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Arlene Goldbard
Arlene Goldbard is a writer, speaker, social activist, and consultant who works for justice, compassion, and honor in every sphere, from the interpersonal to the transnational.



“Tell The Truth and Shame The Devil”

Oct29

by: on October 29th, 2018 | No Comments »

Alexandra Schwartz’s short, informative essay in the New Yorker—well, the title almost says it all: “The Tree of Life Shooting and the Return of Anti-Semitism to American Life.” Almost, but not quite. Please read it.

Why? To glimpse the seemingly evergreen historical uses of antisemitism if you didn’t grow up like me, constantly reminded by the absence of ancestors and the words of those around you that we are always in jeopardy, that we live here on sufferance, on a provisional tolerance that can always be withdrawn. Read it to glimpse the experience of so many in my generation: the perpetual anticipation of the other boot dropping—on our necks, this time.

Reading this short, informative essay could help some people begin to understand that genocide happened to us in living memory, but not for the first time, not by a longshot. Even now, nearly 75 years after the end of World War II, there are fewer than half the Jews on the planet than had the Holocaust not happened. There are approximately 14 million Jews today; in 1939 there were about 16 million—so we haven’t even recouped the loss. Authoritative estimates say that with normal birth rates and no Holocaust, there would be upwards of 32 million today. Glimpsing history might help readers understand that for those in my generation, when Nazis march in Charlottesville chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” when an assassin opens fire in a synagogue yelling “All Jews must die,” we are reminded that exterminating more than one out of every three of us isn’t enough, not by a longshot. And in a nation that has more guns than people, our fear grows realer every day.

The ordinary antisemitism I grew up with: being chased every year when the Catholic kids got around to the chapter in catechism class that inspired them to punish us for killing Jesus; going to the principal’s office while the entire public school population sang Christmas carols in the auditorium; knowing all the words to all the carols and all the Christian holidays anyway, and never once being asked to show-and-tell something about our own heritage. Learning all the names for Jews my classmates imbibed with their mothers’ milk. Hearing that my father had been beaten for the crime of being Jewish by a man who worked down the street where he and his fellow housepainters kept their brushes and cans and ladders; and that someone had summoned the police, and the policeman made my father shake hands with his assailant. Microaggressions is the wrong word. Try macro.

No one burned a cross in front of our house. We were never carted away on trains. But the message of disbelonging came through clearly, and it could jump out to surprise me in any dark corner of conversation or any headline or any overheard slur. And even though it was more subtle, it rhymed so closely with the stories of our collective past and the element of surprise they all contained, we knew we had to stay awake.

I’m first generation in this country. I was taught by my immigrant forebears—who had trouble distinguishing homegrown uniformed men with guns from the ones who killed my great-grandfather in Vitebsk—to fear the police. I have never called the police in my life, and I doubt I ever will.

I have been a person of the left all my life, believing that neither justice nor mercy can come from special pleading for one’s own. They must be fundamental, universal human rights. Yet my commitment has been tried by the times my experience and history are trivialized by fellow progressives who decide on the basis of the white skin privilege many (but by no means all) of us have—the fact that I will not be stopped for driving or walking while Jewish—that to be a Jew in the USA is more or less the same as being a white Protestant and I ought to get over it, drop my paranoia, focus on real oppression. By the times that stereotypical views of Jews are casually accepted while speaking in similar ways about other identities gets called out, and not necessarily by those whose identities are being disparaged. By the times calling attention to what is actually happening in this country (as I did in this essay in June) has brought charges of exaggeration, of alarmism. By the expectation that I will accept the assurances of those who bloodlines don’t carry the same sensors for impending fascism, that I should relax and trust them to care about what happens to me and my ilk.

Jewish history confers no special virtue or status. Neither does any other. In every group, certain people have amassed the economic power or kissed up to the king hard enough to be crowned exceptions and do the oppressors’ work: for every Clarence Thomas or Ben Carson there is a Sheldon Adelson or Jared Kushner. Persecution is just as equal-opportunity: the appalling frequency with which Christians and Muslims have been threatened or attacked in their houses of worship tells the same story of leaders who peddle death, who use terrible words and actions to draft broken men into their scapegoating strike force, then disclaim the blood that is spilled in their names.

No livable future can emerge from a hierarchy of oppressions. Having compassion for my fear and understanding the very real danger that triggers it in no way limits the compassion I or anyone else can have for your very real history and present-day jeopardy. There is enough empathy to go around. If we make it a competition, we serve those who feast on our division.

May the memories of all those who have died of hatred stoked in high places be a blessing to all who love freedom. And may the fear felt by survivors carrying history in our bones be answered with compassion.

And that is the silver lining. Compassion is one good thing to come out of this: that so many non-Jews are finally speaking up when we are targeted. I don’t have words to say how different this feels from the ordinary run of my experience, and how much I welcome and appreciate it. Let me close with another short piece, this one written by Phyllis Bennis and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II for the Nation. The title almost says it all: “In Response to Pittsburgh, We Must Come Together as One.” Almost, but not quite. Please read it too.

The title of this essay comes from “The Devil Finds Work,” a song by Rev. Sekou, who I just discovered—why did it take me so long? Be sure to listen to “Resist” too, a song for now.

Ejecting The Oppressor: It Takes Earth and Earth and Earth

Oct7

by: on October 7th, 2018 | 5 Comments »

Prosper Kompaore shared a proverb from his home country of Burkina Faso: “How is it that sky-high termite mounds can be made by such tiny insects?” he asked. The answer, counseling determination, endurance, commitment and plenty of sustenance: “It takes earth and earth and earth…”

It is not given you to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Ancestors) 2:16

In times of great disappointment, the temptation to just react is powerful. I’m as angry, sad, and scared as anyone. But I also know that in the grip of those feelings, my judgment is impaired. My amygdala wants to fight, flee, or freeze, but my neocortex knows now is the time to rein in the reptile brain, reaching for higher ground.


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Arguing with Integrity: Ford, Ramirez, Swetnick, Kavanaugh, and the Senate Judiciary Committee

Oct3

by: on October 3rd, 2018 | No Comments »

Brett Kavanaugh should never have been confirmed for any judgeship, nor receive approval for his current bid for Supreme Court. My reasons for saying this are simple: charges of sexual assault from three credible witnesses; an increasingly well-documented history of public belligerence, including violence; a mounting body of lies about his own conduct; and an appallingly intemperate performance of outraged entitlement and partisanship before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The arguments against him on these grounds are solid and sufficient to carry the day, judged flatly on the merits. If they fail to do so, it will be on account of a nauseating party-line refusal to care about women’s safety and well-being, compounded by a cocktail of enraged white male entitlement.

The most recent polling makes this clear: 81 percent of black voters are opposed to confirmation, as are 65 percent of Hispanic voters. Across the board, 68 percent of voters support reopening the FBI background check. A full 86 percent of Democrats believe Blasey Ford as opposed to 10 percent of Republicans. (This Quinnipiac University Poll is pretty interesting on the granular level; for instance, white participants with a college degree oppose confirmation in much greater numbers than those without higher-ed credentials.)

But pull those figures apart and you’ll find multiplying questions and stories. Pundits are issuing analyses as fast as they can. Many sound worthy to some degree, but none of them settles my confusion about what it all means. Instead, they echo in my head like koans that never quite resolve:

The women who support Kavanaugh, what are they thinking and feeling? Overall, 37 percent of women—including 45% of white women—say Kavanaugh should be confirmed. Take a moment to consider this: despite his intemperance, despite the testimony of sexual assault, despite his remarkable show of political partisanship—seemingly grounded in the belief he has a right to a seat on the Supreme Court—in a proceeding that demands at least the appearance of neutrality, nearly one out of two white women want to see his nomination approved.

Some of this is being explained as skepticism. I get skepticism. This nation’s history is pockmarked with false accusation: the Salem witch trials, the Red Scare of the Fifties with its different witchhunts, and so on. (And it’s not just this nation. To pick a single example among many, check out the 1930s show trials staged under Stalin to legitimate persecution of his political opponents.) In many times and places, people have made false denunciations as a way to acquire power or profit, dismissing the accused as so much collateral damage in the race for advantage and ambition.

But what advantage do Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick gain by subjecting themselves to reviling, extreme scrutiny, to the barrage of insult and counter-accusation they knew full well would follow from their decisions to go public? Tales are being proffered, of course: they’re committed political operatives, stealthily awaiting the opportunity to bring a right-wing hero down; they’ll make fortunes from their tell-all best-sellers; they are hired performers, and so on. Remarkable charges to believe without a shred of evidence being offered, are they not?

Some of this is being explained along Stepford Wives lines. These women who support Kavanaugh are fundamentalists, we are told, following the edicts of the men in their lives—husbands, fathers, pastors—whose power, and therefore Kavanaugh’s power, the egregious Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina’s power, and by extension, the power of the white male-dominated Republican Party as a whole, cannot be questioned. If this is true, it is terrifying. I cannot prove it untrue, though I believe that every human being possesses the capacity to awaken from the trance of domination, putting choice in the place of compulsion. And I see glimpses of this truth in the headlines, such as this account of the women who confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator, demanding he not turn away.

Some of this is being framed as white supremacy. If Republicans are the party of white power, and through the distorted lens of racism white power must be retained at all costs, then gender is simply a side-issue. Women’s suffering must be understood as an enduring fact of life; trading one’s independence for the security of a white male protector must be understood as a necessary bargain.

On the other side, the people who are pulling out all the stops, reaching for anything to discredit the nominee, what are they thinking and feeling? The last few days, on progressive sites and discussion lists, I’ve been reading detailed discussions of notations on Kavanaugh’s calendar from student days, centering on whether certain words were code for marijuana, cocaine, or group sex acts. There is tremendous interest in seeing him condemned for underage drinking—drinking to spectacular excess, to be sure, but for some, drinking at all before the legal age. To me, this tactic pulls energy from the real issues, sexual violence and bellicose entitlement. But the people using it say it is necessary to sway those who otherwise find a way to excuse unseemly displays of anger, to excuse sexual assault as a manifestation of boys being boys.

Are there people who find attempted rape more excusable than underage drinking? Let me put it this way: in the Watergate era, I visited with a friend of a friend who was heartbroken that Nixon had been forced out. She could see several ways to justify his illegal behavior, she told me—several types of political necessity defense—but, she said, “I could never excuse his terrible language on the Watergate tapes.”

So perhaps charging Kavanaugh with drug use and alcohol abuse in his youth will succeed in swaying a few. I have an inkling of the desperation behind this, because I feel it. I dread to imagine a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh pulling every decision as far to the right as it will stretch. But I also dread to imagine a progressive future president nominating someone—a person whose closet hides no other skeletons, who fits the highest standards of decorum and nonpartisanship despite ample provocation in confirmation hearings—who drank with buddies in high school, who experimented with drugs (as the standard phrase goes)—and who therefore is deemed unfit, tit for tat. Charge Kavanaugh with lying about sexual assault, about the way he got into Yale, about his role in the Clinton impeachment, and other clearly relevant deceptions. Charging him with drinking way too much in high school, and I fear chickens coming home to roost.

Is this spectacle the last gasp of a dying social order, or a display of enduring state power in the hands of ruthless and amoral profiteers? (I’ve been staring at that last sentence for a while, wondering if it’s over-the-top or a flat description of reality; I am forced to conclude that I’m not exaggerating.) I don’t want to portray the ailments besetting the body politic as some epic battle, evil germs versus good antibodies. But for accuracy’s sake, I must portray it as me versus we, the powerful asserting their will just because they can, and the rest of us be damned.

Evidence is piling up, but I don’t always know how to read it. I keep seeing a photo featuring a panorama of appalled female faces behind Kavanaugh’s furious face as he testifies. My friends posted it, saying it portrays a core truth: that the numbers may say nearly half of all white women believe Kavanaugh, facing his lies, they can’t help but be appalled. Appalled the pictured women clearly are, but since most of them turn out to be Kavanaugh allies, evidently not by his performance.

Yet the cries of #MeToo are greatly outnumbering #MeFirst. The Kavanaugh nomination has triggered yet another vast outpouring of personal testimony from women who’ve been raped or otherwise assaulted, many of whom waited decades to come forward. There’s a meme making the rounds. Here’s how one Facebook user put it: “If you believe men who waited decades to accuse priests but not women who waited decades to accuse men, you’re fucking misogynist.” Tons of explanation have been offered for women’s delay, which in the default world must be justified.

Are we stuck in the default world? This is a tipping-point. The 2018 and 2020 elections could tip the delicate balance enabling the Republicans trying to force Kavanaugh on the nation to maintain power. The enormous protests we are now seeing aim to awaken slumbering conscience, to force accountability for abusers. By all measures, there are more potential voters who put we before me, who value women’s safety, a decent judiciary, the public good over the fortunes and power of the wealthy white men who hold the Senate hostage and the donors who own them. Voting isn’t everything. Even with a major shift in Congress, we will still have to contend with a divided country, one in which people have great difficulty comprehending their counterparts on the other side of the values divide. But voting now matters more than ever in my lifetime.

Are we seeing the last gasp of white supremacy or a display of enduring state power in the hands of ruthless and amoral profiteers? Which side of the tipping point are we on?

“The Times They Are A-Changin’” performed by Bettye LaVette.

Fahrenheit 11/9: Two Lessons We MUST Face

Sep23

by: on September 23rd, 2018 | 7 Comments »

I saw Michael Moore’s new film on Friday. This is not a review (I liked this, didn’t like that, who cares?), but an extraction of two main points Moore makes in ways that set my heart pounding. See Fahrenheit 11/9 if you can (it’s playing in three different theaters here in Santa Fe, a small city, so I’m guessing you have the opportunity close to hand). But whether or not you do, I am urging—begging—you to consider and share these lessons. How we act on them will make the critical difference between life and death for democracy.

LESSON #1: THE EARLY-WARNING SIGNS OF IMPENDING FASCISM ARE EVERYWHERE. EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE THEM AND RESPOND.

Moore calls on historians to draw the parallels between our own would-be king and prior aspiring dictators. They began to emerge during the 2016 campaign, when the candidate urged supporters to beat up dissenters at his mass rallies. The footage of white fists pummeling black bodies for the crime of being present is terrifying.

So is the footage of the White House’s Present Occupant floating trial balloons about being re-elected for 16 years or admiring China’s Xi for making it possible to serve as president-for-life. A familiar observation from Marx has history repeating itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Hitler footage is juxtaposed with Trump footage to make this point: his path to power used the same methods as Hitler’s: rigged elections, big lies, the mass hysteria of crowds, bigotry and chauvinism, scapegoating, media manipulation, and more.


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By Our Dreams Will You Know Us: Impeachment Edition

Aug23

by: on August 23rd, 2018 | Comments Off

“In dreams begin responsibilities,” wrote the poet Delmore Schwartz. What do our dreams reveal about our responsibilities to the body politic?

Everyone I know is ecstatic that two individuals have been definitively revealed as guilty of serious criminal action in direct service to the Present Occupant of the White House. As Michael Cohen’s attorney said, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”

The New York Times editorial sums it up nicely and links to the relevant details. Many experts are weighing in to say the grounds for impeachment have been met. There is powerful organizing to impeach this shameful excuse for a president: By The People is well worth following and supporting. You can find a recording of their latest online orientation on Facebook Live.

Impeachment is my dream. Or better yet, the speedier option of a Nixon-style resignation to avoid a long impeachment process. Frank Bruni dreams of Melania Trump as an undercover heroine.

What’s your dream?

This question of our dreams against the depredations of the state has engaged me for decades, ever since I read Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, which braided personal and collective politics in an exciting way, new and complex and deep. The main character, Anna Wulf, works with the British Communist Party. In one of the four notebooks that make up the bulk of the novel, she records a dream she has heard recounted by fellow communists. Here’s how I summarized it in “Our Dreams and the President’s,” an essay published almost exactly 13 years ago (it’s short and I have an idea you may want to read the whole thing):

In The Golden Notebook, her masterpiece of disillusionment, Doris Lessing wrote about the dream of a fellow stalwart of the British Communist Party. The book was published half a dozen years after Nikita Khrushchev’s revelations to the 20th party congress in 1956 of Stalin’s terrible crimes. In the party worker’s fantasy, he goes to Russia, and is called from his hotel to see Comrade Stalin at the Kremlin. The Stalin he meets is a modest and humble man who asks for news of the British labor movement. The visitor, flattered beyond bearing, does his best. Stalin responds with kindly and helpful advice, then returns to his ceaseless labors.

I thought of this yesterday when a friend called long-distance to share her dream, that George Bush had been awakened from his complacency by the events following Hurricane Katrina, and had declared his intention to make t’shuvah (to use the Hebrew term), to turn away from distortion toward healing, to make things right.

I have no love for George Bush, but evidently even he has some shred of conscience, having been moved by our national shame to speak out against this president’s policies.

The point is that even with respect to someone as clueless and corruptible as Bush, people were able to dream of awakening and redemption. Of course, these dreams—whether of Stalin or Bush—did not come true. But it says a great deal about how things have changed that I have not heard a single person share the fantasy that the Present Occupant of the White House will awaken to the harm of his actions and enter the process of t’shuvah—redemption, repentance, reorientation—to transform his presidency.

As he seems unredeemable, even in dreams the body politic has to expel him. Impeachment or resignation are the sweet dreams. All the rest are nightmares.

In Ulysses, James Joyce’s alter-ego Stephen Dedalus says, “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” The legacy of our collective history weighs heavily in this moment: an Electoral College put in place to prevent direct democracy and protect slavery states; a money-driven electoral system that supports victory by the highest bidder; a Republican Party that enriches the wealthiest and treats the planet as expendable as it actively campaigns to suppress voting by people of color; a Democratic Party that seeks funding from fossil-fuel corporations, reinforcing our shameful corpocracy…. I’ll stop there. This system doesn’t allow us to impeach a president for willful stupidity, nauseating cupidity, or the other crimes of character so evident in every day’s news coverage. Even if it did, the foundation of honor among thieves is fear of exposing oneself, and I don’t see too many of the elected officials benefiting from the current system willing to risk their own cozy turpitude by speaking out.

So it’s up to We The People. We still have absolute power to break the chain of causality, stepping off this undemocratic, mercenary, and venal path. For some reason, I stopped asking the three questions that for years were my watchword. I think it’s time to revive them:

Who are we as a people?
What do we stand for?
How do we want to be remembered?

As the people who finally drew the line and made the dream of impeachment real.

“Politician,” performed by Los Lobos.

When Two Truths Collide, Part Two: Can You See Yourself as The Accused?

Aug17

by: on August 17th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Something in our body politic is troubling me. I do not think it is possible to have a just society without understanding that every member of society bears the same potential to harm or heal. I do not think we can have just laws and processes without imagining how we would ourselves be treated as either the accuser of wrongdoing or the accused. Yet I hear so many people exempting themselves from these deep truths, advocating positions conditioned on understanding their own virtue as unimpeachable, on seeing themselves as incapable of serious wrongdoing.

The antidote I think we need is perspective, the ability to see our own virtue, accomplishments, or status as subject to change, to braid empathy and imagination with justice.

A few days ago, I wrote about conflicting views of how best to respond to abuse charges leveled against a respected person. As a case-in-point, I explored progressive responses to the charge that Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison had abused his former partner, Karen Monahan. Since then Ellison has won the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General. It remains to be seen how whatever unfolds will affect both him and Monahan, but whatever happens, that won’t end the discussion. I could have picked a different example in which any man long regarded as dedicated to equity and justice is publicly charged with abuse. The choice is appallingly plentiful, the debate ongoing.

To reduce the two perspectives I discussed to a few words, I’d characterize them as “Believe Women. Period,” leading to immediate calls for the accused to step down; or “Investigate Before Action,” in which charges are taken seriously, but the call for punishment is conditioned on obtaining full information.

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When Two Truths Collide

Aug14

by: on August 14th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Minnesota holds primary elections today. One of the most prominent candidates is 11-year congressional veteran Rep. Keith Ellison, running for state Attorney General. A few days ago, first the son of a former partner and then the partner herself, Karen Monahan, accused Ellison of “narcissist abuse,” a term that has come into use fairly recently to describe a pattern of emotional manipulation and bullying in which someone pressures another to ignore one’s own needs to satisfy those of the narcissist, for example. Ellison has denied the charge. Here’s a quick recap.

The charges have ignited a passionate debate among progressives. Many people like Ellison, who has taken consistently progressive positions on issues and who, as the first Muslim elected to Congress, has withstood considerable personal attack himself. So the first contested point is whether the good done by someone accused of bad acts ought to weigh in the balance of judgment.

On one side is a civil libertarian argument that counsels bringing the same commitment to the presumption of innocence that shapes legal proceedings to the court of public opinion. The controversy comes with a raft of text messages and tweets made public by Monahan, some of which allude to a damning video which so far, no one has seen. These voices say that no one should be condemned purely on another’s say-so, that false accusations are possible and to avoid harm, all accusations should be investigated before a determination of culpability and punishment can rightfully be made.


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Feared Than Loved

Aug5

by: on August 5th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I’ve been thinking about love and fear. Love is a strong force in my life, the thing that heals, the thing that opens my heart to give, the thing that greets me each morning as I open my eyes, grateful for another day. As the Song of Songs – the epic liturgical poem of awe and desire – puts it, “love is as strong as death.”

But love’s opposite – fear, the weapon of the unloved – is swirling all around me.

There’s the ambient fear of racism, violence, poverty, and exploitation, so deeply woven into the fabric of most U.S. cities that it becomes normalized. It takes artists to put a frame around the truth, revealing something of its actual dimensions, actual impact. For a clear-eyed glimpse of the daily fear machine in action and the toll it takes, go see the rich, nuanced, deeply affecting movie Blindspotting, just now in theaters.

There’s the fear that rises in relationship to other threats such as climate crisis. The New York Times Magazine’snew issue consists entirely of a controversial piece, already perceptively criticized by knowledgeable writers such as Naomi Klein and Robinson Meyer for downplaying the economic and power relations behind global scorching. Read all, and do your best not to be overcome by fear.

But my main topic today is another type of fear: the fear that arises in response to extreme state actions, the fear that acts as fuel for fascism.


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What Needs Rethinking to Make Another World Possible?

Jul30

by: on July 30th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Knesset members vote on amendments to the proposed Jewish nation-state bill at the Knesset. Image Courtesy of Miriam Alster.

I miss my optimism.She’s hiding deep in shadow, in a place that has more in common with the Kali Yuga than the messianic era. She’s trying to wedge herself into a future of chaos and oppression in which the old world breaks down, holding onto the hope of rebuilding along lines far more loving and just. I keep hearing this scenario framed as spiritual teaching or political analysis. Either way, the type of encouragement I’m feeling these days says that we are on the bridge between worlds, the old systems crumbling, the new order not yet having taken shape. We are wisely counseled to take heart from history, from those forced to live under the boot of dictatorship who found ways to resist, survive, thrive, and regain freedom. We are wisely counseled to prepare to live through this without forgetting ourselves.

Coaxing my optimism out of hiding, I send her frequent whispers of reassurance. Look at the vast resistance to illegitimate authority and cruel plutocratic policies! Look how far we outnumber those being served by the Present Occupant of the White House, and if only we vote, we will prevail in anything that can be decided by an election! This too shall pass, I tell her, maybe into something surprising and wonderful.

Now I’m starting to get messages in return.”From where I’m hiding,” my optimism tells me, “I see too much certainty about what’s right and true on all sides. If the old order is breaking down, wouldn’t this be a good time to re-examine our ideas about what should take its place? I’m not coming out till that happens.”

She has a point.Consider the action the state of Israel’s right-wing governing coalition took last week, passing a a new law as part of its foundational legislation – kind of a decentralized constitution – establishing Israel as the “nation-state of the Jewish people.” Civil rights advocates and Arab Israelis (who make up more than 20 percent of its citizenry) quickly condemned the law as apartheid, racism, and the end of democracy. While the law does not explicitly deprive Arab citizens of rights such as voting, it opens the door to even more preferential treatment of Jews. It flies the flag of dis-belonging, of less than, of unwelcome. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leading the coalition behind this legislation (even while charged with at least two counts of bribery by the police), has lots of support from the White House.


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Where Is The Exit Out of The Trap?

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Back in the day, I had a quote from Wilhelm Reich* over my desk:

The nature of the trap has no interest whatsoever beyond this one crucial point: WHERE IS THE EXIT OUT OF THE TRAP?

It was the resonant wisdom of this sentence and not the cult of its author that drew me. As a young activist I had already observed progressives’ delight in analyzing the life out of ideas, to fall into bitter conflict over differing interpretations of the causes and effects of social injustice and their remedies, and often to invest more energy in conversation about such things – in the dimensions, decor, origins, textures, and other characteristics of the trap – than in getting out. Reich made the obvious yet often ignored point that “to break out of a prison, one first must confess to being in a prison.” I had already seen how easy it is to normalize captivity with distractions, rationalizations, creature comforts. I posted the quote to remind myself not to succumb.

Today, sick to death of reading minute exegetical analyses of whether or not the Present Occupant of the White House has committed treason, I was reminded of the quote I had written out to post in my line of vision decades earlier.


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