One of these is an actual quote from the Torah, and one is not. Can you guess which is which?
Where my thoughts on progressive religion, adoptive parenting, politics, movies, and baseball collide
One of these is an actual quote from the Torah, and one is not. Can you guess which is which?
My dear fellow Americans who don’t know the truth about who we Democrats are and what we believe: there’s a lot of nonsense being said about us, so I just wanted to set the record straight on a few things.
It seems like Trump and the rest of the Republican leadership are hellbent on telling the public that Democrats are sickening, evil people who love late term abortions, want open borders, hate Christians, and want to impose socialism on the country. So, here’s the thing: all of this is wrong. Here’s what Democrats actually believe about these particular issues: Continue reading “We Are the Democrats”
Happened to be visiting Eugene, Oregon today, and participated in one of hundreds of protests against Trump’s declaration of a national emergency – an illegal and unconstitutional abuse of power that is grounded in a racist and un-factual set of beliefs. This is a serious constitutional crisis. I hope impeachment proceedings begin – and I hope the Mueller investigation exposes the collusion and betrayal at the heart of this administration.
It’s vital to keep the phones ringing off the hook in DC. If you’re seeing this, please call (202) 224-3121 and you’ll be able to get directed to the offices of your Senators and your House rep. It’s a chance to demand that Congress act to nullify the declaration of emergency, and to holler and shout about this outrageous abuse of power.
There are several actions that I’m seeing among progressive clergy networks and the Indivisible network. I just signed up with these folks and I encourage others to do so too (the image below is hyperlinked):
Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Humanitarian Respite Center is helping these families, and they have an Amazon wish list that you can visit and buy needed items for them to distribute.
You can also donate to a bond fund that helps move forward the legal process of reuniting separated families.
This past weekend, I attended Shabbat services on Friday night at Congregation Beth Israel in Media, PA, where Rabbi Linda Potemkin read this poem by Rabbi Paul Kipnes: Continue reading “Fighting back against family separation at the US-Mexico border”
Legally here or not, immigrants are human.
Even gang members who do horrible things are human.
War criminals are human.
Terrorists are human.
Presidents who start wars on false intel, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, are human.
Jews are human.
Muslims are human.
Christians, Buddhists, atheists, Druze, Baha’is, Hindus, Zoroastrians, and people of every faith and no faith are human.
Black people are human.
White people are human.
Con artists are human.
Narcissists with power are human.
Lawyers who funnel hush money to porn stars are human.
Porn stars are human.
ICE agents are human.
Cops are human.
People I see on TV and can’t stand are human.
People who rant and make statements referring to others as animals are human, and so are the people who object to those statements.
To be human is to be made in the Divine image.
This is essential.
This is the Torah on one foot.
This is the Noble Qur’an, the Gospels, and the entire wisdom of the 12 steps all in one.
Rabbi Akiva would say: “Beloved is humanity for we were made in the image of God. And doubly beloved are we for God made it known to us that we are made in God’s image, as it states (Genesis 9:6): ‘In God’s image God created humankind.’” – Mishnah Avot 3:14
Count me among the millions of Americans – apparently 3/4 of the population according to one poll – who don’t want to see Dreamers deported. Trump’s DACA decision is all the varieties of awful that a gazillion writers and activists and politicians have already described online, in the papers, in interviews, and in the streets ever since Jeff Sessions took the podium and threw 800,000 people who deserve better under the bus.
I know that, starting today even, there will be hundreds of demonstrations – marches, vigils, probably some civil disobedience too. And already millions of people are flooding Congressional voicemail boxes and email boxes with protest messages and demands that Congress pass a straight-up Dream Act bill pronto and test DT’s claim to be ready to sign such a bill into law.
And all of that energy and activism will make a difference, which I guess I believe it always does especially if it’s done in a non-violent and intentionally ethical way.
But here’s the thing.
The DACA announcement is just the latest in a series of actions by the Trump Administration that is designed to disrupt, endanger, demoralize, and weaken a part of the American community. Its reverberations go well beyond the Dreamers and their immediate families. Sudden shifts in DACA policy create waves of fear throughout the entire undocumented population, and throughout much of the Latino-American community, American citizens included. (And yes, other immigrant communities too, but given Trump’s long campaign of hating on Mexicans in particular, it’s important to be clear that Latinos are being targeted with a particular set of toxic and bigoted memes.)
Trump’s efforts to repeal the ACA and, in the aftermath of Congress’s failure to pass a bill, his deliberate attempt to sabotage its proper functioning, also bring uncertainty, anxiety, and ultimately political exhaustion to those who rely on the ACA (like my family). Not just the people who use the exchanges – everyone who depends on different parts of the law, like Medicaid recipients, including families w/severely disabled children, is thrown off balance. Even if in the end the ACA stays in place and Trump loses interest in trying to sabotage it, think about the massive amount of contingency planning for worst case scenarios that’s going on in millions of households in this country, and the time, money, and volunteer hours that progressives are putting into trying to keep the law alive. That’s all energy and resources that could otherwise have been used to advance a progressive agenda, redirected down a path that will probably end in at least a partial loss of the hard-fought gains the ACA represented. Continue reading “#DACA = Time for New Approach to #Resistance”
Was talking with my fabulous wife, Melissa, this morning, about immigration issues in the U.S. One of my take-aways was that this subject, like many others in our society, has become so polarized and politicized that it’s virtually impossible to have a functional and thoughtful conversation about it.
Case in point:
We both are horrified by the xenophobia and racism Trump uses in talking about Mexican and Latino immigrants – particularly undocumented immigrants. And we both fully support comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship. That said, we know someone who has a beef with current U.S. immigration policy and who, as a result of that beef, sometimes expresses support for Trump’s candidacy (even though he readily agrees that Trump is a racist and a demagogue). Ironically, his beef is not with Democratic proposals for immigration reform; no, his beef is with the H1B-Visa program, the one that allows American companies, often in hi-tech, to hire highly skilled workers from other countries to do things like computer engineering, bio-science, and medical professional work. His deal was that he got laid off by a major tech corporation, which replaced him with a cheaper professional from a poorer country. Before his last day on the job, he was required to train his replacement.
I felt frustrated and threatened to hear that this person was even considering supporting Trump – given his overall values and past voting history, it came as a shock. He also really likes Bernie. But he has come to think of all “establishment” candidates as part of a (legal) immigration system that makes it harder for him to get work in his field at a decent rate of pay. Bringing up the fact that he could easily stand for reform of the H1B-Visa program while still advocating for a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented, low-wage-earning immigrants may give him pause for thought, but my wife rightly observed that the emotional overlay for the whole subject of “immigration” writ large is clearly charged for him and may override other considerations.
Unfortunately, immigration is a topic that falls into the category of a broken conversation. Meaning we have no way, in our mainstream culture, and very few ways in our alternative cultural settings, to have a healthy, constructive conversation about the issue. And in an election year this is an even more broken conversation.
I’m asking myself what might be the components of a not broken conversation – a constructive conversation. I think they include:
We have other broken conversations in this country. Like guns.
And Israel/Palestine is a thoroughly broken conversation, not just in the US but all over the world.
Broken conversations frighten me.
Since we live in an online media/social media era and more of us than ever have the chance to write up our takes on the political moment, I’ve decided I’ll join in the cacophony. Here’s my basic take on a bunch of stuff in no particular order:
One: Hillary Clinton is not the person that her haters say she is. This is true for her right wing haters, but right now I’m talking about her pro-Sanders haters, and there are quite a few out there. Is she the progressive’s progressive, the pure outsider who isn’t tainted by questionable concessions to power, or by ties to Wall Street and centrist elements in the Democratic party? Obviously not. But is she the right wing wolf in sheep’s clothing, the corporate shill, the warmongering neocon that her haters claim? No, that claim just makes no sense at all. It ignores so much of her professional and political history.
This is clearly a woman who is passionate about public policy as it affects children (Children’s Defense Fund); as it affects women in the workplace; as it affects working class and middle class families trying to make it; as it affects religious minorities; as it affects immigrants, undocumented and legal. She hasn’t hesitated to stand up for Muslim-Americans in the face of the racist intimidation that Trump & Co have put out there. She hasn’t hesitated to support the Dream Act and a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Her campaign has been out loud and proud in support of LGBT Americans, with impressively strong and unambiguous ads supporting Trans rights. And Hillary is also the person who, as part of Obama’s Administration, did a ton of hard work as SecState to put together the international coalition that produced the Iran Nuclear Agreement, preventing a neocon war with Iran that had tons of powerful interests behind it. And she’s the person who demonstrated that she could put personal pain aside and go to work for Obama after losing to him. She’s also the person who led a major effort to craft universal health insurance legislation in the early 1990s, then lent her political support to Obama’s successful effort to get the ACA passed, and now wants to preserve and expand what’s been gained.
Am I pretending that she doesn’t have a mixed record, that she doesn’t have political allies and friends on Wall Street, that she didn’t vote the wrong way on W’s war resolution? I’m not. I get it. She’s not 100% pure as a progressive, and she’s got such a wide range of friends, supporters, and connections that there’s more than enough fodder for just about anyone to paint a portrait of her as a right wing wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The problem is that in order to paint that portrait, you have to cherry pick the things you talk about. You have to list her moments of political compromise, expediency, or even lack of courage in a row while ignoring all of her impressive, hard-fought, progressive, and determined stands and accomplishments. I didn’t support Hillary in 2008, and as Obama moved into position to win the nomination, I admit that by that time I had come to seriously dislike her. But the way she handled herself after that defeat, and the way she served as SecState seriously impressed me. She rebuilt the U.S.’s international reputation as a country that is capable of diplomacy, not just cowboy militarism. She re-established our good name in the international community, and she advanced Obama’s foreign policy objectives with effectiveness and intelligence. She got China and Russia to agree to form a single negotiating team with the U.S. to confront Iran, culminating in the Iran Nuclear Deal, which has probably prevented us from being back at war on a massive scale in the Persian Gulf. So I’m not buying the hate from the left of the left.
Two: I’m also not buying the claim that Bernie shouldn’t be nominated because he’s “un-electable” because he’s a Democratic Socialist. I know that’s frequently put out there by HRC supporters and by the MSM as a reason to give Dems pause before supporting Bernie with a primary or caucus vote. But the polling that exists so far, and my sense of the zeitgeist, tells me that there’s not really good evidence to support this argument. I think the truth is that whether Bernie’s Democratic Socialism (or his older age or his Jewishness or his outsiderness) make him un-electable is something we just don’t know. He presents us with an unknown. What appears to be true is that public attitudes towards socialism are more nuanced than they were a couple decades ago, and that adults under 40 in particular don’t generally think of Bernie’s association with socialism as a deal breaker, though they’re not necessarily sold on Democratic Socialism either. I think the reality is that if Bernie were to win the nomination, and if HRC endorsed him, and the party really got behind him, his chances would depend a lot on who the GOP nominates. If they nominate Trump or Cruz, I would bet on Bernie to win. If Trump isn’t nominated and runs as an independent, I think Bernie would win the general handily. So would Hillary. If it were a Trump vs Sanders vs Bloomberg election, I’d still give the edge to Bernie. So yeah, he’s electable, partly cuz social attitudes have changed, partly cuz the middle and working class folks are feeling left out of the recovery and he represents the idea of them finally getting their share, and partly because of how the other party is (horrifically) proceeding with their own chaotic awful nomination process. I think Dems should vigorously support Bernie or HRC but resolve to support the Dem nominee no matter who wins.
Three: The thing that scares me in this election cycle is the Republicans, period. Not Hillary’s lack of progressive purity. The fact that the “moderates” among them are doing so poorly makes me take seriously a Trump or Cruz nomination as a possibility. If it ends up being a Rubio nomination, at least he’s not insane, though he reminds me of W in that I don’t think there’s a whole lot there beyond the surface, and he seems like a ready-made puppet for the Karl Rove /neocon crowd to manipulate. That also scares me plenty. Kasich and Bush seem to be the most reasonable / moderate, and – it kills me to write this – but Bush actually seems more moderate than Kasich. The Jebster at least has repeatedly argued against Muslim-bashing, and he’s not parroting the same awful lines on immigrants as Trump and Cruz. He also has experienced America as a multi-cultural place, in both his family life and in his political life in Florida, one of the most culturally and racially diverse states of all. Like I said, I cringe writing this, as I have so much stored up bitterness over W and over the Iraq war and the SCOTUS people he appointed, not to mention what he did to the economy and what Cheney did along with him. But there is no Jon Huntsman among the GOP candidates this cycle, and there’s nobody the likes of candidates like former Republican senator John Danforth or even Bob Dole – people I respected even though I disagreed with them. In the 1996 campaign, I saw TV footage of Dole on the campaign trail one day, in which one of his supporters used extremely disrespectful and hostile language as she referred to Bill Clinton. Dole interrupted the person and said, “Let me make something clear. President Clinton is my opponent, not my enemy.” I remember my respect for him jumping up a bunch of points that day. That’s called having a sense of what it means to do politics in a civil society.
So, to recap: Hillary is a solidly liberal, superbly qualified Democratic standard bearer who is smart and compassionate and has withstood incredible adversity. She is not secretly the devil. Bernie’s campaign is awesomely helping shape American politics, and yes he could win the general. The GOP candidates are awful, their front-runners are intensely dangerous, under the right circumstances they could win the general, and if one of them does win the White House we’re going to see a bunch of really bad stuff happen fast. Dems and progressives should support who they prefer in the primary race, but come together behind the nominee and campaign hard in November, because we have so much to lose and, potentially, a lot of Obama-era progress to build upon. I’m glad we’ve settled all of this. Now I fully expect everyone out there to accept my opinions and act positively based upon them, and I thank everyone for that in advance :).
Open letter to the national GOP
To: Mr. Reince Priebus, Chair, Republican Party
December 7, 2015
Dear Mr. Priebus,
I’m not a Republican, but my dad was, and I learned a lot from his values and respected his politics. I hope you’ll consider my views here as a fellow American.
I’ll get straight to the point: the GOP needs to revoke Trump’s membership in the party and take their chances that he runs as an independent. The line he crossed today with his proposal to ban entry to the US for Muslims is not one the Republican party can or should permit to be seen as plausibly “in bounds” for anyone representing the party.
When David Duke ran as a Republican for governor of Louisiana, the elder President Bush was outraged and publicly announced that he wanted Duke kicked out of the party. As you know, it turned out that the party rules, perhaps at the state level, made it impossible for Duke to be kicked out, and he was ultimately able to run (and lose) as a Republican. But the fact that the Republican President at the time, as well as the entire national GOP establishment, publicly and unequivocally repudiated Duke and tried to oust him was important, not just for Republicans, but for America. It was patriotic, meaningful, moral, and right.
Acharey Mot – Kedoshim D’var Torah April 23, 2010
Shabbat shalom. This Shabbat we continue our journey through the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, or Leviticus in English. We actually read from two Torah portions this Sabbath. The first is called Acharey Mot, and the second is called Kedoshim.
Acharei Mot presents an account of the laws of Yom Kippur, as well as a list of laws regarding sexual relationships. Kedoshim offers us a list of laws that define which behaviors are considered holy – kadosh – and which are not. It’s a mixture of ethical and ritual laws.
Perhaps the most famous part of Kedoshim is Chapter 19 of Leviticus. Chapter 19 happens to be right at the mid-point of the Torah, and many commentators have described it as the heart of the Torah. It begins with God telling the Israelites to be holy because God is holy. And then the Torah goes on to present a list of mitzvot – commandments.
The list includes the foundations of a universal human ethics. Honor your parents. Don’t steal or make a false oath. If you’re a farmer, leave the corners of your fields un-harvested so the poor and the needy can anonymously come glean and avoid both starvation and the embarrassment of begging for food.
If you hire a day-laborer, pay him or her promptly for their work, the same day. In other words, don’t take advantage of their desperate economic situation or essentially enslave them by withholding their wages for long stretches so that you can force them to stay under your employ.
Continue reading “Loving the Stranger / Loving the Vulnerable Among Us”