Tackling 'Ulysses'

I have always avoided James Joyce's “Ulysses,” but curiosity finally got the better of me. I want to know WHY the book is in the top 5 on every list of greatest fiction.

After listening to three chapters, I realized I had to know more about the mechanics of the book, so I have copied and read an overview in the online CliffsNotes.

The main character, Stephen, is autobiographical and was the main character in “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” which I’ve read. "Ulysses" begins around 8 a.m. on a day in 1904 with Stephen and his two Dublin roommates and covers a 24-hour period.

Its 18 chapters include 18 “viewpoints” and numerous writing styles and literary devices.

Think of witnesses to a wreck all seeing different things.

According to the summary, “Ulysses stands as an inventive, multiple-point-of-view (there are eighteen) vision of daily events, personal attitudes, cultural and political sentiments and observations of the human condition.”

Right down my alley.

It’s a good thing I’ve listened to “The Odyssey,” because this is Joyce’s “playful” version of the Homeric epic. (Much like the movie, “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?”) Stephan, the main character, represents the son who goes looking for his father, Ulysses. The book's protaganist, Leopold Bloom, represents Ulysses. (Bloom's wife Molly is a somewhat tainted Penelope.)

The overview or summary I copied is 11 pages in Microsoft Word and has brief chapter summaries which will help me to better understand the novel without actually reading the chapter summaries.

It's against my better judgment to read reviews or plot summaries before I read a book, but with this one I figure I'll need all the help I can get. Joyce once bragged that a whole cottage industry in books developed trying to explain his works. 

When I was in college I tackled complex subjects by first reading about them in the children’s section of the library or in the World Book Encyclopedia. So, this is what I’ve done with this excellent CliffsNotes summary.

Why the book was banned is a different story, and there is a “Foreword” on my digital Talking Books copy which goes into the ramifications of its role in freedom of expression. (Although Rick Santorum would burn it, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft would drape a cloth over it.)


What would Jesus do?

“How should the nation help the estimated 50 million Americans who can't afford health insurance? Christians are as divided about this question as others. Many cite Jesus, but come up with completely different conclusions.”
- CNN.com home page promo

The following is a thought-provoking and balanced post from CNN’s “Belief Blog.” (LINK) I have added my own comments below the article.

Would Jesus support health care reform?

By John Blake, CNN
March 31, 2012

(CNN) – He was a healer, a provider of universal health care, a man of compassion who treated those with preexisting medical conditions.

We don’t know what Jesus thought about the individual mandate or buying broccoli. But we do know how the New Testament describes him. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus physically healing the most vulnerable and despised people in his society.

References to Jesus, of course, didn’t make it into the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s hearings on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. (BJ Note: Not the Act itself, but one provision of the Act.) Yet there is a moral dimension to this epic legal debate:

How should the nation help its “least of these,” an estimated 50 million Americans who can’t afford health insurance, as well as those who could go broke or die because they can’t afford medical care?

Christians are as divided about this question as others. Many cite Jesus, but come up with completely different conclusions.

Trust God or government?

Tom Prichard, a Lutheran and president of the Minnesota Family Council, said it’s ultimately about faith. Who do we trust – God or government?

He opposes “Obamacare” because he has more faith in the market and people, than government.

“Here Jesus’ words come to mind about not worrying and trusting God to meet our basic needs,” Prichard wrote in an online post warning about the dangers of “government run health care.” “Or if we believe it all depends on us, we’ll look to government.”

When reached at his Minnesota office, Prichard elaborated: He said the nation should empower families and individuals to make health-care decisions. If families can’t afford health insurance, private and public entities like churches and nonprofits should step in, he said.

“We all have the same goal,”Prichard said. “We want all people to have health care, even people who can’t afford it. I would argue that having the government be the primary vehicle for providing it is not going to get us to that goal. It’s going to make the situation worse.”

Carl Raschke, a religious studies professor at the University of Denver, evoked Jesus’ words about Rome and taxation.

Raschke cited the New Testament passage when Jesus, after being asked if Jews should pay taxes to Rome, said that people should "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

Jesus was against strictly political or economic solutions because he thought they were too easy when it comes to the real challenges of human life, Raschke said.

“Writing checks won’t solve social problems,” Raschke said. “One has to get involved. If we see someone in need, we just don’t throw a dollar at him or her. You get to know them, you offer yourself, and ask what you can do for them.”

Helping the Good Samaritans of our day

There are some Christians, though, who say that charity isn’t enough to solve the nation’s health care problems.

An estimated 32 million Americans could lose health insurance if “Obamacare” is struck down, including children who can stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26 and seniors who get help paying for their drug prescriptions. Most observers say health care costs would continue to rise.

Some people believe the health care situation in America would be scandalous to Jesus because he was a prophet concerned about social justice.

Steven Kraftchick, a religious scholar, said Jesus comes out of the tradition of Jewish prophets who preached that the health of a society could be measured by how well they took care of “its widows and orphans,” those who had the least power.

Kraftchick said there’s a famous story in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus heals such a person. He was the man who called himself Legion. He might have been called homeless and mentally ill. The man roamed a graveyard, so tormented that even chains could not hold him and everyone feared him, Mark wrote.

Jesus healed the man not only physically, but socially as well, according to Mark. The man returned to his community with a sense of dignity, said Kraftchick, a professor at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta.

“A move toward universal health care would be fitting with the prophetic traditions,” Kraftchick said. “When you read the New Testament and look at the signs of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, it’s always connected to being physically healed.”

Yet Marcia Pally, an authority on evangelicals, said many evangelicals are wary of government doing the healing. Their reasons go back centuries.

Many are the descendants of people who fled Europe because of religious persecution by state churches. They fought a revolution against a government in England. And they settled a frontier, where the virtue of self-reliance was critical, said Pally, author of “The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good.”

Suspicion of government is part of their historical and religious experience, said Pally, who is also a multicultural professor at Fordham University in New York.

Those attitudes, though, may be changing. Pally said she spent six years traveling across America to interview evangelicals. She discovered that a new generation of evangelists now believes that certain issues are too big and complex to be addressed by charity.

“Some note that charity is very good at the moment of emergency relief but it doesn’t change anything unless structures that keep people poor, sick or deny their access to health insurance are changed,” she said.

No matter what the Supreme Court decides, the legal debate will continue. If more Americans go broke or die because they do not have health insurance, more Americans may ask, what would Jesus do?

But don’t expect any easy answers from the Bible, said Raschke, the religious studies professor at the University of Denver.

“People are always looking for support from the Bible for American political positions,” Rashke said. “Would Jesus be against abortion, or would he support a woman’s right to choose? It’s almost become a standard joke in the theological world that you quote Jesus in American politics to support your political views.

“The teachings of Jesus do not fit into the views of any political party."


I would like to add a few thoughts.

I disagree with the last quote. I believe the political party which is most committed to the social and physical welf-being of ALL Americans is most aligned with my interpretations of Jesus’ teachings.

I do not understand the tendency of some Christians to judge harshly the poor. The subject Jesus spoke of more than any other – some 700 times in the New Testament – was “the poor.” Most notably, he said “For the poor always ye have with you." (John 12:8 KJV)

There is a lingering Calvinistic belief that if you work hard enoough, you won't be poor. My daddy stood in one spot for 28 years and made brooms for Mississippi Industries for the Blind. When he made a dozen brooms, he received a token. At the end of the day, he turned in his tokens to determine his pay. If that's not hard work, I don't know what is. I was an editor who worked deadline in a daily newspaper newsroom. If that's not hard work, I don't know what is. Oh, we were blessed, but neither my daddy nor I could  count ourselves among the wealthy.

Our government provides “safety nets” which lift our poor out of poverty and starvation, which in history have fueled bloody revolutions in countries which provided no such compassionate assistance.

In bringing up the history of persecution of Christians by “state religions,” the authority on evangelicals is making a clear case for “separation of church and state,” so why don’t evangelicals understand this principle set forth by Thomas Jefferson?

Finally, I spent five months last year in pain. Over three of those five months I had medical tests, X-rays, ultrasounds and even a nuclear scan before diagnosis and treatment restored me to my normal good health.

These tests were ordered by a primary care physician and cost around $12,000. Fortunately, I was insured. I was insured by Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D (drugs) – both voluntary insurance policies for which Americans pay a monthly premium.

I paid $700 out of pocket. The insurer – the government – paid a portion of the $12,000, but for the most part charges were voluntarily “written off” by the medical providers.

The point is: I could never have paid $12,000, so I would have just had to continue to suffer the pain.

No Christian I know would have paid the $12,000. No church I know of would have paid the $12,000. No nonprofit charity I know would have paid the $12,000. Which is why I said then and say now, “Thank God for Medicare.”

My conclusion comes in the form of a question:

Where would America be today if our government had not stepped in to lift Americans out of desperation – from FDR to Lyndon Johnson?



* S.C.O.T.U.S. - Sifting Controversial Opinions to Understand Scope of the Supreme Court of the United States’ hearings and subsequent decision on the constitutionality of the “mandate” provision of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There are quite often reasons for a Supreme Court decision which seemingly don't have anything to do with the exact complaint in the case. In the case of the "mandated coverage" provision of the health care reform law, the Court will be looking at areas such as "states' rights," legislative powers to tax and to regulate commerce, and so forth.

Above all, the Court must look at precedents – decisions handed down in previous cases. According to David Orentlicher in an analysis for CNN, “70 years of judicial precedents provide strong grounds for upholding the law.” With titles to choke a business card printer, Orentlicher is the Samuel R. Rosen professor of law and co-director of the Hall Center for Law and Health at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Emphasis, I suppose, should be on “law and health.”

In the meantime, the media are portraying the case before the Court as an examination of the constitutionality of the entire law.

Not so.

The Court is focusing on four key issues (LINK):

• Constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require Americans to purchase health insurance while providing assistance to those who cannot afford it.
• Whether the individual mandate is a "tax," thereby limiting authority of the courts to immediately decide the mandate question.
• Whether other parts of the law can survive if the mandate is struck down.
• Federal vs. state conflict over expansion of the cooperative Medicaid program.

Although I never subscribed, I received an email from Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), which I'm sure has gone out to many South Carolinians with email. Its title: "Obamacare: A Trail of Broken Promises." What a load of, yep, propaganda, none of it applicable to the question before the High Court. Senator Graham, I am your constituent who demands citations for the claims you make. As for your claim that “Obamacare” is wrecking our economy, you had a hand in that yourself when you rubber-stamped President Bush’s expenditures. Regarding your complaint about the cost of Medicaid, God forbid if South Carolina concerns itself with the health of its poor. I remind you, sir, that you represent them, too.  And, while you claim “Obamacare” – a derisive term – has left “a trail of broken promises,” you fail to mention that many of its provisions don’t go into effect until 2014.

Some light is being shed on this issue. Kudos to CNN.com for taking an objective approach in its reporting, for pointing out the entire law is not under SCOTUS scrutiny and for featuring on its home page stories highlighting ways the health care law actually helps Americans. Here's a typical promo:

"Violet McManus, 3, suffers from seizures that stop her breathing. Until the health care reform law, lifetime caps threatened to eliminate her insurance. Now the Supreme Court is hearing a case that could throw out the law."

It is important, at this point, to explain why the “mandate” is necessary:

In order to force insurance companies to eliminate their “pre-existing conditions” restrictions, they will be required to charge the same fees for everyone ONLY if the public is REQUIRED to purchase insurance. As Orentlicher explains:

“Otherwise, many people would wait until they suffer an illness or injury to buy their policy. In other words, the individual mandate is simply designed to prevent freeloading that would cause the pre-existing conditions provision to fail, and the Constitution gives Congress the power to make sure its laws can be implemented effectively.”

Finally, Republican thinking seems to be, in my opinion, a dichotomy of delusion. "Obamacare" is a name-calling device of propaganda, which interpreted means "if you don't like Obama, you won't like this law." You can bet the right-wing are the first to complain about “freeloaders” not paying their medical bills causing expenses ultimately to be passed on to policyholders through higher premiums. This is exactly what the “mandate” is designed to prevent. But, instead of looking at this law objectively, they’d rather frame it in terms of a wrecked economy and so-called “death panels.” I dare say few have actually studied the law.

Before you go, stop for a minute and learn the makeup of the Supreme Court:

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito comprise the Court’s conservative wing. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor are considered its liberal wing. Elena Kagan is new enough to the Court that her leanings are not statistically known – she had to recuse herself from a large numbers of cases due to her former role as solicitor general – but she is expected to join the liberal wing. Anthony Kennedy, while conservative, is seen as the swing vote on the Court, often voting with the liberal wing. (Clarence Thomas votes the way Antonin Scalia votes – 92 percent of the time according to SCOTUSblog.com!)

With President Obama’s re-election possibly hanging in the balance, will the Supreme Court postpone its ruling until after the November election? If a ruling comes down in June, I cannot wait to read the opinions of the Court and of the individual justices to determine if they are based on “the merits of the case” or if this will be a repeat of what happened on December 12, 2000.dex.html?hpt=hp_t2


Breaking down the real 'bullshit'

• Rick Santorum makes a statement in Wisconsin.
• A New York Times reporter asks him a question about the statement.
• Santorum tells the reporter, “I didn’t say that,” and claims the reporter is distorting his words.
• Santorum tells the Times reporter, “Quit distorting my words. It’s bullshit.”
• Santorum then claims the reporter “attacked” him.
• The thing is, and it’s on the record, Santorum did say it.
• He then becomes the hero of the gullible and uninformed by telling Fox News viewers: “If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican the way I look at it."
• Santorum then throws up a fund-raising plea on his Web site asking supporters to contribute $30, which he says is the price of a subscription to The New York Times.

CNN's Political Ticker, March 27, 2012:

(CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Monday defended his profane comment directed at a New York Times reporter and used the interaction in a fundraising pitch.

"If you haven't cursed out a New York Times reporter during the course of a campaign, you're not really a real Republican's (sic) the way I look at it," Santorum said on Fox News. "It was just one of these harassing moments, and after having answered the question a few times, sort of comes back with the same old fashion, the same old spin."

"I just said 'Okay, I've had enough of this you-know-what,'" he added.

Team Santorum invoked the back-and-forth in a fundraising email to supporters, asking them to contribute $30, what they said is the price of a subscription to the Times.

"I criticized Romney and Obama for their outrageous healthcare legislation. Predictably, I was aggressively attacked by a New York Times reporter all too ready to defend the two of them, and all too ready to distort my words," Santorum wrote in the email. "Let me assure you, I didn't back down, and I didn't let him bully me."

Santorum accused the Times' Jeff Zeleny of distorting his words following a question from the reporter Sunday night.

Zeleny asked Santorum if he thinks Mitt Romney is the "worst Republican in the country to run against Obama," something he said while campaigning in Wisconsin.

In response, Santorum said "I didn't say that. You guys are distorting what I'm saying … Quit distorting my words. It's bulls***."

But shortly before the questioning, at a campaign stop in Racine, Wisconsin, Santorum said, "Why would we put someone up who is uniquely - pick any other Republican in the country. He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. Why would Wisconsin want to vote for someone like that?"

The former Pennsylvania senator has made criticism of the national health care law and its similarities to the plan passed while Romney served as governor of Massachusetts a centerpiece of his campaign.

His latest "worst Republican" charge came after he was criticized last week for suggesting there are so few differences between Romney and Obama that "we may as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk," with the Republican frontrunner.

In his defense, Santorum said he would never vote for the president, but that "Romneycare" makes his rival uniquely unqualified to run against Obama in the general election.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.


Welcome to Jonathan Swift’s “Confederacy of Dunces,” Saint Santorum.



There’s seeing and there’s seeing.

I suppose if I need quotes to qualify my meaning, the one that comes to mind is: “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

This is a saying with biblical roots:

Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.
- Jeremiah 5:21 (KJV)

Therefore I speak to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
- Mathew 13:13 (KJV)

Being visually impaired, it is natural that I enjoy quotes about blindness, especially when they go beyond the mere lack of sight.

My niece Debra sent me this one:

A blind person asked Swami Vivekanand: "Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?" He replied: "Yes, losing your vision!"

Debra made my day when she went on to say, “That is what impresses me about you every day: you stay focused on the future; you never lose your vision. You are an inspiration to all who have the pleasure of knowing you.”


And, here’s a plea from one of history’s greatest and most versatile men:

“Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!”
- Leonardo da Vinci

Looking back, I believe I transitioned to adulthood accompanied by the music of the great Ray Charles. My favorite quote comes from Mr. Charles, who if you really think about it, probably explains my meaning best of all:

Someone once asked Ray Charles what the worst thing about being blind is. He immediately replied, “Well, you can’t see.”


A Valentine from Father Tim

The great thing about waking up in the morning is that you learn something new every day! Some fascinating facts about Valentine’s Day from my dear friend Father Tim Farrell, pastor, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Farmington, New Mexico:


And a very happy Valentine's Day to you. Isn't it interesting that in the Church's calendar this is actually no longer St. Valentine's Day. It is the Feast of Saints Cyril and Methodius. When Pope Paul VI revised the calendar, he took out a lot of saints who had no true historical basis. For instance, St. Christopher lost his day because there is no actual proof of his existence. The same sad fate befell St. Valentine. Nonetheless it is still a "sweet" day and all my love and best to you this day.

By the way, a few interesting facts about St. Valentine:

1. There were actually three different Valentines over many different centuries.

2. February 14th had originally been a Roman feast in honor of Juno, the goddess of fertility, and so this was "taken over" by the Catholics, who were good at putting holy days on top of pagan days; thus, Easter falling on a different day each year to follow the ancient pagan ritual of fertility -- Easter eggs (fertility), Easter bunnies (fertility), etc.

3. One of the St. Valentines was a priest/bishop in the early church, according to tradition, and he was condemned to death for his faith. While in prison awaiting his execution, he healed the sight of the jailer's daughter. As he was readying for his execution, he wrote a note of spiritual support to the newly-healed girl and signed it "From Your Valentine;" thus, the official greeting of the special day.

4. King Henry VIII, who had so many "Valentines" in his life, loved the day and made it a holy day in the British Isles.

As to all the saints' days, there are so many thousands of them in the calendar that I only deal with the most famous ones. Like today it is Sts. Cyril and Methodius. I can't keep up with all the others, though some of their lives are quite remarkable, obviously.

Speaking of a saint: I was ordained a priest on June 3, 1989, on the Feast of St. Charles Llwanga and Companions. They were Ugandan martyrs from the 1800s. I remember having read a book on St. Charles and those who were martyred with him as I was ordained on that day. Then, our parish began to build two schools and give support to the people of Uganda. When I visited Uganda last year, I actually celebrated Mass at the altar where St. Charles and a little boy were burned alive.

A fascinating fact on this feast day: Pope Paul VI canonized all the Catholics AND the Protestants who died that day, the first time that had happened in the history of the Church.

Anyhow, I have rambled too long. But before I go, a Tim Farrell fact from St. Valentine's Day:

The candy is never very good. The heart-shaped boxed candy always has pink and orange innards. My brother Patrick (in South Carolina) as a little boy would always bite the bottoms to see what was inside and if he didn't like them, he'd just put them back in their place. Ugh! And then there are those tiny, hard hearts that have the consistency and taste of a Tums. Ugh again!

Somebody's gotta come up with better candy for such a nice day!

God bless and enjoy this beautiful, love-filled day!



Thanks, Tim. I think a boxful of heavenly Divinity candy would be just the thing for you!


Is Israeli-Palestinian peace possible?

By B. J. Trotter
February 2, 2012

I hope this in-depth examination of a religious and political impasse is not construed as pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian. I am merely setting forth some observations I hope you will consider.

Two days before Christians around the world celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, Gallup/USA Today released a report on the religious makeup of the United States:

“Christianity is still the most prevalent religion in the United States, with 78 percent of American adults identifying with some form of the Christian religion in 2011. Less than 2 perent are Jewish, less than 1 percent are Muslim, and 15 percent do not have a religious identity.”

Because 78 percent of American adults base religious beliefs in Judeo-Christian roots, this country supports Israel. Unquestionably, the two percent of Americans who are Jewish and the 1 percent who are Muslim, while both based in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, come from a heritage divided – a division that greatly affects both U.S. policy and world peace.

What will surprise you, though, is this: there is dissension in America’s Jewish community over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to a 2011 “Civility Statement” issued by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, in Jewish communities across America:

"The expression and exchange of views is often an uncivil, highly unpleasant experience. Community events and public discussions are often interrupted by raised voices, personal insults and outrageous charges."

At the forefront of this rancor is divided opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the threat to Israel from Iran.

The following is an in-depth look at the festering sore that seemingly will not heal and its impact on both U.S. politics and world peace. It is well-researched, well-documented and written with objectivity, as I have always sought to do. I do not attempt to trace the history of the conflict as that is available online. Rather, I am relating recent observations with a bit of historical perspective.


Like the American Jewish community itself, I think we must separate our support of Jews and Judaism and our opinion of the current Israeli government, and we should feel free to examine the latter without reprisal.

Let me state, unequivocally, that I do not like the right-wing politics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. As for the man himself, there are things to like and dislike. I like that he attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. I admire his distinguished military career. The way he hogged CNN’s cameras during Operation Desert Storm turned me off. His family tree is notable. I deeply sympathize that he lost his older brother Yoni, who at age 30 was commander of the Israeli Special Forces and was the only Israeli commando killed in the rescue raid on Entebbe. The fact that Netanyahu’s marital record mirrors that of Newt Gingrich does not appeal.

None of this, of course, makes me – or anyone of like convictions – anti-Semitic.


Coincidentally, while working on this article, I listened to Nelson Demille’s novel, “By the Rivers of Babylon,” a thriller pitting Palestinian terrorists against Israelis. Demille opens his 1978 book with two quotes:

“Our stuggles have barely begun, the worst is yet to come, and it is right for Europe and America to be warned, now, that there will be no peace. The prospect of triggering a third world war doesn’t bother us. The world has been using us and has forgotten us. It is time they realize we exist. Whatever the price we will continue the struggle. Without our consent the other Arabs can do nothing, and we will never agree to a peaceful settlement. We are the joker in the pack.”
- Dr. George Habash (1926-2008), Palestinian Orthodox Christian and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

“We Jews just refuse to disappear. No matter how strong and brutal and ruthless the forces against us may be, here we are. Millions of bodies broken, buried alive, burned to death, but never has anyone been able to succeed in breaking the spirit of the Jewish people.”
- Golda Meir (1898-1978), prime minister of Israel, 1969-1974, Brussels, Belgium, February 19, 1976.

Demille’s book is filled with Jewish heroes, what James Michener in “The Source” calls “the new Jew” – militaristic and no longer pacifists – the rescuers at Entebbe, the avengers of Munich. On a mission to peace talks with Palestinians, they are attacked by terroists and must defend themselves in a seemingly impssible showdown – peace negotiators turned warriors.

Made clear in the novel is that both sides were seeking peace. Extremists thwarted their efforts. So, it is and so it will ever be – until past wrongs are forgiven. And isn’t forgiveness a cornerstone of all religions?


Audience question from a Jacksonville, Florida, man who identified himself as a Palestinian-American:

“How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people? As a Palestinian-American Republican, I'm here to tell you we do exist.”

CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer threw the question to two of the GOP candidates, whose responses brought applause from the audience:

MITT ROMNEY: Well, the reason that there's not peace between the Palestinians and Israel is because there is -- in the leadership of the Palestinian people are Hamas and others who think like Hamas, who have as their intent the elimination of Israel. And whether it's in school books that teach how to kill Jews or whether it's in the political discourse that is spoken either from Fatah or from Hamas, there is a belief that the Jewish people do not have a right to have a Jewish state.

There are some people who say, should we have a two-state solution? And the Israelis would be happy to have a two-state solution. It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution. They want to eliminate the state of Israel.

And I believe America must say -- and the best way to have peace in the Middle East is not for us to vacillate and to appease, but is to say, we stand with our friend Israel. We are committed to a Jewish state in Israel. We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel.

This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip. This president threw --


ROMNEY: I think he threw Israel under the bus with regards to defining the '67 borders as a starting point of negotiations. I think he disrespected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I think he has time and time again shown distance from Israel, and that has created, in my view, a greater sense of aggression on the part of the Palestinians. I will stand with our friend Israel.


NEWT GINGRICH: It (Palestine) was technically an invention of the late 1970s, and it was clearly so. Prior to that, they were Arabs. Many of them were either Syrian, Lebanese or Egyptian, or Jordanian.

There are a couple of simple things here. There were 11 rockets fired into Israel in November. Now, imagine in Duvall County that 11 rockets hit from your neighbor. How many of you would be for a peace process and how many of you would say, you know, that looks like an act of war.

You have leadership unequivocally, and Governor Romney is exactly right, the leadership of Hamas says, not a single Jew will remain. We aren't having a peace negotiation then. This is war by another form.

My goal for the Palestinian people would be to live in peace, to live in prosperity, to have the dignity of a state, to have freedom. and they can achieve it any morning they are prepared to say Israel has a right to exist, we give up the right to return, and we recognize that we're going to live side-by-side, now let's work together to create mutual prosperity.

And you could in five years dramatically improve the quality of life of every Palestinian. But the political leadership would never tolerate that. And that's why we're in a continuous state of war where Obama undermines the Israelis.

On the first day that I'm president, if I do become president, I will sign an executive order directing the State Department to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to send the signal we're with Israel.



American presidents have sought to bring about peace talks in this ever-volatile situation, but I don’t see such headstrong stances as being conducive to furthering such negotiations.

When I told a knowledgeable friend the title of this article, she said she could shorten my article to one word: no.

Resoltution cannot come without dialogue.

First, there has been violence on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians – widely reported and well documented – two peoples who believe they are defending themselves.

Further, this is a case of arousing an audience that apparently has no idea what President Obama actually said at the United Nations on 21 September 2011. If anything, Palestinians could claim Obama threw them “under the bus.”

Here are the lead paragraphs of The New York Times report on Obama’s address to the UN that day:

“President Obama declared his opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood through the Security Council on Wednesday, throwing the weight of the United States directly in the path of the Arab democracy movement even as he hailed what he called the democratic aspirations that have taken hold throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

“'Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.,’ Mr. Obama said, in an address before world leaders at the General Assembly. ‘If it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.’

“Instead, Mr. Obama said, the international community should keep pushing Israelis and Palestinians toward talks on the four intractable issues that have vexed peace negotiations since 1979: borders of a Palestinian state, security for Israel, the status of Palestinian refugees and the fate of Jerusalem, which both sides claim for their capital.”

In addition, Obama threatened to veto Palestinian membership in the UN.

Read the complete article HERE.

Finally, I might be naïve, but how can Romeny and Gingrich demand one people recognize the right of another to exist while at the same time telling those people they do not exist?


American Jews confront internal rancor over Israel

By Joe Sterling, CNN
January 27, 2012

Atlanta (CNN) - When the editor of a Jewish newspaper here wrote this month that the Jewish state might consider assassinating an American president, his column made national headlines and provoked a Secret Service inquiry.

The most striking criticism came from the Jewish community itself, which collectively held its nose and harshly denounced the column by Andrew Adler, who is also the owner of the weekly paper, the Atlanta Jewish Times. Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman called Adler's words "irresponsible and extremist."

Adler apologized and resigned as editor, but some see the episode as the latest example of an increase in divisive, over-the-top rhetoric within American Jewish communal life, revolving largely around the hot-button issue of Israel and its policies toward the Palestinians.

The tensions have provoked Jewish groups across the country to launch programs aimed at lowering the political temperature in their own religious communities.

Israel is not "one of the great unifying factors" that it once was in the Jewish community, said Samuel Freedman, author of "Jew vs. Jew: the Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry.”

"Since the Lebanon invasion and the First Intifada, it has become a dividing line,” he said, referring to the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation in the late 1980s. “It's probably deeper now than I've ever seen it."

Tensions within American Judaism are rising as some Jews detect an "existential threat" to Israel, with Iran's nuclear aspirations and Islamist parties coming to power during the Arab uprisings, he says.

Freedman also sees broader trends at work, including the fading line between private and public talk dissolving in the era of blogging and tweeting. The Atlanta Jewish Times incident, he says, is a reminder that words that sound bold in private will "resonate really differently when they are out in public."

Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, says emotions have been much more "intense and destructive" lately as ideological camps within the American Jewish community harden their views over the contentious U.S. presidential campaign, tensions between Israel and Iran, and issues from health care to marriage.

"This is going to be a brutal year," he says. "We're looking at a scorched earth political environment."

Felson’s group spearheads a nationwide civility initiative and held a "civility institute" last year to help Jewish leaders with conflict resolution, listening and "communicating across polarized divides."

Leaders from 15 Jewish communities across the country participated.

The council recently issued a civility statement signed by a range of prominent Jewish entities, saying the effort has "deep roots in Torah," the Jewish sacred text, and "in our community's traditions."

But the statement also spoke to a troubled Jewish landscape. "The expression and exchange of views is often an uncivil, highly unpleasant experience,” it said. “Community events and public discussions are often interrupted by raised voices, personal insults, and outrageous charges."

Jane Schiff, a Jewish Council for Public Affairs board member who is also on the group’s civility task force, says she has seen the hostile atmosphere take its toll in her Atlanta community, with rabbis backing off from talking about Israel.

"They are afraid it will affect their employment. I'm seeing friends saying to each other, 'I'm not talking to you about that because I want to stay your friend,' " she said of controversial issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Judy Saks, the community relations director for the Jewish Federation of Nashville and editor of the federation-produced community newspaper, can attest to the vituperation.

In May, an online video surfaced about Muslims in Nashville that said they were fomenting pro-terrorist ideas. Called “Losing our Community,” the video was produced by a Boston-based group called Americans for Peace and Tolerance.

A video on the group’s website says one Nashville Muslim figure it regards as radical has been embraced by “self-described progressive Jewish religious leaders," including a rabbi, and is respected as an interfaith activist in the community.

Saks said that the original video blasted three Nashville rabbis but that two were removed after several weeks. Americans for Peace and Tolerance did not respond to a request for comment.

"It brought out such divisiveness in this community,” Saks said. “It pointed fingers at our rabbis for doing what rabbis do."

The organized Jewish community decided to draw up its own civility statement, which supports "robust and vigorous debate about critical issues – as long as it is civil and tolerant" and disagreement "without threats of reprisal."

"This willingness to listen to other points of view honors Nashville's spirit as an open, welcoming and friendly city, our nation's history and our Jewish heritage," it said. "We will not engage with those who threaten the safety and security of our community."

In California's San Francisco Bay Area, controversy erupted over a film about Rachel Corrie shown at a 2009 San Francisco Jewish film festival.

Corrie, an American member of the International Solidarity Movement who was killed in Gaza nine years ago by an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer, symbolizes for many the battle on the left against Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

Corrie's mother spoke at the event, angering some Jews, who said her appearance politicized what was supposed to be an artistic moment.

The reaction to the film reflected the political fissures in the Bay Area Jewish community. In response, two community leaders, Abby Michelson Porth and Rachel Eryn Kalish, co-founded Project Reconnections, which included an initiative called the Year of Civil Discourse.

The well-funded effort throughout 2011 worked to bring Jews of different political stripes together for dialogue and deliberation, study and workshops. It also focused on reconciliation in four synagogues beset by political enmity and engaged community leaders over issues such as the Middle East.

Porth, also associate director at the Bay Area Jewish Community Relations Council, says the project helped infuse the community "with the skills and the opportunity to have a rich, meaningful and civil discourse."

She says it got people on opposite ends of the spectrum to stay at the table to understand the other person's point of view and to deliberate thoughtfully over disagreements.

Kalish, the Year of Civil Discourse project facilitator, saw people’s "fight or flight" instincts shift as they learned to communicate thoughtfully and gain a deeper understanding of issues such as Jewish settlements and the status of Jerusalem.

A healthy conversation, Kalish said, helps people think and understand that "maybe there's a third way" to approach a stubborn issue.

She recalls an interaction in one synagogue between an older man, who lived through Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and the Six Day War in 1967, and a young woman who sees Israel through the prism of its criticized actions in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The two synagogue members came to understand each other and now work side by side as dialogue "facilitators" at their congregation. Kalish cites this as an example of "pretty dramatic change" in learning how to listen and speak honestly and respectfully.

Mitch Chanin, executive director of the Jewish Dialogue Group in Philadelphia, offers dialogue programs for Jews in synagogues, colleges and other organizations and trains people as dialogue facilitators. The group formed in 2001 and has done work across North America.

Chanin, who says his group refrains from promoting political opinion, says the dialogues have included talking through the tough issues around the Middle East conflict.

"People grapple with the questions of what risks are we willing to take and what actions are ethical. Who can we trust and not trust?" Chanin said. "The likely consequences of Israeli policies. What are the intentions of Palestinian actors?

“What can we do to be safe? When is it OK to kill? When is it necessary? When is it wrong? When are there alternatives?"


Possibly, if “separation of church and state” were understood, but in Israel and in the Middle East this remains an eternal impasse.

Adolph Hitler killed millions while peppering his oratory with praise for the Almighty. The Ku Klux Klan murdered while hiding in white and wrapping itself in the cloak of Christianity. Jews no longer “turn the other cheek” but retaliate with violence. On Tuesday, police in Afghanistan reported a Muslim man strangled his wife to death because she gave birth to a daughter instead of a son, a man so ignorant he doesn’t know it was his sperm that determined the sex of the child – 500 years after Henry VIII.

Religious zealots have waged witch hunts, inquisitions and wars throughout history.

Many atrocities are committed in the name of religious extremism. America felt this at its very soul on 9/11. But, as a Christian I assert that whatever goodness and peace and love and compassion that exists in this world is also due, in large part, to religion. We just don’t read about it in headlines.

If there is to be peace between Jews and Palestinians, it is up to the good people of every faith, like the Jews in the article above, to be willing to talk to and understand each other.

Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp, wrote in her famous diary:

"I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."

I do, too, Anne. I do, too.


Gallup/USA Today: Religious makeup of the U.S.

The first GOP debate in Florida.

Obama’s address to the United Nations.

American Jews split on Israeli policies.

Afghan Muslim murders his wife.