About The Accidental Rabbi

I'm a liberal rabbi, living in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

“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).

Screenshot 2017-09-23 at 11.06.52 PM Continue reading

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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.

Continue reading

In first executive order, Pres Trump finally puts Christ back in Christmas

In what will be long remembered as the capstone of a stunning act of historical table-turning, the nation’s newly sworn in president struck what may be the final and decisive blow to end our nation’s long War on Christmas, which has now spanned two presidents’ administrations, Bush and Obama.

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The Arctic Circle – ground zero of the War on Christmas. The war, which began under the George W. Bush administration with a massive invasion of the Arctic Circle and Santa’s base of terror, has carried on in fits and starts throughout the Obama administration.

Both former presidents have faced criticism over their War on Christmas policies, and now President Trump hopes, with the stroke of what appears to be an unusually small pen, to break through the inertia and bureaucratic bungling that has characterized the nation’s longest and least popular war.
The Bush administration has been faulted for wrongly believing dubious intelligence sources claiming that Santa had WMDs hidden in the arctic ice – a claim that was finally proven false beyond a doubt when the last major block of ice in the arctic finally melted amid rising global temperatures 5 years Image result for george w bush looking sadago. The Obama administration, meanwhile, which sought to extract the U.S. from the war, instead became entangled in an endless war of attrition with ESIL, the so-called Elvish State in Lapland that formed in the political vacuum that arose near the North Pole after Santa was finally neutralized by American special forces.

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The War on Christmas consumed and bedeviled two presidents – will it conquer Trump as well?

Trump’s surprise executive order directs all government and military agencies to find the person at the center of the entire Christmas movement, Christ, apprehend him and put him back in Christmas once and for all.

“There’s too much of this Christ-like behavior out there growing among people in this country, and we’re getting screwed because of it – the competition is reaming us,” the new president said. “You know, this weak, hand-out mentality, you know, I don’t want to be politically incorrect, but ‘oh no, they’re poor, let’s help them,’ you know – you’re sick of it, right? And then after they cash their welfare check, they’re coming and taking your jobs, and the politicians just couldn’t care less.” Continue reading

Aretha Franklin will save America

So last year sometime, this happened – this tribute to Carole King with Aretha Franklin performing “Natural Woman” and knocking everyone’s socks off.

I’m so frightened of January 20th, this upcoming transition to Trump and all that he represents. Maybe our republic is finished. But America also produced Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Franklin can’t be erased from the story of America.

Neither can Carole King.

James Baldwin, John Lewis, and Harvey Milk can’t be erased from America’s story.cropped-from-previous-computer-1-197.jpg

Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, and Emma Lazarus can’t be erased from the story of America.

Cesar Chavez cannot be erased. Neither can Jackie Robinson.

Bob Dylan, Rosa Parks, and Eleanor Roosevelt can’t be erased from the American story.

Lincoln, FDR, and Obama are part of the permanent furniture.

Dr. King can’t be erased, and neither can Bayard Rustin.
Same goes for Mark Twain.

chavez03The Abolitionists can’t be erased.

Harriet Tubman can’t be either.

Jane Addams and Eugene Debs, Margaret Sanger and Saul Alinsky: American to the core.

A. Philip Randolph and Rachel Carson, Thurgood Marshall and Ella Baker,

Dolores Huerta and Abraham Joshua Heschel: red, white and blue forever.

Townes Van Zandt, Woody Guthrie, R.E.M., and Bruce Springsteen are part of this nation.

Harper Lee and Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Warren, Sister Helen Prejean, and Sojourner Truth – from sea to shining sea

***

I just gotta remember this in the days ahead… help me, Higher Power, help me to remember this.

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