Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Time to Fight

Recently in my daughter's 8th grade art class the students had some free time.  So she and her friends were telling jokes to each other.  They were laughing and having fun, but the laughter abruptly stopped after one of the girl’s “jokes.”  She said, “What’s the difference between a cake and a Jew?  A cake doesn’t scream when you put it in the oven.”

My mouth dropped open when my daughter repeated the “joke.”  It was the same reaction my daughter had when she heard it.  The older she gets, the more she speaks her mind, but this time she was shocked and literally rendered speechless by such crudeness.  I'm sure her feelings were accentuated by the fact that she had been reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a book about the Holocaust.  But even more so because two of our dearest friends are Jewish.  In fact, they are more like family to us than friends.  "How could anyone make fun of such a tragic event?" she wondered out loud to me.  And then she said,  "All I wanted to do was cry when I heard it, so I sat there stunned trying to hold back my tears."

Thankfully, two of her best friends, who happen to be boys, jumped in and basically jumped down the girl’s throat.  They asked her how she could even let something like that come out of her mouth and told her that it was not funny on any level whatsoever.

After class, the girl who had told the joke was tripped by someone (whether inadvertently or on purpose, I don't know) causing her to fall down.  When my daughter saw her on the floor, she said, “I thought for a split second, ‘Good, you deserve to be on the floor.’ But then I saw that no one was helping her up.  So I reached out my hand and helped her up.”  And with that, she concluded her story.  At which point, I was the one trying to hold back tears. 

I used to be a Bible teacher and public speaker.  I stopped speaking though when I had my son.  That was several years ago.  I’ve frequently mentioned to God that the teacher in me was ready to speak again.  When and where though I haven’t a clue.  But I’ve felt the frustration of not “teaching” others what I know.  After hearing how my daughter had helped the girl up, I figured I’d been teaching more than I had realized and to the most important audience I would ever be privileged to be in front of.  My children. 

Yet as I write that last paragraph, I realize that it is a bit misleading.  Actually, very misleading.  And very pompous.  I doubt I would have offered a hand to help the girl up; back at age 14 or even now at age 45.  In fact I know I wouldn’t have helped her up.  So in reality, my daughter “the student” has quickly become my teacher. 

When I see the famous Martin Luther King, Jr. quote which says, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that," I cross my arms and say "Humph!"  I relate more to Bruce Cockburn who said, "Gonna kick the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight." 

It's people like my daughter, though, who remind me that sometimes offering a hand to lift someone up is a better way to "fight" than knocking them down.  And perhaps offering a hand is more than a physical act too.  Perhaps in some unseen cosmic way it helps lift that person's soul out of the mire and muck of ignorance that he or she is stuck in.

Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a time to fight.  My daughter reminded me that there is more than one way to fight.  Also, the Hebrew translation of Psalm 89:3 says, "The world is founded (built) upon kindness."  I was humbly reminded by my daughter that it usually takes more strength to help a person up than to knock them down.  It takes strength to be kind.  And there is no doubt that she is much stronger than me.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sometimes You Just Have to Vent

By Brody Gibson

President Obama is visiting Israel. Rumor has it that he is going to encourage Israel to return the region of Judea and Samaria, or also known by the unHebrew sounding "West Bank," to Arab rule. After all it was part of the Kingdom of Jordan just over 60 years ago; never mind that it was Jordan who attacked Israel and the new, under-armed nation of Israel drove them back to the east side of the Jordan River.  The Arab nations, President Obama, and some of the rest of the world are of the opinion that Israel is "illegally occupying" this West Bank territory. In essence, the President is saying, "If Jordan would have known they would lose the West Bank in their defeat in a premeditated attack, they wouldn't have attacked; now, even though they are not sorry for their action, pretty please, Israel, play nice and give back their land - not to Jordan but these poor Palestinian refugees - because none of the other Arab countries want them or are willing to give land to them - so that there can be a State of Palestine." 

If I were an American Indian, native American or whatever politically correct term one would use, I would be very encouraged by the pressure that President Obama is placing on Israel. Here is why: In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. The intent was that whites would live east of the Mississippi River while the area west of the Mississippi was "reserved" for the Indians. The government provided a trail for the Indians by which to get to this reserved land - maybe you have heard of the Trail of Tears? In 1865, just 35 years later, the lure of fertile lands in the west and the dense populations of the big cities of the east gave birth to the Westward Expansion. Horace Greeley gave the advice "Go west, young man, and grow up with the country."  Thus began the occupation of the West Bank - of the Mississippi, that is. 

Now, if President Obama feels that it is reasonable that Israel should turn over a huge portion of her land, so that a people who are refugees from nearby Arab countries that would not have them, could become the nation of Palestine, wouldn't it be just as reasonable that America should give back land to the Native Americans? There actually was a Sioux Nation and a Cherokee Nation, etc. - there was never a Nation of Palestine - the Romans and Byzantines merely denoted the region as Palestine.

Maybe it would work like this: Everything west of the Mississippi River would be given to the Native American Indian. For those of us that live in this area, we would have to vacate our property and head east - well, not me and my wife because we have Indian ancestors - but all you non-native Americans of European, Asian and African descent will have to move. Your houses will be razed and the property will deeded to the Indian Nation. The eastern states will gladly absorb and care for the influx of this new population. Mayor Bloomberg has demonstrated his great concern for the public welfare. So pack what you can carry (excluding your guns, of course) and head east.

Since the Indians did live on lands of the east and since they have been so peaceful about the way they have been treated and have not threatened to wipe America from the map, we should be immensely appreciative. We should award some eastern land to the Indians to do with as they please - to show our appreciation. So, Congress shall pass a law giving a narrow corridor or zone of land reaching from the south west corner of Pennsylvania all the way east to Manhattan (Remember that Manhattan was "bought/stolen" from the Indians for $24). This law will be known as the Great Appreciation Zone Act. We will call this the GAZA strip. There is a huge field just outside of Gettysburg that would be a great place for a casino. Further east in Philadelphia is the spot, before the land was civilized, where ancient medicine men communed with the Great Spirit. Only for the last 200+ years this spot has been known as Independence Hall. Don't worry. We will still be allowed to visit this place; though during our visit we can not wear red, white and blue, show any form of patriotism or move our lips because it may be construed that we were saying the Pledge of Allegiance and this could incite some of the more sensitive folk. A security force known as the Wise And Quick Footed (WAQF) will speedily intervene should any protocol be violated. It will be a difficult adjustment but we should not expect everyone to appreciate how sacred or special these places are to some of us. 

We must know that there will probably be some Native Americans that will not be satisfied with this offer. There will probably be a group that will Harass And Manipulate American Subjects (HAMAS). You have to realize they are just acting out on years of pent up frustration. Also, be prepared for much of the rest of the world to be very sympathetic and supportive of their efforts. 

Now, I hope this sounds absurd to you. Perhaps you smiled while reading it. I did not mean to provoke a smile. I meant to provoke thought. 

I doubt President Obama will see this. If I could address him, I would say this:

Mr. President, it takes much hubris to go to Israel in my name, at my expense and to tell my friends they are taking up too much space. You asked Mr. Medvedev for patience until after your re-election so that you would have more latitude with which to deal with Israel. You did not defend Mr. Netanyahu when Mr. Sarkozy slighted and insulted him. To prepare for your trip to the Middle East you met with, in my White House, two anti-Israeli groups with a record of pro-Hezbollah advocacy. In your first year as President you went to Egypt and made a most conciliatory speech to the Muslim world; now, in your fifth year as President, you visit Israel and will boycott the Knesset?  Mr. Obama, you should not be surprised if your arrival at Ben Gurion is not appreciated nearly as much your departure.

A Frustrated American,