Wednesday, August 22, 2007


The problem with choice is that it is a choice. It is, at heart, uncontrollable.

I keep turning some recent conversations over in my mind, along with the stuff I digest through the computer, and, initially, I had to excuse myself. My brain was full.

Somehow, I became embroiled in two conversations that were about orthodox Judaism...on the surface. The one I'm thinking about the most is the most recent one. Met up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while at a local coffee place, and, after we established that I'd been out of town for a week or two, the talk of the Jewish educators' conference I'd been to in St Louis must have set her off.

Parts of orthodox Judaism are offensive to her personally as a woman and a feminist. I agree. It's why I'm not an orthodox Jew. What I think she is much more offended by, however, is that her own brother embraced orthodox Judaism as a convert. Her brother is endorsing a form of Judaism that follows a treatment of women that comes from centuries of interpretations of Torah law that are mentioned in the Talmud and incorporated from various outside influences in the countries in which Jews have (mostly uneasily and insecurely) lived. The reasons for women being separate from men due to menstruation can be easily explained, sure. The tradition and Jewish laws that advocate separating women from men in the synagogue certainly exist and are cited quite frequently amongst the orthodox. What cannot be as easily explained is why a somewhat intelligent individual that seems to make rational decisions by most modern people's reckoning would choose a restrictive way in which to live, and - in some ways, a more perplexing thing to wrap one's head around - that the man's wife would go along with it. To paraphrase my friend, "It's awful to me that he has chosen something that treats his own wife as a second-class citizen. I'm glad they have sons. I'd hate to think they were raising a daughter this way."

As long as a certain "silent majority" of mainstream subscribers to any religion, political party, or sect look to these orthodox groups as some sort of fount of wisdom or truth, this kind of stuff will be happening. These people will still have a great deal of power and might on their side. Wahhabi Islam, evangelist Christianity, Lubavitcher Judaism, extreme right-wing Republicans. I don't know how basically decent people who want to do the right thing can keep balancing the impulse to do the polite and decent thing and hear these people out without wanting to mash some of them to a pulp for their megalomania. Newton could very well have termed one of his laws as nearly every pissed-off action towards another human being is gonna have an equal or greater pissed-off reaction from that offended human and/or his/her relatives/countrymen/partners in crime/what have you. The law of the highly unfortunate dark side of human nature.

Just an observation, folks. Not much to see here.

....and here's Loki with a quote from one of our founding fathers that has some pertinence to the subject at hand. Say what you will about 'em...those guys did have some good insights.


Oh, and I'd like to direct everyone to Maitri's neck of the woods. Not only is she "blaming" her latest choice of subject matter on my bad influence (hee!), she's rebutted it very, very well in her usual way. Just for that, I think she's deserving of one stylin' t-shirt that'll make everyone do a double-take:

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