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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



Working for Change in a New Era – How?

Jan15

by: on January 15th, 2017 | No Comments »

At an anti-Trump rally in Baltimore, MD, Nov 10, 2016.

We are only days away from the inauguration of a president for the United States of America that probably most of the people of the world believe is a disaster for humanity. Those of us living in the United States who are frightened of what his reign might bring are thinking long and hard about what we could possibly do in this new climate.

This disquiet has been showing up time and again on both the free calls I host: the Fearless Heart Teleseminar and the Facing Privilege calls. On one recent call, someone asked a very pointed question: if I had the opportunity, somehow, to speak with Donald Trump for 30 minutes, what would I say to him?

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Carrie Fisher: A Woman of Many Parts

Jan14

by: on January 14th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

On December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher died days after suffering a heart attack on an airplane flying from London to Los Angeles. She was sixty and known primarily for her role as Princess Leia and later General Leia Organa in the “Star Wars” movies. However, it is important to note that Carrie Fisher was much more than her portrayal of one fictional character. She was much more than a child of celebrities – Debbie Reynold and Eddie Fisher – living her life and, in the end, dying her death in the light of her mother’s star. (Debbie Reynolds died the day after Carrie Fisher.)
She was a woman of many parts, and she was more than the sum of those various parts.

In her one woman show – “Wishful Drinking” – she describes her birth. The hospital personnel were star struck with her movie star mother and her crooner father. They paid little attention to her.

She says: “When I arrived, I was virtually unattended.” She says she has been seeking attention from that moment. But Carrie Fisher was more than a Hollywood child seeking attention.

She started acting as a teenager with a role in the movie “Shampoo.” At age 19, she landed the role of Princess Leia in the movie “Star Wars.” These movies became cult classics, and people relate to Princess Leia as a brave warrior princess general, mother of a Jedi knight who has been seduced by the dark side of the Force, but even Princess Leia is more than that. She is the feminine divine in the realm of the Force.

In her most recent book, “Princess Diarist”, she writes about her experiences with fans who want her to still look like and to be a young princess. Yet, she is more than this. She knows after all these years that people see her and Princess Leia as one. She reflects upon this in the HBO documentary, “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.”

“They love her, and I’m her custodian; and I am as close as you’re gonna get. She’s me and I’m her. They talk to me like I’m Princess Leia who happened to have all these difficult experiences to go through and it’s like me fighting for the Force.”

She has had difficult experiences that many other people have also had except she spoke openly about hers. In the “Princess Diarist” she writes about her relationship with Harrison Ford when they worked on the early Star Wars movies. He was older and married and she was wise enough at that young age to know there would be no happily-ever-after with him. She writes about a love that takes her breath away and of wanting her breath back.

She writes: “If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumorously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire after life blushing.” I suspect that she will not be blushing, but laughing at her young self. I image her free of the pain and embarrassment and filled with nothing but joy.

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Words

Jan12

by: Sara Yamasaki on January 12th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

“My dad killed people like you,” Bobby Jones yelled.

My five-year-old body twisted into a tight knot. Heat in my stomach travel up my chest and settled in my throat. I kept my head down, blinked hard, and watched the ground—one saddle shoe, then the other, moving me in measured slow motion to kindergarten.

I didn’t know what it meant to be killed. Didn’t know anyone who had died, hadn’t seen death on television, and hadn’t even lost a goldfish. But every day, Bobby waited at the bottom of the hill to taunt and follow me to school. As much as I wanted to run, I knew I’d get caught. Bobby was bigger and older than I was. So I listened to the calming sound of gravel underfoot and said nothing, my throat burning, my pace quickening.


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Yes We Can

Jan11

by: on January 11th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

In his farewell address, President Obama returned to the basic theme that propelled him to national attention and to the White House – We the People have the power and the duty to make the United States a more perfect union. The audacious challenge comes at a moment when we face a transition of power to a presidency that no doubt will be, charitably put, one of the most unconventional in history.

I say: Now is the time for us to take up this challenge and organize to resist a Congress and a president who will take us backward on any number of issues.

President Obama reminded us that the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “while self-evident, have never been self-executing.” The work of citizens is to use our freedom to work toward both our own dreams and toward the common good. He spoke of his achievements, and he said they were also our achievements:

“reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, . . . unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history. . . open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9-ll . . . win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens. . . ”

These achievement are a testament to democracy, but President Obama warned of three major threats to our democracy – income inequality, racism, and societal fragmentation along with self-selected facts. He called upon us to stay engaged with the global struggle “to expand democracy and human rights and women’s rights and LGBT rights.”

He warmed us about complacency. He said: “our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” He spoke of the importance of voting rights, of the “corrosive influence of money in our politics” and the problem with gerrymandered congressional districts. He warned against seeing our political opposition as malevolent rather than misguided.

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Why Monsanto Wants Me in Jail

Jan10

by: Reverend Billy Talen​ on January 10th, 2017 | No Comments »

I am facing some jail time for standing up to the evils of Monsanto and other Big Ag usurpers of the Earth. My trial beginstomorrow.

The prosecutor in Iowa appears corrupted by Monsanto and has proposed to a judge that protesters of its toxins be deprived of their constitutional rights at trial. Let’s repeat that. A Des Moines assistant District Attorney has filed a motion that would preclude any “referencing” of the 1st Amendment or free speech protections of the Bill of Rights in my trial. This would retroactively strip a protester, me, of the right to protest simply. Here’s a link to the motion.


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Sister Giant Conference – Rabbi Michael Lerner and Cat Zavis to Speak

Jan5

by: on January 5th, 2017 | No Comments »

Rabbi Michael Lerner and Cat Zavis will be speaking at the Sister Giant Conference in Washington, DC February 2nd-4th. For more information about this fantastic event, please see http://sistergiant.com/the-event/. To get you excited we’ve posted a link to their video below!

 

Considering DT’s Love of Professional Fighting, His Tough Talk of a New Arms Race Should Be Unsurprising—Especially to Cardinal Dolan, Scheduled to Lead Inauguration Prayer (or, Why the White House Must ASAP Return to Congress the Power to Declare War)

Jan3

by: Rabbi Chaim Gruber on January 3rd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

On December 23, 2016, after the President-elect’s comments about a new arms race, a surprised media spewed forth a firestorm. To give one example, on the influential Politico website, a Darren Samuelsohn article – subtitled, “The President-elect has upended long-held conventions on nuclear proliferation” – began as follows: “[DT] is alarming critics by … disregarding the basic tenets of world order surrounding nuclear weapons. … [DT has] an interest in vastly expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, even if it means restarting an arms race.”

While some report that the President-elect’s comments may have been taken out of context, nonetheless, such a development, or a similar one in the future, should come as no surprise considering DT’s love of professional fighting and boxing (he is even, due to once making Atlantic City the world’s boxing capital, an inductee to the NJ Boxing Hall of Fame). After all, and in the way that humans, as well as animals, chase after objects of desire, it is almost a no-brainer that any individual who likes to watch and promote fights, would be, were such a person in charge of a military, more likely to stir up trouble than an individual whose excitement was derived from more civilized pursuits. Moreover, and as a cohort of mine commented about my psychological assessment, such “might help explain why [the President-elect] supports the use of torture by the various police and surveillance forces of the United States.”

[From the previous, readers should not at all conclude that I, the author, am against the concept of a justifiable war. Also, and for instance, I am aware that the dreadful destruction of Aleppo may be largely the result of Obama’s lack of appropriate military action. However, I make the point that someone with a passion for fighting would be the type to jump the gun when it comes to the use of force. Also to consider in the case of DT, who is a renowned egotist, is that anger comes from the bruising of an egotist’s ego (Esther 3:5); and, from anger can more readily spring violence.]

One of the people who should be the least surprised by the President-elect’s inflammatory remarks about a new arms race is Cardinal Timothy Dolan: in November, a week after the American presidential election, at the Catholic Archdiocese of NY headquarters, I had a few meetings, including with a Vice-Chancellor. On that fateful November day (when the moon was at its closest to the earth in 69 years), I also spoke to Fr. Brian McWeeny, the Archdiocese’s Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. We got into a chat about the President-elect and the evils of casino ownership.

(Of course, while casinos are not all bad, nonetheless, casino owners necessarily break God’s all-important law to “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself”: unlike other businesses that, ideally, always provide a fair service or good in exchange for money, casino owners’ greater benefits come from putting their clients into greater financial miseries. How many limo rides of the Donald were funded by the losses of desperate individuals convinced by flashy and distorted advertisements to blow their much-needed resources in a Trump casino? How many people committed suicide after a loss at one of his casinos? And, to those readers who claim that any individuals who lost their money were free to choose, I respond that Eve, too, was free to choose. However, she chose wrongly – after she was deceived by the snake.)

To this disapproving conversation about casinos, Fr. McWeeny responded with, “It’s not as bad as boxing!” Of course, I agreed. After all, from a Jewish, theological perspective, there are numerous divine commands to protect the body’s health and integrity (from a Christian standpoint, “The body is the Temple”).

That day, to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s office, I relayed this conversation along with other concerns regarding the President-elect, such as his being a fan of professional fighting – which can be more violent than boxing. I continued this dialogue in a letter to the Cardinal, excerpts from which follow:

“Regarding his [DT's] love of fighting, it was widely reported that the President-elect did not go to the recent Ultra Fighting Championship (UFC) league fight in Madison Square Garden only due to security issues that the Secret Service felt that it could not overcome. (Although, like father, like son, Donald Jr. attended – to celebrate his wedding anniversary!) To understand the grotesque nature of UFC [very different, say, from wrestling] … months prior to one fighter, Charlie Ward, being signed to the UFC, he killed another fighter in a caged match run by another fighting league! …

“That the President-elect is a fan of fighting, that is, that he gets satisfaction out of seeing persons both being physically hurt and hurting others, is not only sickening but immensely troubling considering that he is scheduled to be our national military’s commander-in-chief in about a handful of weeks! … one does not need a PhD in social science to recognize that anyone who enjoys fighting would, by nature, be a less peaceful person than someone repelled by fighting. Meaning, someone [who enjoys fighting], who is also in charge of an army, may decide to use armed force instead of diplomacy – just because he likes to!”

Dear Readers, please, remember the U.S. Constitution’s Preamble: “We the People … in order to form a more perfect union.” As peace is inclusive, while war, with opposite sides, is exclusive, more peace makes any union more perfect, while conflict imperfects any union. Hence, were any warmonger in charge of our nation, such would go against the primary purpose for our government’s existence.

“… Because [the Messiah] is the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6] …of course, Rev. Lorenzo [Reverend Lorenzo Ato, whom I had met and who was earlier mentioned in the letter, is the Archdiocese's Director of both Pastoral Ministry and Hispanic Communications], [your office manager] … and … Fr. Brian [McWeeny] agreed that those who enjoy fighting are satanic [see next paragraph]. To quote Rev. Lorenzo, he said that the professional fighting of the UFC was ‘no good!’ and ‘evil!’”

Dear Readers, to remove hype and to make plain, theological sense of a term, “Satan” is a Hebrew word, appearing, for instance, in the Book of Job (1:6, etc.). From an Orthodox-Jewish perspective, Satan is a force of destruction. From a Christian/Catholic perspective, Satan is what destroys (in contrast, Jesus saves); and, Jesus rightly called Simon Peter “Satan” when Simon Peter was doing something destructive (Mt.16:23, etc.).Meaning, traditionally and simply, satanic behaviors would be the doings of even the otherwise best people were such people engaged in destructive activities.

“Despite this discussion [of the President-elect], and regarding another comment of Fr. McWeeny – that [DT] was God’s preferred choice over Hilary Clinton – I, paradoxically, agreed that the Donald was God’s preference. … [I knew that] had Clinton won, in four or eight years down the road, the nation would have been steeped in even worse anti-establishment fervor so that the backlash against the ruling political system would have been even more dramatic. Thereby, a candidate even more abrasive than [DT] would have been riled up to victory. …

“… On page E1604 of the December 6th, 2016, Congressional Recorder, House Representative Alan Grayson (FL) made the following remarks: For fear of a president becoming like a monarch with dictatorial power, the Constitution gave to Congress the power to declare war. However, ‘starting in the 1950′s, Congress began authorizing the President to make the determination for war.’ This was how ‘the president was allowed to determine war in Vietnam in 1964 and again in Iraq in 2003.’ Rep. Grayson brought to the House knowledge of a 2011, Rutgers Law Review article, titled, ‘Restoring the Congressional Duty to Declare War,’ by Alfred Blumrosen [an eminent scholar, RIP] & Steven Blumrosen. The article “challenged the constitutionality of all U.S. Wars fought since WWII.”

“I mention this House speech because, considering the conversations at the Archdiocese that are detailed in this letter, that is, conversations about the [President-elect's] propensity to enjoy a fight, I think that you should please use your enormous influence to make sure that Congress does not unconstitutionally continue to invest war-making powers in a president.”

(Note: Congress reconvenes January 3, 2017. Therefore, dear U.S. Readers, PRESSURE your senators and representatives to heed Rep. Grayson’s warning! Considering that intelligence reports claim that Russia interfered with the American election, Congress, in fact, may be, now, more amenable to the idea of not allowing a future president to determine war.)

It was a week after the sending of my as-of-yet-unanswered letter to Cardinal Dolan that the world’s media ignited with headlines of nuclear experts being caught off-guard by the President-elect’s surprising tough-talk about a new arms race and a reinvigoration of America’s nuclear arsenal. But, I was not surprised – and neither should have been Cardinal Dolan, who, as America’s most-prominent Catholic, I should think is ethically compelled to use the full force of his office to bring attention to these critical matters of world importance.

With that in mind, I was, again, unsurprised by the President-elect’s comments about a new arms race. However, I was stunned when, on December 28, after concluding a what-I-thought-to-be-a-final version of this article and readying it for an email to my editor, I made an online discovery. Namely, only “26 minutes” prior it was reported that the prayer service at January’s Presidential Inauguration would be led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan – in whose office there was clear agreement that DT’s behavior, regarding both his love of fighting and his casino ownership, was “satanic”!

Also, Rev. Lorenzo Ato, regarding character traits shared by the President-elect, commented, “Satan, yeah.” [Regarding these assessments of DT's character by those in the Catholic Church, this article's lack of any mention of a concurrence from the Archdiocese Vice-Chancellor, who was briefly discussed at this article's start, is not due to him having stated that he felt otherwise. Rather, the Vice Chancellor's comments, here, are being omitted because our meeting pertained to a different topic.]

The same day that it was announced that Cardinal Dolan would lead prayer services at the Inauguration, the President-elect appeared, in his first formal press conference in half-a-year, side-by-side with controversial boxing promoter Don King, who, 50-years ago, killed a man that owed him $600. Bizarrely, Mr. King, who was recently still promoting boxing, commented that DT could help negotiate peace in the Middle East.

I wonder, for what will Cardinal Dolan pray at the Inauguration? Considering that DT, as past U.S. presidents, is expected to have continual access to a nuclear launch device from a short time following the oath of office, I would think, regarding the Inauguration, that the Cardinal should be praying from well before.

Although, and to conclude with some true gallows-humor, perhaps his Eminence plans a public adjunct to the Inauguration’s prayer service? Heeding a, unquoted above, lighthearted-but-still-serious-enough request in my letter to him, maybe Cardinal Dolan plans to perform on the Donald an exorcism!… Thereafter, and as God, Creator of all, wants everyone to repent, were the exorcism successful, and returning to mention of Simon Peter, as he, Simon Peter, repented of his satanic activity to become the much-venerated namesake of Saint Peter’s in Rome, the Donald, of his satanic wrongdoing, also, of course, could repent. (Fake news site, thespoof.com, ran a New Year’s Eve story titled, “Democrat’s Last Hope: Trump Exorcism.” The author of this spoof piece, obviously unaware of my serious-enough, true request to Cardinal Dolan, fantasized that “Vice-President Joe Biden … took time … to talk to Governor Martinez about an idea … to have an exorcism performed on Donald Trump. … The governor … wants to be in step with what other GOP lawmakers are doing to address any possible demonic possession of the President-elect.” Meaning, in a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moment, this spoof piece is not far from the truth at all.)

 

Bio: Rabbi Chaim Gruber, ultra-Orthodoxly ordained in Jerusalem while also schooled in Berkeley, CA, is often, paradoxically, a left-wing Biblical literalist. He specializes in creating peace from the instances of unmistakable overlap among the three Abrahamic faiths and logic. The Rabbi can be contacted via VeryEasyToRemember.com and BreakTheCycleOfViolence.com.

 

Pedagogies of Freedom

Dec31

by: on December 31st, 2016 | 1 Comment »

On New Year’s Day, at home and abroad, Haitians and Haitiphiles are all about soup joumou. A squash based consommé laboriously made with chunks of beef, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, some kind of pasta, seasoned with epis-that concoction of Haitian spices, which was hopefully brought to perfection by an expert who uses enough scotch bonnet pepper without overshadowing the fragrant aroma. This soup is traditionally consumed to commemorate Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ proclamation of Haitian independence from France on January 1, 1804. Thirteen years after the only successful slave revolution started that abolished colonialism and slavery, Haiti became the first Black Republic in the world, second only to the United States.

For many of us, the soup is as much about its gastronomic delight as it is about redressing history. Under French rule, the enslaved population was specifically forbidden to eat this delicacy. As the story goes, that fateful day, Dessalines’ main squeeze Marie-Claire Heureuse Felicité Bonheur, outdid Marie-Antoinette and declared, Let them eat soup! Indeed, “the antidote to dehumanization has to be rehumanization,” culinary or otherwise, as Zingermans’ Ari Weinzweig has said.

As a child, I enjoyed avoiding those sprigs of parsley and rosemary to gobble up this annual staple. Here we were on Christmas talking soup plans, George Michael was dead, none of the family members could relate to my state of gloom. “Who?” “Wham! Don’t you remember ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-go?’” I sang to no avail. A couple bars of “Everything She Wants” — no response. “Careless Whisper” got me some I-feel-sorry-for-you hums while other lyrics did not resonate at all.

Minutes before, the speakers had been blaring our beloved Kompa rhythms. Not quite my thing, which is enough to get one’s Haitian authenticity card revoked by diehards. Blame it all on migration, as if we have never been plural. Depending on where you lived, resources, and what you had to spend, there were variations of the soup. In keeping with our diasporic tendency to rename things, according to Miami-based reporter Nadege Green, it has been dubbed “liberty soup” or “freedom soup” by younger Haitian-Americans. Dudley Alexis has a documentary in the works about it. Perhaps the greatest honor of all is the brand new Afro-beat mixed-genre soup joumou anthem by Alize Music featuring Paul Papi.

Lately, I have been meditating on notions of freedom and our not so common principles as presidential elections in my birth and adopted countries collided my worlds. Having grown up under a dictatorship, ironically, I feel primed to soon be living under an authoritarian regime. “All we have to do now/is take these lies and make them true somehow.” Yes, I know George was talking about his battles. I had my own. A Black woman who refused to be docile, I was struggling to complete my dissertation in an historically white institution, “Freedom 90″ was my personal anthem. “All we have to see/is that I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me.” In the aftermath of migration, it was music that guided my path to individuation. That’s why I lamented his passing. Decades later, the song still resonates. And in these times, it matters now more than ever. “Freedom/You’ve gotta give for what you take.” Someone in the kitchen knew the words. I wasn’t singing alone.

These days, you can find vegetarian and gluten-free soup joumou recipes online. I have been flirting with the idea of a pescatarian version as I imagine my aunt, a caterer, vigorously shaking her head at this sacrilege. Would it still be soup joumou? That depends, has nationalism ever really recognized its inherent differences? Haiti’s L’Union Fait la Force and the United States’ E Pluribus Unum are mottos built on contradictions from brutal colonial histories that have steeped the past in the present, yet remain unknown. Unity, under such conditions, is improbable without complicity in white supremacy, as well as our silence and absolute negation. For belonging is fundamentally based on a hierarchical system of ownership. The chains of slavery were broken long ago, but there remains unfinished business.

Happy 213thBirthday Haiti Cherie. Now, off to go get some salmon!

Photo: Andy Vernon-Jones

 

 

 

 

 

Social Action Education as Spiritual Practice – Lessons from Standing Rock

Dec30

by: Rabbi Rain Zohav on December 30th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Every time we take action, we are also educating. If we are lobbying, we are educating our legislators. If we are protesting, we are educating the public and the “powers that be”. And we are educating ourselves in how to be effective and live our values.

In this moment, the Water Protectors at Standing Rock are a strong example of the intertwining of education, action, and spiritual practice. I was privileged to be able to answer the call of Chief Looking Horse for clergy to come to Standing Rock to pray and be in solidarity with the water protectors on Sunday, Dec. 4. This is perhaps the first lesson for allies to any cause: Listen and wait to be invited if you are supporting groups whose oppression you do not share. In the Jewish tradition, our central prayer, the Sh’ma, is all about listening. Listening to the Divine who is One: transcendent, immanent and reflected in the face of every human being.


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Letty Cottin Pogrebin on David Friedman — Says He is Unfit to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Dec26

by: Letty Cottin Pogrebin on December 26th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

  • Read all about him here.Neither being Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer nor espousing extreme right wing views remotely qualify David Friedman to serve as America’s chief diplomat in Israel.
  • In his own words.Thanks to APN’s Lara Friedman (no relation) for her exhaustive compilationof the statements David Friedman has made in the past on the subject of Israel/Palestine, expanding settlements, annexing the West Bank, discarding the two-state solution, moving the Embassy, and more.
  • Who needs Christian anti-Semites when we’ve got Friedman calling his fellow Jews “kapos?”
  • Urgent action.If you agree that this man must NOT be confirmed by the Senate, please call both of your U.S. Senators at 202-224-3121or click their email addresses which you’ll find listed here.And do it now!