Honesty is such a lonely word

I’m really sad these days. I have always been a person to believe that honesty is the best way of operating. You try to lie and then get caught in a web of lies and then no one trusts anything you say anymore. I’m sure people are rationalizing that since everyone is doing it right now, I might as well make up stories that help my cause, because the “other side” is lying as well. Well now we have absolutely no idea what is true. I don’t trust anyone in the media, especially those who are arguing the most vociferously.

I started out loving Bernie Sanders because he was consistent and straightforward, but as time has gone on, I’m questioning him as well. I still want to believe he is the most honest politician of all time, if such a thing can exist. But I am starting to wonder if maybe he has been fed misinformation by the media and the people surrounding him as well. No one is immune. Absolutely no one.

I am writing this and realizing that a blog, about my own feelings and thoughts, may or may not be based on reality. I read others’ blogs and opinion pieces and think certain points of view are valid because it fits my preconceived notions. When I read another opinion piece that disagrees with my own world view, I think they are wrong. How is one to discern the truth?

First of all, one must be cognizant that we each do have biases. And while I want to be true to myself, is it possible that my idea of the truth is based on my own particular experiences and influences and indoctrination, is it possible that I would think quite differently if I was raised and surrounded by a completely different cultural, political, and ideological environment? Would I still think these thoughts, can I claim that I am thinking for myself?

Another issue with thinking we are right and others are wrong is that our opinions and beliefs only seem to bounce around in an echo chamber of like-minded individuals, and if it does get out of the room, it is likely ignored and pushed away by those with differing beliefs. Perhaps it is the tone of our writing, no one is humble, everyone is accusing, but opposing factions are deaf to each other.

I am thinking about humility. I may be right to strive for justice and kindness, but am I better than anyone else? I want to believe that all human beings would do the right thing given the right understanding. But I know there are a lot of grey areas. There are people suffering in hidden ways, we cannot know their personal experience without actually living in their shoes. We can assume they are villains, lying about their grievances. Or perhaps we can be humble, and listen for a bit, have an open-minded discussion.

Yesterday, I discussed lessons I planned to teach about the role of propaganda in the Holocaust. I forgot something important.  You know, the popular Diary of Anne Frank? I have also read her Tales from the Secret Annex, where she imagined what it was like for the people living a normal life on the outside, while all the terrible things were happening around them. I was struck by a recurring theme in her work: Anne’s belief in the innate goodness of human beings.

Friends and neighbors, if someone who actually witnessed the rise of Nazism and herself suffered from persecution could still believe in people, I think it behooves all of us to take a look at each other as openly and hopefully as possible.

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Propaganda or Misinformation

The Aim of this article is to point out a widespread problem that affects all sides of the political spectrum. I am afraid that my own thoughts have been clouded by the rampant misinformation so readily available on the internet.

Back when I was a Judaic studies/Hebrew teacher, I had the opportunity to teach a class of 8th graders some of the history that led to the Holocaust. What I learned from the text books and documents that I scoured in preparation was that the Nazis were systematic and adept at using mass media and  propaganda to gain control of the hearts and minds of a population that had not all voted in lockstep with them to begin with. The Nazis drew upon centuries of stereotyping and stories about the scary “other,” who made an easy scapegoat for real problems that had nothing to do with them. Despite the demise and repudiation of the Nazi regime over 60 years ago, these vivid images persist: the “Fat Greedy, Banker Jew,” the “Blood-drinking Satan Worshipper,” the “Lazy, yet Violent Barbarian.”

Especially with the advent of the internet, and it  being so easy to find multiple sources of information, one would assume it would be nearly impossible to get away with the type of propaganda that can be used by an oppressive, controlling regime.

Propaganda (dictionary.com)

[prop-uhgan-duh] noun

1.

information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

2.

the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

3.

the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

Until recently, yes, very recently, I was very naive about the power of propaganda in an open and free society. I don’t think I’m the only one, and I now believe that the makers of the current us vs. them propaganda are poisoning our social media and turning what should be open, reasoned discussions into finger-pointing and accusations. We think of our digitally advanced society as the “information age,” but solid facts are becoming harder and harder to discern.  

Yesterday, I saw clearly for the first time a blatant example of propaganda, a supposedly evidenced based article, promoting the narrative that Trump motivated hate crimes are a hoax created by “liberal Jews.” Here is the headline:

FAKE HATE: Leftist Students Painted Swastika and “Trump” on Campus Church

The article actually quotes and links to a real news story from the Jewish Week, and if you do a search for the two defendants mentioned, you will find multiple articles from mainstream news sources such as the Chicago Tribune. The author, Jim Hoft, of the Gateway Pundit, does not expect readers to click on and scrutinize the original source material, but by quoting a Jewish media source, he has given his article an aura of legitimacy.

Now, go ahead and click on the original news stories. You see the same pictures of the two students, but something is missing, not one word characterizing the two as “liberal” or “Jewish”. In fact, they are currently still being prosecuted on multiple counts for an actual hate crime, not for creating a fake hate crime!  Also, the Gateway Pundit story is dated Nov. 15, 2016, which is yesterday, and withholds the information that this incident occurred back in March. Mr. Hoft is trying to create the illusion that the two students are retaliating for the loss of their favored liberal candidate to President-Elect Trump.  The author copy and pasted an old news story and slapped on the attributes liberal and Jewish, to create a misleading piece of propaganda.

Now let’s say you are a liberal like me, and don’t bother to read the Gateway Pundit, which apparently is filled with stories like this, yay, I won’t be mislead! Unfortunately, this article and others like this showed up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, thanks to a well-meaning  more conservative minded friend who is by no means anti-semitic. She immediately deleted it, when I pointed out how it was false and misleading. Another friend, however, continued to argue that the Jewish week and Chicago Tribune confirmed the veracity of the Gateway Pundit story. I don’t think I have been able to change his mind. Even if I had been able to change his mind, it is unlikely that most conservative readers are discussing with liberals this specific article. Meanwhile, the idea that liberals and others are responsible for perpetrating hoaxes to malign Trump supporters has already taken hold.

Propaganda is being used with increasing frequency on both sides of the political spectrum. Now that the head of the alt-right Brietbart news has become the chief advisor to President-Elect Trump, after heading up his successful campaign,  I am afraid that this type of systemic and sustained propaganda is being intentionally deployed to control the hearts and minds of free citizens, who might otherwise be able to have reasoned, fact-based discussions of the issues facing our country.

****Update: If you click on the Gateway Pundit, the story has now been updated, and “cleaned up”.  Here is another site that picked up on the same false story and links back to the gateway pundit as proof.

Update 2: Another site removed the “erroneous” Jewish attribution.

Update 3: Huckabee called out for quoting misinformation about this fake story here.

Congratulations: Another Political Rant on the Eve of Election

****Disclaimer: This essay was written before the author knew the outcome of the election. I apologize to my readers for incorrectly relying on the media’s pronouncements that Clinton had locked up the election. However, it is my feeling that the points made in this essay are still relevant, despite the unexpected turn of events.

Congratulations Trump Haters, er, I mean Hillary supporters. You got what you wanted, you defeated the greater of two evils. Your queen is anointed. Now I can tell you what has been bugging me about your unwavering support for someone who was so driven by her own ego, that only she could be the first female US president, that she hijacked the entire DNC hierarchy to make sure she had no possible rival.

Ever wonder why no other female politician, and there are now plenty of rising stars, chose to run against her?

Clinton knew no one pays attention during primaries. So if she ran an OK primary campaign, her name recognition alone would carry her, as long as no other dynamic, charismatic rising star challenged her. So she set the stage years in advance to drive the competition away before they could be competition.

Warren, yes, she should have run, Gillebrande, perhaps. What about about the dearth of minority candidates running in the DNC primary? Didn’t that stick out like a sore thumb?

Now if the primary fight had been fair and inclusive, I would be content. But you are telling me that I had to vote for the lesser of two evils, and there was never much of a choice to begin with.

I’m like you, I usually don’t research primary candidates as well as I should and when I got involved in past campaigns it was mostly during the general election (okay, I had a very brief stint in support of Bill Bradley before he dropped out). In fact, I voted Hillary in the 2008 primaries without a second thought, but I was content to accept Obama’s nomination.

This year was different. I spent tens of hours knocking on doors, making calls from South Carolina to Guam, and I donated almost the maximum in allowable contributions before a primary nominee had been chosen, or so I thought.

I got involved in the earliest stages of the campaign, before the first primary debate, on Rosh Hashanah eve, actually. I heard a candidate speak with full honesty and conviction to the heart of what I believe. I had never heard a politician sound like this, no pat cliches and slogans, but real honest to goodness truth. So I believed, before a single vote was cast that I could make a difference, I could convince my fellow democrats that we had the real progressive champion of a lifetime, the one we’d always dreamed of.

This is why I voted democrat for 25 years, since my first presidential election in 1992, the year I cheered on the 1st Clinton run for president. Watching my team win against the evil Republicans was elating. And I knew or thought I knew what democrats stood for, progress, enlightenment, justice.

But this year, this rigged election, the wool was pulled from my eyes, as the Democratic machine destroyed the man I thought embodied democratic ideals. They claimed he wasn’t a true democrat, but he was truer to democratic ideals than anyone I had ever encountered.

Now if you think idealism doesn’t count for anything and you have to accept reality, well why is it realistic to run an extremely disliked woman for the presidency, but not to pass legislation that most Americans agree we should have. More than 60% believe we should have universal healthcare (not universal coverage, which is often not enough to avoid preventable deaths, thanks to high deductibles and other insurance tactics that keep actual healthcare out of reach). The Affordable Care Act fell short of avoiding these preventable deaths thanks to a lowering of our expectations and realism. Yet, with idealism and being true to our values, when we had the majority in both houses, we could have finally had what every other developed country has–universal healthcare.

Democrats squandered this and several other opportunities, such as true reform of the banks and the reversal of deregulation that caused the great recession. We were realistic, and so milquetoast, did small incremental steps, that have slowly nudged us out of recession. Yet we are still in danger, on this eve of a second democratic presidency, of falling back into recession. No one is breathing a sigh of relief yet. We know we are in another bubble. We don’t know if our loans will suddenly go underwater. And millions of young millennials, are especially vulnerable, with the current outrageous costs for college tuition, forced into high interest student loans for a worthless degree, when no one is hiring or paying a decent wage, and no means to foreclose or declare bankruptcy. They have no assets and so they are imprisoned in debt and high interest rates, forever. But the banks we know from experience, will be bailed out.

Tomorrow, you get to gloat about your win, but this was never a fair fight and you had the audacity to shame those who researched and found your candidate lacking. We know the DNC colluded to make sure we never had a choice, that no other candidate but she could be. But we must still accept, water under the bridge. And our candidate was never a true democrat. He didn’t deserve to run let alone be given a fair chance. You know the debates were rigged, right? Limited numbers, odd times, when few people were watching, and debate questions leaked to only one campaign. The media also avoided mention of any other candidate unless to hurl criticism, so the one with name recognition wouldn’t lose her advantage. But our primary defeat, we must accept and swallow. And he was not a true democrat, so should have run independent, not in our party, you say, don’t meddle in our private affairs.

But today, you say, don’t vote third party, don’t vote independent, for you it is a choice between D and R and no in between. So our independent voices, and independent, not affiliated, is larger now than both R and D combined, our independent voices need to be silenced, only choose R or D.

So our third parties, our independence, is marginalized, and our candidate must fight within the system that is rigged against it. Because it is not an inclusive club, even if you are a card carrying Dem for 25 years. No you don’t have a say, you rank and file, and if you don’t like it, you can leave. But don’t you dare vote outside the party, no, then you are supporting evil, there is nothing in between.

We have a two-headed monster and only voices of the powerful and connected are heard. The rest of us will be led or pushed with false promises and real threats to accept the no choice as queen.

Hillary Love

I am about to vote third party, for the first time in my life, and I know many would assume that is because I have no love for the democratic presidential nominee. Actually, the reverse is true.

I have admired the former first lady, since day one, when I cheered on the election of President Clinton I in November of 1992. I was inspired by her non-typical role in the white house, an equal partner with her husband, who I first heard of as Hillary Rodham, the name she was born with and did not change immediately upon marriage. That year, I was a sophomore at the all-women, liberal bastion of Barnard College, and I decided I too would proudly keep my name, no matter who I married. I was thrilled when Hillary decided to run in the 2008 primary, so grateful for the opportunity to vote for the first women president, and I believed in her, the author of It Takes a Village.

Yes it really does take a village, and you can certainly see it in her campaign, how she relies on this village of support. I see my friends, proudly voting for the first woman to become president of the united states, and it fills me with a special thrill. This is historic, this is about time, to have this kind of role model for our daughters and ourselves. Women can do anything they put their minds to.

And yet, I will not personally partake in that victory. Videos of Hillary and her youngest and oldest supporters going to the voting booth tug at my heart strings. Ahh, to be like these proud women! But this year I have learned things about the democratic party, about the deception and willingness to skirt the edge of legality, that has marked her campaign, and I cannot. I have to vote my conscience, and I feel sad that I cannot be part of history in the making.

I don’t believe I will be helping to elect a President Trump. In a swing state, I would be voting strategically against him, no doubt. I don’t want our nation to go backwards either. But I don’t hate him or his voters either. They aren’t all deplorable racists. If we were having a real debate about the issues that face America, I think it would be clearer, that he gets some things right, though certainly not most things.

Unfortunately, these aren’t small issues that the party establishment has chosen to ignore. Our working and middle class citizens have been losing their voice within both the Republican and Democratic parties. Our representatives pay lip service to the issues that affect us on a fundamental level, but with only a few exceptions, none stand up to fight for us when they reach the capitol with their entourage of aides and lobbyists. Policy and legislation is written by the corporations and wealthy individuals that funded them. The wool was pulled from my eyes this year. The fact is that this two party system and the tremendous influence of money in politics has stymied any hope that we can make real progress.

So instead of partaking in the historic moment that I have long yearned for, I am voting to strengthen an alternative voice. I am voting for a woman who probably has no chance of winning in this election, but who speaks truth to power, just as Bernie Sanders did during the primary. I believe that to hold a Clinton presidency, or any elected official, accountable to the people, it needs to know that voters have choices. Enough with the politics of acrimony and derision, that attempt to silence any opponent. Now is the time to raise up these alternative voices, so that we all win.

can’t sleep

Today is going to be a long day. Election day. I didn’t early vote, like I usually do, but I will vote today, like I always do. Sitting up in bed last night, I finally had to get it all off my chest, so I wrote, a long political rant. Assuming my prediction for today’s winner is correct, I will be brave and post it tomorrow. Not today. I don’t want to upset my friends, I am not trying to change anyone’s mind.  And who knows, I could be wrong.

A Thanksgiving Seder

Last night, my son had trouble sleeping, while I was messaging with a friend. He (my 9 year old) told me to get off my phone and meditate. He was right, that’s what I needed to do. I sat down next to him and closed my eyes, and tried to think of something calming. Probably because I have been concerned about the people protesting the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline), what sprang into my mind’s eye: the vision of a young Native American girl in a brown tunic, standing amid the trees on the shore of the Hudson River, catching her first glimpse of Europeans, perhaps Henry Hudson himself.

Sounds a bit like Pocahantus right? Well, that image is one I had years ago before I ever saw the movie, while doing a hypnotic regression. Kind of crazy, I know. My husband is into New Age spirituality, life after death, reincarnation. I’m agnostic about these things, but found it fascinating and was reading some of his books on doing past life regression. Really not surprising, since I have a thing for Native American culture that I would conjure this image. For our anniversary one year, we visited the Smithsonian National Museum of the Native American and I bought and devoured a book on the history of indigenous Americans. I don’t claim to have had a past live as a Native American, but who knows.

Then my mind drifted to the #noDapl movement and this upcoming Thanksgiving. My husband and I had decided we would again host my extended family. Since going off the derech, we are the non-religious ones, so it makes sense for us to be responsible for this secular holiday celebration. But what I really want to do is be in North Dakota standing with Standing Rock. Can you imagine doing a Thanksgiving celebration with actual Native Americans, European americans dressing up as a pilgrim, and together we recreate the “original” Thanksgiving feast? I don’t know if that would go over well, not sure how Native Americans feel about this holiday, and is the story really accurate or an idyllic reinventing of history? I’m going to have to do some research, I think.

Now, I figured I will not be able to drag my family across the country (or would I?), but maybe we can do something more than stuff ourselves with a dead bird and pumpkin pie this year. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because of it’s name, reminding us to be thankful for all we have. But there’s more to it, perhaps Thanksgiving can instill an appreciation for Native american culture and a desire to right the wrongs of the past four hundred years.  

One year, actually it was the year of Thanksgivukkah, the big cousins organized a Thanksgiving play, about the pilgrims and Indians. The little cousins, my kids included, were given little parts to play and the big cousins made hats and headresses to wear. It was a spectacular performance, followed by the oldest cousin doing a tap dance solo. Now, what about doing something like that, but incorporating the real history of Thanksgiving, the actual native american experience, and what about including the storytelling and lessons of their earth based spirituality, that us Europeans really need to learn, before we destroy our planet.

I began to think of this as a Thanksgiving Seder, similar to our Passover Freedom Seder, where we learn and remind ourselves of the oppression that still exists in our world. I once thought that Jews, with their moral teachings of being kind to the stranger and seeking justice for the downtrodden, were meant to be a “light unto the nations.” I’m starting to think that we need to turn to our Native brothers and sisters to shine their light and guide us back to harmony with nature and each other. I see their peaceful struggle and the solidarity of tribes from all over our country joining to protect our water, our future.

I don’t mean to misappropriate Native American culture, but I would love to begin a discussion of how we can organize to bring these inspiring people into the limelight, because it is their turn to shine.