Monday, January 28, 2019

In Defense of Ilhan Omar.....Sorta

In the absence of real news, I've been giving the new Congress a whole lotta thought. There are 101 new representatives in the House, 10 new senators, each bringing a new vision, a new perspective (we hope) to a House greatly divided. It's a diverse class. The 116th Congress of the United States of America will seat
  • 67 newly elected Democrats, 44 newly elected Republicans
  • 42 women
  • 22 having served our nation in the military or the CIA. (Note: the first Green Beret to be elected to Congress is in this class.)
  • 24 citizens of color, including the first 2 Native American women to serve in Congress, along with 2 Muslim women, and the first Korean American.
With that diversity comes a whole new set of challenges, ones we have talked about for years, and now we are faced with figuring out how to finally meet it head on. 

Debra Haaland D-New Mexico
While I am hugely excited that two indigenous women were elected (and that's HUGE for this country) We, the People also sent two Muslim women to Congress who, in their campaigns, demonstrated not simply anti-Israel leanings, but some pretty ugly antiSemitic ones as well. One of them, Rashida Tlaib, is Palestinian-American, born in Michigan, but the other, Ilhan Omar is Somali, born in Mogadishu, raised in Baydhabo as well as refugee camps, and is from a family of educators and civil servants. According to a number of sources, it was her grandfather who instilled in her the importance of democracy.

While Rashida Tlaib has her own agenda, it's Ilhan Omar that I want to talk about. This is a smart woman; well educated, and from all indications, one who is dedicated to the idea of public service. Sure, as a Muslim, she's going to come to the job with all the bells and whistles being a Muslim in America has. Her opinions were formed in that world, and her world view is definitely colored with those same lenses. And that's to be expected. Just like everyone else in this country.

Ilhan Omar  D-Minnesota
I think putting her on the Foreign Relations committee might have been a stroke of genius. Whatever her pro-BDS, anti-Israel sentiments are, she has a steep learning curve when it comes to the role of the United States in the world. On that committee, she will have her eyes opened to who is the enemy and who is the friend. She will have to reckon with Israel's stable and allied presence in the Middle East. She will learn about Israel and the US partnership in keeping the Suez Canal open, how Israel allows the US to use Haifa as a port for the the 6th Fleet. She will learn about joint ventures in technology that help keep the world safe. And she will learn about how life is lived in the West Bank versus Gaza and how it got that way. And how Israel is the only functional democracy in the ME.

I believe Ilhan Omar can and will learn. She will figure out how alliances work, who is a friend to the US and who is not. If she's as smart as I think she is, she'll come to understand that Israel may not be perfect and quite frankly, it's current prime minister leaves a great deal to be desired as a moral, ethical, and non-criminal leader, but that ultimately Israel is a democracy, Israelis of all shapes, sizes, races, creeds, and colors manage to live in a country where they get to go to school, vote, protest, argue, exercise freedom of expression, and get a paycheck to support themselves and their families. She'll ultimately figure out what part is fairy tale and what part is pragmatism. 

Of course, her more recent forays into international tweeting do not bode well. She need to do a whole lotta remedial education before she takes to twitter as the leftist version of Feckless Leader. The recent tweet on Venezuela left her open to a variety of slams from a variety of sources. She tweeted:
A US backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump's efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican's efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.
Well, everyone jumped on that one. It was read as supportive of Maduro's dictatorship which the citizens of Venezuela seem intent on overthrowing. That said, the tweet is poorly worded and probably does not represent her position at all, judging on her leftist leanings. But again, she is naive, unschooled in the art and craft of international diplomacy, and when she tires of being a punchline, maybe she understand she needs that education. Opinion will only get you so far; one needs actual facts 

Let's get one thing straight, though: I am not Omar's biggest fan. She would not have been my choice for damn near any elected office, but for the moment, she is representing a Minnesotan district (the one in which the Junior Son and Mrs. Junior Son happen to live) and we are stuck with her for two years. We can either make the best of this, and try to get her educated, up and running on foreign relations, or we can wring our hands while trying to sandbag her. 

Hey! I'm a pragmatist. Let's see if Congresswoman Omar decides to learn about how the world really works before she shoots her mouth/fingers off. Look, she has potential. Unless she does something egregiously and unforgivably stupid, let's see what we can do to provide her with ample learning opportunities. We may never get a true ally outta the deal, but we might get a partner who believes there is a way to move forward in the Middle East. She survived camps in Somalia. She knows what civil war can do to a nation and its people; she has lived that scenario and can tell her own story. I'm not suggesting giving her a free pass on antisemitism or other stupidities...quite the opposite. I'm saying hold her completely responsible for what comes outta her brain...while at the same time, providing her with a broader range of information to make sure she's getting the whole picture and not relying on someone's--anyone's-- opinion.

We, the People of Minnesota voted her in; that was our choice. Now that's she seated in Congress, let's all step up to make sure she gets exposed to ALL sides of the foreign policy, not just the ME. 

Folks, this just might be is our best chance of creating one more partner for peace. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
We always have a choice:
we can complain or we can try to fix it. 
The latter is infinitely more satisfying.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Antisemitism: The Safe Hate

The Women's March has opened a rather large and crowded can of worms. Lots of people are upset about the national movement's apparent alignment with antisemitic rhetoric disguised as anti-Israel propaganda. Tamika Mallory made a feeble effort to proclaim herself not antisemitic the day before she declared Jews have no legitimate right to be in Israel. 

Before going any deeper into this topic, let me state in no uncertain terms that disagreeing with the Israeli government is just like disagreeing with the American government. You can criticize either without hate. It can be done. I do it every day and so, probably, do most Israelis and Americans. I will go on the record as stating I detest Netanyahu, his policies, and most of his coalition just like I detest Feckless Leader and his wacko cabinet, not to mention quite a few Republican and a few Democrat congressclowns. That does not make me anti-Israel; nor does it make me anti-American. In fact, not to voice an opinion would be a dereliction of my American civic responsibilities.

Are we clear on this? Good.

This episode deals specifically with antisemitism, the safe hate. 

If you've got 31 minutes be spare, listen to Tamika Mallory talking about how she is not antisemitic on The Breakfast Club. Then take a listen to her on PBS's Firing Line, less than 24 hours later; you can start at minute 16. She talks a lot about Jews of Color as if they are intrinsically different from Jews, and white Jews as white supremacists. There is some kind of wrong assumption that Jews are somehow racially categorized. That is patently not so. Jews are Jews. You can be any color you want. Color has nothing to do with being a Jew. What does have a lot to do with being a Jew is the understanding that Israel is our physical homeland. Jews are the indigenous people of that little slip of land. The historical record is pretty solid about that. Christians know Jesus was Jewish and lived there. Muslims know that Jerusalem was our holiest city and the Temple stood there long before their mosques. We didn't make the stuff up in 1948. We lived on that land for thousands of  years. We had governments rise and fall. We had currency. We had heads of states, revolutions, exiles, and returns to the land. One thousand years plus of liturgy focuses on Jerusalem as the center of our spiritual, historical, and economic world. This is not myth; physical anthropology demonstrates this is so. But that's not good enough for Tamika Mallory who believes only Palestinians are native to that area. In her language, not only don't we exist in the a historical record, the only Jews that should be included in her limited world view are Jews of color. I don't even know what that means. 

But the truth is, we are actually invisible. 

Kat Graham
We're not a race, we don't come in a single size, color, or nose shape, so even though you think you can pick us out in a crowd, you can't.  We aren't limited to a particular profession, so you can't just target pawnbrokers or landlords, or publishers, or movie producers, or doctors or lawyers, or even bankers. There's no guarantee any of those practitioners are Jewish. You can't even tell by a name: Whoopi Goldberg isn't Jewish, but singer Kat Graham is. We don't fit neatly into any slot, and there's a good reason for that: we're diverse. We're like the invisible friend, the one you blame stuff on. You can do that because you know there is no invisible friend and you know that a little diversion can buy you a little bit of time to bury the body.

The nice Germans peeked outside their windows and saw the roundups, but we weren't their problem, so they closed the curtains and pretended we didn't exist. They did, after all, profit from our disappearance, and who was to think anything of it? It was so easy to hate an amorphous group with no face, no identity, only a label, a little yellow star, with which to identify them. 

It's easy for the white supremacists to hate Jews because we're just a faceless clump. They don't associate us with faces, only innuendo, and if you don't know any Jews personally, well, the it's even easier to blame and hate.

It's equally easy for Tamika Mallory to hate white Jews because we're that same group of blank faces; we have no color, and we're not even the same color as most of the people in the Middle East. She cannot see we are the indigenous people who built that Temple Mount before it held the Mosque of Omar or Al-Aqsa. 

Mallory: The Palestinians are native to the land, you know? They were there for a very long time, and so they’re native to the land.

Hoover: Do you feel that the Jewish people are native, as well?

Mallory: I mean, I understand the history, that — that there are people who have a number of sort of ideologies around why the Jewish people feel this should be their land. I’m not Jewish, so for me to speak to that is not fair.

Hoover: But there are people who are concerned that the language, ‘native land,’ is used to delegitimize Jews from having a state.

Mallory: So, I’ve been very — Again, I’m not Jewish, and so I won’t speak to that. What I will speak to is that I believe that the Palestinians also need freedom in their land.

Hoover: But are Jews native people, also?

Mallory: That is not my call to make.

That's right, it's not her call; it's history's call. Despite overwhelming evidence of two successful kingdoms... an unbroken, constant Jewish presence on the land for over 4000 years... despite all that, she and her friends do not see us because we are not their call to make. Just like the Germans.

That makes us easy to hate. There is no single face, no individual, only a caricature, a cartoon, a meme. Just look at the text books from Gaza or Iran. We're nothing more than a badly drawn illustration. That's intentional. Show photographs, and suddenly we are real people. When you are the purveyor of hate, having your target appear human is not useful. 

Antisemitism, then, becomes the safe hate, the hate everyone else can join together to share. We are the consummate outsider, the invisible minority, the ultimate other. Who easier to dismiss than a mass of non-individuals no matter how diverse they are. They are not us, ergo, get rid of them.

For the record, y'know who also falls into that same ghost world of delegitimization? The Indigenous Nations of North America. Indigenous Peoples have been living in what is tantamount to work/concentration camps for so long, we don't even see it any more. What do you think the res is all about? The only difference between the res and Manzanar is that the res still exists. We should be aligning ourselves with them; we have a joint grievance here. No one wants to admit either group has claim to their own lands. This is not news.

None of this is going away any time soon, and that it's not just on the far right, but on the far left as well. We can all keep sticking our heads in the sand, or we can start having serious discussions about what happens next. The choice is really ours. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Ostriches don't really stick their heads in the sand.
Only humans do that. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Collusion Means Never Having To Say You're Guilty

I spent a whole lotta years doing theater stuff. My MFA is in directing, I spent some 30 years as a working children's playwright, I've coached, done jury selection, and worked in a variety of performance media as extra eyes and ears. One thing I have always done well is actor analysis. I'm really good at casting and specialized coaching. Even though I don't do it officially any more, I get enough calls for assistance to keep a finger on the keyboard and my eyes on the stage. 

Kevin, Prince of Bad Acting
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I think Feckless Leader is, above and beyond all comparison, a bad actor. Not just on his television show, but any time he takes the mic. He cannot read from a teleprompter. He relies on his very small vocabulary when he runs outta rehearsed phrases. Huge, stuff, really-really, unbelievable, things...all non-specific, all general, all simplistic. He lacks the basic understanding of facts v. opinion, reality v. fantasy, and truth v. falsehood. In so many ways, we have become inured to this. We cluck our tongues and wonder when everyone else is going to figure out there is something clinically wrong with the guy who's supposed to be running the country.

The word aphasic comes to mind. The National Aphasia Association defines it this way:
Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.
Symptoms include:
  • Speak in short or incomplete sentences
  • Speak in sentences that don't make sense
  • Substitute one word for another or one sound for another
  • Speak unrecognizable words
  • Not understand other people's conversation
  • Write sentences that don't make sense 
Now, I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but I've been around a number of aphasic people, including actors. No joke, I've known a several of older actors who were decidedly aphasic and had excellent coping mechanism to deal with the issue. Our president is not one of them. He struggles at most public speaking events these days, and it seems to be getting worse.  All cofefe aside, his address from the Oval Office last week convinced me I'm can't be too far off the mark. 

Not only was he reciting in a flat, atonal, speaking voice, his cadence did not make sense. His pauses were not where pauses should've been. It was as if he was doing simultaneous speaking while being cued through an earpiece. The level of the language was significantly higher than the level of language he uses when speaking off-the-cuff. 

I cannot shake the sense that he is being fed lines. Watch his face, listen to his voice. Don't let the hands distract you. Whoever wrote the speech was trying to make him sound like an educated adult, but it didn't match how he talks in real life. He's been rehearsed, but only so far. Bad acting does not begin to sum up the danger of this performance. 

Look, if the guy has dementia or some kind of diminished capacity, it really should be addressed sooner rather than later. Although if you've never seen DAVE with Kevin Kline, you should. Instead of getting a benevolent, kind, and generous body double, this one is sounding increasingly like Steven Miller with each outburst. 

Maybe it's time to play Barack and Michelle's favorite parlor game:

WWTDIODT ~What Would They Do If Obama Did That?

Now, I happen to know I have a fair number of Republican readers, so you tell me, if Obama refused to turn over tax returns, or routinely spouted easily documented falsehoods and lies about taxes and immigration in interviews, or continually mocked the disabled, called fellow lawmakers insulting names, and discredited the free press, not to mention hid any and all records of private meetings with world leaders....what would your response be?  At what point is our president accountable for his words and actions? 

I think the most recent exposure of Iowa Congressclown Steve King is highly symbolic of the GOP. So long as no one figures out you're a racist, it's okay to keep on being one. Yeah, they stripped him of his committees and they made a bunch of statements abhorring his words, but who amongst them hasn't stood by silently allowing the same thing? King's fellow GOP members of the House and Senate have stood by this guy for 8 terms and never noticed? Now that the conservatives are "turning against white supremacists," that's supposed to solve the problem? Really? What planet are these people on anyway? 

Oh, yeah. Must be the same one Democrats supporting Tulsi Gabbard for president seem to be inhabiting. The air must be very thin.

The bottom line is that racism, anti-semitism, white supremacy, and isolationism are all part and parcel of a GOP-led government. There is nothing shocking, secret, or amazing about it. It's always been there, but it took a total asshole like Steve King to make it a public spectacle. This is not news, folks, and if We, the People, let it become a diversion calling out the widespread cancer in that party, then we really did get the government we deserve. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the FBI revealed there was an investigation into the possibility that Feckless worked for Russia...well, let's see what conclusion Mueller draws. I kinda wish Ziggy was here....this would send him right over the edge. It's a John le Carré novel come to life. It would also give Ziggy the big one. I know how that mind worked; there would've been lots of yelling at the TV. 

Well, at least Feckless Leader has stopped talking about collusion. I suppose that's progress. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Real liberals don't embrace racist, homophobic, anti-semitic leaders;
they distance and disavow themselves for Louis Farrakhan 
without be asked. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Losing America And Losing Chewie.

Recently, I was scolded for saying the United States was en route to becoming a Third World nation. 

How many of you actually know what the First, Second, Third, and Fourth World mean? I would venture to guess very few know the actual difference. And I wasn't really wrong when I said We, the People were heading in that direction. 

So, here's a little geopolitical history:
The First, Second, Third, and Fourth world designations are holdovers from the Cold War, and the phrase was probably coined by Mao Zedong: 
  • First World nations are the ones who allied with the United States after World War II and into the Cold War... a/k/a the original NATO allies: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, West Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The list has changed a bit, but this is close enough for government work. 
  • Second World nations were the ones that aligned with China and Russia a/k/a the old Iron Curtain/Soviet Bloc countries. 
  • Third World nations were ones who remained un-allied. However, now they are the "developing nations," classified by various indices: their Political Rights and Civil Liberties, the Gross National Income (GNI) and Poverty of countries, the Human Development of countries (HDI), and the Freedom of Information within a country. 
  • Fourth World nations, a comparatively new designation, were originally cultural entities. The fourth world refers to "nations", e.g., cultural entities and ethnic groups, of indigenous people who do not compose states in the traditional sense. Now, however, it's more commonly used to describe the most poverty-stricken, and economically troubled parts of countries in the Third World.

Since Feckless Leader is working hard to shred all our alliances, we are no longer closely tied to the other First World nations, making the US pretty much an outlier. Since we don't align (at least not officially) with Russia and China, the US isn't a Second World nation. As for Third World, well, draw your own conclusion.

Common parlance presupposed Third World nations to have high rates of poverty and maternal and neonatal death rates; lack potable water, comprehensive public education, and have a generally low standard of living. 

Approximately 14% of the US total population lives in poverty. This is a tough number  to reconcile because it doesn't accurately reflect households where income may be above poverty but expenses like health insurance, heat, and water may reduce that income to no discretionary spending for essentials like clothing and transportation. Nor does it take into account separate populations like Indigenous Americans still living in dire conditions on reservations, inner city minority populations, or rural/agricultural populations who continue to live in almost subsistence mode. Those are not only pockets of poverty, they are also often food and medical deserts where those services are unavailable to the local population. 

Potable water is problematic not only in Flint, Michigan, but anywhere where unregulated manufacturing and mining has polluted the ground water. Cancer clusters are not the anomaly they once were. People remaining in those areas are there because they could not afford to get out. Remember Erin Brockovich? She was right all along. 

The Maternal Death rate in the most developed nations: 

Pretty shocking, huh? How can we continue to deny health insurance to the local population? One would think an entire party that views a woman as an incubator would want to make sure women are healthy enough to bear children. But, NO! They may force a woman to carry a fetus to term, but they do  nothing to improve the chances of a live birth. And speaking of live births.....

Of the 27 most developed nations in the world, the US also had the highest infant mortality rate in 2014: 582 infant deaths per 100,000 live births. Both race and economic strata were significant contributing factors. Denying minority women access to health care is hardhearted and cruel to those children they were forced to carry to term. 

Public education is progressively underfunded. Class sizes are excessive in most school districts. Teachers are underpaid and undervalued and no one wants to be a teacher because it's a lose/lose career. Lousy pay, lousy hours, and no readily available supplies...unless you buy them yourself. If you don't love it, you shouldn't do it. You give everything you've got to the kids, and even then it's not enough. Our kids deserve better and they're not getting it. We're losing our competitive edge in maths and sciences. All too often, advanced education is simply unaffordable for too many talented kids making it just plain unattainable. Not much separates too many of our inner city and out-state rural kids from the kids on  streets all over the globe. 

No education, no jobs with upward mobility. We doom an entire generation and  significant segment of the population to low income, high poverty, and conditions that breed high crime rates. It really is a vicious cycle. 

The slide is no longer imperceptible; we feel ourselves swirling down into the maelstrom more acutely every day. We see it in the lies from the podium, we hear it in the hateful rhetoric from both sides, and we watch it in dog-whistle ads that are starting to show up on television. We, the People are not stupid; we get it. We are aware of what's happening. Now, the only thing left is to see if we can find a middle ground in which we can stand together to fight off the inevitable. 

Feckless Leader will be addressing the nation tomorrow night from the Oval Office. Addresses like that carry a certain gravitas, and are usually reserved for sorrowful events.  This one is of his own making. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

Losing a pet is akin to losing a person you love. 
They are beings. You love them, they love you.
Even if he's a grandpuppy.

May Chewie's memory be for a blessing.