Tikkun Daily button
Jaclyn Tobia

Confronting the NRA’s Idol Worship of Guns


by: Matthias Beier on March 14th, 2018 | No Comments »

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, made several key claims at February’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference which reflect the mindset that keeps the country from taking effective action to prevent mass shootings in our schools. First, he claimed: “There is no greater personal individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms.” If you scratch your head at that statement and wonder in which John Wayne movie LaPierre is living, wait for the next line that tells you that this freedom reduced to a gun is “not bestowed by man but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.” [See minutes 34:36-35:05 in this video of the speech]

To translate the message of the NRA pointedly: God wants you to have a gun. Only the NRA, America’s pimp for the gun industry, could come up with that blasphemous idea. The narrative that only guns guarantee freedom is what keeps lawmakers from passing sensible gun laws that effectively prevent school shootings.

As a father of school age children and as a seminary professor, I have a responsibility to debunk this harmful worship of guns. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against gun ownership or the 2nd Amendment. The NRA wants us to believe that the debate about preventing school shootings is about taking all guns away. It is not. Forbidding gun ownership would only feed into the very paranoid fears of government takeover the NRA bases its power on. The NRA argues as if we were still living at the brink of dictatorship where the only recourse is vigilante justice. We are not. Our citizens have access to an independent judiciary; effective democratic checks and balances through the division of power of the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government; and strong nongovernmental advocacy groups and watchdogs spanning the gamut of the political spectrum that protect citizen’s rights to free speech and expression. The right to bear weapons is not under attack. But making sure that this right is exercised responsibly without anti-democratic narcissistic and psychopathic overreach is just as important as requiring a license to operate a vehicle and compliance with traffic laws for all. That is the function of sensible gun regulations. What I am against is thus not the right to bear arms but the harmful ideology that guns are elevated to god-like guarantors of freedom.

The NRA does not, of course, worship “God.” The NRA worships fear as god. If we take apart LaPierre’s conflation of God and guns, we see that he worships the fear of threat. As the key representative of the American gun lobby, he believes freedom is based on defending yourself against threats by threatening the death of another person, group or nation. Whosoever can spread the most fear wins. This is the same strategy we currently hear coming out of the White House. It is at the heart of bully politics as well as domestic violence. And it provides the rationale for the NRA’s solution that only more guns will fix gun violence. If we as a people continue to buy into the idea that threats and violence secure freedom, we collude with this idolatry of fear and inadvertently continue to sacrifice our children at the altar of the god of fear. 


Not on My Watch: A Response to Hate


by: Barbara Artson on March 7th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Since writing my three-generational novel, ODESSA, ODESSA (She Writes Press, September 11, 2018) – a novel loosely based on my family’s history–which tells the story of a religious Jewish family living in Odessa at the turn of the century, forced to abandon all they know and hold dear – country, culture, language, and often, close family members – I am more painfully aware of other individuals and groups facing comparable situations. The characters in my historical novel represent the lucky ones – those fortunate and resilient enough to scrape together the resources to make the voyage across the Atlantic and to reach the safe New York Harbor, with Lady Liberty holding up her beacon of hope and freedom. And to succeed! Six million other Jews (and gays, and Romas, and Communists and Righteous Christians) were not so fortunate.

It is with sadness that I follow the ongoing plight of the Rohingya people, the latest targets of political and ethnic violence, who Amnesty International calls “one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.”[1]

I view the faces of starving children, held by their helpless mothers and living in conditions no human beings should endure. I behold a photograph of ten men chained together, obliged to watch while others dig their shallow graves, and then to await the fire of their executioners’ guns. They are the outcasts, like the Jews in Russia, the African and original Americans in the United States, the Palestinians in Israel, the Dalits (untouchables) in India, the Tutsis in Rwanda, the “colored” and blacks in South Africa, and the beleaguered Syrian residents.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority forced to leave their homes in the predominantly Buddhist Myanmar (Burma), whose government claims they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and therefore they deprive them of their rights as citizens. After being systematically raped, murdered, and burned out of their villages,[2] a million of these men, women, and children remain homeless, stateless, destitute, and dying of cholera, diphtheria, and starvation in displacement camps in neighboring Bangladesh. Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Novel Peace Prize winner, has turned a deaf ear to their predicament. And the authorities quibble about whether this satisfies the definition of a genocide!


Social Hope in the Time of Trump


by: Ronald Aronson on March 5th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Election night 2016 dealt a profound shock to the majority of Americans who voted against Donald Trump. You can probably remember where you were and how you felt at the moment it became clear that Trump was going to win. The mainstream mood was captured in Gustavo Viselner’s poignant cartoon sequence a few weeks later showing Barack and Michelle Obama preparing to leave the White House. Their bags are packed and they’re about to go. The president says: “Are you ready Michelle?” He turns off the lights as they depart. The White House goes dark. And then in the final panel the lights go out all over America.

Vilsener captured the loss of hope at first shared by many of us. But only at first. Spontaneous demonstrations took place that very week throughout the country, meetings were held to discuss the implications of Trump’s victory. Sixty people came to one such meeting I participated in in a northern suburb of Detroit where usually twenty is a good turnout. At a followup meeting to discuss what to do in response to the election over ninety people showed up. A women’s demonstration was called for Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C. This mobilization spread around the country and around the world, becoming one of the largest waves of demonstrations ever in the United States. Other planning meetings followed, former Democratic staffers published a guide to putting pressure on Congress, Indivisible, that led to the creation of thousands of local activist groups within weeks (now well over 6000), most of which are still going strong. The travel ban from Muslim countries provoked spontaneous demonstrations at airports around the country. Demonstrations continued at congressional and senatorial offices, town halls were disrupted, and everywhere people began newly familiarizing themselves with the budget, the Republicans’ various health care plans, Trump’s war on the environment, his attack on science.

In short, as Trump spewed a dizzying series of tweets and actions, allied himself with the extreme right wing and the most predatory capitalists, and immediately began to implement both his own white nationalist promises and a neoliberal agenda of deregulation, he was met with a massive and spontaneous uprising. A movement calling itself “the Resistance” willed itself into existence, determined to do battle on virtually every front. Any post-election discouragement was sloughed off immediately and replaced within days by an astounding new reality—one of the largest organized movements in U. S. history.


‘The next Haman’ beauty pageant!


by: Rabbi David Seidenberg on March 2nd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

“The Villain Haman” under Purim, colornimbus.com

What does Haman look like, sound like? What picture comes to mind? Black hair, a mustache and a big nose? What do you picture him doing with his hands? If the megillah is read in different voices in your community, does the reader use a snively, whiny voice for Haman?

How is it that nearly every portrait of Haman looks like an anti-Semitic cartoon? How is it that Haman’s often-mimed hand-wringing looks just like the cartoon Jew slavering over his money?

Haman mask, jewitup.com

Why would anyone think that the voice of this man who for a time charmed a king and a kingdom would sound villainous? For that matter, why would a villain sound any different from anyone else?

Evil comes dressed up in expensive suits, in statistics and logical arguments. It comes from the mouths of people who look like fashion models as much as it might come from a warty face with beady eyes.

Steve Bannon, Time Magazine

Last year, the target of many liberal Purim shpiels was the new Trump administration. Steve Bannon was ascendant, joined by Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka – three Trump advisers who hated immigrants as much or more than Trump himself. If Trump was Ahasuerus, then Bannon was cast as Haman. In some shpiels, a Bannon Haman played alongside Ivanka as Esther. His strangely blotchy face fit the stereotype of an ugly villain behind a drunken king to a T.


“A cloud hangs over our neighborhood”: Jewish residents of the Upper West Side respond to Israel-related censorship


by: on March 2nd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

Please see the below ad, signed by a wide range of Jewish community leaders and members on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It appeared in today’s The West Side Spirit (Upper West Side of Manhattan). 

Calling for a Matriot Revolution


by: Frances Payne Adler on March 2nd, 2018 | No Comments »

"Grandma Helen Vandevere" by Kira Carrillo Corser. Image courtesy of the artist.

Yes, you got that right, a matriot revolution. We have the word. We have the will. And, wait, best of all, we’re already doing it.

First, a story about where the word began. It was 1991, during the first Gulf War. I was sitting at my desk and heard on the radio that our defense forces had invented a missile and called it a Patriot. That evening, I invented a word, asking myself, If that’s what a patriot is, what does a matriot look like?

And then I created a definition: “A matriot is one who perceives national defense as health, education, and shelter, for all of the people in his or her country, and the world.”

What does a matriot look like? I think of a guest at my dinner table at that time, a physicist who told me he designed ‘smart’ bombs. I asked him what he would do with this technology if he were using it for peaceful means. “I would build hands,” he said, “for people who are paralyzed.” This is what a matriot looks like.

I think of Fort Ord military base in Monterey. The Army had closed down the base after 80 years, and I’d been hired to work with other faculty to convert it into a university. We turned the artillery vault into an on-line library, the blood bank into an environmental research lab, the jeep and tank garages into classrooms and public art studios. We transformed the survival training station into a childcare center, gas masks into little laughing shoving mouths at the water fountain. A thrill to be doing this matriot work.

Each in our own way, women and men, old and young, we’re already doing it. Solidarity, intersectionality, working together across issues. Our teenagers are leading us with #NeverAgain, taking on gun control and resisting the NRA. We’ve stood up for women’s health and safety in the #MeToo anti-harassment movement. We’ve protested, united with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We’ve taken a knee, a Kaepernick, at football games, at high school basketball games. We’ve lobbied to protect health care. And to protect the health of our planet.


Planetary Parenting


by: Stan Charnofsky on February 27th, 2018 | No Comments »

Children are on the march.

Our planet has been around for some three-and-a-half billion years, and we have received countless devastating blows from space debris–some of it destroying vast segments of the earth and a variety of life species.

We now have evolved to where a given species has the intelligence to prevent such collisions and it becomes our choice whether or not we apply our resources to do it.

Therein lies a lesson.

We live with many earthly anomalies, human and planetary issues that clamor for correction, that range from inhumane treatment of children to violent warfare against entire populations.  We now also have the technology and know-how to banish these practices; we have not, alas, mustered the courage or the willingness to do so.

It might be a vacuum of leadership, or perhaps a failing in people, that we do not rise up in Peace and Acceptance nearly so well as we do in Combat and Criticism.  My personal lean is toward a Humanistic philosophy which eschews the sense of an innate negativity in people, but rather that we are wounded by early hurts.  It follows that if we do have a failing, it has been absorbed over time, has become an applique on our psyches as protection against any new hurt and pain.

To counteract those protections and intercept future hurts, we must consider our children and offer them a legacy of love-that-leads-to-safety by cleansing our own hearts of prejudice and aggression.

Since children are our future, we must focus on their parents.

Our world culture does not parent well; therein lies another lesson.  Almost every other species nurtures its young more fastidiously than the human.  We are often neglectful. We are sometimes assaultive.  A world in turmoil is the product of neglected and assaulted children.

Thirty years ago, children eight to fourteen years of age, from twenty-four countries, were surveyed about what they wanted from their parents. The top several responses were: Harmony, Love, Honesty, Acceptance, Closeness, Attention (to their questions), and Appreciation of their friends. We need to provide these picks for children everywhere, whether as biological parents, cultural parents, or–grand notion–planetary parents.

Our loftiest task might be to behold our precious children in their honesty and innocence, learn all we can from them, and meticulously incorporate their zest, spontaneity and keen potential into our adult personalities.  Ironically, only when we have lovingly absorbed our children’s humanity can we turn and be effective adult examples to those very same children.

If we do decide to apply our ample technology to keep meteorites from colliding with our planet, it would be nice to think our world civilization is worth preserving.


Stan Charnofsky  is a professor at Calif. State University Northridge, a licensed psychologist, and past President of the Association for  Humanistic Psychology.

How to Respond to the Opioid Crisis: Re-conceptualizing Shooting Galleries


by: Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot on February 23rd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

“It’s a way we all look out for each other, like, to make sure you got your clean cooker, your clean water, and alcohol.” It was 2007 and Charles (a pseudonym) and I were sitting in the back of Prevention Point Philadelphia’s mobile syringe exchange, a retrofitted RV containing safer injection supplies and a private room for HIV testing. Charles, a middle-aged African American man who had been injecting heroin since the early 1970s, was telling me about the shooting gallery that he ran in an abandoned row house in North Central Philadelphia.

As a harm reduction and HIV counselor at Prevention Point, I was learning from Charles about how people who use drugs have long taken measures to protect themselves – and their families, friends, and communities – from risks associated with drug injection and syringe sharing, including HIV and Hepatitis C transmission and fatal overdose. Over the next three years, I spent up to twenty hours per week doing ethnographic fieldwork: hanging out in informal settings with homeless and transiently-housed people who inject drugs to learn how they cope with the myriad dangers and stresses of being marginalized, poor, criminalized, and sick.

As the opioid crisis generates media, public health, and government attention, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to legalize “supervised injection facilities” (SIFs) – and Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and New York are not far behind. SIFs are legal facilities where people who use drugs can inject (pre-obtained) drugs under medical supervision. SIFs have been lauded for reducing overdose deaths, connecting people to medical care, housing, and drug treatment, and reducing public drug injection. SIFs have also been shown to have no effect on neighborhood “crime,” although ending the war on drugs and decriminalizing drugs (and poverty) would be the most meaningful way to reduce drug crime.

Meanwhile, shooting galleries – private spaces, overseen by a manager, where people use drugs – have been represented in public imagination and public health literature as high-risk places that facilitate syringe sharing, drug trafficking, and neighborhood decay. But what if shooting galleries function like underground SIFs? During the course of my research, I learned that shooting galleries can act as distribution centers for sterile injection equipment and harm reduction knowledge. Moreover, shooting galleries don’t necessarily increase public drug nuisances – like discarded syringes and public drug use – in the neighborhoods where they’re located.

Charles’s shooting gallery, located on a narrow street connecting the neighborhood thoroughfare on one end with the public housing complex on the other, was outfitted with an illegal electric hookup, kerosene space heaters, couches, and a complete array of injection supplies courtesy of Prevention Point Philadelphia, including sterile syringes, distilled water, cotton filters, alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, and a “sharps” container for disposing used syringes. Charles – and Lady, June, Martin, Linda, and the other shooting gallery managers and patrons that I knew – saw distributing sterile injection equipment as an extension of their responsibility to their black, working-class community.

Although shooting galleries nominally charge an entrance-and-sterile-syringe fee – $2 during the course of my research – this fee was routinely waived when the patron lacked funds and the alternative was sharing syringes or leaving to inject somewhere else. As Charles explained, “All we got out here is each other, and we’ve gotta look out for each other because there ain’t no one else doing it for us.” Tonya, a young black woman who had come to Philadelphia leaving an abusive relationship, said that in Charles’s shooting gallery she found a sense of safety: “Charles is the first person to really look out for me since I came to Philadelphia and not want anything back from me. [...] Since I’m staying here I know that I’ll be safer.”


Gun Violence as State Sponsored Domestic Terrorism


by: Henry Giroux on February 23rd, 2018 | No Comments »

Passing thoughts on the willingness of the politicians and merchants of death who allow the unimaginable to become imaginable, allow financial gain to prevail over the lives of innocent children, and are more willing to protect guns at the expense of the lives of children.

President Trump listened recently to the impassioned testimony of parents and children who have seen their children and friends killed in gun shootings. He responded by advocating that teachers be armed and trained to have concealed weapons.

Instead of confronting the roots of violence in America, he followed the NRA line of addressing the issue of mass violence, shootings, and the ongoing carnage with a call to arm more people, putting more guns into play, and stating that violence can be met with more violence. This logic is breathtaking in its insanity, moral depravity, refusal to get to the root of the problem, and even advocate minor reforms such as banning assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and expanding background checks.

There are 300 million guns in the United States and since the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School of 20 young children and 6 teachers a decade ago, 11,000 more children have died of gun violence.

There is no defense for putting the policies of the NRA ahead of the lives of children. Criminal acts often pass for legislative policies. How else to explain the Florida legislature refusing to even debate outlawing assault weapons while students from Majory Stoneman Douglas High School sat in the galleys and watched this wretched and irresponsible act take place. How else to explain that the House of Representatives – reduced to an adjunct of the NRA – voted to pass the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R.38) which would allow individuals to carry concealed weapons across state lines. These are the people who have the blood of thousands on their hands.

The power of money in politics has morphed into a form of barbarism in which financial gain and power have become more important than protecting the lives of America’s children.

I find it extremely difficult to watch the debates about gun violence on the mainstream media. The call for reform is so limited as to be useless. Instead of banning assault rifles, they celebrate Trump for suggesting that he raise the age to 21 in order for people to buy a weapon of war. Instead of preventing violence from engulfing the country and schools, he calls for arming teachers and the press celebrates his willingness to entertain this issue. Instead of speaking about justice and allowing people to speak who are against deregulating laws restricting or abolishing the merchants of death, the media allows an NRA hawk to speak at the town meeting and rather than calling her out for being a spokesperson for violence rather than justice, they congratulate themselves on promoting balance.

The corporate media has become a normalizing force for violence because they lack the courage to challenge the corporations that control them. They also benefit by peddling extreme violence as a spectacle. They refuse to begin with the issue of money in politics and start instead with what one parent called non-starters. Guns disappear from the conversation and appeals to fear and security take over. Young people have to lead this conversation and move beyond the mainstream media. And when they do appear they have to flip the script and ask the questions they think are important.

Children no longer have a safe space in America, a country saturated in violence as a spectacle, sport, and deadly acts of domestic terrorism. Any defense for the proliferation of guns, especially those designed for war, is criminal. This is the discourse of political corruption, a government in the hands of the gun lobbies, and a country that trades in violence at every turn in order to accrue profits at the expense of the lives of innocent children.

This debate is not simply about gun violence, it is about the rule of capital and how the architects of violence accrue enough power to turn machineries of death and destruction into profits while selling violence as a commodity. Violence is both a source of profits and a cherished national ideal. It is also the defining feature of a toxic masculinity. Gun reform is no substitute for real justice and the necessary abolition of a death-dealing and cruel economic and political system that is the antithesis of democracy.

What are we to make of a society in which young children have a greater sense of moral courage and social responsibility than the zombie adults who make the laws that fail to invest in and protect the lives of present and future generations. First step, expose their lies, make their faces public, use the new media to organize across state lines, and work like hell to vote them out of office in 2018. Hold these ruthless walking dead responsible and then banish them to the gutter where they belong. At the same time, imagine and fight for not a reform of American society but a restructuring along the lines of a democratic socialist order.


Henry Giroux is a contributing editor toTikkunMagazine.

How the Wars-for-our-Freedoms Narrative Stifles Debate and Undermines Democracy


by: Andy Heintz on February 23rd, 2018 | No Comments »

While the political climate in Washington is extremely polarized, on one issue there is near universal agreement: When a soldier dies in a U.S. war they died for our freedoms. Despite the constant claims that progressives are anti-American, a significant number of mainstream progressive pundits and politicians support this nationalistic viewpoint. For example, when President Donald Trump tried to prevent transgender Americans from serving in the military, progressives chastised him because these soldiers are willing to die for our country. These statements are admirable in a way, and I have no doubt that most of them are genuine. But what is troubling about the all-wars-are-for-our-freedom narrative is that it’s near universal acceptance severely limits the spectrum of debate in this country, thus undermining our democracy. Questioning the morality of U.S. wars should never be confused with dishonoring the bravery and sacrifice of American soldiers. However, it’s extremely difficult to have a serious discussion about the pros and cons of war when the supporters of said war can use the freedom narrative like a cudgel to verbally bludgeon critics.

“Commentary on the Vietnam War ranges from ‘noble cause’ to ‘blundering efforts to do good’ that became too costly to us – Anthony Lewis, at the dissident extreme,” famous dissident writer Noam Chomsky said in an interview I conducted with him. “And it generalizes far beyond the US.  Why?  It’s close to tautology.  If one doesn’t accept that framework, one is pretty much excluded from the category of ‘respectability.’”

It’s hard to think of anything more unpopular than questioning if soldiers are really dying for our freedoms. The only worse offense in politics is perhaps questioning if every soldier who has participated in physical combat should be considered a hero. The latter question will cause such a firestorm of controversy that the journalist, pundit or politician will either have to offer a heartfelt apology or will be forever excluded from serious discussions about our nation. Interestingly, some famous Americans like Mark Twain and Henry Thoreau did manage to survive their criticism of the war in Philippines (Twain) and the Mexican-American war (Thoreau) without being banished from mainstream opinion. However, these two famous figures are generally beloved by the public for reasons other than their anti-war bona fides.

In a perfect world, American politics would be an exercise in rationality, and rationality demands we acknowledge the complexity of the world and the duality of U.S. history. If someone makes the claims that all wars are fought for our freedom, then every war and/or foreign conflict the U.S. has been involved in should be scrutinized to see if this claim has any basis in fact. A cursory glance at U.S. history makes clear this claim collapses under close examination. Even the most militaristic historian would be hard pressed to make a reasonable argument that past U.S. interventions in Vietnam, Mexico, The Philippines and several Latin American countries were fought to preserve American’s personal freedoms. In other words, none of these invasions were undertaken because these countries posed any sort of threat to the inner workings of American democracy.  More recent wars and foreign conflicts in Libya, Afghanistan, Panama and Iraq yield similar conclusions.

This isn’t to say that supporters of the war in Afghanistan couldn’t make the case the country needed to be invaded to root out al Qaeda after the barbaric terrorist attacks of September 11th. That is a plausible claim, but it differs from the claim that the U.S. had to go to war with Afghanistan to defend the freedoms of ordinary Americans. Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization that operates in many countries, but it’s presence was especially abundant in Afghanistan where it was protected by the Taliban, so a war to find the planners of September 11th and weaken al Qaeda has merit because a damaged al Qaeda could plausibly make future terrorist attacks on American soil less likely. But it’s much harder to make the case that al Qaeda posed a threat to the inner workings of American democracy. Despite having nowhere near the same military strength as the United States, neither al Qaeda or the Islamic State has been able to take over a country in the Middle East other than in Afghanistan. To make the case that any terrorist organization has the capacity to overthrow a country with the strongest military in the history of the world is absurd. Of course, the Bush administration didn’t say this directly, but this is what saying the war in Afghanistan was fought to preserve our freedoms implies. If the Bush administration would have made the case that we had invade Afghanistan to make it less likely that we would be attacked on our own soil again, that would have been more honest and reasonable argument.