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Archive for the ‘General News’ Category



Armistice-Veterans Day 2018

Nov12

by: on November 12th, 2018 | No Comments »

As human beings, we are a carbon-based life form.

We are close kin to the higher order apes.

We are homo sapiens, a bit of earth that can think.

We stand up straight; have an opposable thumb; have the capacity for rational thought; are able to use symbols to communicate abstract thoughts; we can use symbols to communicate about symbols; we can remember the past and plan for the future.

The gospel according to Jamie Lannister of the television version of “Game of Thrones”: “Strange thing, first time you cut a man, you realize we’re nothing but sacs of meat, blood and some bone to keep is all standing.”

I say: we are bags of water, flesh, blood, and bone called by a proper name.

We are body soul mind mysteries as long as we breathe the breath of life. We are character and personality that loves and hates, that laughs and cries, that sings and dances, that wills and desires, and sometimes just does not give a care. And when the breath leaves for the last time, our bodies become dust and ashes. We leave an empty space. Other human beings grieve.

The chemicals in our bodies are worth about one dollar.

So, what sense does it make to think that the color of the bag of water flesh blood and bone called by a proper name makes an individual more or less than any other? What sense does it make that the shape of it or the strength of it gives an individual the right to treat the Other as an object for one’s own drunken pleasure to be tossed away and forgotten like used tissue? What sense does it make that some bags think that they are superior because of the bit of earth upon which they were born or upon which they now stand or that they have a right to keep other bags from coming to that place? What makes the bags that we are fear the Other, hate the Other, and want to kill the Other to point of war?

World War I stands as one of the most deadly wars in the history of humankind. Between 15 and 19 million human beings died. Some 23 million military personnel were wounded. We do not know how many lives were shattered because of post-traumatic stress disorder, known at the time as shell shock.

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Isolation Versus Community

Nov8

by: on November 8th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

Tree of Life Synagogue

Tree of Life Synagogue / Creative Commons / Common Dreams

Last night after meeting with my LGBTQ book club and talking about social isolation, and what I had written but not yet posted about the massacre in Pennsylvania, I thought I should go ahead and post the piece here.

Then, this morning, I woke up to another massacre, this one in a Southern California club. In the hopes that in the midst of so many of our hearts breaking over the news, wondering what in the world we can do to make a difference, I post this so that it might be food for thought and perhaps food for action and hope.


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Voting, A Patriotic Duty

Nov6

by: on November 6th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

I am a black woman in America.

I am a woke black woman who has been woke before woke was cool.

I also love America.

I am an American patriot, an Angela Davis patriot. I heard Angela Davis explain to a television talk-show host that her activism did not come from a hatred of America, rather, it comes from her love for her country. Angela Davis patriotism is not a cheap “my country right or wrong” patriotism. It requires more than simply standing with hand over heart when the national anthem is performed before some sporting event. Angela Davis patriotism is filled with womanist virtues of love, responsibility, commitment, and complexity.

I love America because it is my home. The bones of my ancestors are interred in its ground. Their ashes are scattered over the waters that flow across the earth from its shores. The lives that they lived made America’s history that has become today becoming tomorrow. My West African ancestors came in the early 19th century in slave ships. They survived the horrors of the Middle Passage and the barbarisms of slavery and the injustices of Jim Crow to give me life and a country that allows me more opportunity than they ever had, that requires me to try my best to help this country become a more perfect union for all those who will come after me.

I do not know the story of my Irish and Scandinavian ancestors. I do not know how or when they came to the United States. I do not know the story behind the relationships that made them a part of me.

I do know that my ancestors have fought for their freedom and for the preservation of the United States. One of my ancestors walked away from slavery in Mississippi and joined the Union army to fight for his freedom. This summer my 96-year-old uncle who had served in North Africa and in Europe during World War II died. I have another uncle, now with the ancestors, who served in Vietnam as a member of the Special Forces. I have cousins who have made a career of the military. Some have served in America’s most recent wars. This spring I, a peace activist, pinned decorations on my nephew’s uniform on the occasion of his graduation from his Army basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, the same base where his grandfather completed his basic training before deploying to Korea to fight that war.

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An American Kaddish

Nov2

by: Daniel Stein Kokin on November 2nd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

 

Yitgadal ve’yitkadash sh’mei raba.

Columbine (1999; 13, 24)*

B’alma di v’ra khir’utei,

Santana (2001; 2, 13)

v’yamlikh malkhutei,

Red Lake (2005; 9, 5)

b’ḥayeikhon u-v’yomeikhon,

West Nickel Mines (2006; 5, 5)

u-v’ḥayei d’khol beit yisrael,

Virginia Tech (2007; 33, 17)

ba-agala u-vi-z’man kariv,

Fort Hood (2009; 14, 33)

v’imru amen.

Y’hei sh’mei raba m’vorakh l’alam u’l'almei almaya.

Yitbarakh v’yishtabaḥ v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam v’yitnasei,

Sandy Hook (2012; 28, 2)

v’yit-hadar v’yit’aleh v’yit-halal,

Aurora (2012; 12, 70)

sh’mei d’kudsha, brikh hu.

Washington Navy Yard (2013; 13, 8)

L’ela min kol birkhata v’shirata,

San Bernardino (2015; 16, 24)

tushb’ḥata v’neḥemata

Charleston (2015; 9, 1)

da-amiran b’alma,

Umpqua (2015; 10, 8)

v’imru amen.

Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya,

Orlando (2017; 50, 58)

v’ḥayim aleinu v’al kol yisrael,

Las Vegas (2017; 59, 851)

v’al kol yoshvei teiveil,

Sutherland Springs (2017; 27, 20)

v’imru amen.

Oseh shalom bi-m’romav,

Stoneman Douglas (2018; 17, 17)

hu ya’aseh shalom

Santa Fe (2018; 10, 13*)

aleinu v’al kol yisrael v’al kol yoshvei teiveil,

Pittsburgh (2018; 11, 6)

v’imru amen.

 

* The numbers in parentheses refer to the date of the mass shooting; the number of people killed, and the number of people injured.

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Based in Berlin, Daniel Stein Kokin teaches Jewish Studies at the University of Greifswald in Germany and is currently back in his hometown Los Angeles as a visiting professor of Israel Studies at UCLA.

My Dinner with the Devil (a short story)

Oct31

by: on October 31st, 2018 | 1 Comment »

He was a tall, dark, and handsome stranger standing in front of me in the grocery store line. He was “Oh my goodness fine.” But, I was cool, thumbing through a special edition of Rolling Stone about John Lennon.

The man said something out loud, and I looked up. He seemed to be reciting his grocery list.

“Excuse me,” I said.

“Oh no. It’s nothing. I am talking to myself,” he said.

“That’s fine. As long as you do not answer yourself, you are ok,” I said looking back at the magazine.

“And if I do answer myself?” he asked.

“Then I would suggest to you that you seek professional help.”

We both laughed.

“I suppose that may not be a bad idea,” he said.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. “More people in the United States of America ought to seek professional help. If you are not already crazy, this country, especially now, will make you crazy.”

“Sign of the times,” he said.

“Look around. Violence, drug and alcohol abuse. We all need to have a mental health primary care doc the same say we have a physical primary care doc,” I said.

“I think you may be right,” he said. “Are you a Beatles fan?” he asked noticing the magazine.

“”I am,” I said. “I am especially interested in John and his opposition to war in general and to the Vietnam War in particular.”

The line had moved forward, and he not only paid for his groceries but he paid for mine as well. I protested, but he insisted. So, I just said thank you.

As we were leaving the store, he asked me out to dinner, saying he would like to talk some more about my ideas on war and peace and John Lennon. My shields went up. I was at once wary and intrigued. What is the deal with this handsome stranger who just paid for my groceries?

“You ought to know that I am a personally conservative and politically radical,” I said. This was my way of saying that he had not bought a sexual encounter.

“That sounds interesting,” he said. “I tell you what: let me give you the name of a restaurant that I like and if you want to join me for dinner, say Saturday night around 6, then come. If you do not come, I will not be hurt.”

He did not ask for my number. He did not say that he would text me. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a small notebook and a very expensive pen and wrote down the name and address of a very expensive downtown restaurant. He handed me the paper with a smile. A beguiling, charismatic, intriguing smile.

“I will think about it,” I said. “What is your name?” I asked.

“Belial Set,” he replied.

I told him my name. We shook hands and parted ways.

“Belial Set,” I thought. “This is a strange name.” I said it to myself a few times because I did not want to forget. The moment I got home, I would Google him.

When I did Google him, I found a connection to the devil, but nothing else. Set was the Egyptian god of chaos. This man was not real. He could not be serious. “Who would name their son Belial?” I thought. Maybe he is crazy. I thought and thought for days until I finally decided to go. There was room on my credit card to pay for a nice meal at an expensive restaurant and to get myself there and home.

Saturday night came. It took me a minute to decide not to wear the high heels with my going out to dinner at a nice restaurant little black dress. I have decided to unbind my feet from high heels, so I chose the rose gold flats. I powdered my nose and was out the door.

He was at the restaurant when I arrived, waiting at the bar looking as handsome, no as beautiful, as I remembered. He waved me over and we did not have to wait at all for a table. We were seated at a very nice table. The wait staff at the restaurant knew him well. I was intentional about paying attention to this man, how he walked and talked and interacted with people. There was something different about him, but I could not quite put my finger on what it was. He was alluring.

“I Googled you,” I said. “But, did not find out much. What do you do, and why do you not have an Internet footprint?”

“You could say that I am in mergers and acquisitions,” he replied. “I have an Internet footprint, just not the kind you are accustomed to finding because I am Satan aka Lucifer.”

“I am out to dinner with a crazy man,” I thought. “How am I going to get myself out of here quickly and safely?”

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With A Perfect Hatred (part 2)

Oct29

by: on October 29th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I hate liars and lies with a perfect hatred. As it is written in the Psalms: “I hate and detest falsehood, But I love [God's] law. (Psalm 119:163)

As I write this, the United States has been rocked by multiple acts of violence in the past few days. A Florida man has been accused of sending multiple pipe bombs to prominent Democrats. Thankfully, the bombs did not explode. As we were reeling from this act of terrorism, a white supremacists tried to break into an African-American church to do harm. When he could not get in, he went to a local Kroger store in Kentucky and shot two African Americans dead. While we were processing this tragedy, a white nationalist walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 worshippers and injured six.

Violence is lazy and stupid.

What did these men think? Did the Florida man think that he would send bombs to high-ranking Democrats and progressive thought would go away? Did he think that people would say; “Oh my goodness, these people are dead, I ought to support Donald Trump now.”? When the killer shot two African Americans in a Kroger store did he think that all black people across the globe would vaporize? When the shooter entered the Tree of Life synagogue did he think that a religion that has maintained for millennia through countless purges and the Holocaust would suddenly disappear? Stupid.

These killers clearly do not know history. The moment blood is shed in the name of a cause or as an attack on a segment of humanity for no reason other than who they are, the blood sanctifies the cause and humanity remembers that human life is precious. Violence makes people more dedicated to their cause. Violence makes people more determined to live and to render the violence ineffective.

Violence is lazy. It is lazy because it somehow believes that a cause can be defeated through violence. In reality, one cannot bomb a political ideology. One cannot shoot and entire race of people. One cannot mass murder a religion.

In the face of lazy stupid useless violence, what am I to do with my perfect hatred?

I wish it were a tangible thing that I could pack away in a box and put it in the back of the basement to await death cleaning. Or, would that it were a thing that I could toss in the kitchen garbage then put on the curb for the weekly trash truck to pick up and dump in the local landfill. There it could rest for a thousand years until an archeologist digs it up and dusts it off to learn about a culture long gone. Sadly, this is not how a perfect hatred works.

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With A Perfect Hatred (part 1)

Oct24

by: on October 24th, 2018 | 5 Comments »

My rage was physical.

When the final votes were counted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the United State Supreme Court, I could feel the blood coursing through my body acid hot. I have heard the expression about boiling blood, but I had never felt this sensation before. However, at this moment, by blood not only boiled, but it ran through my body with a stinging sensation. What is the bio-chemistry of fury? My tears wanted to fall. I refused them exit.

Why?

What would be the reason for my tears? Would they be tears of rage or tears of grief, and what would I be grieving? Would they be tears of grief for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford who, like Anita Hill more than 20 years before, was not believed? Would they be tears for all of the survivors of sexual assault who had finally found the courage to speak their truth? Would my tears be tears for a nation that seems to want to lie to itself so it can continue to pretend that it is moral?

I could not think except for a tiny bit of scripture: “I hate them with a perfect hatred.” (Psalm 139:22)

Reared in the African-American Baptist tradition, we were taught to learn the Bible for memory. Learn the Bible by heart, and Holy Spirit will bring the Word of God back to you when you need it. All that Sunday School, all that Vacation Bible School. The pledge of allegiance that meant something to me: “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feel and a light unto my path. I will hide its words in my heart that I may not sin against God.”

At this moment, Holy Spirit brought nothing to my remembrance except. “I hate them with a perfect hatred.” The blood continued to run hot in my veins. Perfect hatred contradicts what I stand for -the power of radical love and nonviolence. Still all my mind would say to me was: “I hate them with a perfect hatred.”

“This cannot be healthy,” I thought to myself. Another bit of scripture came to me. “Be still and know that I am God. ” (Psalm 46:10) Stillness. Calm.

My own rage surprised me. I knew the playbook. When Dr. Ford’s story became public, I knew what would happen. Deny, deny, deny. Attack, attack, attack. I was not surprised when Jeff Flake and Susan Collins supported Kavanaugh. They usually do what Mitch McConnell wants.

“I hate them with a perfect hatred.”

I could not think, I could not even pray. All I could do was to say the name of Jesus. I was taught to pray in the name of Jesus, that Jesus had promised that the Father would grant a request made in the name of Jesus. At this moment, I had no request. The name of Jesus was its own prayer, an invocation, a plea for transcendence, a means of reminding myself of the Divine Love of God made incarnate in human flesh. Still my only coherent thought was: “I hate them with a perfect hatred.”

Next day, on Sunday, I asked my church family to pray for me. This is the importance of a faith community and of prayer partners. Others can formulate a prayer for us when we have nothing left. “We need a liturgy for such occasions”, I thought. Perhaps there is one for moments when our hatred is perfect, complete, ultimate. We need a litany for survivors who are not heard and for a nation that is run by liars and thieves who crowds cheer and voters vote into office.

Holy Spirit brought the rest of that Psalm to my mind: “I hate them with a perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Perfect hatred requires self-reflection. Why do I hate these people with a perfect hatred? The answer was immediate. I hate the lies. I hate the lies, and the willingness to believe the lies. I hate the place where we are in the United States where people can lie, we know they are lying, and it does not matter.

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Beyond Patriarchy

Oct23

by: Letty Cottin Pogrebin on October 23rd, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Editor’s note: Our Winter 2019 issue is going to address how we can move beyond patriarchy, and some visions and ideas of what a world beyond patriarchy might look like.
Tikkun is a non-profit and we are legally prevented from endorsing candidates or political parties. The article below is not a statement of Tikkun‘s position, but a reflection of one of the founders of Ms. magazine, and is published here in honor of her long contribution to the development of 2nd wave feminism, and not as a reflection of an editorial position by Tikkun.

In April, Tikkun magazine asked: What would a world beyond patriarchy look like? The question hooked me. My brain took flight, imagination soared, hope sprang nocturnal. But after six months, I still hadn’t written the piece. How come? Writer’s block was an unlikely culprit since I’ve been churning out pages for a new memoir. Finally, I realized what the problem is: I could no longer envision a world beyond patriarchy.

This election boils down to a simple binary choice. Photo by Mirah Curzer

In 1975, for the anthology, Women in the Year 2000, a bunch of activist optimists, among them myself, Gloria Steinem, David Saperstein, Nora Sayre, Alvin Toffler, and the then Congresswoman Bella Abzug, were asked to imagine what the world would look like for women twenty five years in the future. In 1975, everything seemed possible. Second Wave feminism had already beached a wide tide of progressive change. We had Title VII, Title IX, affirmative action, and dozens of states had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. Nixon was out, Ford was weak, a pride of Democratic lions who claimed to be “pro-women” (Jerry Brown, Mo Udall, Birch Bayh, Fred Harris, Jimmy Carter) had their eye on the Oval Office, and Time magazine bestowed its 1975 “Man of the Year” award to “American Women.”


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Increasing Prospects for Collaboration Even before Starting

Oct9

by: on October 9th, 2018 | No Comments »

Graphic from a collaborative Global Governance Model

I’ve been in the collaboration “business” for about 20 years now, working on all levels, from the most internal inner conflicts, to the most ambitious efforts to create at least a model of what local to global collaboration could look like. Up until the last few years, the bulk of my work has been with individuals learning to engage with self and other in ways that have more empathy, compassion, authenticity, and vulnerability. In recent years, I have been focusing more on leadership and on systemic frameworks as well as tools for group collaboration.

I have found that working in the way that I have is like a collaboration gym: exercising our collaboration muscles allows us to regain capacity where we’ve lost it in the centuries since we’ve been torn apart from land and community to create mostly transactional relationships that are based on negotiating self-interest and little more. I have seen people and groups get much better results after applying what they learn about collaboration in workshops and consulting services I have offered.

Something was missing, though, about why, sometimes, even with all the best collaboration tools, individuals or groups don’t get anywhere with their efforts. The beginning clue came to me when I read The Leaderless Revolution by top-UK-diplomat-turned-accidental-anarchist Carne Ross. Ross’s book, which I found remarkable in many respects, got me started thinking about what, ultimately, makes collaboration work. Most especially, how do groups of individuals come into their own power and collectively manage to improve the conditions of their life. For me, it becomes ever more interesting to understand this because I want to learn how, at least locally, we can challenge the larger systems within which we operate.

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The Pillars of Patriarchal Privilege Will (Hopefully) Come A-Tumbling Down

Oct5

by: Warren J. Blumenfeld on October 5th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Image of Kavanaugh and family standing next to Trump in front of an audience

President Trump nominates Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court. Image courtesy of the White House.

Throughout his tirade-filled rant in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh conducted a clinic on white male privilege. In doing so, he served up a clear example of the sense of entitlement many males live with in the (hopefully) dying Patriarchy.

On at least two separate occasions, Kavanaugh exposed what particularly white boys learn from family and the society at large as soon as they exit the womb, that they will advance in life as far as their hard work, talents, and aggressive competitive habits will take them, regardless of their backgrounds and family status.

This notion of meritocracy, the pablum on which they are weaned, endows them with a sense of entitlement deep within the cellular level of their bodies and the recesses of their souls.

When questioned by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) about his heavy drinking in high school, Kavanaugh asserted this as if it should have been understood:

“Senator, I was at the top of my class academically, busted my butt in school. Captain of the varsity basketball team. Got in Yale College. When I got into Yale College, got into Yale Law School. Worked my tail off.”

Kavanaugh blurted out a similar retort to Senator Mazie Hirono’s (D-HI) query specifically about his college drinking:

“Senator, you were asking about college. I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number-one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.”

Kavanaugh connected all the dots for those of us who may not have internalized the lessons as well as he. The outline goes something like this:

If one is born with a penis between one’s legs, and pink-white skin and money from Christian family members, and considers oneself as cismale, and if one works hard, one has the right, or rather, the obligation to party hard and to accumulate as many notches on one’s sexual score card as possible. And especially, one can be guaranteed of achieving financial success, security, and social power over others.

If anyone, however, challenges this patriarchal endowment, one can obliterate opposition by all means necessary with as strong a show of force as physically and expressively possible. That’s the patriarchal social contract.

“So Senators,” Kavanaugh seemed to be shouting as his subtext, “I followed the rules of conduct that I was taught. Now I demand the goodies promised to me!”

Lindsey Graham reinforced this demand toward the end of the hearings with his own blame-laden outburst. Actually, Graham out-Kavanaughed Kavanaugh, while Kavanaugh even out-Trumped Trump – the top and most visible symbol of the entitled Patriarchy.

Possibly, though, our nation is experiencing a sea change of sorts as people like Drs. Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford and allies are beginning to pry loose the patriarchal pillars supporting the entitlement, the inequities, the gendered power differentials, the violence, and yes, the sexual abuse that men have taken as their birthright.

Maybe (and hopefully) we witnessed mortal desperate gasps of an endangered species.

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Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld  is author of Warren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press), co-editor of Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense Publications), co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge), editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon).