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Charlottesville and Thuringia

Aug19

by: Victor Grossman on August 19th, 2017 | No Comments »

The sirens and shouted curses from Charlottesville resounded all too audibly even here in far-off Germany. Little imagination was required; how well we know such brutal faces, twisted with hatred, the racist epithets and threats! Sometimes we even heard the ugly words in German: Sieg Heil!

Scenarios like that, not only as echoes from the past, have become a part of life in today’s Germany. Almost every weekend, in some town or city, we see the racists and neo-Nazis march, with their hard boots, their flags and fearsome banners, so much like those in Virginia. Sometimes just a small, hard core or private gathering with nationalist songs escalating to texts about gas and Jewish blood. But also big crowds; four weeks ago, in Themar, a hitherto unknown little town in Thuringia, 6000 gathered for a “rock concert”. One sponsor, who runs a Nazi restaurant nearby, sold T–shirts marked “HTLR”. The full name is officially taboo but, he explains with a twisted grin, it means only “Homeland-Tradition-Loyalty-Respect”. Who can object to that? Or to prices of 8.80 euro – when everyone knows that 8 is letter H in the alphabet, and 88 is code for Heil Hitler! Or ”1933” – the year the Nazis seized power. It’s all legal, OK’d by the court. Even a big parking lot was reserved for them.

Even very decent-looking citizens may join the marching, like in Dresden every Monday for two years. “Who us? Racists? We only want to defend ‘German culture’ against the inroads of those ‘Islamists!’” With slogans, songs, only now and again with torches and weapons. They called themselves PEGIDA – “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West”. Then a party was founded by an attractive young entrepreneur and an elderly, respectable professor; AfD – Alternative for Germany. It is already treated oh so fairly by some in the media – just short of favorably – and will soon have several dozen seats in the national Bundestag; it is already represented in many local and state legislatures. Like the booted men or the T-shirt singers, its main voters, its basic program is “Hate the enemies”! In Charlottesville the enemies are sometimes Jewish, but mostly Black or Muslim, but always if possible weaker, poorer – and somehow different – in color, clothing, faith. And in Germany the same: sometimes Jewish but mostly Turkish or, with the recent refugees, Arab, African, Afghani. A hijab head-covering is sufficient: “A Muslim, an Islamic enemy!”

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Getting Away with It

Aug18

by: Maggie Kast on August 18th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

You can do whatever you can get away with, but nobody has ever gotten away with much.

Flannery O’Connor, in “The Nature and Aim of Fiction”

How much can our heads of government get away with? Constitution-defying travel bans, revolving-door staff, governance by tweet, absconding from climate accords, cozying up to white nationalists, disrespect for everyone except the self? It seems that our world has shifted, fractured as though by a jerk of tectonic plates. It’s easy to think of our situation as uniquely off kilter, and in some ways it is, but consider the political upheavals of mid-twentieth century U.S.

Orderly governance turned bizarre and dangerous in the early1950s, when I was growing up in Washington, D.C. “Association” became a crime – that is, association with anyone who might have left-wing sympathies. Interrogation, job loss, emigration and worse could follow accusation, and a mood of suspicion and fear colored every interaction. Senator Joseph McCarthy garnered attention and headlines all over the country and the world as he waved papers, claimed that X number of known Communist Party members worked in government, and accused Democratic administrations of “twenty years of treason.” At the peak of hysteria, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed, convicted of conspiring to give atomic secrets to the Russians.

I was barely twelve as our family’s friends and acquaintances began to be called, one by one, to testify before HUAC, the House Unamerican Activities Committee. We consulted the paper with queasy stomachs each morning to see who would be next. Of course there were no laws restricting your social circle or the meetings you attended, but names are what the committee wanted, and if you refused to name your friends and associates, you had to plead the 5th amendment, against self-incrimination, and the world would assume you were guilty. If you refused to name them you could be prosecuted for contempt of Congress. If you got tripped up in your testimony you could be prosecuted for perjury and convicted, like Alger Hiss, who spent five years in jail.

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To the Murdered Innocents—How America can regain Its Moral and Communitarian Soul

Aug14

by: Phil Wolfson on August 14th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Let us all face it: We have lost it.

 

If we are not crying for the murdered woman and the injured in Charlottesville, the murdered on the Portland train, all who have been murdered, wounded and damaged by this rampant hatred, we need to turn inward and examine who we are and who we have become. We must feel our loss, our grief in empathy in order to regain our centers.

 

The old face to the world of a haven for all, an opportunity for justice and freedom, for all people’s freedom, for a constitutional civilized way of life is gone. Worldwide, the US is now seen for its oppressive might, its racism, its greed, its hate mongering exemplified by its president and government. That historic designation of the difference between the government and its people is losing its power as those who praise racism and misogyny stand at the helm with the backing of a right-wing media inflamed minority who have lost touch with even their basic self-interests.

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The Forest That Overwhelms Trump Tower

Aug7

by: Reverend Billy Talen on August 7th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

It always starts with the vulnerability of risking arrest.  The activism is the purest citizenship.  We enter Trump Tower.  We walk through the submachine guns and dogs, the body armor and the golden name of the white supremacist president that hovers in space above the door.

We are only doing what tourists do.  Ta-Nehisi Coates would say that we are walking into The Dream.  Trump Tower’s public area, where we are welcome as long as we show signs of being willing consumers of The Dream, is a 5 story high vertical mall, with gold-plated escalators zig-zagging upwards.  The hanging garden of Trump.  Fake plants on gold pillars!  We walk across the threshold of The Dream carrying the intention to subvert it and replace it with our Earthalujah!

Let’s call The Dream what it is – The Nightmare.  We have here in this building in concentrated form exactly what most Americans have everyday – the complex of responses to state-sanctioned violence on behalf of race and property and profit.  We feel the manufacture of fear, the itching-the-imagined-wound of Trump nation.  As we walk by the silent staring Secret Service we feel the fantastic imagination made by American fear – the conspiracy theories, the deadly tribalism of police, the scandal of alternative love, the remake of everyone everywhere into a monstrous “Other.”

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Games of Thrones and #NoConfederate

Aug6

by: on August 6th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

First, I must confess that I am a Game of Thrones fan. To be more precise, I am a Tyrion Lannister fan as interpreted by Peter Dinklage. I continued to watch Game of Thrones after the first episode primarily because I was fascinated by Tyrion. I love his wit and his joy of life. As the series progressed, I started to love his cunning, his morality, and his willingness to walk away from everything and to return again when he thought he could serve a leader who would be good for the people of the Seven Kingdoms.

I was and remain at once enthralled and deeply dismayed by the imagination of George R.R. Martin in the books and by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss in the television series. They have conjured an entire world complete with history and religion and food. They have imaged flying dragons and a human queen who can withstand fire. They have given us a human being, the Three-eyed Raven, who can see everything past, present, and future. I enjoy the library at the Citadel, the warrior women and the dangerous queens. Games of Thrones earned an everlasting place in my heart for bringing back the great Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell. The Game of Thrones imagination imagines an army of the dead that is the ultimate enemy of the living, and the saying of the House Stark is correct: “Winter is coming.”

My disappointment comes with the rapes of women and the torture porn. It especially comes when I look at the world these wonderful imaginings have given us, and I see a world where African or Asian people hardly exist. We have seen a few minor black characters, but it seems beyond their imagining that there could be high born black people who would have something to say about who will sit on the Iron Throne. Perhaps this would be a good starting point for a sequel as Game of Thrones, the television show, comes to an end.

Rather than thinking with delicious anticipation about what a sequel to the series could be, we are instead faced with an HBO announcement that Benioff and Weiss will produce a show called Confederate. The premise of the show will be what would the world be like if the Confederacy had won the Civil War and slavery existed to this day?

What? Who thought this was a good idea? (See: https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/535512/)

Here is where I reach the limits of my own imagination. I cannot image how anyone would think that what the world needs now is a fantasy about the enslavement of African American people continuing to the present day. How can anyone think that such fiction is appropriate when the truth of the aftermath of the Civil War is hardly known?

Let us consider the true history. After the Civil War, federal troops were stationed in the South to oversee Reconstruction. A Freedman’s Bureau was established to help the formerly enslaved to build new lives. We NEVER got our forty acres or our mule. We NEVER got reparations for hundreds of years of stolen work, but that is another essay. African Americans insisted on education, so people, black and white, can thank African Americans for the existence of public education in the South. African Americans served with honor and dignity in state legislatures and in the United States Congress. Do not believe the racist propaganda of the movies that depict freed men and women as pawns in the hands of corrupt carpetbaggers from the North.

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Wistful Eyes: Uri Avnery on the Death Penalty

Aug4

by: on August 4th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

THE WHOLE world watched with bated breath while the days passed. Then the hours. Then the minutes.

The world watched while the condemned man, Muhammad Abu-Ali of Qalqiliya, waited for his execution.

Abu-Ali was a convicted terrorist. He had bought a knife and killed four members of a family in a nearby Jewish settlement. He had acted alone in a fit of anger, after his beloved cousin, Ahmed, was shot and killed by the Israeli border police during a demonstration.

This is an imaginary case. But it resembles very much what would happen if a real case that is now pending were to take this turn.

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Why Patriarchy Is Not about Men

Aug4

by: on August 4th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

In response to my recent newsletter, which I named “Tenderness, Vulnerability, and Mourning as a Response to Patriarchy“, I received two comments from men that led me to choose to write this piece. In two very different ways they pointed me to the reality that the word patriarchy is used in many ways; that some of those ways lead to a lot of misunderstanding; and that, in the process, men in particular get targeted in ways I never wish they did. In this piece I hope to rectify this a little bit. I start with pointing to what I mean by patriarchy, since I don’t yet have a definition that I am fully satisfied with. Most significantly, I speak to what patriarchy does or does not have to do with men and what it has to do with all of us. I also aim to make it clear what my very deep concerns are about continuing within the patriarchal paradigm that’s been with us, at least those of us who are part of Western civilization, for about 7,000 years. And I end by what I believe every single one of us can do about it.

What Is Patriarchy?

One of the things that make it difficult to speak about patriarchy, or any other system, to a mostly North American audience, is that the capacity to see systems as distinct from the individuals that live within and are affected by them has been systematically rooted out of most people’s awareness. Instead, everything is seen as an individual issue with only individual solutions.

This is, sadly, also the reason for why the main accomplishments of the 2nd wave of feminism (about which more below) in the US, for example, have been at the individual level, such as access to more kinds of jobs and to education, or increased reproductive choice. There has been very little change in the system that I call patriarchy, nor have the individual changes been open to women who are darker skinned and/or of limited economic means.

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A Call to Our Communities to Stop the Character Assassinations and Attacks on Seekers of Justice

Aug3

by: Donna Nevel on August 3rd, 2017 | 14 Comments »

Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian groups and individuals, including from Jewish communities, continue to spearhead or engage in assaults upon those who dare to criticize Israel or support Palestinian rights. Palestinians and Muslims are particularly targeted.

 

These attacks against supporters of justice come as Israel continues to escalate its violence and repressive tactics against the Palestinian people.In recent weeks, we have witnessed an intensification of Israeli violence against Palestinians at the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, and the people of Gaza are enduring unbearable brutality, forced tolive “in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world,”B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group hasrecentlysaid.

 

Yet, the attacks I refer to are not on those perpetrating these grave injustices, but, rather, on those challenging them. This is a plea to those of us from within Jewish communities to vigorously and unequivocally repudiate these persistent character assassinations and attacks, to call them out for what they are, to examine our complicity in what is happening, and to join the call for justice.

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How US Policy Helps Al Qaeda in Yemen

Aug3

by: Jonathan Marshall on August 3rd, 2017 | No Comments »

Exclusive: President Trump – like President Obama – is working at cross purposes in supposedly fighting Al Qaeda in Yemen while helping Saudi Arabia kill Al Qaeda’s chief Yemeni enemies, as Jonathan Marshall explains.

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In a world of bad actors, one of the “baddest” of all is the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the CIA once branded “the most dangerous regional node in the global jihad.” It masterminded the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000; nearly blew up a U.S. passenger jet flying into Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009; brought down a UPS cargo plane in 2010; and sponsored the 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, killing 11 and wounding another 11.

All of which raises an embarrassing question: Why is the United States supporting AQAP’s main ally in Yemen, Saudi Arabia?

The respected news publication Middle East Eye reports that Abdulmajid al-Zindani, a Yemeni cleric, “veteran al-Qaeda supporter,” and “former spiritual adviser to Osama bin Laden,” has been operating freely in Saudi Arabia, even posting YouTube videos lauding the Saudi war in his home country.

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Tisha B’av does not have a happy ending

Jul31

by: Aryeh Cohen on July 31st, 2017 | 3 Comments »

Tisha B’av is not yom kippur. We are assured neither atonement nor redemption on Tisha B’av.

Tisha B’av is not the day that we beat our chests and promise to do better.

Tisha B’av is the day that we force ourselves to look into the heart of darkness, the darkness that we have created, the ways in which we are complicit in the evils of the world and we must be overwhelmed and distraught and paralyzed. There is no ray of hope on Tisha B’av.

Tisha B’av is the day of reckoning.

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