Archive for the 'Social action' Category

Has the pendulum swung too far?

“I want all Jews to die.”

That chilling statement was made by Robert Bowers, the man who shot and murdered eleven Jews on Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

My second thought, immediately following the realization that a new horror had emerged, was Thank God the shooter wasn’t Muslim or Hispanic. Adding more fuel to the xenophobic rantings of the president of the United States and others who condemn or ridicule people for their religious beliefs or who fear for their lives was unnecessary in the already supercharged atmosphere surrounding the mid-term elections.

There is little doubt that the president’s Twitter rants, rallies and politics have exacerbated and made fair game of the practices once held in check by more socially conscious and healing-attuned public servants. Poking fun at the handicapped, demeaning women, excusing the behavior of neo-Nazis and outright bald-faced lies have opened the door to even more despicable acts by others who once were forced to occupy the deep, dark recesses of this America we all love. The improving economy and Wall Street have, until now, served as cover for Republican congressmen who are unwilling to confront this man. Even otherwise observant Christians and Jews, who would normally be repelled by his statements and immoral conduct, are reluctant to reject him due, in part, to their affirmation of his Supreme Court selections and his social agenda.

Trump’s failure to accept any blame for what is happening to the social fabric of this country is evidenced by his continuing assault on the press and his pronouncement of “fake news” on anything that does not fit his view of the world. Despite Saturday’s horror in Pittsburgh, he continued to Tweet on Monday “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news. The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open and obvious hostility and report the news accurately and fairly.” Like the failure of his self-appointed commission to bring to light any voter fraud, he offers little evidence of fraudulent reporting. He fails to note that the anger of his base towards the media is fomented by his own “fake news”, offered as red meat to those who believe he can do no wrong.

Anti-Semitism is an unwilling cousin to the xenophobic hysteria surrounding the immigrant caravan headed toward our southern border. Clutching it tightly as a wedge issue in the election, Trump and others have cited unproven and wildly exaggerated claims about the caravan’s composition. At a political rally in Kentucky earlier this month, Mr. Trump declared that Democrats “want to open America’s borders and turn our country into a friendly sanctuary for murderous thugs from other countries who will kill us all.”

George Soros, a Jew, has been widely and falsely claimed to be the principal supporter of the caravan. On October 22, a pipe bomb was found at Mr. Soros’s house; the police have charged a Trump supporter, Cesar Sayoc, with mailing the bombs to Mr. Soros and other Democrats who Trump frequently criticizes.

It is no coincidence that the rise in anti-Semitism has dramatically worsened in the first two years of the Trump presidency. It also coincides with increased Jew hating in Europe. The Anti-Defamation League reported that the U.S. experienced a nearly sixty percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 versus 2016. The League said…

“A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community – from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, and children harassing children at school,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society.

The road to the right continued to broaden with Sunday’s presidential election in Brazil which brought Jair Bolsonaro to lead the government. He has exalted the military, advocated torture, promised to pack the supreme court and threatened to destroy, jail or exile his political opponents. Per the NY Times, he won by tapping into a deep well of resentment at the status quo in Brazil — a country whiplashed by rising crime and two years of political and economic turmoil — and by presenting himself as the alternative.

When I was a child, I lived in a Chicago ghetto where I believed that everyone in my world was Jewish, other than the janitor. When it was Passover, there was only a vast emptiness in my elementary school. Since my parents and friends were from Russia, I assumed that everyone in that country was Jewish. Except for the language, I might as well have been living in Israel. I was comfortable with my identity.

That changed in high school and reversed itself completely in college. I learned that I was a member of a very small minority with different holidays, different foods and a different house of worship. I became increasingly aware of my Jewish history and I was less comfortable with who I was. I felt different. Terms like The Holocaust, anti-Semitism and bigotry became frequently used parts of my vocabulary. I married, reared our children in the synagogue and counted on it as my go-to sanctuary. I have generally been on the fence about calls for more protection in the temple during the high holidays and I have objected to armed guards during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

I used to talk about the pendulum and how it will always swing in the opposite direction after reaching its maximum horizontal position. How good times would eventually give rise to bad times and how it would again reverse itself after running its course.

Today, with the murder of eleven pious Jews, I have my doubts.

Nothing is Going to Change

Nothing is going to change.

We will gnash our teeth, mourn the loss of innocent gunshot victims and then slowly forget exactly what happened.

Nothing is going to change.

We will conveniently blame the mentally ill and offer up solutions that avoid dealing with the real causes of mass mayhem.

Nothing is going to change.

After a period of outrage, we will meekly allow the gun lobby to falsely promote the idea that “if those poor people had guns, this would never have happened.”

Nothing is going to change.

The safely gerrymandered House of Representatives will bemoan the loss of life and offer their condolences to the families of those murdered.  But it will do nothing meaningful to address the problem.

Nothing is going to change.

Those of us who want more restricted access to guns will stop and say “What’s the use, the horse is out of the barn. There are already 350 million guns in the United States.  It’s too late.”

Nothing is going to change.

Republican controlled state legislatures, seeing an opportunity to expand gun ownership, will allow the killing instruments to be carried everywhere. Their mantra will be “save lives, carry a gun.”

Nothing is going to change.

Donald Trump will double down on his racist remarks and promise fairy tale solutions to dealing with “those people.” Like-minded xenophobes will cheer and wave their guns.

Nothing is going to change.

Carly Fiorina will issue bald faced lies in a flagging campaign to garner the votes of unquestioning dupes, while denying the murderous outcome of her actions.

Nothing is going to change.

Personal grievances and political disputes will continue to be settled in a country awash with guns.  A country that has forgotten who we once were.

Nothing is going to change

The NRA will be proven correct.  Guns are not the problem.  Guns are the solution.

Nothing is going to change

Unless we change.

Shoot first, aim later

It was my birthday, May 13, 1939. The SS St. Louis was carrying 900 German Jews fleeing the Nazis.  They had hoped to land in Cuba and then proceed to the United States but were refused entry by the Cuban government.  With no place to go, the ship returned to Europe and over 250 of those refugees were eventually murdered in Nazi death camps. The United States government played a role in that crime against humanity by also refusing to accept them.

Fast forward seventy-six years.  A band of murdering misfits guns down helpless Parisians whose principal crime was enjoying all that Paris has to offer.  Talking heads go into high gear predicting the end of humanity as we know it. They create an atmosphere of mistrust where people “unlike us” are to be avoided, suspected and kept in their place.

Politicians, seeing fodder for their flagging campaigns, leapt into action and promised to be the answer to the threat hovering somewhere in the ether.  Marco Rubio, forgetting his own heritage for the expedient moment, said that we should stop accepting Syrian refugees.  Not for a moment did he seem to comprehend that these are the very people who are fleeing the murdering misfits.

Jeb Bush, fearing permanent assignment to the ignominious list of also-rans, is somewhat more accepting of the refugees..so long as they are Christians.  Continuing the parade of presidential hopefuls who believe that it’s constitutional to discriminate by religion, Senator Ted Cruz said Sunday in South Carolina “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Duh.

Donald Trump, once a lukewarm supporter of Syrian immigration, turned his coat and announced that he would, as President, deport any of that ilk. Coupled with his demand that eleven million illegal aliens be summarily ripped from their homes and sent back to their ancestral homes leaves him batting a thousand.  But looking for more points than his competition led him to suggest on Monday that he would “strongly consider” shutting down Muslim mosques in this country in response to the Paris attacks.  “Some of the absolute hatred is coming from these areas…The hatred is incredible. It’s embedded. The hatred is beyond belief. The hatred is greater than anybody understands.”

Reaching for the gold ring, the current heir apparent to the Republican Presidential nomination, Ben Carson, offered this inexplicable foreign policy during a Sunday interview on Fox News..

  • Stated he would not allow refugees into the US because of his “frontal lobes”
  • Insisted that China is active in the Syrian conflict
  • Struggled to name a single coalition partner he could call upon to combat ISIS
  • Advocated a shooting match with Russia over a no-fly zone

A respectable cadre of Republican governors, led by Alabama and Mississippi, joined the “Keep Out the Refugees” chorus by issuing statements saying that those miserable people would find no solace in their otherwise safe and happy states. And if I had a choice, I’d avoid those two states too.

These shoot first and aim later politicians surely are smart enough to realize that their actions merely fall right into the plot set by ISIS.  Generate havoc, let world leader wannabes shout out against Muslims and then reap the windfall of more misfit volunteers to their blighted cause.  But no, fear mongering reaps more votes at the ballot box than calls for helping persecuted people do.

Maybe it’s the “silly season” but I’m not laughing.

Charlton is alive!

Revealed…Charlton Heston did not die in 2008

Thanks to a hidden microphone in a National Rifle Association conference room, it appears that Charlton Heston never died in 2008 as previously reported. Instead, he is alive, well and secretly housed at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia where he serves as chief strategist and inspirational leader.

Comments caught on tape during an August meeting at the NRA seemingly prove that Heston, despite his reported dementia, has been and still is the principal architect of the NRA strategy for increasing gun ownership. “What better person to lead us than some guy who still thinks he’s Moses” can be clearly heard on the tape. References to Heston’s numerous movies apparently also serve as the principal basis of the NRA strategy. His roles in Planet of the Apes, Omega Man, True Lies, and Armageddon feature prominently at all NRA planning sessions.

“Fear drives gun sales and our job is to capitalize on any event that maximizes it. It’s not good enough to sit idly by while random maniacs shoot up schools.” said NRA commandant Wayne LaPierre. “Our gun manufacturers demand that we do more to find and arm the rapidly dwindling number of those who haven’t yet bought a gun. And, my year-end bonus depends on it.”

When confronted by the taped evidence, NRA officials claimed that it was a fabricated fantasy  digitally compiled by employees of Planned Parenthood. “It’s an effort to take the heat off of that Commie, organ harvesting, left-wing butcher shop.  Everyone knows that the NRA has never and will never do anything that increases gun violence.  We all know that guns keep violence in check.  It’s a fact that most of our members never even fire the damn things. Sleeping with them under their pillows is comfort enough.” Mr. LaPierre then added “all this bullshit about the outlandish murder rate in the U.S. compared to other countries is just not true. Those statistics were conjured up by the same nuts who believe in global warming.”

Republicans in Congress were quick to support the NRA in claiming that it was probably all a conspiracy developed by Planned Parenthood and its supporters. John Boehner promised, as a final chapter in his grand legacy as House Speaker, to schedule hearings that would “get to the very bottom of things.”

All satire aside, Dr. Ben Carson, a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and an avid gun supporter, said “those kids in Roseburg should have rushed the shooter rather than just stand around.” Later, in a seeming contradiction to his call for someone else’s bravery, Dr. Carson recounted his less than heroic confrontation with a shooter in a Popeye’s fast food restaurant. “Guy comes in, puts the gun in my ribs. And I just said, ‘I believe that you want the guy behind the counter…I redirected him.”

On Friday, Carson doubled down on his call for a well-armed populace when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said “Just clarify, if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at that time, would six million Jews have been slaughtered?” Dr. Carson responded “I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed … I’m telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first.”

Even with Dr. Carson’s call for someone else’s self-sacrifice when confronted by a heavily armed gunman, a simple-minded solution to the Holocaust, and an attitude reminiscent of Bruce Willis in Die Hard, he still rises majestically in the polls.

I bet Chuck planned the whole thing. And, Wayne, there’s no need to worry about your year-end bonus.

Charlton Heston as Moses

Some things never change

I listened to On Point this morning on PBS.  Tom Ashbrook, the host of this talking head and listener call-in program, was gathering points of view about what to do about the thousands of Central American children crossing our border illegally.

We shouldn’t use the extra money Obama wants to add more immigration judges just so we can figure out if a kid belongs here.  Use the money to hire lots of buses, load all the kids into them, take them to the border and dump them.  Let their relatives sort them out.  It’s not our problem.

I sympathize with those poor kids.  But ya know, we’ve got our own problems right here in the U.S.  Folks out of work and things like that. Who’s helping them?

I really feel sorry for those kids.  It must be awful where they come from.  Listen, I live in a well-to-do Houston suburb and my kids go to a good school.  But do you know that they actually have to tape some of their books together to keep them from falling apart.  We could use the extra money to get new ones and other stuff too.

It’s all Obama’s fault.  If he would just stop talking about the “Dream”, forget it, and just get more border guards.  And a fence too.  That’s how to solve this problem.  Meanwhile I got troubles of my own.  We don’t need to solve someone else’s.  Especially someone who doesn’t even live here.

These agonizing words sounded strangely familiar.  It was as though I had heard them before, in another time and with equal force.

While we sympathize with the Serbian or the Russian, with the Jew in Germany, the major portion of our sympathy is extended to our dispossessed farmer, our disconsolate laborers who are being crushed at this moment while the spirit of internationalism runs rampant in the corridors of the Capitol, hoping to participate in setting the world aright while chaos clamors at our doors.

Less care for internationalism and more concern for national prosperity.

Must the entire world go to war for 600,000 Jews in Germany who are neither American, nor French, nor English citizens, but citizens of Germany?

Father Charles Coughlin

Some things never seem to change.  We become a bit more politically correct, but when push comes to shove we show our true colors…maybe with a touch more phony pathos than Father Coughlin.  Like those patriotic protestors in Murrieta, California.

The federal government will continue exploiting these children. Releasing them on our streets with diseases is unacceptable.

The city needs a break. This is draining the resources of Murrieta. I don’t want to see our city go bankrupt.

We’ll be here protesting as long as it takes for the Federal Government to get enough buses to get those kids out of our town.

Meanwhile, reasonable solutions are tabled while we play hardball politics.  Maybe we just forgot what we’re all about.  Maybe we haven’t come so far after all.  Maybe it’s not important.  After all, they’re only children.

Hobby Lobby and the Supremes

It was Tuesday, about a week before the Supremes were scheduled to release their much-anticipated opinion about Hobby Lobby’s refusal to pay for contraceptives.

Justice Roberts had just strolled into the exclusive coffee nook provided to the Supremes and was feeling pretty good about the decision to rule in Hobby Lobby’s favor.  Hoping for a quiet cup of double latte, the Justice sat alone at the table and waited for the delivery of the welcome beverage and a few moments of silence.

The nook door opened and there was Justice Scalia.  He lifted his skirts and sidled over to occupy the seat across from Roberts.  A look of “do I really need this” flashed across Robert’s face only to be replaced by a sense of resignation.

“We showed those three broads who’s boss, didn’t we Johnny?” Scalia said with bravado.  “You’d think that sissy-pants Breyer would wise up and switch to our team before he ends up on the losing side of any case that even remotely smacks of religious rights.  It’s a man’s world and that’s the way it’s gonna stay.  As long as I can keep twanging Thomas’s strings and Alito keeps fingering his crucifix during oral arguments, our side is going to last a thousand years.  You should excuse the obvious comparison.”

Deprived of tasting his latte by being drawn into this conversation, Roberts cautioned “Look Tony, I had all I could handle convincing that switch-hitter Kennedy to see it our way.  He kept ranting about what might happen when other fanatics brought their own religious rights to court.  Like refusing to pay for blood transfusions, vaccinations, and sex change operations.”

“And, that cockamamie add-on language he forced on me that makes the ruling only apply to closely held corporations.  Only a moron would buy that one.  How am I going to tell DuPont or the Koch Brothers that they don’t have a right to bring their religious beliefs to court when I already told them they are a “person” and can spend as much goddamn money on elections as they like?”

Scalia intoned “You worry too much Johnny.  None of our 5-4 decisions make much sense anyway.  And we’ve got a job for life.  So who gives a shit if most of the country either can’t figure out what we did or what it really means.  I’ve been pissing off people since 1986 when that bozo Reagan put me on the bench.  I’ve been here longer than any of you and I’m still having a ball.”

“So what if the only parties I get invited to are hosted by the Heritage Foundation, the American Family Association, and Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.  Their money is good, the booze top-notch and the broads…oh the broads.  Crap, I could do this forever and, given that my healthcare is paid for 100% by the government, I probably will.”

“And so what if Hobby Lobby sponsored my last trip to the Bahamas?  I gave a rousing speech about religious freedom and how it trumps everything but gun rights.  They loved me.  Even invited me back this fall to talk about anything I wanted.  Maybe about why I think slavery was the best thing that happened to this country.”

“Ya know, Tony, someday we’re not gonna be in the majority.  The black guy or Hillary is likely to appoint someone who doesn’t see it our way.  I sometimes wonder if we shouldn’t be a little more cooperative and not so cocksure.  I don’t want to spend my later years writing dissenting opinions about women’s reproductive rights or new gun laws. And, since we’ve shown that we don’t give two shits about the court’s historical precedents,  I’d hate to see most of our opinions dumped on the slag heap of history by a bunch of left-wingers.”

Just then the door opened and Justice Thomas appeared.  “See that guy?” Scalia whispered.  “Nothing bothers him.  Last February it was eight years since Clarence asked a question from the bench during an oral argument.  He sits in his chair, leans back and stares at the ceiling like the answers are pasted up there.  His eyelids are heavy and he strokes his chin hoping to look more intelligent.”

“Johnny, you really need to be more like him. Don’t worry so much. I’ll handle the tough stuff, just like I’ve been doing for the last twenty-eight years.”

NRA Caves In

The National Rifle Association, bowing to pressure exerted by Congress, has agreed to change its name to the National Gun Association.

Acknowledging that most of the murders committed in the U.S. involve handguns instead of rifles, the NRA began to destroy its existing  stationery and order new stocks that also incorporate its revised slogan “Guns r Us”.   Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president said in a short but heartfelt announcement “we know when to cash in our chips, give up the ghost, wave the white flag and lay down our arms.  This is a major victory for the gun control folks, but what the hell, we’ve had a good run.”

Expressing great satisfaction with the U.S. House of Representatives’ demands for the name change following last week’s massacre in Isla Vista, Speaker Boehner said, “That should bring closure to the question of whether we’ve got the balls to take on the NRA.  Forcing them to change their name brings them out of the closet and reveals just who they represent.  This is another meaningful accomplishment that our members can point to this November as we seek to expand our control of the House and take back the Senate.  And as further evidence of our commitment to reduce gun violence, I intend to offer up a proposal that repeals the Affordable Care Act. ”

When reporters queried Mr. Boehner about the connection of the repeal of Obamacare to the carnage caused by the lack of any meaningful gun controls, he replied “Oh, that’s just something we do”.  Mr. Boehner then left the Capitol to deliver the keynote speech at the NRA annual meeting.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, the Tea-Party star better known as “Joe The Plumber”,  joined the chorus of gun rights advocates by penning the following to Richard Martinez, father of one of the Isla Vista victims.  “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.  So there.”  When asked what controls, if any, he might advocate to reduce the kind of carnage that happened in Isla Vista, Joe replied “Ya know, there were three people who that crazy bozo slaughtered with a knife.  Maybe we can require a seven-day waiting period and background checks at places like Williams Sonoma or Bed Bath and Beyond.  After all, there’s nothing in the Constitution about the right to bear knives.”

Attorney General Sam Olens of Georgia, where a recently enacted law allows people to carry guns into bars, churches and public places, said there was no truth to the statements made by gun owners that the law allows guns in public schools.  “That law only allows parents to carry guns when they pick up their kids.  After all, we’ve been overrun by kidnappings in school parking lots.  Someone had to do something, and we did it.”

One bright spot was Kansas where Attorney General Derek Smith clarified the law regarding guns in polling places.  “It’s OK to bring concealed weapons to a polling place as long as they allowed guns in that place before its use as a location where people vote.”  Gun control advocates cheered the clarification. On the other hand, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback questioned the logic of the restriction on polling places and surmised “Damn, maybe we should have let this alone.  Maybe if I were a fraudulent voter I’d think twice about going to place where some volunteer could blow me away without the proper ID.”

Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a courageous single-handed effort, proposed a slate of tough new gun controls including the public flogging of Chicago gun shop owners who violated the laws.  However, a reporter noted that 96% of the guns used during the city’s violent crimes were purchased in Kansas.


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