Monday, January 31, 2011

America's News Blackout

As wealthy a country as the U.S., preaching democracy and freedom of the press, is in some ways more hermetically-sealed than Saudi Arabia. While Canadians are viewing Al-Jazeera English, a highly-regarded cable network offering Middle East news, American cable companies refuse to carry it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thomas Jefferson's Karma

Thomas Jefferson & Mistress Sally Hemings
Thomas Jefferson had always fascinated me, as a historian. I was, thus, all the more puzzled when America’s top biographers of Thomas Jefferson turned out to be, according to Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, “the last to know” that their subject had secretly fathered a child with his slave mistress, Sally Hemings. As Prof. Gordon-Reed points out in Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, the “spirited denials” among America’s top scholars of Thomas Jefferson represented:

. . . the unfortunate human tendency to see only the things we want to see and to know only those things we want to know. This tendency has served no good purpose in the struggle to come to terms with American history.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

America's Mummified Mideast Policy

    The uprising in Egypt is smashing to smithereens, America's carefully-crafted Middle East policy.  It has left President Barack Obama, who is an otherwise fine orator, tongue-tied.  The reason, no doubt, is shame.  America's Mideast policy has been based on support for Arab dictators, even while invading Iraq and Afghanistan, with the presumed goal of imposing democracy.  But what sense did that make?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are Bad News for Israel

Last week's ouster of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali and wide scale protests across Egypt  are nationalist uprisings rather than the work of Islamic fundamentalists,  But that is precisely the reason Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Cabinet must be watching events with growing alarm.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Have Americans Become Human Rights Zombies?

I once knew what “human rights” stood for, and I upheld its banner with pride. But that was before I learned of American torture techniques in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and Quantanamo Bay, or the meaning of such exotic sounding words as “extraordinary renditioning” and “torture by proxy.” What I see now, jetting around the world, peeping into dark corners in search of innocent victims of oppressive states, is the soulless corpse of the American human rights movement.

Letting Go of "Good and Evil"

When I was growing up, my playmates and I could not toss about an epithet so vile, humilating and revolting (and still not be punished for “out-and-out cussing”), as to call the hapless victim “black.” If the trespass were egregious enough, we might even tag the target of our attack “black as sin.” Heavy, self-hating rancor lingered in the air like a noxious odor. Fortunately, the black power, “black is beautiful” movement of the sixties, put an end to such esteem-damaging vilifications. But, I now realize something I could not possibly have known or understood as a child.

The Meaning of Nina's Life

When I returned from Japan where I had spent a year as a visiting professor, my six year old spoke with a native fluency.  Nina was also bursting with all manner of questions about the world, which grew larger with each new discovery she made. “Why doesn’t this McDonald’s sell Ebisu (shrimp and fish) burgers and did you see that lady taking our order, she didn’t even bow? Do babies pop out of their Mommy’s belly buttons ? Is the sun as big as Walmart’s parking lot?”  But not once, had she ever asked: “What is the meaning of life?”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Learning to "Contextualize" is the Real Secret to a Happy Marriage

My husband and I have been married twenty-four years, not all of them peaceful.  In our travels through Europe, Asia and Africa, we've taken copious mental notes of cultural differences in how couples communicate. What we learned was priceless.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sarah Palin, Talking Heads and "Ways of Knowing"

Sarah Palin
It has taken nearly a lifetime for me to grasp what my philosophy professors in college truly meant by their use of the term “epistemology,” defined in the dictionary as “ways of knowing.” However, a few moments ago, the word’s meaning reared back and punched me in the gut. I had been sitting at my desk, reading a pile of conflicting commentary, downloaded from the Internet, regarding who’s to blame for the Arizona shootings, which left six people dead and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a coma for nearly a week.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sarah Palin, Blood Libel and Truth

A court of law arrives at truth through the presentation of evidence. But while there will be some overlap, such evidentiary truth is not the way Christian theologians and Jewish Rabbis arrive at what is true and good and without sin. They use  Biblical truth, to determine whether the act in question can be backed up by what is written in the Biblical scriptures.  Those who blame Sarah Palin for the Arizona shootings because of her website with the crosshairs over Gabrielle Giffords' district are expressing contextual truth.  This means of verifying what is real looks at the almost infinite number of ways in which a troubled young man can express his insanity, and asks: "what messages flowing through the larger society, might have pushed Jared Lee Loughner to express his mental symptoms by shooting Congresswoman Giffords in the head, and killing six others?"  Giffords' prescient warning in an MSNBC interview last year that Sarah Palin's targeted list and other such rhetoric have consequences was yet another example of contextual truth.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Unjustly Accused: Obama vs. Palin

President Barack Obama has been accused of being a fraud, a Kenyan posing as an American, a follower of Adolf Hitler, a Muslim, a terrorist, a communist, and an advocate of death squads aimed at the elderly.  Sarah Palin, on the other hand, has been accused of putting up a website with crosshairs over the district of the Congress woman, who was subsequently shot in the head.   The President rose above the accusations lodged against him, by ignoring such digs, while Palin fired up her base claiming "blood libel."  Perhaps it was easier for Obama to brush aside such efforts aimed at delegitimizing his presidency, because at the deepest level of his being, he knew them to be untrue.  Palin's reaction, on the other hand, while addressed to critics, who blamed her for Jared Lee Loughner's attack, sounds like the outbursts of a person, lacking in introspection, who has not yet gotten a handle on her own feelings of guilt.  If the former Alaska governor, felt little remorse for the Democatic Congresswoman and other adult victims, she is, nevertheless, a mother of five. The death of nine year old, Christina Taylor Green, will continue to eat away at Mrs. Palin from the inside out.  Her public behavior will become increasingly more strident and irrational, until all that's left of the political celebrity with the beauty-pageant smile is a loaded rifle.                   

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mental Health not Terrorism is America's Foremost Public Safety Issue

   America needs to make mental health a public safety issue and it needs to do so now.  Far more people are killed in the United States every year by people with severe mental health problems, than by foreign terrorists.   There's an excellent piece in Mother Jones on the subject.