Friday, May 25, 2012

Vive la Difference?

I’m reading The Forward, a wonderful Jewish newspaper, and two articles catch my attention. The first wonders why young, secular, and liberal American Jews take so little interest in Israel. The second reports on ultra-Orthodox rabbis spreading an extremist Judaism throughout the ranks of the Israeli military instructing soldiers to “show no mercy,” to view civilians as “not innocent,” to “ignore any foreign doctrines [that] confuse the logical way of fighting the enemy” (doctrines such as the Geneva Convention and the Israeli Defense Force’s own code of ethics).

It seems to me that the second article speaks to the first.

One reason young (and not so young), liberal, secular, and universally humanistic American Jews are alienated from Israel is that Israel seems to be on its way to becoming a theocracy. The more Israel comes to resemble Iran the harder it is to give a crap about what happens there.

Now Israel need not care what liberal, secular, and universally humanistic American Jews think. They can and should do what they think is in their best interest. If Israelis want to live in a theocracy run by Orthodox Jews that’s their business, but don’t expect me or people like me to stick with them.

Now it’s true that America seems to be on its way to becoming the United States of Christ, and when it does I will leave, but, given the choice, I won’t move from one theocracy to another. I’ll look around and find the country whose people seem the most free, secular, democratic, and rational, and emigrate there.  At the moment I’m eye-ing Canada, but it may be that China will surprise us all, and I’ll move there. At least I know I’ll like the food.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Breakfast at Noshville

I’m sitting at the counter in Noshville, Nashville’s New York-style  Jewish deli, talking to a well-dressed fellow who tells me he’s a lawyer. Our conversation turns to the economy, and I thought I’d share his thoughts with you as best as I can recall them.

“Let’s face it: the United States is a plutocracy: a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. The only “people” that matter any more are corporations. You may think you’re voting for ideas or political parties, but politicians are owned by plutocrats who use both sides to further their own ends. They don’t care whom you vote for, because they win regardless. This is going to lead to one of five results:

“One: the emergence of an Ayn Rand dystopia, where the government serves the rich and the rest battle one another for the scraps tossed to them. This is where we seem to be heading at the moment.

“Two: the plutocrats will get too greedy and raid the corporations, and the corporations will rebel. The plutocrats have the military on their side, and the corporations will hire private armies. It would be a hot war between billionaires fought with armies poor people.

“Three: the plutocrats will misuse the military, failing to pay the brass sufficiently, and piling up casualties in quest of more power, and the military will rebel, side with corporations, and create a fascist state.

“Four: the 99% will revolt, take to the streets in mass and demand changes. This will cause the plutocrats and the corporations to unite and crush the people militarily.

“Five, the 99% will stop playing the game. They’ll establish local barter economies of scale, opt for a simpler more self-sufficient existence, and allow the plutocrats and corporations to implode. This will cause the plutocrats and corporations to yield some of their wealth but none of their power, to the poor as they try to entice people back into service.

“Which of the five options do I see coming? In the short run I think we’ll put Gov. Romney and the Republicans in power and opt for the Ayn Rand dystopia. Then in 2014 we could see collaboration between Tea Party and Occupy folks against the plutocrats and corporations. It would look like a revolt, and some cosmetic changes would be made to delude the people into thinking they’ve won, but it will be business as usual at the top. By 2016 we might have a populist president and Congress, but they will be puppets of the plutocrats, just like most politicians are now, and nothing will change.

“In the long run I see a war between the super rich backed by the military and the corporations backed by mercenaries with the rest of us as collateral damage. No telling who will win, but I would back the corporations. Either way most of us lose.”

I know this seems very depressing. But I swear it went down better with eggs, latkes, and Diet Coke.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

In 1968 Mitt Romney allegedly led an alleged assault on an allegedly gay student at his private high school academy during which Mitt allegedly had his alleged friends pin down the allegedly gay student while Mitt allegedly cut off his hair with a pair of scissors. Is anyone surprised that the alleged lame stream liberal effete media would be on this story like glitter on Glee? Of course not. It fits right into their narrative of a heartless Mitt terrorizing homosexuals in his teens, dogs in his twenties, and workers for the rest of his life. But in their rush to judgment the media elite have failed to note the heroism that Mitt displayed: he dared to work as a barber without a license.

His action was a blow against unnecessary government regulation. When I was in high school I worked at a barbershop—cleaning the sinks, washing the floors, polishing the chairs, etc.—every evening after my night shift at Friendly’s Ice Cream.
And, like Mitt, I too cut the hair of a fellow student.

It was my junior year of high school and my neighbor’s dad had given him money for a haircut but my friend wanted to use it for something else and asked me to cut his hair instead. He had dog clippers and I had a dog, so how hard could this be?

It went well at first: I plugged the clippers and turned them on. The hum was strong and confident, and for a moment so was I. Then I started cutting. When I was done it cost my friend twice what his dad had given him to have a barber fix what I had done to him.

Here’s my point: if I can remember cutting this kid’s hair and he only cried and screamed after I’d finished, how is it that Mitt can’t remember cutting that other kid’s hair when he started crying and screaming the moment Mitt’s friends pinned him to the ground?

There can only be three possible answers to this question. First, the incident never happened and Mitt is being swiftboated by Obama hacks. Second, the incident did happen, but it was so traumatic for Mitt that he repressed all memory of it. Or third, it did happen, Mitt does remember, and he is lying in order not to lose the votes of licensed barbers in the Republican Party.

Mormons don’t lie (which is why I take Joseph Smith at his word regarding the Golden Tablets) so option three is out, and Mitt’s friends implicated themselves in the incident so option one is out. This leaves option two: Mitt was traumatized and suffers from Repressed Memory Syndrome.

Repressed Memory Syndrome in no way disqualifies Mitt from being president. After all President Obama forgot that he was for gay marriage when he said his opinion was evolving (in fact it was devolving) and now that he is for it again he still can’t remember that he was for it all along. So he, too, may suffer from this disease. In fact the more I follow politics the more it seems that Repressed Memory Syndrome is something that all politicians share. How odd is that?

Friday, May 11, 2012

2012 M(a)y(an) Ass

Damn, damn, damn. I don’t know about you but I was planning to enjoy my final months on earth as the Mayan calendar came to an end on December 21, 2012. I got a reverse mortgage on my house, sold the movie rights to all my books, took out massive cash advances on all my credit cards, and received large advances on books I have no intension of writing but whose due dates are December 22, 2012. I was certain that the Mayans were right and the world was coming to an end. I was planning to live life large. I was even going to vote for a third party candidate for president in November just to screw with the two-party plutocracy that runs this country. But all that is over now.

Headline in today’s USA TODAY: “Mayan calendar goes beyond 2012.”

Are you kidding me?! It turns out that some archeologists found a new room in the Mayan ruins of Xultun. On the walls of this room the Mayans calculated dates of festivals that would fall after the year 3500. That’s over 1500 years from now! We’ve got over 1500 years left to this civilization, and it is going to take me every last one of them to pay back all the money I owe.

I don’t know whom to sue first: Daniel Pinchbeck for writing his doomsday scenario, The Return of Quetzalcoatl, the archeologists who have been excavating Xultun for years and only just now found the updated calendar, or the Mayans themselves for writing their stupid calendar on walls rather than on large boulders along side highways where everyone could find them.

Well, I guess I should be thankful that the world isn’t ending in 2012, but to be honest, I was looking forward to it. After the disappointments of Harold Camping’s end of world prophecies on October 21, 2011 and May 21, 2011 I had given up on Christian doom and opted for what I assumed was the more reliable Mayan doom. But no, they too have failed me.

I don’t know whom to trust in the doomsday fantasy world anymore. S o I am asking you, my friends, if you know of some other prophecies I can rely on, please write them in the comments section of this blog. I just can’t bear the thought that there is no end in sight. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I Have Failed Part Four

I seem to have opened a can of worms, and I invite you worms to post your comments on the blog rather than emailing me directly. I can’t respond to each writer, and I have to move on to other matters, but I have been getting some email about my anti-religion attitude. But this is the last post for awhile.

Simply put, a number of writers are saying that living in the South, especially in that part of the South dominated by evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, blinds me to the good religion does. If I had stayed in LA or returned to the Promised Land of Massachusetts from which I hale, I would see things differently. Maybe so. In fact, I hope so. But I live where I live and see what I see, and it saddens me to say the least.

A couple of Sundays ago I attended a lively new church in my town that caters to twentysomethings. The church serves hundreds of young people each Sunday. I love seeing people engaged with religion, and I was hopeful that these “kids” many of whom study at MTSU, a very cosmopolitan and multicultural university, would shape a Christian message of global love and justice. But I was wrong.

The pastor told us his would be a hard message to swallow, but it was the Word of God and could not be challenged. The message was this: if you aren’t a Christian you are going to hell for all eternity. And by Christian he didn’t just mean any old Christian but Christian as he understood Christian.

This is not a new message, nor is it unique to Christianity. You can hear versions of it in certain mosques, synagogues and temples around the world. This is the message that is tearing apart Africa and the Middle East. It is the message that gave us the Crusades, pogroms, and the Holocaust. It is the message that fosters slavery and apartheid in all its forms. It is a message of hate wrapped in the language of love. God loves you but His love can save you only if you love Him in the way He wants to be loved. Others His love will consign you to hell for all eternity. Now that is tough love.

So if religion is the pitting of one group against all others; if religion is the damning of anyone who believes other than you do; if religion is praising a God so narrow and small as to have but one way to reach Him, then, yes, I am anti-religion. But that’s not all…

If this vision of God is God; if God is a narcissistic, sadistic, and in some faiths sadomasochistic Judge of all the earth, I reject Him and rebel against Him. Sure I can insist that God has nothing in common with the deity worshipped at this church, or I can insist that there is no God of any kind, but that is empty rhetoric that does nothing to stem the power of this God.  This God exists the same way all Gods exist: in the minds, hearts, and often-closed fists of His followers. And because He exists He must be resisted even if, as with the Borg, resistance is futile; even if, as with Zeus, He doesn’t exist.
So if you believe in a jealous and petty God whose love extends only to those who think like you do, I am your enemy. And if you believe in a God who urges you (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) to demonize those who believe other than you do, I am your demon.  And if your Christ is coming back to slaughter my people and all people who believe other than you believe, I am the anti-Christ. And if your God tells you to kill the infidel, then start with me, for I am the Infidel.

It isn’t enough to deny the gods of war, hatred, and demonization; we must rebel against them. We must take to the streets, the airwaves, the Internet, and the press to share the Good News that no one need die—not you, not God—for the way and the truth and the life is for everyone, and living the Way is doing justly and loving mercy and walking humbly with your god. It is a Way of non-harming. It is loving neighbor and stranger. It is being a blessing to all the families of the earth—human and otherwise. It is seeing to the welfare of the living from earth to sea to sky. It is imagining a God who is so big as to love everyone whether they believe or not.

To the Christ of this church I offer the Krishna of the Bhagavad Gita who tells us that all names are his Name and all paths are his Path and all love is love of him. To the Christ of this church I offer the Bible’s Chochma, Sophia, Lady Wisdom who calls all humanity to her table, and teaches us the ways of love of all the living. To the narrowness and fear of petty gods I offer the infinite love and awe of the One who bursts the confines of sect and dogma and religious branding.

So am I anti-religion? If your religion is anti-life and anti-love and anti-justice and anti-compassion and anti-peace and anti-respect, then, yes, I am anti-religion. At least yours.