One Nation?

I believe in America, its promise and its endless possibilities.  I also know that, in America,  people live in abject poverty, without adequate schools, and in fear of deportation.

And I know that there are as many Americas as there are colors of skin, nationalities, religions, sexual identity and orientation.

We live in a fractured America.  Some of us cross any number of the shards.  Some, like me, can pass as Christian and straight.  If I even wanted to do so.  I am too old to hide.  But I am lucky; I have a choice.

But is any of us satisfied with this type of America?  Don’t we get tired, after every miscarriage of justice, of assuaging our horror and guilt, by saying, rather apologetically, “but there are good and kind people all across this country”?

Look, everyone has prejudices.  But that isn’t supposed to matter.  The point is that America is supposed to be one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Justice.  Justice.  Justice.

It isn’t just a word.  It is the basis of our nation.

It means that even if you steal, or sell cigarettes illegally, you don’t deserve to be tortured or killed.  Even more, you deserve treatment in accordance with the pettiness of the crime committed.  In other words, there shouldn’t be a bruise on you.

I was taught that wrongs will be done, but justice, JUSTICE, will prevail.

I believed in that.  I placed my faith in the systems of “justice” and government.  Because two generations ago, this country took in wretched poor refugees and gave them opportunities for work and their children a free education.  I grew up hearing, “G-d bless America.”

I still say, “G-d bless America,” except now I also say, “G-d save America”.

Because when our systems of laws and order fail, fractures of our nation becomes shards of glass on the floor.  Almost impossible to reassemble, but stronger if we glue the fragments back together.

Let us all glue this nation back together so that it is again: “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner.

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.

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.

an H-E-N-D

H-E-N-D?  Human-engineered, natural disaster.  Hurricane Sandy.  I would have called it a man-made natural disaster, but that sounded too oxymoronic (however, true).

And it would confuse the morons who don’t believe that humans are at least, in part, responsible for climate change.  Ok, I don’t have to be insulting, but let’s just leave it like this:  it has to better for the planet if we don’t dump toxins in the oceans or let toxins loose into the atmosphere.  If we were as gentle with the world as we expect our loved ones to be with us, then maybe we wouldn’t need a political-scientific war of words.

Since I am not good at the big theories, let me tell you about a small, unintended, consequence of H-E-N-D Sandy:  Dad’s care.

With power outages predicted, one of Dad’s children or children-in-law needed to be with him, even though he had a home health aide.  Why? What if he fell, or became confused and agitated, and the phones were down, how would the health aide — who cannot leave his side — get help?  What if, as happened, no one comes to relieve the home health aide because everyone is stranded?  One home health aide couldn’t leave for 60 hours; no one could get to Dad’s house to relieve her and she had no way of getting home.  We needed to be there to let her sleep and help with cooking and minding Dad.  And Dad needs minding.  Especially at night.

We are lucky.  Dad didn’t lose power.  We live nearby.  We married good, kind and loving people who were willing to treat Dad like their own dad and take shifts in Dad’s care.  I slept there twice; HOSOB once.  POB and SOS were there during the day.  SOB had to be in her hospital because other hospitals were evacuating very sick people to her ICU.

But so many of the elderly or infirm in this country are not so lucky.  Their children don’t live nearby.  They can’t come to the rescue in a disaster.

I bet a lot of people went without medications, good food, and proper hygiene during these past three or so days.  And I bet they were frightened.

So, don’t think about this on a global scale.  Think about your neighbors, whether they are elderly or the children who couldn’t fly to their parents’ rescue.  Then, think about your gas guzzler car, your over-processed food, your bottled water.  Then, consider how you (and I) contributed to the crazy weather patterns that made H-E-N-D Sandy an epic disaster.

When breaking the law is just business as usual

I have at least 3-4 bad parenting moments every day.  But my aim is to teach SOS that life is governed by a set of rules:

  • if you do something, then you live with the consequences;
  • never, ever, implicate someone who is innocent;
  • if you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler;
  • if you feel guilty at night, then you need to apologize to someone in the morning;
  • if you’ve done something bad, you have to own up to it and try to make it right; and
  • if you lie, it only postpones the inevitable reckoning and aggravates anyone who would have been sympathetic to you.

SOS asked me about LIBOR and what exactly was being manipulated.  I tried to explain it simply and, to be honest, I was marginally successful (that is to say, inept).

I have been thinking about the Federal Reserve’s expressing concern 3 or 4 years ago, the Bank of England’s having to answer to Parliament, and a venerated international banking institution’s being rocked to its core.  And, there are many banks under scrutiny.  Then I read an article about the cheating, self-dealing and insider-trading done by Wall-Streeters that are just part of business as usual.

This week, I paid a sick amount of money in life insurance, long term care and disability insurance.  Am I a schmuck?  Are all these institutions houses of cards waiting to collapse and shatter my dreams and hopes of providing for my family?

I am tired of people cheating with my future.  If you want to mess up your life, hell, it is your life.  But when what you do affects POB, SOS and me, just be careful never to meet me in person, because, if you are putting my family at risk, I am capable of anything.  Anything.

Oh, Rush, please don’t go

Rush Limbaugh, please stay in the United States.  I know you threatened to go to Costa Rica if Obamacare was upheld, but what did the Costa Ricans ever do to you?

We already export fast food, inane television shows, and grotesque materialism to the rest of the world.  I think your bile and insane rantings would make the US a true pariah among nations.

You spent years berating Democrats as being unpatriotic because they protested Bush/Cheney policies they didn’t like.  Now you don’t like something and you are going to “self-deport” (to quote Mitt).  Now, who is being unpatriotic?

When you are talking to your friends in the Congress, could you please tell them that they need a remedial course on the Constitution and constitutional law.  Since Marbury v. Madison, it has been well established that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of whether a law is or is not Constitutional.  Senator Rand Paul doesn’t seem to know that.  And, if he doesn’t understand some basic principles about how our founding fathers set up our system of governance, then maybe he is unfit for his job.

But you are perfectly suited to being a shock jock on talk radio.  You are crass, bellicose, incendiary, pig headed, and an ego-maniac with one or more personality disorders.  That you are popular says more about us than about you.  And that is truly the pity.

But stay here, Rush, because other countries have enough problems without you.  Not that you were really going anywhere.  Because you really are too much of a hypocrite and meglo-maniac to give up your fame and fortune for principle.

Principles can be soooo inconvenient.

How I learned to Relax and Enjoy the Newtron Bombney

For many months, I have been tied up in knots over the contenders for GOP nomination. I am terrified that on the third Tuesday in January, 2013, someone will utter any of the following:  “President Romney”, “President Gingrich”, “President Paul” or “President Santorum”.

I watch the GOP debates, with all of the venal, xenophobic, hypocritical, self-serving garbage that the candidates spew.

Any of these people would destroy our nation.  Setting aside Ron Paul and Rick Santorum (who are not winning the primaries), Gingrich is just evil, mercurial and evil (it bears repeating) and Romney is clueless and changes position faster than some in our nation change underwear.

President Obama who was elected to fix everything in less time than it took to break it all.  And, he wasn’t supposed to break a sweat or a promise or make a mistake.  We were exuberant, irrational and naive about the true state of our nation.  No one — no Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Tea Party-ist, whatever — would face any easier re-election bid.

Let’s just accept that.  If McCain had won, he would be called the GOP’s version of Jimmy Carter.

And let’s be clear — Obama’s campaign fed on the hopes and aspirations that we were electing a messianic politician.  He rode high and won on outlandish expectations that his campaign encouraged.  Once elected, he had to tamp down the expectations.  Because he found out just what he inherited and it wasn’t pretty.

But the GOP nominee can be the next president of the United States.  We cannot ignore that scary possibility.  (To wit:  GWB won 5-4 in the Supreme Court.)  Too many people are comfortable that Obama can beat either Romney or Gingrich, but the economy is fragile and people are deeply divided over President Obama (some for political reasons; others, for reasons that are, let’s say, less than Christian).  So, nothing is a sure thing.

Why am I scared? We have never been more divided as a nation.  And President Obama has incited the angry passions in the left wing of the Democrats and all of the Republicans — Democratic left, because he wasn’t nearly as “progressive” as they had expected and the Republicans, because he wasn’t nearly the effete liberal, scared-y cat they were hoping to skewer.

Now that the GOP is divided and frantically scrambling to blow back against a Gingrich nomination or presidency, I smile and relax.

If I set aside what the mud-slinging says about us and our society, I can talk about the debates in the same conversation as others talk about the Real Housewives of Los Angeles.  And no one knows I am talking about the political debates and our (G-d forbid) future president of our country.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Al Chet

The “Al Chet” is a commual confessional said ten times during Yom Kippur.  (There is also the silent, personal confessional said ad nauseum, so it isn’t as easy as it sounds.)

For the Al Chet (guttural “ch”), each line starts with:  “For the sin we have committed before [G-d]” and then gets pretty detailed:

under duress or willingly; by hard-heartedness; inadvertently; with immorality; openly or secretly; with knowledge and with deceit; through speech: by deceiving a fellowman; by improper thoughts; by verbal [insincere] confession; by disrespect for parents and teachers; by using coercion; desecrating the Divine Name; with evil inclination; by false denial and lying; by a bribe-taking or a bribe-giving hand; in business  dealings; by eating and drinking; with proud looks; with impudence; and on and on.

After every few, we Jews ask: V’al kulam Eloha s’lichot, s’lach lanu, m’chal lanu, kaper lanu (For all of these things, G-d of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, let us atone.)

Generally, I really dig in deep when it comes to the sins of pride, speaking ill of someone, improper thoughts and eating and drinking.  Ok, impudence, too.  And, ok ok ok ok, taking G-d’s name in vain.  But as a general matter, I am comfortable that the other sins are not mine in particular although on Yom Kippur we stand as a community and “own” these sins as a group.

Still, while the confessional is detailed but it is easy not to connect with the words on the page.  So, at our synagogue, during Selichot (the prep holiday for the Ten Days of Sorry), our synagogue congregants write down sins for which they seek atonement.  [a side note:  just the “Ten Days of Sorry” comment is going to be a BIG issue for 5773 if I last so long.]

Some of the “al chets” were: littering, not recycling, abusing substances, infidelity and unprotected sex.  While this may be ground-breaking in an Orthodox shul or a church, in our synagogue serving the gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, queer-identified community, their families and their friends (the printing is getting soooo expensive) with a social justice mandate (as if being home to everyone and literally his or her Jewish mama isn’t social justice enough), these “al chets”, too, have become rather mundane over 20 years.

But there was one “al chet” that stuck with me:  for the sin that I have sinned against G-d by maligning Orthodox Jews.

Whoa!!!!  That stopped me in my tracks.  I used to greet Jews with a kippah (skull cap) or a sheidl (wig) as fellow travelers seeking a good, meaningful life.  I learned over the years that one doesn’t inherit religious or ethical principles.  So, a child with a yarmulke can be as good or as evil or as somewhere-in-between as the rest of us.  Yet, they wear a costume of piety.  I have learned first hand about how some kosher, Sabbath observing, “pious” Jews are not ethical, moral or righteous. 

I have been crushed, disillusioned and personally harmed by the nefarious, immoral and dishonest deeds of those parading as pious, even those who are called “rabbi”.  And not because they object to my sexual orientation (there is no prohibition against lesbians in Torah).

As a result, I do deal with Orthodox Jews with greater suspicion than I do others.  And that is wrong.  The good and right thing is to assess each person according to that person’s merits.

It all comes down to a derivative of the golden rule: Don’t judge a book by its cover. 

For the sin that I have sinned by maligning all orthodox Jews on account of a few pretenders AND wanting to rip off their Yamulkes or sheidls, Eloha s’lichot (G-d of forgiveness), pardon me, forgive me, let me atone.  But if the person deserves it, I want the Heavens to clap with thunder and the angels to blow those crazy little bugels, ok?
Wow, Yom Kippur is over by less than two hours and I am soooo cooked for next year. .  . . . . .

Even More to Talk About

COB (colleague of blogger), wants to write for the Alternate View (see prior blog entries).  He thinks Blogger and SNOBFOB (my awesomely funny friend who isn’t so sure she wants to be associated with blogger on-line) should try a YouTube video first, one that is a “parody” of The View.
Here are his ideas for the guests:
  1. Someone from the “Iced” Tea Party [blogger comment:  or The Latte League, truly effete, New York liberal intellectuals]
  2. A 10 year-old who has ideas for running government more efficiently [blogger comment: or Christine O’Donnell, who has the IQ of a ten year-old and is a witch to boot]
  3. A gay/lesbian person who is against same sex marriage [blogger comment: or Mr. Michele Bachmann, who thinks he cured himself]
  4. A person who is now an actor/actress since they can’t get a different job in this economy [blogger comment: because everyone assumes actors and actresses, especially the most talented ones, are unemployed]
  5. A crazy person (COB thinks I could fill that role.) [blogger comment: I think COB could audition for this role.]
Not a bad start.