“To be black in the Baltimore of my youth was to be naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease. The nakedness is not an error, nor pathology. The nakedness is the correct and intended result of policy, the predictable upshot of people forced for centuries to live under fear.”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Decades ago, for a short period of time, I dated an African-American girl named Terry who lived in a part of Los Angeles where white guys were not often seen. I always thought she was cute. Then she was treated for Leukemia with chemo and she lost her hair. Interestingly, after that I thought she was really cute. Maybe I had an Annie Lennox fetish or something. Who knows. But, enough with introductory babbling, here’s my point…

More than once, as I was getting into or out of my car – or walking down the street – someone would honk at me. I always wondered if I knew anyone else in town.

One day, as I was walking down the street with Terry, I asked her if she knew the people who were honking – or if she knew why they were honking.

She said: “Are you sure you want to know?

I said: “Of course, why wouldn’t I?”

She said: “Those guys are honking at you because you are white – You’re a HONKY”.

I have always been proud of myself for my willingness to walk around a neighborhood where I really did not belong. But, I have to admit, I probably wasn’t very bright. The point is that I knew far less about LA African-American culture than I thought.

This brings me to my primary point. I thought I understood a culture of which I knew very little. I thought that my Jewish culture, also being one that had to deal with a history of racism through many centuries, made my culture similar to theirs. I thought I understood their culture. I understood nothing.

If you have a read my writing over the past few years then you realize that I believe myself to be one of the least racist, most culturally embracing, people around.  In fact, I believe that I am often most critical of what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “the people who think they are white”. I generally like people of color more than those who “think they are white”. Yet, be that as it may,  I have come to realize that I still know very little.

Enter Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Mr. Coates newest book “Between the World and Me” has blown my mind. I still know that I don’t understand African-American culture. But I also know that its cultural uniqueness really is (still) rooted in its history of slavery and discrimination. Gang culture, gun culture, fear of law enforcement officers, crack addiction, and a very deep sense of familial love are part of a culture rooted in constant threats to the ownership of ones own body.

Here are a few sentences that blew me away:

“Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.”

“All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to “be twice as good,” which is to say “accept half as much.” These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile.”

“Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.”

“So you must wake up every morning knowing that no promise is unbreakable, least of all the promise of waking up at all. This is not despair. These are the preferences of the universe itself: verbs over nouns, actions over states, struggle over hope.”

“At the onset of the Civil War, our stolen bodies were worth four billion dollars, more than all of American industry, all of American railroads, workshops, and factories combined, and the prime product rendered by our stolen bodies—cotton—was America’s primary export.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates is not a religious man. He is not a Muslim or a Christian. He is a pragmatist. Coates views his body, his physical existence, as an end in and of itself. This allows him to to speak to us, through letters to his son, of a need to both take responsibility and to hold our government accountable for 2 centuries of treating African-American men and women as less human than their white-wannabe counterparts.

This is not just some excuse; it’s not something to be set aside as “changed long ago”. Just like my Jewish identity has roots in Egypt and I honor those roots beginning on Erev Passover tomorrow night, their African identity has roots in the slave trade and they have every right to say “no!” to setting those roots aside.

So, here’s the deal: Before reading this book I would not have agreed that the injustice of American slavery is still alive today. Now I do. I do because from Ta-Nhisi Coates I have learned the same thing I learned from wandering around the wrong ‘hood in Los Angeles nearly 4 decades ago. When it comes to the deeply rooted injustices that form the African-American cultural mind….

I knew nothing.

This is a book that we who are white, or who “think we are white”, simply must read.

“I would not have you descend into your own dream. I would have you be a conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

 

 

My good friend Donald Trump said that torture is terrible but when people are cutting off heads and drowning people in cages then waterboarding is fine with him and, if we have to go “way beyond waterboarding”, that’s OK.  He said he knows that some things are illegal but that in this case “maybe we need to change the law”.

The first part of Mr. Trump statement was right on: torture is terrible! The problem is that by immediately stating that he condoned it, his moral code is in conflict with his statement. This is something that comes from one of the worst artifacts of postmodernism, moral relativism.

If something is immoral it is immoral. A = A. Something cannot be “terrible” in one context and condoned in another.

Of course, perhaps Mr. Trump does not have a consistent moral compass. After all, he says that he is Christian; supposedly a follower of the teachings of Jesus. Then he says that he wants to punch a protester in the face. To be morally consistent with Jesus he should be “turning the other cheek” should he not. But, Mr. Trump is not a cheek turner.

He is absolutely right that we must stop ISIS as aggressively as possible. But what we consider to be “possible” must conform to the constraints of the Geneva conventions. ISIS may be a violent, immoral, horrific entity but the United States of America is not! Following ISIS in horrific, inhumane, unethical, tortuous violence just because such insane behavior is acceptable in their crazy theology will only make us as inhumane as they are.

Mr. Trump does not care. He simply wants to manipulate crowds. To condone illegal and immoral acts simply because he wants his fill of crowds and power, though, perfectly matches the fascist archetype.

All of us have moral failings of one sort or another. But, to condone the worst of all possible acts in one context and to say they are “terrible” in another is the worst one can display of a twisted moral compass.

The postmodern philosophers teach that morality and ethics are context dependent. But, ethics cannot depend on where you are or what you are doing. It must depend on being true to a consistent value system. When it comes to torture, any value system that does not respect individual human life is fatally flawed.

I hate ISIS. I hate Islamic Extremism. I have no problem killing people who behead, burn, and drown others in a theology of horror. We must do everything possible to eradicate them. But, as soon as we make torture one of the tools we use, we too take ownership for the twisted moral compass – this we must never let happen.

One more reason that Donald Trump is unqualified to be POTUS.

 

Honor the Protesters

Posted: March 11, 2016 in My moral code, Politics
Tags: , ,

Donald Trump’s fans say that protesters were trying to deny Mr.Trump his right to free speech. But this is silly because they aren’t protesting against his right to speak; they are doing so against his policies.

Threatening protesters, kicking them out of your rally, and saying that you want to punch them in the face is restricting THEIR right to free speech.

And… In related news… Threatening to make it easier to sue the press is trampling on the right to freedom of the press, which, you may know, might just be only 4 words later in the good old First Amendment. Oh yeah… and for the hell of it, please don’t forget the 2 glorious clauses before the semicolon: you can’t establish a Christian country here either.

So, Donald, don’t talk about freedoms for you that you won’t give to others. You can’t just pick and choose the clauses you happen to like. That would be… You guessed it… Fascism.

I only wish people could have had the freedom that we in the US are blessed with back in the early 1930’s when Hitler and Mussolini could have been stopped. I honor the protesters for standing against America’s Fascist.

From Remembering Marvin Minsky: Marvin loved music and it was a central part of his life. He grew up as a piano prodigy, but especially as a “thinker” about music. He understood music’s great pull …

Source: Tod Machover on remembering Marvin Minsky

I don’t know this performer but I do know she supports what I consider to be organizations counter to the best interests of Israel. I won’t make too many value judgments but this is an interesting piece to consider. Personally I would not have her at one of my events. Perhaps I’m just one of those  misinformed, brainwashed, blind, or unintelligent guys who don’t like B’Tselem and New Israel Fund.

What should have been a day of unity for Vancouver BC’s Jewish community has become a day of controversy.

Source: VANCOUVER FEDERATION BOOKS DIVISIVE ISRAELI ARTIST FOR YOM HA’ATZMAUT BASH

Source: Jason Lieb is now publicly exposed as a sexual predator

Lessons From the Jewish Genome

Posted: January 21, 2016 in Uncategorized

Sounds like a pretty cool event from my friends at Technion!

Several professional titles grace Gad Rennert’s signature, giving him charge of Clalit’s National Cancer Control Center and Personalized Medicine Program, and its Breast and Colorectal Cancer Detection Program. Clalit is Israel’s largest health provider. He is also a Technion professor at The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and chairman of the Department of Community Medicine and Epidemiology at the Technion-affiliated Carmel Medical Center.

Dr. Rennert wears many hats, but his interests are mostly focused on cancer genetics. Renowned for his large-scale studies of breast cancer and BRCA gene mutations in Israeli women, he has launched the First International Conference on “Founder Populations and their Contribution to our Understanding of Biology and History – Lessons from the Jewish Genome” (July 10-13, Haifa, Israel). We recently had the opportunity to interview him about this most exciting initiative.

What makes this gathering the first of its kind?

gadi Dr. Gad Rennert

We…

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