A NOTE ON LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
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AIPAC AND IRAN
I was very disappointed in M. J. Rosenberg’s post “The Israel Lobby Is Killing Iran Negotiations in Favor of War” on Tikkun Daily.
Rosenberg makes the completely false assertion that the “Israel lobby” wants war with Iran, simply because Netanyahu, AIPAC, and many in the U.S. Congress do not want to remove the military option in dealing with Iran’s nuclear proliferation—a proliferation that is in total violation of international treaties and threatens to spark a dangerous arms race throughout the region.
Rosenberg bases his whole premise (that Israel and AIPAC are seeking war) on his statement that “it is obvious that Netanyahu and the lobby understand that no country would accept a deal in which it gives up everything in exchange for maybe something later.” I find this particularly funny, since although Rosenberg finds it so patently absurd that anyone would ask a country to “give up everything” in exchange for “maybe something later,” isn’t that exactly what so many people—on the left, particularly, as well as people of all stripes in the Arab world and in Europe—want Israel to do? Isn’t that what “land for peace” was all about? Isn’t that what Abbas et al. want Israel to do in order to enter into peace negotiations—to agree to all their demands, make concessions, and accept major preconditions (like going back to the pre-1967 borders) even before talks begin? Isn’t that what Israel in fact did when it returned the Sinai in exchange for a piece of paper? It is amazing that what is so transparently ridiculous for others to accept is precisely what Israel is expected to rush into with open arms.
New York, NY
Lynice Pinkard’s article in the Fall 2013 print issue, “Revolutionary Suicide,” is one of the most profound and provocative articles I’ve read in many, many months. She’s absolutely right. We have to commit suicide, or work on our own dying to the death-dealing capitalist society we’ve inherited and with which we’ve been complicit.
I spent about fifty years as an Episcopal priest trying to undo the domination system in the church. The church as a social phenomenon is designed to give divine sanction to the domination system that is destroying our planet and us.
I am now working on a new book with the tentative title The Apocalypse and Beyond: A Manifesto for Creating a New Humanity. There are three things we have to do to create a new postcivilized way of being human. The first is to repent: a radical turning around and dying to the old civilized ways in which we have been thinking, acting, and behaving, much like Lynice Pinkard’s revolutionary suicide. The second is to work like crazy at nonviolently undermining all the capitalist strategies of domination while simultaneously recognizing that they cannot be defeated. Then we have to begin to create new underground structures and systems that can enable our heirs to survive the coming global apocalypse.
Thanks to all of you at Tikkun for supporting and encouraging the real humanity that is based on love and distributive justice.
Valley Ford, CA
Lynice Pinkard’s “Revolutionary Suicide” piece in the Fall 2013 print issue is a very powerful article. I was put off by the title—Suicide (!)—when we are threatened with death, the sixth great extinction. But then she makes clear that she is talking about living more fully, not compromising with the forces of death, and recognizing our complicity with the death-dealing systems in which we are all embedded. Pinkard is asking us to address the beliefs and fears that embed us in these life-destroying systems that are leading us all off the cliff. Until we address our own complicity with them and commit to working in solidarity with everyone to dismantle these systems by stepping out of them, delegitimizing them, and creating alternatives to them, we will in fact be cooperating in collective suicide.
Michael Lerner replies:
To see why these claims are not hyperbole, I encourage all our readers to check out Cynthia Moe-Lobeda’s book Resisting Structural Evil, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, and Jerry Mander’s The Capitalism Papers, and then join our Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us advance the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ESRA) at spiritualprogressives.org.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
Benefitting from the substance of Rabbi Lerner’s Winter 2014 Tikkun article, “What Terms for Middle East Peace Would Actually Work?” the following is an organizational variation:
Agreed-upon subboundaries, with every person able to live anywhere in a combined overall Israel-Palestine state but able to vote only on issues handled by their own parliament, as per the Parallel State Plan (to be published this year).
Joint issues—such as sanitation, water distribution, and major crimes—needing to be agreed upon by both parliaments and 55 percent of both peoples, as per the Israel-Palestine Confederation Plan promoted by Joseph Alvarez.
Jerusalem divided, with each half serving as the capital of its respective nation, and joint municipal matters handled in the same manner as joint national issues.
A joint constitution limiting the immigration into each subsector, so that Israel would always have a Jewish Israeli majority and Palestine a non-Jewish Palestinian majority.
This plan could increase permanent acceptance by other Middle East countries, would allow both peoples to develop their separate distinctive cultures, and would also join them together in a partnership.
It has been almost 400 years since Galileo put the finishing touches on the Copernican revolution that relieved us of our illusion that our planet was the center of the universe. And over 100 years since Einstein made clear that the Earth’s frame of reference has no valid claim to being special. Even the knowledge that our solar system is not unique and that there are planets beyond counting is nothing new.
Given this continuity of revelation regarding the place of our planet in the cosmos, it is striking that Paul Levy and Cat Zavis (Winter 2014) base their pieces on a questionable assumption, namely that, besides God, humans are unique as conscious beings, in our amazing “goldilocks” universe (perfectly tuned for stars, planets and life to evolve), with a unique role to play in co-creating and maintaining that universe.
“Humans have a unique capacity for self reflection, consciousness . . . Goddess is saying: ‘Please help. I am doing all I can to transform and become the greatest universe I can be'” (Cat Zavis). Paul Levy says, “… it is humanity’s divinely appointed task… as if humanity plays a vitally important role in the completion and actualization of the universe…”
While we may be the only creatures on our small planet with a high level of consciousness and participate in earth’s intimate web of interconnections in a special way, ours is just one planet among billions. The odds are extremely good that there are many other planets on which conscious beings exist. Might they play the same role that Zavis and Levy ascribe uniquely to humans? Might they have a similar responsibility in the ongoing universal co-creation and maintenance, maybe even playing an indispensable part? While human consciousness and even the hidden righteous, the tzadikim nistarim, may be necessary for the continuation of life sustaining conditions on earth, it seems a huge presumption to assert that they/we “hold up” the entire universe.
For all we know, there are divine sparks in countless other conscious beings on many other planets throughout the universe. Metaphorically, the assumption of such a pivotal place for humanity is the same as the pre-Galilean belief that Earth is the center of the universe. To put it simplistically, it sounds like: “the universe revolves around = depends upon, humans.”
Of course, our consciousness is surely intimately intertwined with the mysterious and ultimately unknowable greater Consciousness, call it God, in which we are enfolded. And it surely behooves us to practice tikkun ha-olam and live our lives in gratitude with a deep sense of interconnection. But beyond that, does our continuing anthropocentric arrogance really have no limits?
What makes a worship service? I just read Donna Schaper’s article “When Liturgy Goes Wild, Worship Happens” in the Winter 2014 print issue about a liturgy of wild abandon. According to Schaper, the liturgy brings one a glimpse of Spirit, Energy, or Force, instead of Jesus. Worship is astonishment! In order to achieve this, one example was having two beautiful naked men enact a performance of their devising.
I’m grateful for this article and to the author. I’m grateful even though I couldn’t force myself to read it with my usual thoroughness. I was assaulted by my feelings. I felt angry and frightened for my society. Not because of the events themselves; I’ve certainly experienced such avant garde productions of one kind or another. I specifically remember a service with Angela Davis as the worship leader. The astonishment was not Angela Davis, but the men spaced around the sanctuary holding weapons. No, as I read this article, I thought, “Is there no place today which is free of assault on the senses?”
Setting up liturgy to dissolve boundaries may be justifiable, but as the single goal, becomes confusing. I’m reminded that we are all confronted daily with non-stop advertising which attempts to rid us of our boundaries so that we buy, believe, trust, or whatever else we’re being sold.
Worship and liturgy are the only placse outside of my own home where I can join with others in contemplation of concepts like goodness, love, kindness, charity, sacrifice and compassion. The key to such contemplation is that it must be done internally. The sermon may attempt to instruct me, but it is my internal integration of such instruction which is essential. The boundaries are set by the individual. Worship is an inside job!
Our society would have us believe that we are controlled by our environment. Advertising is a result, but not the only cause. Our beliefs in education, child rearing, house design, and clothing style are some examples. We live inside out. We attempt to define ourselves by our response to our environment. It has been my observation that focusing on the inner life is threatening to our society. I remember a time when psychoanalysis was seen as helpful. However, B.F. Skinner [American psychologist and behaviorist] came along and brilliant minds fell head long into a romance with our response to environmental stimuli. And then, even more powerfully, antipsychotic medications were discovered and the long, lonely journey of self discovery exemplified by psychoanalysis was abandoned. Recently, the avoidance of the mind’s inner life has been underlined by the discoveries of stimulated areas of the brain. Another example of our preoccupation with our environment is seen in our preference for extroversion, which is seen as a more superior adjustment to life than introversion.
Worship, spirituality, whatever you choose to call it, is an inside job. It attempts to be impervious to outer influences. It flourishes in the absence of stimulation. We are easily distracted by our environments. Desire is seen as the culprit by some. I don’t believe I’ve come to that conclusion. Desire is essential to the life of the body. But preoccupation with the senses to the exclusion of the inner life, results in rudderless lives. Is it any wonder so many of us overindulge in attitude adjustments like drugs and alcohol?
But, lest I leave the reader flummoxed by the rigidity of my opinion, let me quickly add that the author of the article has every right to her views. As do all those in our society with whom I have disagreed in the foregoing. I pray for a day of renewal and reconsideration of the current direction of our society and its worship experiences.
MULTIRACIAL WORK TO END RACISM
Here are some thoughts in response to Julie Greenberg’s Winter 2014 print article, “Beyond Allyship: Multiracial Work to End Racism”—for what they’re worth.
1. I am an unreconstructed integrationist. I believe an integrated and just society benefits us all. Therefore I am more than “just an ally” in the struggle against racism.
2. I am also more than just an ally because I belong to an interracial family and have had to advocate for my kid of color at least until she is old enough to do this completely on her own.
3. I am uncomfortable with the idea of an experienced white organizer withholding her expertise to allow a person of color to experience the sensation of empowerment at the expense of the important anti-racism goals of the group. If your goal is to develop a child’s independence you might keep your mouth shut as she marched toward an obvious dead end while working on a school project. But if your colleagues are supposed to be your equals, and you were sought out for your expertise, and if the project is important, then you are doing everyone a disservice in my view by keeping quiet. An analogy for me: from time to time I mentor less experienced lawyers of color who are just starting to handle race discrimination cases. When I think they are making mistakes, I tell them. We have a common goal: to have them win their cases.
Sorry for the rant. I loved your piece.
Good grief, and I speak with humor and affection here, does the phrase “over-thinking” come to mind? It is good, very good, to ponder these things up to a point, but Julie Greenberg needs to get into a little of the “just do the next right thing.”