I read this morning that nearly half of the American people believe it is acceptable to use torture if it yields actionable information. I find this utterly abhorrent.

For you 50% I pray that you don't know the definition of torture.

Many or you who fall into this category call yourselves "Christian" and I ask you this: Would Jesus – "Mr. turn the other cheek" – ever condone imposing excruciating, unspeakably horrible, unending pain on another human being? Would Jesus ever say there is a proper time to connect a woman's labia to electric current or to deny sleep to a prisoner between sessions of waterboarding? If you answer "yes" then I suggest you find a way to unbaptize yourself because your view of Jesus is clearly different from Jesus' view of Jesus.

Some of you may not call yourself Christian – or even religious – and I want to speak to you also.

Can you not at least consider a moral code that respects the right to exist of every member of our species? Can you not acknowledge each human as worthy of being left without unspeakable pain? Can you not imagine yourself drowning, being slammed against walls repeatedly, having your genitals mutilated, being kept awake for days on end, being stoned to death, having your fingernails pulled out, and realize that such unspeakable acts inflict pain of which you cannot even conceive – and that a worldview that condones such acts in not even human?!?!

I hate terrorists as much as any American. I love America at least as much as most of you. I even waver in my support – and lack thereof – of the death penalty when I hear of the horrors that we humans can inflict in others. I want those who harm others to be punished. But there is a line beyond which nothing can pass – no moral system, no twisted ethics, no religion, no belief system – and that line is the purposeful infliction of excruciating pain – physical, mental, or emotional.

When half of our country is willing to cross that line then we are perhaps a state no better than the Islamic one called ISIL This can't possibly be the case. The greatest experiment in a society of liberty can't possibly have degraded to the level of one that accepts torture and denies the sacredness of the Geneva Conventions.

If you really believe that torture is acceptable then I beg you to reconsider. We have taken steps backward but surely not so far back as barbarism!!!

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As an amateur poet and a big collector of poetry books I must say that I am not typically a fan of books by poets that are not poetry. Poetics is about concision. Novels and essays are generally not. I don’t really view them as requiring comparable skills. 

In at least one case I have been proven very wrong. Patricia Lockwood’s essay “Priestdaddy” is very close to perfect. The book is a masterful integration of the poignancy shown in her “gone viral” poem “Rape Joke”, the irreverent abandon of her Twitter feed, a sense of humor rivaling Jenny Lawson, an honest exploration of family, a childhood of Catholicism, the sexual honesty she is known for, and an utter love of language. This book is a very rare case of perfect balance between prosody and poetics. I applaud her.

The story of Priestdaddy is both very common and insanely unique. It is common because it tells a story that is becoming increasingly common: A married 30-something moving back home with mom and dad. No big deal there. The insane uniqueness comes from the fact that dad is one of the very rarest of Catholic priests: A married one. 

I did not know that it was even possible to be a married Catholic priest. Apparently, one can get the calling anytime and you don’t have to reset you virginity to do it. Also, apparently, you do have to meet certain criteria that can be defined by testing. Step one is that you and the family must be tested to insure you are not insane. Considering the sorry state of child sex abuse in the “one true church” (a topic poignantly covered in the book) it seems they’d be better off giving that test to the celebate virgin applicants, But that is a much bigger topic. In any case, Lockwood’s description of the “test” is absolutely hilarious. 

Daddy was not content as a Lutheran and was – family and all – dirty underwear and all – rags in the sink and all – electric guitar, guns, mysogeny, football, living half-naked in front of the TV, hamburgers and pork rinds, and all – into the holy Catholic priesthood.

Feisty, readheaded, subversively subservient mom is her own piece of work. She cooks huge meals for the seminarians without even flinching when Fr. Lockwood asks why it took so long. She washes piles of her beloved “Priesthubby’s” (I just made that up but I officially herein offer it to you, Trish, if you want the title for a sequel; because it’s a fuckin’ awesome word) dirty underwear. She care’s deeply, perhaps too deeply, about the safety of her children. And… she is as hilariously odd in her own way as daddy is in his. 

I won’t keep going with the character descriptions because I don’t want to spoil too much. Let’s just say that Lockwood’s own post-religion, atheist husband and her “baybay” grunting sister are characterized as wonderfully as dad and mom.

As for Lockwood herself, she portrays her childhood, her sexuality, her ability to drink martinis while seductively showing her belly to vulnerable drunk seminarians, her mastery in turning on her priest-daughter mode at ordaination parties, and her uncanny early love of language with an amazing candor. I hate to again compare her to Jenny Lawson but I really see tha; I genuinely intend that comparison to be a complement. 

Twice, I compared Priestdaddy with the writing of Jenny Lawson. Now I need to state a difference. Patricia Lockwood is unique among poets because she can write an essay this well. But she differs from other essay writers and especially humorists in the clarity, beauty, use of analogy, grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction, of her writing. I fear that if I give examples, of which there are a multitude, I’ll ruin something for you. But, here are just a couple:

<All my life I have overheard, all my life I have listened to what people will let slip when they think you are part of their we. A we is so powerful. It is the most corrupt and formidable institution on earth. Its hands are full of the crispest and most persuasive currency. Its mouth is full of received, repeating language. The we closes its ranks to protect the space inside it, where the air is different. It does not protect people. It protects its own shape.>

And…

<There has never been a trilogy he didn’t like, and if you don’t understand why, I have three words for you: father, son, and Holy Spirit. Foremost among his favorites is the original Star Wars trilogy, which he fervently believes is about priests in space, and the first three Alien films, which he believes are about how all women are destined to be mothers.>

Those are not even among what I consider the highlights. I won’t give you my favorites because, as I’ve implied, you deserve to laugh and cry and roll your eyes, and vent, and laugh and cry some more all by yourself. I won’t ruin that.

I never would have expected a poet I love to also write one of my favorite bits of prose. But, Patricia Lockwood has done it. Not only should you read this book but you should listen to it too. The Audible Studios production is read by the author and no one can say “BAYBAY”, talk about dirty rags, and tell of showing her erotic stomach to Italian seminarians like the writer herself. 

For the record, I adore this book. 

Also for the record, Ms. Lockwood, your long arms are NOT your only beauty.

I stand with the Coptic Christian community and I encourage them to fight to survive the horror of ISIS which (if I believed in Satan) I’d call Satan incarnate. 

Don’t take the words “turn the other cheek” too seriously. Fight for your community however you need too.  Every human life is sacred but some are more precious than others. (Hint: if you shoot Christians just because they aren’t Muslims then you fall squarely into the NON-precious category and I’d say you are fair game.)

Remember Copts, you have the right to your beliefs so long as they don’t harm others. Let no one take them from you; especially those who embody evil. They hate you and Jesus might tell you not to hate them back. But, it’s okay NOT TO DIE at the hands of zealots. Remember, the proper translation of the commandment is “thou shalt not murder” NOT “thou shalt not kill”. If you are going to die, die defending your humanity. Don’t Die of complacency.

As one of the world’s small remaining community of Jews, I stand with you. You are not alone.

By the time that we American Jews begin our commemoration of the Shoah, the first round of the 2017 French Presidential election will be over.

That is significant.

At the very moment that we are praying that the horror of the Holocaust will never again befall our people, the moment when we hear from the few remaining survivors of the Nazi death camps, it’s likely that Marine Le Pen – the daughter of an avowed anti-Semite who is the farthest of the French far right – will receive sufficient public support to make it to the final round.

The French racist hyper-Nationalism which puts Ms. Le Pen into this position is not unique.

As we pray that such a horror will never befall our people again, many of us pray that such atrocities will never befall ANYONE again. But, as we do so, our American President is hell bent on beginning to build a wall on our southern border before he reaches his 100th day in office. Our American President sends congratulatory messages to dictators who’s people stupidly grant their leader additional powers. Our American President was elected on the specific promise to turn away refugees just like our country disgracefully did to European refugees who’s return trip sent them right into the National Socialist gas chambers.

But it does not end with Le Pen and Trump.

Throughout Europe there is a rising tide of Antisemitism. Around the world, Antisemitism is weakly disguised as anti-Zionism. America is immersed in Islamophobia. Radical Islam perpetuates the myth that even Muslims have insurmountable divisions that can only be solved through mass murder. The UK would rather leave the European Union than to embrace diversity. And an insane child is leading North Korea toward World War III.

In other words, every year I quote Robert Nozick and every year I come closer to believing his statement that the Holocaust may have demonstrated that our species is indeed unworthy of survival. I can’t bring myself to embrace that, though, and here’s why:

I believe that humans are no more than the latest round of primates. I believe that we are not really all that special. But, I also believe that we have been given, by God or by chance (who knows?), the unique capacity to reason and, as far as we know, a uniquely sophisticated linguistic ability. Together this is a powerful toolkit. With it, we have the ability to change our destiny.

We can use those tools to accelerate our demise as Kim Jong Un is want to do. But we could also delay it by thousands of generations, perhaps even permanently change its course. But to do the latter takes the courage to fight the forces of hatred, misogyny, xenophobia, and fear-mongering through which everything “other” becomes a tool for evil dictatorial “leaders” to take control of our societies. To turn toward good we need only use our reason and our communicative capacity to help enough others to realize that we can, indeed we must, turn away from evil.

And so, as we approach Yom haShoah 2017, my hope is that all of my coreligionists will use our commemoration of the past to rededicate ourselves to the realization that the past can and will repeat itself if we are not each individually a force for change.

It has now become painfully clear that President Obama illegally monitored The activities in Trump Tower. Recent revelations have vindicated President Trump’s contention that he had been “wiretapped”. 

Sources indicate that the use of the word “wiretapping” in quotation marks is essential. Classified surveillance video shows that, in a move far worse than traditional wiretapping, Mr. Obama himself actually hid under Mr. Trumps desk and sat for hours in the toilet stall directly adjacent to the one where President Trump has his daily bowel movements – which classified documents refer to as “producing the Trump shit”.

Further research indicates that Vladimir Putin was not in the stall next to either Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama. Neither were any members of The Trump family, or of campaign or transition team officials, ever seen in a comparable shithouse in any Russian government building. 

Whitehouse spokesman Sean Spicer,  in a news conference to which only the most reputable right wing media was invited, has confirmed that these revelations prove conclusively that the Trump administration had no contact with any Russian shit prior to or during the election process. These allegations may now be flushed away.

Other recently disapproved allegations include:

Jared Kushner does not have any holdings in any Trump business ventures. Neither did he receive $125,333 in consulting fees from Cambridge Analytica.

Mr. Trump has not backed away from the US position that Bashar al-Assad is a murderous dictator. He agrees that Mr. Assad have some problems with governance but, in a recent tweet, assured the American people that Mr. Assad is a “good guy who is simply saddled with an entire population of people who do some ‘bad, very, very bad’ things by protesting A noble dictatorship dedicated through the well-being and success of Syrian oligarchy”.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Mr. Trump has definitively confirmed that he had no involvement whatsoever in the decision to increase the penalties for  for cow-killing in Uttar Pradash. 

In a statement to which even traditional media was invited Whitehouse spokesman Sean Spicer quoted Mr. Trump saying “I get my shit from Neo-Nazi websites in the Shining City on the American hill, not cow shit in Gujarat, so who gives a damn about dead cows?” Spicer confirmed that Mr. Trump believes that sacred cows deserve to be destroyed….

Just like sacred American values…

<Oh yeah… APRIL FOOLS!!!!!>

What a pity that President Trump, the grandmaster of  “The Art of the Deal“, cannot even bring members of his own party together to agree on one of his signature agenda items. 
President Trump is unable to enact anything he promised. Usually, when he tries, he is thwarted by the checks and balances of the American constitution. Thank God. 

This time he thwarted himself and simultaneously proved that he’s not even a competent dealmaker.

I feel like I am yelling this into a vacuum. But, I have to say it again.

To my Republican friends, of which I have many, i’m begging you to realize that Donald Trump is not a Republican. I am not a Republican but I share many of your values. We may differ widely on social issues but I’m on your side regarding limited government, personal responsibility, and fiscal prudence. I am a Democrat and I would do more to advance your agenda than your own president. He is not one of you and you should not feel obligated to support him. 

You are setting yourself up to lose a lot of Senate and House seats. Personally, I’m OK with that. But, when you do, you need to realize that it was your choice of presidential candidate that did that. 

Please, for God’s sake, recognize that President Trump is not a Republican, not the negotiation genius that he says he is, and not looking out for your interests. You don’t need to be supportive of a guy who isn’t one of you and isn’t even supportive of you.

Let’s continue to disagree on social issues, even to disagree on fiscal issues, even to disagree on the role of government. But, let’s look for someone who, in future, can bring us all together rather than someone who cannot even bring all of his own party together to implement the most important agenda item he had on his to do list.

I am the grandson of Russian immigrants. My father’s parents came to America in the very early 20th century. They were Jewish and the main reason they came was to escape and Antisemitism. 

Grandma and grandpa came from a place where, as a minority, they were hated – to a place whose founding principles were equality and liberty – well, at least for white folk. All that they, and others like them,  wanted was a chance to make a life not mired in hatred. Grandpa’s first way of earning a living was to own gumball machines.

So, I give a danm about others partly because I am just rwo generations removed from immigrants; immigrants who embraced America’s dream –  and I am proud of that. 

The American dream is eroding now; eroding at an unprecidented rate; leaving in it’s wake both sadness and disdain for anyone who’s not a gun-toting rich white Christian. Most horrific is that this is happening in a part of the world where every gun-toting rich white Christian is an immigrant! 

What has this to do with Passover? Easy. 

On Passover one of the greatest mitzvot is to welcome strangers into your home. This is because, just like the gun-toting rich white Christians were in America, we were once strangers in the land of Egypt. We embrace “strangers” because we WERE strangers. Not only that, if we let liberty continue to erode, we could become them once again. 

It happened in Russia. It happened in Germany. If you think it won’t happen in America the I beg you to open your eyes and polish up your critical thinking skills. Because… it is.

On Passover especially, we don’t build wall; we open doors. We don’t exclude strangers; we embrace them. We don’t detest diversity; we embrace it. 

This must happen for everyone, every day. Only then will we open the door and will Elijah stay for longer than just a swig of bad wine. Only then will Eliahu ha navi hearld the messianic age. Or, for we who do not believe in all the theology, only then will people stop treating each other like shit and embrace dignity and love.
This Passover I urge you to RESIST hate and embrace all humanity. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan “Mr. Trump, tear down (the plans for) this wall”.

Hag Pesach Someach!