Pogromchik

I’m reading Saul S. Friedman’s Pogromchik: The Assassination of Simon Petlura (Hart Publishing Co., New York, 1976). It’s a non-fiction account whose central drama is an act of public assassination carried out in Paris in 1926 by a Ukrainian Jew, Sholom

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Schwartzbard. Schwartzbard shot and killed Simon Petlura, a former head of the Ukrainian nationalist movement and supreme commander of Ukrainian nationalist forces during the civil war in that country that took place in the aftermath of World War I and the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 in Russia.

Friedman was an historian who wrote extensively about Antisemitism, the Holocaust, and the Middle East. He died in 2013, and from what I can glean on the interwebs he is, much to my dismay, a favorite go-to source for the Jewish and American right wing – particularly of those who passionately believe that Christianity & Judaism are in a global war against Islam, and that naive and ignorant liberals (like yours truly) keep ignoring the depths of the hatred found against Jews within Islam. Given my politics, I could dismiss anything Friedman has written out of hand, but that’s not how I roll. My primary interest in Pogromchik is as a portal into the horrific world of the pogroms that took place from the late 1800s well into the 20th century in the Ukraine, Russia, and other parts of eastern Europe. I could, of course, have just read a bunch of articles about those pogroms, but I guess I’m a sucker for a good story, and this is one.

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Sholom Schwartzbard, 1926

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Homo sapiens sapiens v Canis lupus familiaris – Round 1

Round 1: A Contest of Wits

 

Location: back yard

HSS: Maurice Harris, 48 y.o., cis-gendered male, 205 lbs., horseshoe pattern baldness

CLF: “Sparky” aka “Sargent Snuggles” aka “Captain Chaos” aka “Cosmic Canine Companion” aka “Mister Furry Features,” 7 y.o., altered male, 75 lbs., pit-lab mix, brindle pattern fur

Summary of contest of wits:

Sparky attempts to dislodge the loose board on the fence gate, at the same site where he previously had head-butted the board aside and escaped the yard, running across the street to the neighbor’s front yard, where he found a child’s bouncy-ball and popped it, and then forced Maurice to chase him all over the area before finally being subdued.

 

Maurice, having nailed the loose board back in place and reinforced all the boards with nails, watches with satisfaction as Sparky backs away from the gate, unable to budge the board.

 

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Maurice: Ah hah! Who’s smarter now, Captain Chaos? Huh? How you like that?

Sparky: upward innocent / bored glance

Maurice: That’s right, you can thank my bigger human brain for that, Sparks. Bigger cerebral cortex. Hammer, nails, planning, problem-solving. Mmm-hmm.

Sparky: looks away and begins to trot towards a bush

Maurice: That’s right, mister. I’m just smarter than you.

Unidentifiable voice in Maurice’s head: Maybe. But which of you is happier?

WINNER: Sparky

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“They call me Mr. Tibbs!” & “E.T. phone home”

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In 2005, the American Film Institute celebrated 100 years of movies, and released its top 100 movie quotes of all time – the result of 1500 experts’ opinions.

What do the famous movie lines “They call me Mister Tibbs!” (Sidney Poitier as Detective Virgil Tibbs, In the Heat of the Night, 1967) and “E.T. phone home” (Pat Welsh doing the voice of E.T., 1982) have in common?

Before someone breaks the internet arguing that the actual line uttered by E.T. was “home phone” and not “phone home,” I really don’t care, the little girl in the movie also says “phone home” in that order right after the Muppet-alien says “home … phone”, so the line in that word order exists in the movie, and this post isn’t about that.

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Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier in the 1967 drama, In the Heat of the Night

 

What the two lines have in common is the number one. That’s because out of all 100 of the greatest lines from a century of movies, there’s only one that’s spoken by a black person, which happens to be the same number that were spoken by extra terrestrials.

Actually, it’s the same number of lines – one – spoken by any Latinos or Latinas too. That distinction goes to Alfanso Bedoya, playing a Mexican bandit in the 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and AFI ranked it at #36, sandwiched by much shorter famous quips by Roy Scheider and Arnold Schwarzenegger, respectively.

 

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It also happens to be the same number of lines uttered by a disembodied voice (“If you build it he will come” from Field of Dreams) and by a malevolent creature of Middle Earth (“My preciousssssss” by Gollum, voiced by Andy Serkis, in LOTR). Oh and there’s one line uttered by a green witch (Wizard of Oz, 1939) and one by a vampire (Dracula, 1931).

Why am I blogging about this? I’m not really sure. What started me on this path was watching the “Show me the money!” line in Jerry Maguire (awarded #25 on AFI’s list). Now it’s possible to argue that that line is not only uttered by Tom Cruise – who is the focus of the clip AFI used in their broadcast video of the 100 movie quotes – but that Cuba Gooding, Jr. also says the line, which would bring us up to 1.5 total lines out of 100 spoken by black actors. On the other hand, Al Jolson’s line in 1927’s The Jazz Singer, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” is uttered by a white character who we see performing in blackface, and that kind of cancels out the possible half-credit we might assign to Cuba Gooding, Jr. (For a nuanced and complex take on Al Jolson, check out this short video.)

I have to wonder whether AFI’s panel of cultural and film experts gave enough consideration to some of these famous lines uttered by black actors:

“Bye, Felicia.” – Ice Cube in Friday (1995).

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#DACA = Time for New Approach to #Resistance

Count me among the millions of Americans – apparently 3/4 of the population according to one poll – who don’t want to see Dreamers deported. Trump’s DACA decision is all the varieties of awful that a gazillion writers and activists and politicians have already described online, in the papers, in interviews, and in the streets ever since Jeff Sessions took the podium and threw 800,000 people who deserve better under the bus.

I know that, starting today even, there will be hundreds of demonstrations – marches, vigils, probably some civil disobedience too. And already millions of people are flooding Congressional voicemail boxes and email boxes with protest messages and demands that Congress pass a straight-up Dream Act bill pronto and test DT’s claim to be ready to sign such a bill into law.

And all of that energy and activism will make a difference, which I guess I believe it always does especially if it’s done in a non-violent and intentionally ethical way.

But here’s the thing.

The DACA announcement is just the latest in a series of actions by the Trump Administration that is designed to disrupt, endanger, demoralize, and weaken a part of the American community. Its reverberations go well beyond the Dreamers and their immediate families. Sudden shifts in DACA policy create waves of fear throughout the entire undocumented population, and throughout much of the Latino-American community, American citizens included. (And yes, other immigrant communities too, but given Trump’s long campaign of hating on Mexicans in particular, it’s important to be clear that Latinos are being targeted with a particular set of toxic and bigoted memes.)

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Trump’s efforts to repeal the ACA and, in the aftermath of Congress’s failure to pass a bill, his deliberate attempt to sabotage its proper functioning, also bring uncertainty, anxiety, and ultimately political exhaustion to those who rely on the ACA (like my family). Not just the people who use the exchanges – everyone who depends on different parts of the law, like Medicaid recipients, including families w/severely disabled children, is thrown off balance. Even if in the end the ACA stays in place and Trump loses interest in trying to sabotage it, think about the massive amount of contingency planning for worst case scenarios that’s going on in millions of households in this country, and the time, money, and volunteer hours that progressives are putting into trying to keep the law alive. That’s all energy and resources that could otherwise have been used to advance a progressive agenda, redirected down a path that will probably end in at least a partial loss of the hard-fought gains the ACA represented. Continue reading

Rights = Responsibilities

fdr listAnother way of putting this, for those who get their knickers in a twist over the language of “rights” vs “responsibilities,” looks like this: All Americans share the responsibility to maintain a society in which all of their fellow citizens have 1) a job, 2) an adequate wage and decent living, 3) a decent home, 4) medical care, 5) economic protection during sickness, accident, old age or unemployment, 6) a good education. These are basic responsibilities to one another. We have a duty to each other to use all effective and appropriate means, including and sometimes especially, government, to carry out our shared responsibilities to one another. This is what love your neighbor looks like as a social contract in a modern wealthy post-industrial nation.

Extreme individualism is not a Jewish value. We are our brother’s / sister’s / neighbor’s keeper.

Enumerating Good Things

This is an experiment. I’m going to start each work day this week by enumerating 7 good things going on in the world, and 7 good things going on in my personal life.

MONDAY 2/6 – IN THE WORLD

  1. There’s a planned Philly rally this week for Jewish & Muslim youth who want to support each other during these times.
  2. HIAS is working hard to help refugees.
  3. There’s a renewed appreciation and level of support for independent journalism.
  4. Millions of people openly express their opposition to Trump & his policies daily.
  5. Rev. William Barber is doing inspiring work.
  6. Other liberal democracies are stepping up to lead with good values even though Trump is not.
  7. Indivisible is making an effort to resist in an organized way.

MONDAY 2/6 – IN MY PERSONAL LIFE

  1. Melissa loves me.
  2. Sparky is my dog.
  3. I’m working for a progressive religious movement.
  4. The days are getting longer.
  5. My son has new shoes.
  6. Sherry Diamond is caring and helpful.
  7. Trader Joe’s frozen entrees are delicious.

 

Oh well, I didn’t do it for 3 days. But I might as well try again.

FRIDAY 2/10 – IN MY PERSONAL LIFE

  1. Mr. Fleury is a great teacher and mentor for my son.
  2. I am appreciated at my work place.
  3. I have a warm safe place to live.
  4. I get invited to Shabbat dinner at friends’ homes.
  5. Many people care about me.
  6. I can be very, very funny.
  7. I have an exciting book I’m getting closer to finishing.

FRIDAY 2/10 – IN THE WORLD

  1. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals firmly rejected Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
  2. I’m hearing that Republicans are getting inundated with cards, calls, emails, and other messages from progressives.
  3. All the Senate Democrats voted as a bloc against DeVos’ confirmation, and with 2 Republicans forced the VP to have to cast a tie-breaking vote.
  4. There are some Israelis and Palestinians who are working together to aid Syrian refugee children currently living in shelters on the Greek isle of Lesbos.
  5. It’s possible that Trump’s administration will screw lots of things up in a way that backfires bigly against their authoritarian and alt-right backers. I don’t know if it’s merely possible, or if it’s probable, or unlikely but still possible – but I do know that the chances of it are non-zero.
  6. California, Oregon, and Washington state are really emerging as a regional block that is organized around a progressive vision of America.
  7. Many Jewish-American organizations came out strong against the “Regularization Bill” passed by the right wingers in the Knesset earlier this week.

Israel / Palestine Bogus Argument #1: “Settlements aren’t really an obstacle to peace”

This is a new series of posts I’m going to work on, in which I debunk BA’s (bogus arguments) that are often made, on one side or the other, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or the wider Arab-Israeli conflict, etc.).

Today’s Bogus Argument: “Settlements aren’t really an obstacle to peace,” often claimed by AIPAC supporters and other apologists for the Netanyahu gov’t. Actually, even though the argument often gets stated the way I just phrased it, what those making the argument usually mean when they say this is that Israeli announcements of plans to build new housing units within the large settlement blocs abutting Jerusalem are not really an obstacle to peace.

Let’s consider this argument.

Usually it is supported by two claims: one, that Palestinian complaints are disingenuous because both sides already know that a final status agreement would preserve the major Jerusalem settlement blocs within Israel and there would be compensatory land swaps to the Palestinian state; and two, that the Palestinians had previously engaged in negotiations w/o too much fuss despite periodic new Israeli building in the blocs.

Therefore, the argument goes, these Palestinian complaints (and those made by groups like Peace Now, J Street, and various Knesset members in the opposition) are disingenuous. The Palestinians, according to this theory, only complain over this for strategic and negotiating purposes, not because they are actually upset about new Jewish housing being built in neighborhoods that everyone knows will eventually be part of Israel. No, they press these complaints fully knowing them to be without merit, because they are actually not interested in going back to negotiations with Israel, and because they are not serious about accepting Israel’s right to exist as part of a two-state final status agreement. By insisting that Israel cease and desist from new construction in all the settlements, the Palestinians are, supposedly, making an unreasonable demand they know Israel won’t accept, and by doing so they are deliberately sabotaging peace talks and building up global animosity towards Israel as part of a long-term plan to one day get back all of what was British-ruled Palestine.

This line of reasoning, and its dismissal of Palestinian objections to new settlement construction, is, in my humble opinion, completely bogus. It’s wrong.

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