Tikkun Daily button

Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



My Own Private Unorthodox Lent, Day 4

Mar4

by: on March 4th, 2017 | No Comments »

In my Sunday School Companion, each Lesson begins with official definitions, definitions that have the imprimatur of numerous Catholic officials. The Catechism asks, “How shall we know the things which we are to believe?” and answers “…from the Catholic Church through which G’d speaks to us.”

These words are strangely relevant to a recent experience: an eloquent speaker called out people who appropriate another culture – by wearing dreadlocks, for example, or, in my case, having a yin-yang tattoo, or even, also in my case, bearing a name from another culture. It seems I’m a cultural appropriator both by choice and by birth. When I got home, I realized even in this unorthodox Lenten journey I’m a cultural appropriator!

The speaker was angry and justifiably so. How often have sacred symbols been used to make money or cover over the destruction of the very culture they purport to hold up? Too often to count.

And yet, is it always harmful to cross, and mix and blend cultures? Is there a way to share culture in a world where culture changes constantly, sometimes through bitter force but also through chance and choice?

As with so many issues, power enters in. People of less power have been banned from partaking of the objects, places, and even the language of the more powerful, yet perversely, they’ve also been forced to partake of it. White people have been able to cherry-pick without permission and often in complete ignorance.

Yet I want to say something for cultural sharing, for each person’s right to individuate, to seek and find among the myriad offerings of the world that which, often for mysterious reasons, speaks to their souls. Haven’t important movements and groups arisen from such mixtures? The Black Muslims, for example, or Norteño music.

Is culture to be strictly fenced, walled, and patrolled so that petty thieves like me are kept out entirely? Where do the boundaries end? Is it possible to honor as well as appropriate? I’ve always felt a certain softness toward men who like to wear dresses and makeup, shave their legs, etc. as many women do in modern Western culture. Wow, I think, Even though we have less power, they want to join us and be like us. Well, go ahead. Welcome. Does it sometimes seem a caricature of femininity? Maybe, but even so, I can honor the spirit.

I wonder how I, as an impoverished American, could relate so strongly to a 17th-century French nobleman, Voltaire? Yet I felt him as a kindred spirit. I learned French, not “my” culture. I also studied Spanish and Hebrew. Come to think of it, even my English isn’t native. I should be speaking German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Russian. Sometimes, for mysterious reasons, people feel a strong and deep connection to an “other.” I’m reluctant to criticize all such connections. As my friend, Arlene, pointed out, Catholicism itself is a mixture, a combination and amalgamation of multiple traditions.

On the other hand, if everything blends into a mush, might we lose some important legacies? Maybe we need both: cultural magpies and cultural guardians.

Being Called Out for Cultural Appropriation

Once, my first response to anger and shaming would have been to cower and apologize whether I thought I was in the wrong or not.

Later, I responded with hurt feelings and resentment that someone did not recognize me for who I truly am.

Is there a third response? How can I apply faith, hope, love, and contrition here?

Maybe I have faith that if I really knew this speaker better, I’d see her suffering. Maybe I can have hope that what feels like antagonism can someday be healed or at least accepted. I can think of what I love about that speaker, for example, vocal allegiance to many causes I also support, the speaker’s important work with youth.

And finally, contrition. What can I amend? Can I bring more thought and awareness to the symbols I wear or display, and perhaps accept that no matter what I choose, others may have a different perspective from mine, maybe forever, and, even though at times it may be painful, it’s also important, and necessary.

India Civil Watch Calls on Indian-Americans Not to Succumb to Fear After Srinivas Kuchibotla Murder; Urges Solidarity with Other Immigrants and People of Color in Local Communities

Mar3

by: India Civil Watch on March 3rd, 2017 | 2 Comments »

After the murder of a man from India by a hate-oriented racist in Kansas


Read more...

My Own Private Unorthodox Lent, Day 2

Mar2

by: on March 2nd, 2017 | 5 Comments »

On Ash Wednesday, I received a letter from Casa de Clara, the Catholic Worker House in San Jose. In it, the letter connected Executive Order 9066, the Japanese Internment order, with recent events. Which is regrettably easy to do.

The letter also mentioned that on Ash Wednesday, when Catholics receive the ash on their foreheads, they also receive the words, “Repent and believe the Good News.” That was news to me. I’d forgotten or never known that Ash Wednesday was connected to repentance. But a point to ponder.

Repentance

Near the end, came a Dr. King quote, “a time comes when silence is betrayal,” which I found too a propos. Earlier in the day, in an open space with numerous half-enclosed desks, a pal whose politics are more conservative than mine mentioned Trump’s speech. Though he hadn’t voted for Trump, he liked the speech and criticized Democrats for remaining seated while a Navy Seal’s widow was being honored. He has never been a ranter, and I wanted to have a respectful conversation.

I said maybe they were remembering Trump’s treatment of the parents of a Muslim soldier who had died. I mentioned how polarized the country is and how hard to hear another point of view, but offered that the left, too, could use a better tone. We parted on cordial terms, and I walked to the kitchen passing an African-American colleague and a Japanese-American colleague. I wondered: if they overheard me, would they have considered me an ally? Had I been so eager to be nice and avoid conflict that I didn’t say my truth clearly?

I wished I’d responded, not heatedly, but openly, to one point: “Why can’t they give him a chance?” To do what? Is what I wish I’d replied. When his actions harm people, and choices for the Dept. of Education and Dept. of Labor, in particular are people who oppose the mission of their posts? When I thought of repentance, that failure stabbed me. I followed up with an email to my pal in which I mentioned Trump’s Cabinet choices in particular and left no question which side I was on, while never ranting. Of course, my colleagues would have no way of knowing I did that.

P. S. My wonderful activist friend, Kari, mentioned the importance of being “vocal and visible.” In some ways, I have been, but I commit to being more so.

So that’s the repentance side for me.

My Own Private Unorthodox Lent

Mar1

by: on March 1st, 2017 | 5 Comments »

Recently, I went to Niles with my friends to have tea and lollygag in the antique stores. One of the treasures I departed with was an 1888 Sunday School Companion with an actual literal imprimatur from an Archbishop! That gave me an idea.

I wasn’t raised Catholic, but from my years at a Jesuit university I gained a greater awareness of the enormous scope of Catholicism, many pieces of which I now see as valuable for me. Even Lent which had once seemed an unpalatable and needless mortification of the flesh to achieve social control through self-degradation (or possibly because by early spring, people were running low on food) suggested meaningful possiblities. I read a few works whose names I wish I could remember which made me think some Lenten practices might be helpful psychologically and spiritually.


Read more...

Spiritual Practice in the Time of the Mad King

Feb27

by: Rodger Kamenetz on February 27th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, an early 19th century Hasidic master, offered a parable about a king who foretold that the year’s harvest of rye would be contaminated with ergot, a fungus with effects similar to LSD. Whoever ate the rye would become mad. The prime minister said we must put aside enough grain so we won’t have to eat this year’s harvest.

But the king said, “But then we will be the only ones who will be sane. Everyone else will be mad. Therefore they will think that we are the mad ones. Therefore, we too must eat this year’s grain. But we will put a mark on our foreheads so at least we will know we are mad. I will look at your forehead you will look at mine, and when we see this sign, we will know we are both mad.”

The parable touches on our current situation. It seems the country is going mad, that the country as a whole has eaten a substance that is guaranteed to distort reality. When we find ourselves reading everyday in the newspaper that the “president falsely stated”, when almost every word out of his mouth is a distortion of reality, and when this is repeated every day of the week, there is an overall contaminating effect.

One symptom of the madness is a sense of weariness in the land, as if time is slowing down – which is very much the effect of psychoactive substances. A month of this presidency already feels like a year, and a year will feel like a decade.

It is not only the lying, but the constant shifts of attention, the clever diversions and shiny objects, the theatrical episodes that redirect attention when things are going badly. It now requires so much effort to keep pace that merely to play the role of informed citizen has become almost a full time job in which we are challenged every hour to maintain our own sense of reality and normalcy against a widespread infection of madness.

Everyone has consumed the harvest, everyone is going mad. The concepts of “fake news” and “alternative facts” are not merely propaganda, but a description of a metaphysical infection in which we all, regardless of our politics and whether we wish to or not, are consuming the contaminated “rye” as our daily bread. For we cannot help but consume the news in a way that feels all consuming, in a way that is also consuming us.


Read more...

If I Were a Rich Man

Feb27

by: on February 27th, 2017 | No Comments »

The question is simple: what would I do now, in this period of human history, and especially as we are all adapting to this new presidency, if I had a lot of access to resources while having the same values, sensibilities, and beliefs that I have?

There is, of course, a whole question about how likely this premise is, and how I would orient myself in the world if I were rich. Knowing some wealthy people has taught me it is not at all as simple as the rest of us often think. I focus on these questions in a second half of this piece, next week. For now, I want to assume that this person I am imagining myself to be is real, and that I am fully aligned to make the best use of my resources to respond to the current times and the new and intensified challenges they bring to us.

Fundamentally, I see three areas of gravest concern. First is an intensification of the politics of hatred. Second is the dismantling of support networks for people and the environment, and the increasing danger of getting climate change fully out of control faster than ever imagined. Third is increasing tension and instability in the geopolitical field.

Read more...

The American Struggle for Peace

Feb27

by: Paul Buhle on February 27th, 2017 | No Comments »

War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918. By Michael Kazin. New York: Knopf, 2017.

Here is a history book whose subject has remained timely all through the political lifetimes of the writer and this reviewer, a couple of enthusiasts who actually met at the Students for a Democratic Society convention of 1967.Two years later, we sat and suffered together as our organization destroyed itself, by this time no longer peacenik and effective where it counted most (at the local level) but divided and destroyed by howling lunatic sectarians, driven berserk in no small part by the Democratic Party’s inability or unwillingness to oppose the War on Vietnam. Somehow, there’s a lesson here.

The antiwar movement is a great subject for today, of course, partly because liberal hawkishness is on the rise again and partly because a president with a monumental ego (or poorly hidden feeling of insecurity) is at the helm. Kazin has a lot to contribute by way of precedent. The First World War, aka “The Great War” and “The War to End All Wars” swept through Europe wiping out the widespread optimism for a democratic socialist future. It came to Americans so unwilling to join the bloodbath that they needed to be brought along by an avowedly liberal president re-elected under the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War.” A year after that re-election, the winning slogan had been emptied of meaning. Ahead lay massive political repression, racial pogroms – the President himself regarded African Americans as a hopelessly, perhaps dangerously, backward race – and a future that looked grim for socialistic visionaries.


Read more...

Are you ready for a radical way to become much more politically effective?

Feb23

by: on February 23rd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Primary Votign

We all know that sending your congressional representative a letter is more effective than an email, and that a phone call is more effective than a letter. We all seem to get that. The Tea Party has shown that there is an even more effective approach – show up in person in large groups at town hall events or other public meetings with your representatives to voice your opinions vigorously and ask them some tough questions. If they fail to schedule public meetings, show up at their offices (but be kind to the staff people that you meet there, you want them on your side). We’re starting to do that, and that’s great.

But the Tea Party has shown that there is an even more effective tactic than this (and this is where things get radical) -

Read more...

Going on the Offensive: A State-Based Strategy for the Democratic Party

Feb22

by: on February 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »

Although Tikkun does not endorse candidates or political parties, we here send out editor-at-large Peter Gabel’s imaginative article on how the Democratic Party can regain the idealistic ground to begin to set the agenda for a progressive politics, instead of remaining restricted to a defensive posture in response to the agenda being set by Donald Trump.

This article originally appeared on Truth-out.org.

Having lost control of the White House, Congress and probably the Supreme Court, the Democrats appear consigned to a defensive, resistance-based role in the coming years. But this is only true in the federal arena. By thinking imaginatively about how to channel their very substantial support within many of the nation’s largest states into collective political action, the Democrats may actually be able to go on the offensive in presenting and carrying out a socially progressive, idealistic agenda in a way that they have not been able to do for decades in the gridlock of Washington politics.


Read more...

Broken Hearts Bring Hope

Feb21

by: Susan Bloch on February 21st, 2017 | 6 Comments »

When a Seattle mosque was burned down, an unlikely alliance of kids gathered outside to support those who had lost their place of worship. Holding signs that said, “We Stand with our Muslim Neighbors,” were kids with yarmulkes, hijabs, and others wearing golden cross earrings. These kids later came together at a Kids4Peace and Muslim Association of the Puget Sound-AMEN Conference, united in their fight against Islamophobia. They were here to learn the power of advocacy in the media.

Making sure her hijab was securely pinned in place, twelve-year-old Sabreen Tuku, a 14-year old American, Muslim-Ethiopian girl, stepped up to the podium, her voice unsteady. “I have a dream,” she began. “I dream that one day every person, no matter their ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation, will be treated respectfully. One day, I want to walk down the street and not have to fear . . . only feel love and acceptance.”


Read more...