Sunday, December 07, 2014

RACISM, COPS AND COMMUNITY - WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I would say that this is like a bad movie, but that would make light of a very serious and real situation in America. If you didn't live here and were reading the headlines every day, you might think that being a Black man or boy is a crime in America, punishable by death on the spot. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, 12-year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and Rumain Brisbon in Phoenix are the most recent Black men and boys killed by police, but certainly not the only ones.

"Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI" (USA Today). This statement is based on data submitted to the FBI by police departments, and it is a very incomplete and, some think, very flawed database. However, the stark reality is clear, young Black men are killed by police at a disproportionate rate compared to young white men killed.

Propublica has a good summary of these data in a recent article. The graphic below is from the Propublica article.


But rather than get lost in the data, which is readily available on the internet, I want to stick to my opinion, which is, after all, what you are reading.

Racism is alive and well today in America; however, in my opinion the core issue is not racism of individuals but racism inherent in our institutions. A lot has been written on this topic, and should be required reading for every US citizen, not as a guilt trip for white readers, but for the sake of educating all of us. 

There is a lot of justified anger in minority communities, as well as in a large proportion of society in general, concerning the treatment of Black men and boys in law enforcement and the judicial system. (Note that this is true in the Latino community as well.) Some of this anger spills over as rage, and mob mentality has taken over in some places resulting in destruction of property and looting. These actions are not by the majority of protesters and demonstrators, no matter how often the media shows us video and photos of the flames. 

There is a growing movement nationwide focused on police brutality and judicial indifference. Some commentators predict it is a new phase of the civil rights movement, and could grow into a major movement. I hope this is true, and I also hope that leaders emerge who can coordinate strategies, put forward a consistent message, distance the movement from the fringe groups and individuals who favor violence, and organize support for change by a majority of Americans. 

I don't condone war against the police; this is not productive and is a losing campaign. Nor do I condone blaming and labeling all cops as racist. There are many statements and interviews in the media right now by active and former police officers who admit that there is a problem, and state that some small percentage of police officers are "bad cops" who do bad things, and should not be in these positions. They also admit that the majority of cops typically don't speak out when they know what the bad apples are doing, either because they don't want to get involved, or they are concerned about their own careers. This obviously needs to change.

It is not just the bad cops that are the problem, however; it is the system, the institutions of law enforcement and justice, that not only allow these individuals to be in positions of authority, but protect them when they do bad things. The death of Eric Garner by policemen, ruled a homicide by the coroner and seen by millions in a video on the internet, was not considered worthy of a trial. This is the outrage. A policeman killed a citizen whose potential crime was selling cigarettes, and the cop was not indicted.  Would Eric Garner be alive today if he was white? Would the cop be on trial if Mr. Garner had been killed and was white? It is not OK for a cop to kill someone without justification; but it is even more egregious that the justice system takes a pass on it. 

I have been working closely with the Portland Police Bureau over the past year to address issues in our neighborhood. The police formed a special unit, based on what they are calling relationship policing, to conduct daily walking patrols in a few neighborhoods. This has been a pilot project, and has been very successful. The officers assigned to the unit were selected using a set of criteria, including their communication skills. Many cops feel that the public hates them, and they are reluctant to get out of their cars and walk around. But the community response to these walking patrols has been overwhelmingly favorable, including many "street people" who are afraid of the bad elements on the street. The goal of this pilot project is to have cops and people in the community get to know each other, on a first name basis, and to have the cops out there to help people who need assistance, diffuse tense situations, address issues of behavior in public places, and help build a greater sense of community. As Ric, the Sergeant in charge of the unit often says, good parenting is not ignoring your kids until they do something wrong and then punishing them, but that is how policing has worked for too long (and he is quick to point out that police are not your parents!). The situation in our neighborhood has improved greatly, and by the way, this special unit of officers made very few arrests and issued very few citations, not because they weren't doing their job, but because they were doing their job in a different way.

I am hopeful that, working together, we can make needed changes in our society. I'm not yet delusional enough to think that this will be a slam dunk; it will be hard work. Institutionalized racism is buried deep in the core structures of our public institutions, and there is a tremendous amount of inertia to keep it that way. We need to change laws, we need new legal precedent, we need individuals inside federal, state and local governments, including police forces, to push from the inside, we need citizens to participate in public discourse and to vote

Next time you see a cop walking around your neighborhood, stop and say hello. Introduce yourself, get into a conversation, talk about what's going on. Build community. 

---    

Friday, November 14, 2014

REALLY? PRESIDENT OBAMA IS "POISONING THE WELL?"

AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!! Driving home today I was listening to a local talk show (Think Out Loud) on our NPR affiliate, Oregon Public Broadcasting. In the news roundtable segment the host asked three guests (journalists) what the top story of the week was for each of them. One of the two men said that his top story was wondering why President Obama is reportedly going to "poison the well" in Congress by acting on immigration reform through Executive Order. 

WHAT? First of all, why is a journalist using the Republican playbook term of the month? Almost immediately following his reelection to the Senate, Mitch McConnell used the term "poison the well" in his acceptance speech: "In an ambitious speech hours after his party gained control of both houses of Congress, McConnell warned Obama not to “poison the well” by pushing forward with unilateral action on immigration reform...." (source)
Two days later House Speaker John Boehner warned that "the president will "poison the well" for the new Congress if he takes executive action to address the deportation of undocumented immigrants" (source). The floodgates were open, and every news outlet repeated the term "poison the well" over, and over, and over ad nauseum. 

And so, once again, the popular media are following the playbook of a political party by parroting a catchy phrase designed to stick in the heads of the public and sway their opinion. Some consultant to the Republican Party earned her or his pay for that one. 

But there is another, even more important aspect to this discussion; the assertion is false! For the past 6 years the publicly stated goal of the Republican Party has been to thwart every effort by Barak Obama to get things accomplished. McConnell and Boehner each are on record with this message. The Congress during Obama's term will go down as one of the most do-nothing Congresses in the history of the United States, to date. If anyone has poisoned the political well, it is the Republican Party.

And let us not forget the liberal Democrats who have very loudly criticized Obama for not getting tough, going toe-to-toe with the obstructionist Republicans in Congress. What a wimp! What a dish rag! What a disappointment! As if President Obama is the reason the Republicans have stymied every effort by the administration and the Democrats to move things forward. 

The Republican Party is The Poison in the well that all Americans drink from. Name any social issue in this country, and the Republicans are on the front lines to stop any progress. I salute President Obama for his patience and his persistence. He has accomplished a mountain of important things, and yet, for some strange reason, the American public and the popular media allow the Republican Party to write the script and coin the phrases.

I truly hope our President uses his executive authorities to make long-overdue and much needed changes to immigration policies, environmental policies, energy policies, and many more. And truly, if there is poison in the well, we can only hope that the Republicans in Congress drink from it soon! 
---
P. Fishman - November 14, 2014 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MEANWHILE, 44 YEARS LATER, HAS ANYTHING CHANGED?

I have two books of political cartoons by Ron Cobb published in 1970 that I probably bought within a couple of years of publication (my copies were 2nd printings in 1971).  Raw Sewage is about the environment (remember, the first Earth Day was in 1970). My Fellow Americans is about politics in this country at the time.  I took these books off the shelf a few days ago and paged through Ron's cartoons, truly a trip down memory lane. I expected to laugh again, the way I did 40 some years ago. I was dismayed, however, that it seems things have not changed very much in the past 44 years. And I didn't laugh this time around.

Below are a few of my favorites from these cartoon books, with some commentary.

from Raw Sewage
This was always one of my favorite ecology cartoons by Ron. The grin on the old man's face is perfect. I have to say that in many cities, such as Portland, OR, there has been a push to incorporate plants into the urban landscape. So perhaps there has been progress on this item over the past 44 years. 

from Raw Sewage
Does anything ring a bell here? I think more people know the word "ecology" now than in 1970. We also are very familiar with the term "climate change" because it is in the news media so much. But we are experiencing more severe storms and other major changes in climate patterns than we did then. Katrina and Sandy were not beautiful women but horrific storms that destroyed and killed. Where are the changes needed to slow down this human-induced process? So far, it looks like we will all be sitting on the roof of the car wondering why these things are happening. 

from My Fellow Americans
How true, and how sad. The Civil Rights Movement - the one fought for racial equality - forced numerous positive changes in our society. And yet, 44 years after this cartoon was inked, it seems that beatings and killings (and incarceration) of young men of color by police is more normal than ever. The numbers are chilling; the stories are mind-numbing. How is it that here, in America, racism has become more institutionalized than it was 44 years ago? Didn't we fix this already? Sadly, we didn't. 

from My Fellow Americans
How did Ron know? Thanks to Edgar Snowden and others, we now know so much more about the surveillance state in which we live. How many of us knew what NSA meant just a couple of years ago? We now have surveillance cameras proliferating everywhere, police departments have weapons and vehicles designed for the military (thanks to grants and gifts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security). What Ron didn't know then was that we would all have smart phones that know where we are all the time, as well as Google, Facebook, email, Twitter and millions of other internet data collectors that the government can hack into (or simply demand from the providers). 

from My Fellow Americans
Do I even need to comment on this one? The most reliable numbers are that more than 30,000 Americans are killed by guns every year! This insanity is perpetuated by organizations like the National Rifle Association that have a strange stranglehold on our elected legislators. This is nuts! 

And so, sadly, I must conclude that many important issues in our society have not improved since 44 years ago. I continually ask myself what went wrong, why we haven't collectively improved these egregious facets of human community. Is this really the world we want to inhabit, and leave for our children? 

And I'm still not laughing. 

---
Sources:
My Fellow Americans 1970. Ron Cobb. Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc. - Sawyer Press
Raw Sewage  1970. Ron Cobb. Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc. - Sawyer Press 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (EXCEPT THOSE WHO DON'T HAPPEN TO BE WHITE AND HAVE MONEY)

Many people in Europe, America, and Iran are upset and protesting over the jailing of a young woman in Iran for political activism. Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British-Iranian law student in London, has been in jail for 100 days without trial, and she has started a hunger strike. Support for her cause is growing.

Meanwhile, right here in the U.S. of A., a large number of people are incarcerated and awaiting trial under circumstances that are beyond belief. Take the case of Kalief Browder, recently released from prison in New York after spending 3 years (yes, three) in jail without a trial for something he claimed he had not done. Kalief was stopped and arrested when he was 16 years old. Someone had identified him as a person who had stolen his backpack several weeks prior to Kalief's arrest. Because his family could not raise the $3,000 bail, he went to jail awaiting trial. The nightmare of his incarceration for three years without trial is detailed in an article in the New Yorker magazine, and it will make your blood boil. You should read the article; it is infuriating.

Kalief missed his last two years of high school. He missed his prom and being graduated from high school. He missed developing skills for life as a teen because he spent three years behind bars, a major percentage of the time in solitary confinement. The court system in New York has a process for speedy trial if one is requested. Once the request is made to a judge, the trial must take place within 6 weeks. There is a major catch, however, which is played to the hilt by the public prosecutors: if the prosecution asks for a delay (typically because they "aren't ready"), the judge will usually grant a delay of a couple of days. The courts are so overloaded, however, that the new date is usually 6, 8 or more weeks out. But because the judge granted let's say a 2-day delay, the time until the new date is only counted as 2 days towards the 6-week limit. By doing this repeatedly, Kalief spent 3 years of his teenage years behind bars, in very poor, and dangerous, living conditions. 

Kalief was offered plea deals during the three years. If he plead guilty, he would only get something like a 3 to 5 years sentence and his time already spent in jail would count against it. If he didn't take the plea, he was advised that he might lose at trial and get 15 years. Kalief insisted on his innocence, and refused the plea bargain deals. 

Kalief was finally released after a new judge on his case pressed the prosecution when they asked for yet another delay. The reason for this delay was that the accuser had gone back to Mexico and they could not find him. The judge finally said "enough" and dismissed the case against Kalief; he was released.

The life of this young man has been irrevocably changed. He suffers from depression and has contemplated suicide. He has few friends, is awkward socially, is fearful of crowded places (like prison, where people were often beaten, by inmates and guards, or stabbed), and has trouble finding work. He now has an attorney and is suing the City of New York and the New York Police Department.

The case of Kalief Browder is beyond sad, and one has to wonder how this could happen in America. But his case is symptomatic of a common trend in the justice system in this country.  The studies and statistics are chilling; people who are not black or Hispanic and have money generally do not have these experiences. And once in the legal system, it is often difficult to get out or, as in Kalief's case, even get a trial. The plea deals offered to inmates waiting for a trial are too attractive, compared to languishing in jail for an uncertain outcome. "In 2011, in the Bronx, only a hundred and sixty-five felony cases went to trial; in 3,991 cases, the defendant pleaded guilty." I don't know about New York, but in many states a conviction for a felony (i.e. guilty plea) results in the felon not having the right to vote, cannot get public housing, often cannot find a job and faces other social and financial restrictions. Keep in mind, many people take a guilty plea deal even if they are innocent, just to get out of jail and back to some semblance of normalcy.

Racism in America is institutionalized. It is inherent in policing, in the justice system, in the financial system and many other areas of our society. It is often hard to get a grasp on racism and hold it up for scrutiny because many individual acts are not on their face intentionally racist. But taken as a whole, too many parts of our democracy have inherent bias against poor and minority people. 

We need to shine a bright light on the cases like Kalief Browder. There need to be severe consequences for people in the system who perpetrate these outrages. There need to be major changes in how the machinery of "democracy" works in order to guarantee justice for all. 

---


Monday, September 01, 2014

WASHINGTON D.C. FOOTBALL TEAM OWNER ANNOUNCES NAME CHANGE FROM "REDSKINS"

The owner of the Washington Redskins football team, Dan Snider, has announced a name change for the NFL team. Snider's statement referred to the controversy surrounding the name, for which one poll found that 9 percent of Native Americans polled found the name offensive (90 percent did not).

Snider was very circumspect when he announced that the new name of the football team will be the Washington Foreskins. He remarked that the name change is very sensitive to non-majority populations. Polling and focus groups found a 50:50 split about whether the new name is offensive or pride-inducing among Jewish people, particularly men.

The Foreskins management is proud about the way the team rose to the occasion, explaining that it was a hard decision.

The new team mascot is still shrouded in secrecy; however, an announcement is expected soon. Insiders, speaking anonymously, have identified several possibilities being considered, including a mohel, kalamari, or four people wearing SCUBA gear.*

With this name-changing decision, team management is hopeful that the public will focus on the team's dismal record rather than their dismal name.

---


* It is well known that the method of circumcising a whale involves four skin divers.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

TIME FOR SOME MOVIE REVIEWS: "LUCY" and "GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY"

OK kids, this is a new feature for readmyopinion, a movie review! I will warn you when there is a potential spoiler.

Lucy had the potential to be interesting science fiction, but I will say up front - don't waste your time and money. I don't love LucyLucy is a predictable how-many-guns-can-we-shoot, how-many-cars-can we-crash overly loud so-called action film with a pseudo-intellectual premise, and a handful of big stars to try to recoup the cost of making it. They could have saved a lot of money, and saved the audience by throwing the script in the trash bin.

Let's start with those damned car chase scenes, shall we. There is really only one question that needs to be asked - why? The car chase scene has absolutely nothing to do with the story (to be fair, these gratuitous scenes of car derby destruction almost always have no relationship to the story). Where is it written that every movie has to have a car chase scene where hundreds of people are likely injured or killed, cars go flying through the air - usually the cars of the hapless police (see below) - and the heroes walk away unscratched. This scene in Lucy was totally absurd and a major distasteful distraction from the tiny shred of story line.

Oh yes, there was a story line, posed as a scientific theory lectured about by renowned Professor Morgan Freeman: what would happen if humans used more than the 10 percent of their brains that is actually used (and this number, by the way, is not scientific fact)?

Another very bothersome device used by these film makers is stereotyping. The police are hapless. They never seem to be around when people are being killed. When they are called to protect the university building where Professor Freeman and company are located, they walk right by and don't notice a fleet of big black SUVs across the street with a mob of Asian thugs dressed in all black unloading enough assault rifles and bazookas to fight a war! And of course, the army of thugs walks right in to the building and starts killing people. Oy.

Want some violence? Want some blood - lots and lots of blood? Blood squirting all over peoples faces who happen to be too close to the butchering? Random and senseless shootings, stabbings, and other truly gruesome forms of death? Lucy has a lot of it, go for it! We truly don't know why so many people are simply murdered in such seemingly casual ways. The bad guys are really bad guys, and to prove it, each one must have a quota of senseless murders to pull off per hour. The story thread involving the horrifically terrible bad-ass killer gang lord has nothing much to do with the plot of the film, except as a device in the beginning that creates the Lucy character. The rest of that thread is nothing more than gratuitous blood and guts violence for the sake of showing a lot of blood and guts violence. Meh!  

And then there are the scientists. Professor Freeman is dressed in university tweed. His lecture to a university audience (we have to assume) is one of the high points of the film; it is actually educational as well as entertaining, with terrific slide-show graphics and animations and simply beautiful nature video. The group of colleagues he gathers to meet Lucy (Scarlett Johansson)  are all in long white laboratory coats (and dark-rimmed glasses?). Why? They all look like Gene Barry's Dr. Clayton Forrester in the 1953 War of the Worlds! They are just there to talk to someone named Lucy. They stand in a group, in their white lab coats, and simply look incredulous as Lucy performs a bunch of magic tricks for them. "Ooh," "Aah," "What is she doing?" they say in science-geek unison. Ridiculous!

This movie actually goes nowhere in the 89 minutes of ridiculousness the audience has to endure. [POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT] The ending is a poor copy of the ending in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 Stanley Kubrick), and made me want to yell out to director Luc Besson, in as much pain as I could, the immortal words of the HAL 9000 computer:  I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Luc. Luc, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid.

I guess if I need to say at least one positive thing, it would be that Ms. Johansson does a good job with her character, and she is, of course, pleasant to look at. 


OK, so the supposed sci-fi film wasn't worth the time and money (we were in beautiful downtown Burbank, where matinee movies were very expensive compared to my small town of Portland - and no senior discount!). But a few nights ago I walked down the street with a grandson and my favorite granddaughter to the Bagdad Theater, got some pizza and beer (they had pizza without beer), and settled in for Guardians of the Galaxy

First, you have to understand that this is a Marvel comic book movie. You have to say this to yourself before you walk in; it's a movie based on a comic book. If you don't like comic books, well, I suggest you go anyway.

I LOVE THIS MOVIE! I will see it again at least once. I laughed my ass off, loudly and frequently. The writing is brilliant, the characters are sublime, the actors, including those doing voice-overs, nail their roles spot on. A lot of the actors looked and sounded familiar, but I'm sure most of you readers know them better than I. Chris Pratt, as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, brings it with perfect comic timing. That's correct, he brings the "comic" to the "comic book." Quill is instantly lovable due to his preference in music - a 1980's mix tape; however, his boy-as-man manner, complete with puppy dog eyes when needed, his rapid quips, his seeming nonchalance with a hair-trigger violence switch all add up to one very likable character indeed. 

The script is replete with one-liners that almost made me pee my pants from laughter, they are that good. One reason I need to go again is to catch all of these sometimes obtuse historic lines and references to previous movies. Usually when the film makers mix a bunch of beings from different places in the universe into one crew, we ignore not only that they all speak English, but that they all understand everything each is saying. Not so in Guardians. Star Lord Quill uses a lot of Earth colloquialisms, which cause various other characters to stop and ask the obvious question. When Quill mentions that someone has a stick up his ass, Gamora (beautifully played by Zoe Saldana) stops, and asks with a puzzled look: "who put a stick up his ass, and why?"  

The Guardians is a group of sketchy characters who are thrown together despite their desires to kill each other. They are an interesting crew; an Earthling, a blue-skinned warrior lady, a kind-of tattood hulk of a humanoid, a raccoonish animal named Rocket (not Rocky), and a very talented tree named Groot that has a 3-word vocabulary. It turns out that, in spite of all the dislike between them, they actually work well together when they need to.

Yes, there are chase scenes in this movie, using spacecraft instead of cars. But the chases fit the story perfectly, good guys running from bad guys for a reason. 

The five Guardians have a knack for getting into and out of a lot of tricky situations, and gradually grow to respect and trust each other. And maybe that's the big take-away of this movie. We see each character learning some lesson about him- or herself, and also about the value of having comrades you can rely on. It actually gets a bit sappy (no, not dripping from the tree creature) at the end, but in a good way. How great is it that you can watch, and be sucked into, a comic book movie with absolutely terrific action sequences, dialogue, character development, cinematography and special effects, and walk out thinking about the lessons the characters learned? Lessons that we Earthlings better learn ourselves, and soon! 

The setups in this movie for sequels and prequels are obvious, and I can't wait, if they are as well done as this one.

All thumbs up for Guardians of the Galaxy. We are Groot! 

---

LET'S MAKE IRAQ THE 51ST STATE IN THE UNION

The United States has shipped gobs of money, people, equipment, and building materials to Iraq. And we've lost way too many people fighting a prolonged war there. We pulled out a couple of years ago, but are now being drawn back in to fight an even more barbaric enemy than before, if such a thing is possible. What should we do?

I propose that we make Iraq the 51st state of the United States of America. Here are 10 good reasons:

  1. We won't continue to spend money and resources and lives in another country; it will all be spent at home; and it can be in the form of federal payments to the state for health care, education, other so-called entitlements, transportation, environmental regulation, agriculture, natural resource development and management, and defense in the form of National Guard;
  2. Iraqis who want to fight other people can join the Armed Forces of the United States and find their dream career firing guns, throwing grenades and launching rockets all over the world;
  3. The domestic production of oil in the United States will increase to a level at which we will no longer need to import the stuff, and we can even spurn the environmentally unfriendly tar sand oil from Canada;
  4. The President of Iraq will become the Governor of the State of Iraq;
  5. The President of Iraq, Mr. Maliki, will be a perfect candidate for the US Congress: he is experienced in crony capitalism, is fiercely loyal to his tribe (aka political party), and can get Absolutely Nothing accomplished as well as or better than the best of our people in Congress;
  6. Candidates in federal elections will spend more time in the State of Iraq than in other states because the turnout in their last election was greater than 60 percent, compared to less than 60 percent in the USA for the 2012 elections;
  7. The Tea Party can open field offices in Iraq to help focus Iraqi voters on which government they should hate;
  8. The National Rifle Association will move their headquarters to Baghdad, where they will be so much more appreciated;
  9. American vacationers will have a new domestic vacation destination, and tourism will boost the State of Iraq economy;
  10. The US President can appoint Sarah Palin to a special State of Iraq post in the mountains near the far-eastern Iraqi town of Penjwen, where she can keep an eye on the Iranian Supreme Leader from her kitchen window.
I'm going to start a petition campaign, please sign on. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE ISRAEL-GAZA WAR, PHASE 2 (following the script)

OK, so here we are in Phase 2 of the Israel-Gaza War, as usual. Phase 1 was when Israel got tired, again, of  having hundreds of rockets and missiles lobbed into it's territory by the Gazan extremists and started lobbing bombs and missiles the other way. And guess what happened? People in Gaza were being wounded or killed, and property was being destroyed.

The usual anti-Israelis trotted out their tired arguments that Israel was killing too many people and it was a lopsided fight. Right, it is. There is no way Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any of the other criminally crazy extremists in Gaza (let's call them Hamas and Company) are going to beat Israel in a fight; they are totally outgunned, and they have always known it.  And so they try to protect themselves and their weapons with human shields, and do you know why they do this? Because they know very well that the Israeli forces will try as much as they can to avoid civilian casualties. They know that the Israeli forces try to warn people that a specific building is going to be blown up, and they should get out. The only logical conclusions during Phase 1 are that: 1) Hamas and Company will start a fight they can't possibly win, and 2) Hamas and Company know that many of their own innocent civilians will be killed, which they want because it builds global hatred for Israel, and Jews.

And now Phase 2. The war has gone on for more than a few days, Israel has invaded Gaza on the ground, and hundreds of Gazans are dead, compared to "only" dozens of Israelis. Well meaning people who decry war start posting photos and articles about all the children who have been killed. Propagandists post these items, too, as well as outright lies and misinformation about Israeli actions. And the Jew Haters world-wide swing into action. Jews are attacked on the streets of France and Germany. Jewish buildings and sites are bombed, vandalized, desecrated. Suddenly Israelis and Jews are guilty of genocide and are labeled worse than Hitler himself! What Holocaust? The Jews are bringing a holocaust down on the Gazans! And oh yes, not wanting to be left out, the United Nations members start piling on Israel, too. (I have to say that it took a lot longer this time around for the U.N. to get to the condemnations of Israel; they were actually very critical of Hamas from the beginning of this go-around.)

In Phase 1, many Jews (and I'm thinking of Americans) start to feel guilty as the body count increases. "But Israel has a right to defend itself, doesn't it?" they say to their friends. In Phase 2, Jews start to feel less defensive and start to take the offense, calling bullshit bullshit every time they see it. This is because Jews understand that anti-semitism is alive and well in the world, including in the good old U. S. of A.

Look, when the USA invaded Iraq and killed probably more than 100,000 Iraqis, were there anti-Christian riots in the streets of Europe and the Arab countries? The US is, after all, a Christian country. No, the riots were anti-USA. But every time the Israel-Gaza War gets to Phase 2, the anti Jew riots start.

Do you want to talk about disproportionality? How about the fact that I have never heard about any demonstrations or riots,  and I have never seen a word on Facebook from those who weep bitterly over dead children in Gaza about the thousands and thousands of innocent Muslim civilians - women, men and children - being indiscriminantly killed by....Muslims, in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others.

What is happening in Gaza is horrible, and very few Jews anywhere, including or especially in Israel, are dancing in the streets over the bodies of dead children. This just doesn't happen, except maybe for a very small minority of sick, crazy Jewish extremists. This is war, and war is neither a party nor pretty.  It is horrible, on all sides. And yes, it is, and has been for many years, horrible for children in Israel who have never known a time when normal wasn't having to run for shelter many times a day or week when the air raid sirens wail.

The behavior of Israel during war, and this is war, has to be considered differently than the behavior of Israel during peace (a relative term). I defend the right of ANY country to defend itself when attacked. And yes, I guess that means any country whether I consider it "good" or "bad." That's how the animal world works.

I have a different view of Israels behavior during more peaceful times. Israel has negotiated with Palestinians a number of times over the years trying to find a peace agreement. This has never been successful, and yes, the blame game goes both ways. The more moderate Palestinians have sat down with Israelis at these negotiations; the extremists like Hamas and Company want no part of it (and to be fair, the Israelis won't negotiate with terrorists anyway).

I remain very critical of Israel during the more peaceful interludes of the war. While I don't expect Hamas and Company to change their mission of destroying Israel, killing all the Jews, and installing an Islamic Caliphate across all of Israel-Palestine, I do expect Israel to be capable of changing their tactics. Instead of fighting Hamas and Company every day at a low level, and every few years in an outright huge battle, they should instead use diplomacy and politics to work with the moderate Palestinians to marginalize Hamas and Company and get Hamas out of power in Gaza. Instead, what I have seen is Israel purposefully blow off or sabotage these opportunities, while continuing to do the things that fan the flames of Palestinian resentment, namely settlement building, check points, mass incarcerations, racism towards Israeli Arabs, and other institutionalized actions.

Is there a hope for peace in Israel and the Palestinian Territories? I don't think so, unless there is a radical paradigm shift in Israeli politics, and the chance of this is greatly diminished with every major outbreak of the Israel-Gaza War. A paradigm shift on the Palestinian side would also go a great way towards making peace, but I think this is even less likely. The outlook is grim. Fewer Israelis and Palestinians know each other than was the case a decade ago, and this also dehumanizes attitudes on both sides.

I don't have the right to tell the government of Israel what to do; I'm not an Israeli citizen. Although I have a connection to Israel, I don't consider it my country. There are very smart Palestinians and Israelis, and if both sides wanted to make peace, had the will to do so, and most importantly had the leadership to do so, it could happen.

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