276 girls

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/09/world/africa/nigeria-abducted-girls/

How is this possible?  There have been decades of atrocities, unbreakable cycles of violence, the world over. Countless children sacrificed to the power struggles over land and its resources.  Nigeria has devolved into chaos.

Legacies of colonialization and Western arrogance.  And backlash.

This is the one case that is gaining international attention.  Because of the brazenness and insanity of the Boko Haram fighters.  How does a militant group, fighting in the name of God, kidnap 276 school girls to sell them into marriage and slavery?

These girls.  These poor girls.  Their poor families.  I cannot imagine what it is to have my child taken from me by lawless gangs who roam with impunity.

This massive kidnapping is about radicalism and the cheapness of human life, in general, and that of a girl’s life, in particular.

And the knowledge of the perpetrators that we, in the United States, will soon turn back to the results of the NFL draft.  And then they can do this again.  And again.  And again.  Until no child is spared from the war crimes.
Our souls, and our beliefs in the sanctity of human life and in the God-given right of a child to realize his or her potential, lie in the balance of our nation’s response to this crisis and others like it across the globe.  Let’s find these girls, airlift them and their families and share the bounty of our nation with them.  It isn’t fair to those left behind, but it is a start.  And, in Jewish theology, it is a person’s moral obligation to save even one life even if one cannot save everyone.

God bless and keep these girls, and keep them safe from more ravages of war.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

[For the song, “Mrs. Robinson”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C1BCAgu2I8]

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns [our frightened] eyes to you.  (Woo woo woo.)

Once we believed that our political and sports heroes could save us our innocence and our dreams from the stark realities of war, assassinations and a nation divided.

We looked to them — to Joe after Marilyn’s death, to Jackie after JFK’s assassination, to Coretta after Rev. Dr. MLK’s assassination — to steady us.  To remind us of better times and take us past the tragedies.  To take us back to a winning baseball team, to Camelot, to a place where dreams were possible.

God bless you, please, [this America].
Heaven holds a place for those who pray.
(Hey, hey, hey.)

Today, I am scared.  Because we are a nation so bitterly divided.  Because my dreams are ever less fanciful, my reality ever less comforting, my hopes and expectations ever lower, than just a week, month or year ago.

And there are no heroes, but where is there a parent who wants to tell that to his/her children?

Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids.

What is the embodiment of my fears?  Heritage Action for America scuttled any potential deal on the debt ceiling in the House of Representatives.  Because lawmakers are taking their cues from lobbyists-thinktanks-donors and not their frightened constituents.  That very action breaks the very foundation of our nation — representational government.

Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.

And all that people have worked for, and saved for, and paid taxes for, hangs in the balance.  Because we, the people, are pawns in a power grab.

WE, THE PEOPLE.

We whom our government serves.

WE, THE PEOPLE.

About whom no one seems to care.

WE, THE PEOPLE.

Joltin Joe has left and gone away (hey hey hey).  It isn’t the same to turn our frightened eyes to A-Rod.

Marbles

Mom and Dad always taught us that if you lose, you lose with dignity.  You don’t take your marbles and stomp off.

Except I never played marbles and I had no idea what they were talking about.  Just like my son doesn’t understand the phrase, “you sound like a broken record.”

But, eventually, I got the point.  If you lose fair and square, then you congratulate the winner and move on.  You don’t try to pretend the game never happened or that the winner cheated or that you were robbed of the trophy.

Unless, of course, you are part of the Tea Party.  Then you think that G-d is your co-pilot and that Barack Obama is not a legitimate president because, well, how could we elect a black man and no black man was ever born in the State of Hawaii.  (SIDEBAR:  Ted Cruz, you were born in Canada and had dual citizenship until a week ago.)

Let’s be fair.  We have had presidents who ascended to the highest office in the land under a cloud.  The “elections” of John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush come to mind.

But the Tea Party did not mind George W. Bush being president.  Hmmmmmmm.

Maybe because they “won”?  Hey, I remained an ordinary, law abiding citizen and patriot even through the terrible years of Bush/Cheney.  And I did not think they were duly elected, but the Supreme Court spoke.

I didn’t take my marbles and stomp off.  But, now the Tea Party is mad because Barack Obama is president, and a legitimate president.

But the government shut down and the debt ceiling should not be about one man and his health care reform and his birth certificate. 

These issues are about the people you all pretend to care about.

This is America and the majority spoke.  Be patriots.  Show the world that this is your country, come what may. Come on, I dare you, Tea Party members of Congress.

Put country first.

Hey, I am as liberal as they come and I say to you, “Less government? ok.  No government? Anarchy.”

And anarchy is treason.

And so are breaching the public trust and the full faith and credit of the United States of America.

And then you will see citizens like me  — middle-aged, economically secure (or so we thought) taxpayers — take to the streets and scream for your heads because you let our nation default.

So, before you smugly take your marbles and stomp off, remember, if you let our nation default —-

then you are no better than Benedict Arnold, betraying your country and fellow citizens and playing roulette with the total collapse of the republic.  

The hangman awaits.  Your move.

And the FOS Award goes to . . . .

Before I tell you about the award and the winner, there is (of course) a back story:

It begins in WWII, when American Jews were angry with FDR for not bombing the railroad tracks to the concentration camps.  Let’s be honest, in 1945, no one really liked Jews.  And the war was not to save Jews, but to stop a tyrant’s domination of a continent.

Before that war, there was the annihilation of Armenians at the hands of Turks.  No one said anything.

And before that, so many atrocities dating to the Crusades and earlier.

And, a thousand years of slavery.

And, then, so much that it is impossible to list.

And, the the brutality of colonialism.

And then, the United States used Napalm against civilians in Vietnam.  CHEMICAL WEAPONS.  Our use inspired the international treaty against using such heinous weapons.

Fast forward to the atrocities in Africa.

And the mess in the former Yugoslavia.   President Clinton ordered the bombings of the bridges leading to those death camps.

And then President George H. W. Bush who took a moral and geopolitical stand against Iraq and its use of chemical warfare against its neighbors.  GHWB showed American willingness to smack down an ally who commits atrocities with weapons that we sold to it.

And then there was the Shrub, the little Bush, who didn’t find chemical weapons in Iraq (those reviled WMDs), because they had been transported to Syria.  But we destroyed that country anyway.

And no one called George W. Bush an amateur or a waffler or a liar or a cheat.  And he led us into a war with no strategery (his word) for the way out, let alone a reason to go in.

And, atrocities occur every day, all over the world, in every corner.  Most particularly against the children, women and the enfeebled — those who have the least power in society.

So, here we are with Syria, under a credible threat of force from the United States, telling the world that it has chemical weapons and agreeing to disarm.  And Russia is taking the lead, as Syria’s ally, to make sure that America doesn’t bomb Syria.  Pretty good outcome so far — an admission that eluded GWB, an effort to dismantle Syria’s WMDs, as the US armed forces are on stand-by if anyone doesn’t deliver on promises made.  Others are doing the work because a bombing mission would shake Russia’s influence and bring down Russia’s ally in the region.

Not a bad outcome for “amateur” President Obama.  But no one gives him credit [this is for another blog]

And yet, all I hear from the pundits is: how the President faring politically and whether it will affect his domestic agenda, and how there is no reason for us to stop the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Ok, this is not about a president.  This is about children.  It is not about politics.  It is about whether or not, to use a “quaint” analogy, to bomb railroad tracks to death camps.

I don’t know the right answer.  I don’t think there is one.

But this I know:

If you thought that FDR should have bombed the tracks leading to Auschwitz and you don’t support saving children from lethal gas, you have lost your moral authority;

if you ever thought that Napalm was one of the most heinous acts against humanity, sit down and shut up because you have lost your moral argument;

if you wanted George W. Bush to go into Iraq, G-d help you because you have no moral judgment and should “self-deport”;

if you are a “Progressive” in today’s politics, you have no backbone, and if you are a GOP hawk, you are just saying no because Obama is president, so you wouldn’t know a backbone if your doctor showed it to you on an xray;

if you say that there is misery and brutality the world over and why are we not protecting civilians in Africa, you have an excellent point;

if you don’t care about Syrian children and civilians (or Afghanis, or Kurds or African tribes), I ask, (paraphrasing the great Rabbi Hillel) if you are only for yourself, who are you?

if you say that there are too many risks to this action, when we have soldiers the world over, I ask (against paraphrasing the great Rabbi Hillel) if not now, then when?

And so, the Full of Shit (FOS) award goes to . . . . all of us, from the UN to Geneva to Oslo, from Wall Street to Main Street to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from MSNBC to CNN to FOX, from me to you.  I don’t know what the right answer is, but I know we are asking all the wrong questions.

The right questions take guts and require that we talk about who we are and what we are willing to sacrifice (in lives and taxes) to do all the things we say we ought to do, until the moment comes for action. 

May G-d bless the children of Syria, the children of all countries and, please, let them no longer be the fodder of war, the currency of politics, and the blind spot of the world.

Please watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmux0xmrXUU

Hope and Change

Yom Kippur ended just two hours ago.  Jews fast on Yom Kippur as a part of penance and as a sign of the solemnity of the Holy Day.  And as part of our petition to G-d to save our lives and inscribe us in the Book of Life for the coming year.

The fast is from sundown to sundown.  Actually, it is longer.  It starts when you last eat before you rush to synagogue to get good seats (our egalitarian synagogue does not have assigned seating) until you eat again the next night — at least 25 hours later, when there are three stars in the sky.  But really, this is New York.  You can’t see stars and you can’t immediately break the fast. First you have to push people into the street to steal the cab and make your way to your break-fast meal.  Because no time like the present to start sinning again and, if you are going to start, you need to do it in a spectacular way, like stealing that cab from people who, only minutes ago, you hugged and kissed and wished a happy and healthy Jewish New Year.

But, I digress.

SOS wanted to fast this year.  He is only 11 years-old and I was not a fan of his fasting so young.  He was determined, and at points during the day, miserable to be around.  But he was steadfast and resisted my entreaties to eat.  He spent the whole day in synagogue with us, until the Shofar (ram’s horn) blew at 8pm, ending the Holy Day and the fast.  We didn’t start eating until after 9pm.

As we walked to the restaurant for our break-fast meal, SOS said, “I won’t survive another minute!!”

“Sweetie, I promise you will.  You are hungry but you won’t expire.  Some people live like this.”

“E-Mom, do you know that there are so many kids like me who live in the City  and go to sleep hungry?  I have never felt this hungry before.  This is horrible.”

“Can you imagine being this hungry and going to sleep at night or having to go to school?”

SILENCE.

SOS gripped my hand tighter.

“We have to do something about this.”

HOPE AND DREAMS OF THE NEXT GENERATION.

Life Inside the Bubble

(I will get to SOS’s visiting day SOON)

My mind has been all over the map.  I visited SOS at an idyllic summer camp, where his best friends are all shapes, sizes, colors, religions, athletes, mathletes, geeks and jocks (ok, quasi jocks).  Yet, the preponderance is white and Jewish, let’s not get carried away.

We drove home that night back to New York City because of ULOB’s condition.  The night has a mournful quality, mused POB.

It was particularly mournful.  On the highway, in the darkening day that gave way to night, I thought about Trayvon Martin and my son.

I don’t know much about the facts (if any) that came out in the case (as opposed to the media) and I didn’t listen very closely to the proceedings.

Why?

Because if the police tell a man who says he is afraid of an “interloper” to stay in his car, and he gets out and goes after the ‘interloper” with a gun, and the “interloper” dies, there is no question that the first man is not only criminally responsible for the death of the “interloper” but, in this case, of felony racism.

It never occurred to me that George Zimmerman would go free.

Not because I don’t have “ist” tendencies — we all do.  But because in my world, I have learned so much from my child and his friends.  Children can teach their parents about life and community, if only parents wouldn’t poison them with prejudice.

Children don’t naturally draw lines; they just want to play with whomever wants to play with them.

But they feel societal “norms” in their bones.  So, when my son was 7, he was having a play date with his best friend, and said to us:  “I just want you to know that he is bi-racial.”  OK, SOS is being raised by two moms. We couldn’t care less. Meanwhile, up in Riverdale, his best friend was telling his parents, “Just want to let you know that [SOS] has two moms.”  And they are a biracial couple and they didn’t care about our sexual orientation.  In fact, we parents are friends, simply because we like each other and we have fun together WITHOUT THE KIDS.

Both sets of parents called each other and immediately giggled and then sighed at our boys who are leading the way.  Our children opened up a way to discuss differences in a way that helped their parents.

“Teach your children well, and their fathers’ hell will slowly go by … “

And sometimes I forget that two generations — including mine — have to die out before our children can make the decisions.

And then Trayvon’s death makes us remember. 

And let’s focus on this young man’s tragic death.  A young man, who died not on the battlefields of Afghanistan with the condolences of a grateful nation, but in a silent and unacknowledged skirmish along race lines.

Did he smoke pot? I don’t know and I don’t care and, hell, I did.  Did he do some bad things? I don’t know and I don’t care and, hell, I did.  But I got a free pass (or six or seven). Why do you think?

Trayvon was a kid.   Did he hit Zimmerman? Hell, I don’t know and I don’t care and, hell, I would, if I got the better of someone after me with a gun.  I would have beat the guy with all my might. I would have kiiled him.

Let’s imagine the worst, and Trayvon was doing something bad.  Trayvon was shot dead. If I were shot dead (and doing something misdemeanor-ish), Zimmerman would be in jail or on death row.

BUT THE PITY OF IT ALL IS THAT WE HAVE TO IMAGINE THE WORST OF TRAYVON.  IF TRAYVON WAS A WHITE , DARTMOUTH FRAT BOY NAMED TREY (OR TRIP), THE ENTIRE POLICE DEPARTMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN FIRED AND THERE WOULD BE A WHOLE CAMPAIGN TO WIPE OUT NON-LICENSED SECURITY SERVICES.

Close your eyes.  And don’t think about the fact that Trayvon is black.  You know the answer.  The same damn answer that has plagued generations.  But, PLEASE, let’s not poison our children who have a real chance not to repeat this travesty.

If George Zimmerman has the right to be judge, jury and executioner, then we all have that right and Zimmerman should be very afraid.  As should we all because then society is irretrievably broken.

Trayvon was a young man — a kid — why did he have to die?

A young man a little older than my son died violently.  And the killer went free.

A killer went free. 

Four words that indict our society.  And the victim was a young person with a life ahead of him, full of hopes, dreams, disappointments, and we hope happiness and success (as he saw it).  Like any of us.

We enabled this to happen.  Look in the damn mirror. 

We should all turn ourselves into local precincts.

Every child is simply too precious to lose to this kind of travesty.

The week that was

Whoa! What a week.  From the minute to the momentous. From everyday slights to the evisceration of things we hold dear.  From personal triumphs to the deathbed of a world hero.

What a difference a week makes.

The Supreme Court taketh away and the Supreme Court giveth (with caveats).  But before all the epic decisions, the Supreme Court punteth the ball. Yep, punt on affirmative action, gut the Voting Rights Act, and hold that the Federal government cannot demean or injure what a state seeks to protect, in matters within a state’s purview.

So if you are a gay, non-white Democrat in a Red State, you can’t get married to your partner, you may not be able to vote and you certainly cannot have the totality of your identity and your life story considered in any application to higher education.

If, however, you are gay, white, Democrat in a Blue State, you probably get to claim an iPad as a winning contestant in the Supreme Court sweepstakes.

How’s that for “equal protection under the laws”?

I am thrilled that Edie Windsor, who in her own words, was “just an out lesbian suing the United States of America,” prevailed and DOMA is DEAD.  It was a thrill and an honor to go to Sabbath Services on Gay Pride Weekend to hear Edie, who talked about her spouse, Thea (of blessed memory), just a little before Edie started to cry, and then have hundreds of people standing up to cheer her. 

Get the documentary on them.  It is beautiful and sad and just simply a true (non-Hollywood) love story.

People sometimes ask, “why gay PRIDE?”  Because if you have felt marginalized, shamed, invisible, unwanted, a veritable punching bad for angry people and all of society’s ills, then you need to own your identity and say that you are proud and not ashamed.  It is important for those still in the closet — of any kind — and our children.

I suspect that Mandela is hovering between life and death only through the curse of modern medicine, while politicians figure out the best time to announce his death.  Call me cynical.  The world will be different on the day that the man who presided over immense change in Africa and, indeed, the whole world, is declared dead.  One person can make a difference, but there are only too few in any generation who are truly capable.  We will have lost (or did we already lose) a hero.

SOS went off to sleep away camp for seven weeks.  Both POB and I were happy, sad, scared and proud that he hopped on the bus with someone he met previously who was also going to the same camp.  Hugs, but no tears.  A watershed moment in our baby’s growth.

I stopped a client in the hallway of our firm and greeted him.  He was momentarily caught off-guard and then said, “[Blogger], you look great; I would never have recognized you!!!”  And then he dug himself deeper to a point at which I had to say, “Don’t worry, a little hair color and make-up can really make ALL the difference . . . ”  I expect that from Dad’s mother (“You look so gut, I vouldn’t recognize you, dahlink.”) but not anyone born after World War II.

Fom petty slights to soaring heights.  From a widow’s indignation to liberation for so many.  From tiny family triumphs (and the funny slights) to a loss for all humanity.  From the mundane to the immortal.   From the set-backs to the steps forward and then reluctance to decide.  The juxtaposition of all of these make the important events stand apart, in stark relief — some to be celebrated, some to be worried over, one to be mourned.

What a week it was.  Good thing I fastened my seat belt.

Countdown to Sequester and other problems

“Sequester” will be a reality in less than two weeks.  Economic and political chaos visible on the horizon.  The Congress and the White House are in their respective corners, blaming each other.

McCain is yelling “cover-up!” on Benghazi, while under Bush’s watch, the attacks on our embassies were incalculable and the lives lost a moral travesty.

Syria is being armed by the Russians, even though Britain made a statement that Russia had stopped, further isolating Prime Minister Cameron from the EU and the world.

The President golfs with Tiger Woods. It is ok now, say those who only speak on the condition of anonymity, because he isn’t running for re-election.  I guess Michelle Obama hasn’t taught Barry enough about the rage of women.

The White House rankles partisan divides by leaking an immigration plan. Marco Rubio flamed out in his response to the State of the Union.  So much for Time’s savior of the GOP.

The Keystone Pipeline and fracking are gaining momentum even as the dire environmental implications are clear.

Ashley Judd is taking on Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat.  He looks ever more like a chicken that Frank Perdue wouldn’t serve.

For anyone keeping score on this contest between the government and nation, the nation is losing.  Badly.

Tax Day is coming up and for the first time in my life (read, even under George W. Bush), I am not proud to pay my taxes.  Why? A bunch of clowns run our government.

GROW UP OR GET THE HELL OUT.

 

 

Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

Getting Out the Vote

Yesterday, POB, SOS and I joined a group of well-heeled, mulit-cultural (I might add) Upper West Siders on a bus to West Philadelphia to get out the vote for Obama.

We arrived at an Obama field office.

We were given clipboards with lists of voters who hadn’t voted in 2010.  We had to knock on doors to make sure that these citizens knew that their vote was important, what they needed for proper ID (and that the Pennsylvania voter suppression law was struck down) and the location of their polling booths.

POB and I were given names on opposite side of the street.  SOS tagged along with one of us.  People were so welcoming and glad we were out in the cold making sure that they knew where to vote.  Many people weren’t at home; the people who answered the doors said they were at work.

West Philly is not exactly the cushy part of town.  It was working class until the Great Recession.  Now, parts are boarded up.

High unemployment.  Crime skyrocketing.  See the sign in the pizza place below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was in there buying a pizza, someone came in with a hoodie, and the cashier said, “take off your hoodie, or I am calling the police.”  The management is serious about the hoodie thing.

It seemed (to my white, upper middle class, eye) that many needed a reminder that their vote counts.  Certainly, with all the attempts at voter suppression, a person could give up hope.  But, more than anyone else, their lives are literally on the line — the poverty line — depending on the outcome on Tuesday.

Some places were scary and creepy.  SOS was a little unnerved by these places.  Especially, a young boy who was outside with no one minding him.  (Yes, sweetie, I thought, please think about this when you re-enter your rarefied world.)

Among the three of us, we knocked on 120 doors and got some very enthusiastic responses (once they realized we weren’t canvassing for Romney).

POB, SOS and I talked about our adventure over dinner tonight.  I tried to make the point to SOS that his great-grandparents were the working (or sometimes not working) poor who lived and raised their children in tenements and then, later on, in nicer places.  But his grandparents had a great public school system and there were jobs for them when they graduated.  And that I am one generation removed from this neighborhood.  And Grandpa got mixed up with a gang before his brothers intervened (and then beat the crap out of him).

I don’t know if he understood the importance of what we did, as citizens of this country, and as a way to pay forward our family’s good fortune and opportunity by re-electing President Obama.  I believe this.  And I always will.