Archive | Religion RSS feed for this section

Thanksgiving Youtube Spread

28 Nov

And finally, some text, just in case you’re one of those zealots who takes ritalin even on holidays. I share with you a heartwarming note from my old MRIHR comrade, Harvard researcher John Spritzler:

A holiday in a class society such as ours has two generally opposite meanings: the official meaning that reflects the world view and values of the ruling class, and the meaning that most ordinary people give it. Yes, Thanksgiving’s official meaning is a celebration of the European upper class’s success in dominating the natives of North America (and also, by the way, dominating the working class of European and African descent.) But for the vast majority of ordinary Americans the meaning of Thanksgiving is that it is a day when the family shares a special meal together even if they are living in separate regions of the country normally and it is a day when they give thanks for having each other in their lives and a good meal to enjoy together.

So, which is the more important of the two meanings? Which is the meaning that we should emphasize? I would say that if one wishes to remove the plutocracy from power, then the latter meaning is the most important one, because it helps people see that there is a positive, decent force in the United States–hundreds of millions of good, decent people who no more want to engage in genocide than you or I–and this force is the basis for hope in building a mass revolutionary movement to remove the genocide-committing plutocracy from power.

But, if one has no serious intention of building such a revolutionary movement, if one wishes merely to complain about the problem rather than solve it, if one wishes mainly to show others that one is not a supporter of genocide (as if anybody thought one was), then I suppose it makes sense to emphasize the former meaning of Thanksgiving.

I choose the latter.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!


Peter Beinart: “It is immoral to have ethnically-based citizenship…”

22 Jul

[The following was originally posted 9/30/2012 on a short-lived blog dedicated to covering Palestine-related events in the northeastern US.]

In April of 2012 I attended a Peter Beinart talk at Harvard. He was there to debate the merits of his most recent book, The Crisis of Zionism, with Barry Shrage, a Harvard professor and president of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies. It was an interesting experience.

Despite facing a largely pro-Israel audience at Harvard at a time when his book had already elicited substantial scorn from many in the American Jewish community, Beinart presented his arguments about the immoralities and dangers of Israeli policy with dignified composure. That same composure attended his rejoinders to rightwing counterarguments from Dr. Shrage. He struck me as a very decent and unusually honest man. (My impression of Shrage was less flattering).

At the time I had been following the advance press and interviews for Norman Finkelstein’s then-forthcoming book, an ambitious exploration of waning Jewish-American support for Israel. One of Finkelstein’s key pieces of anecdotal evidence for his claim that liberal American Jews are distancing themselves from Israel’s more draconian policies toward the Palestinians is the case of Beinart: a figure of some standing in New York’s orthodox Jewish community whose CV includes a stint as editor at The New Republic—a staunchly pro-Israel publication.

I was initially skeptical about Beinart’s significance for those of us hoping to see American political discourse grow more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Before the Harvard lecture, I had caught snippets from reviews and interviews that made it sound like Beinart’s opposition to settlement expansion in the West Bank was solely a concern about Israel’s demographic integrity qua Jewish state.  Indeed, his statements were often adorned with reservations about the purported desire of Palestinians that Israel simply cease to exist.

But it’s clear that something significant is going on when you see someone like Beinart making this basic point about racism so bluntly, and at venues likes Shalom TV:

[Note: It looks like the timestamp embed code isn’t working, so to cut to the part I’m referring to here, skip to 35:15 mark or open this link in a new tab]

I disagree with many of his individual points as well as much of the narrative that frames them—e.g., he says Israel’s settlement projects in the West Bank constitute a “tragic mistake” rather than a predictable extension of a colonial project that goes back to the first Zionist aliyah—but ask yourself if you can remember anyone in the mainstream of the American Jewish intellectual establishment speaking so openly before, say, 2008, about the immorality of ethnicity-based citizenship policy in Israel.

I May Not Believe in God, But the God in Whom I Don’t Believe is Serious, Dammit!

13 Jun

Having ragged pretty hard on Leon Wieseltier in my little jeremiad against Samantha Power, I thought it only fair to mention how much I enjoyed this remark of his on American religion:

On top of all this, there’s another problem, which is the atheism of complete indifference to the subject. Most Americans are atheists not because they believe God does not exist, but because they spend all their time shopping. In other words, if you live a completely materialist-consumerist life in which philosophical conviction has no place–that’s a kind of atheism! And that’s the kind of atheism that will damage religion more than any philosophical atheism ever did. Not by giving the right or the wrong answer to the question, but by pretending the question doesn’t exist or is not important.

These comments appear in a clip from a talk I inadvertently came across on youtube earlier this morning.

I can’t post this in good conscience, though, without clearly stating that Wieseltier’s record of derisive, slur-laden statements about Norman Finkelstein is truly despicable.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

16 Mar

New Dillinger Escape Plan record Option Paralysis available for streaming.

First impression: sounds like another first class work of state of the art face melting. Rejoice!

Tolkien stickin’ it to the Nazis

3 Mar

Although it might seem unlikely that anyone would wonder whether the author of The Lord of the Rings was Jewish, the Nazis took no chances. When the publishing firm of Ruetten & Loening was negotiating with J. R. R. Tolkien over a German translation of The Hobbit in 1938, they demanded that Tolkien provide written assurance that he was an Aryan. Tolkien chastised the publishers for “impertinent and irrelevant inquiries,” and—ever the professor of philology— lectured them on the proper meaning of the term: “As far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects.” As to being Jewish, Tolkien regretted that “I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”

–Michael Weingrad, Why There Is No Jewish Narnia

“I’ve always thought that the perfect symbol of Christianity is the broken phallus…”

19 Feb

Cool little quasi-documentary from 1979 featuring Vidal, amusing as ever, at the height of his pre-flippant curmudgeon period. He discusses writing, religion, politics, his only encounter with the Mafia, and the vicissitudes of throwing Norman Mailers. Some of the the southern Italian backdrops are quite beautiful. Part 1 embedded above, watch parts 2-7 here.

Wild, wacky stuff

10 Dec

Video of a 2005 discussion between Cornel West and Slavoj Zizek has been posted on youtube.

Just in time to disrupt my final exam flow. Awesome.