Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

I’m not posting this to turn my blog into a poetry critique class. There are plenty of issues to complain about here. I’m posting it because I wrote it 20 years ago this week, while sitting in a hotel room in Amsterdam. Take it for what it’s worth and remember all those who died 20 years ago today.

September 11, 2001:
	Three planes
               destroy three buildings
that once stood
         taller than the
		cedars of Lebanon.

Tijuana, 1963:
	There’s a picture of mom,
               and dad, and me
with sombreros.
	I don’t remember.
		To early.

Nearly three-thousand people die:
	Business or pleasure?
No. Life or death!
        In the same week we Jews
pray for renewal.

San Diego, 1979:
	A wedding in powder blue.
Yes, it’s true,
	powder blue

Just a few crazed bastards,
	some barely 30 years of age,
		chose death
to harvest and discard
	the entire infrastructure
		of humanity.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

Redondo Beach, 1984:
	There’s a picture of my
		tai chi group on the beach.
	I remember
		all too well!

Paris 1987:
	A café on the “boul miche”,
		with coffee and scientific dictionaries
and the writings of
	Pierre Boulez,
		by the IRCAM sign.

Nearly three thousand people die:
	For a cause no one understands.
With hand written instructions for piety and
	the roots of liberty are torn from the earth,
in the same week I read about John Adams.

Paris, again, 1989:
	A café on the “boul miche”.
		with a wedding,
	in black
		and white.

Just a few crazed bastards
	choose prayer then death.
Clear-cutting over three thousand

Valencia, 1982:
	A music degree.
A military industrial complex grows.
	An actor for president.

And the law changes now:
	They can now tap your phone
		by name, not simply number.
The National Guard

And pity the man who
	visits a pornographic website,
now that they can track the history
	of all his visits.

Big Sur, 1967:
	A seven year old at Esalon?
No. A family trip
to see “General Sherman Tree”.
        Foreshadowing three grown children
		whose liberty now stands shaken.

	the threats,
Those few crazed bastards
	rightly die.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

Los Angeles, 1960
	Would I have come into a world
		so devoid of human values,
for a lost liberty, in a land of sadness,
        had I known and had a soul
               to chose?

As my gift of liberty wanes, I fear.
the pope and Dalai Lama
		and Moslems who defend life
are overshadowed by the evil.
	Tearing the roots of joy from
               the tree of life.

Yet, succumb to fear
	and lose compassion
and WE discard
	the entire infrastructure of humanity!

Los Angeles, 1960:
	I think
I have
	my answer.

And where are
	the Pope and Dalai Lama now?
And where are
	the Moslems who defend life?
And why retain
	compassion now?

September 11, 2001:
	Today compassion was torn from the earth
		like the root-ball of a redwood;
taking with it
	a rich mass of soil
		forty-one years in diameter.

  (c)2013 Dandylines Books [From "The New Poetics of Isolation" ISBN 9781490907659]

Bless you all and may this stand as a memory of both those who died in America today and those who died in 20 years of war that, for a variety or reasons, should not have taken thousands more lives and billions of dollars from our children.

Every day, we seem to be making America greater, and greater, and greater again.

In just one week we have seen 14 bombs sent to past presidents and other major critics of Donald Trump AND the worst massacre of Jews in the history of the United States, with 11 people dead.

The country in which I live is no longer some shining light on some hill. We keep hearing people say “Make America Great Again” but that is clearly nonsense.

Perhaps one of the good things about Donald Trump being president of the United States is that China and Japan are now talking about healing their long-lasting wounds and working together. That is a good thing for the world. But, that is a bad thing for our country because it means that we will not remain the world’s great economic superpower.

So, we continue down the path of making America worse. I am among those who deeply loves the country in which I live. It absolutely kills me to see the wanton destruction of what was once the greatest democracy on Earth. That is all I have to say except to urge all of us to pray for the murdered Jewish worshipers and to pray that what little remain of our executive branch will have the balls to call the bombs what they are: assassination attempts. Such evil is NEVER even acceptable to ponder.


I will start by clearly stating that, in what I am about to say, I am NOT comparing Donald Trump to Hitler. That is NOT what I am about to say.

That said, if you compare Trump’s 2015 blanket statements about “tracking Muslims” to the blanket statements made about Jews in Germany in the 1930’s, you will see some very (as Leonard Peikoff says) ominous parallels. 

Think about it. Much of the world, the US included, has economic problems. We have the most divisive political bodies that have existed in my lifetime. A tiny fraction of the Muslim community is radical and, it is true, that it’s getting worse. People need to feel like their government is looking out for them. In that environment people feel vulnerable and, if one wants to lead the United States, what better way than to pick a scapegoat and to foster fear.

In the 1930s, the Jews were Europe’s scapegoat and the leadership of the National  Socialist Party used fear to gain support. Adolph Hitler was the absolute master of fear mongering. First it was fear of criminals, then Soviet Military personnel, then Jews, then homosexuals, then pacifists, and on, and on. By far the largest group of scapegoats was the Jews. Look where that led.

Now we have a growing radical Muslim element throughout the world. Every Republican presidential candidate is, in one way or another, using this tragic evil to build a culture of fear. But, you have to admit that the worst exploiter of fear is Donald Trump. We Anericans can’t let that be acceptable. We can’t just pick a group to hate. We can’t let Trump to do to Islam what Hitler did to Judaism.

Now, Mr. Trump is right to say that we have to get tougher. No question. But, when a guy proposes a registry of Muslims, tweets white supremacist web links, and, of the terroriststs, says “we’ve got to take out their families”, the line has been crossed. 

So, I repeat, Trump is no Hitler. But, what the man preaches is pure racist, anti-Muslim, fear mongering. It is too close to that which started the West’s greatest decade of shame. Please don’t fall victim to generalized hatred. Hate terrorists. I do. But please don’t support Donald Trump in hating an entire group of people.

Recently I’ve heard clergy of various religions trying to explain the Pope’s statement that there are limits to free speech and that insulting someone’s religion should be one of them. One argument goes like this…

“…he didn’t mean the state should put laws in place to limit free-speech; he meant that we should take personal responsibility for our speech and limit it as appropriate.” I agree with that even though I don’t believe that is what he meant.

The other argument equivocates insulting a religion with causing tangible danger to a group of people. That one goes like this…

…Just like it’s illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater, speech should be restricted (by law or personal morality) when it is likely to cause a violent response.

On the surface that seem like a reasonable, tenable, position. But, here’s the rub.

A substantial percentage of the worlds population is Muslim. While a tiny fraction of the world’s Muslims’s pervert the teaching of their prophet into a violent, extremist, ideology, that ideology does exist. At the opposite extreme there is Jainism. There are a small number of worldwide Jains and there is no room whatsoever for violence in their ideology. So, the likelihood that a “Charlie Hebdo” cover that insults the Jains would incite them to murder the author and his co-workers is infinitely small. Conversely, we all know that one cartoon can incite those same murders when Islamists (note that I did not say “Muslims”) are offended.

IF the likelihood that some piece of writing will incite a violent response is the criteria upon which we define the legality or morality of a response, then we should never insult Islam but Jainism is fair game. That makes no sense at all. It is unequal, irrational, and insulting in and of itself. WORSE YET, if we consider that to be a tenable criterion, then we just let the small pre-modern faction of our world ideological diversity WIN!

My position, therefore, is that a cartoon of Muhammad is only morally similar to “yelling fire in a crowded room” if we also acknowledge that the violent response is a morally viable one. To Islamic extremists it evidentially is. To the rest of the community of Islam, to Jews, Buddhists, Jains, the vast majority of Christians, atheists and most other belief systems, it is not. I propose that any criteria which treats Islamists as more worthy of sensitivity than the rest of us is not appropriate criteria.

We should care about, and respect, every belief system equally. If it’s ok for a fringe group of Christians to praise God for letting Christopher Hitchens “burn in hell” for his atheism; if it’s ok to let the KKK march against the strides that the African-American community still needs to make; if it’s ok for people to deny the Holocaust on American college campuses; if it’s ok to satirize homosexual marriage, then the only choice is that it be ok to satirize the Prophet Muhammad.

Do I like it? NO. I sometimes wish we had a law against Holocaust denial. I often wish Klan rallies were illegal. But in the US they are not. Whether or not I like these things we really have no choice but to allow them; once you start regulating speech based on who you insult, the slope becomes very slippery.

I say this: No laws regulating freedom of speech. No equating insulting religion with causing imminent danger to people. No letting radical Islam win their war against rationality and modern society. Let’s do what I doubt the pope was saying but which I pray he was:

Let’s just respect our diversity by making individual decisions that lead to kindness, peace, and love. Let’s not give radical Islam any more respect than it deserves. Make up you mind as an individual human being about what you think that is. You can guess where I stand.


I am completely beside myself with a combination of rage and sorrow. Of those two emotions the latter massively  predominates. This week I stand firmly with the citizens of Israel in mourning the loss of the three blameless young men who were brutally murdered by the blatantly evil, completely repulsive, animals who have no respect whatsoever for the sanctity of human life.

In the mature societies of the 21st century, both Americans and Israelis,  Jews and Gentile,  believers and atheists, and millions of loving, mainstream, Muslims must stand together against the seemingly endless, barbaric terrorism that engulfs the Middle East. To anyone with even a drop of rationality such incendiary crimes must not be tolerated. I will state my believe as succinctly as I can: Hamas is an adversary of peace, harmony, humanity, honor, individual human dignity, and respect. To my mind, anyone who takes a position counter to that is simply exacerbating the problem.

In Jewish law, the preservation of human life takes precedence over all other commandments. This is a Talmudic teaching with roots in Leviticus 18:5 where it says:

אֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי תַּעֲשׂוּ וְאֶת-חֻקֹּתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ, לָלֶכֶת בָּהֶם:  אֲנִי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. (“You shall therefore keep my statutes and ordinances, which if a man do, he shall live by them.”)

In the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Yoma 85b) the rabbis added this: “That he shall live by them, and not that he shall die by them.” Accompanying this is a corollary teaching in Tractate Sanhedrin 37a – Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9 that says: Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. In other words, every time you destroy human life it is as significant as if you have destroyed the entire world! Our sages have much to say on this and I am certainly not educated enough to be qualified to discuss most of it. Still, I want to share my own opinion.

Every human being has not only his or her own potential but also the potential to procreate. Procreation has the potential to continue לדור ודור (L’dor VaDor), from generation to generation, ad infinitum.  Every human being also has the potential to save other lives and to enhance the lives of those around them. Between procreation and the general promotion of life, every single individual human being is a link in a potentially infinite series of generations. Thus, if you destroy a single life you have destroyed infinite potential and have destroyed an infinite succession of futures. You have destroyed an infinitely large potential population, or, the whole world!

 Thrice, with these despicable murders, Hamas has destroyed entire worlds! Worse still, through the murders of Eyal Yifrah (19), Gilad Shaar (16), and Naftali Fraenkel (16) Hamas has thrice destroyed the most precious subset of all human life YOUTH! All humans have the infinite potential I described above. Young people, though, have the greatest potential to contribute to the world in THIS LIFE. The senseless murder of 3 teenagers is arguably the most heinous of all murders. What is not arguable, but indisputable, is that such murders are surely the saddest.

At the memorial for Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, the finance minister of Israel said what I said above in a yet more poignant way when he remarked:

“We are burying a child today; a child who could have been the child of any one of us. Therefore, he is indeed the child of each and every one of us.”

So, why am I enraged? Because this is the 21st century and once again some excruciatingly evil people have acted like it was the 10th century and have destroyed infinite human potential.

And my sorrow? If you have to ask that, then read this over and over again until you get it. How can one not weep uncontrollably over the irreverent disregard for dignity and the senseless destruction of infinite potential?