Monday, June 19, 2017

Beer, Politics, and a Little Talmud Thrown In For Fun

First, let me admit I was a little overwhelmed by the response to last week's episode. There are a few comments posted beneath that blog, but over a hundred readers took the time to send a real email. I  was blown away by the things people said, all but 2 were very positive, encouraging, and downright lovely. I had email from all over the globe. Go figure. Thank you all for the kind thoughts; every single one is greatly appreciated.

Someone...and I know who you are....asked me to write about Judaism and beer. Well, there's Jewish stuff below, but for the beer part, I have 2 words: SPOTTED COW. You can only get it in Wisconsin, not even in Minnesota, and as far as I'm concerned, it's worth the shlep to Hudson for a 6-pack. I am a long time Guinness stout fan, but there is something unmistakably delicious about Spotted Cow. End of beer part. 

I'm not ready to pull the plug on the blog, but I am thinking about how I am going to handle the ongoing debacle that is American politics. There are days I think people in the White House wake up and say," what can I do to undo something President Obama did?" That is not productive thinking. There's got to be a better way to get around that sinking feeling that there are no facts. Not alternative facts, or flights of twitter fancy, but hard, cold, blunt, unembellished facts about where our government is going and what our expectations are regarding our government.

The health care bill being crafted in secret is scary. The deconstruction of the National Parks and Monuments Registry is scary. The removal of most funding for arts and culture is scary. Promulgating the belief that the coal industry will rise again and the nation will resume its coal consumption is scary. I won't even mention how scary not having FDA food safety inspections is. (See Georgia peanut butter salmonella outbreak.)

Plenty of people are out there publishing real-fact information with the hopes that people, especially our congress-people, might read a bit and get a better understanding of what actions are being undertaken on their behalf. There must be a belief in some kind of tipping point, that place where people begin to wake up to what's happening around them. I'm not completely sure I trust that concept, but is there a better idea out there on how to mitigate the damage?

But wait; there's more.

One part of this conundrum that really has me worried more than everything else is the delegitimization of individuals and the media. Now, we all know every administration yammers on about the press, the correspondents, and even the magazine essayists who cover politics. It is equally well known that a primary step in establishing totalitarianism is control of the press. That's why we have a First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
During this  Monday's press gaggle, however, the White House prohibited recording video or audio footage. This is strange. There was nothing major in today's briefing, other than the usual requests for the White House to explain what it's doing. You can read the transcript for yourself. White House press briefing 06/19/2017. Why this gaggle? Why these reporters? What was the White House afraid of today? I couldn't figure it out. 

Unless it's establishing a new normal.

Barring the use of recording devices underscores the administration's desire to control information in the press. This is not healthy, and it is certainly unconstitutional. So, how do you get around that nasty little problem of the Bill of Rights? You use the freedoms it guarantees to undermine everything around it. 

The undermining began with a lie about Barack Obama's birthplace and citizenship. Born in Hawaii (which was already a state at the time of his birth) to a natural-born American citizen and her non-citizen husband, there is nothing, NOT ONE THING that would call into question his citizenship. But the lie was told and the rest is the world's biggest bull-oney snowball.

The administration has learned from that lesson and is using it. Quite well, actually. They take a little, throw-away statement, and lob it into the instant media universe, then sit back and wait for all the fun and fireworks. Doesn't matter who they're attacking. The deed is done. 

Tonight, in my Talmud class, we were studying Bava Metzia (Chapter 4, 58B) and read the following:
R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Verbal wrong is more heinous than monetary wrong, because of the first it is written, 'and thou shalt fear thy God,' but not of the second. R. Eleazar said: The one affects his [the victim's] person, the other [only] his money. R. Samuel b. Nahmani said: For the former restoration is possible, but not for the latter.                                                
I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with anything. Well, all things considered, this is an important distinction in today's political stratagem.

There's the shitter-twitter stream for your consideration. It almost always denigrates a specific person. That comment is broadcast and read by millions. Whether or not the statement is verifiable and certified true does not matter; the person attacked has no real recourse in defending oneself. The allegation is out there and there is precious little anyone can do to stop the damage. 

Often, it's the suggestion, not the fact, of impropriety that does the damage. Even if proven to be false, the rift is created and belief in what is real is suspended. The endless barrage of alternative facts from BOTH sides of the political spectrum destroys reputations to the point of no recourse. Ever notice how when the stream has nothing else to say, it blames Hillary Clinton for something, anything?

So going back to the one thing we know for certain is a lie, and starting this ball rolling down the hill. That defamation has damaged who we are as a nation, who we are as a people, and worst of all, who we are as inhabitants of this planet. We have allowed verbal wrongs to become common place. We have allowed the stream of verbal wrongs to shape who we are. 

It would take an act of G-d, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whatever deity to which you subscribe, to get We, the People to pull our collective heads from our asses and begin actually looking at what we're being handed. But it has to happen. Democrat and Republican alike, we need to understand what their plans are for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If you are counting on Social Security for your retirement income and Medicare for your senior health coverage, you cannot afford to ignore the reality that it is already under the microscope for cutting. 

If we don't read this stuff....if we don't bother to find out what they are pushing through congress, we have no recourse. Millions of We, the People, may find themselves without the guarantees their parents' have. Right now, even the GOP side of the senate is having second thoughts about the AHCA bill. If we sit idly by and ask not what our nation's legislature is doing, then We, the People, just get to eat it up with a plastic spoon. 

(For your amusement: We asked 8 Senators To Explain What The Health Care Bill Is Trying To Do.)

Here's the very bottom line: when we choose to allow our government to diminish the First Amendment and put out only the news they want us to hear, then we have already stopped being Americans. That undermining of the First Amendment is the very tip of the iceberg on which we are currently sitting. Once that is negated, it's over. The rest is just sad, sad commentary.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you want to lift your own spirits, grow herbs. 
Even in a pot, the scent is restorative.
There's basil,lavender, chives, mint, rosemary (not in the shot)
with a strawberry pot, a blueberry pot, and a cherry tomato,
just for fun.  

1 comment:

  1. Of course I'm not in the shot... I was the one taking the photo.