The Mason Moment with John Oliver Mason, October 26, 2020

I speak today on the urgency of voting, and of resisting trump’s attempt at holding on to power illegally.

Notes on Torah Portion Bereshith

Recently we studied the Torah portion Bereshith, Genesis 1:1-6:8. This portion is about the origin of the Universe, in a spiritual interpretation. In 1:26, God says, “Let us make Man in Our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on Earth. And God created Man in His image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”

“Let us make Man in OUR image” – plural. God is One, so why the plural?

“…in Our image…” What is the image of God? A reflection of God, if not God Him/Herself? Are we to be part of God in the world?

God assigns Man dominion over the creatures of the Earth; this does not imply that Man can do whatever he wants to the Earth. Man, being a reflection of the image of God, is to do God’s work on the Earth.

“…male and female he created them.” This is one of the stories of the beginning of male and female in this portion.

God has given Man every plant and fruit, and every animal therein. The plant and animal life of the earth is a gift of God, for all.

2:1-7-God rests of the seventh day. God forms Man from the dust of the Earth (material substance), and “blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and Man became a living being.” The “breath of life” must refer to the soul, in Hebrew Neshamah; without it, the body is dead material. the soul is a portion of God; God has placed a portion of himself inside each human being, to do His work on Earth. Humans are not at all separate from God.

2:18-God tries to find for Man a compatible companion. God brings out all the animals, and Man names each species; this signals further man’s supervision of the earth on behalf of God. God forms Woman from Man; Man and Woman are made of the same material, physical and spiritual. They are opposite each other, and still compatible and complementary-both are equally necessary. (This is also a different story of the origin of Male and Female in chapter one.)

“The two of them were naked, the man and his wife, yet they felt no shame.” What does “nakedness” mean here? This is what led to the idea of the naked human body as being “sinful” and “shameful.”

Chapter 4-After Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, the give birth to Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a sheppard; each of them presents an offering to God, and God accepts Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. What was wrong with Cain’s offering?

God tell Cain (4:6-7) If you do right, there is uplift; but if you do not do right, sin crouches at the door; its urge is toward you, but you can be its master.” God doesn’t wat a perfunctory offering or ritual; He wants us to live and act righteously in the world, and to control the negative inclinations we have.

4:8-Out in the field, Cain kills Abel-out of jealousy for God accepting his offering? Is Abel not willing to follow any sort of spiritual discipline?

4:9-God call out to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” It’s more like a challenge to Cain than a question. Cain says, “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?” This is the challenge we face to this day-what are the responsibilities we have to each other’s welfare?

Chapter 6-“The divine beings” come to earth and take the daughters of Men as wives; they are called “Nephilim;” is there any literature about the “Nephilim?”

These are speculations and questions on my part, I have no answers.

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The Mason Moment with John Oliver Mason, October 5, 2020

I speak today about trump’s tax avoidance; his debate bullying, including his endorsement of the “Proud Boys,” a notorious racist gang of thugs; the coronoavirus infecting trump and his regime; and the need to vote and stay engaged in the political system.

Take The Gloves Off!

The presidential “debate” this past Tuesday shows once again the kind of bullying rich brat donald trump remains, and the kind of dictator he aspires to be, along with Putin and Kim Jong Un. He constantly interrupted Biden an Chris Wallace, like it was his manorial right as one of the socio-economic elite. Biden, a way more mainstream politician with experience in debating, had to finally bark, “Will you shut up, man?”, realizing trump wont’ follow any rules, either of democracy or common decency.

Wallace asked trump if he would condemn the white supremacist-neo-fascist elements that have rallied to his campaign; trump kept talking about alleged left-wing violence and said (talking like the ignorant bully-boss he is) “Gimme a name.” Biden mentioned the proud Boys, a notorious neo-Nazi gang of thugs ( https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/09/25/moment-proud-boys-have-been-waiting). trump said to them, “stand back and stand down,” telling them to get ready for action.

This is no longer politics as usual; to remain in the White House, trump will utilize every lever of state power, and his hold on his cult followers, encouraging terrorism against his opponents, breaking every law and allowing Russian intelligence agencies to spread misinformation over social media, so that we don’t know who or what to believe. this is the kind of “man” we have as our “president.”

No more of this! No more being pushed around! The civics lessons of junior high no longer apply! We’re NOT giving up, we WILL vote, we WILL take to the courts AND the streets, we WILL save our democracy! Are you ready, Americans?

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Filling Ginsberg’s Seat

Let us pay our respects to the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Justice of the US Supreme Court, who was a pioneer in women’s involvement in the legal professions and a champion of women’s and LGBTQ rights through the laws, having personally faced sexism as she studies law through the period prior to the second wave of feminism.

trump showed his face at the memorial service for Ginsberg (why?) but but then he heard the chants, “Vote him out! Vote him out!”, and he scuttled back inside. More and more, he has to face the fact that, aside from his zealous followers that he in reality despises-and who he tolerates if he wants an adoring crowd-so many people are rising up against trump, and are ready to go to the voting booths and the streets to pry him out of power, and are not impressed by his playing dictator, nor his claim that he won’t accept the election results if they don’t suit him.

His idea for replacing Ginsberg on the Court is Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of religious conservatives bent on totally eliminating women’s reproductive rights. ( https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/09/26/what-we-know-trumps-supreme-court-pick/3546199001/) Barrett is a member of People of Praise, a conservative Catholic movement said to be the model of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale, the dystopian classic of a future society where women are oppressed by a theocratic regime. (Sound familiar?) In this group, women are supervised by a “handmaiden,” who oversees their decisions about their lives. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/karenrobinsonjacobs/2020/09/26/heres-what-to-know-about-people-of-praise-the-christian-group-amy-coney-barrett-belongs-to/#1c6607f0f753)

That has been a major Republican project, to load the federal courts with judges who oppose the rights of women, minorities, and workers, and who would repress their efforts to use the government apparatus to advance their rights, making the government solely the instrument of plutocratic power-just think of the Koch brothers. More corporate power mean workers would be at the “mercy” of their corporate masters over working conditions, moving plants out of the country, and employment (or the lack thereof); the environment would be further devastated by pollution, forest fires, and disease; and CEO salaries and bonuses would soar for no good reason while workers wouldn’t event scrape by.

No matter what goes down in the Supreme Court or Congress, we MUST vote on November 3; and also get out on the streets and let them know that we WON’T tolerate our rights being stolen from us. Ruth Bader Ginsberg would want it that way.

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The Mason Missile, September 23, 2020

Greetings, and L’Shana Tova, a sweet and happy and prosperous new year to all of you fine Americans. We are in the midst of the High Holy Days, Rosh haShona and Yom Kippur.

What a test our nation is going through! Can we remove this plague of a President who has undermined our nation’s economy, security, and honor, using the democratic process? Can we elect a person who is essentially decent to office, who knows and respects the Constitution and the people of this nation? I believe w can do it, but we must stay together and strong, and not let any thugs that trump has intimidate us, either with fist, guns, or lawsuits.

We see now how trump, the commander-in-chief, thinks of those in military service, in the Atlantic Monthly article, calling them “suckers” and “losers.”  (https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/)  This, from a “man” who talks all bad-ass against peaceful demonstrators and his opponents for his fans (who are just as ignorant and bullying as he is), but utilized his father’s connections to evade the draft for Viet Nam, one of them for the “bone spurs” of legend-while lower-income kids went to die in a useless, tragic war.

ON September 8, the New York Times had an article about the incompetence of the trump campaign‘s financing system. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/us/politics/trump-election-campaign-fundraising.html) trump had a campaign bank account of $1.1 billion late last year, and that gave him a bid advantage over the potential Democratic candidate; but by July, over $800 million has been spent, much of it on fundraising under the then-campaign manager Brad Parscale; campaign ads during the Super Bowl, amounting to $11 million; trump’s legal expenses; and lobbyists. The trump campaign has been a nice cash cow for Parscale and others to tap into, and now the campaign has to watch its spending, just as election day gets closer. (It’s November 3, remember that.)  

 Now we have the book by Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, Rage (https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/17/politics/bob-woodward-donald-trump-new-book/index.html), written after Woodward taped interviews of trump from December through July. trump, according to Woodward, knew the danger posed by the Coronavirus, but refused to treat it like the emergency it is, and choosing to keep saying it’s no big deal, just the regular flu you get event winter, and claiming he “didn’t want to cause a panic.” Panic for whom? The stock market, which is the only part of the “economy” that matters to him, the only thing doing well under his watch?

trump claimed he wanted to be like Churchill during World War II, but a real leader, like Churchill or FDR, would have told the public the facts-that we’re up against a killer disease, and it’s going to be rough for a while, but if we all pull together, show some discipline in wearing masks and social distancing for a while, we can beat this thing. But NOOO, he chose to keep holding his big rallies, while his fans refuse to wear masks and rub up against each other; he also ridiculed mask-wearing, like it was unmanly, denying the virus was serious, and talking about ingesting cleaning fluids into the body. So, due to his inaction and incompetence, over six million Americans have been infected by the COVID-19, and now over 200,000 died, who did not have to die.  

We also honor the memory and work of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; may her memory be a blessing and an inspiration for those who want to use the law for the rights of all Americans, particularly women and LGBTQs.

BUT-Ginsberg’s body was still warm when Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader (and apparently High Overlord) of the Senate decides to want to push through a nomination for her replacement ton the Court, a few weeks before the election. Those of us with historical memory remember ow McConnell, in 2016, would not allow a vote on a replacement for Antonin Scalia, saying, in all piety, that the newly-elected President must make the appointment.

The public has come out against the game-playing McConnell and the Senate Republicans on the appointment of Ginsberg’s replacement, saying the nomination must take place after the election. Already the party is losing popularity, and McConnell himself is facing a strong reelection opponent in Amy McGrath, and former Marine fighter-pilot. Doesn’t he know the trouble the party is in? Is he so disconnected from the reality all of us Americans face day by day-a pandemic killing our loved ones; jobs lost due to shutdowns, and people facing eviction and hunger; and racial division, stoked by the tangerine tumor  in the White House, who actually believes that the raving racist mobs at his a=rallies are the true American people.

Americans, this is not our government-not our Senate, not our President. We deserve better than this mess. And, if his former attorney Michael Cohen can be believed, he won’t leave quietly, but he’ll hang on to power by force if necessary. The civics lesson days of American politics are over; we can no longer bargain with the Republican Party like they’re a responsible political player you can deal with over cocktails and at the golf course after hours. They have become the host of the viruses of racism, theocracy, and plutocracy in this country. As the kids of today have done, we must take to the streets and show our numbers, to come together in solidarity, as we also have during the pandemic, i=n seeing how everyone is doing, in delivering food packages, and in other ways. That is how we’ll beat the twin viruses of COVID and trump.

Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together! America will be free! Bye!

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The Mason Moment with John Oliver Mason, September 20, 2020

I speak today about the holiday of Rosh ha-Shona; the memory and work of Ruth Bader Ginsberg; the Republican rush to fill her former seat in the Supreme Court, and Mitch McConnell’s unwillingness to do anything for Americans during the pandemic; and the need of working and low-income people to educate, organize, and vote.

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T’shuva for America

We are currently in the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the birthday of the world. In this time, we look back at our lives in the past year, and see where we did right, where we could have done better, and find where we can improve as humans. It’s an empowering thing to be able to move away from the errors and mistakes of the past and prepare for a better future. This is, in Hebrew, called T’shuvah, “turning around,” turning from your negative past and moving to a better future.

It’s true with individuals, and it’s true with nations, such as the United States of America. we must continue to move ourselves away from the sin of racism and racial discrimination that has undermined this country’s claim to be the beacon of freedom, democracy and justice. Too many people act as if to criticize the racism in our country is to attack America itself, as if our country is nothing BUT racism. Recently, out alleged “president” has called for a commission, called the “1776 commission,” to oppose the teaching of the racial problems in this country, such as the legacy of slavery and the history of Jim Crow against African-Americans, and to propagate America as nothing but the “sweet land of liberty,” not at all dealing with the discrimination against African-Americans, later Irish immigrants, and people from other lands hoping to find a decent life in America. (https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/516941-trump-announces-commission-to-further-patriotic-education)

This is not ow you deal with racial problems in this country, by denying them. A true T’shuvah for America would be to admit the racism and xenophobia in our country-so eagerly promoted by the strange person in the White House- and to move to live up to the words of the Declaration of Independence about equality and democracy. we need leaders, coming out of the grassroots-our fellow workers, friends, and neighbors-who can do this, and we can do it.

Resolutions for Rosh haShona

Coming up is the holiday of Rosh haShona, the Jewish New year. As is my custom, I have written down my resolutions for Rosh HaShona:

I will continue to conduct myself with self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect,paying attention to the positive aspects of my life, speaking and thinking positively about myself.

I will continue to set aside time for rest, recreation, and fun.

I will continue to set time aside to read books.

I will continue to advance my art and business as a writer, assenting forums, seminars, conferences, etc.

I will continue to advance my various social and political causes.

I will continue to be faithful to Jewish religion, culture, history, etc.

I will continue all forms of education, such as galleries, museums, lectures, forusm, etc.

I will continue to pursue all other forms of artistic endeavor, such as acting.

I bid everyone L’Shana Tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous new year to all of you.