Fearing the change that has already happened

A piece I wrote in 2011 – wondering if it still holds up to the scrutiny of hindsight given the last decade’s events.

Recently I saw Romney on TV warning that Obama is on a mission to change America into a country that we hardly recognize, and that this election represents our last chance to stop him before we lose “the America we know.” Echoing this message of cultural paranoia, last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC provided a platform for the most extreme versions of this thought, including panelists associated with white nationalist and anti-immigrant groups. The GOP’s core campaign message so far appears to be “Obama is dangerous because he isn’t really one of us.” 

In the first couple years of Obama’s presidency, the right promoted this message in the form of “birtherism” and the “he’s a Muslim” claim. Now they’re pushing it in the form of the “he’s a European socialist” canard. In the space of three years, right wing paranoia has moved the geographic location of Obama’s Otherness from Kenya, where he wasn’t born, to Mecca, towards which he doesn’t pray, to Western Europe, whose fully socialized medicine he didn’t promote. Republicans are going to need a GPS navigation system to keep the American people up to date on the geography of their fictional portrayals of Obama. 

The truth, however, is not that Obama is trying to change America into a country we won’t recognize, but rather that the GOP’s leaders don’t recognize the country that America has already become. America has already changed into, and will continue to become, an ever-more-diverse nation of many cultures, religions, and ideas. Before anybody knew who Barack Obama was, this change had already taken root. Obama is an American with mixed racial heritage and family ties to Kansas, Hawaii, Kenya, and Indonesia. He also has Muslim, Christian, and even Jewish relatives. He is a walking American melting pot who could only have become president long after the death of Jim Crow America. What the fearful right doesn’t see is that Obama is an awful lot like most people in this country – mixed heritage, ties to different strands of the weave of this nation, and a values system that has tolerance and respect for all these different cultural elements. 

Continue reading “Fearing the change that has already happened”

Rabbinic Pastoral Counseling in the Citizens United Era

A congregational rabbi’s reflections 8 years after the landmark Citizens United Supreme Court ruling changed her world.

FROM THE DIARY OF RABBI HELEN BLOTZ-KUGELMEISTER

It happened on a sunny April afternoon – the day I first met with one of the new kind of congregants who’d been joining our synagogue recently. The truth was I had been nervous about meeting with one of them for more than a casual hello. Our Senior Rabbi, my mentor, Mervin Snubelman, had told me that it was only a matter of time before we had to start counseling and officiating at life cycle events for these new people, and we needed to handle it well.

My assistant had booked the appointment after receiving an email from Bergman-Schneider, Inc., saying that the multi-billion dollar conglomerate would like to meet with me to discuss a personal matter. Ever since the truth that corporations are people was finally recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, Rabbi Snubelman and I had been reflecting on the greatness of America, which despite its many flaws, seems to find a way to extend equality and human rights to wider and wider circles of people over time.

Of course, Snubelman and I talked about how we also had to confront our own toxic upbringings regarding corporate personhood. After all, we had grown up in a society that for centuries had denied that corporations were people. Corporations had lived among us, worked with us, even employed many of us, and yet we had denied them their humanity. Even though Snubelman and I had been supportive of the movement to right this wrong, we still had been infected by a stubborn and structural anti-corporate racism.

Anyway, Snubelman had told me that whenever the first corporate congregant to seek pastoral help would come to me, I should carry on as I would with any other person and not overthink it. Now that Bergman-Schneider, Inc. had asked for an appointment, I had to step up and be the rabbi I had trained to be.

It all started off rather typically. Bergman-Schneider, Inc. came into my office and nervously took a seat. “Rabbi, I need help.”

“What’s on your mind?” I asked.

“I’m about to give birth to another corporation,” Bergman-Schneider, Inc. said. I tried to smile hopefully, but distress clearly registered on Bergman-Schneider, Inc.’s face. My heart was stirred. Bergman-Schneider, Inc. was carrying a heavy burden. Continue reading “Rabbinic Pastoral Counseling in the Citizens United Era”

Rant Rant Rant Dammit Trump Hate-fest GOP Letting Him Go Too Far

John-Danforth
Former US Sen. John Danforth, currently age 79, was a thoughtful Republican senator from Missouri. With his warm dignity and long career of treating political opponents with respect and civility, he could be part of a whole slew of GOP heavyweights banding together to discredit and eject Trump. Why isn’t that happening?

Here’s what’s pissing me off more than Trump’s racist & misogynistic demagoguery: the failure of other Republican leaders to step up strong, call him out, denounce him, and tell him he’s not welcome in their party. Today he fielded a question from a man who spewed anti-Muslim racist garbage, including claiming Obama to be a Muslim and not an American citizen (how original). Trump said nothing to contradict the man’s claims, and he treated the man’s eventual question, “will we ever be rid of them [Muslims]” like a normal question. His response meandered but more or less affirmed the man’s ideas.

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Former Sen. Olympia Snowe, (R – Maine), supposedly left politics because her party had moved too far right for her. She could be banding together with other Repubs who see Trump as a dangerous demagogue. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dick Lugar, Colin Powell, Condaleeza Rice,

Of course, this is only the latest episode in Trump’s media-grabbing use of shock-language, xenophobia, and hate. That someone like Trump could be doing what he’s doing right now is not terribly surprising. But what’s inexplicable and appalling is the overall lack of a clear and forceful condemnation of Trump’s destructive narcissistic fear-mongering by  the rest of the Republican leadership, including the other Presidential candidates, current major office-holders, and retired respected GOP figures.

mitty
This guy could be standing firm against Trumpism and it would make a difference.

Yes, some of the other candidates have objected to things Trump has said, or have criticized him at times in strong terms. But that’s not enough. Not enough for a major American political party that carries some of the responsibility of upholding our most basic core American values.

ahnold
There’s no way the Guvernator is down with all of Trump’s mishugass. So come on, Ahnold… give him a piece of your mind!

I’m saying it out loud now: Republicans are making a huge mistake by not having collectively called out Trump’s many bigotries as completely unacceptable for our nation and for their party. What we should have been seeing in the past 8 weeks is a parade of high stature GOP leaders coming forward in every media format to take this guy down. There are 3 living Republican former Presidents who could do this. There’s Colin Powell and Condi Rice. There are retired Senators, like the well-respected Republican moderate, John Danforth, of my home state of Missouri, and John Sununu, and even The Guvernator! All of these folks, including all of the current GOP candidates for pres, should have huddled and then set forth on a clear, unequivocal rejection of Trump having a place in the party. The message would be “we’re conservative – perhaps even very conservative these days – but racist, sexist, and just plain arrogant and cruel comments are out of bounds for our party.”

He could be clear and loud denouncing Trump.
He could be clear and loud denouncing Trump.

I don’t know how party rules work, but if it is possible for them to kick him out of the party, they should have, along with the full-blown denunciation and condemnation. Instead, the criticisms aimed at him are scattered, weak, and do not reach the level of stopping this dangerous demagogue from hijacking the party brand.
Continue reading “Rant Rant Rant Dammit Trump Hate-fest GOP Letting Him Go Too Far”