A Weekend for Freedom

This Shabbat, we are studying the Torah portion Vaera, Exodus 6:2-9:35. Moses, channeling God’s power, tells Pharaoh to free the Israelite people, placing upon the Egyptians the plagues of Blood, frogs, locusts, hail, and boils. Each time, Pharaoh tells Moses he would give in and allow the Hebrews to leave, but after the plague abates, he gets tough again and refuses to free the people.  Despots are like that, they give in to save their positions, then reassert themselves when it’s safe and attack the opposition. That is why we who work for freedom cannot trust our rulers; we must constantly assert ourselves against them, and eventually they give in and give up.

This is also the weekend commemorating the birth of another great freedom fighter, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Part of the celebration is to take part in some community service work-distribute food to people with food insecurity, cleaning the neighborhood, holding clothing drives, donate blood, etc. This is our part in moving the world forward a little bit, to join in with others for the good of the community. Let’s all year look for some community service to take part in.

Also, we’ll have a brand new President, as the old one has been a disaster for our country, allowing the twin plagues of COVID and fascism-with its accompanying violence and racism-to run rampant throughout the country, putting all of us in fear for our lives, when a President must protect us from these ills. Let us, each in our capacities, as individuals and as part of a community, do our bit to tear these diseases out of our nation, root and branch.  

crowd of protesters holding signs
Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

Trump’s Riot

I saw the images of the riots at the Capitol in DC, of trumpist thugs and bullies-call them what they are, terrorists!-stampeding the Capitol building, OUR Capitol building, supposedly the citadel of democracy in this country, and I was sick to my stomach. A herd of animals posing as human, terrorizing elected representatives conducting the people’s business, is NOT democracy.

For WHAT noble cause? A “president” who encourages the worst elements of our nation to show themselves-racists, fascists, religious extremists using their warped idea of “Christianity” as a reason to hate, as a weapon to beat down marginalized people?

What if these maniacs were people of color, or Muslim? Every federal agency that carries a gun would be on top of them. These goons, such as the Proud Boys, have a history of violence and racism, and trump has attracted the most militantly racist elements to his banner, people who have raided state capitols at the start of the COVID crisis. Again, the bias in favor of white and politically conservative people shows itself.

I remember the time republicans were the “law and order” party, the “strong on defense” party, around the time of Richard “I’m not a crook” Nixon. Now they ignore the law and property when it suits their purposes, and they expect to get away with it, and, alas, in the past they have.

Are we supposed to be afraid of them? They know they lost, they know they’re in the minority, but they demand everyone else kowtow to them, to do as THEY say, no matter what the rest of us think. That has been the conservative privilege for so long; they may loe the election, but we should do as they say.

I urge all of us to stand fast and be strong and brave, and to be together for each other as we fight for our rights. Let us never be frightened in to speaking out our beliefs. The trumpist thugs are on the losing side of history, and we’ll make them lose more and more.

America will be free!

people standing near monument with placards
Photo by Shane Aldendorff on Pexels.com

Republicans’ Feelings are Hurt

As I write, Congress will hold the votes of the Electoral College and formally ratify their votes for Joe Biden, the NEXT President of the United States. trump’s congressional enablers have put out the idea that the votes cast in the 2020 election-particularly the votes for Biden, in Pennsylvania, Michigan Wisconsin and Arizona-are somehow illegitimate or fraudulent or from dead people or what-have-you.

Leading the charge in the senate is Josh Hawley of Missouri, who, along with Ted Cruz of Texas, has complained that the votes of the 74 million people who (why?) voted from trump “are not going to be told their voices don’t matter,” ignoring the fact that 81 million voters voted for Biden. (https://www.vox.com/2021/1/2/22210509/ted-cruz-11-gop-senators-electoral-college-votes)

Along these lines, Cruz-still going to bat for the “man” who slandered his father and insulted the looks of his wife (what kind of man does that?) complained abut progressives and regular Americans protesting these Republican efforts to deny the legitimacy of trump’s defeat, and of the legitimacy of the election system, which has encouraged the most violent elements of the far-right such as the Proud Boys, saying “we need to tone down the rhetoric.” (https://www.rawstory.com/ted-cruz-electoral-college/) It’s as if peaceful protestors exercising their First Amendment rights are the ones causing the violence around trump’s defeat; he’s not paying attention to the threats against election workers during the election and after when they counted the votes; or the assault-rifle wielding mobs trying to raid the Oregon state capitol; or the Proud Boys riot in Washington, when they burned a “Black Lives Matter” sign from a venerable AME church and attacked people.

If this an act to play to the trump base, to gain the trumpist vote for a future run for President? Whenever the Republicans win, we’re told to be quiet and put up with it, and they rub our faces in their victory, enjoying our misery; but when we win, we’re supposed to be considerate of their feelings and not upset them, and they’re still right no matter if they lose or win, acting as if they’re still in charge, and a progressive or Democratic winner is a usurper, and the Republicans are the rightful heirs to the throne.

The Republican Party, and its conservative-rightist infestation, care nothing about democracy or anyone else’s rights but their own. They’re fighting tooth and nail for their right to discriminate against any manner of marginalized groups, workers, and women; and for billion-dollar conglomerates to to whatever it wants to the environment, their workers, and their communities without consequence, and to pay as little taxes as possible, preferably zero, and also get a tax rebate. THAT is their idea of “freedom” and “liberty.”

We will NOT allow these thugs and bullies to terrorize us, by thought, word, or physical force; we WILL stand up for our rights and a progressive agenda, for the good of all Americans.

road people street weather
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

WHAT “Law and Order?”

All through the ‘Seventies, the Republican Party touted itself as THE party of “law and order” against “urban crime” and the “war on drugs;” and the Democrats, not wanting to appear “soft” and “weak”-a form of weakness in and of itself-went along with this scenario. For this, the Republicans, and their “Liberal” Democratic enablers rubber-stamping it, have gone about wearing-down the civil liberties of Americans; in the meantime, Republican administrations engaged in all kinds of violations to carry out their policies, such as Nixon urging the South Vietnamese regime to back out of peace talks that would have cut short our nation’s involvement in that horrible war, so he could squeak by in the presidential elections in 1968; and in 1980, when Republican operatives urged the theocratic regime in Iran to back out of negotiation with the Carter administration over freeing the hostages in the embassy; and again in 1986-87, during the Iran-Contra scandal, where Oliver North conducted a supply system for the Nicaraguan contras, in violation of federal law. (Of course, being conservatives and Republicans, they were never prosecuted; they almost always get the kids gloves and leniency-how’s THAT for “law and order?”)

Now, later this week, the Congress will ratify the votes of the Electoral College to certify Joe Biden as President of the United States. In the Senate and House, there will be futile resolutions denying the reality and legitimacy of the votes for Biden from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona-states Biden won, but conservatives and Republicans anymore care nothing about anyone else’s rights but their OWN right to repress and oppress their perceived enemies. On the streets of DC, there will be the rightist-racist thug elements, such as the “Proud Boys,” threatening violence to stop the vote count. (Let’s call them terrorists, as they are-they’re not just “irate citizens lobbying their elected representatives,” they’re bullies and thugs, and whenever they get violent, as during the early stages of the COVID crisis and the Electoral College votes in state capitols, they get warnings from the nice state troopers.)

Our “president” is leading the charge on this; having long called for beating up protestors; using OUR military to attack peaceful demonstrators so he can stand in from of a church he’s never darkened, holding a bible he doesn’t read; and spreading lies and conspiracies about the voting system-the SAME voting system that elected trump’s congressional bootlickers.

Let’s not be fooled anymore by the “law and order” talk; we MUST stand up for our rights and freedoms against those who would take them from us, for the sake of powerful people who care nothing about working people, low-income people, marginalized groups, and even their own enforcers. We’ve done this MANY times in our history, and we can and will do it again.

crowd walking at the sidewalk
Photo by Rosemary Ketchum on Pexels.com

Book review: The Black Panthers Speak, edited by Philip Foner

This is an anthology of the writings of the Black Panther Party, one of the most militant and confrontational movements in US history. The BPP was organized by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, two students at Merritt Junior College in Oakland, California. In October 1966, they studied Marxist writings; Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth; and the works of Malcom X, in order to deal with the problems working-class Black people faced in the cities of America, primarily police abuse of residents.

Newton and Seale drew up the party’s Ten Point Platform and Ten Point Program, outlining the issues that Black people confronted: employment, housing, education, community control over police, along with the exemption of Black men from the military draft, release of all Black men from incarceration, and an UN-supervised plebiscite, wherein “black colonial subjects” would express their will.

Dealing with the problem of police abuse in Black communities, Newton, with the title of Minister of Defense, and Seal, Chairman of the BPP, protested the deaths of Black men, and monitored police patrols in Black neighborhoods, with weapons and law books to ensure Black residents knew their rights; the Panthers compared police forces to an enemy occupying army, like US forces in Viet Nam. The BPP compared the condition of Black people in the United States to the non-white people around the world-in Latin America, Asia, and Africa-struggling against colonial occupation.

The BPP advocated armed self-defense; to protest a gun-control bill in the California legislature, in May 1967, Seale led a troop of Panthers, armed, into the Assembly chamber, issuing a statement against laws that would leave Black residents, “disarmed and powerless” against police abuse and terror.

Along with self-defense, the Panthers organized free breakfast programs for school kids, where the Panthers gave lessons in Black history; other programs included clothing distributions, free clinics, classes on Black history and politics, transportation for families of prison inmates, drug and alcohol rehab programs, and tests for sickle-cell anemia.

The law enforcement agencies of the nation, including the FBI, sought to bring down the BPP, through direct assaults and, through the FBI’s COINTEL program, undermining the organization, trying to instigate divisions with the party. IN police raids, several BPP figures were killed, such as Fred Hampton and Bobby Hutton.

The issues the Black Panther Party dealt with-police community relations, poverty, unemployment, health care, foreign adventurism, repression of dissidents-continue with us today. The Panthers raised issues of self-defense of marginalized communities who can’t trust the police and see them as part of the problem; with the rise of rightist militias raiding statehouses and treated leniently by police, it’s just like the Klan in the ‘Sixties being treated like patriotic Americans expressing their grievances.  (There remains a bias, possibly cultural, to be mild with right-wing extremists, but come down hard on left-wing militants.) Today, as with the Panthers in the ‘sixties, there are organizations on the left training with firearms.

The Panthers, with their free breakfasts and health clinics, were an example of Mutual Aid programs instituted by local communities by neighborhood activists who saw a need for their communities and filled them-much like the mutual-aid work, like food distributions and checking on neighbors, that have been present during the COVID-19 crisis, with people looking out for each other since our own government has failed to do so.  These are things for us to consider as we work to heal our nation.

people doing group hand cheer
Photo by Dio Hasbi Saniskoro on Pexels.com

New Year’s Resolutions 2021

I continue to carry out the old tradition of new year’s Resolutions, like i also do for Rosh haShona, Pesach, and my birthday, and as I’m always in the process of moving my life forward. Here are my resolutions for 2021:

I will continue to conduct myself with self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect, judging myself positively, and letting go of the past.

I will continue to be dedicated to Judaism and all things Jewish.

I will continue to cultivate the art and business of writing, entering contests; attending readings, classes, seminars, and conferences; and submitting my works and my proposals.

I will continue to try other forms of expression, such as podcasts, acting, photography, blogs, YouTube, etc.

I will continue my educations, with such venues as classwork, museums, galleries, seminars, etc.

I will continue my social and political activism. I will continue my spiritual practices-mediation, yoga, Torah study, affirmations, prayer, journaling, etc.

I will work on taking care of my health, with diet and moderate exercise.

Happy New Year!

christmas table with decorations for holiday
Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

COVID Relief

At last! After months of stalling, political game-playing, and outrageous demands for benefits for favorite financial interests, trump WILL sign the the coronavirus relief package, which also includes funding for operating the federal government through September 2021. https://www.npr.org/2020/12/27/950133658/trump-signs-covid-19-relief-package-after-threatening-to-derail-it?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20201227&utm_term=5063099&utm_campaign=breaking-news&utm_id=53850579&orgid=433

the bill includes the pared-down $600 stimulus payments for each American; support for weekly unemployment benefits; and funds for small businesses and vaccine distribution.

Don’t once think that trump-who, while unemployed people were facing evictions and empty bellies-valiantly played golf, abdicating his responsibilities during a grave economic and health crisis. He is the same “president” who pardoned Paul Manifort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner (Jared’s father). (https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/23/politics/trump-pardons-stone-manafort-kushner/index.html) He has also pardoned four Blackwater gunmen who were involved in the massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians in Nusoor Square in 2007. (https://www.cnn.com/2014/10/22/justice/blackwater-iraq-guilty-verdicts/index.html)

This shows what and who he values-his self-interest and aggrandizement, his lack of compassion, his lost of sense of reality, and his racism. Let’s not allow his one burst of good sense blot out the memory of his crimes while occupying the Presidency.

silhouette of a man in window
Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com