Readers Respond: Letters from November/December 2010

Letters on Kucinich and the ESRA, Saving the World from Corporate Greed, Beyond Government, Hamas and Palestine, Gay Spirituality, Hindu Spirituality, Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, “Assimilationist” Politics, Pragmatism or Morality, and God and Theology.

Fasting for Tom Zipper

I sent a text to my rabbi, asking whether I would have to give up coffee for Yom Kippur — but my cell phone “corrected” my message, assuming that “Yom Kippur” was my typo-laden attempt to thumb-type “Tom Zipper.” My rabbi texted me back, asking (reasonably enough) why this Tom Zipper fellow would want me to give up coffee.

Coercive Environments

Education. Consumerism. Incarceration. Henry Giroux’s new book identifies these as three key forces in binding contemporary youth to the social structures of neoliberalism.

A Great Yearning Fills Them All…

The search for an aesthetic and epistemological language of representation out of the shards of lives that were destroyed first by “progress” and then by two world wars becomes increasingly elusive and desperate. “Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz” by Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer is one of the most eloquent culminations of that search and a powerful indicator of the physical and cultural traces that survive into the twenty-first century.

Racial Justice: New Structures and New Selves

In his famous March 2008 speech in Philadelphia, then-candidate Obama asked us to move beyond a racial politics that demands a perpetrator and a victim and instead to begin to embrace the full complexity of race in this country. Yet, as we enter the winter of 2010, this rhetoric of hope and change has given way to an administration that has been disappointingly silent on race, as well as milquetoast in its policy prescriptions, even as multiple populist movements stir up white fear and anger.

Rilke’s America

Tell us, poet, what you do—I praise / Only, instead, the grave rasp of Kohelet / praising the dead, which are already dead / more than the living, which are yet alive.

Strange Land, New World

I am the first Jew to live in this cloistered Benedictine monastery. I don’t blend. I wear a kippah everywhere I go, and I observe the Sabbath and all Jewish holidays. I’m studying to become a rabbi, and I live here in this remote community of Catholic monks vowed to chastity and obedience.

Elements of a Philosophy for Diaspora Judaism

Why be Jewish? Why join temples? Why bother to introduce our children to Jewish ideas and practices? Answers to these questions vary from person to person and from age to age, but the questions persist. The questions seem as perpetual as the Jewish people itself.

Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons

In the United States as in Israel, much of the hawkish fearmongering against Iran comes from the Right. How can the moral panic theory explain that? Moreover, the same kinds of fears now directed toward theocratic Iran were aimed, just a few years ago, at the secular government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

JFK, Obama, and the Unspeakable

The military-industrial complex, more powerful today than ever, imprisons the president. When he accepts the power to kill everyone, the president becomes a prisoner morally and politically to the demands of our national security state. Once the president accepts nuclear power over the world, his permissible movement is confined to a very tight space — tighter than we as citizens might imagine.