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Posts from July 2014

The Passage of Time

  Part of the oldest house in Old Fairfax

 Part of the oldest house in Old Fairfax, Virginia

On Friday night I went (bearing leeks in lemon sauce) to a Shabbat dinner. There were at least 30 people around the hostess’ very wide and long table. I barely knew anyone when I got there, but I can’t say the same about when I left. (You have to love Meetup for these opportunities.) After the traditional prayers over the candles, the wine, and the challah, prayers were offered for the safekeeping of Israel’s soldiers and the people of Israel.

We were sorrowful and sincere, filled beyond the brim with decades and centuries of the pain of being Jewish. It is oppressive to always feel that history is tracking you down, calling you out for existing. But there was strength, too, in the commitment to finally defeat history.

My mother told me that she went to services at her synagogue on Friday night and the cantor, who was leading the services, offered up prayers for the safety of the people of Israel.

No prayers were said for the Palestinians who have died or those who are suffering and my sorrow/guilt for that rests heavily on me.

After dinner I talked for a little while with an Israeli man who had the distinct misfortune of reminding me of my ex-husband. Not in the way he looked (I wonder if my ex is balding?), but in the attitude: the arrogant explanations that transformed a discussion into a mini-lecture. The thing is, I first heard all of those it’s their fault and they just want our destruction analyses back in 1983 when my ex-husband was explaining Israeli history and policy to me. At a certain point, though, history becomes irrelevant because its repetition nullifies it, and all that matters is this moment and what you do with it—what you want to do with it and what you try to do with it. There are the philosophies that guide societies, but aren’t there, too, the comforts that people seek to create and live within?

Days ago conjoined twins were born and died in Gaza because they couldn’t get proper medical care. Their one heart was not strong enough to beat for two bodies. Are we the same: unable to share our hearts with the people who beat beside us?

This summer I decided that next summer I would go to Israel for a month to volunteer for a project that does intercommunal work. As I looked for groups, I found that there are many organizations and schools working toward understanding and coexistence between Jews and Arabs. I also found that when I told this to people, they were surprised that there was anything beyond the endless cycle of hatred and violence and retaliation and suffering and blaming that we see endlessly in the news.

There is the constant struggle between those unseen voices who just want to be left in peace and to make peace, and those who take up the air in any space and decide how the rest of us will breathe (and if we will breathe).

When I did my conflict studies I learned about outliers and how they ruin the steady pace of life for all of us. Outliers are extremists, those who won’t be placated and who push until their conditions are met, and if that doesn’t happen, they come out swinging. They are the big bullies who should be dealt with by being stripped of their bad boy bully stripes and left with only the nakedness of their desire to be at the center of the show. We need therapists, not diplomats.

Yes, yes, I understand that there is more than that to what is going on, but that pushes me past thoughts I can control. Perhaps facts are fireflies, while people are the solid earth. Can we stop swatting and begin tilling?

The interesting thing about living life past the halfway mark is to realize that things that seem to take forever, end up arriving at some point. At 40, I wondered if I should study for my master’s degree; it would, after all, take forever. But here I am, ten years after I completed it on the slow track. Funny how that happens. Funny, too, isn’t it, to resign to hopelessness when there is nothing as hopeless as being a defeatist.


On Saturday morning I went on a walk with another Meetup group. Part of the walk was through Old Town Fairfax. In front of the old courthouse (built in 1799 and used by both sides during the Civil War) is the spot where, during the Civil War, the first Confederate officer was killed (Capt. John Marr) on June 1, 1861. A stone monument in the middle of a well-tended lawn marks the spot. I have driven by that spot for years never knowing that it had ever been anything but a tranquil place.

Music to Face More Reading

Lotus pods

After a day of reading about Gaza, I need a respite in music. This is my attempt at being a DJ.



Prayer and Powerlessness

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

I finally realized why people close their eyes, quiet their nerves, still themselves, and pray. It’s not that I didn’t understand that people pray to ask/plead for something tangible; you know, just say the word “get” and you have a full prayer session. As in: get good grades, get a job, get a raise, get rich, get well, get married, get pregnant, get whatever it is that is craved—at that moment. That has never appealed to me as a concept or activity. I cannot imagine a God who is so concerned with the minutiae of my life to listen to my pleas and heed them. Besides, wouldn’t the positive answer to my pleading result in someone else losing out? Every day people get sick, some are cured and some are not. So who gets which lottery-prayer ticket? My interpretation of the big guy, and this can come from a minute of reading the obituary page, is not that he has his heart set on granting our wishes, but that he’s a hands-off kind of guy. We live, we die. It is our job to use the time and capacities that we have to lead a life that does not lead to a sorrowful soliloquy in the end.

But it hit me today that praying is wishful thinking done while supplicating the self, thinking that a bit of humility can go a long way.

Prayer is an activity for the helpless who acknowledge that they are helpless. We see winds and waters and wars befell them/us, and there is nothing we can to do stop their descent. We are helpless in the face of force and forces. But it is too painful to live knowing that your life only fills your stomach, that it cannot protect someone from the onslaught, that the power of our deeds cannot stop aggressions and nature’s movements. The horror of being one person is to be aware of being one person. There are many quotes, though, that claim we all have the capability to change the world, but how many of us go out and become the change we want to see? So what do we have left? We have the cries of our hearts, the tears of minds, the sorrow of our souls. We have our humanity expressed. We have our thoughts meditations prayers.

May each person be granted the ability to live a life unobstructed.

May hate dissipate and reconfigure into respect.

May there be peace.


I used to think that the one action we, the helpless, have is study. Instead of giving in or mouthing words of desire, you learn, seeking to unearth and understand meanings beneath actions. But is knowledge power? Or at least knowledge that is unaccessed, with no outlet except lamentations of the mind? How does it help to know that you are still stymied—that you are endlessly a heart that beats but has no engine to run but the self? Ah, knowledge can spawn the imagination, but it can also defeat the imagination when it expands without a vessel to receive it.


In 2001, a year after we returned from Israel, and four months after I lost my job because the high-tech company that relocated us from Israel to Virginia went bust, I began my master’s program in Conflict Studies. It was a way of learning and, I thought, to become more than a citizen, more than a person who tearfully reads the newspaper, but has some input, some value. Alas, I am still an idle sitter. I have even less strength than a person who prays, because I have become complacent in my inactivity. What is a person’s worth if she unvalues herself?

As I have evaluated my sitting over the years, I have cursed my personality, but that no longer soothes my guilt, my sense of weakness. I am determined to be more than a vessel of words wishing in the void, I am determined to find a beat to my heart that is outside of myself. A beat that validates, to myself, the breaths I take. For as I wonder about the existence of the great judge in the sky, I know that the judge within me receives no prayers, only the consensus of fulfillment in purpose.

Summer 2014

Lotus between bud and blossom

Between bud and blossom.

It is summer, so that must mean a war between Israelis and Palestinians. To say that this cycle of death and destruction is horrible underscores how weak words are.

It is ghastly in its endless: destruction death isolation helplessness hopelessness hate honor fear loss futility.

Forcing futility aside, for a moment’s shimmer, a thought that someday there must be life there without the expectation of days and weeks like these.

Amid the images, I read a post by Jen Marlowe, a writer and documentary film-maker who I met at a conference, and I lose my breath because she writes from the core of all of us about the sadness of endless loss, so harsh and useless. And what are we but people: your side my side no side inside.

Within devastation there must be strength because we are entrusted with the lives of children. It is not for us to give up because isn’t it the duty of the adults in the room to provide hope to a child and aren’t we all, hatreds and distrust aside, in the same room.

There must be more to the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, children and adults, than this reality.

For days (only days?) I alternate between reading news reports from Gaza and Israel, and I read commentaries analyzing with the intelligence of opinion, laying blame and restating plans, and then I read about anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rallies around the world, and I watch documentaries about non-violence and inter-communal work that have gone on there in the lull portion of the cycles, and I wish I could turn away, but I can’t. This is all I can do. My confused mind with my beating heart are my prayer for peace.

For almost 20 years I lived in Israel, through wars and terrorist attacks, and so this obsession with the news has become ingrained. Yet, when I left in August 2000 there was hope of peace. I saw a car with Jordanian license plates in Tel Aviv. Ah, there was hope and finally time to deal with Israel’s internal problems. But it was not to be. A second Intifada. More terrorist attacks, More bombings. More destruction within and without.

Your side. My side. No side. Inside.

How does killing more people, creating more mourners, bring peace beyond a moment? How does endangering and threatening the lives of millions of people bring about a worthy goal? How is death the purpose of life? There are so many shoes we need to try on, to walk in, to understand. But shouldn’t it be one shoe fits all? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do no harm.

Couldn’t we have music to occupy ourselves with instead of cries, senseless piercing cries for help and loss and sorrow and fear. Unending calamity.

Shouldn’t the battle of life be to prevent wars? But our history books, ancient and modern, show who keeps winning that idea. New grudges. Old grudges. Fresh blood. Renewable fear. Can we have life?

Shouldn’t a sip of hot tea with mint or coffee with cardamom at the break from day into night be what is held sacred?

So much hatred that I shudder from the cycle’s expansion. Why is it so easy to hate? To not see to not hear to not feel. To curtail compassion.

What is peace? It is not moments of non-fighting; it is pushing against this dynamic, pushing for naiveté to succeed. It is to push against the aggression of history, of men in history. Of men who know more and better than everyone. The arrogance of war and power, right and right.

I am left, I am right, I am center.

I am Jewish.

I am American. I am Israeli.

I am deflated.

I am a woman. I am a mother.

I am a teacher.

Will there ever be moments in time when there are no wars, no fighting, no ugly contentions? Have there ever been?

At what point do the masters of their domains look around and realize that it’s been for naught. It is nothing, their little suzerainties. Could they pretend for a moment that they are women, all mothers, caring for their children and not men, fathers, seeking to uphold a code?

My land. Your land. This rocky land. A two-thousand year dream. A rusty key. We bear witness to the harshness of caring for more than the self. No one is right. What is right? To keep digging holes of contempt and righteousness.

World view. The world hates us. We hate the world. Yes. Is there a point?

A bend in the road must lead away from the repetition of history’s markers and makers.

A dream for non-violence non-hatred non-dismissal non-rejection. A dream for acceptance sharing compassion without restrictions without names. 

The Life I'm Living


Lotus in bloom

There are moments in life when you know you’re living the life you should be living, but most of the time you know you’re living the life you’re living because it is the life you’ve managed to reach and conspire with while hoping that you’re dreamed of life will come. The distressing part of living through this cycle cyclically is the finality of accepting that it is, alas, your cycle because your limitations can no longer be breached and the only way to live with any degree of fervency is to absorb the bitterness and disappointment. How else can you find the strength to life through the howls of sorrow that lodge in your heart?

Is it harder to live within hope or defeat?

At least defeat gives you a marker, a place to stop and rest, instead of continually being confronted with the self that tantalizes in the space that exists between dreams not yet realized and the realization that they will never come to be. Yes, hope is a hard place to be, full of fog and drifting currents that are as impermeable as a wall of brick and mortar.

But it doesn’t feel as bad over here as I had feared; there is a calmness once you stop waving your lance at windmills. Sure, I fought against this imposition for years, pretending that I am other than I am, but now that my shell has dissolved there is a unity of self that I had not expected to find so comforting. This is the place where barbs lose their poisonous capabilities, offering faded reminders that cease to paralyze. This is the place where I can play with who I am, finally living moments untethered to hopes that cut and bind. This is the place where I breathe, accepting that succulence requires air and sun and water, elaborations are unnecessary.

There is freedom in this narrowed down self that no longer lingers endlessly in the fight for relevance. There is time to simply be. And time to watch (from this place that I think is called wisdom) my daughters and my students begin their trajectory of life lived externally.

This is not to say that I am free of the tidal waves of envy that have always echoed within, rather, they no longer propel me to flagellate myself for what I am not.

I was a promise. I was an excuse. Now I am a person with capabilities who strides along, day to day, uncovering and covering tracks in a formidable cycle that cannot be contested for it yields itself up, saving nothing, living moments as they come. 

This Week in the War on Women: July 12, 2014

This is cross posted at Daily Kos: This Week in the War on Women.


SCOTUS, Hobby Lobby, and the Push for “Not My Boss’s Business” Act

Senators Mark Udall and Patty Murray's bill, “The Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act,” clarifies that the law the Supreme Court based their decision on — The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — cannot be used to allow for-profit corporations to limit any legal health care service.”

“The men and women who went to work for Hobby Lobby signed up to work at a craft store, not a religious organization,” Udall said.”


Senators Speak Out: Now Let’s Hope There’s Action

“It is a horrible decision,” Reid said, adding that he was “disappointed” in Chief Justice John Roberts and felt the justice had “misdirected” senators during his confirmation hearings about whether he supported constitutional privacy rights.”

“As the author of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I can say with absolute certainty the Supreme Court got the Hobby Lobby case dead wrong,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). The point of the law was to protect the religious freedoms of individuals from government interference, Schumer said, and people who are born into or convert to a religion are nothing like for-profit corporations that form voluntarily and benefit from the marketplace under U.S. laws.”

“Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) called Hobby Lobby a “direct violation” of the right to privacy granted by the Griswold v. Connecticut decision, which struck down laws prohibiting the sale of birth control.”


All You Wish You Didn’t Need to Know about the Hobby Lobby Case

Think about It: “Until Hobby Lobby, religious liberty was a shield, not a sword. It protected minority religious practices from majority tyranny. Hobby Lobby, however, has opened the door to companies opting out of all kinds of laws: anti-discrimination laws, the Affordable Care Act, you name it.”

A HL Quote Roundup

Including: "Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will." -- Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on the elegantly referred to “Not My Boss’s Business” Act


They’re Not Done: Next Term the Boys of SCOTUS Will Decide how Pregnant Women Work

“The Court will consider the case of Peggy Young, a part-time delivery driver for UPS whose discrimination claim puts a spotlight on the vulnerabilities many workers face if they become pregnant.”

“Three-quarters of women entering the labor force will be pregnant on the job at some point in their lives, and issues of workplace accommodations for pregnant workers increasingly affect low-wage women workers. So this is a big case, and one that no matter the ruling will have a wide reach. It’s also a case that wades into issues of gender stereotyping, gender-neutral leave policies, and cultural assumptions about mothers’ and fathers’ “differential attachments to the labor force” including the way a cultural reverence for pregnancy and new mothers contributes to instances of pregnancy discrimination. These are murky waters for the conservatives on the Roberts Court.”


ENDA (Employment Protection Bill) Suffers from Right’s Rights to more Rights

“A number of high profile LGBT rights groups have announced they cannot support the current version of the employment protection bill known as ENDA. Why are they doing this, and where do we go from here?”

“The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was among the first groups to announce it was formally dropping its support for the bill. ENDA (the Employment Non Discrimination Act) was originally was designed to end anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace. ENDA legislation passed the US Senate in November last year but it came with a major compromise. Chiefly, the language appears to allow broad religious exemptions that would mean businesses who claim to have sincerely held religious beliefs could still discriminate against LGBT employees and make hiring, firing and promotion decisions solely on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“Many groups had already raised serious concerns about this aspect of the legislation, and then came the Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby” decision. While that case dealt narrowly with an exemption based upon religious beliefs, the Religious Right has seized upon it as a window of opportunity for carving out exemptions from LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws and ordinances. The Task Force seems to think the ENDA loophole, teamed with this appetite to undermine civil rights laws, creates a similarly dangerous precedent.”


Can Bubble Zones Protect a Woman’s Right to Healthcare?

“In many states and municipalities court challenges are being initiated against the zones, but in others the cities themselves have made the decision just to fend off potential lawsuits. That isn’t working, however, and the mass of litigation, even where it is unnecessary, and the threats of even more lawsuits in the face of new proposals makes it clear that with one victory behind them, anti-abortion activists intend to use their clout as a group to ensure no new protections are put in place.”

“The reason for both of these facts are the same. Religious Right legal teams that step forward to offer to represent the states that pass unconstitutional bills also represent the anti-abortion activists that challenge what few protections patients do receive when they try to access a clinic. By virtue of their endless legal battles, they essentially frighten challengers out of litigation with the threat of crippling legal costs.”

“In other words, the end of abortion access may just come about not via overturning Roe v. Wade, but at the hands of hundreds of expensive lawsuits.”

“Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, protesters stepping into the buffer zones may already be scaring patients away from their appointments. Since the ruling, one Planned Parenthood clinic in Massachusetts told the Los Angeles Times that the clinic had "more no-shows for the week than usual."


Women as Built-in Healthcare Providers

“At the beginning of July, 26-year-old Mallory Loyola gave birth to a baby girl. Two days later, the state of Tennessee charged her with assault. Loyola is the first woman to be arrested under a new law in Tennessee that allows the state to criminally charge mothers for potentially causing harm to their fetuses by using drugs.”

“This view of pregnant women essentially means that as soon as you’re carrying a fertilized egg, you’ve lost your medical privacy and your right to make medical decisions,” Paltrow pointed out. “But all matters concerning pregnancy are health care matters. Pregnancy, like other health issues, should be addressed through the public health system and not through the criminal punishment system or the civil child welfare system.”


State’s Rights?

“A new law just took effect in Georgia that bans coverage of abortion in health plans purchased in the state health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These health insurance policies can now only cover abortion "in the case of medical emergency,"but not in cases of incest or rape.”


Retro while Pretending to Be Hip

“Tech behemoth Apple has had a few run-ins with casual sexism over the past few years. After Siri was introduced, it soon became clear that the software had trouble finding abortion clinics, but was very capable of finding escort services. A writer at Jezebel noted that her iPhone will not autocorrect a misspelling of "vagina," no matter how clear it is that that’s the word she intended. Now it’s come to light that Apple will not engrave the words “clit” or “vagina” on their products. (But don’t worry, bros. “Dick” and “penis” are still A-OK.)”

“Apple’s policy against engraving “vagina” and “clit” but it’s apparent ease with words like “dick” and “penis” are an extension of this attitude. The lesson here is that men’s sexuality is normal and should be celebrated while women’s sexuality is abnormal and shameful. Apple’s engraving policy may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a symptom of one of the biggest battles we have to fight.”


Rape: For Goodness’s Sake, Teach Your Sons to Just Say NO!

A Young Victim of Drugging and Rape Speaks Out

Enough already with the drugging of girls and raping them. What the heck is going on. Is it so hard to raise a boy to be respectful of women? I don’t know what is a starker example of the War on Women than the drugging, raping, and media-harassing of young women. What a pitiful group of people we have in our midst.

“In an incident that shares several elements with the infamous Steubenville rape case that made national headlines last year, a 16-year-old girl from Texas says that photos of her unconscious body went viral online after she was drugged and raped at a party with her fellow high schoolers. But the victim isn’t backing down. She’s speaking out about what happened to her, telling her story to local press and asking to be identified as Jada.”


Schools and Colleges: Let’s Make them Safe Places

I don’t have many memories of high school (I’ve blocked out the isolation and boredom), but I do remember a history teacher saying, during class, that he would like to have sex with me, on a pretty regular basis. I didn’t say anything to anyone at school or to my parents. Who expected anyone to do anything back in the day? But that day really needs to come to an end.  

“The American Association of University Women had already documented the problem of harassment for teens. Fifty six percent of middle- and high-school female teens were sexual harassed during the previous year, found a 2011 report by the Washington-based group. In an earlier study it found that 83 percent of female teens faced harassment throughout their teen years at school and only 9 percent of young women reported harassment to school faculty.”

“More than half of students surveyed in the American Association of University Women's 2011 report want a system put in place where they can report sexual harassment incidents anonymously, the study also found.”

“Most students are afraid to report sexual harassment because they fear that they will experience further bullying, said Narcisse in a phone interview. "Most people think their life is going to be in danger. People that get harassed by kids in school think that if they say something they're going to get bullied or beat up."


Harvard Stands Up for Women, Sort of

“Harvard should be praised for its new sexual assault policy. Released last week, the policy stands as the death knell of the Campus SaVE Act, a federal law enacted last year that weakens Title IX, the 1970s law that guarantees women safe and equal access to education.”

“Harvard will apply a "preponderance of the evidence" standard when determining whether an incident occurred. In the past, students reporting sexual assault faced a much more demanding standard of "clear and convincing evidence," which devalued women's worth on campus by declaring a credible victim's word inherently insufficient to merit sanctions against an offender. Under the new rule, the word of a woman will properly be accorded the same value as that of any student reporting or defending against any type of civil rights violence or harassment on campus.”

“Harvard will also define violence against women in accordance with civil rights laws that use terms such as "unwelcome" and "offensive."

The question now is, which school will do Harvard one-step better? Which school will be bold enough to assume bragging rights as the first school in the nation to embrace an iron-clad prohibition on violence against women with explicit directives guaranteeing fully equitable substantive AND procedural redress of gender-based civil-rights violations – at the exact same table of justice with victims of civil rights violations based on race and national origin? It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lower-tiered school to truthfully declare itself a "better" school than Harvard. Let the bragging-rights war begin!


The Cycle of Invisibility Continues

“The nominees for the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards were announced on Thursday and women were 26 percent of the nominees. Out of a total 1406 nominated across 72 non-performance categories, women were nominated 369 times, while men were nominated 1037 times.”

But, Laverne Cox was the first openly-transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black.


Pushing Back: Saying No to Our Bosses

Planned Parenthood Action

I dissent. Religious freedom means that every person should be allowed to follow her own conscience, whether she owns a company or works for an hourly wage. Women earn health care coverage the same way they earn a paycheck -- and they shouldn't have it taken away because of the personal views of their employers.

Mom’s Rising: Tell Congress to Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference!

And, most critically: VOTE IN NOVEMBER! Let’s bring government to the people and not keep handing it to the corporations.