About Israel and Gaza – It’s more complicated than you can imagine

I am a citizen of Israel. Actually, I’m a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. I didn’t seek Israel citizenship. I lived there almost 9 years and it was automatically conferred on me as it is on every Jew that comes to live there and stays more than 3 years. I have never seen any reason to renounce citizenship … if indeed that were possible and I’m not at all sure that it is … because given the way things are going around here, an Israeli passport could come in handy if I have to gather the family and make a run for it. Ironic, isn’t it that Israel looks safer sometimes than my peaceful little town in the Blackstone Valley?

I went to live in Israel at the end of 1978. There were a lot of reasons, almost all of which were personal, not political. My marriage was over. I wanted to get on with life. I had been raised by a mother with strong Zionist leanings and when I was 14, I had read “Exodus” (Leon Uris) so many times that the binding had disintegrated and I could recite long sections by heart. I had a wildly over-romanticized image of Israel gleaned from books and movies and Mom. But mostly, I wanted to get out of my safety zone and into the wider world. I yearned for culture shock. I wanted to live in another culture, another society. I was bored with Hempstead and my safe suburban life.

I got the excitement … minus the romance. It turned out that dancing the hora around a campfire at sunset was not exactly the way life would be. On many levels it was far more interesting than I dreamed. On other levels, it was so entirely different that it turned my head inside out.

Among the first things I learned living there was the international press does not accurately report news out of Israel. While some press is slanted favorably towards Israel, most is not. None of it is accurate, favorable or otherwise.

Israel, like every other place on earth, is not of one mind. It isn’t packed with citizens who walk and think in lock-step. If you know anything about Jewish culture, the very idea that millions of Jews could live together and actually agree on anything beyond a need to protect the country from enemies, would be laughable. Get three Jews in a room and I guarantee you’ll have at least 4 opinions. We are a contentious, opinionated people. If I had to describe my folks in two words, they would be “hungry (in the sense  of food) and argumentative.” Get us together, feed us, let us fight for a while, eat some more, take a little nap, eat a little, fight a little … that’s heaven. Add a game (rummy? bridge? mah jong?) somewhere in the middle and you’ve got a perfect vacation.

We say about many things these days that “it’s complicated,” which really means that “the amount of time it would take me to explain this exceeds any real interest you have in the subject.” Where Israel is concerned, complicated doesn’t begin to cover it. Everyone owns a piece of righteousness. You are right. He is right. I am right. And we are all wrong.

As far as the current disorder goes, Israel, as the British ambassador in the YouTube clip explains, typically warns the civilian population to get out substantially in advance of any bombing. They have always done this. That the warnings are intentionally ignored in favor of making a political statement — despite loss of life — only says that the enemies of Israel love casualties because they can feed the numbers to an eager press corps. That most of the events taped for media are staged should not surprise anyone. As soon as camera crews show up, the extras line up offering to form an impressive mob. Some do it for cash, most do it for the fun of getting their pictures on television. Some are regulars and if you follow the footage, you’ll see the same faces show up in video after video.

I’d been living in Israel for a while, I myself realized I didn’t really know anything. All the opinions I had before I got there were consumed and turned inside-out by reality. It is very complicated. It is perfectly possible to agree with everyone and no one. There have been a lot of mistakes made all around. I tend, for obvious reasons, to believe in Israel. I believe it has a right to be there. I believe after thousands of years of persecution we deserve a little piece of earth to call home. The Arab world has more than enough room for every single person that needs a place. The only reason there remain any displaced people is to use them as a political tool.

So all the history notwithstanding, regardless of the wrongs and rights on both sides, suggesting that Israel give up being a nation is ludicrous. Suggesting it give up any more land is almost as ridiculous, something you would more easily understand if you have visited the country.

It’s so small. It’s miniscule, tiny, barely sufficient to house its existing population. It has no natural resources, not even water. No oil. Erratic rainfall in an arid zone. Crappy soil and not much of it. About the only things it has going for it is the determination of its people to survive, some really great beaches, a pretty impressive community of scientists and engineers. And tourism. It’s not a plummy sort of place, not the rich land of milk and honey suggested in the Old Testament.

But it’s the only place on earth where Jews can live by a Jewish calendar, where Jews don’t have to fend off Christmas, be dismissed as peripheral and unimportant because we aren’t a majority or even a large minority. There is one tiny piece of ground in this world where it’s okay to be a Jew and whatever else is going on, we need Israel. We need that safe place, even if it isn’t really so safe. Without it, we are back to being a people without roots and without our country.

That’s NOT okay.

God, Faith, and Freedom

The never-ending election of 2012 has given me pause to think about God, faith, and freedom. I have felt since the beginning of this campaign that the religious Christian right is out to get me. Not me personally. I’m too old and insignificant to be worth paying any attention to at all … but anyone like me and certainly, anyone like me still young enough to bear children.

I’ve put a lot of thought into this for a great many years and after all the years and all the thinking, I’ve come back to where I began: I don’t know the Truth and neither do you.

Therefore, I will let my conscience be my guide and do what feels right.

You can believe whatever you want, but you don’t know a single thing more than I do. You believe in God, but you have no proof there is one. What you have is faith.  Faith is not proofit is opinion dressed in fancy clothing. It doesn’t matter how many people believe the same thing you do. A few or many, faith is neither fact nor proof. You believe what you believe because you believe it. You can’t prove anything.

You want certainty, but all you have is faith. You’d like me to buy your faith and accept it as proof, but as it turns out, I’m a hard sell.

UU Church 47


We know nothing. We are the proverbial blind men analyzing the elephant. We think whatever piece of the elephant we feel is the whole elephant but it’s just a piece.
I’ve been dancing around that elephant for years and at one point, I came really close to accepting Christianity. Then wham, along comes this campaign and the bullies from the Christian right decide to try and take all my freedoms away. They figure they can push their agenda through, get a President of their own and whatever I, and people like me want doesn’t matter.
Turns out, we do matter because they lost. Big time.  Not that losing has made them give up. Oh no. They battle on, good Christian soldiers that they are, pushing and shoving and complaining that they are persecuted because they lost. They call it a conspiracy; I call it an election.
Meanwhile, Jesus Christ, the guy on whom the entire Christian thing hinges, wasn’t a Christian. He was a Jew. Not only was he a Jew, but he was a Rabbi. One of my guys. If he dropped back to visit, I’m betting he’d play on my team.

A little history

That being said, when Christians decided that they were special and different from the religion that gave them birth, they proceeded to slaughter us at every opportunity.

Christians have a special enthusiasm for killing in the name of Jesus, who was a pacifist. Never mind the contradiction; it doesn’t have to make sense. During the Crusades, the armies of God marched across Europe murdering every Jew they found, often by rounding up a whole village, locking them in their synagogue, then burning it down with every man, woman, and child inside. When these fabled romantic heroes ran out of Jews, they began to slaughter their fellow Christians with no diminution of enthusiasm.

Marauding Crusaders wiped out entire Christian villages and depopulated provinces while on their way to save Jerusalem from the Infidels. By the time they got to the Holy Land, between their various squabbles and disease, they were significantly reduced in number and didn’t get to kill very many infidels . No matter. They had racked up impressive kill numbers of Jews and other Christians. It’s easy to kill unarmed people. It was harder when they actually encountered Saladin and other leaders who fought back.  Then, blood-lust quenched, and Jerusalem still firmly in the hands of the infidels, the victorious armies wended their way home, raping, pillaging, and killing as they went.

This is the kind of history that has made me wary of embracing Christianity. Forgive me if I detect a degree of ambivalence in how Christians feel about me.

Back to the present

This election was the last straw. I believe everyone should be free to practice their religion and customs in peace. But it’s time to stop worrying about everyone else’s rights and start giving some thought to my own.

When I add current attacks by right-wing fundamentalists to several thousand years of  historical persecution by Christians, I don’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

I realized today that I’m weary of the endless war. I’m tired of being bullied. I’m tired of explaining patiently over and over that yes, I believe in choice for women. No, I don’t believe that a 4 week old embryo has the same value or rights as a starving five-year old.

I don’t want prayer in public schools. That’s what churches and other houses of worship are for. I encourage anyone who feel a need to pray to attend one.

People who would refuse food stamps to hungry kids have no right to claim the moral high ground and lecture me on the morality of abortion. Moreover, anyone lacking a uterus should really just shut up. Women do not need to be instructed by men in what do about their own uniquely feminine health issues.

I grew up in the world before Roe versus Wade. I remember the terror of coat hanger abortions, sepsis, and deaths. Lives were lost, lives were ruined. In my opinion, if you don’t have a uterus and a vagina, you have no right whatsoever to tell any woman what to do with her own body. I’ll believe that God opposes abortion when God tells me Himself.

I’m weary of being bulldozed by a Christian majority. I’m tired of having my beliefs belittled and my concerns dismissed.

Fundamentalist Christian bullies have done their co-religionists a serious disservice. They pushed until they drove a lot of us from a passive, relatively sympathetic neutrality to active hostility. Even though their agenda has been soundly rebuffed, they keep pushing. It isn’t going to work. Those of you who are pushing should stop. You are not advancing your cause; you are hurting it.

I want my freedom. Keep your religion out of my life, out of my email, and off my website. Believe whatever you like; I will never interfere. Pray in your own schools. Keep Christ in your Christmas; I’ll try to keep fruitcake in mine.

Laugh and the world laughs with you; behave like a sore loser and the world laughs at you.

I am terribly disappointed in a lot of my fellow Americans. They seem bound and determined to cause as much trouble as they can because their candidates lost the election. They don’t seem to care how many problems they make for the rest of us because they don’t recognize we have rights too, or that our opinions matter. They don’t get the whole “democracy” thing. They want what they want, everyone and everything else be damned.

"Residence of Washington in High Street, ...
Residence of Washington in High Street, Philadelphia.

I’m no expert, but I’ve been around a while. As far as I recall, the  way our electoral process works, each time we have an election a lot of people come up on the losing team. One side wins; the other loses. This has been true since John Adams.

George Washington ran unopposed so it wasn’t an issue for him, but don’t think that protected him from being shredded by the press while he was President. By the time he was done with his second term, he said he’d rather be hanged than serve a third.

The battle over a strong central government versus more power for the states was the primary issue dividing Americans in 1792. It was the issue that pushed this country into two opposing political parties and this split viewpoint preceded the revolution itself.

It has always been with us. In its own way, this division is as fundamental to the structure of our body politic as our laws. It resulted in the two-party system and is the primary political issue today, just as it was more than 200 years ago. I doubt it will ever be settled to everyone’s satisfaction.

That’s okay. We are allowed, even encouraged to hold differing opinions. It keeps the dialogue going, it forces us to find solutions despite our differences. It encourages creative problem solving on a national level. Sometimes one position prevails, sometimes the other is ascendant. But trying to do an end-run around the constitution because you didn’t get what you wanted is very uncool. Push it too far, and it slides imperceptibly from controversy and debate to obstructionism and outright rebellion. The line is thin; it’s wise to tread gently.

George Washington faced the same issue and the result was a most unhappy President. He didn’t want the job. He strongly objected to having to do it twice. He hadn’t been thrilled to lead the Continental Army either, but his sense of duty trumped his personal desires. He was the very best kind of leader: reluctant. A leader who’d rather go home to his farm is someone you can trust. Washington hated politics and who could blame him?

In 1792, George Washington was prepared to retire as the first President of the United States. To that end, Washington, with James Madison, wrote a farewell address to the public of the United States of America. Faced with the unanimous objections of his Cabinet, however, Washington agreed to stand for another term. Finally, in 1796, Washington refused a third term. Dusting off his previous address, Washington and Alexander Hamilton rewrote the address.

It wasn’t really an address or speech. It was an open letter to the public that got published in nearly every American newspaper. Washington’s fellow Americans dubbed it “The Farewell Address,” as it if was our first President’s valedictory address, but it was actually a letter of resignation. George Washington was done with politics.

Painting by John Trumbull of Washington resigning

James Madison talked him into a second term. But when a third term was proposed, Washington dug his heels in and said the equivalent of “No man should be forced to serve more than 8 years. Stuff your Presidency. I’m going home.” If you carefully read his farewell letter to the nation, it’s a most elegant way of saying “Hell no, not me!”

Because we prefer to print the legend, this was interpreted to mean “No man should be allowed to serve as President for more than 8 years” whereas a more accurate reading is “no man should be forced to serve more than 8 years. Washington considered the Presidency akin to cruel and inhuman punishment and believed that no man should have to endure it more than 8 years and probably couldn’t imagine why anyone might want to.

That’s a pretty major disparity between legend and truth. But we prefer our history clean and tidy. We like our heroes heroic, swords shining, mounted on bright white horses. Presidents are not supposed to have feelings. They aren’t allowed to get tired or discouraged.

We can tear them to pieces in public debates and media criticism, circulate vicious, often unfounded attacks on their character, but Presidents unlike mortal men, aren’t allowed to get angry, fight back, or even get discouraged. They have to take it on the chin and keep smiling. Moreover, no matter how horribly we treat them, we expect them to keep doing their job and keep taking care of our business. If a President takes a vacation, millions of people act as if it is a heinous crime. He’s made of steel, right? No vacations required.

George Washington

If you look at before-and-after pictures of Presidents, all of them appear to have aged 20 years during their 4 to 8 years in office. It’s a killer of a job for anyone, regardless of affiliation. The Presidency is a marathon performed on a tightrope over an open trench full of rattlesnakes while the entire world trains its cameras on every move he makes and onlookers throw rotten tomatoes.

Most sane people don’t want the job. Would you? I know I wouldn’t.

So now we have tens of thousands of so-called Americans in a snit because their guy lost. They show no respect for the country they claim to love and no concern for how much they are embarrassing the U.S. Without regard for whatever their issues are, however weirdly paranoid they are and whether or not they believe the Anti-Christ is in office in Washington D.C., they throw their rotten tomatoes and go out of their way to make a hard job as difficult as possible.

If I were President,  I’d lock them all up. Together.

I’d keep them together, isolated from everybody but each other until they learn how to keep a civil tongue in their heads. If I had a child behaving like that, I’d lock the little creep in his or her room until the kid was ready to apologize and remember his or her manners. Pity we can’t do it on a national scale.

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These people, humiliating reminders of how unevolved some of our neighbors are, deserve a country of their own.  I suggest an uninhabited island that lacks all communications with the outside world. Let them enjoy self-rule without benefit of law. They would have exactly what they say they want: freedom from government interference. If they feel they need guns, I think they should have them. All they could do is kill each other.

Does anyone happen to have a large uninhabited island lying around unused? I think we have just the right population for it. Best remove the wildlife first, though. We wouldn’t want to foist these losers on poor unsuspecting animals. That would be too cruel.

 

A world so green in summer

Through the woods, down a narrow trail. The mosquitoes are fierce here because the area is swampy. But if you persevere, there’s a pond ahead. It’s at the end of the path surrounded by an emerald forest.

 

How many states were trying to secede after the 2012 election?

Not one single state filed anything suggesting secession.

Why? First, because no state government was stupid enough to lose the benefits they get from the central government. Secession is illegal. The Civil War decided the issue and there’s no going back. All of those petitions were put together by groups of discontented sore losers who didn’t understand in the United States, an election decides the issue.

We don’t govern by petition. We protect your right to petition (thank you, First Amendment), but that only means we don’t throw you in jail for doing it, not that your petition has force of law.

The U.S. does not govern by opinion. We vote. No matter how often or how loudly you tell the world about your dissatisfaction on the Internet, on social media sites, or anything else, it’s the ballot box where we collect and count votes. We have a constitution. We have laws. We vote. We count votes. The winner is decided, the loser takes his marbles and goes home.

A petition by the losers of an election does not trump the right of the people of the United States to freely elect their representatives. That you have the right to petition doesn’t mean your petition is going to change anything. Its existence is a testament to how free a country this is. Most other places, you’d be jailed or shot.

75-ElectionNK-6

The reason that not a single state government has petitioned for secession is because no one running a state is as stupid as these petitioners. They know they can’t go it on their own and aren’t going to try. Not to mention that a state trying to secede is considered to be in rebellion, for which there are serious penalties. As for the argument that we seceded from England, we were never part of England. We were a colony, a far different legal position than that held by a state. We did not secede from England. We rebelled against English rule. We are heroes because we won, but had we lost, it would have been ugly. Rebellion is a serious matter and the price of losing is dreadful. Rebels are hanged or shot, pretty much universally, so anyone who thinks they ought to rebel needs to be prepared to die.

AN HISTORICAL NOTE: The American colonists’ first choice was not to break away from England. We wanted the rights of full British citizenship and full representation in Parliament. In other words, far from preferring rebellion, we wanted inclusion. We wanted our status as a colony upgraded to the British equivalent of statehood … something that our American secessionist wannabes already have … and are too ignorant to value.

No one is going to secede. Not now, not in the forseeable future. Maybe after the alien invasion, things will change. Until then, secession is a non-issue.

As for all the mindless, blood-thirsty idiots who think a civil war is a good idea:

congress in session

The Civil War cost more than 620,000 American lives, above and below the Mason-Dixon line. Death doesn’t care what color uniform you wear or what color skin you have. Dead is dead. The war between the states caused more American deaths than all other wars this nation has fought combined. ALL of them combined. I don’t know the actual percentage of the population that perished in that hideous conflict, the gory legacy of which we are still dealing with 150 years later, but it was a very substantial percentage. Anyone who suggests that doing that again is a good idea is a criminal.

I don’t care what you believe. No one who values human life, believes in God, or has any kind of conscience or moral compass would suggest we take up arms and start slaughtering each other.

The Peacemakers.

If we are unable to live together, we will not survive as a nation. How can anyone claim to care about this country and then suggest we destroy it because they don’t like the President? Does this sound like patriotism?

There are too many people who have yet to grasp the concept that in a contest, there are always winners and losers. You, over there, with the sign and the sour face. You lost. Deal with it.

Respect the constitution. Work within our excellent system of laws. If you don’t respect our government enough to honor its fundamental principles, you really should go live somewhere else, if you can find anywhere else that will have your sorry asses.

Does it surprise anyone that the “leaders” of this bogus “movement” to secede are largely from the same states that produced the glorious Civil War? You think race might have something to do with it?

The number of signatories, assuming that they could be verified as real people, does not come close to a majority of citizens of any state — nor even enough people to elect someone to congress. It’s a bunch of malcontents trying to get media attention. In other words, sore losers.

Stay here! Don’t get out of the car! Did you hear me? Stay in the car!

 

Unless you are living on a different planet than I am, you have probably watched a lot of cop shows … first run, rerun, 200th run. There are so many you could watch them 24 hours a day 7 days a week. At one point, I was a  “Law and Order” addict. I needed frequent fixes. I discovered that any time, day or night, there’s a rerun of “Law and Order” playing on some channel … you just have to search.

As it is, Garry and I watch a lot of  cop show reruns and we can recite the dialogue in most reruns of NCIS. It’s not the only stuff we watch, but it is a major component.

If you watch enough of them, eventually you don’t even need to know the plot: you know who the perp is the moment he or she shows up on your screen. You just know. I often wonder if these shows are all a single script, written by someone long ago, then periodically altered slightly as needed for various  episodes of different series.

Our absolutely favorite moment in all of such shows is when one of the cops has someone in the car who isn’t a police officer or other official investigator. Maybe it’s a child or relative of one of the officers (aka, stars) … perhaps a friend, former cop now retired, journalist, or other person who by chance (and script) happens to be there when the star or co-star is called to the scene of a crime. What does he or she say to their ride-along person? They say it (or one of its close variations) every time:  “STAY IN THE CAR!”

It pops out of the mouths of television and movie heroes with alarming frequency. On the NBC TV series “Chuck.”  it was a gag line. On most shows it is real dialogue  and not supposed to be a laugh line … but it is. At least in this house.

One of my favorite versions can be found in the  Last Action Hero (1993):

Cover of "The Last Action Hero"

01:08:06 – Stay in the car. – No way. I’m coming with you.
01:08:11 –  How many times have you heard someone say, “Stay in the car” and the guy doesn’t?
01:08:19 – Good point. I’ll stay in the car.

Subzin.com say the exact phrase “stay in the car” can be been found in 356 phrases from 296 movies. I think they are missing a few thousand instances in a wide variety of TV series. Also, they are not counting variations like “don’t leave the car,” “don’t get out of the car,” and “remain in the car.”  If you include the more generic “stay here” Subzin  finds 20781 phrases from 11645 movies and series which is a lot of instances even if you say it quickly.

Regardless of the situation, whether it’s a 9-alarm fire, gun fight crime scene, being stalked by a serial killer or it’s the Zombie Apocalypse and the undead are gathering to attack: no one stays in the car. Cop, kid, or an extra obviously destined to not survive past the opening credits, no one in film or television history has ever stayed in the car.

In real life, as we stumble through our lives, we get a lot of hints from The Universe that maybe this time, we really should stay in the car. Don’t get involved. Let other people take care of this problem, this episode. Let the cops do what they are paid to do. Someone else can catch this bad guy, report this fire, deal with this crisis. Who stays in the car and who gets out?

I never stay in the car but others do as they are told, careful and mindful of authority. They want to be safe, and believe that following the rules guarantee nothing bad will ever happen. Except that life doesn’t follow a script. Or if it does, you don’t get to read it before you have to play your role.

Aside from the boredom– which alone would be enough to get me out of the car — is you don’t learn much staying in the car. If you never take a chance, you don’t find out how to deal with the unexpected and there’s a lot of unexpected in everybody’s life, no matter how safe you try to play it. If you never venture out of your comfort zone, when things get crazy, you’re going to have a really rough time figuring out how to take care of yourself … or anyone else. I’m not talking about manual skills like CPR or self-defense. I mean emotional skills, the ability to keep it together when what you really want to do is start screaming and not stop until it’s over, whatever “it” is.

For all the times I’ve been told to stay in the car then promptly jumped into the fray,  against all logic and common sense, I’m glad I did it. Life’s too short and the ride from start to finish is too bumpy to sit on the sidelines. Who knows whether there will even be a car to stay in when I want to hide? No way am I staying in the car when all the interesting stuff’s going on somewhere else.