We stand by: a Thanksgiving meditation

There has never been anything, nor will there ever be anything, which so frightens those in power as a great demographic shift among the powerless.

Because the powerless, when they see themselves in the powerful, can delude themselves into thinking they share in the power. After all, they have the same interests, the same concerns, the same ideology. But when the powerless look up and see something that looks so unfamiliar, they begin to feel restless. They clamor for change. They know that these strangers, who purport to speak for them, in no way have their best interests at heart. Ultimately, they threaten the powerful — not overtly (necessarily), but covertly. Not with conflict and protest, with guns and violence, but with that most subversive act of all. With their vote.
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Know your audience.

Theme of the day:

The first hilariously this-isn’t-me piece of junk mail arrived addressed to me, from a local-ish bank (who, incidentally, is represented for their PR by a former colleague — whoops). “Cheap” bank account? Credit card? What goodies did they have in store? Well, aside from an insert advertising a “free” $100 to open a financially-not-feasible checking account with them sometime in the next eight weeks, it included a letter beginning “Dear Audrey” and which continued “Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!” and went on to describe how many couples-to-be neglect to think about the combining of finances during the wedding planning and this bank was here to save the day! Hooray! Well, No Name Bank, not only am I very much not getting married, but if I were, the first thing I would do would be to think about finances and their combination, or not.

The next instance of Know Your Audience came with the second piece of junk mail I decided to open.

This plea for monetary support was addressed to my father, but reading the envelope which announced its intention to secure financial SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL on behalf of some foundation named after some old presumably Jewish guy, I just had to open it. I knew he wouldn’t care, but sorry anyway, U.S. Government. OopsFelony.

I can’t really describe the letter, except to say there were some embarrassing grammatical errors, so here’s what happened in visual re-enactments (I apologize for the wonky quality of these scans):

The third junk mail I opened was Obama campaign mail (what a lovely infographic they included on job growth) — free sticker! — and the fourth junk mail was actually not junk mail at all, but a notification telling my mom it was time to get her car serviced. So, mom, add it to the to-do list.

Red White and Blue. With Love.

This holiday is already bad enough, what with the drunkards out in full force and not even pizza shops open to save them from their own inanity.

Why I felt the need to indulge in my bitter, self-righteous loneliness and complete unfeelingness twoards this day of eminent pointlessness (my uncaring is so strong I even had to hover over the Goog-icon until my Homer Simpson “doh” moment hit) is beyond me. Maybe sometimes you really just need that tiny push, that extra excuse, to grab a six of mediocre belgian-style wheat beer and two-day-old strawberry shortcake. Well, the strawberries were already macerated so it’s not as if I put any effort into this fandango.

What are we celebrating, anyway? The day a bunch of old (now dead) white guys signed a crinkling piece of parchment, announcing their grand intentions to cease, and I mean absolutely desist, paying any more representation-free taxes to the oppressive colonial powers that be? What, so we’re celebrating some version of our libertarian roots? Hallelujah.

Besides, it seems terribly ironic to celebrate what is ostensibly a holiday about America and freedom and independence and over-indulgence when ships full of people are being detained (for example) in Greek ports (yet another irony, o bastion, motherland of democracy) en route to protest against the inhuman suffering of one group of people at the hands of another, far more powerful group of people.

O, the humanity.

Woe, the humanity.

Independence from nothing but our own moral compasses and human responsibility. I’ll drink to that.

What makes our suffering more worthy?

When I was younger, the Haggadah we used at Passover had a farcical play in the back, jocularly re-enacting the story of the Exodus from Egypt. We used to perform it every year around the Seder table as our version of telling the story of Passover. There is one line from the play that has stuck with me through all these years, a line my sister and I quote to each other throughout the year, and one that seems particularly relevant as I look back at what I’ve just written:

“Woe to us, we are in trouble.”

Tonight marks the beginning of 192 hours of abstention from bread, leavening (except eggs), inflation (except beans), and alcohol (except wine, rum, tequila…oh hell, get me a beer). Why? So we can remember when we were slaves in Egypt. So we can pray for our brothers and sisters all over the world. So we can make our lives marginally uncomfortable for a while, to remember our history and to prevent us from experiencing it again.

Though noble enough in origin – as my father says, “They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” – this holiday feels in a way self-righteous. Most haggadot (the Passover dinner-service guidebook) will, at least now, mention the hardships facing minority groups in other areas of the world. I’ve seen mention of Southeast Asia and the USSR, and in the 90s we were into the African dictators and Eastern Europe. Feminist haggadot often mention inequality for women in different parts of the world, and I think we have one in our house discussing sex slaves. These days particularly leftist haggadot will even mention Palestine.

But the buck stops here. We acknowledge the suffering of others; we hope and we pray that these people will experience freedom, justice, and liberty, just as we were freed from Egypt and wandered around the desert (independently!, mind you) for forty years. Hooray for us, now go find your own Moses.

We are so focused on preventing our own history from repeating itself, though, that we cannot see when we are inflicting terrible collective damage on other people. We – and all minorities – are and must be survivalist. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and if we don’t protect our clan, surely we will meet our demise. Thus we may only in good faith marry among ourselves, live in homogeneous communities, pray only for the health and welfare of our own kind, and while we wish well upon others, there is always the unspoken addendum to “may you be free”: “but not as free as we.”

Perhaps it is time for us to stop worrying about ourselves to the exclusion of all others. Perhaps it is time for us to give money to a charitable yet non-Jewish organization (like a Catholic or even secular hospital, for instance). Perhaps we ought to recognize that behaving with the clear and direct intention of simply preventing our own history from repeating itself will inevitably mean we, or others, will inflict the same hardships on other minorities, and we have set ourselves up only to be complicit spectators or active perpetrators of similar crimes.

Why do we, as people who have suffered, not hear the same cries for help, not recognize new histories moving down the same paths as ours once did, not step in and speak out? Half-drunk around the dinner table two nights a year is not enough.

With its spiritual and ideological focus on freedom, Passover is a time not to talk about our hopes for others, these fluid fragments of ideas, but to act on them. To actually believe in what we say, without addenda, and to put our idle words – all people will be free – into action.

I believe in “next year in Jerusalem,” but I also believe in next year in Damascus, in Ramallah, in Amman, in Jeddah, in Cairo, in Manama, in Gaza City, in Tunis, in Benghazi and Tripoli, in Paris, in Havana, in Augusta and Madison, in Tokyo, in Naypyidaw, Burma, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and throughout the world. We deserve freedom no more and no less than anyone else, and if we are going to spend 8 days a year saying it, we’d best start spending 365 days a year believing it.

Get your activism on. [Warning: BDS]

WARNING: This will be incendiary and unquestionably littered with social democratic and possibly Marxist or even anarchistic sentiment. Please don’t read if you don’t want to think about BDS.

After much discussion and rumination and explication, I think I am finally able to explain and possibly even support the full call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.

There is a LOT of information out there about it. It’s dense, seemingly contradictory at times, and very difficult to parse through. Having people to talk about it with is immensely helpful. For your own purposes, some good resources are PACBI, BNC, and IMEU.

To be completely honest, though so many people speak in favor of BDS, they only do so in the context of the real and physical occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But even among so many leftist Jews, it is very difficult to acknowledge or talk about the State of Israel as its own form of occupation, but to fully support BDS, which is critical for complete justice throughout all of historic Palestine, we must talk about the harder aspects.

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How the NYT crumbled my heart into a pile of dust and ash

I am sad.

No, not because it’s Valentine’s Day and I have no one to share it with. Actually, I’m sickly happy about that. I’m sad because my childhood perception of my country is slowly but surely being shattered.

Whether it’s this Islamophobia of the ignorant punditry surrounding Egypt’s revolution or the broad realization that so many Americans will put their personal interests before the greater good, my world is not what it once seemed.

When I was a child (so like, five minutes ago), The New York Times was, in my mind, the newspaper. “All the news that’s fit to print,” and like so many, I took that to mean not all what it literally means but also to mean something like “truth.” In my upper-middle class educated white girl world, The New York Times told it like it was and like it should be. Then I strayed from conventional paths, renegade that I am, and tumbled out of my box.

That was when, about a year ago, the government of Kyrgyzstan collapsed and the New York Times failed to cover it for over 24 hours.

HOW COULD THEY? The New York Times was my bastion of all things right and good in this world. Of East Coast liberalism and intellectualism and Democrats and progress and the Ivy League and shit-tons of elitism. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. I became jaded and aware, and simultaneously the Times became stilted, conservative, unimaginative, written for women in fur coats who eat breakfast at Tiffany’s. It is the imaginary love child of social progress and corrupt capitalism, something that in the real world can never be, and it failed me.

After months and months of let-down, I was hurt still further – but unsurprised – when I saw this cover on yesterday’s Magazine section.

NYT Sunday Feb 13 Cover
Pipe dreams; NYT Editorial Staff still towing this line?

ISRAEL.

(TWO STATES.)

PEACE PLAN.

(MEN IN SUITS.)

This just in: OLD. NEWS.

Where are the people, the women, the invisible Palestine? Where is the acknowledgement of truth? What of logic or reason, why only rhetoric? Why is diplomacy a game for old guys? Why is diplomacy the game at all?

Anyone who knows me knows the NYT’s editorial decisions and writing regarding the Arab World have frustrated me for a long time. Isabel Kershner’s “articles” (creative non-fiction, anyone?) about Israel would be laughably one-sided and ignorant if so many people didn’t take the Times as gospel. Ethan Bronner’s piece on Jordan neglected the critical (I CANNOT UNDERSTATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS) fact that it is a criminally punishable offense to criticize the King in Jordan. Seriously. You make fun of his hair, the mukhabarat are at your door and next thing you know you’re in jail. Forever.

The American-centric (American in the dirty version of the word) perspective the New York Times takes to address the Middle East – and so much of the rest of the world – is painfully Orientalist made worse by its sporadic injections of anti-republicanism and fair-weather tenets of righteousness. Hell, the New York Times bleeds White Man’s Burden.

But what I really want to know is, in the wake of the Palestine Papers, why the New York Times, or anyone for that matter, is still trying to make a two-state solution a viable possibility?

Maybe I’m overstating or overestimating the importance of that leak, but I do recall a rash of “maybe two-states won’t work” Eureka!ing from journalists and thinkers who would not have said so (publicly) beforehand. But the Papers caused Sa’eb Erakat to quit. We found out Fatah was selling out Palestinians in the oPT and in Israel right and left. We found out Israel would stop at nothing to get more land and more control. Well, this we already knew.

Palestine Papers aside, to lay it out, two-states wasn’t working. “Talks” were stalled. Abbas and Fatah have no legitimate popular democratic support. Netanyahu and more importantly Lieberman repress any and all opposition. Israel already controls most of the West Bank, leaving any “Palestinian State” with a total acreage roughly equal to that of the Vatican, and less contiguous (I might be exaggerating).

So why is The New York Times, miraculously still the icon in my mind of all things East Coast Liberal (=good), touting so garishly this antiquated formula on the front page of the magazine section? They’re smart guys and gals, they should be able to figure this one out. Alas.

In my forever, the Times has given me a reason to get up in the morning. It’s given me joy, excitement, thrills, secret windows into worlds only imagined. But as it’s opened my eyes, I’ve begun to see it in a new light. My beer goggles are off (actually they’re on) and I recognize this once bosom companion for what it truly is; another piece in the puzzle of corruption, of intrigue, of coercion. It is not impartial; it is a player in this game of politics, and it has taken my heart along for the ride. It is high time I get it back.

I’ll finally have to close this chapter in my own history, forget about how I thought the world works, and discard the first four sections of the Times every day until I get to the Style Section. We all know Vows is the only thing worth reading, anyway.

Full Disclosure: I didn’t read the article. Couldn’t bring myself to.