Posts tagged " politics "

How’s the Weather? Quite Offensive, Thanks.

January 26th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 196 comments

I have had a troubled few days. Let me give you some background. In the late 1970s, my husband was a business professional in Los Angeles when he was introduced to Michael Medved, who had recently begun exploring his Jewish background. My husband began teaching Torah classes to Michael and a few of his friends. This small bunch soon grew to a sizable group studying in crowded living rooms. After a short while, they discovered an almost abandoned old synagogue on the Venice (CA) oceanfront. Within a year this forgotten little synagogue was filled by young people. Although almost everyone started with little knowledge of his or her Jewish roots, they thrilled to investigate Scripture and discover the majesty of religious Jewish life.

While synagogue attendance played a role in the feeling of community, the passionate congregation that sprang up was chiefly based on Bible study and growing together in connection to God.  In fact that is what constituted membership!  If you attended at least one Torah class a week, you were a member. The group, as befits the time and place, was composed of many whose values and views had been shaped by the turbulent Sixties and confused Seventies. It included ex-commune members and hippies as well as an unusually large number of scientists who started off believing that science and religion were in conflict.

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My mother is a hard-core Leftist? How can I respect her?

January 25th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 38 comments

Question:

My mother is a hardcore leftist. She views government as a savior. I am completely on the other side- I am a conservative. 

We always crash, argue and go weeks without speaking. (This is WITHOUT talking politics!)  

I understand about Honoring thy Mother and Father- but it seems impossible to build anything with a person whose ideology is destruction. How can I Honor the Lord with this commandment when I have no optimism in having a healthy relationship with her?

Answer: 

Dear Krystle,

For the purposes of this answer, it would make no difference if you were liberal and your mother, conservative.  We aren’t going to discuss the relative virtue of the politics here, but we do want to make the point that having differing world-views can come in many forms. There are many liberals who would say that conservatives have an ideology of destruction. They would point to skepticism on man-made climate change and suggest that Republicans want women to die from back alley abortions. So let’s focus on relationship repair and maintenance.

You say that you “crash, argue and go weeks without speaking,” even when you avoid politics. Since our first suggestion would have been to avoid politics even to the point of not taking the bait if your mother brought up certain topics (covering your mouth with duct tape can be helpful here) it seems that there is something fundamentally troublesome about your relationship. It isn’t only about politics. 

The religious obligation to honor your mother is not synonymous with enjoying her company. Along with any siblings you may have, you must be sure that she has her basic needs met.  The Fifth Commandment also means not contradicting her no matter how provocative or foolish you find her statements.  Ask, inquire, even challenge politely but don’t contradict.  Introduce your viewpoint with the phrase, “I sometimes feel that….”   Avoid presenting her with threats or ultimatums and whenever the conversation first begins to turn awkward or uncomfortable, politely excuse yourself, “I am sorry but I have to leave now.”

Not speaking for weeks on end makes it difficult to be assured that she is basically okay.  While this may not be so important right now, as she ages there is every likelihood that it may become a problem.  For example, you need to know she has food. This doesn’t mean that you must go eat with her, but you do need to be around her enough, or have someone reporting to you, to know what’s going on. 

Certainly, cutting off contact is extreme. Especially if your mother’s social circle is limited, being in touch with you may very well make a huge physical difference in her health. Is there any way you can organize your time together so you spend it at activities such as going to the movies or a concert where you are sharing time but little conversation? Staying home and playing cards or watching TV are other options. Phone calls don’t need to last an hour, but they should be regular. 

In other words, no matter how vehemently you disagree with your mother’s views or dislike her personality, you are going to have to find a way to cope. You need to rally all your creative energies and seek suggestions far and wide to do this in as painless a way as possible. It doesn’t need to be a healthy relationship, but it does have to be a relationship.  

It is just remotely possible that deep down your mother yearns for a normal relationship with you but due to psychological damage or emotional frailties she lacks the ability to communicate that effectively.   If you do both actually want to have a relationship, then some joint counseling might accomplish wonders.  A third party, neutral facilitator or mediator can make an enormous difference in these situations.  With a purposeful program, you might end up with a restored relationship with mom.  Stranger things have happened.

We wish you success,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

Moral in the Eye of the Beholder

October 27th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

Sometimes, living in today’s world can make one dizzier than a sped up roller coaster. A few times recently, newspaper articles starkly contrasted with one  another.

A short while ago, Gene Klein wrote a thoughtful article for the Wall Street Journal explaining why 94 year old Oskar Gröning, who was a paper-pusher at Auschwitz, correctly received a prison sentence despite his age and the comparative non-violence of his position in the concentration camp. Mr. Klein ended his piece with these words, “It is necessary that Mr. Gröning be punished, not only because of the past, but also because of the future…Anyone who participates in genocide—no matter what their role, no matter how long ago, no matter how repentant–is forever responsible and forever accountable.

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Autism, TSA and the Upcoming Election

October 20th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 6 comments

Recently, my husband and I flew on Thursday to Phoenix, where he spoke for a Dave Ramsey sponsored Business Boutique event on Friday and for a local synagogue on Shabbat.

Not until the next day did we read of massive TSA lines in Chicago and of 3,000 bags that missed outgoing flights from the Phoenix airport due to TSA incompetence. In contrast, our TSA lines moved swiftly and it was the airline itself rather than TSA that behaved incompetently, consistently announcing an on-time departure despite the fact that anyone looking out of the terminal could see that there was no airplane on the tarmac. Eventually, they changed the departure time on the announcement board — to an hour after the flight actually left. Nonetheless, we were grateful to arrive safely at our destination and to meet our luggage there.

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No Work This Monday

July 7th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Got a project that you’re proud of at work? Better hurry up and get it done because all work is soon coming to an end. Machines are taking over; it’s the end of work. Some greet the news with dismay, What will people do with all that leisure? Others eagerly anticipate a world of all play and no work. Some say humans will no longer have to work. Others say humans will no longer get to work. But all agree this major change is on the horizon.

For those of you eager to hear that you can sleep late this Monday morning, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that work is not coming to an end. The good news is the same. This provocative and puerile prediction has been a staple of everyone from foolish social scientists to bogus futurists for a long time. (more…)

Tis the Season for Much Folly

February 8th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Arrgghhh!

Months and months of political advertising still ahead.

It’s bad enough that the fate of a once-great nation should be determined by how much money politicians spend on television advertising. It’s even worse when one torments oneself masochistically by actually watching some of the ads.  How sad to suspect that some of our fellow citizens are swayed by sanctimonious sycophants spouting such self-serving drivel. (more…)

Why are Jews so liberal?

January 14th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

Rabbi, my wife and I have been enjoying your Blaze podcasts, and have bought some of your products. Thank you and Susan both for the high quality of the content.
My question is about Jews and liberalism. You are obviously an independent thinker, and appear to hold conservative values. How is it that most Jews seem to be staunch liberals? How can they support liberal agendas if they have been exposed to Ancient Jewish Wisdom?

∼ Robert P.

Answer:

Dear Robert,

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Leaders or Servants?

December 7th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

The preamble to ‘The Moment of Truth’, the report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, makes a brief and powerful plea for paying attention to the recommendations which follow. I found it oddly moving – not a word I often use about a government document – and I am willing to put aside cynicism and accept it as a sincere representation of feelings which were formed during the months of discussion the members of the commission held. If the calls for tough choices are indeed heartfelt, then I feel sorry for the commission members who have glimpsed an impending tragedy but have only congress to call on for salvation. 

The following passage appears in the preamble:

Ever since the economic downturn, families across the country have huddled around kitchen tables, making tough choices about what they hold most dear and what they can learn to live without. They expect and deserve their leaders to do the same.

This sentence reads well, but I think it inadvertently points to one of the problems. Who exactly is the family pictured? Legislators? The word picture as presented pre-supposes healthy, functional families whose members are a distinct unit who care about one another and share a vision. What picture comes to your mind when you think of that ‘typical’ family? I think of parents who earn the money and also have the final say as to its disposition. Those parents might indeed choose to go without so that their children can benefit, but it is their own money they are dispensing.  Or perhaps that family has multiple children and some children might work in order to support one sibling’s education. The college bound sibling, in turn, accepts a debt that needs to be repaid and a responsibility to shoulder.

That family is a far cry from Congress. The picture doesn’t work when those who spend the money are completely removed from those who earn it. .  It doesn’t work when some family members are addicted to power just as it won’t work if some family members are addicted to gambling or alcohol. It doesn’t work when the family cannot have an honest conversation because members of the family are willing to lie, exaggerate and use manipulative language to gain points with a third party. If legislators are the family under discussion, they seem more like a caricature of a Victorian father with unlimited power whose behavior leads to misery from those unfortunate enough to be under his control.

There are certainly tough fiscal decisions ahead. The family analogy presupposes a healthy family whose priority is a commitment to the common good. It presupposes maturity and wisdom on the part of those making the decisions. There is a revealing word in the last sentence I quoted. Our elected officials are not our ‘leaders’. They are our public servants. If they began thinking of themselves as such the electorate might begin to think that they could actually cope with this nation’s economic crisis.

 

 

Eagerly Awaiting Enthusiasm

August 17th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

Have you ever found yourself yelling into the telephone? You are trying to resolve a problem or update some data when you get lost in the automated phone labyrinth. When I hear myself shouting at top volume, “I said ‘speak to agent’” I know it is time to hang up.

Right now, automated answering devices seem to be paragons of compassion and individualized attention compared to government in Washington. I don’t think I am alone in my frustration, feeling that I know who I do not trust, but having little faith that things will change no matter who is elected. The quagmire is so deep; the quicksand of the political culture so slimy that I feel it will entrap and consume even the most upright, best-intentioned and clearest thinking candidates. Truthfully, I think it would be a depressing exercise to figure out how many politicians fit that description in the first place.

On his radio show a few weeks back, my husband asked listeners what three agenda items the Republican Party could offer that convert them into enthusiastic voters for that party’s candidates rather than just voting against the Democratic choice.

His question got me thinking about what type of statements would ramp up my enthusiasm. I realized that at this point, I am seeking more than policy statements such as “lower taxes,” “immigration reform,” or “responsible and transparent government” because those promises are too vague and have been offered and broken too frequently.

I am really looking for a commitment to bold measures, counterpoints to the bold measures the Democrats have put in place since the last Presidential election. I crave the assurance that starting at the end of January I will actually see stark and tangible differences; a bloodless revolution, if you will.
In 1994, Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America captured the imagination and crystallized the dreams of so many Americans. As the Republicans drifted from these principles, they lost the trust of those who had voted for them. But the idea of articulating principles was a good one.

I do think that if the Republicans ran on a bold platform that expressed trust in Americans rather than a “we the ruling class knows what is best for you” philosophy they would find voters willing to follow them. Wouldn’t that be a better strategy than just hoping voters run away from their political opponents?

Here are three of my suggestions:

1) One idea; one vote. There should be no unrelated pieces of legislation tacked onto bills.

2) Each and every piece of legislation should have as part of it a concrete cost and achievement goal for every twelve month period following its enactment into law. If either the budget goes too high or the results don’t match the pledge, the legislation would need to be voted on again at the end of that period.

3) Any representative or legislator who cannot pass a detailed test on all the contents of a piece of legislation cannot vote on the legislation.
And as a bonus added measure I would love to see two more suggestions floated:

1) Congress should meet in Washington for two weeks every other month while working most of the time from their home states and districts. With modern technology there is no reason for our elected officials to be removed from constituents so that they come to value and align with their fellow politicians rather than those who voted them into office.

2) All legislation must apply equally to all elected and appointed officials. No more passing laws while exempting Congress from the effects of that law.

Drastic measures? Yes, and there are probably many better ideas. But wouldn’t the debate on these types of suggestions be worthwhile? At the moment I see some innovative individuals scattered around a Republican Party that is moribund and directionless. Although the Democratic Party’s ideas are proving disastrous on a daily basis, fervently held bad ideas win out over nothingness each and every time.

Time for Literacy Tests

June 29th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

 

An air of confusion hangs over Alvin Greene’s victory in the South Carolina Democratic primary. The candidate for the U.S. Senate seemingly came out of nowhere to receive 59% of the vote. Allegations of dirty tricks have been made, but so far none have been substantiated.

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many did indeed vote for him based on criteria which surely would make our founding fathers cringe. Some of those interviewed admitted that they knew nothing of Mr. Greene, his opponent or how either man stands on issues. It was enough that his name was first on the ballot and appealed to them. 

 

Truthfully, the farce presented by this election may be more blatant than in others, but the core problem is in no way unique to this particular race or state. Over the past decades Americans have been urged to vote for all sorts of individuals based on their gender, race or well-known family name. Even in Supreme Court nominations, all sorts of demographic issues trump ability.  I venture that even the majority of those who consider themselves well-informed base their knowledge on television commercials and marketing material rather than actually analyzing a candidate’s past actions and words.

 

Literacy tests received a bad name and were outlawed in this country because they were too often used as a means to achieve a racist or anti-immigrant result. But is there anything truly wrong with asking those who vote to reveal some knowledge of the vote they are casting? Jay Leno gets a lot of laughs with “man on the street” interviews that show how appallingly ignorant people are. During the last presidential election he showed clips of people explaining why Sarah Palin was a good running mate for Barack Obama, being unable to identify a picture or name of any of the Supreme Court Justices and having no idea whether Iran was part of the United States or not. (Full disclosure: I don’t actually remember the specific clips I saw, but my examples are perfectly plausible).

 

But considering how abhorrent the idea of an election literacy or knowledge test would be to most Americans, perhaps we could start by implementing what I think would be a less controversial idea. Other than those it targets, could anyone be opposed to having our legislators take a basic exam on any legislation for which they are casting a vote? It would be perfectly reasonable to say that a failing grade should mean not being allowed to vote – and no grading on the curve. For one thing, legislation running thousands of pages would cease to be offered if you just might get a question on an obscure paragraph from page 1,316. Secondly, we might have a clue that a law is poorly written if half the legislators answer one way and half the other way on questions such as: “According to this piece of legislation XYZ will be illegal. Circle Yes or No.” 

 

This idea could be expanded to require all candidates for public office to take a basic economics exam. And I think the public would very much enjoy if the first session of Congress each term featured a televised quiz show starring our representatives answering questions pertinent to our Constitution and history.

 

Alvin Greene’s nomination disturbs South Carolina Democrats. But their pain could be the nation’s gain if it highlights how increasingly ignorant the American electorate is and spurs us to reclaim voting as a privilege rather than a right.

 

 

 

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