Saturday, May 27, 2006

On Religious Persecution

So I'm not sure, but I think that this unreadable article actually sums up pretty much how I feel on the subject...only badly. The headline, at any rate, is totally awful. But the point is, it's not my problem, it's our problem. Sort of along the lines of that "When they came for me" poem, really.

The headline (and to an extent, the article) makes it seem as though Jews are opposing anti-gay ammendments because Jews believe in marriage equality. But of course, Jews don't agree on that any more than on any controversial issue since, say, destruction of the Temple--pro or con. The problem is, if you allow a precedent for the government to make laws based in religion or discriminating against the practices of a certain religion (and there are many religions that do approve of--and sanctify--marriages between adults of the same sex), what is to prevent the government from later making laws that target certain religions in particular? If we allow this, could we really prevent future laws, say, banning brit milah (circumcision), for instance?

Yeah, I'm getting extreme and jumping ahead, but if voters have no compassion for others, let them look out for themselves. This is not an attack on the LGBT community alone.

On a completely unrelated note: if you're bored and need something to pray for, Arona bat Chana could use a good thought now and then...

Friday, May 12, 2006

On DovBear and the Orthodox community

Can I just say how much DovBear rocks my socks? It's the wonderfully clear-headed way he has of criticizing his own community from within, and not feeling compelled to abandon that community because of the problems he sees in it. You've got to respect a guy who can put together such a clearheaded "list of things every Orthodox Jew should know." It's satirical, but not out of malice or resentment. It's religious, but not led by blindness or hate. Here is a man who, as Judah Who Always Said NO puts it, knows how to think.

Don't get excited, Mom, that doesn't mean I'm going Orthodox any time soon. But this guy has my respect.

I have to address number 25 on his list, though, from the point of view of someone whom he would not consider "frum" (although I've been told by not a few people, almost in so many words, that I am the frummest person they know outside of the relatives no one talks to from insert-name-of-town-with-high-Jewish-population, which still weirds me out a little).

A few weeks ago I got in a random conversation with a stranger (this happens when you're a chick in a kipa), and he turned out to be an Orthodox rabbi. I had to explain to him that I don't do the things I do "just to stick it to the Orthodox," but because I personally feel that they are right. This was both a relief and a surprise to him.

Really, why should this be a surprise? Just because I do something you don’t understand doesn’t mean I’m doing it to bug you. I mean, by wearing a kipa, putting on tallit and tefilin, I am of course making the point that I can and may. But that’s not why I do it. If that were my entire reason then I should make a career of storming Orthodox synagogues’ morning services and insisting on putting on my tefilin in the men’s section. If that were my entire reason, then I may as well give up, because one meshuggenah lady is not going to change Orthodox Judaism.

I don’t want to change Orthodox Judaism. I have no beef with Orthodox Jews. I have no problem with the frum (okay, I’m lying, I can’t stand campus Chabadniks, but that’s their fault). The things that I do, the commitments I have made in my life, the “extra” mitzvot I make an effort to obey, all come from a deep place of self-examination. That a way of life that came out of an eleven-year-old Schechter kid’s impulsive defiance has continued eleven years since shows that I’m not doing this to bother or insult anyone. This is between me and me, between me and God.

And just to round out DovBear’s list to thirty, I might point out that “God” is not the name of God, and therefore doesn’t really need to be written “G-d.” But That’s just my pet peeve. Who am I to say what every Orthodox Jew should know?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

On College Republicans

Does anyone understand this?
What are they trying to say?
Was this supposed to be irony?
Did they not understand?
Is this some tricky setup by some secret underground Anti-Republican Student Association?
What's going on in this picture?

Look, College Republicans have a right to free expression. And goodness knows, I have no problem with them making fools of themselves. But I'm curious. I'm dying of curiosity. What were they thinking?

Let's put this in context. Ten feet to the left, Matt Schwartz and a group with a very long name (see image) are distributing shirts in the school colors that say "gay? fine by me." Other groups are tabling as well. I wish I remembered which. In the midst of it, this table.
This was in mid-April. I didn't have a blog then. What I had was a disposable camera and an impulsive nature. I walked up to the Republican table.
"Hey--can I take a picture of your sign?"
Not "Hey--what are you tabling for?"
Not "Hey--why does your sign say 'Let them eat cake?'"
Not "Hey--what in the name of all irony do you think you are saying?"
Sometimes I can be pretty dumb.

So. "Hey--can I take a picture of your sign?"
The tablers were delighted, and posed with the sign, as pictured above. I snapped the picture, then headed along toward my class. I didn't think of it much until I got my pictures back, and found myself staring in bewilderment all over again.

But here's the thing that really gets me: the College Democrats tabled the next day. And I was no more impressed with them than I was with the GOPjr. The Dems tabled with a nice red-white-and-blue sign that said "College Democrats" and a table full of giveaways. The angriest giveaways I've ever seen (outside Israeli politics).

They had anti-Bush buttons.
They had anti-Bush bumper stickers.
They had anti-Bush posters.
They had anti-Bush pamphlets.
They had signs showing a donkey assaulting an elephant with the slogan, "Do it DONKEY style."
They had everything except --
The Issues.

Shock. Gasp.

I said it. And I'll say it again:
The Issues.
With a capital I.

Now don't get me wrong; I hate Bush as much as the next college-age feminist liberal lesbian hippie-chick. But I know why. I never forget why. The College Dems have become so wrapped up in their war against Bush that they've lost track of why they're doing it. They've let their anger rule them. They've fallen to the dark side.

This is the problem with politics on campus. No one talks about the Issues.

I don't have a scan of the political cartoon that appeared in the Spectrum (UB's student newspaper) recently, attacking the Justice for Janitors rally staged by UB Students Against Sweatshops. It showed students (not personally resembling any actual student leaders) saying "oh no, we've run out of things to protest!" Then it shows the students protesting (presumably their own) excessive fliering. Not brilliant, but it makes its point. UB SAS is being ridiculed as having nothing left to protest. Apparrently, we live in a perfect world.

I'll admit it, I chose homework over attending the latest rally (against anti-immigrant legislation) on South Campus. Maybe that makes me part of the problem, I don't know. But I'm not forgetting that there is a problem, and I'm not forgetting what the problem is.

It's not Bush. He's just a symptom. Anti-Bush bumper stickers are great, but it's like taking an aspirin for cancer. Get to the cause. Get to the reasons. Get to the Issues.

Get grassroots. We want politics to stay in Washington. Albany is too close. Buffalo is out of the question. The Student Association? Forget it. Me? I'm not an Erie County voter, and I feel guilty about that. But I'm working, bringing the political back into students' lives. A growing number of students are shrugging off the apathy of the endless Buffalo winter, using the optimistic summer months to plan. Harnessing now to give later meaning and direction. Maybe by the time I leave UB, I'll leave behind me an LGBTA I can be proud of. If that's all I accomplish, let me accomplish that.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

On Mary Cheney

So my grandmother sends me this link (article), and something within me just snapped.

I mean, sure, it was high time she said something. We had almost given up. No, wait, we had given up. I think there was no one left who still thought we were going to find a strong, empowered voice for the LGBT community in Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter. We got our hopes up--when was the last time an out lesbian was so close to the public eye, had so much opportunity to speak?

So now she's granting her first big interview. For the first time, Mary Cheney has spoken.

She's selling her memoir.

Well, I'm so glad she's finally speaking out. When the president was using the State of the Union address to damage her life and mine, she was silent. When state after state voted to ban marriage equality, she was silent. Has she spoken out on Don't Ask--Don't Tell? Prison rape and the sexual enslavement of homosexual inmates? Workplace discrimination? Hate crimes? Murder? Has she used the advantages of her position to better the world in any way? Where was Mary Cheney's voice?

But now Mary Cheney is finally speaking out. She's telling she came out in high school. How much she loves her partner. How her family always loved and supported her and she loves and supports them too. Stellar reading matter, that.

What does Mary Cheney have that I don't? She's a privileged, educated white girl who came out in high school, whose parents love and support her, who has always been safe and loved and protected and accepted, who has never felt more than a little social pressure and a few restrictions because she is a lesbian. What does she have that I don't? The spotlight. The attention from the media. The audience. The chance to speak and reach millions. The chance to change the world. And what does she do with it? She writes a memoir.

Mary Cheney, like a good Republican, is using everything she has for the noble cause of personal financial gain.

So good. I'm glad. Let her sell her memoir. Let her make a little money off the Log Cabin Republicans, the oh-so-compassionate Conservatives, and those few poor queers, whoever they are, who still think she'll have something to say. Let her talk about her daddy, "This great even-keeled guy." It's better that she do this than remain silent. But unless this marks her emergence as a vocal and prominent activist for LGBT rights, I, for one, am not impressed.

Vayehi Erev, Vayehi Boker...

Well, I'd been talking about it for months, thinking about it, planning it out. I decided against it a dozen times. And then I paused before shooting off yet another furious letter to an unsuspecting relative, and I said, "That does it. I'm starting a blog."