Throughout Jewish history, there have been, and continue to be, variations of the traditional Haggadah for the telling of the story of Pesach, aka Passover. We have the traditional ones, Haggadahs centered around the experience of a particular marginalized group, and secular Haggadahs for kibbutzniks in Israel.
I have an original copy, dated from 1969-1970, of the Freedom Seder, developed by Arthur Waskow, rabbi, climate activist, and founder of the Shalom Center, an organization focusing on a Jewish response to social problems. The original edition, like all the other editions of the Haggadah, follows the traditional order f the Seder-the Seder plate, the washing of hands, the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt, the Four Cups, the Cup for Elijah, the Ten Plagues, the breaking of the Matzah, the Afikomen, etc. It also includes quotes from the great social justice leaders in history, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and AJ Muste, and it directs attention to the social justice issues of that day, such as war, Civil Rights, and pollution, along with quotes from contemporary singers and poets, such as Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.
The beauty of the Freedom Seder is, you can adapt it to discussing the current social issues of this day, such as pollution, Civil Rights, and war-still important today as it was back in the ‘Sixties. The struggle for a just world is ongoing, and the Freedom Seder shows that the we have a tradition to guide us in our struggle, and a community to take part in the struggle.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has come and gone. Traditionally, it has been a place for conservative activists and politicians to network, and for presidential candidates to present themselves, and display their conservative bona fides. But this year, it has been a moment of trump-worship, including a gilded fiberglass statue of the Donald (made in Mexico) and there are photos of a man bowing to it and worshiping it-the new Golden Calf! (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/02/golden-trump-statue-cpac-mexico.html)
Another controversy was around the design of the stage, which was not at all like a regular stage, but one that resembled the “Odal Rune,” a letter in the ancient Nordic alphabet, which is popular among neo-fascists and white nationalists. How did that design come about? What were they thinking? Of course blatant neo-Nazis and racists have entered the “mainstream” conservative movement.
Then there was the standup routine of Ted Cruz, Senator supposedly of Texas-but during the huge snowstorm, which wrecked the state’s antiquated electric-power system (leaving people without power, without water, without heat, and some literally freezing to death)-ol’ Teddy thought it would be a great time to vacation in Cancun.
Later, when his copping out on his constituents made the news, Cruz headed back, and in his explanations, he said he was escorting his daughters to Cancun, making his OWN DAUGHTERS the scapegoat for his failure in leadership. You can’t’ expect anything else from a “man” who bootlicks the person who slandered his father and insulted his wife. To top it off, Cruz went to CPAC and made a big joke about it. (https://www.businessinsider.com/watch-ted-cruz-cpac-speech-cancun-trump-2021-2)
This is the state of the conservative movement in America—treating the problems of marginalized people as a joke, and appealing to the worst racist elements. It has been a long ride for the Republican party, and the conservative movement, into the racist gutter, from the Goldwater campaign in 1964 which was hostile to Civil Rights legislation; to Nixon’s Southern Strategy and the “tough on crime” rhetoric; to the Reagan campaign beginning at the site where three Civil Rights workers were killed in Mississippi; to the Willie Horton propaganda campaign of George Bush I; to the mockery and slander of Barrack Obama, at Tea Party rallies, for being of African descent; and now we have Donald trump’s campaign vilifying Mexican immigrants as rapist and murderers. How much further can they sink?
Helping the Republican Party along this road to nowhere has recently passed-Rush Limbaugh. For over thirty years as a national radio personality, Limbaugh has played into the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia among the American people, and using them as a basis for his idea of entertainment, making racist and sexist wisecracks about “feminazis” and “Barack the Magic Negro”, just like a school bully mocking the suffering of the child he terrorizes; and there are people in the country who applauded his act-people who are having difficult times with their finances and their lives, and Limbaugh gave them a target for them to aim their hate deflecting from the corporate elite, and their subservient politicians rewriting laws for their benefit.
For this act, Limbaugh was well paid; in 2008, Limbaugh signed a contract with Clear Channel Communications to have his show broadcast over their Premier Radio Network, for $400 million (https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121504302144124805). Limbaugh was paid millions to tell working and low-income people, who happen to be white, that their problems stem from THOSE people, who happen to be of color, taking their jobs and their college admissions as they leach off the welfare system. The corporate rulers will pay ANY one ANY amount of money to turn the public against someone else, a soft target, a traditionally marginalized racial or cultural group.
Contradictory, I know-living off welfare AND taking jobs?-but racism and other prejudices aren’t logical, and Limbaugh made jokes about racial problems in this country, so when he ever got called out on it, he could say, “Hey, I’m an entertainer, I’m making a joke!”
No way! We have a long and honorable history in this of fighting for freedom, for African-Americans, women, workers, LGBTQs, and other minorities. We know the struggle they went through-are we going to let them down? Are we going to let them take away all our predecessors worked for? Died for?
I know we won’t. We’ll take to the streets, to our online chat rooms, to our news media, and to the polls. We defeated them once we can and will defeat them again.
Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together! America will be free! Bye!
Since this publication takes a good deal of work and time, I welcome any donations, and I am willing to discuss selling ad space. For a fee I will be happy to advertise your business on the Missile. Please contact me and we’ll talk about it, thanks.
I have just self-published my manifesto, Under The Workers Cap, printed by Minuteman Press (https://www.minutemanpress.com/), where I articulate my social and political beliefs, based on my study of American History and my activism in the Labor movement and the community. It’s on sale for $10.00 plus postage.
The House just passed, and the Senate is due to vote on, HR1, the For The People Act. This act takes on the problem of qualified voters not being able to vote, due to such tricks as voter ID laws, odd locations for voting booths, and gerrymandering. Such tricks have no place in a democracy as it prevents people’s voices and needs from being addressed-but that’s the idea of all these restrictive voting laws; they’re aimed at specific demographic groups, such as minorities, college students, and seniors, who would mainly vote Democratic.
HR1 would require states to allow same-day voter registration for federal elections, and to allow people to change their registration when they get ready to vote; require states to allow early voting two weeks prior to Election Day; call for automatic voter registration for people attaining 17 wears, so they can be ready to vote upon turning 18; allow voting by mail, and make Election Day a federal holiday, so more people have time to vote. The bill would establish criminal penalties for anyone trying to interfere with, or try to prevent, a person from voting, and allow for on-line voter registration, along with restrictions on purges in the voters’ rolls.
HR1 also takes on the problem of campaign finance reform, by overturning the Citizens United decision (ending most restriction on how much money a corporation could donate to a favorite candidate), have “Super PACs” disclose their donors, and allowing public financing of elections. It would end the practice of gerrymandering (when a dominant party redraws legislative districts to its favor, so they only have reliable voters and they could stay in power for an eternity) and support statehood for the District of Columbia (long overdue).
The work to make sure the For The People Act passed, and President Biden signs it, rests on us, the American people. If we are to be a more democratic nation, elected official must pay attention to us and our needs, and voting is the only sure way to do that. Please contact your senator and tell them, “Pass the For The People Act.”
We’ve made great progress in fighting the effects of the pandemic, but we need to do better. We must hold our elected officials accountable for the secure delivery of doses to clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies, and give our support for those organizations doing the work, like the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium. Plus we do our own little bit, like washing our hands, putting the mask on, checking in on our neighbors, and social distancing.
It’s not much different from wartime, in that we must work together to attain victory over this unseen but deadly enemy. The sooner and more often we do this, the sooner the pandemic will end. Come on, Americans, we can do this!
I continue my practice of resolutions for Pesach (Passover), the holiday commemorating the liberation of the Jews from bondage in Egypt. It’s a metaphor for the struggle to get yourself out of any type of oppression and limitation, be it an addiction, a bad relationship, or an oppressive regime. Lord knows we’ve been in a place of limitation and powerlessness-we had a pandemic that sickened and killed our fellow Americans, and a regime that did nothing about it. We are now celebrating the gradual lessening of the COVID-19 over our lives, as long as we follow the guidelines of washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks.
Here are my resolutions for Pesach 2021:
I will continue to conduct myself with self-long, self-esteem, and self-respect, paying attention to the positive elements of my life.
I will honor and support Jewish religion, history, and culture.
I will continue my education, via libraries, museums, classes, galleries, etc.
I will continue to advance and pursue my art and business of writing, attending seminars, meetings, conferences; reading and submitting to journals, etc.
I will continue such spiritual practices as medication, Torah study, affirmations, yoga, etc.
Up for debate in Congress is HR 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which President Biden publicly endorsed. The purpose of this bill is to:
penalize corporations that try to bust unions;
protect workers engaged in organizing drives;
allow workers to take employers to court if they violate collecting bargaining laws;
override “right to work” (for less) laws, which several states have implements;
prevent companies who use gig workers, like Uber, from classifying their employees as “independent contractors,” so they couldn’t organize;
and support workers’ rights as they’re engaged in strikes and boycotts.
For decades, corporations have done everything they can to prevent workers from organizing, and the result is the decline of union density, and with it the decline in wages and their ability, since just after the Second World War, to take care of their families with just one paycheck; now, both spouses have to work just to barely get by. Meanwhile, the wages of CEOs have risen, since late in the 1960’s to approximately 415 percent higher than the wages of a front-line worker. In spite of the propaganda from advocates of neo-liberal “free market”, workers and consumers have not benefitted tax breaks and other government handouts to corporations, but have only used the extra money to buy up their own stock to raise the value, and stash it on foreign bank accounts, as shown in the case of the Panama Papers.
No meaningful change for working and low-income people will take please without the ability of workers to organize into unions for their benefit; their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, who fought and sometimes died for the right to organize, knew this. We can’t let them down. Please contact your Congress-members and senators and urge them to vote for the Pro Act. This bill will be another step in bringing America forward to a better place.