Hair follow up! Whoot!

Note: If you were hoping for a J Street update, you’re out of luck! I wrote this post ahead of time, because I knew I would neither have access to a computer, nor want to want to try to be two places at once (at the conference and in the ether) in the course of the conference events. I’m sure I’ll be writing something about it all on Tuesday or Wednesday. Please come back! (Well, please stay, and then come back again).

*******

Note: Illustration may not depict any reality that I have ever known.

So. Remember how I decided that I was going to stop using shampoo? (See also: follow up post with clarifications and advice).

And then how the whole family got infested with lice?

Well…. Yeah. So. We got infested another time or two (…), which meant that I kept having to use shampoo again, which messed up experiment for a while.

And THEN, once I was fully back in the swing of things, I finally realized: You know what? The fact that people keep complimenting my hair — like, strangers, and everything — and I actually love the way it looks without shampoo? Still doesn’t mean I like the way it feels.

Within about 18 hours of a non-shampoo hairwash, the back of my head would feel kind of sticky to me. I was told over and over by countless loving (and patient) people that it didn’t actually look sticky/dirty/yucky/anything other than lovely, but whenever I would touch it, I would just go: Do.Not.Want.

(more…)

Combating Islamophobia & responding to Rep. Pete King – some ideas.

UPDATE, March 4, 2011 : I wrote a much more detailed list of ideas, including sample scripts and letters today: How to support Muslims. It’s a better place to start on this, I assure you!

I’ve called US Rep. Pete King’s (R-NY) office a couple of times in the past two weeks to try to determine when he’s planning on launching these abhorrent hearings of his into the “radicalization of the Muslim community” in America. My hope was to act on the ideas that I floated here, or help others with possible responses that they were working on, and though I’ve reached out to a couple of Muslim-American organizations for leads and ideas, I’ve heard nothing back (I’ve decided to chalk up this up to people being very, very busy, because, you know: Bottom line, my credentials for this sort of thing are fairly well established, both in terms of work experience in the communication and PR industries, and my own writing skills and background).

Two weeks ago or so, I was told the hearings would start “in late February or early March,” but when I couldn’t figure a way into efforts to respond to this rather vivid attack on American values (I have this funny notion that “We the people” means all the people, “liberty and justice for all” means for all-all, the First Amendment means what it says, so on and so forth) and other, equally worthy work came up (not to mention: Worthy work for which I was being paid!), I let it slide.

(more…)

Open Thread…?

I’m about to take off for a couple of hours, and don’t know if TNC will open his OTAN or not today. (It’s already a few minutes past-N, and so far, no OT). So, just in case – here’s a thread if folks need it! Rules are here & if you get stuck in moderation, I’ll get you out as quick as I can! (Which might not be as quick as anyone would like for a couple of hours, but I’ll do my best).

I’ve been everywhere… dude.

Note: Sony Music are douchebags and I can’t find a version of this song that will play on my site. But dude! Click through! Totally worth it.

*****

Ok, I haven’t been everywhere. But I’ve been a lotta places!

I’ve been to: Israel, Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, Belgium (24 hours – that counts, right?), England, Ireland, and Holland. Oh! And Canada: Toronto, Nova Scotia (<3!), PE Island….

In America, I’ve been to (city, state, and/or environs): Chicago, New York, Syracuse, Boston, Washington DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis/St. Paul, all over southern Wisconsin, a few places in northern Indiana, all over southwestern Michigan, Memphis, Springfield (IL), Cincinnati, Orlando (well – Disney), Maine, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot.

There are HUGE swathes of the world still to see, not least all of Africa south of Egypt, Iran, and the American Southwest. But, you know, I’ve been a place or two, seen a thing or three.

It’s cool. I like feeling comfortable on a plane, at ease with pulling out my passport. I don’t like the fact that when my family of four and I flew somewhere in November, we realized with a shock that, once we had factored in travel-to-and-from-the-airport time and (more to the point) security-check-time — we literally could have gotten where we were going almost as quickly by driving. (And the food would have been better and cheaper). So there may soon be more driving in my future.

But that’s fine, too, because all told, I like traveling. I spent a good 20 years doing it mostly on my own, back and forth and back and forth from Israel to America, with occasional stops in Europe or the US (or, that’s right, Canada. What’s wrong with us Americans?), the stopovers often including every mode of conveyance short of donkey cart: bus, train, boat, borrowed car, rental car, riding-with-someone-else-because-they-were-headed-that-way. Probably some walking too. Very rarely, a group would be involved, or a boyfriend, and then I picked up a husband, and eventually we had kids. Now I mostly travel in a pack of four, each dragging a carry-on (mine generally the heaviest, because where else will a lunch for four fit?).

This weekend, I’m traveling again, but here’s what I’m not doing in preparation – I’m not:

  1. Making lists for other people
  2. Packing clothes, toiletries and pharmaceuticals for other people
  3. Buying books, activities, and food for other people
  4. In any way concerning myself with the travel needs of other people

Why? Because I’m going by myself.

I love my kids, God knows I love my kids. I am, in fact, a trifle crazy about my kids — besotted and infatuated with my kids, actually. What’s not to love? They are outstanding human beings: Funny, smart, kind, and very good with the hugging (though the girl, through no fault of my genes, I can assure you of that, does not like to give or get kisses. I ask you!). They are also, it must be said, excellent travel companions, and always have been — and this is not a thing that can be said about all children, it must be said.

And my husband — with whom I am, quite frankly, also besotted and infatuated — always packs for himself. I am not his mother, and he knows to step lightly even when asking advice on what to bring. I am not — I repeat — his mother. And he, too, is a genuinely fabulous travel companion. We have a lot of fun together on the road, me and my wee gang.

HOWEVER.

Having this opportunity to NOT pack for others, NOT worry about what others will eat, NOT think about amusing others, NOT shop for anyone but MYSELF (I got shoes yesterday, y’all! Cute little black pumps that straddle that all important line of “workaday” and “cute and sassy” — whoot!) is kind of glorious, I must say.

Definitely the most surprising piece of becoming a parent was the utter relentlessness of it. You cannot decide (as one might with a spouse/partner) to not eat supper. You cannot decide to blow off the laundry for another week. And if you’re the one with the sudden, painful, gaping head wound? You still have to calm the other, shorter people down. Parenting is, in a word, relentless.

So getting a chance to buy cute shoes, make my own lunch plans, and pack a carry-on with my own reading material (I’m going to teach myself the glories of my brand-new Blackberry!) is a little heady.

I will miss my people, I am that sort, and I’m glad to say that I am also very excited to be going where I’m going — the J Street conference, where I’ll get to hob-nob with hopeless Israel/Palestine geeks like me, people who obsess like me and worry like me and talk in the same shorthand I have in my own head — but before I even get there, I’ll already be happy.

Because I won’t be juggling coffee and someone else’s pizza. And my shoes? Will be fabulous.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Why I still call myself a Zionist.

5/24/11 UPDATE:
To see me speaking on Russia Today about the Obama speech and Netanyahu reaction to same, please click here:
Israel, Palestine, Obama, Netanyahu & me – on Russian TV.

*****

As I get ready to go to the J Street conference this weekend, I find myself grappling with all those lovely issues that an American-Israeli peace activist must occasionally grapple with. What shoes to wear? What books to bring in the carry-on? Why do I still insist on applying to myself that much maligned descriptor “Zionist”?

I mean honestly, haven’t I gotten the memo? Zionists “barely resemble humans,” as one tweet recently had it. None of the cool, peace-n-justice loving kids are Zionists anymore! C’mon now!

There are a handful of reasons for my mulishness, however, and they start from the most simple: Words mean things.

“Zionist” does not mean “fascist” or “imperialist” or “running dog” or even “baby-killer.” It means “Jewish nationalist.” So there’s that. I am forever getting hung up on the fact that words have actual, working definitions.

And then there’s the fact that I firmly believe that my side (the Israeli/Jewish side) has absolutely no business telling the other side (the Palestinian side) how to define themselves or their terms. They get to define themselves, not me. And so, ipso facto, I’m not willing to say that those who have issues with Israeli government policy — no matter how deep and just the issues may be — now have a right to define my people and our terms for us.

And finally, if I am accepting of — indeed, promoting of — Palestinian nationalism, I cannot find any way clear to denying my own people their nationalism.

I have questions about nationalism. Big questions. I genuinely believe (as I’ve said before) that nationalism is a stage in human development and we will, one day, please God, achieve something better.

But that day is not yet here.

And if nationalism is still the world’s current geopolitical organizing principle (and it is, whether I like it or not), and I accept, promote and support Palestinian nationalism — well then, Jews have the same right to their own nationalist visions and dreams.

Jews had long shared a language and a culture and a deeply beloved land when the notion of modern nationalism first came into vogue in the late 19th century — the fact that we hadn’t lived on that land for centuries was because we had been brutally thrown off it and hounded across the globe. It was not a choice, a usurpation — it was a rolling genocide that failed. My people prayed to return to that land three times a day, in a language and within a cultural heritage that spanned centuries. If that doesn’t constitute the building blocks of the modern construct we know as “nationalism,” I don’t know what does.

And so: If I support Palestinian nationalism, I cannot in good conscience tell my own people to drop theirs. If I believe that my people has no right to tell the Palestinians what to call themselves, I cannot in good conscience tell my people that their words are rank and vile and must be got rid of. And if I believe that we have a duty to use language in order communicate the truth — not pull it and push it so that it fits in the boxes that best serve our political ends — then I cannot in good conscious quietly accept the viciousness and vitriol (and often barely-veiled antisemitism) that pass for “a definition of Zionism” among many who fight alongside me for the rights of the Palestinian people.

I don’t wear the word with much ease, it’s true. Too many have attached too much hate to it now, and, as I said, I’m not entirely sure that I’m fully on-board with nationalism, of any kind, anymore. I surely won’t argue with Jews who say they just can’t apply that word to themselves at this point, particularly if they have transcended nationalism in their own personal ideology.

But until I’m convinced that nationalism is no longer the path we must trod for the forseeable future, until I’m convinced that Israelis and Palestinians alike are willing and able to give up the dreams of decades and centuries and throw in their lot with each other, I will still use the dreaded Z word.

It comes down to this: I cannot believe that supporting Palestinian rights demands that I turn my back on my own people. And so I won’t.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

OTA (11:00 in my time zone).

…and we’re back. Open Thread away! And even if you don’t regularly comment at Ta-Nehisi’s blog — which you totes should — please feel free to join in!

The rules (here) boil down to: 1) Don’t do stuff you wouldn’t do at TNC’s place, and 2) be a person (which The Raven pointed out is exclusionary, but what can you do. Lines must be drawn!)

While you’re here, take the chance to check out the very, very excellent TNC Web-ring, just to your right. There’s a lot of really good blogging being done by TNC’s commentariat — surprising stuff, unusual stuff, ideas and analysis and fun that you don’t see all over the web in different iterations 12 million times a day (my biggest complaint about the blogosphere: Why are so many of us writing the exact same stuff?)

I won’t be able to be as active in the thread today (I got real work this morning! I know! Ah, the thrill-filled life of a freelancer) but I’m around and if you get stuck in moderation I will get you out as soon as ever I can!

The perils of kindness.

Last night, sitting at my desk, trying to write a book review, I finally just burst into tears.

The book deals with Israel/Palestine, and the many brave and noble people attempting to find a path to true peace and genuine justice, and it comes on the heels of two other books that dealt with what amounts to the same subject matter — and last night’s book and the earlier two came at either end of days and days in which I was dealing quite intensely, in my writing and in my heart, with the topic of rape (a couple of times on this blog, on and on at Twitter, and elsewhere across the wilds and in the corners of the blogosphere), while all the while, people living across a swath of the world that holds a place very deep in my soul are being shot at from their own fighter jets and by their own police forces. And the public employees in some quarters of this country — teachers, for God’s sake! — find themselves faced with the possibility of losing their freedom to ever collectively organize again. And at some point I discovered that a (male) blogger had accused me (specifically) and other women bloggers of “raping” Lara Logan by choosing to use the story of her assault as a reason to write about rape. And then an earthquake in New Zealand….

What finally reduced me to tears was a good friend being kind.

In this case, the good friend happens to be a truly, genuinely lovely person who has spent his life telling the truth about Israel/Palestine, and the one clear thought I could get to (as I read his completely unrelated email and cried) was: How can the world still suck so hard, when there are such beautiful people in it?

I’m tired. I’m tired of the world sucking and of beautiful people dedicating themselves and their lives and all too often their deaths to trying to heal a world that still sucks. I’m tired of the ever-peeling layers of suckage — after all, just under “pro-democracy protests turn violent in the Middle East,” you’ll find “well-founded fears of chaos,” “well-founded fears of military takeover,” and “well-founded fears of economic collapse and further human suffering.” Under which, of course, you will also find “Lara Logan was brutally assaulted and more than 80% of Egyptian woman complain of constant harassment and women are raped everywhere, anyway.” Under which you will find… many other things that I cannot bear to think about right now.

It matters not that I’m tired. Not really. Despair and exhaustion are luxuries, and I already live in the lap of luxury.

But I confess that I have found it easier to not know over much about about Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Iran, or Wisconsin and Indiana over the past 24-48 hours (oh, and Ohio. Where apparently someone decided it would be a good idea to lock the people out of their own statehouse) — or even of New Zealand, where, after all, it’s not the sucky people, it’s the sucky tectonic plates we have to thank for the wave of grief and sorrow now washing over a nation. It feels wrong to admit this. I confess that, too.

I’m going to the J Street Conference this weekend, and I think that will have to count as my good deed for the next week. Me being tired doesn’t matter — but me crying doesn’t help.  I think it’ll be helpful to go hang out in a room full of compulsive do-gooders for a couple of days.

Alterna-Open Thread again.

Update: Needless to say, this is open to everyone, not just regular TNC commenters – come one, come all!

Ta-Nehisi has come to the not at all unreasonable conclusion that when he’s off-line, it’s best to not leave Open Threads lying about unattended. So, if I understand correctly: None today, none tomorrow.

I, however, am not off-line! And I understand how weird it can be to have the Gone Fishin’ sign suddenly appear on your usual hangout. So as I did once before, I’m setting up an Open Thread here for any and all who might want to chat.

A few words before take-off:

  1. Let’s adopt TNC’s rules - no bashing of his fellow Atlantic bloggers please, except within the confines of what he finds acceptable at his place. No bashing of each other (like we’re bashable! Pleeeease!), and no arguing into the margins, literal or figurative.
  2. Let’s adopt my rules, too! – these can be seen here (and are always available up there on the right, in “About Commenting”), but they boil down to: Be a person.
  3. There’s no need to fear: I may look sweet, but I have a ban hammer and I’m not afraid to use it - should any unpleasantness occur, I can, and already have in the past, called motherfuckers on their shit. Pinky swear!
  4. If you’re not a regular reader of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog, you should be! His is one of the best blogs on the planet, because he is thoughtful, smart, funny, and very passionate. It’s never the same thing twice, but it’s always interesting. Here’s another link, and it’s always and forever on the Smart People blog roll, to the right.

Note to new commenters/old hands commenting from a new or different email address: All first comments require my moderation. If you’ve commented and it hasn’t appeared yet, no panicking! I’ll get to it as quickly as I can.

The Internet (capitalized, as if it were a Deity).

Here’s the thing.

I loves me some Internet. I really, really do. All of our technological bells and whistles are, bottom line, tools, and tools are only as good or as bad as the people using them, and with judicious use, the Internet is one hell of a tool.

I mean honestly! What other tool allows me to order groceries, clothes and books delivered to my house, look up (and look at) the works of Frieda Kahlo and WH Auden, organize in support of freedom in Egypt/Wisconsin/Palestine, and become genuine friends with people I may never get to meet?

A hammer? Yeah, no, a hammer can’t do that. Neither can a dishwasher or a telephone or a whisk.

But here’s the thing that the Internet also does, that hammers, dishwashers, telephones and/or whisks don’t: It works both ways.

When I order Fuji apples, something somewhere gathers that information, and attaches it very, very specifically to me. When I send a Tweet, or buy a book, or click on a picture — that information is squirreled away and put to use.

This, I don’t like so much.

As an Israeli, I long ago made my peace with the fact that people listen to my phone conversations. There are certain things I will never say over the phone, and by extension, certain information that I will never put in an email, Tweet, blog post, or blog comment. It just seems smarter.

But that is somehow less horrible to me than the fact that when I am online, everything — literally everything — that I do simultaneously serves someone else’s goals. I refuse to join Facebook in part because I can’t stand how blatant Zuckerberg is in his gathering of other people’s facts — but the truth is that nobody needs FB to know everything that I might reveal on FB. Because it’s all out there already, being bought and sold, used to further ideas and careers and plans that I have no say in or may, in fact, oppose.

When I use a hammer, the hammer gets nothing out of it. The person who made the hammer has already been paid, as has the person who sold me the hammer. Once it’s purchased, they don’t really care if it’s never picked up again. And, as I say, the hammer has no opinion one way or the other.

Not so the Internet — capitalized, as if it were a Deity.

But there it is. As an avid, daily user of the Internet’s great bounty, there’s pretty much nothing I can do about it (other than occasionally leave false trails — which I do, from time to time, but I’m not so foolish as to believe that my false trails make much of a dent).

I’m not going to go off the grid, or worry too much about the fact that even good encryption is occasionally breached (hello, Gawker!). If I don’t want the world to know that I’m curious about Charlie Sheen and Demi Lovato — or, more to the point: If I want to live in a world where the lives and struggles of complete strangers are not so monetized as to be twisted almost beyond recognition — I won’t click on their pictures. And when I do, I will do so in the knowledge that on that day, I’m part of the problem.

But I will say this: I’ve noticed an odd peace that sometimes comes over me when I’m doing something that can in no way be traced. When I shop at a resale shop, or play a board game, or read a dead-tree magazine. When you read a magazine, no one knows.

Dear Internet: I like that.

PS If you want to read some much more erudite and better-written (not to mention researched) musings on the Internet, read Adam Gopnick’s “How the Internet Gets Inside Us” in The New Yorker. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. (Personally, I printed the piece out to read it, but I presume someone, somewhere already knows that).

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

Talking about rape.

The fact that the world is talking about the brutal assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan is, to put it mildly, an unusual thing. Usually, sexual assault is wrapped in silence.

The silence of social niceties, the silence of discomfort, the silence of fear. Many survivors don’t talk because they’re ashamed, or because they were told they’d be killed if they do. Many don’t want the assault to take up any more of their time than it already has, and many are sure no one wants to listen. Many can’t yet find the words to tell the world what happened.

But it’s been my experience, as a rape crisis counselor and friend of survivors, male and female, that breaking that silence is one of the most powerful tools there is for dealing with the events survivors grapple with — whether it be the assault, or the assault’s aftermath.

Moreover, telling the truth — giving voice to the lived reality of millions upon millions of women and girls, men and boys — is one of the most powerful weapons there is for dealing with those who would deny the realities of rape.

To that end, I present today a guest post, a monologue written by a woman I know named Danielle.

Writing this piece was one of the ways that Danielle has found to grapple with what happened to her. She hasn’t yet performed the piece nor seen it performed, but she hasn’t ruled out the possibility. When I asked her if I could put it on my site, here’s what she said:

I went back and forth on whether to put it out there, because some part of me fears judgment for what happened. However, that is exactly the reason to do it. Women don’t speak up, aren’t honest, because of the fear of judgment. And, maybe it is time to add to the voices that say, “Not anymore.” What happened to me affected me in a major way, but I am not defined by it, nor do I continue to carry it with me like baggage. It happened. It changed me. But, it didn’t ruin me. And, if sharing it can help someone else, then yes, let’s do it.

If you have a story you would like to share, please do so in the comments or send me an email (contact information in the About page, to the right). I promise you, this space will be safe. There will be no trolling here.

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

This is written as a monologue to be delivered to an audience, part acting, part performance art (I wrote it in the style of a Chicago performance troupe the NeoFuturists). Everything in italics is stage direction.
———————-
(she walks slowly from upstage, in clothing slightly too big for her to give the effect of it almost falling off. a clear glass filled with bright pink liquid is in her hand. she is slightly unsteady, but not “drunk”…she may or may not sit down at the lip of the stage)

You made my second drink. (beat) I had a small buzz from the first…but yours tasted like rubbing alcohol. A quarter of the way through, my words began to slur. Halfway done, I couldn’t stand. (pause) “Drink up!” (stares into the glass, at the last bit of the drink…slams it back, then considers the empty glass for a moment–beat) Then I lost my sight.

You didn’t notice me trying to fade into the couch, to pass out with what dignity I could muster. When you pulled me toward you, I saw it in the distance, like when you see a tv on in someone’s home as you drive by. (beat) I pulled away. Did you notice? (pause) Your weight came down upon me as if it had always been there and I wondered if you realized that reciprocity had triumphed over reason. Your hands moving mine to you, my body a vessel for your desires, for I had none of my own. Blind, deaf, and dumb, just as a puppet should be. I followed you outside, stumbling, wondering what I could sacrifice in the name of Not Making A Scene. My clothing peeling off like shedding skin as I tried to keep it close, as if it could still protect me. But shed skin is dead skin and unchecked lust knows few bounds. Your weight pushing against me, supported by elbows abraded by fabric. I had the scars for a week. Did you hear my answer in the silence that followed your questions? Did you see me trying not to cry as you kissed my back, feigning tenderness? When you fell out, did you hear me whisper a quiet thank you, only to breathe it back in when you found your way again? Did you see the face in the window, interrupting us? No, that was only in my mind. I didn’t look you in the eye, but if I had, would you have noticed? My powers came back to me as it ended; however, too little, too late. Task completed, you bounded off with lip service, but not a second look. As you searched for scraps of food in the kitchen, I searched for scraps of myself.

You didn’t notice, did you?

Neither did I.

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