Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
It's been over a month since I blogged.
Not for lack of material to write about.
For lack of mental space.
And physical too.
You see, the Three Babes were all home at once and the Urban Bungalow was a glorious Grand Central Station of kids, young adults, voices, Pomeranians, food, laughter, yelling, fights, food, movies, music videos, manga, food, anime, opera, tears, recriminations, spontaneous songs, jibes, sleeping bodies on couches, floors and every available surface.
In other words, Sheer Overwhelm.
This business of watching your kids grow up is grueling. It is at once exciting and thrilling and beyond belief that you have spawned humanoids who are your size or larger, who can borrow or steal your clothes, who always seem low on cash and perk up at the mention of eating out, who want you around... in judicious doses, who go through marvelous relationships and heart-rending breakups, who suddenly seem to take up more space and time than previously...and then who vanish back to their regularly-scheduled lives, leaving you relieved and bereft at the same time.
So, first Big Babe came home from his perch in Berlin...and then, a week later, Middle Babe returned from her South African adventure. Looking pretty much exactly as I remembered them, they seemed truly joyous to be returned to their mothership, delighted to be back in New York City, happily reunited with our family apartment, with their friends, with my cooking, with us.
There were a few bumpy patches in their relationship with the sibling still at home, their lil bro' Little Babe, an eighth grader -- nothing major, just a low-grade, simmering resentment that took the form of barbs and comments and meanish observations to us about the various ways in which we were screwing up in our parenting of him.
When last we were together, it was for his exuberant, weekend-long bar mitzvah this past June and shortly afterward the older sibs departed for their respective adventures. I can still recall my pride and relief at the family harmony that prevailed during this time.
Now, re-entering the family home after their several months' absence, I felt the older two carefully sniffing around, trying to ascertain exactly how much extra love and attention the youngest sibling was getting in their joint absence.
Which I see as perfectly natural.
In any case, it is well over a month since Big Babe got off that plane from Berlin, unshaven and mustachioed and wearing a Eurohipster get-up, which we teased him about for weeks. And it is just over a month since Middle Babe returned from Grahamstown, South Africa, looking resplendent and rested despite a 23-hour journey, proudly sporting the tan she got in Port Elizabeth.
This evening, we drove Big Babe to JFK to catch his flight back to Berlin, and I am sad and wistful and happy that I blew off work midday to go to the Marlene Dumas and Miro exhibitions at MOMA with him.
In a few weeks' time, Middle Babe returns to her college in Maryland and a certain tranquility will be restored to our apartment. Little Babe is a relatively low-maintenance child, not yet in the habit of having friends over at all hours, though he is up now, well after midnight, watching The Wedding Crashers with his friend Joe, who is sleeping over tonight...and possibly the next three nights, and he had his friends Mo and Colin sleep over Saturday night, but still, they are relatively small people occupying our not-large apartment, somehow less obtrusive than the sleepover guests of Middle and Big Babe, who are our size or larger.
This business of parenting children who grow up, leave, come back and then leave again, is fraught with emotional peril. I am a mother who has always celebrated days off from school, unstructured time with my kids, snow days, Sunday adventures without end. I have hardly minded when HOBB left the kids solely in my care in order to finish writing a book or a project, in fact, I often breathed a deep sigh of relief.
This time, however, with everyone around, there was palpable tension as our family struggled to find its equilibrium now that so many variables had changed. Two of the members are older than 20 now, the youngest -- so long a baby -- is now a teen. One has traveled halfway around the globe and seen things none of us have. Upon her return home, she proclaimed her vegetarianism. Another has forged a life and career for himself in a foreign country and language.
And the parents have changed as well, with one settling into middle age in quantifiable ways, and the other more restless than ever.
So here is a snapshot of our new family-in-transition, taken in the middle of the night, two days before the beginning of the New Year, on the heels of the most astonishing political victory of our lifetime, on the cusp of a terrifying new future, from the ashes of the Bernard Madoff scandal, in the early throes of a dangerous war in Israel and Palestine: one family member -- the eldest son -- thousands of miles away, six hours into his flight, nearing his adopted home in Berlin; another -- the middle child -- our only daughter, asleep in her loft bed at our home; the third child -- our youngest son -- watching a totally inappropriate movie on our couch with his buddy and our dogs; the father, the husband -- long asleep -- snoring softly in our bed; and finally, the fifth member -- me -- the mother, the wife, the watcher in the night, writing to seal this moment as a fly in amber, as an aerobic activity for my restless soul, as a balm against sadness.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
How else to explain my 9 am appointment at Dr. Low's office, on this sunny yet chilly late autumn morning, my 48th birthday?
Sylvia the dental hygienist was perfectly nice... as nice as one could be while sadistically scraping off plaque from the 18 months that had lapsed between today and my last dental appointment.
When I wryly remarked that this was a helluva way to spend my birthday, she praised me for doing something positive for my teeth as I was nearing 50 -- the age when people's teeth evidently start rotting or falling out.
And suggested that I buy myself the new Oral B electric toothbrush as a birthday gift.
As Little Babe might say: Oh Joy.
So, yeah, it's my birthday and good wishes have come from near and far.
Middle Babe, in the final stretch of her semester at Rhodes University in South Africa sent me a BBM advising me to go for a birthday mani-pedi, massage and two-hour workout. SOBB (Sister of Bungalow Babe) in Jerusalem said she hoped I would enjoy some recreational shopping, seconding the suggestion of some personal grooming in honor of this special day.
POBB (parents of Bungalow Babe), whom I will see for dinner later today, called to express shock that their eldest child had reached such an advanced age. FOBB (father of Bungalow Babe), an ordained rabbi, informed me that his only association with the number 48 was a Midrashic rendering of the metaphysical 48 Gates of Impurity that the People of Israel had to pass through on their way to the Holy Land.
Big Babe, newly home from Berlin, regaled me with his LOUD rendition of Happy Birthday on the trumpet he taught himself to play while I attempted not to spill my coffee on myself. Little Babe sleepily wished me a "Happy Birthday" when I roused him from sleep, throwing warm arms around my neck and kissing me on my hair before I yelled at him to get dressed and downstairs in five minutes flat.
Alfie and Nala the Pomeranians gave me special birthday barks and licks. At least, they sounded like special birthday barks. And the licks felt celebratory.
BOBB and SILOBOB (brother and sister-in-law of Bungalow Babe) sent text messages of love and good wishes.
And HOBB presented me with the birthday gift he thoughtfully bought me this morning while out walking Alfie and Nala: a pound bag of Oren's Beowulf Blend coffee and a melange of celebrity and fashion magazines.
I tried to recall the taste of the Beowulf Blend, the blare of Big Babe's trumpet, the warmth of Little Babe's sleepy arms, the sweetness of Middle Babe's text messages and the relaxation of a pedicure as I lay helplessly in Dr. Low's chair, held hostage by a woman named Sylvia who hacked at my sensitive teeth, wielding instruments of gum destruction while a steady stream of my blood and saliva got slurped up by a loud vacuum device stuck into the side of my mouth.
My efforts were in vain. Every nerve of my being was marinating in a stew of misery.
It is now nearly 2:30 in the afternoon. Starting at 3:00, I've got two interviews to conduct and an hour-long phone conference at 4:00.
At 5:10, I need to leave to pick up Little Babe from Afterschool and then the Bungalow Family heads out to Queens to join POBB for my birthday dinner at an Israeli restaurant. It doesn't look like a mani-pedi, recreational shopping trip or massage is in the cards for today.
However, if I run out to Duane Reade in the next half hour, I'll be able to pick myself up a new Oral B electric toothbrush. Sylvia gave me a coupon for a $10 rebate for the Triumph model.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday brought us Rahm.
There is a new zeitgeist in America.
And not just politically.
The era of George, John, Bill, Sarah, Dick, Laura, Cindy and the rest of the prototypical American names has just drawn to a close.
A new era has dawned, bringing with it a wealth of new, poetic names from other lands and languages.
Barack: from the Hebrew baruch, or blessing. Also, Hebrew for lightening.
Rahm: Hebrew for mighty.
What was once foreign is now part of our national landscape.
To this American woman, possessed of a Hebrew name, there is reason to rejoice.
The lexicon and heart of our nation has just expanded, becoming greater, more blessed, more mighty.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
God Bless America.
Her citizenry came through, turning out in record numbers at the polling stations in city and suburb, in red and blue states alike, throughout this great nation.
She pulled the lever as if with one hand, voting in Barack Obama to be her next president.
The modern-day Moses whose daunting task it is to lead this great nation out of the shackles of underachievement and towards our great destiny.
No one of this generation will ever forget the evening of November 4th, 2008, especially that electrifying moment when the race was called.
At my election night party on W106th Street we erupted into wild cheering as we stood around the television. "Wait...is this real? Can we trust this??" I asked my host, afraid to believe that yes, we did overcome.
"Yes!!!!" he shouted. "Yes!!!!! We did it!!! Obama won!!!!!"
Obama's victory set off the cheer that was heard around the world. In an instant, my far-flung family -- HOBB and Middle Babe in Grahamstown, South Africa, Big Babe in Berlin, Little Babe watching from our Columbia U apartment -- was united in real time.
Watching with his American friends in Berlin, Big Babe shot me a text: "He won!!!!!!" Little Babe called me on my cell. "Obama won!!!!" he shouted into my ear. And, as promised, I called HOBB on his cell though it was 5 am. Sleepily, my husband said, "Omigod!! Wow!!!!!Mazel Tov. Say a shehechiyanu."
The Jewish prayer that is recited at firsts.
The message of last night's historic victory is that hope is stronger than fear.
Barack Obama, welcome to the White House.
America -- congratulations on a job well done.
Baruch atah adonai, elohainu melech haolam, shehechiyanu, v'keymanu, v'higianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are you, O God, ruler of the world, for sustaining me and keeping me alive to witness the wondrous events of this day
Monday, November 03, 2008
Optimism (noun): A positive attitude. A conviction that the glass is half-full. The belief that the sun'll come up tomorrow. Casting a vote for Barack Obama.
Barack Obama (proper noun): 21st century transformational leader. Visionary politician. Son of the American dream. Product of the great melting pot. Mighty symbol of transcendence for millions of Americans. Target of fear, suspicion and hatred for others. Black, white and all the colors of the rekindled promise of our nation.
Voting (verb): An American privilege. An American obligation. a toast to the future.
The Future (noun): What is yet to be. The day after today. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Unknown but indications are strong for optimism. Still, there are shpilkes. These last hours are crazy-making. Our entire nation is on the edge of its collective seat. We need Barack Obama, oh how we need Barack Obama to lead us out of despair and into our glorious future.
So the piece went to press without his contribution and came out just fine. Appearing in the Friday paper it gave a reality check to the scariness factor of Khalidi, the latest bogeyman produced by the McCain campaign in an ever-more-desperate attempt to scare voters out of electing Obama as the first Secret Muslim-Terrorist-Non-American-Socialist-Israel-Hating President this week.
(Hey Sarah...did I leave anything out? Maybe leader of the pro-abortion movement that John mentioned in that last debate? Oooohh...how about Baby-Killing-Godless-Anti-American?)
Here is a snippet from HOBB's belated email response to the Times reporter about Khalidi, which he shared with me this morning:
i don't agree with his point of view, but he is a reasonable man worth hearing out. in fact, he came and gave a guest lecture in my "Covering Religion" seminar when i was focusing on Israel in 2006. He came and talked to my class? I guess I should never run for public office!
And it is that last sentence, of course, which is the crux of the issue. Would HOBB pass muster with the Guilt-by-Association police because of his own Khalidi konnection?
As I wrote in my last post, I am not stating that Rashid Khalidi is necessarily good news for the Jews but he is not an anti-Semite nor is he to be counted among those anti-Zionists who have called for the destruction of Israel.
He is pro-Palestinian and yes, has used some questionable language in talking about Israel. But that is not the point I wish to make.
The point is that Rashid Khalidi has NOTHING to do with Barack Obama's presidency.
And reasonable, honest people of all political persuasions know it.
And the further point is that the Shady Character Degree of Separation game has run its course.
In this presidential campaign and hopefully forever more.
And if you don't believe me, I invite you to play the game...with yourself.
Think of EVERY person you have EVER met in the course of your lifetime and make a list.
Then, put a scary red dot next to anyone who:
Did something illegal
Caused a scandal
Said something racist at a party
Said something stupid at a party
Acted like a d-bag
Has political views that differ from yours
Pissed anyone off
Is related to anyone who did something illegal, caused a scandal, said something racist at a party, said something stupid at a party, acted like a d-bag, stole, cheated or has political views that differ from your own....or pissed anyone off.
See where I'm going with this?
You would not want to be a proxy for your friends, your colleagues, your clients, someone you sat next to on the subway, someone who said something stupid or ugly at an event you attended, someone you sat next to at a dinner party or a professor you had once.
We deserve to be judged by our own words and deeds and wardrobe and haircuts, including the horrible ones from the seventies.
Judge me by my values and my policies. By my track record. By my writings, my legacy, my cooking, the music I listen to, the books I read, the impact I have made...just me, myself and I.
But please, please, please...do not confuse me with my old gynecologist who went to jail for molesting patients and my Anabaptist friend who believes that homosexuality is a sin or my former boyfriend's sister who was a bigamist or my Shabbat host who calls black people shvartzes, or the Rubashkin's chicken breast I bought three years ago before I knew what crooks the owners were or the rich right-winger who sends me emails telling me that if Obama is elected president, he will have homeless people sleeping on his living room floor and he works hard for his money and doesn't deserve to have to subsidize sub-humans who earn less than him, or my state governor who was paying big bucks for sex with hookers or anything else that is not remotely related to me.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I was driving up to Riverdale yesterday to retrieve Little Babe from choir practice when my BlackBerry buzzed.
It was an anti-Obama ROBB (relative of Bungalow Babe), calling to ask me how I could possibly overlook Obama's association with the Monster of the Moment -- Rashid Khalidi.
So I flipped the speaker button on my BlackBerry and responded to the McCain campaign's latest smear-by-association tactic, a tired and wholly ineffective effort to link Barack Obama with a super-scary personality, by
- Exaggerating the demonic qualities of the particular person, and
- Exaggerating Obama's "friendship" or connection with said scary person
Readers of this blog will recall my penchant for hitting the Reply All button when I receive a hateful chain email.
Because of my Reply All response two weeks ago to such an email that revived the Secret Muslim identity rumor PLUS the Bill Ayers "close" connection, I have been excommunicated from some anti-Obama listservs, thank God.
So, I guess I missed the latest hysteria surrounding the Rashid Khalidi "discovery," the flurry of urgent emails going around that portrayed the revelation of this insidious "relationship" to be as momentous as today's archeological findings from Israel. (See http://www.cnn.com/.)
I leave it up to informed American voters to visit the innumerable news sites that debunk the Obama-Khalidi cabal and take the zing out of the alarming allegations about Khalidi's past associations with the PLO or alleged anti-Semitism.
I also leave it up to informed American voters to read about John McCain's past financial support of an initiative headed by Rashid Khalidi. Kinda falls into the "look who's calling the kettle black," category, dontcha think?
And while I am hardly on the record as saying that Rashid Khalidi is good news for the Jews, I argue against the demonization of someone with a complex CV, yes, but who cannot be lumped together with sworn enemies of Israel or the Jewish people.
So, I don't know if my arguments made a dent on my anti-Obama relative but I did have a chance to reiterate my mantra:
- Stop watching only Fox News; it is propagandistic. Expand your news sources
- Stop believing every rabble-rousing, Republican-sponsored email that comes your way
- Investigate what leading Jewish groups have said about Barack Obama
- Get out of the shul or shtetl where anti-Obamaism has become the new religion and hear from Jews with other views
On the morning of Halloween, the tactics of the McCain campaign have become crystal clear: if Palin and policy fail to persuade the American public, go knocking door to door and try to scare people to death with the message that Obama's presidency will be a horror show.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
If you haven't tuned in, you owe it to yourself to visit this moment of political history-in-the-making. Here's the link to the video clip that the Guardian put up: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/30/barack-obama-bill-clinton-florida
While I watched the nightly news, HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe) was en route to South Africa to visit our beautiful 20-year-old daughter, Middle Babe. He had three suitcases in tow, the two large ones filled with items for our daughter and the 30 kids she teaches in a township outside of Rhodes University, where she is studying ethnomusicology for a semester.
Among these items -- which include a huge salami, Sephora goodies, plush toys, art supplies, celebrity magazines, clothes from American Apparel, Urban Outfitters and Forever 21, 100-calorie snack bags, low-carb muffins, socks, towels and a Best of Mike Myers DVD set -- were several campaign buttons for Barack Obama.
These buttons were for the shoeless children she teaches, to show them that a black man could run for president of the United States. And maybe even win.
Watching Bill Clinton address the energized proBama crowd last night, I thought of the Hillaryites I know, the vast majority of whom have made the transition over to the Barack camp, perhaps reluctantly at first, but now, with passion and conviction.
I thought of the conversation I had with an octogenarian I met at the Covenant dinner, held on Tuesday night at the Pierre hotel. Tall and regal, she is a respected leader in American Jewish life. The issue of the presidential race came up and I held back on my views, unfairly assuming -- from her age -- that she would be a McCain supporter.
Looking me square in the eyes, this elegant grande dame told me in no uncertain terms, "You have to be a moron to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin. And you have to be an idiot to believe what they are saying about Barack Obama. This business about Israel being endangered if he is elected is sheer nonsense. AIPAC endorsed both candidates. I wish people would just open their minds and their eyes."
I couldn't have said it better.
And speaking of Jews who make the case for Obama, please read author and tireless Jewish advocate Deborah Lipstadt on why she -- a former Hillary supporter -- is voting for Barack on Tuesday:
Op-Ed: Learning to Love Obama after Clinton 's Defeat
Deborah E. Lipstadt
Published: 10/10/2008ATLANTA (JTA) -- I am one of those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. I was a Hillary supporter. I did not support Senator Clinton because she was a woman but because I liked her policies and record. But as is often the case in life, my hopes were not to be. Once that became clear I sat on the sidelines, watching and wondering.
Now I am firmly in the Obama/Biden camp.
I have been both pushed and pulled in that direction. I am there as an American, a woman and a Jew. John McCain is a firm pro-lifer, having voted against choice more than 120 times in his career. His running mate opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest.
While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with these beliefs, I object to having someone's personal views forced upon everyone else when it entails such a private family matter.
Furthermore, this view potentially conflicts with Jewish law, which holds that when there is a threat to the life of the mother, her life takes precedence over that of her fetus -- and leaves abortion decisions up to a woman and the rabbi with whom she consults.
Many traditional rabbis take into consideration the issue of mental stress on the mother, permitting abortions in the case of Tay-Sachs and other genetic diseases.
Were McCain and Sarah Palin to write their pro-life beliefs into law, their policy could create both a direct obstacle to Jewish law and severe invasions into our private lives.McCain's views on abortion are not, however, my primary reason for not supporting him. I find myself diverging with him on a far broader array of issues.
The Torah repeatedly instructs us to care for the "widow, orphan, poor, and the stranger." It is fundamental to Judaism that those who are blessed with "more" have an obligation -- not a choice -- to help those who have less.
Taking care of the needy in Jewish tradition constitutes doing tzedaka, not charity. There is a world of difference between the two.
The root of charity is "caras," as in dear -- caress, care. The root of tzedaka is justice. Jewish law prefers that people give charity lovingly and kindly.But Jewish law teaches, even if you don't care to give, that you are obligated to do so.
How then could I support McCain, who has voted against the minimum wage at least 10 times? How could I support someone who believes in the privatization of Social Security? Can you imagine what would be happening today as the economy lurches toward implosion to people who depended on private Social Security accounts? Social Security is a contract a society makes with its citizens: We will help you when you are old and needy.
How could I support a candidate, McCain, whose health-care program would leave millions uninsured and tax the health insurance benefits we now receive from our employers? How could I support someone who supports more tax cuts for the very wealthy and almost nothing for the middle class or the poor?And then, of course, there is Israel, to which so many of us are deeply and viscerally connected.
Groups of Jews who oppose Barack Obama want to strike fear into people's hearts on this issue.Why else would I regularly receive e-mails from them -- I like to know what the other side is saying -- referring to BHO, as in Barrack Hussein Obama? Obama's record has earned him praise from AIPAC and Israeli leaders, as well as condemnation from Palestinian leaders.
The recently defunct, solidly pro-Israel New York Sun declared in an editorial earlier this year: "Mr. Obama's commitment to Israel , as he has articulated it so far in his campaign, is quite moving and a tribute to the broad, bipartisan support that the Jewish state has in America ."
Moreover, the paper noted, "he has chosen to put himself on the record in terms that Israel 's friends in America , at least those not motivated by pure political partisanship, can warmly welcome."Leaders in Israel -- on both sides of the political spectrum -- do not fear Obama's commitment to Israel.
Israeli leaders from Ehud Barak to Benjamin Netanyahu were impressed by Obama. Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader, told the Jerusalem Post that he was "impressed with Obama's understanding of the Iranian threat and that they both agreed that a nuclear Iran was unacceptable."
Netanyahu also said that he and Obama agreed on the importance of "preventing a nuclear Tehran " and that "when it came to stopping Iran there were no politics."What about the famous "experience" conundrum?
Obama's familiarity with the issues has impressed many people, including the veteran journalist David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post. Horowitz compared his recent interviews with Presi dent Bush and Senators McCain and Obama.
When he met a few months ago with Bush in the Oval Office, the president -- who at this point is "presumably as expert on Israeli-Palestinian policy as he is ever going to be" -- brought with him "no fewer than five advisers and spokespeople during a 40-minute interview," Horowitz wrote.
On his whirlwind visit to Israel, "McCain, one of whose primary strengths is said to be his intimate grasp of foreign affairs, chose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview" and "looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction."
Horowitz's meeting with Obama was markedly different. Obama "spoke with only a single aide in his hotel room." (The aide's only contribution was to suggest that Obama and Horowitz switch seats, so the Post photographer would have better lighting.)
Obama did not lack for Middle East advisers. Dennis Ross, President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Middle East and one who is widely respected for his knowledge and commitment to a secure peace settlement, and Daniel Kurtzer, the former ambassador to Israel and Yeshiva University graduate and its former dean, were "hovering in the vicinity," Horowitz wrote, but they were not in the room.
Horowitz observed that Obama "knew precisely what he wanted to say about the most intricate issues confronting and concerning Israel , and expressed himself clearly, even stridently on key subjects."
Contrast that with Sarah Palin's rote repetition three times during the Charlie Gibson interview of precisely the same phrase about Israel that "We can't second-guess Israel ." Is that all she has to say? Can she only speak in sound bites? Does she have any knowledge of the nuances of the situation?
The same thing happened in the vice-presidential debate. Palin spewed a lot of talking points -- two-state solution, no second Holocaust, embassy in Jerusalem -- but demonstrated no real familiarity with the situation.
I firmly believe that those who know the history and nuances of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the track record of the different players cannot help but come down on the side of a safe and secure Israel. But in order to help broker a real peace, they must know much more than rote talking points.
Many Jews, myself included, were deeply disturbed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's most controversial comments, but there is nothing in Obama's record to indicate that he adheres to Wright's views. I was glad to hear Obama forcefully and publicly denounce them.Contrast that with Palin, who sat in her church while a Jews for Jesus leader, David Brickner, preached that terrorism in Israel is God's "judgment" against Jews for failing to accept Jesus?
Maybe she said nothing because she did not understand the implication's of Brickner's words, but that would be even more disturbing.When Palin first ran for mayor of Wasilla, she did so as the town's "first Christian mayor." What does that have to do with being mayor? Is this someone you want a heartbeat away from America 's oldest president, a man who has had multiple bouts with cancer?
Lest someone assume that I am contemptuous of her deep religious commitment, let me stress that it is the contrary. In my work and life I find myself more comfortable with those who are deeply committed to their faith -- whatever that faith may be -- than those who are totally unconnected and, even worse, contemptuous of those who are. I just don't want them imposing their faith on me.
Finally, let's talk about the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of many people's election ballots. Jews have prospered in this country in countless and unimaginable ways. America has given us tremendous opportunities. While no one should vote for Barack Obama because he is black, the fact that a black man is a nominee for the highest office in the land constitutes an affirmation of the fact that at long last, some of the final barriers of discrimination are crumbling.
For Jews it is yet another reminder of the blessings this country has offered them and other minorities.
For me, the choice is clear.
Deborah E. Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and author of "History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving
Monday, October 27, 2008
From the very moment Barack Obama entered the presidential race, there has been a basic belief among some Jews that a victory for him would be RUINOUS for World Jewry, but especially so for the State of Israel.
And though there is not a smidgen of evidence in Barack Obama's public record to back up this belief, it has become the battle cry of the Jewish anti-Obamaists, many of whom are prone to expressing amazement that a fellow Jew might be so liberal or deluded as to fail to see this incontrovertible "fact."
But as I have discovered through the course of many fruitless conversations with Jewish anti-Obamaists, facts are useless in the face of fear, innuendo, rumor, lies, racism, Michelle Malkin and Fox News.
And this discovery, as I have written in this blog, has left me deeply depressed because I expect more from Jews. After all, I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where the vast majority of Jews I encounter are fervent supporters of Obama.
For months, we Jews of the Upper West Side have watched in admiration as Barack Obama revealed himself to the American public as a smart, classy, charismatic leader who has run a commendably clean campaign, an advocate for the average American, a thoughtful, true maverick fully capable of restoring the badly tarnished honor of the United States. One by one, the defections from the Republican party have affirmed the power of Barack Obama's vision. The advisors he has accumulated are a Democratic dream team.
Likewise, we have watched in horrified fascination as John McCain, once a respected public figure, disintegrated before our very eyes into a snarling, nasty old man who cannot seem to articulate a clear vision for America -- especially for the economy -- or identify what separates him from the ruinous presidency of George W. Bush.
Cringing, we heard him speak disrespectfully to Barack Obama during the presidential debates, fail to tamp down radical rhetoric by lunatics like Rush Limbaugh, invent the now-laughable fraudulent American Everyman Joe the Plumber, recycle his tired talking points in every single interview he grants, and -- the kiss of death -- name Sarah Palin to his ticket.
Sarah Palin in a position of national power is a scenario that should send a chill up the spine of every single Jew in the world. From her abortion stand to her scientific views to her creepy theology, the nightmarish prospect of her nomination is a cause that should unite all Jews under the rubric of "Hell, no!"
Over the past few months, we Upper West Side Jews have congregated in shuls and on street corners, in each other's homes and at social events, seeking each other out like members of a support group because we all seem to know someone -- usually living in the suburbs and a family member-- who is a Jewish anti-Obamaist.
We have traded tales of frustrating conversations and tense arguments, expressing our puzzlement that the very things we see as laudatory about Obama are viewed as negative by right-leaning Jews. We bemoaned the Islamaphobia that had taken root. We rolled our eyes at the anti-Obama emails we received: Obama is a terrorist. Obama is a Muslim. Obama is not an American.
We tried to determine how much fear and how much covert racism fueled the beliefs of the anti-Obamaists.
Above all, we marveled that such divergent views of reality could co-exist in this country among educated people.
Well, imagine my relief this morning when I read that Jewish anti-Obamaism is a limited phenomenon.
According to the latest Gallup poll, American Jews support Barack Obama 3 to 1.
Seventy-Five percent of American Jews favor Barack Obama for President of the United States.
This cheers me almost as much as the guarantee of his victory. Am Yisrael Chai. My people have not totally lost their minds.
Od lo avda tikvataynu. All hope is not lost.
And baruch haba, Baruch Obama.
Welcome, Barack Obama.
The American Jewish community awaits you with open arms.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Okay, so I have to admit that I turned a number of heads yesterday in midtown as I raced along 7th Avenue to my 3 pm meeting.
"Nice boots!" a heroin addict noted as I stepped over him, slumped against the Citibank across from Macy's.
"Great dress!" enthused a girl whom I nearly knocked down rushing to make my appointment.
"Love those shades," purred a professional pick-up artist in the lobby of the building as I stood in line behind him for security clearance.
"You look mahhhvelous!" gushed the entire female staff of the non-profit organization as I entered their office.
Beaming, I revealed the provenance -- and price tag -- of my ensemble:
Black Knit Dress -- Loehmann's, $29.99
Short Red Corduroy Jacket -- Old Navy from, like, six years ago, end-of-season clearance, $14.99
Black Tights -- Target, $4.99
Black Bead Necklace -- Filene's Basement, $39
Black Knit Scarf -- Gap, a big splurge at $45
Black High Boots -- Nine West, $69
Black Sunglasses -- Target, $6.99
And there you have it -- a fabulous urban fashion statement for less than what Sarah Palin spent in, oh, about five minutes.
In the space of one week, the McCain-Palin campaign has introduced America to both Joe the (fake) Plumber and Sarah the (serious) Shopaholic.
It is hard to overlook Sarah Palin's sheer hypocrisy (Hockey Mom. Not!) and the paper trail that sorta undermines her assertion that she and Todd are just regulurrr ole Americans. I think it is also fair to say that no intelligent person actually believes that those fancy schmancy schmattes will be donated to charity at the end of the campaign.
As the media has laid bare proof of her Olympic ability to burn through money during the worst financial crisis in America since the Great Depression, I thought I would just savor the moment and experience the full measure of my Manhattan elitist superiority as I laugh in her face.
Not for flubbing the answer to the third grader's question about what a Vice President does, as she did earlier this week, with only two weeks to go until Election Day. (Honestly Sarah. Wouldja please spend your evenings reading an SAT prep manual? Or find a copy of American Politics for Dummies and just memorize the part about Vice Presidential duties?)
Or for failing to name even one book, magazine or newspaper she has ever read.
Or for sounding like a highly-caffeinated informercial host who has misplaced her cue cards everytime she is asked to provide a substantial answer.
Or for being outed as a fake working class American.
No. The real source of my amusement is Palin's penchant for dropping one hundred and fifty GOP campaign big ones in retail outlets with ridiculously high mark-up.
Memo for Mrs. Pitbull with Lipstick: Smart, stylish women NEVER build their wardrobes entirely off-the-rack from Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdale's and Saks.
Instead, they mix it up with treasures from sample sales and thrift shops, haute couture from H&M, Isaac Mizrahi togs from Target, designer duds from Daffy's and Little Black Dresses from Loehmann's.
While Sarah Palin sniffs about the un-American elitism of people like me, she has just demonstrated to her simple, working class constituents her complete cluelessness about the toll the economic downturn has taken on people's lives.
Way to go, Sarah! While people are losing their jobs, tightening their belts, worrying about affording healthcare or paying their kids' tuitions, why doncha just go out there and shop like a Lehman Brothers wife, circa August 2008?
You want to speak for Main Street USA? Dress like Main Street USA.
Don't spend over three year's worth of Joe the Plumber's salary, pre-tax, on your wardrobe.
In less than two months.
Next up: How long does it take the Vice Presidential hopeful to style her hair into that classic let-them-eat cake updo?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The rabid right wing likes to refresh its Big Fat Lies about Barack Obama on a weekly basis or so.
About two weeks ago, the Big Fat Lie of the moment was Obama is a Terrorist.
Last week, the Big Fat Lie was Obama is a Socialist.
And this week, bless their shriveled little hearts, the Big Fat Lie is Obama is not really an American.
And underlying all of these Big Fat Lies are the basic, foundational Big Fat Lies: Obama is Bad for Israel; Obama is being supported by Arabs; or its variation -- Obama is a Muslim; and, most potently Obama agrees 100 percent with everything Reverend Jeremiah Wright said in his most radical sermons in fact, Obama might just as well be Reverend Jeremiah Wright, that scary and dangerous black guy who hates Jews and Americans.
Based on these terrifying claims, I guess that if I was really gullible or stupid or illiterate or deaf and blind and a hermit and lived under a rock and didn't have access to any news venues or pundits or other people, I'd be freaked out about the prospect of such a person serving as our president, too.
These Big Fat Lies are spread many ways, but primarily through viral marketing, such as the forwarding of chain emails, which in turn link to hate-blogs and sites.
Fox News, of course, does its share, giving airtime to the very people who have made up these Big Fat Lies in the first place.
Depressingly, most of the senders of the emails that reach me are people whom I actually know.
And until I recently let some of them know what I thought of their hate and fear-mongering missives by sending my response as a Reply to All, they obviously thought they were doing me a Great Big Favor by including me on their send-lists.
With my views made known, I magically disappeared from a couple of such lists, though last week, one relative thoughtfully forwarded me a gem from the Howard Stern show that PROVED that black people are only voting for Barack Obama because he is black and then challenged me to listen to it as if by listening to Howard Stern's brilliant, irrefutable research, I would immediately side with him.
(Just to contextualize, this same person also refers to Barack Obama as belonging to the Axis of Evil.)
The day that educated people think that Howard Stern is a pundit whose POV is worth quoting is a sad day indeed.
The lying liars just won't quit. With the end of Simchat Torah, my Inbox brought me the latest Big Fat Lie: that Barack Obama is not really an American citizen and there is a lawsuit and omigod, here are the names of news anchors you have to write to and yes, his victory can be railroaded so pass this on to everyone you know!!!
This latest Big Fat Lie is so completely and utterly desperate that I can hardly get upset at it...simply marvel that forwarding it after Yom Tov ended was a priority for the person who sent it to me, who happens to be an observant Jew.
Wanna see the "proof?" for the case that Obama is not an American? Go to the lunatic rantings found on the website of Philip J. Berg at http://www.obamacrimes.com/. That site is a portal to conspiracy theory America, a dark and murky place where fears proliferate like mushrooms. Want further "proof?" Check out http://www.whitecivilrights.com/. Now there's a respectable website, a cyber-address that all red-blooded Americans should feel proud to call their own!
Just two days ago, on the eve of the holiday, I had skyped Big Babe, who is living in Berlin, to share my despair about the culture of lies bred by the McCain-Palin campaign. I was especially despondent that this virus has spread to some quarters of the Jewish community, I told my son.
Because he is living in a land where Obama is a rock star, Big Babe is protected from the beliefs and behaviors I was reporting. And in truth, living on Manhattan's Upper West Side, I, too, am relatively cocooned from the worst of it. Still, not a day passes without a Big Fat Lie about Barack Obama making its way onto my radar screen.
And though I am desperately trying to hold onto my belief that this anti-Obama sickness is borne of fear, not racism, I am beginning to fear that mistrust of the Black Man is at the root of these ever-morphing Big Fat Lies about Barack Obama. The shape-shifting quality of the smear campaign indicates to me a baseless hatred rather than a conviction borne of ideals or facts.
Here's a question: is it racist for me to expect more from my fellow Jews? Because when yahoos from the allegedly more pro-American parts of America say ignorant and ugly things about Obama, I don't care but when my own landsmen and landswomen capitulate to propaganda (were we not also, as a people, victimized by Great Lies?), I am left with the feeling of walking through a nightmarish landscape where souls and brains are being snatched by some unseen evil entity.
In this nightmarish world, formerly analytical, fair-minded people who were raised on the principles of compassion and social justice and tzedakah and tikkun olam have become so mind-poisoned that when a Big Fat Lie reaches their Inbox, instead of pausing to wonder whether it is true or even plausible, they hit Forward, choose 20 friends and press Send.
In this creepy realm, the descendents of the People Who Dwell Apart have become one with the mindless followers of a political Baal. Lie by Big Fat Lie, they are looking more and more to me like the hypnotized congregants of John Hagee than the freethinking farbrent Jews who helped to make America a great and diverse nation.
In case you forgot, John Hagee was John McCain's problem pastor, a fundamentalist Evangelical who has made outrageous claims about Jews in the recent past (such as that the Holocaust was God’s plan for us) yet who is embraced by the right-wing Jewish community as a savior based on his End of Days-fueled support for Israel.
In an effort to keep abreast of what fundamentalist Christian America is thinking during these pre-election days, I turned on cable TV to Hagee's church service this past Monday morning and saw the good pastor subverting Biblical verse to make his political case: that the McCain-Palin ticket has earned the God Housekeeping Seal of Approval while the Obama-Biden ticket is an instrument of the devil.
Not by mentioning them by name, of course. Just through heavy-handed rabble-rousing inference, the kind capable of serving as a catalyst to a lynching.
Hear O Israel: our safety, security and liberty as Jews depends on a Democratic America.
Landsmen and landswomen! Do not be willing accomplices to the destruction of an America where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights for all citizens, where freedom of religion is guaranteed and where truth-telling is a basic value we can agree on.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Well, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, got his celebrity baptism by fire, rising to fame out of sheer obscurity in milliseconds and then having his star shot down by investigative journalists just as quickly.
Pandered to throughout the third presidential debate, Joe the Plumber as presented by John McCain, simply does not exist.
He is not a licensed plumber.
His name is not Joe.
He doesn't earn anything approaching the $250K mark that would make him eligible for Obama's higher tax burden.
Speaking of taxes, though, he sure does owe some.
He is not an Independent but a registered Republican.
Intended as a blue-collar hero, a plain-folk character to rope in working class America against Obama's tax plan, Joe the Plumber is an utter fraud.
And there are plenty of disturbing factoids about the actual guy who pretends to be Joe the Plumber that might lead an observer to wonder whether he is a plant of the McCain campaign, frinstance, the fact that he lived in both Arizona and Alaska and could be a relative of one Doug Wurzelbacher from Alaska, a competitive snow racer or whateverthehell sports they play in that state. (Hellooo First Dude of Alaska!)
Listening to Joe/Samuel play the part of insta-pundit on the news yesterday, a chill went up my spine. He hates the government. He thinks Social Security is a joke. He hates immigrants. He thinks the war in Iraq is a success, in fact, such a success that the experience of the American occupation and invasion of this country is really akin to being saved by Jesus.
Swear to G-d he made that comparison on national television after saying to the reporters, “I don’t know how many of you are Christians.”
With his shaved head and uneducated, extreme views, Samuel Wurzelbacher looks and sounds just a wee bit too like a neo-Nazi white supremacist.
And his "tap-dancing like Sammy Davis Jr." comment on yesterday's Today Show, referring to Barack Obama's explanation of his tax policy, was just a wee bit racist, don'tcha think?
More instructive than the investigative work being done by journalists, though, is the predictable and utterly disturbing reaction of the rabid right to the revelations about Joe aka Samuel Wurzelbacher.
Instead of owning up to the fact that Joe the Plumber is as real as the Quaker Oats Man, the rapid right has gone on the attack, charging that the LIBERAL MEDIA is out to destroy this decent common man.
If you are feeling especially masochistic, ya might wanna google around through the Internet and blogosphere and see what turns up. My fave: a rant by the sickly hateful Michelle Malkin on http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/, entitled, The Left Declares War on Joe the Plumber.
Malkin, whose writing has been singled out by media observers as irresponsible and inflammatory(she was recently cited, for instance, for fomenting anti-Arab sentiments) has some treasures to savor in this latest column.
Malkin does some fancy footwork of her own, conveniently sidestepping the fact that Joe the Plumber is a mythic invention, ie, a COMPLETE AND UTTER LIE. Instead, Malkin's spin is that "Obama-Biden simply can't tolerate an outspoken citizen successfully painting the Democratic ticket as socialist overlords."
But there's lots more where that came from and I urge every democratic, free-thinking American to spend some time visiting these sites.
They are extremely, unbelievably, flipping scary, presenting innuendo as fact, spreading hatred and fear, preying on the relative stupidity of their base, revealing nothing more than the moral dishonesty and sheer corruption of their leadership.
In the world ruled by the rabid right-wingers, truth-telling is not a value.
Facts are totally inconsequential.
The world of the rabid right wing is a dark, terrifying place. In an upcoming post, I will introduce readers to a really creepy blog called Moms4SarahPalin. Yesterday, I was completely shocked to discover a posting on that site that claims that no one yelled threats against Obama at a McCain/Palin rally. That's right, boys and girls. This, too, is a fabrication of the liberal media.
The operating principle of the rabid right wing world is that when the truth reveals a reality that is simply too ugly, simply deny the reality away.
And in case you think that Moms4SarahPalin is some kinda cyber-kaffee klatch for brainless if benevolent women, think again. It is administered by a conservative terror cell whose raison detre is not so much to promote the gospel of Sarah Palin as it is to bash Barack Obama.
Reading the hysterical ravings of such sites makes me ever more conscious of the fact that I do not occupy the same country -- or even universe -- as the leaders and followers of the rabid right.
My America is a very different place from theirs.
And while my America includes those who hold opposing views -- even these anti-truth, hate-mongering reactionaries -- their America is narrow and dangerous and not healthy for Democrats and other living things.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Of all the cringeworthy moments in last night's third and final presidential debate -- courtesy of John "Road Rage" McCain -- it is hard to decide just which one made the Republican candidate appear most like a deranged and embittered old coot.
Certainly, the sneering tone of disrespect he used when he addressed his opponent immediately gave the American public the impression that this man is unfit to represent the diverse populace of this great nation. And then, there were his out-of-control facial tics -- scowls, eye rolls, snarky smiles and most notably the "I'm-counting-to-ten-before-losing-my-temper-and-clocking-him" look, which occured practically every time Barack Obama answered one of Bob Schieffer's questions.
Perhaps it was his whiny complaint that Obama ignored his invitation to hold Town Hall-format discussions...which he lobbed as a complete non-answer to Schieffer's question about running negative campaigns that put us in mind of a grumpy old person having a tantrum because he didn't get to go to the diner he wanted to go to.
Or maybe it was when he snarled that Barack Obama should have run for president four years earlier (after Obama inferred that McCain was a proxy for George W. Bush and his policies), that we concluded he was having a senile regression to his childhood and was in the middle of a retort to some long-dead schoolyard enemy: No! Maybe you should have run for president four years earlier! Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!
Let's face it -- McCain's performance was a 10 on the embarrassment scale. There were so many oy vey moments...how to choose the defining one?
Watching John McCain lose his dignity on national television?
And as horrible as it has been to see this once-decent man go sloughing through the mud, desperately trying to dirty his opponent, I guess that I should thank Gran'pa John for bringing a new kind of marital harmony to my household over the past month.
You see, never before have I so thoroughly enjoyed snuggling up next to HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe) on our living room couch (Alfie and Nala the Pomeranians perched dutifully nearby) as during the airing of the three recent presidential - and vice presidential - debates.
Never before have I felt more bonded to HOBB as when we look to each other with a "he said what?" expression after John McCain fires another below-the-belt zinger at Barack "Cool Hand Luke" Obama.
But Obama has proven to be a man of steel and McCain's bullets merely bounce off of him.
While McCain becomes ever more villainous. Or pathetic.
And speaking of Super Heroes, click on the link below to see an absolutely GENIUS clip from the old television show Batman, featuring a debate between Batman and the Penguin. This clip arrived in my email today with the subject line message: Life Imitates Art.
Indeed it does. Please take a moment to view video. You will marvel at how contemporary and relevant it is:
So, the 2008 presidential debates are over and the polls show that Barack Obama is the clear winner. Even Joe the Plumber couldn't save McCain. By the end of today, we know that Joe is no plumber, he owes years worth of back taxes and his name is not even Joe. The persona he constructed is as fictitious as McCain's claims against Obama.
As John McCain repeatedly disgraces himself before the nation (and laughing stock Sarah Palin is kept hidden from the media) unflappable Barack Obama rises higher and higher in the public esteem, proving himself not only smart, reasonable, decent, well-versed and as McCain states, "eloquent," but also a genuine class act. His restraint in the face of the insults and lies of the McCain/Palin campaign has been nothing short of heroic.
We already know that he is an international Super Star.
But he is also something else.
He is the Super Hero who can save America.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Mob psychology is a concept that Little Babe was familiar with at a tender age, due to the mordantly funny -- and highly literary --children's bestselling set, A Series of Unfortunate Events.
For a solid year and a half, Little Babe was captivated by the series and would send me to Barnes and Noble on the very day a new volume was published. Snuggled on the couch, we would read the books aloud to each other, often laughing in delight at the author's wit and sleight of hand.
Even if you haven't read them yourself (which I highly recommend for people of all ages), chances are that you know the books concern the various misadventures of three orphaned siblings, known as the Baudelaires -- Violet, Klaus and Sunny -- whose parents vanished in a suspicious fire that also destroyed their family manse.
The chief villain is a buffoonish Dr. Evil type known as Count Olaf. Joined by a variety of small-minded nitwits, Count Olaf pursues the children, trying to wrest away their family fortune.
Written by Lemony Snicket, aka Daniel Handler, the books are rife with keen metaphysical insights about good and evil, the power of love and the possibility of hope in the most improbable of situations.
In one of the books -- Book the Seventh, The Vile Village -- the concept of mob psychology is introduced. The innocent Jacques Snicket becomes the object of a manhunt after Count Olaf -- in disguise -- convinces the villagers that Jacques Snicket is actually him. Handler does a bang-up job of depicting the mindless, terrifying power of a hate-filled, frenzied mob bent on single-minded vengeance.
I thought of Lemony Snicket and the Baudelaire kids today when a forwarded email reached me with the following words in the subject line: "For those of you planning to vote for Barack Hussein Obama, you must watch this!!!"
Appearing in the body of the email was a link to the Sean Hannity "expose" on Fox News of Senator Obama and his network of terrorists.
And from various people who forwarded it until it reached the person who sent it to me, the words, "pass it on!"
Like some rumor being generated in Sixth Grade, whispered from kid to kid when the teacher turns her back to write something on the black board: "Suzie has cooties! Pass it on!!"
The majority of people on the recipient list -- if not all of them -- were observant Jews...as were the various senders. Even with the sounds of the neila service of Yom Kippur still ringing in their ears, they were busy whispering to each other, "Barack has cooties. Pass it on!!!"
Ya know...months after this lame tactic was derided by rabbis in various communities, this fake "outing" of Obama as a Muslim, which must equal a terrorist, right? is downright depressing.
Indeed, I was more than a little surprised to find this ignorant email still in circulation, though I guess that the chiddush in the mind of the person originating it was to link the old Muslim-terrorist rumor (HUSSEIN) with Hannity's new yet laughable report about Obama's alleged Bill Ayers-homegrown terrorist connection.
Well...it wasn't the first thing I wanted to do this morning but I was kinda annoyed to find this dreck in my Inbox on this new, sparkling day following the cleansing, purging experience of Yom Kippur.
Also, I'm just really sick of the dirty tactics of the anti-Obama camp. And more than a bit alarmed following reports of frenzied mob reactions to McCain and Palin rallies, with their supporters shouting racist epithets, terrorist or "kill him!" News reports now emerging show members of the crowd claiming that Obama is an Arab, that he is not to be trusted. There is a sickening stirring of the pot of fear and hatred, with Palin insinuating that Obama is somehow unAmerican, with Cindy McCain coming on stage to claim that that bad man took money away from her son, serving in Iraq. And even now that GOP strategists have warned McCain that this kind of ugly mob reaction does not serve his campaign well, the crowd is heard booing loudly when he takes the microphone to insist -- despite his previous hate-speech to the contrary -- that Obama is a good man, a family man. As one commentator has remarked, the genie is already out of the bottle.
So, I fired a salvo back as a "reply to all."
And have been happily surprised to find supportive e-mails in return from several people on the send-list who likewise found the e-mail offensive.
I must say, those responses brightened my day.
And in case you're curious about what I wrote, I will reproduce at the end of this post.
But back to Mob Psychology for a moment.
When I look at some of the anti-Obama rhetoric in the Jewish community, what I see is the worst kind of mob hysteria.
People whom I know to be reasonable and intelligent and socially liberal and furious at the Republican administration for messing up our great country are suddenly filled with passionate hatred and mistrust for Obama.
Believing that Obama is in bed with terrorists and radicals while not fearing the fact that Sarah Palin is a pro-choice creationist whose pastor believes in the End of Days just doesn't make any sense.
Stating that Obama must be a terrorist and radical due to the flimsy connections with Ayers or Reverend Wright, or even Farrakhan is just loony.
And by the way, in contrast to friends who are convinced that anti-Obamaism is based on race, I do not think that racism is motivating the groupthink against Obama in the majority of cases.
I think it is FEAR.
There is a frenzied mob reaction to Barack Obama that is being fueled entirely by fear.
And the hothouse atmosphere of the Jewish high holidays where entire communities end up in each others laps and faces for nearly a solid month, coupled with the terrifying downward spiraling of our economy, has created numerous opportunities to gather and whisper those scary rumors to each other:
"Obama is a terrorist. Pass it on!!"
And like the game of Telephone, by the time the message reaches the final recipient, the rumor is even bigger and scarier than it was at the beginning.
Unless someone puts a stop to the game.
Going into the 2008 Presidential Elections, the only thing to fear is a fear-based choice for President of this crippled, wounded nation.
Below, as promised, my email response to the Barack Hussein Obama email:
Wow. This is a disappointing email to receive.
Not because of what it reveals about Barack Obama.
What it reveals about the people who are sending it around.
Barack Obama is no more involved with radical anti-Americans than John McCain. This entire “report” is a laugh. It has been widely discredited and is seen as a desperate attempt by Republicans to smear the good name of Barack Obama because McCain is doing so poorly in the polls.
Insisting on calling Obama “Barack Hussein Obama” at this stage in the race is just pathetic. That tactic failed when it was first rolled out and it is sad to see it in use again. Some of you might recall that a letter was generated by rabbis several months ago asking Jews to refrain from spreading lashon hara about Obama in this manner.
I guess now that Yom Kippur has just ended, it’s not too early to start accumulating aveirot for next year.
To perpetuate Islamophobia at this stage in the presidential race – and the belief that Obama is actually…omigod!!!!...a Muslim -- is simply dismaying.
And demeaning to the people who generate this material.
My advice to those of you passing this stuff around:
Watch something other than Fox News.
If that was my only source of news, I might also become a hatemonger.
I know that some of you have stopped reading papers like The New York Times or stopped watching CNN because you think they have an anti-Israel bias. In doing so, you threw out the baby with the bathwater because both sources present the widest possible range of opinions on the presidential race.
Naturally, there are other valuable, balanced news sources, but many of you shun them as well, seeing them as too “liberal.”
As a result, you prevent yourself from exposure to the truth.
News flash: Fox News is as biased and ridiculous a news organization as they come. The “news” you are getting is propaganda. Hardly “fair and balanced.”
I actually watch Fox on a daily basis to keep track of their shenanigans. When it is not reprehensible and inflammatory, it is actually kind of amusing.
Oh, and Hannity and O’Reilly are responsible journalists the way that Ahmanadinejad is a responsible ruler of a country.
I invite you to visit my blog, Bungalow Babe in the Big City (http://bungalow-babe.blogspot.com) later today to read more about my reaction to such emails.
I think that Sarah Silverman got it only half right in her brilliant video, The Great Schlep.
It is not only our bubbe and zayde down in Florida who are ruled by fear at the prospect of President Barack Obama..
It is also, sadly, our contemporaries living in an early retirement of the mind in New York.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Having kids in foreign countries adds an element of drama to one's life, with phone calls coming in at odd hours chiefly concerning travel travail: missed flights, cancelled flights, delayed flights, usually on the eve of a major Jewish holiday.
Such was the call we received at 6 am this morning from our own 20-year-old daughter, Middle Babe, studying at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.
The Jewish population of her international program of 6,000 students is 2 and for this reason, she flew to friends of friends of a friend in Jo'berg for Rosh Hashana and was en route to Capetown today to spend the Day of Atonement with the family of a friend from New York.
Except that severe rainstorms delayed her flight for several hours and she called us in a panic, asking our wise parental counsel on the matter. Unless the flight took off within the next hour, she would risk arriving in Capetown too late to eat before nightfall and the beginning of a 25-hour fast.
Fortunately, her plane was taking off at the time of our last conversation and though I tried to fall back to sleep after hearing that welcome news, my mind clicked into zero-to-sixty mode.
Within minutes, I was seated in front of my computer, a steaming cup of Oren's Beowulf Blend before me, reading the postmortems on the second presidential debate of the previous night.
While it was abundantly clear to me that Obama sailed through the town hall format as a superstar -- and last night's CNN team gave high points to his performance -- I was curious to read the morning-after assessments.
Even after reading the predictably skewered views of the Fox News contributors, it seems that the national consensus matches my own reaction. However, as I watched Obama elegantly grab the mantle of victor from McCain, I couldn't help wondering how pro-McCain voters viewed their guy's performance.
Did they see -- and were they alarmed by -- McCain's cranky old man-nerisms?
Did they cringe when he made stupid jokes or snarled at Obama?
What did they think of his dismissive, in-shockingly-poor-taste reference to Obama as "that one?"
Did his repeated use of the phrase, "my friends," grate on their nerves?
And most importantly...could they fail to see the words, Next Leader of the Free World and Savior of America writ large across Obama's forehead?
I will admit that until last night's debate, I resisted Obamaphilia, publicly stated that I was supporting him because I was supporting the Democratic party and his vision.
I have said that, as a Hillaryite, I was disappointed that her bid for candidacy failed, that I saw Obama as a leader only by default but that it was clear that he would get my vote.
Last night's on-their-feet format changed my mind utterly.
Obama is the great black ‘n white hope of America.
He is epic, heroic, smart, sincere, perfectly suited for the daunting -- but hardly fictitious -- role of knight in shining armor coming to rescue the damsel-in-distress that is our nation.
While his opponent, John McCain increasingly appears tired, saggy around the jowls, angry, frustrated, badly in need of a nap.
Hobbling across the stage in Nashville last night, John McCain seemed like nothing more than Grumpy from the Seven Dwarfs -- short, square, bitter, defeated, cranky, cartoonish.
And my friends, I don't think that America can survive another cartoon character acting as commander-in-chief.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
My Dog Could Have Written a Better Yom Kippur Presidential Message...or Why Jews Need to Pray for America
After first perusing the latest dismal financial forecasts, monitoring the hate-speech being spewed by Sarah and John and checkin' up on ma main man 'Bam as he prepares for the showdown later tonight, I finally felt moved to open the e-mail and see what treasures awaited me from the Office of Public Liaison, that White House outfit that sends press releases to specific groups, in this case, Jews.
For one wild, improbable moment I pondered the possibility of finding a public statement of atonement from our prez.
"Dear America," the message might begin, "As Yom Kippur approaches, I felt moved to humbly beg your forgiveness for totally f^*&ing you over for the past eight years. I have not only led more than 4,000 men and women to their deaths in a senseless war and failed to capture Osama bin Laden, but I have made America the a-hole of the world, as Sarah Silverman so colorfully put it in that "schleping" video. Rather than fast for only one day, I will fast for the rest of my life in the hope that God might forgive me for everything I have done wrong."
But no such message alighted on my screen.
Instead, here is what I found:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release October 7, 2008
Yom Kippur, 5769
For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD.
Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement and the most holy day in the Jewish faith. From the time the Kol Nidre is recited until the Shofar is sounded, Jews around the world will draw nearer to God through acts of atonement, fasting, and prayer. Jewish tradition teaches that on Yom Kippur, God remembers every name, listens to every petition, and offers forgiveness to the repentant.
On this day, Americans are reminded of the great blessings of religious freedom and the unalienable rights bestowed upon all people by the Creator of life. May God grant us peace, comfort, and hope for all the challenges we may face in the year ahead.
Laura and I send our best wishes for a blessed day and a most meaningful fast.
GEORGE W. BUSH
I stared at my computer screen. That was the best Yom Kippur message W could muster?
Naturally, I expected nothing in the way of honesty or accountability from the evasive, dysfunctional Bush administration, but honestly, Nala the Pomeranian (pictured above) could have written a more original, more heartfelt High Holy Day greeting than the lame-ass White House communications hack who churned this one out.
At least throw in a reference to the hard times that have befallen our great nation.
Make the message sound as if you didn't scribble it on the back of your Dunkin' Donuts napkin on the way to the office this morning.
Try, in the waning days of W's administration, to pretend that you give a damn.
For eight long years, we have lacked leadership that actually gave a damn about this nation.
And with their platitudes and cliches and repackaged Bush policies, it is hard to believe that the McCain-Palin ticket cares about changing the status quo either but they sure do like to tell us how darn patriot they are and how -- unlike that dark terrorist -- they believe that America is a force for good in this world.
Their claims are as dead as the White House Yom Kippur message.
Palin and Lieberman have lately invoked God in this presidential race. I think it is time that we Democrats invite God to play a role in this all-important election.
On the eve of Yom Kippur 2008 I renew my commitment to daven with kavannah, praying with heart and soul for an enlightened President to lead our nation.
From the moment the Gates of Heaven open at Kol Nidre to the time that they are sealed at Ne'ila, I will petition God to inscribe the United States of America in the Book of Life.
Monday, October 06, 2008
A post script on Palin and the Vice Presidential debate:
By this time, Palin's penchant for sticking to her preordained script has been well documented, but there was one moment that stuck out in my mind as transcending the strategy of avoidance.
That moment came when Gwen Ifill asked the Senator from Alaska to identify her Achilles Heel.
When Sarah circumvented the question, launching into her own gobbledygook about being the executive of a huge energy-producing state, it seemed that something else motivated her response.
It was her sheer ignorance of the term Achilles Heel.
After conducting a quick Internet search this morning, I see that I am late in making this claim. Alas, dozens of bloggers and observers already beat me to it.
Evidently, Sarah's silence in the face of a mythological reference is not a subtle discovery on my part. To many observers, the governor of Alaska was basically b.s.ing her way through the debate hoping that the American people never noticed she didn't exactly answer the questions.
But even if my observation is late, or utterly unoriginal, it nevertheless merits attention.
Because as of this morning, there are still intelligent, educated and formerly liberal people who have somehow become bewitched by Palin as a byproduct of their fear of Obama.
Because these people -- some of whom might be friends or family members -- have managed to turn off the discriminating parts of their brains in order to make Sarah Palin palpable just long enough to pull the lever for McCain.
It would make me ever-more-comfortable hearing a McCain supporter admit that Sarah Palin is a bitter pill to swallow, an occupational hazard of supporting John McCain.
Instead, I see wild enthusiasm for a person who -- under normal circumstances -- would have them rolling their eyes. Or seeing her as the antithesis of everything one would hope for in the executive office.
We need to remind these friends, family members or even strangers that we should expect a modicum of cultural literacy for the person hoping to occupy the office of Vice President of the United States.
To mask illiteracy as some kind of noble anti-elitism is a pathetic, doomed tactic.
And while it is possible to memorize talking points for a debate, it is not possible to cram the core curriculum of contemporary civilization... not that she is even trying.
Since she was unable to answer, nay, understand, Gwen Ifill's question, let me take the liberty of answering it for her.
Sarah Palin's Achilles Heel is not just her ignorance but her complete and utter lack of intellectual aspiration.
And since America is as much an idea as a reality, this tendency doesn't bode well for the future of our great nation.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Alfie, the blond pooch on the right, holds the exalted position of top dog in our family. Eight years ago, he joined our clan as Middle Babe's bat mitzvah present. Nala, the cocoa-colored little lass on the left who is actually smiling into the camera, joined us in July as Little Babe's bar mitzvah gift.
Delighted with Alfie's sweet nature, we went back to his breeder, seeking a pup from the same mishpocha. Our timing was perfect. Nala is Alfie's half-sister. They share a dad, a noble blond Pomeranian named Gizmo.
Nala is five months old. One of a litter of three girls. (Yes, at this point, it is entirely appropriate to say, "Awwwwwwwww.")
Anyway, aside from showing off my youngest child and our dogs, the reason for posting this picture is to make a point about Sarah Palin, that annoyingly shallow Jane Sixpack faux Hockey Mom semi-literate wind-up doll who managed to redeem herself from utter national ridicule this past Thursday night by simply not drooling all over her black suit.
And the point is that though she has alluded to herself as Pit Bull-like, the more apt dog analogy for her would be Pomeranian.
I know that must sound shocking coming from a Pomeranian owner, but you see, the kind of Pom I am talking about is not, heaven-forbid, like my own -- who overflow with love, good humor and intelligence, who run up to strangers in the hope that they will merit a pat, who greet us at the door with sweet little yips of joy and ample licks of love, who figure out how to break out of locked rooms due to their canine ingenuity.
No, the kind of Pomeranian that Sarah Palin resembles is the other kind; those horribly yappy, deceptively fluffy creatures who will bite you viciously if you venture too close, who make up in nastiness what they lack in intelligence.
We have such a Pomeranian living in our building. His name is Axel and even his owners concede that he is mean to the core. Because of that admission we all feel a measure of compassion towards them.
Axel, a fat blur of brown and black fur, tries to attack Alfie and Nala every time they share the elevator. He nipped at Little Babe when he innocently bent down to pet him back when we were naive new tenants. As a result of his aggression, he is shunned by all the dogs and owners on our block.
In my experience, Pomeranians come in only two varieties: Alfie/Nala or Axel.
Fortunately, it seems that the former is far more common. The problem is that the cute and fluffy appearance of the Axel Poms makes them much more dangerous than, say, Pit Bulls. When one sees a Pit Bull approaching, an internal alarm tends to go off, while most people will assume that a Pomeranian is benevolent until it tries to bite your hand off.
Watching Sarah Palin's behavior over the past five weeks -- especially her ugly character assassination attempts of this past weekend where she questioned Obama's patriotism and tried to brand him a terrorist by proxy -- it is clear that she is a Axel Pomeranian.
This past Thursday night, emerging from a whipping by the media after her sheer idiocy was revealed in candid interviews, then given a crash course in Vice Presidential literacy for the three days prior to the debate, Sarah Palin stood before the American people, all coiffed and cutesy and fluffy and winky, exuding a desperate plea as pungent as body odor, "O, American People! Like me! Like me!!!Like me!!!"
Word is that Gwen Ifill was warned by the McCain camp not to ask challenging follow-up questions so Palin managed to get through the debate avoiding answering questions directly. Joe Biden was on his best behavior so that he would not be seen as bullying the little lady from Alaska.
So, unbelievably enough, Sarah Palin, who is running for the office of Vice President of the United States, ended up being treated as a defenseless little Pomeranian. Given a stage to perform upon, she pulled out her stomach-churning Palinisms, her "you betchas!" and her perky can-do vocab. She wagged her tail winningly, yet the minute she came down from the podium, Sarah went on a yappy attack, filling in with nastiness what she lacks in substance.
Behind her Miss Alaska smiles, her "serious" spectacles and her bogus claim that she represents the simple, homespun folk of this nation, Sarah Palin represents nothing. She has absolutely nothing to say other than that she and John McCain are the most mavericky team of mavericks to hit Washington, DC. Yeah, and she's a total Washington outsider. The new cowgirl who rode into town on the back of a moose she just shot with her own gun! Darn tootin'!
Fortunately, the American public is not as stupid as Sarah Palin's mythical version of Main Street, Wasilla. And just as West 116th Street between Amsterdam and Morningside -- my personal Main Street -- has learned the true nature of Axel the Pomeranian and decided to shun him, so too, our nation is learning the true nature of Sarah Palin... and that our national security depends on shunning her breed.
For it is not Pit Bull.
But it certainly is canine. Of the female variety.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Allowing the heavy front door to swing shut with a grating squeal resembling nothing less than the brakes of a New York City subway train, terrifying my Pomeranians who bolted straightaway into the living room, I let out a booming greeting to HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe) whom I envisioned sitting on the couch, reading the Times.
Instead, my loud voice drew my husband, bleary-eyed, out of the bedroom, where he had spent a comatose two hours. "Lemmewashupandhavesometeaandwe'llgototashlich," he mumbled, stumbling to the bathroom.
Marveling at the swift passage of two hours (wearing no watch, I thought it to be in the 4:30 range), Little Babe and I scrambled out of our shorts into attire suitable for an outdoors communal gathering on the afternoon of Rosh Hashana.
Tashlich, to be exact. In Riverside Park, along the promenade, somewhere just south of 103rd street.
Anyone who has attended tashlich on the Upper West Side of Manhattan can attest to the cocktail party-like atmosphere of this gathering.
On the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashana (the second day if the first day falls on a Shabbat), the entire span of the promenade, from about 72nd street up to about 105th street, hosts thousands of Jews of a variety of background and orientation who have come to perform the immensely likeable and metaphorical ritual known as tashlich, where one tosses one's "sins" into the water in the form of bread, crackers, cookies or other similar products.
In our case, Bissli, the bite-sized, crunchy Israeli snacks, loaded with spice and MSG.
While I was rooting in the kitchen cabinet for molding challah or broken crackers, Little Babe grabbed the bag of Bissli, left over from our Labor Day weekend trip to Israel.
"Hey!" he said, pleased to discover a snack and ritual item at the same time.
Anyway, unless you are feeling horribly anti-social or anti-Semitic or are simply sick of seeing all your friends and neighbors or are really a stickler for performing mitzvot, tashlich allows Jews to do what they do best: acknowledge guilt and socialize. At the same time.
I admit that I always look forward to tashlich, knowing that I will be able to catch up on the lives of friends I barely see. True, many of the people I bump into I have just seen a few hours earlier, in shul, but there always turns out to be a core of people I seem to only talk to once a year. At tashlich.
There is a sweet, mutual, Same Time Next Year aspect to our instant life-catch-up as we stand shoulder to shoulder with others who are doing exactly the same.
And every year, the composition of the crowd seems comfortingly predictable: a gaggle of little kids playing underfoot; teens and college students huddling in cliques; older couples linking arms; a few Hasidic families; some boldface-name individuals -- writers, intellectuals, a singer who became sort of famous, a businessman who was recently indicted; young couples with babies; a charismatic rabbi; a child overly-tired, crying and pulling on his mother; tattooed or pierced Jews; the family that suffered a horrible tragedy; Jews recently arrived from other countries -- France, Russia, Hungary, England, Israel -- wearing obviously outlander garb, speaking in exotic tongues, drawing curious looks from the established citizenry of the Jewish Upper West Side.
Tashlich is done well because it is akin to so many other Jewish communal gatherings.
It is like the Israel Day Parade without the floats and Catholic School marching bands.
It is like a shul kiddush except outdoors.
It is like a wedding or bar mitzvah except without a smorgasbord.
It is like shul, but with really short davening and permission to talk.
It is a cocktail party without alcoholic drinks or the pressure to dress up. And if you are worried that you are not mingling enough, you can take comfort in the fact that tashlich is actually a religious ritual.
(Funny things also happen at tashlich. About seven years ago, our Anabaptist babysitter Susan was approached by a nice yeshiva bocher who continued to stalk her throughout the year, despite her repeated disclaimers that she was a fundamentalist Christian.)
But let me return to our family and the bag of Bissli and our journey to tashlich earlier this week.
So, though the original plan was to arrive at 5:30, thereby giving us maximum schmooze time (and also provide ample set-up time for our dinner guests, scheduled to arrive at 7:30; the dinner food had already been cooked earlier in the day and was warming up ) we only reached the banks of the Hudson at 6:30, by which time groups of Jews were heading home or to synagogue and the sun was slipping over the river.
Still, scoping out the crowd, I saw at least a dozen people I was eager to connect with.
With Nala the puppy in tow (Alfie refused to come out of the closet after our Columbia excursion), Bissli in Little Babe's sweatshirt pocket and a siddur in HOBB's hand, we made a beeline for the water, determined to recite tashlich, toss our sins and return to our regularly scheduled schmoozefest.
Now, I will admit that in previous years, I have managed to neglect reciting the prayer (or even tossing my breadcrumbs into the water!!) due to my mad frenzy to socialize. From the moment I descend into the mass of humanity, I kind of lose my focus. It is a type of Religious Attention Deficit Disorder, I think.
But this year was different. For starters, I actually recited the prayer. And was mindful about discarding my sins, going as far as to designate discrete sins to individual pieces of Bissli as I hurled them into the Hudson River. And I was conscious of expanding my concept of sin to encompass things that would not traditionally be deemed sinful, that is, they harm no one other than myself. I contemplated aspects of the previous year that I wished to discard and resolved to make important changes in my life.
I allowed tashlich to work its magic on me.
Now, on the eve of Shabbat, I look back in wonder at my meaningful tashlich of this year. It was not premeditated in the least, in fact, it was utterly spontaneous. I left my apartment thinking more of the people I would greet instead of the sins I would cast away. I left my apartment feeling anxious about not having enough time to play.
But when I arrived home, I knew that I had been given all the time I needed.
Maybe it was the bite-size pieces of Bissli that enabled me to divide my discontents into small, manageable chunks that might be more easily discarded. Maybe it was the awesome beauty of the sun slipping over the horizon as I stood and recited my prayer. Maybe it was the recent bar mitzvah of Little Babe, his presence beside me as I peered into the siddur. Maybe it was the proximity of the bracing shoulder of HOBB, with whom I just celebrated 25 years of marriage.
I do not know why tashlich worked for me this year in an entirely new way but I am grateful for it. Tossing the Bissli with kavanna compelled me to take seriously the introspective mandate of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Now that I have erased my slate, I am charged with a daunting responsibility.
My slate must be filled with that which is worthy of being lovingly preserved, not discarded.
Heading into the first Shabbat of the new Jewish Year, I glimpse a new horizon, white and spotless as a Sabbath or festival tablecloth, inviting the clutter and cacophony of a really great cocktail party.