and that success or failure depends on the individual’s personal merit, motivation, intelligence, ambition, and abilities. Those who are, however, born or enter into difficult circumstances can choose to “pull themselves up by their boot straps,” and they can rise to the heights that their abilities and merit can take them. People, therefore, possess “personal responsibility” for their life’s course, and the government should not give them “stuff.”

I can remember back to the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign and the CNN-Tea Party-sponsored Republican presidential candidates’ debate in Florida. (The former Congressional “Tea-Party Caucus” has since changed its name to the Congressional “Freedom Caucus.”) The debate facilitator, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, asked then presidential candidate Ron Paul the hypothetical question of what we as a society should do in the case of a 30-year-old man who chooses not to purchase health insurance and later develops a serious life-threatening disease. Before Paul had a chance to answer Blitzer’s question, a number of audience members shouted “Let him die. Let him die.”


Life in Kabul Goes on Under the Helicopters


by: Brian Terrell on November 12th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

When I arrived at the Kabul International Airport on November 4, I was unaware that the same day the New York Times published an article, “Life Pulls Back in Afghan Capital, as Danger Rises and Troops Recede.” My friends Abdulhai and Ali, 17 years old, young men I have known since my first visit five years ago, greeted me with smiles and hugs and took my bags. Disregarded by soldiers and police armed with automatic weapons, we caught up on old times as we walked past concrete blast walls, sand bag fortifications, check points and razor wire to the public road and hailed a cab.

The sun was just burning through the clouds after an early morning rain and I had never seen Kabul look so bright and clean. Once past the airport, the high way into the city was bustling with rush hour traffic and commerce. I was unaware until I read the New York Times on line a few days later, that this time I was one of only a few US citizens likely to be on that road. “The American Embassy’s not allowed to move by road anymore,” a senior Western official told the Times, which reported further that “after 14 years of war, of training the Afghan Army and the police, it has become too dangerous to drive the mile and a half from the airport to the embassy.”

Credit: Brian Terrell

Helicopters now ferry employees working with the United States and the international military coalition to and from offices in Kabul we are told. The United States Embassy in Kabul is one of the largest in the world and already a largely self-contained community, its personnel are now even more isolated from Afghan people and institutions than before. “No one else,” other than US and coalition facilities, the Times reports, “has a compound with a landing pad.” While proclaiming its mission there “Operation Resolute Support” for Afghanistan, US officials no longer travel on Afghan streets.

We have no helicopters or landing pads, but the security situation in Kabul is also a concern for Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a grass roots peace and human rights organization that I work with and for our friends in the Kabul-based Afghan Peace Volunteers that I came to visit. I am fortunate with my grey beard and darker complexion to more easily pass for a local and so I can move about a bit more freely on the streets than some other internationals who visit here. Even then, my young friends have me wear a turban when we leave the house.


Jay Janson on Veterans Day


by: Jay Janson on November 11th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Editor’s Note: In sharing articles in Tikkun, we often print articles with which we don’t agree to make Tikkun a lively forum for ideas​. This article ​is a classic case. Though Jay Janson has a very strong point in critiquing the way that veterans lives have been sacrificed to serve the imperial goals of America’s elites (as has been true for veterans in almost every war in history as people died to serve their own country’s elites), it is not true when thinking about the veterans who served the North in the Civil War nor those who fought the Second World War. War is almost always wrong, but many​ those who fought them have often been motivated by goals quite different from the goals of those who instigated the wars.

We at Tikkun want to see an end to all wars, but we don’t want to negate the decency and even idealism of many who have fought in these wars, an idealism that has often been manipulated by unscrupulous leaders like, in the case of the U.S., Presidents Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Bush, and perhaps Obama also (in his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq), and by advisors like Henry Kissinger and Vice President Cheney, and the list could go on and on on. Of course, it makes sense to emphasize that soldiers engaged in human rights abuses during those wars also do not deserve to be honored, as for example the Nazis, Stalin’s Soviet armies in the 2nd world war, and some U.S. soldiers in Vietnam and Iraq, not to mention that role of the School of the Americas in training South and Central American soldiers and police in torture techniques (and that School still persists at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA).

Indeed, we do not deny that there is something fundamentally evil about every war-and the untold abuses of others that almost always accompany every battle and every army. We want to see them all ended, right now.

​ And individual soldiers have some responsibility to make determinations for themselves about whether the war they are being asked to serve in has any moral legitimacy. I sent my draft card back to my draft board in 1968 and told them that if they drafted me I’d use the opportunity to organize my fellow soldiers against the Vietnam war. Certainly in the present period in the US, Veterans Day would be a good time to HONOR THE REFUSENIKS WHO Would NOT SERVE IN AMERICA’s IMPERIAL WARS. The Quebec Chapter of the NSP–Nework of Spiritual Progressives under the leadership of former American war resister Isaac Romano has made support for resistors an important part of their activities.

So Jay Janson’s point deserves a lot of public attention, but won’t get it because it doesn’t include these kinds of more nuanced reflections. Yet in its outrage at war, and its constant reminder that we should not celebrate all veterans but only those who did not consciously aid in manipulating us into wars and did not engage in activities like those in Guantanamo and the dozens of other torture centers run by the U.S. military and intelligence forces around the world, Janson has an important point that should be discussed by everyone on Veterans Day. And we should insist that the best way to honor Veterans and all they went through is to end all wars starting NOW.

-Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun


Obama and Netanyahu: A bad deal for peace, for Israel, for Palestine and for the U.S.


by: on November 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »


Editor’s Note: Though I published this in the Huffington Post before the meeting, the outcome was exactly as predicted. Netanyahu affirmed his “commitment” to a two state solution, which he has said for years as he continues to expand Israeli settlement in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and continues with a cabinet filled with overt racists against Palestinians and other refugees. Obama promised him huge new military hardware, as predicted. Netanyahu is paid off for being obnoxious toward the President and arrogant toward the Palestinian people (the latter being the ultimate losers in all this). Of course, I have compassion for Obama, see him as a decent human being, just as I have compassion for the Jewish people still so dominated by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and seeing the Palestinians through the framework of our past suffering. But unless the rest of us can find a way to heal our Jewish people, the suffering of the Palestinians will continue, as will the growing anger at Jews who are increasingly perceived (unfairly) as having given the Israelis a blank check to do whatever they want to the Palestinian people. My solution can be found in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine www.tikkun.org/eip .

When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama meet in the White House today, their goal will be to make amends in light of Netanyahu’s unprecedented attempts to manipulate the U.S. Congress and the American public into opposition to the Iran Nuclear deal negotiated by six countries including the U.S.


The End of Harper’s Canadian Civil Religion


by: Ed Simon on November 10th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party’s overwhelming sweep in the Canadian national elections on October 19 was more than just voters’ repudiation of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party, but it was also a rejection of the strange version of Canadian civil religion the former Prime Minister was attempting to construct. Harper is from oil-rich Alberta and in his nine years as leader of Canada promoted policies that seemed more at home in the Republican Party of the United States than in socially and economically liberal Canada. An evangelical Christian, Harper symbolically placed the origins and future of the country with a mythic North while arguing for an increasingly jingoistic military. With the increasingly melting ice in the Arctic revealing previously inaccessible mineral wealth as well as a navigable Northwest Passage, Harper had tried to position Canada competitively against other national claimants in the region. Part of that center piece was (some might say cynically) rediscovering Canada’s origins as a “Northern Country.” In a way, Harper’s orientation of Canada towards the “North” wasn’t dissimilar in intent and tone to the United States’ mythologizing of the “West,” and similar economic, military, and political motivations underlay both. As the former prime minister had said, “Canada’s Arctic is central to our identity as a northern nation: It is part of our history and it represents the tremendous potential of our future.”


Islamic Environmentalism


by: Stephen Wollaston on November 8th, 2015 | 6 Comments »

Editor’s Note: This piece was adapted from the author’s book, entitled “Pathways of Green Wisdom: Discovering Earth Centred Teachings in Spiritual and Religious Traditions,” published by Greenspirit: http://www.greenspirit.org.uk/

For all Muslims, the whole of Earth, which has been entrusted to humans by God to protect and preserve, is seen as a divine gift and blessing from God. Earth itself is looked upon as an expression of beauty. Beauty being an attribute of God, and ‘the beautiful’ being one of God’s ninety-nine divine names in Islam. In the book Sufi Light, Ahmad Javid points out that, “The universe reflects the stunning beauty of its supreme Creator and displays His qualities constantly in every moment … Not only [do] all things come from God but in a way they also manifest God”.

In an essay on Islam, humankind and Nature, Mohammad Aslam Parvaiz informs us that, “As we learn about nature, it becomes abundantly clear that the entirety of nature is an integrated whole”. The Qur’an itself mentions both environmental and cosmic harmony created by God, how the sun and moon, plants and trees all submit to God’s design and balance. (55:5-9). Because of such mystical insights it can be seen that the whole Earth offers profound and constant opportunities for Muslims to be aware of God’s presence. A famous passage in the Qur’an in fact tells us that God is closer than our jugular vein (50:16).




The Qur’an calls for all Muslims to “walk humbly on the earth” and promote “peace” to “the foolish” (25:63). From an Islamic perspective, because God has created all things and species, all forms of life ultimately need to be cherished and preserved. The Qur’anic saying advocating “no compulsion in religion” (2:256) reminds Islam’s followers and others that the Muslim tradition, in its purest form, is about unity, harmony, peace-making actions and nonviolence, which applies not only to humans but to the world at large. The idea of unity (tawhid) in particular, which is traditionally seen to be about God’s oneness, Muslim environmentalists also consider to be about all-inclusiveness, Richard C Foltz informs us.

Verses from the Qur’an also invite Muslims to “remember God’s blessings” (7:74), to “not corrupt the earth after it has been set right” (7:55), and to “not seek to spread corruption in the land” (28:77). Although some may interpret these passages to be only concerned with blessings God has bestowed on humans and human justice and nonviolence, it is accepted amongst green conscious Muslims that they can be expanded to include wider issues of environmental awareness, care, corruption and damage. In his masterful collection of teachings Spiritual Gems of Islam, Imam Jamal Rahman beautifully expresses the fact that, “Once we have begun to see ourselves as manifestations of the Creator, the next step along the spiritual path is to view our fellow beings with the same compassionate eyes”.

Foltz also informs us how, “It is often argued by Muslim environmentalists today that the Islamic legal tradition (sharia), in both its Sunni and Shi’i variants, if applied to the letter, contain adequate restrictions to ensure a use of natural resources that is both sustainable and just”. In the excellent book Green Dean, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin mentions how mosques themselves, as centres of religious community, are perfect places for promoting and being examples of green awareness, such as considering how much energy is used to light and heat mosques, and using better alternatives to plastic and paper cups and plates for any mosque based activities. At the holy mosques of Medina and Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the water used for ritual bathing (wudu) is recycled. In India, some mosques have huge tanks/pools for large crowds to use for ritual ablutions for the purpose of saving and reusing water.

Living at a time when people would have naturally recycled, the Prophet Mohammed himself would have wasted little. According to his wife Aisha, he recycled things when they could be fixed and repaired his own shoes and mended his own clothes, even though he would have had people around him who could have done these things for him.