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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



No One Wanted it to End: Cornel West at Santa Clara University

Oct6

by: on October 6th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Cornel West

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Public rhetoric is thousands of years old, yet even in an era of high-res video and magnificent audio, to hear a great talk in person is special. That was absolutely the case on Friday night, October 3rd, at Santa Clara University when Dr. Cornel West, public intellectual and democratic leader, spoke extemporaneously and movingly for an hour and forty minutes and received two standing ovations.

Why was it so inspiring? West was not a pulpit speaker in the style of the Reverends Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesse Jackson, but was warm, charming, and often funny. He opened his speech with a point about rhetoric: paideia, frank speech, the kind that got Socrates killed. I was reminded again that truth heals. We need desperately to talk about the emperor’s new clothes or the elephant in the room, especially when the talk is critical, but not hateful, love but “tough love,” as West said with a smile.

There, in that packed room of mostly privileged, mostly white people, who, before the talk began, had been speaking about their horses and far-flung vacations, West made a connection. That was very important too.

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Gaza War Proved That US Remains Netanyahu Territory

Oct6

by: on October 6th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

For those of us who have spent years, if not decades, trying to make Americans understand the horrors of the Israeli occupation, this should be a time for some serious re-thinking. There is no evidence whatsoever that Americans (led by Jewish Americans) reacted to the Gaza war any differently than to any previous war involving Israel.

The media (with a few notable exceptions like Chris Hayes on MSNBC) propagated the Israeli line while mostly ignoring what the IDF was inflicting on the civilian population of Gaza. The President had nothing to say about the innocent Palestinian dead except in the vaguest and most balanced tones. If he felt any outrage about the dead children in Gaza, he kept it to himself. As for Congress, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, came together as one to reduce the leveling of Gaza to the simple issue of Israel’s “right to defend itself.” As for the organized Jewish community, it backed the war as stridently as ever, with even J Street intimidated into support for it. A notable exception to all this was Tikkun which, consistent with its principles, vocally opposed the killing.

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White American Men and the Liberalwashing of Islamophobic Racism

Oct5

by: on October 5th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Bill Maher

Credit: Creative Commons/Steve Anderson

On Friday evening, Bill Maher and Sam Harris did what white men in America have been doing for the last twenty-five years: they shielded their racism and anti-Muslim bigotry under the umbrella of liberal values.

Maher demonstrated this in full view when, after ticking off all of the liberal values he holds dear, from marriage equality to equality for minorities, he cast the world’s Muslims as violent and repressive people. What’s more, he did so explicitly under the guise of standing up for liberal values, calling upon his audience to do the same.

He may be the latest incarnation of the white, American ‘liberal’ man to promote his racism under the banner of liberalism, but he’s obviously not the first. Maher has had some good mentors to choose from over the years, none ‘better’ than Alan Dershowitz.

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Netanyahu tells Obama to “study the facts” before critiquing Israel’s Settlements

Oct2

by: on October 2nd, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Obama Netanyahu

President Obama sits with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the Oval Office. Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told President Obama during a face-to-face meeting on Wednesday that he needed to “study the facts” the next time he, or his administration, planned on critiquing Israel’s settlement expansions. Netanyahu then, with incredible chutzpah, tried to imply that anti-Semitism was behind such critiques by Obama.

Netanyahu’s thorny words came after Washington blasted a new settlement expansion plan, characterized by the White House as poisonous, which was announced by Israel just before Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama. This plan calls for 2,160 new housing units to be built in the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, an area which stands beyond the Green Line and is integral to those who want to make dividing Jerusalem impossible in any future two-state resolution. The White House also criticized the occupation of twenty-five Palestinian apartments in East Jerusalem purchased by settlers, who — backed by riot police — expelled families in the middle of the night with little warning.

In response to these critiques, Netanyahu told Obama that he and his administration needed to “study the facts and details before making statements” about Israel’s new construction plan, claiming among other things that it was not new, that the timing of its announcement was innocent, and that the construction would be for both Israeli Jews and Palestinians. However, it appears that Obama and the White House indeed did their due diligence, for Netanyahu’s claims have been shown to be false, and the Obama administration’s critiques on point.

Perhaps worse than calling Obama ignorant, however, was his forced attempt to depict his criticism as having anti-Semitic echoes. Here is what Netanyahu said after his meeting with Obama:

I have no intention of telling Jews they can’t buy apartments in East Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right. There cannot be discrimination — not against Jews and not against Arabs.


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“God and Goddess Emerging” and “A Beaked and Feathered God”: A Free Peek at Two Subscriber-Only Articles from Our Summer Issue

Oct2

by: Tikkun Administration on October 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »

Have you gotten a chance to check out Tikkun’s Summer 2014 print issue? We’d love to hear your opinions on some of the truly radical notions of God that progressive theologians are exploring.

A significant number of Tikkun readers have told us that they don’t believe in God. No worries! Our managing editor and many of our authors identify as agnostics or atheists too. Regardless of your own beliefs, it can be fascinating to learn how drastically different the notions of God currently being explored by progressive theologians are from previous sexist, racist, homophobic, and hierarchical conceptions of God.

We’re especially curious to hear feedback from you on “God and Goddess Emerging”, a provocative article by Rabbi Michael Lerner in the current print issue. In this historical moment, Lerner argues, we need to blend a panentheism that recognizes humans as in and part of God with the radical visions of God as YHVH (source of transformation) and El Shaddai (a love-oriented Breasted God). Only then will we able to see God as the consciousness of the universe, one that doesn’t intervene but instead repeats her/his/its message for a world of love and justice and compassion to anyone who will listen.

Our publisher has also made a special exception to allow non-subscribers to get a taste of an entirely different theological approach in “A Beaked and Feathered God: Rediscovering Christian Animism,” a lyrically written piece that celebrates the enfleshment of God in many forms. Mark I. Wallace, professor of religion at Swarthmore College, examines the rich variety of natural phenomena given sacred presence in biblical accounts and hones in on the avian spirit in particular. By further tying God to flesh and feathers, he hopes people will begin to rebel and counter the utilitarian attitudes toward nature that now dominate the global marketplace.

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Happy LGBT History Month

Oct2

by: on October 2nd, 2014 | No Comments »

Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity…. It challenges all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice.

National Association for Multicultural Education, emphasis added

lgbt flag

Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia

October is LGBT History Month. It originated when, in 1994, Rodney Wilson, a high school teacher in Missouri, had the idea that a month was needed dedicated to commemorate and teach this history since it has been perennially excluded in the schools. He worked with other teachers and community leaders, and they chose October since public schools are in session, and National Coming Out Day already fell on October 11.

I see this only as a beginning since lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, (LGBTIQ) history is all our history and, therefore, needs to be taught and studied all year every year. Why do I feel this way?


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Gen ’97 Drives Struggle for Identity and Fairness in Hong Kong

Oct1

by: Yoichi Shimatsu on October 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Crossposted from New America Media

Hong Kong Joshua Wong

Scholarism leader Joshua Wong at a cafe overlooking the plaza where he was arrested. Credit: Yoichi Shimatsu / New America Media

HONG KONG — On both sides of the barricades blocking this city’s streets, media pundits from New York and Beijing assert that the protests in Hong Kong arise from demands for greater autonomy. Completely unnoticed is a major demographic shift in the region’s population, which is redefining the issues that motivate the younger generation to shut down this global financial center.

The leadership and activist numbers are coming from Generation ’97, young people born during the 1997 handover of the then-British Crown colony to Chinese sovereignty. These youngsters, most still in the secondary level (high school), are finding themselves at the forefront of a populist struggle for electoral rights. They are motivated by anxieties about local identity and a consequent need for better representation, reflecting attitudes that differ subtly but significantly from the traditional opposition parties.


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Dangerous Values at Values Voters Summit

Sep30

by: on September 30th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Values Voters Summit

Credit: Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore

I perceive so many issues and so much material to critique from the recent so-called Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. that I find it difficult where precisely to focus.

I could talk about the cast of characters invited to present to the largely older, white, conservative Christian confab audience, with such notables ranging from current and former elected political officials including Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, and David Dewhurst, to ultra conservative media pundits such as Erick Erickson (Editor-in-Chief of Red States) and Glenn Beck, to heads of far-right organizations like Gary Bauer (Pres., American Values) and Kelly Shackelford (Pres. & CEO, Liberty Institute).

I could center my comments on the “intellectual” and historical bloopers made by a number of the presenters. For example, Ted Cruz lambasted U.S. officials talking with Iranian leaders:

“This week the government of Iran is sitting down with the United States government, swilling chardonnay in New York City to discuss what [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu rightly describes as an historic mistake…setting the stage for Iran to acquire nuclear weapon capability.”

Cruz, like President George W. Bush before him, shows his utter ignorance of Muslims and their cultures, in Cruz’s case, by his ignorance of their ban on consuming alcoholic beverages.


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I Rallied Against Anti-Semitism. Now What?

Sep29

by: Donna Swarthout on September 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

Central Council of Jews in Germany rally

"Never again hatred of Jews" was the slogan for Central Council of Jews in Germany rally against anti-Semitism. Credit: Donna Swarthout

“It’s a fortress mentality,” said my friend as we sat outdoors over a glass of wine on a mild September evening after attending a back-to-school night at the John F. Kennedy School of Berlin. “Jewish organizations in Germany are closed, restrictive organizations that don’t seek volunteers and don’t have the transparency of Jewish groups in the States.” Punkt. Period. “But I want to do something to address the rise in anti-Semitism and promote cross-cultural unity,” I said. Silence. A sympathetic nod. Time to move on, I thought.

Less than a week earlier I had attended a rally against anti-Semitism organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany. About 6,000 people, a rather disappointing turnout, gathered around the slogan “Steh Auf – Nie Wieder Judenhass” (Stand up – Never again hatred of Jews). I had simmered with disgruntlement over this slogan in the days leading up to the rally. Why couldn’t they have chosen something more positive and inspirational? I’ve lived in Berlin for more than three years and never felt hated. Yes, there has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents, but let’s rally for a more just society for Jews, Muslims, and other minorities. Our freedom is intertwined with every legitimate group that encounters hatred.


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What Happens when a Ritual Works: The People’s Climate March

Sep29

by: on September 29th, 2014 | No Comments »

People's Climate March 2014

Credit: Creative Commons/South Bend Voice

Originally published in National Catholic Reporter

Religious folk are not so good at a lot of things but we are experts at ritual. The mass. The wedding. The baptism. The Bar Mitzvah. The funeral. The Praise service.

At the climate march we multifaith types joined the rest of the people who love the earth enough to march and create a ritual. When a ritual works, people feel something. They are changed. They come in the door one person and go out another.

The best moment was at 12:58 p.m. when a call went out for two minutes of silence. It was real. Quiet in New York City? Very much so. And then a secular ritual – the wave – joined the quiet, starting from the back and waving all the way through the thousands gathered. Like an ululation – an Arabic shout that accompanies ritual – the sound built its joy and pierced the quiet with happiness. EVERYBODY I know says that was the moment worth the bus rides, the sleeping on the floor and the expensive packaged food. For me, it was an urban bliss, a sacralization of all that has been desacralized, a punctuation marking off the time before we had hope we could love the earth from the time when we forgot or did not. Hope waved its arms and its voice at us, and we waved back. I know this mostly happens at large sports events. So what? The blend of the sacred and the secular, the earth and the heavens was everywhere.


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