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Blog Entries tagged 'change'

The Family That Argues Together...

My post today on Jewcy:

Today my guy told me about a bit Jon Stewart did on why Jews argue. Apparently, a "reporter" goes and asks a bunch of Jews why they argue all the time, and they start arguing about who should answer the question and whether Jews argue any more than anyone else.

We both cracked up because, well, I like to tend to argue and my son's father doesn't. I've been trying to stop and it's the hardest thing ever. Way harder than probability and statistics class in high school, and a quibillion times harder than the LSAT I took a few years months ago when I was thinking about going to law school. It's so hard that I've often wondered if I have a neurological tic that turns even the simplest request into a passionate, two-hour debate.

In the beginning of our relationship, I explained it was cultural. It's a Jewish thing, I told my mate-to-be. We have strong opinions about everything. You should see us at the dinner table, I said. No one agrees on anything--where we should sit, whether the lighting is too bright or too dim, if the food is overpriced or genius, if my sister should cut her hair. Our willingness to dig deep over trivial matters is a sign of commitment, I told him. It shows we care enough to engage at a deep level.

Arguing, I said. It's how we love.

To which he replied, I'm not Jewish and I don't like to argue because it raises my blood pressure and I want to have a calm, peaceful life. You can go out into the world and argue your a** off, but for God's sake, when you come home, can't we just get along?

Which, in my argumentative state of mind (tangentially related to Billy Joel's New York Jewish state of mind, btw) sounded like: Jews are crazy, can't you just be normal and not Jewish when you're at home? Which made me mumble something about him not liking Jews, which was awful, inaccurate, and the furthest thing from the truth.

But I was arguing. Who said I had to be rational? Terrible logic, I know. A heinous lapse. I'm still apologizing.

But back to Jon Stewart and laughing together about the pop cultural confirmation of what I've been saying all along. No, I wasn't bat mitzvahed. No I don't speak Yiddish or Hebrew. But yes, yes, I love a good back and forth. So sue me. 

Ironically, it was a great moment. A love moment. A moment of acceptance. A cross-cultural moment. A moment of peace. A, dare I say it, family moment.

 

February 19th, 2009

We Refuse to Be Enemies

By Leila Segal, from her blog The Other Side

Refuse3

Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies, the placard reads.

"An anti-war march, Saturday, through the streets of Tel Aviv. Pro-war shouters collect like flies along the side of the route - the Magav keeps them surrounded, but sometimes they're a nose-distance away, fist-thrashing and enraged. We move from Rabin Square along Ibn Gvirol to the Cinemateque, Arab and Jewish Israelis, side-by-side. Stop the killing. We want a different future for our peoples - a future of peace, we chant.

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February 8th, 2009

The Original Serpent, from the Daily Beast

Univeristy of Florida

From the Daily Beast:

"Here you go: Fossil hunters working in an open-pit coal mine in Colombia have discovered the remains of 28 giant snakes that ruled the earth for 10 million years during the prehistoric period. The "Titanboas" weighed 1.25 tons and stretched 45 feet long. The snake snacked on turtles and ancient ancestors of the modern crocodile. It's possible that the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago opened the opportunity for the Titanboa's evolution. By comparison, the longest living species recorded is a 33-foot reticulated python from Southeast Asia, although the species average is only 20 feet."

Is this not the most amazing thing you've ever heard? 10 MILLION YEARS. 45 FEET LONG. I can't help but link the biblical fear of --and need to subdue--serpents to this. The reptilian part of the human brain obviously transcends modern ideas of time. 

February 6th, 2009

And for a little Super Bowl Ad Humor

Interesting the mean boss is Japanese and the rich guy is black. And yet...I  don't remember seeing either group represented in the lineup of CEOS who got 24 million dollar bonuses from TARP. 

Made me laugh, though. And we all need to do more of that, so drop links and share the mirth! 

February 5th, 2009

The Big Blue Marble

And, in the spirit of the day, the opening sequence from one of my favorite shows from childhood:

Courtesy of one of my dearest Facebook friends.

January 20th, 2009

The End of White America, excerpted from the Atlantic

What do you think?

By Hua Hsu, for the Atlantic:

"Today, hip-hop’s colonization of the global imagination, from fashion runways in Europe to dance competitions in Asia, is Disney-esque. This transformation has bred an unprecedented cultural confidence in its black originators. Whiteness is no longer a threat, or an ideal: it’s kitsch to be appropriated, whether with gestures like Combs’s “white parties” or the trickle-down epidemic of collared shirts and cuff links currently afflicting rappers. And an expansive multiculturalism is replacing the us-against-the-world bunker mentality that lent a thrilling edge to hip-hop’s mid-1990s rise.

Peter Rosenberg, a self-proclaimed “nerdy Jewish kid” and radio personality on New York’s Hot 97 FM—and a living example of how hip-hop has created new identities for its listeners that don’t fall neatly along lines of black and white—shares another example: “I interviewed [the St. Louis rapper] Nelly this morning, and he said it’s now very cool and in to have multicultural friends. Like you’re not really considered hip or ‘you’ve made it’ if you’re rolling with all the same people.”

Just as Tiger Woods forever changed the country-club culture of golf, and Will Smith confounded stereotypes about the ideal Hollywood leading man, hip-hop’s rise is helping redefine the American mainstream, which no longer aspires toward a single iconic image of style or class. Successful network-television shows like Lost, Heroes, and Grey’s Anatomy feature wildly diverse casts, and an entire genre of half-hour comedy, from The Colbert Report to The Office, seems dedicated to having fun with the persona of the clueless white male. The youth market is following the same pattern: consider the Cheetah Girls, a multicultural, multiplatinum, multiplatform trio of teenyboppers who recently starred in their third movie, or Dora the Explorer, the precocious bilingual 7-year-old Latina adventurer who is arguably the most successful animated character on children’s television today. In a recent address to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, Brown Johnson, the Nickelodeon executive who has overseen Dora’s rise, explained the importance of creating a character who does not conform to “the white, middle-class mold.” When Johnson pointed out that Dora’s wares were outselling Barbie’s in France, the crowd hooted in delight.

Pop culture today rallies around an ethic of multicultural inclusion that seems to value every identity—except whiteness. “It’s become harder for the blond-haired, blue-eyed commercial actor,” remarks Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, of the Hispanic marketing firm Enlace. “You read casting notices, and they like to cast people with brown hair because they could be Hispanic. The language of casting notices is pretty shocking because it’s so specific: ‘Brown hair, brown eyes, could look Hispanic.’ Or, as one notice put it: ‘Ethnically ambiguous.’”

“I think white people feel like they’re under siege right now—like it’s not okay to be white right now, especially if you’re a white male,” laughs Bill Imada, of the IW Group. Imada and Newman-Carrasco are part of a movement within advertising, marketing, and communications firms to reimagine the profile of the typical American consumer. (Tellingly, every person I spoke with from these industries knew the Census Bureau’s projections by heart.?"

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January 8th, 2009

Grieving the loss of Ismael, Lama, and Hayya

And I am thinking about Ayda, and wondering what I or anyone else can do to help the mothers of murdered children everywhere. 

from the New York Times:

But there were several children in another intensive care unit on Tuesday. Among them was Ismael Hamdan, 8, who had severe brain damage as well as two broken legs, according to a doctor there. Earlier that day, two of his sisters, Lama, 5, and Hayya, 12, were killed.

“I prepared them breakfast that day in the garden,” said their mother, Ayda, 36. “They had the tea, bread and thyme. Lama wanted a second pita, but we all teased her saying, ‘Keep it for lunch.’ She told us, ‘Don’t worry, God will provide us with bread.’

“She made all of us laugh,” the mother said. “I cleaned after them and collected the garbage. Ismael volunteered to dump the garbage, but Hayya and Lama joined him. The garbage can is in front of the house, a five-minute walk away. All of a sudden I heard the news from a neighbor, and I ran barefoot to the hospital. A relative collected the bodies of Lama and Hayya on a donkey cart.

“The neighbors ran trying to save Ismael, who was the only one breathing,” she said. “They say my kids flew 40 meters before hitting the ground.”

Ismael died Wednesday night.

January 1st, 2009

In case you haven't seen this...

December 31st, 2008

More Slaves Today Than Any Other Time in History

"All prostitutes are not slaves and not all slaves are prostitutes."

Foreign Policy, March/April 2008

By E. Benjamin Skinner
 
There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history. True abolition will elude us until we admit the massive scope of the problem, attack it in all its forms, and empower slaves to help free themselves.

Standing in New York City, you are five hours away from being able to negotiate the sale, in broad daylight, of a healthy boy or girl. He or she can be used for anything, though sex and domestic labor are most common. Before you go, let’s be clear on what you are buying. A slave is a human being forced to work through fraud or threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence. Agreed? Good.

Most people imagine that slavery died in the 19th century. Since 1817, more than a dozen international conventions have been signed banning the slave trade. Yet, today there are more slaves than at any time in human history.

And if you’re going to buy one in five hours, you’d better get a move on. First, hail a taxi to JFK International Airport, and hop on a direct flight to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The flight takes three hours. After landing at Toussaint L’Ouverture International Airport, you will need 50 cents for the most common form of transport in Port-au-Prince, the tap-tap, a flatbed pickup retrofitted with benches and a canopy. Three quarters of the way up Route de Delmas, the capital’s main street, tap the roof and hop out. There, on a side street, you will find a group of men standing in front of Le Réseau (The Network) barbershop. As you approach, a man steps forward: “Are you looking to get a person?”

Meet Benavil Lebhom. He smiles easily. He has a trim mustache and wears a multicolored, striped golf shirt, a gold chain, and Doc Martens knockoffs. Benavil is a courtier, or broker. He holds an official real estate license and calls himself an employment agent. Two thirds of the employees he places are child slaves. The total number of Haitian children in bondage in their own country stands at 300,000. They are the restavèks, the “stay-withs,” as they are euphemistically known in Creole. Forced, unpaid, they work in captivity from before dawn until night. Benavil and thousands of other formal and informal traffickers lure these children from desperately impoverished rural parents, with promises of free schooling and a better life.

The negotiation to buy a child slave might sound a bit like this:

“How quickly do you think it would be possible to bring a child in? Somebody who could clean and cook?” you ask. “I don’t have a very big place; I have a small apartment. But I’m wondering how much that would cost? And how quickly?”

“Three days,” Benavil responds.

“And you could bring the child here?” you inquire. “Or are there children here already?”

“I don’t have any here in Port-au-Prince right now,” says Benavil, his eyes widening at the thought of a foreign client. “I would go out to the countryside.”

You ask about additional expenses. “Would I have to pay for transportation?”

Bon,” says Benavil. “A hundred U.S.”

Smelling a rip-off, you press him, “And that’s just for transportation?”

“Transportation would be about 100 Haitian,” says Benavil, or around $13, “because you’d have to get out there. Plus [hotel and] food on the trip. Five hundred gourdes.”

“Okay, 500 Haitian,” you say.

Now you ask the big question: “And what would your fee be?” This is the moment of truth, and Benavil’s eyes narrow as he determines how much he can take you for.

“A hundred. American.”

“That seems like a lot,” you say, with a smile so as not to kill the deal. “How much would you charge a Haitian?”

Benavil’s voice rises with feigned indignation. “A hundred dollars. This is a major effort.”

You hold firm. “Could you bring down your fee to 50 U.S.?”

Benavil pauses. But only for effect. He knows he’s still got you for much more than a Haitian would pay. “Oui,” he says with a smile.

But the deal isn’t done. Benavil leans in close. “This is a rather delicate question. Is this someone you want as just a worker? Or also someone who will be a ‘partner’? You understand what I mean?”

You don’t blink at being asked if you want the child for sex. “I mean, is it possible to have someone that could be both?”

Oui!” Benavil responds enthusiastically.

If you’re interested in taking your purchase back to the United States, Benavil tells you that he can “arrange” the proper papers to make it look as though you’ve adopted the child.

He offers you a 13-year-old girl.

“That’s a little bit old,” you say.

“I know of another girl who’s 12. Then ones that are 10, 11,” he responds.

The negotiation is finished, and you tell Benavil not to make any moves without further word from you. Here, 600 miles from the United States, and five hours from Manhattan, you have successfully arranged to buy a human being for 50 bucks.

The Cruel Truth

It would be nice if that conversation, like the description of the journey, were fictional. It is not.

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December 21st, 2008

Rick Warren v Jerry Brown via Facebook

I've gotten a lot of questions about my thoughts about Warren--a FB thread from today.  

YA at 8:00pm December 18
Can a government function with so many rivals in interdependent positions to each other?


RC at 8:17pm December 18

I am asking myself the same question. I am also very disappointed with his choice regarding Warren. What is your take on that Rebecca?


Rebecca Walker at 8:51pm December 18
YA-The 1,000,000,000,000,000 dollar question. Literally. But as a microcosm of the world, let's hope so. I'm moved, at the very lest, by the audacity of it. RC: Still percolating. But you can't say it's not a bold choice.


ST at 3:11pm December 19

I think we need to say it, and say it loud: warren, no matter how you cook him, is anti-woman, anti-gay... and anti-obama. yes, he's allowed his views, and isn't it neato we can all acknowledge that. but irregardless: I'm beyond disappointed.


Rebecca Walker at 3:51pm December 19

We will see what we shall see. The real question is whether he can pull it all off. Safeguarding individual rights and forging greater freedoms and more equitable distribution of wealth while maintaining openness and civility is what needs to happen. We will know more about whether or not it's possible in the next two to two hundred years--if we have that long.


ST at 4:46pm December 19

I'm not sure i follow... to me, warren is not about what you write in yr 3rd sentence.


Rebecca Walker at 4:56pm December 19
The inauguration is not the thing. the thing is what happens after. Can obama pull off sentence three and include voices and views like warrens in the social fabric of our country and, more importantly, the world. That is the question.


MM at 5:55pm December 19
Do you per chance have concern over why Lowery isn't getting any press or even thanks for being supportive of the LGBT community? This is such multilayered spin with the media that I can't begin to unpack it or reframe...I'm trying. I hope you will share a bit your thoughts when you gather them..


Rebecca Walker at 9:17pm December 19

Yes, the Lowery choice is being oddly overlooked--a black, pro-lgbt christian civil rights leader. in the black christian often homophobic community, he is not a choice pick. I think folks need to stay calm and, ironically, have faith. to doubt ourselves so soon after all that work....undermines our own power. We believed. Give him some time.

He's going to have to make many, many more decisions that are uncomfortable. and in terms of what is about to happen to the country financially, this kind of peacemaking between camps may be essential to keeping the country from devolving into a civil war. There are global concerns much larger than gay marriage. Like china's cannibalization of africa and penetration of southern asia. Like fundamentalist islam bringing sharia law to the west.


Rebecca Walker at 9:20pm December 19

My feeling is he will not abandon any group--but he's got to be able to play ball not just on behalf of gay marriage, but America and beyond that, the separation of church and state and the global fundamental rights of sovereign nations. i mean really. I could go on, but i think you get my point. stay calm.


Rebecca Walker at 9:26pm December 19
I think this is one of the many ways obama is managing this situation and i think he's moving in the right direction.

December 20th, 2008