Oh, for the love of Moses!

It has been brought to my attention that the Goldstone Report has near god-like (Satan-like?) power. Behold: It made a man shoot people in a synagogue, just yesterday!

The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday expressed “deep concern” over a shooting at a Los Angeles synagogue earlier in the day in which two people were wounded…. Likud [Member of Knesset] Danny Danon, meanwhile, said the attack was the result of a damning United Nations report on Israel’s winter offensive against Hamas in Gaza, compiled by South African jurist Richard Goldstone.  “The criminal attack in Los Angeles is a clear result of the Goldstone report,”he said. “Countries across the world need to reject the report, which brings with it hatred and anti-Semitism, and harms the peace process.” – HaAretz

Because, you know, no one ever picked up a gun and decided to give violent expression to an unhinged mind, before Goldstone. Certainly no one ever targeted Jews!

About seven years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a University of Chicago panel discussion with the late, great Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf (z”l); Peter Novick, author of the excellent The Holocaust in American Life; and Ali Abunimah, of The Electronic Intifada. Before us was, essentially, one question: Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitic, by definition?

My short answer: Don’t be daft.

My longer answer, as adapted from the talk I gave at the panel, appeared a week or so later in the Chicago Tribune, and you’ll find it, below. Because, bottom line, my thoughts on the matter haven’t changed in seven years — and clearly, neither have Israel’s, given its response to Goldstone. (In my head, just now, I ended that sentence with the words “poor man” — and I mean: Really! That poor man! Sigh.)

BUT, before I go on to the Tribune op/ed, I want also to mention that the US House of Representatives has apparently lost its damn mind — or, 114 of the Representatives have, at any rate — and is passing around House Resolution 867, which calls on President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to

oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration of the “Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict” [the Goldstone Report]in multilateral fora.

So, a) to follow up on yesterday, Hamas now looks more reasonable than these 114 US Representatives. And b) if your Congressmember appears on this list, please let them know how much you disagree with the resolution! If his or her name does not appear, please let them know how much you hope it never will! And please spread the word to other people who might be interested in having their voices heard. For a very good take on why the resolution is so wrong-headed, please read this statement by Americans for Peace Now.

And now, to our main attraction:

On anti-semitism and criticism of Israel

By Emily L. Hauser. Emily L. Hauser lives in Oak Park

December 9, 2002

Does anti-Semitism exist? Of course. There have always been people who object to the peculiar religion of the Jews. People who believe that we are by nature power-hungry, evil.

Sadly, in the face of this, the fear of anti-Semitism has become one of the Jewish people’s few unifiers. We long ago stopped agreeing on how to worship God, educate our children, or treat women. About the only positions over which most Jews are near agreement are: 1) the Holocaust proved that Jews are never entirely safe, and 2) Israel is Good. For those who might waver in the latter, the former is referenced as corroborating evidence. Ethnic anxiety (to paraphrase Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic) has become virtually our only proof of authenticity.

Yet, does this mean, can it possibly mean, that any criticism of any Jew is, by definition, anti-Semitic? The term assumes baseless hatred, and allows us to summarily reject anything it touches. But if I do wrong, and someone points it out, isn’t the wrong still mine, even (and this is very important) if that someone hates me?

We take the easy way out when we conflate criticism of Israel’s government with anti-Semitism. If all criticism of Israel comes from a place of baseless hatred (or, in the case of Jews who express it themselves, typical self-loathing) then we needn’t consider it, hold it to the light and examine its contents. The accusation of anti-Semitism thus consistently serves to paralyze thought within the Jewish community, as McCarthyism once did within American society.

Much as I can’t believe that as a loyal American, I’m not allowed to criticize the American government, I also can’t believe that as a loyal Israeli, I mustn’t criticize, or brook criticism of, the Israeli government. Being in a state of war doesn’t make governments incapable of error, nor does war itself justify every action a government takes. When we elevate Israeli politicians and generals to the kind of infallibility that assumes that criticism can only be made with evil intent, we remove them from history, reality, the very normalcy to which Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion is said to have aspired.

To say that Israel is held to a higher standard than most is equally ahistorical. Humanity has never been anything but inconsistent in judging friends and foes — Israel has been held to standards higher than some, and lower than others. The question should not be: Are we being treated fairly? Are we allowed to be as bad as the next guy? But: How do we do good? How do we behave with fairness?

Having said that, I will agree that some of Israel’s critics are flat-out, flaming anti-Semites. But the bigger truth is that some of the people who criticize us from a place of hatred aren’t anti-Semitic — they just plain hate us.

It’s very popular, in Israel and the diaspora, to discuss anti-Semitism in Palestinian schools. The enduring appeal of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is frequently cited. Following the suicide bombing at Hebrew University, many Jews pointed out that most of the Jews killed there weren’t Israeli — the target was Jews, qua Jews, they said.

And yet. Isn’t there a difference between, say, an American blaming “the Jews” for the world’s ills, and a Palestinian — told over and over that Israel is a Jewish state, for all Jews, everywhere, eternally — who blames “the Jews” for the ills his countrymen suffer? Is it baseless hatred — or hatred based in 35 years of my boot on his neck? Why do we want to believe that the Palestinians wouldn’t notice how badly we’ve treated them if no one were to point it out? Do we honestly believe they hate us so much for our peculiar religion that they would rather die, than see us live?

It’s true that this hatred, the kind found in every conflict ever launched between peoples, often takes on classically anti-Semitic expression among Arabs generally. It’s further true that if any Arabs hope to achieve reconciliation with Israel, they will have to learn to respect our sensitivities, recognize them as legitimate (2,000 years of persecution don’t just go away) and find a new vocabulary. To draw any comparison, for instance, between Israel and Nazi Germany is ghastly and repellent — and it frees us to reject anything else the speaker may say.

In all honesty, though, personally, I don’t care if the critics of Israeli policies are anti-Semitic. I don’t care if the Europeans, Americans, or Palestinians like me — at this point, I’d be surprised if the Palestinians did. As an Israeli, what must matter to me is the morality of my country’s actions, regardless of personal feelings of pique. We need to examine our history fearlessly, and find a way to right the many wrongs we have committed. Rather than hide behind our fears, I want to have the strength to do the right thing.

Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune

**********************

Earlier:

Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.

You know you’re in trouble when.

Here’s how to know you’re in trouble: When Hamas sounds more reasonable than you do.

I am no fan of Hamas. I have a number of reasons for my lack of affection, not least the fact that on more than one occasion, one of their bombers could very easily have killed me. Then there’s the fact that the organization was founded out of a desire to rid the world of my home (let’s be frank), a goal premised in an ideology based in the sort of religious fanaticism that I find deeply disturbing no matter who’s expressing it (or what the religion).

But when faced with the fact that the United Nation’s Fact Finding Mission on the Conflict in Gaza (aka: the Goldstone Report) called on Hamas to investigate their behavior in last winter’s war, Khaled Meshal, Hamas’s political leader, said the other day that “if the report or any other side has any reservations on Hamas’ actions, we are ready to explain them and we will form an honest and neutral investigative committee in Gaza to give Goldstone and its committee and the international community the facts.”

Huh. Compare this to the response of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu: “The Goldstone report is a kangaroo court against Israel, whose consequences harm the struggle of democratic countries against terror.”

Setting aside my own opinion on the war and Israel’s behavior in it — indeed, setting aside my own opinions of the occupation — there is a very basic question to be asked. Is it possible that, in the course of a massive incursion into someone else’s territory, your army and its soldiers behaved as something less than angels? Even setting aside the question of intent — isn’t it just possible that Israel did something wrong?

I would wager that Meshal is a smart guy, and can see exactly the impression Israel is making on the world stage right now. Having been told by Justice Richard Goldstone, a highly respected member of the international legal community (and a lifelong Zionist, to boot), that the Israel Defense Forces did some pretty unethical stuff in the course of the war, Israel has doubled-down, dug in its heels, and pouted. Having conceded that some sort of inquiry might be necessary — to make the world shut up already — Netanyahu has promised the military that no officers or soldiers will be called on to testify.

The entire country looks more like a thwarted child than a responsible member of the international community. Meshal has very little to lose by saying “Hey, look, we’ll look into it” — and he probably knows that he has a whole lot to gain.

But here’s the deal: Like them or not, Hamas is Israel’s enemy — by which I mean, they are the people with whom we have to deal if we want this 60+ year war to end. We don’t get to pick our enemies, and I would venture that for the most part, nobody much likes their enemies. I’m pretty clear on the fact that they don’t like us, for instance.

But now, with one interview, the feared head of a fairly repulsive organization has come out looking calm, reasonable, and responsible, while Bibi and his bunch look, at best, like Eddie Murphy in Raw.

My fear — my deeply-based-in-reality fear — is that the United States, the world’s sole remaining super power and the only force on earth that could possibly sway Israel toward responsible, moral behavior, will let them get away with it.

Even if the report eventually gets to the Security Council, there is little chance it will take any action, primarily because of objections by the United States, Israel’s closest ally which has veto power and has said the report is biased and should not be taken up by the UN’s most powerful body. – HaAretz

I’m just sayin’ — if Hamas looks more reasonable than you? You’re in trouble.

**********************

Earlier:

Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.

Good stuff: The Road to Shambala.

I’m working on something — Something Serious — that I hope to post a little later, but it has come to my attention that a certain special someone (you know who you are, Special Someone!) bears a striking resemblance to a late-60s/mid-70s crooner. In honor of Special Someone, I hearby declare In My Head’s first ever Three Dog Night Day (or did I just blow your mind?).

First this, because, well — just because! (I’m sworn to secrecy, damn it!) But please take note of the following: Hair, clothes, shoes. And also, please note: These guys can actually sing. Man, listen to those voices!

And then this, because, holy crow! How stoned were they when they taped this? They are so clearly mocking the lip-synching thing, and their own highly dramatic rock tuneage — and, as I intimated, I do believe they may well have been higher than kites.

Oh, and: What the hell is Mustache Man wearing around his waist? And why did they make the lead vocalist wear his grannie’s curtains? I am just beset with questions! And yet, even still — what an amazing song.

Indeed, in taking what turned out to be a very pleasant trip down Three Dog Night Lane earlier today, I was struck by just how many great/delightfully cheesy songs of that era were theirs — I was pretty young when they were actually churning them out, so I had no idea! A partial list includes: Mama Told Me Not to Come, The Show Must Go On, Black and White, Easy to Be Hard (the sound quality on this one is beyond terrible, but look at that set!), and One (Is the Loneliest Number). Not to mention Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog!

Happy Three Dog Night Day! (And thanks, Three Dog Night! I now totally love you!)

Good stuff: Life as Biff.

I am not usually a fan of stand-up comedy in song. I like my jokes in spoken-word form.

But this (with The Guy Who Played Biff in Back to the Future, Tom Wilson) is just stinkin’ funny!

(Thanks to, of all places, Cake Wrecks! CW blogger extraordinaire Jen referenced Biff last week, and I honestly have no idea why [not geeky enough, I guess!], but I clicked through, and lo! I was happy).

Also, PS: Glad to hear my suspicions of Adam Sandler confirmed!

The banality of horror.

I was on a bus, or maybe in a taxi. I was on my way to work. Thinking of the day ahead, or, more likely, not thinking at all. Then, that voice on the radio: A suicide bomber had just exploded himself, a few blocks from my apartment, on a bus I rode so frequently that it was virtually my second home.

I was on my way to Jerusalem, where I worked as an assistant to the correspondent for the Los Angeles Times; I was experienced enough to know that I needed to get out of the vehicle I was in and immediately into another, to return to Tel Aviv to cover the scene. And so I did, and you can read the report that I ultimately helped to file, here. At some point the next day, I remember sinking to the floor in my hallway, putting my head on my knees, and sobbing.

That was October 19, 1994, and fifteen years later (almost to the day, it occurs to me), that bombing is what comes to mind for me when I pause to take in the news that somewhere on the globe, a human being has blown his or her body to bits in order kill other human beings.

The shell of the bus had been peeled away, it seemed — like a Playmobile bus, where you could put little plastic dolls in and out. But it was charred, and ragged, and there was a woman’s head, caught by her hair, hanging from the bar that standing riders would use to catch their balance. There were parts of bodies — twenty-two bodies, all told — flung every which way, like someone had up-ended a box. I remember being surprised that I was surprised that bodies don’t blow apart neatly.

I have clear memories of covering two other such bombings (one at the end of my street), and I know I must have helped with others — probably in the office, fielding comments and reactions, maybe translating for my boss, comparing the numbers, the location, the perpetrators of this bombing, to that. There were so many. It was terrifying.

And each one stopped our lives, flooded the news, changed the radio playlists, as we mourned and mourned and mourned. It felt like surely something drastic must happen, something enormous must change, because how could the fact of human beings exploding their veins and sinews and bones and teeth in order to try to kill me and mine not change everything?

It is humbling, at the very least, to read the report that ran the next day and see how little change there has been. There they are, in 1994, Israel’s leaders demanding harsher and yet harsher action against Hamas, and Israelis on the street, begging for peace and quiet. Two changes: The prime minister we quoted back then, Yitzhak Rabin, was killed for trying to bring that peace, and Hamas now leads the legitimately elected government of the Palestinian people. So much for then-President Ezer Weizman’s assessment: “This cannot be allowed to continue…. We will have to catch (Hamas members), to tear them apart, to chop them to pieces. This is what I’m certain the Israel Defense Forces and the security service will do.”

Why do I write about this now? Because yesterday, at least 155 souls were taken to their God in the streets of Baghdad, and I want to remind myself, at least this time, of what that means. What it looks like.

And from there, to try to expand my mind to encompass and understand one hundred and fifty-five people killed, dozens of them, apparently, children. To try to imagine, for just a moment, what it must be like to live with that terror on a nearly daily basis, to be living a life in which just setting foot outside your front door requires a certain courage. To try to feel in my bones what Baghdadis must feel in theirs — that this may have been the worst attack since 2007, but that’s just because these bombers were luckier than all the other bombers. There have been so many.

I hardly pause, anymore, when I hear the words “suicide bomber.” It took 155 dead to get my attention. I want, at the very least, to honor them.

יהי זכרם ברוך

May their memory be for a blessing.

J Street update.

I said yesterday that I would like people to be open to surprises when discussing Israel/Palestine — and then I was, myself, surprised!

I don’t know how I missed this, but J Street got a hell of a letter on Wednesday from Tzipi Livni, former Israeli Foreign Minister and head of the Israeli opposition. Livni is a woman who has made quite a journey in the course of her life and political career, born to parents who were uncompromising Revisionists and served in the far-right Irgun, raised to believe firmly in the ideology of Greater Israel, and for years a staunch member of the the Likud party.

When she joined Kadima, it was quite a shift — when she endorsed a two-state solution, it was kind of stunning. Here’s some of what she wrote to Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, after Israeli ambassador Michael Oren snubbed the organization in advance of this weekend’s conference:

I would like to congratulate you on your inaugural national conference. I believe most American Jews support Israel and want to see it thrive as a Jewish and democratic state. Like you, I believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by realizing the vision of two nation states, living side by side in peace and security, is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians, and the region as a whole.

In my view, the discussion within the pro-Israel community of what best advances Israel’s cause should be inclusive and broad enough to encompass a variety of views, provided it is conducted in a respectful and legitimate manner. Along the way, we may not agree on everything but I do believe that we must ensure that what unites us as Jews who are committed to Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic State is far greater than what separates us.

(You can see the whole thing here).

Yay for surprises!

Smart words from annoying people.

For good or ill, I am a person who collects quotes. For years, my locker, then my dorm room, then my cork board grew increasingly crowded with the wisdom of others. H.L. Mencken moved across the ocean with me and back ( “We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine” ), and a glance at my current office wall reveals Martin Luther King, Jr., Joni Mitchell, Socrates, and W.H. Auden ( “…all I have is a voice/to undo the folded lie…” ).

I say that this tendency is possibly “for ill” because I also hold the contrary opinion that words out of context often serve as little more than ornament. To quote an old friend of my brother’s: “I am perfectly capable of contradicting myself — I have a bicameral mind.”

But I say “for good” because words are often my sanctuary, my source of inspiration or consolation, and that’s (I think) a good thing — and also “for good” because, occasionally, my love for a trenchant turn of phrase leads me to to not entirely reject the thoughts of people for whom I would otherwise have very little time. It is to be hoped that this, in turn, helps to keep me humble….

“Either a word means something, or it doesn’t,” Bill Maher once said on Real Time. I don’t watch Real Time anymore because Maher’s over-weaning self-confidence too often leads to blatant disrespect for others who fail to be sufficiently Like Him — in particular, people of faith, such as myself — but it’s hard to argue with the logic in this bon mot! Each time the unthinking right pulls out words like “facist” or “socialist” (not to mention “Hitler” or “witch doctor”), I think: Dude. Either a word means something, or it doesn’t! Full disclosure, though: I can’t find any online reference to Maher actually saying this! But I promise: He said this or something very like it, and now I say it all the time. Me and Bill Maher? We’re like this.

Of course, if you do trust me, without linkage, you’ll be ignoring the very wise advice given to us by one Mr. Ronald Reagan: “Trust, but verify.” He was a terrible President, but we’re supposed to act as if he was actually precisely this wise, all the time (case in point: Ketchup as a vegetable. And all that rich-get-richer/poor-get-poorer stuff). But dude, not only is this good advice, it serves to describe the characters of everyone I live with: The husband, the ten year old son, the six year old daughter, all of them — they love me, all right, and they’re pretty sure I’m not making stuff up, but you know what? They’d really like to see my source material. (Bonus fun: Click on the “Trust, but verify” link and you’ll see Reagan and Gorbachev being pretty funny and charming! Ah, if only Reagan’s wits had matched his wit…).

And speaking of people I really can’t stand who are occasionally stinkin’ funny, that Glenn Beck. Whew! If ever there was a human being in need of a lengthy time out (and quite possibly a quiet room and some professional help), it’s Glenn Beck. And yet, every once and awhile, he does stuff like praise a band (Muse), and then — entirely aware of the place he holds in the world — apologize for it: “My apologies to Muse for saying that I like them. I didn’t mean to destroy all their credibility and all their coolness. It’s an awful album and you should never go out and buy it.”  (Indeed, he said that the band had asked for a retraction, but he was joking! The really rather amusing tale can be found here).

All of this is well and good, because there is a kind of comic diversion to it, but I’ll tell you what: If I find you insufferable and you reduce me to tears? I may have to find you, and cut you. This is how I felt when George W-stands-for-Worst-President-in-History Bush reacted to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. “The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today,” Bush said within hours of the shuttle’s break-up on re-entry on February 1, 2003. “The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that they are all safely home.” Hell, I teared up just typing the words just now! Thankfully, Lovely Friend pointed out to me once that those words were no doubt written by someone paid to write them — and it is that person who so moved me, not our Most Awful Commander-in-Chief. And, you know: Phew!

Because finding him and cutting him would have been a really bad idea — after all “hate multiplies hate, violence multiples violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” So said Dr. King, and I really rather wish that it might have occured to someone in the last Administration to listen to him.

(Also: You didn’t really think I’d close with George Bush, did you?).

Goldstone, J Street, and xkcd.

A friend noticed something odd: I haven’t used this space to address the Goldstone Report (other than really ineffectually, here).

It is at least as odd, I imagine, that I have also not addressed the upcoming J Street conference, and the smear campaign against J Street and its supporters (which I number myself among).

To a very real degree, this is because I don’t know what I could possibly add to the conversation. Going over the facts is to repeat that which has already been said several hundred times, and accusing those who exercise bad faith of exercising bad faith is an exercise in going in circles. Person A accuses Goldstone/J Street of being anti-Israel and thus dismissible; Person B points out that Goldstone is a self-professed Zionist/J Street declares itself to be fighting to preserve Israel’s status as a Jewish democracy; Person A rejects out of hand whatever was said; Person B fulminates.

Rinse, repeat. Take a step to the right. Do-se-do. On and on.

I am, frankly, so tired of it. I want people to speak honestly. I want people to accept — even as just a possibility — that Israel is capable of something just shy of perfection, and that the Palestinians are not the only ones who do horrible, inhuman things (and yes, the Palestinians have done horrible, inhuman things). I want people to be open to questions, open to not-knowing, open to surprises, good or bad. I want people to stop putting words in the mouths of others, I want people to argue on the merits of their case, I want people to stopstopstop being so arrogant and so presumptuous and so blinkered, and start looking one.single.step beyond their noses. I want the zero-sum game mentality to die, be buried, and be forgotten.

Also, though, and not incidentally, Goldstone came out just before my Israeli mother-in-law came for a two-week visit, and the J Street shit hit the fan while she was here — and I found myself both busy, and longing for home. I am tired, as well, of feeling contempt for my (other) country and its leadership, of not believing a word that comes out of any official mouth, of thinking always and only of the occupation.

So instead, I will point you to the words of other people, people who are apparently less worn down and worn out by the struggle, and then, believe it or not, I will post something happy.

  1. In the spirit of letting the man speak for himself, Rabbi Brant Rosen and Rabbi Brian Walt hosted a conference call between Justice Goldstone and 150 rabbis: here’s the transcript.
  2. Rabbi Rosen’s earlier thoughts about the report, and his thoughts about the Jewish people airing our “dirty laundry.”
  3. The always powerful Leonard Fein on the rope that Goldstone threw to Israel.
  4. MJ Rosenberg on the J Street kerfluffle, in HuffPo and Politico.
  5. A little taste of the absurdity of the anti-J Street attacks, from Bernard Avishai at TPM.
  6. UPDATE: Goldstone in his own words in the Jerusalem Post.

And now, as they say, for something completely different:

An awesome Israeli-made animation of a wonderful xkcd strip, itself inspired by the delightful Discovery Channel song “I Love the World” (watch for Stephen Hawking’s contribution!). Ta-daa! Something happy!

[Thanks Boing Boing!]

**********************

Earlier:

Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.

Think of the children.

You know what the world needs? Fewer kids growing up scared and alone.

Honestly. If we were to make that a real priority in our social struggles, I think that half of our troubles would fall away in a generation or two.

And you know what would really help with that? Less shame.

When kids grow up ashamed of themselves, it usually doesn’t play out very well later in life — for the adults they become, or for the world around them. Shame is a hell of a motivator, it’s true, but not necessarily in the right directions.

So the other day, over to the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan wrote a little something about the fact that President Obama’s safe schools “czar,” Kevin Jennings, is under attack by the GOP as a “radical homosexual activist.” Sullivan’s focus was on the editorial umbrage being taken by the Washington Times over the fact that Jennings wrote the forward to the 1998 book Queering Elementary Education.

Ok, so, first of all, full disclosure: I didn’t know. There is so much anger and umbrage being taken all over the place, what with the world going to the dogs and your whatnot, that I missed this one.

But now I know, and (aside from the fact that I sure as hell hope that Obama doesn’t cut Jennings loose), I have found myself thinking a lot about the passage that Sullivan quoted from the Washington Times piece (and no, I won’t be linking. They can get their own damn page views):

Mr. Jennings’ foreword explains why he thinks it is important to start educating children about homosexuality as early as activist-educators can get away with doing so. “Ask any elementary-school teachers you know and – if they’re honest – they’ll tell you they start hearing [anti-homosexual prejudice] as soon as kindergarten.” And “As one third-grader put it plainly when asked by her teacher what ‘gay’ meant: ‘I don’t know. It’s just a bad thing.’ “As another author in the book notes: “Any grade is ‘old’ enough [for the proper education] because even five-year-olds are calling each other ‘gay’ and ‘faggot.’

And that’s the bad thing about this Mr. Jennings, apparently.

Here’s the thing: What kids do matters. How kids talk, about each other, about themselves, and about the world around them, matters. And if a gay kid, or a kid who might be gay, or a kid who has a two moms, or a kid with a gay uncle, hears “gay” used as a pejorative all the fucking time, that kid will get one message, loud and clear: “Gay” is bad — indeed, it is laughably bad.

It matters that we raise children to become good adults, but it matters first that they be good children — we need to teach them to treat each other well, at every age and stage. I know that the right would have us believe that conversations about gay people are conversations about sex (and nasty sex at that), but they are, in fact, conversations about love, and identity. Who you are is who you are. And our children need to learn that shaming people for who they are is a bad thing — and the sooner, the better.

A few weeks ago, out of nowhere, my son told me that last year (when he was 9), someone in the school library said “That’s so gay!” — and he told the kid to cut it out. I almost fell over from the pride.

Our kids can be part of the problem — or they can be part of the solution. They don’t need to talk about sex, to learn that there is no shame in being who you are. They don’t need to be introduced to topics beyond their ken, to learn that kindness and acceptance are the building blocks of a healthy society.

And if we teach that, fewer kids will grow up in shame, alone, and frightened. And this country will be a much better place — a more perfect union — indeed.

*****************

In a related matter, just look at this! 50 Years of Pentagon Studies Support Gay Soldiers.

I think my favorite line is this, from the 1988 study:

Studies of homosexual veterans make clear that having a same gender or an opposite-gender orientation is unrelated to job performance in the same way as is being left or right-handed.

Being left-handed was once considered unnatural and indeed “sinister” (go look up sinister – definition #4 in my American Heritage: “On the left side, left”). Children had their left hand tied down in order to force them to change to a more “natural” right-handed life. Is it possible that the day will come that gay people will actually just be treated like a somewhat rare kind of person, like the 7-10% of the population that is left-handed?

One has a right to dream.

(Full disclosure, again: I posted this information and my response to it earlier today, on Balloon Juice. So, I cribbed from myself, is what I’m saying).

Good stuff: To tide you over.

I’m working on something, it’s not done, it might be done tonight, it might not, but in the meantime, here is a lovely speech given by a man in Maine, back in April, about marriage rights. Fair warning: You might want a hanky! (Also, if you’re in Maine or near Maine, have some money to donate, or can sit at a phone bank, you might consider helping the folks there who are fighting the effort to repeal that state’s gay marriage law).

(And thanks Balloon Juice for making me cry earlier today!)

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