While contemplating the topic and eventual focus of my doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I was having difficulty deciding since so many potential directions and questions excited me. Knowing me as well as she did, my major professor offered me some guidance.
The seemingly simple but deeply profound words she uttered placed, for me, the scope of my eventual research into poignant and profound prospective driving my research agenda to this very day.
“Your research is your therapy,” she told me. Though framed as a declarative statement, she was posing in these words what I understood as a number of underlying questions. By implication, what I heard her saying was, “There are many potential directions and research questions for you to investigate. What directions and questions will challenge you to change and to grow, not merely as a researcher, not merely intellectually and academically, but also, and very importantly, personally, spiritually, ethically, emotionally, psychologically?”
I listened to my professor’s words, “Your research is your therapy,” and as I did, the bottlenecks in my mind unclogged and tears welled in my eyes. Visions of my childhood swirled in my memories settling upon a five-year-old self seated upon my maternal grandfather, Simon (Szymon) Mahler’s, lap in our cramped Bronxville, New York apartment.
Writing in Ha’aretz today, Gideon Levy predicts that ultimately the Netanyahu government will pay a heavy price for the atrocities being inflicted on the people of Gaza. He writes:
I’m no fan of Hamas, quite the contrary. But Israel’s attempt to put all the blame on Hamas is outrageous. The international community will soon judge this war’s atrocities. Hamas may be reprimanded, deservedly, but Israel will be condemned and ostracized far more. And then Israelis will say, ‘It’s Hamas’ fault. And the world will laugh.
I don’t agree. I don’t see that happening for one obvious reason: the power of the Israel lobby.
Think about it. When it comes to Israel, the United States is the ball game. It provides Israel with the money, the weapons, and the United Nations’ vetoes that enable both the occupation and its multiple wars (like this one) to preserve it. And that shows no sign of changing.
Watch the television coverage. For three weeks the killing of children and other innocents in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli military has dominated the news. We see the bombs dropping. We see the destroyed schools, hospitals and mosques. We see the parents wailing over the deaths of their children and children wailing at the deaths of their parents and siblings.
But it makes no difference to the United States government which can stop the slaughter with a few words. (Five of those words are “your $3.5 billion aid package.)
“Listen, if you’re 14, 15, 16, 17 years old, and you’re coming from a country that’s gang-infested – particularly with MS-13 types, that is the most aggressive of all the street gangs – when you have those types coming across the border, they’re not children at that point. These kids have been brought up in a culture of thievery, a culture of murder, of rape. And now we are going to infuse them into the American culture. It’s just ludicrous.”
Rich Nugent does not stand alone in his dire warnings of the dangers children and other migrants will impose on the citizens of the United States if allowed to enter and remain. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican Representative, warns of grave public health threats as well. In a July 7, 2014, letter Gingrey wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“As a physician for over 30 years, I am well aware of the dangers infectious diseases pose. In fact, infectious diseases remain in the top 10 causes of death in the United States. …Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”
Well, “as a physician for over 30 years,” he should know that Ebola is not only extraordinarily difficult to spread, but that it also does not occur in Central America. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has only been discovered in humans living in sub-Saharan Africa.
Unfortunately, the absence of facts has never seemed to get in the way of anti-immigration activists. Nugent and Gingrey join a long list in their rhetoric of horror, hysteria, hyperbole, and hypocrisy throughout the immigration battles of the United States.
Editor’s Note: Young people in Los Angeles held a fast during the fourth week of July to call attention to the welfare of Central American children crossing into the United States. They are asking the Obama administration to take executive action to treat the children as refugees. The Obama administration is currently considering whether to make this change, according to The New York Times.
LOS ANGELES – Young people are once again leading the moral charge on a humanitarian issue that they say has been hijacked by politics.
Eight Los Angeles youth between the ages of 14 and 22 are fasting to call attention to the welfare of the tens of thousands of Central American children who have entered the United States to flee violence in their home countries.
Eighteen-year old Yamilex Rustrian says she decided to participate in the seven-day fast to remind the country whom the White House and Congress are seeking to deport: “These are children, not animals,” she said. “They still deserve to have human rights.”
The youth are spending their nights inside a giant white tent encampment perched on the grass lawn of historic Olvera Street in Los Angeles, hoping that Washington, D.C. politicians will consider treating the 50,000-plus children coming into the United States as refugees.
Attitudes toward the Central American children have clearly become politicized. Forty-six percent of Democrats support speeding up immigration proceedings even if those eligible for asylum may be deported, as do 60 percent of Republicans, the Pew Research Center reports.
But the fasters say they want to keep politics out of the discussion.
In scenes reminiscent of the PBS series “Upstairs, Downstairs,” and “Downton Abbey,” a luxury condominium complex in New York City’s Upper West Side, according to an agreement reached between the developers and City government, when completed, will contain a door for use by wealthy residents only, and a separate door for lower-income tenants. In exchange for permission to build a bigger and taller building, the developers have agreed to include 55 affordable rent-regulated units.
Residents living in these more “affordable” apartments within high-end complexes throughout the City are usually restricted from availing themselves of amenities granted to wealthy occupants, including swimming pools, gyms, and tennis and basketball courts. Since traditionally in New York City the majority of renters and buyers paying market rates for housing are white and the majority of tenants living in rent-regulated units are people of color, these sorts of “agreements” promote legalized segregation based on skin color and the color of money.
No matter how utterly offensive we may consider this arrangement, it does not even begin to represent the enormous economic gap and segregation of communities in the United States today. While economic disparities plague all nations across the planet, nowhere are these disparities more extreme than in the United States. No other problem affects the security and the very survival of our nation and other nations across our ever-shrinking planet more than the income and resource gap between the rich and the poor.
Even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Period” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term “Socialist” from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a conservative agenda. This continues to this very day as evidenced by the Tea Party’s representations of President Obama and of various progressive politicians.
As destructive and as freedom-killing as the Right would have us believe,Socialisminvolves “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.
No country in the world today stands as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.
As the Fourth of July is celebrated across the United States – and as economic reports, our ballooning prison system, and a barrage of climatological studies, among other pieces of evidence, lead ever more people to consider whether our collective way of life is in need of a fundamental transformation – an examination of the ostensible objects of our celebration (independence and democracy) seems in order.
Credit: Creative Commons/buildscharacter.
Aside from the concept of independence (and the question it implies: independence from what?), democracy, it should be remarked, is an especially vague and ambiguous concept.
Because democracy can refer to egalitarian, emancipatory politics, as well as to the political-economic systems of slavery-based societies like that of the southern U.S. or ancient Athens-an initial distinction should be drawn between egalitarian forms of democracy (which tend to be organized more or less horizontally, with social resources distributed more or less evenly) and what, in practical terms, are really plutocratic societies – or what, perhaps, can be termed market-based democracies (which tend to be more or less hierarchical and representational). And it’s the market-based or plutocratic society that,with only minor egalitarian democratic interruptions and adjustments,exists today and characterizes what democracy has meant since the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the late eighteenth century.
At dinner with friends recently, the subject of rents came up.It’s a big topic around San Francisco, because an influx of new money (from hi-tech, mostly) and other factors have made that city a landlord’s delight. When they moved out of their two-bedroom apartment, our friends told us, the landlord raised the rent a thousand dollars, to $3800 a month. “It was nothing fancy,” they said, “hadn’t been updated in years, an ordinary middle-class neighborhood.” The new figure was almost exactly the San Francisco median rent for a two-bedroom this year and a little below the corresponding average as of last month: $3898.
My friends had heard of renters offering well over the asking price – more than double the average in one case – to be sure of getting a place that was otherwise undistinguished but came with parking or a good location for errands and walks.
So that’s my main quibble with Nick Hanauer’s rather remarkable screed on Politico, “The Pitchforks Are Coming…For Us Plutocrats.” In this “Memo To: My Fellow Zillionaires,” Hanauer makes an eloquent (and perhaps disturbing to its intended recipients) plea for what San Francisco and Seattle have deemed a livable minimum wage, $15 an hour.
Have you noticed? Money changes everything. Almost daily, I get into conversations about compensation and fairness. Sometimes I even start them. But whoever starts them, by the time they get going, there’s always so much gray area that I have trouble finding my way to daylight.
I’m interested to know what you think. Let me share a few stories and a few questions that may cast some light on the subject.
Work or play? I work with many other artists who care about social justice and planetary healing and want to do our part. We get asked to contribute in various ways. Will you perform at our event? Will you donate a piece to our auction? When everyone is being asked to contribute – not just artists – that can feel just fine. But often that’s not the case. The people who mastermind the event, who set up and run the tech, who create the advertising, are being paid, but the artists are asked to volunteer.
This difference reflects some real challenges for those who wish to give art and culture their true value, those who understand that artists’ creativity is needed to surmount overwhelming challenges, to nourish our collective resilience, social imagination, and empathy. It seems to reflect the popular notion that artists are having too much fun for what they do to really be considered work: Sure, I’d like to sing and dance all day and get paid for it too. It devalues artists’ contributions, ignoring what we now know about the ways that stories, images, metaphors, and participatory actions can change more minds than the wonky work of white papers (which is almost always compensated). It seems to short-change organizing strategy itself, treating artists’ work as mere embellishment rather than a powerful path to change. These are hard attitudes to alter, because they are deeply embedded in the common culture. What would you do to transform them?
Going green is about more than buying all the gluten-free quinoa you can fit in your Prius. It’s about community organizing against corporate polluters and challenging environmental racism — and then enjoying your quinoa.
That’s the message from my good friend, the “Greenest Man in America.” If you haven’t met him yet, you’re in luck!
And no, he’s not Al Gore…