Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The thing about Judaism...and, indeed, most all religions and schools of that one's education in its meaning, rituals, and history never ends. It is not something that cuts off at your bar/bat mitzvah. The exploration of one's spirituality within its framework is lifelong. And the surprises just never end.

For instance, I know it will surprise a number of the kids I've taught over the past few years that the story of the Maccabees is part of the Apocrypha, the "things hidden" over the centuries from all but the most scholarly devotees of the study of the Hebrew Bible. It would also surprise them to learn that the Maccabees were not necessarily religious freedom fighters, but practitioners of a different sort of zealotry stemming from a time of persecution of any Jewish people and Jewish practices. There was no middle ground for Mattathias and his sons (as evidenced in 1 Maccabees 2:19-26) and for them, there was no way of negotiating with the king of the Syrian Greeks and his armies without the use of swords. The ones who ultimately suffered for these extremists' battles were everybody else stuck in between - from the people who went along with the hedonistic aspects of the Hellenistic culture the king Antiochus spread to the people the Maccabee band encountered in their righteous battle who were forced into circumcisions or killed outright for not being zealous enough.

No neutrality. You were a Greek or you were not. A part of the solution or part of the problem.

Is it any wonder we focus more on one cruse of oil meant to last only one day lasting for eight? Pretty, miraculous lights. That's where Hannukah's at!

To change gears a little, it is still a wonder that, in these supposedly enlightened times, the extremists are the ones whose voices are heard the loudest. And it is even more horrifically wondrous that we let them shout down all that is good, compassionate, and cooperative about the human race...all because, deep down, most of us who are good, compassionate, and cooperative feel that these people are simply talking to hear their own voices, and, when they are done having their say, they will wend their way back into whatever corner of the world they came from and keep to themselves once again.

We forget that these people not only have voices - they have brains. And limbs. And hands and feet. Everyone has the capacity to do whatever they want with what they have been given, and it is all too easy to use what is given for either good or bad. And it seems this week that The Nation has proclaimed that the bad is right in our own backyard here in New Orleans and that letting it lie is wrong. And The Nation is right.

To a point.

As a New Orleans blogger and a reader and supporter of other New Orleans bloggers, I can say that there is one thing above all the other things we write about, a thing that caused most of us to start this blogging stuff in the first place: our troubles are also this country's troubles. We do our best to refute those who would argue that the events of 8-29-05 here were simply the result of a natural disaster - they are symptomatic of a lack of real consideration for the upkeep of our infrastructure as a nation. We decry those who would let former centers of health care rot for their own financial gain, only to push even more residents out for a new, pie-in-the-sky, maybe it'll be built facility. And, as Athenae points out:

Jackass could have stayed in Chicago and learned the real "meaning" of the N-word just fine. The sentiments expressed in this story could have been expressed by any one of a hundred people I've talked to in my years living here. This isn't about the South. This is about America, as it always has been, as we keep saying here: Our fate is your fate, and it was, and it is. Our own.

I mean it, how often do you hear this? Every day? My house, my block, my neighborhood, I live here and you don't. Moreover, I BELONG here and you don't. Our lives are a crazy quilt of safe areas and danger zones, in which we make snap decisions about who "looks" like they belong here and who doesn't. But for the outright violence, but for the semi-official nature of the "militia," is there anyplace in this country this couldn't have happened? Neighborhood Watches and community meetings and everybody on the lookout, all the time, for what's coming after them. It's no wonder, no wonder at all.

No, the majority of us don't necessarily possess the religious zealotry of the Maccabees, but we do have that heavy individualism that can get just as bad. And I think that we, too, forget something important.

We, too, have brains. And limbs. And hands and feet. And voices.

There are times when we have to use those voices, and let me tell you, there is NO time like this very second.

Speak up. Write, email, call, to let The Nation and many, many others out there know that the racist idiots who shot Donald Harrington and his companions did not act as you would have acted in that situation. Let everyone know that the racist whites in the YouTube made by reporter A.C. Thompson are not expressing your views.

THEN...make sure, no matter what your race, creed, or color is, that justice will be served, not only in these shootings, but in how Charity Hospital is regarded, how the decentralization of our "system of schools" is increasing, how our finances are being messed with on a too-regular basis, and how the people we elect to act on our behalf constantly betray our trust.

This kind of thing needs to be done nationally as well.

One of the prayers said at the time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is an alphabetical acrostic proclaiming to God, as we each beat our hearts with our fists, all of the ways in which we have transgressed against God in the past year and how ashamed we are of our actions. We then proclaim that we will act more righteously, and with greater consideration.

Consider it my wish for us all at the dawn of a new year: that we admit our culpability in all of this and act to make this right...

...and that, more importantly, we continue to do so.


D-BB said...

You have been tagged. I am doing this just because I honor my word and don’t want to be a party pooper. Charlotte (aka Sweet Feet) over at casa de Charlotte della luna tagged me and I think it is not only fair and polite to honor this request, I feel it is a duty.


1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
7. Send a nude photo of yourself to the person who tagged you.

Leigh C. said...

Did it last month, Driver-By:

Sad to say, I cannot locate the photo taken of me in the college days. So sorry. Happy Hollerdays!