Archive for September, 2006

Sad day for America…

September 28, 2006

Here’s the letter I wrote to John McCain just now, sitting in the library in Guatemala City, contemplating all that Guatemala has fought for to establish a democracy and honor human rights and dignity for all. I wrote my Senators – PLEASE take a moment to do so as well. Sometimes it seems like America is running in the opposite direction, away from new democracies like Guatemala and towards tyranny… (Check out Obama’s comments here):

Dear Senator McCain,

I just read the NY Times editorial about the torture-terrorism bill and was extremely disappointed that you would agree to such an extreme position in your so-called “compromise” with President Bush.

The bill – if it becomes law – will put our troops in harm’s way, allowing them to be raped, tortured, and mistreated with no way out – just the situation we have created for terrorism suspects here in the U.S.A., a place that used to be a haven for human rights and persecuted people.

These are not the ideals of the United States, and I denounce you, the President, and any Senators who vote for this un-American and inhumane piece of legislation. You are leaving a legacy that threatens the very core of our great nation.

Sincerely, Archana

PS – I had been impressed with your so-called “compromise” and your independence from the President, but now realize it was just a political stunt to put your face in the news…

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Great Ramadan Blog: Blogging Ramadan

September 27, 2006

Check out Blogging Ramadan, it’s a bunch of Muslims (and some non-Muslims) from around the world talking about their experiences during Ramadan. There’s a very wide range of opinions, viewpoints and personalities, and should be required reading for anyone who has ever started a sentence with “The thing about Islam/Muslims is…”. A great read and worth perusing multiple times over the next month.

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L’Shana Tovah Tikatevu and Ramadan Mubarak

September 27, 2006

Friday night was the start of both the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (the beginning of the Jewish new year) and the Muslim month of Ramadan.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of an intense ten day period of fasting (at the end on Yom Kippur), reflection and repentance. Ramadan is a month-long period of fasting, reflection and repentance. Both began at sundown.

The Arabic word for blessing is “Mubarak” (Ramadan Mubarak is a common greeting between Muslims during Ramadan), and the Hebrew word is “Baruch”.

The Arabic word for peace is “Salaam” and the Hebrew word is “Shalom”.

Jews and Muslims have much in common. Here’s to hoping that all who celebrate these holidays have blessed, peaceful, reflective holiday seasons that allow people to recognize our faults and forgive those of others.

For instance, by staying up late writing a blog that no one reads I’m pissing off and neglecting my girlfriend. And I apologize publicly to Sara for being mildly annoyed at her that she won’t ever post here and to Archana for secretly enjoying her horror stories about her time in Guatemala. See folks, that wasn’t so bad!

On a more cheery note, my good friend Lenny wished me the following blessing which I’d like to pass on to all of you:

“I hope the holiday season is joyous and meaningful for you, filled with a renewal of faith in the possibility of radical change – from the most personal to the most global. And treats. Always treats.”

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The Sepoy Mutiny, the Pope on Islam, and President Bush on Torture

September 15, 2006

Check out this BBC article my mom e-mailed me about the 1857 Indian Mutiny against the British. Through archival research, the author found that the mutiny was much more about religion than about nationalism or anti-colonialism, as I had always thought. Turns out that the soldiers all believed the British were trying to convert the nation and curtail religious freedoms, and Hindus and Muslims banded together in mutiny. The narrative about the bullets being greased with pig fat was just too simple – this incident merely triggered religious fears about the British. It is interesting to think about this in the context of today’s secular India, which is plagued by communalism and violence between Hindus and Muslims…

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about the Pope’s comments on Islam and only have a brief thought – the Pope shouldn’t have used a quote about Mohammed that has become the flashpoint for all the controversy. As a recognized world leader, it’s fine for him to call for reform among Islamic extremists and support moderate clerics, but to equate Islam with violence, or to ignore centuries of scholarship about the spiritual dimensions of Jihad – and its misuse by terrorists – was just wrong. Unfortunately, this was my fear when Pope Benedict was elevated to become the Pope, based on his strident comments as a Cardinal. One can only hope that he apologizes sincerely and uses his pulpit to promote genuinely positive interfaith dialogue as his predecessor did…

Was it me, or did President Bush seem like he was unraveling just a little bit in today’s news conference? He yelled a lot, didn’t give any straight answers, and generally appeared a little bit on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Why did he mention McCain so much if the Senator opposes his proposals? Why wouldn’t he give a straight answer to David Gregory about the danger posed by his proposal to US soldiers captured in combat? And, he raised the specter of Middle Eastern countries using oil as “economic punishment” – revealing that Bush’s foreign policy has never been about liberty and democracy; it’s about protecting our consumer culture – ironically at the price of liberty, democracy, and international human rights…

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George Allen’s “Ethnic Rally”

September 13, 2006

Photo from Talking Points Memo.

“Ethnic Rally”, huh? George Allen, Republican candidate for senator in Virginia, seems to be have a hard time being inoffensive. First, there was the whole “Macaca” thing. Then, to make up for it, he has an “ethnic rally” to show that he likes and is liked by all kinds of “ethnic” folk.

Does “ethnic” mean anyone but white folks? How bout people of Greek ancestry? Arab? Jewish? Italian?

You’d think that a senator would be more used to the politically correct reality that is American politics by now, or at least have someone to talk to that might have an “ethnic” perspective.

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Ineloquent reflections on 9/11

September 12, 2006

Since its the fifth anniversary of 9/11 I guess I should have something profound to say. Well, I don’t, but here’s what’s on my mind right now, at 2:04 AM when I ought to be asleep:

I feel terrible for those who lost loved ones. I feel proud of those on Flight 93 who took matters into their own hands and kicked some ass. I feel sad that the heartfelt sympathy the world felt for us here in the US has probably disintegrated by now. I feel glad that firefighters get more respect now.

Its weird; I’d never been to NYC before 9/11/01, but I had been to such terror hotspots as London and Jerusalem. Being Jewish, terrorism wasn’t this abstract thing that happened oceans away, it happened to people just like me all the time in Israel, and occassionally in places like France, Russia and Argentina. I’m Jewish and I’m American, and those two facets of me usually blend cohesively. But before 9/11 I did think that the US was pretty isolated from the violence that routinely plagues the rest of the world. Americans didn’t seem to have much of a connection with terrorism.

Well, that seems to have changed. The way politicians (of all stripes) talk nowadays is of an impending and possible victory over terrorism seems a little naive to me. I don’t think we as a society will ever be able to stop terror. It’s certainly nothing new.

So with that in mind, hopefully we can do our best to recognize it, minimize it, and learn to live with it.

And on a more intellectual note, check out the Wikipedia entries on terrorism and 9/11. Pretty incredible that these rich articles were created by volunteers. Both are worth reading and reflecting upon.

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September 11, 2006


Sorry for the blogging absence – still getting my feet wet here in Guatemala City.

I take this day to remember all who were lost, and all that we as a nation have lost. I was in Boston on that fateful morning, watching the events unfold on television, but I remember a glorious summer morning in 2000, performing my daily ritual of climbing out of the subway station under the World Trade Center, looking up at the blue sky, picking up a Krispy Kreme donut, running into a friend under the shadows of the towers and having a chat, then walking to work…

Sadly, there’s a lot of hate out there in the blogosphere on this occasion. Instead, I chose to look for faith, love, and humor. Here are a few blogs in honor of the 5th anniversary of September 11th.



My prayer today is for peace, fearlessness, and the hope that we will treasure and fight for the freedoms that we as Americans value and hold dear… I hope you’ll join me…