Saturday, October 5, 2013
Greetings! I bid everyone L'Shana Tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous new year-we all could do with one. On Monday September 2, I marched and rallied and partied, in the rainstorm, with many other Philadelphia area trade unionists in the Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration. we deserve the commemoration of our part in developing the country-it is US who are the engines of American prosperity, and without us, the corporate masters would have to do all the mining, manufacturing, and service themselves-scary thought. I have also celebrated the High Holy Days, Rosh haShona and Yom Kippur, with the brothers and sisters of my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir (leyvhair.org). The idea of the hlidays are sinking into me, that we all deserve a fresh start; learn from the past-it has no hold on you at all, you are not bound by it-and start anew. For Yom Kippur I had the honor of reading the d'var torah on the Book of Jonah; God orders Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and preach to them to change from their wicked ways. But Jonah instead gets on a ship to get away from performing the task God called him to do; did he think he could get away from the omnipresent Deity? Did he think going to another place would get him away from the Ruler of the Heavens and the Earth? After being thrown overboard and swallowed by the fish, Jonah prays-for himself; he does not follow God's command to preach to Nineveh. Inside the fish, Jonah prays for his own safety in the most terrible conditions, but he doesn't care about the people of Nineveh. The fish spews out Jonah, and God calls him again to preach to the people of Nineveh. The Nineveh-ites accept the message, and they repent and change from their sins, hoping to avert God's punishment. But Jonah is not happy with the result of his preaching, but is upset with the people of Nineveh repenting-why? Did he desire the Nineveh-ites be punished? Did he not see that God also cared for the people of Nineveh? There are people who are only concerned with their own spiritual welfare, but not with that of others. We've seen people like that, people proud of their own piety and indifferent to the problems of others. I wondered, why is this story told on Yom Kippur? It's the story of a people warned of their sins and shortcomings, and they and repent, turning their lives around. That is the message of Yom Kippur, finding out where we've gone wrong, where we've gotten off track from our true selves, so we can realign with who we really are. It also tells of the negative voices, inside and around us, that say you can never change, that voices that don't want you to improve, and so you can recognize them and resist them, so you can find your true, positive, God-oriented state. On September 26, I went to the studios of PhillyCAM, the public access able channel for Philadelphia (phillycam.org), to act in a taping of a new show of their, “Conversations Across Time,” where historic figures discuss historic events-in this case, the overthrow of the government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 by the CIA. I played John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, and I did a fabulous job of acting-a nice side gig after I retire, but I’m not giving up writing. As part of my research, I read All The Shaw’s Men, by Stephen Kinzer, a history of the events in the history of Persia/Iran leading up to the coup, including the effort by Mossadegh to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which was controlled by a British firm, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as British Petroleum, or BP), the economic sanctions the British government imposed on Iran for this effrontery, the refusal of President Harry Truman to go along with efforts by British intelligence services to overthrow Mossadegh, and of the Eisenhower administration, urged along by John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles (CIA Director) to pick up on the British plot and carry it through-and of the spinelessness of the Shah through all this, constantly having to be bullied into signing the decree ordering the ouster of Mossadegh. This was how our government operated through the Cold war era: a government somewhere decides to put the well-being of its people ahead of multinational corporations, and our government, allegedly “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” overthrows it, and in its place is a regime that tortures and murders its people. This also was the situation in 1954, when in Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman took unused farm lands from multinational corporations, like United Fruit, and distributed them among poor peasants. The Dulles brothers had stock in United Fruit, but they treated the Guatemalan land reform as a leg of the International Communist Conspiracy, and supported efforts to overthrow Arbenz, with a combination of training anti-Arbenz troops and propaganda that portrayed the Arbenz government as “Communist.” The coup thus produced a series of military regimes that declared war on its own people, in the name of “fighting Communism.” I don’t believe we Americans were well-served by our government or by the “news” media during the Cold war era; every regional conflict was explained in too-simplistic terms, as a good-guys-bad-guys scene: it was the United States of America, land of freedom, filled with God-fearing people, as opposed to the Soviet Union, an oppressive dungeon of a Godless nation-which side were you on? There was no consideration of the situation inside these nations, the efforts of their governments to improve the lives of their people. The same is true with the plot by the CIA, under Richard Nixon, to overthrow the elected government of Salvador Alliende in 1973, and replace him with Augusto Pinochet, who instituted a reign of terror over his people, costing the lives of thousands; while discussing Alliende, Henry Kissinger said, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much to important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves." If the leaders of our government think this way about the people of another country, I don't think it would be much of a stretch to think they think the same about US, the people of THIS country, in whose name these crimes are being committed. We are especially NOT well-served in the current debate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling and being able to pay for government functions, such as national defense (including paying our military members, who also have families to care for), national parks and monuments people visit, services like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), the WIC program, Head Start for school kids-why? To prevent the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act (the dreaded “Obamacare”) which would contribute to helping people have access to health insurance? I agree, it’s not a perfect plan-I would prefer a Canadian-style “single payer” system-but it’s a start, all programs have to work out some glitches. The very fact that people ARE applying for health care through the ACA “exchanges” shows how important health insurance is to working Americans, of which around 55 million have NO health insurance. This is NOT a luxury, it is a necessity, like education, clean drinking water, and food-and the federal shutdown affects such functions; these are no federal employees to process student grants for education and Head Start programs, no EPA inspectors to watch out for corporations polluting rivers, no USDA inspectors watching meat in the slaughterhouse for unfriendly bacteria, and you can't leave these functions to the "free market." It was from the agitation, the campaigning, the marching and demonstrating against abuses in the social-economic-political system that we have such mechanisms in place-but the conservative propaganda machine and the commercial news media don't tell you this. In fact, throughout history, governments in this country and throughout the world have erred on the side of the wealthy elite, be they industrial capitalists, bankers, or agrarian plantation owners. Also throughout history, it has been the work of dedicated lower-class people-small crafts people, small farmers, and industrial workers, along with decent upper-class people on their side-that challenged these power arrangements and made governments work more for the benefit of the vast majority of the people. Do the tea party types in Congress know they are doing the work of undoing over a century of social progress like this? Are they conscious of who their policies are benefiting to the detriment of the greater masses of people? No matter-I urge everyone to continue the fight to make our government more user-friendly, to make it work for ALL of us. Let us educate ourselves on these issues, and learn the appropriate course of action. Bye!