Thursday, September 06, 2018

Alone With The Dishes

[I wrote the first draft of this back in 2004 to describe the mental process I go through at this time of year.]

One gets to do a fair amount of thinking late at night, alone with the dishes.  To be clear, my wife does her fair share of the dishes.  But for the big jobs - particularly after dinner parties, large Shabbat/holiday meals, etc. - I’m the one left surveying the wreckage and not knowing exactly where to begin.

So it is (for me) with the approach of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. 

For me, looking back at the year is like surveying the aftermath of a wild dinner party; one where invitations were extended to far more people than the house could comfortably accommodate… the kind of rollicking soirée that is talked about and savored (and paid for), for months.

But every such a party comes at a cost.

Rosh Hashanah (for me) is roughly analogous to standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room looking aghast at the damage.

What was I thinking?!

Every horizontal surface is stacked high with dirty glasses and dishes. 

Empty bottles of Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay stand abandoned beside half-empty bottles of bourbon and scotch. 

The sinks overflow with greasy dishes, and the dessert service (dishes, tea cups and saucers), seem evenly distributed between the diningroom table and the various kitchen counters.

Soiled linen napkins sit balled on (and under), chairs.  And glasses of every description seem to wink at me from wherever the wandering conversationalists happen to have abandoned them.

On Rosh Hashanah I stand slumped in that imaginary doorway trying to make the insurmountable seem, well, surmountable; trying to place the soiled contents of my slovenly year into some kind of framework where things can be addressed in an orderly fashion.

Anyone who has ever been left to clean up after a big party understands the daunting nature of the task. At first glance it seems the house will never be clean again, so why bother?!.

But then you pick up that first wine glass (with the half-moon of lipstick on the rim), and place it in such a way as to demonstrate to the long departed guests and sleeping house that this spot on the sideboard is where the crystal will be gathered. 

And so Rosh Hashanah begins (for me)… nothing getting washed just yet; just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Several circuits of the house bring more dirty wine, whiskey, and water glasses than I ever knew we owned, to join that first one there on the counter.

Then, after emptying the sinks of their precariously piled contents, I draw a basin of hot soapy water.

As the basin fills, I designate other places for dishes and for cups and for saucers - each to each - all according to size. Warming to the familiar task, while I work I take comfort in the muffled sound of the water under its foamy cloak… almost like a prayer.

And so Rosh Hashanah continues (for me).  Nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Next the sterling flatware and serving pieces are gathered into a pot full of soapy water, and the linen napkins are bundled with the tablecloth into the hamper in the laundry room.

With the leftovers wrapped and put safely into the refrigerator, and the trash bundled to the bin, the place is starting to look more sane… not one iota cleaner, mind you... but some semblance of order has begun to emerge from the chaos.

Now pots and pans of every shape and size are filled with hot soapy water and placed on the stove and sideboard to soak. Measuring cups and carving knives are placed beside legions of serving platters. Spices are returned to their racks, and canisters of flour and sugar are placed back on their shelves; each gestures creating a bit of space… and again, I am comforted by the suggestion of emerging order.

And so Rosh Hashanah ends (for me)… nothing having been washed just yet… but the insurmountable finally beginning to seem surmountable.

If I've done that much, it seems less daunting to stand in the spiritual doorway between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur… balanced on the threshold between what has happened... and the tantalizing suggestion of more good things that might still lie ahead.

I haven’t yet washed a thing, although some of the bigger problems have been identified and been placed in to soak. The glasses all sit with their fellows and the dishes are stacked according to shape and size. Everything still bears the smudges and smears of too much fun… too much indulgence. But now, as I look around, the task seems somehow more manageable… surmountable. 

As I stand listening to the soft ahhhhhhhhhh of the soap bubbles as they settle in the sink, I am almost ready for Yom Kippur. I have a clearer idea of what has to be washed… and I know (hope) that after the necessary work, I will find myself at the end of the process with sparkling china… lovingly polished sterling… and immaculate crystal.  And the house  - and my life - will be looking - and feeling - ready for a fresh beginning.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Posted by David Bogner on September 6, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Righteous [Cyclist] Among The Nations

Every so often, the google search page features a graphic that is designed to draw your interest to someone or something of significance associated with the date.  A click usually tells you it is the 400th anniversary of so-and-so's birthday, etc.  Sometimes interesting... usually educational... almost never eye-opening.

That changed today.

Turns out that the Italian cyclist - Gino Bartali - whose 104th birthday it would have been today, was far more than just a champion cyclist.

Here's the relevant section of his Wikipedia page:

Rescues and Resistance role during World War II

Gino_Bartali

Bartali used bicycle training as a cover for secret efforts to rescue Jews.

Bartali earned respect for his work in helping Jews who were being persecuted by the Nazis during the time of the Italian Social Republic. It emerged in December 2010 that Bartali had hidden a Jewish family in his cellar and, according to one of the survivors, saved their lives in doing so.[15]

Bartali used his fame to carry messages and documents to the Italian Resistance.[16][17] Bartali cycled from Florence through Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche, sometimes traveling as far afield as Rome, all the while wearing the racing jersey emblazoned with his name. Neither the Fascist police nor the German troops risked discontent by arresting him.

Giorgio Nissim, a Jewish accountant from Pisa,[16] was a member of DELASEM,[18] founded by the Union of the Israelitic Communities to help Jewish Italians escape persecution. The network in Tuscany was discovered in autumn 1943 and all members except Nissim sent to concentration camps. He met Pope Pius XII and, with the help of the Archbishop of Genoa, the Franciscan Friars and others he reorganized DELASEM and helped 800 escape.

Nissim died in 2000. His sons found from his diaries that Bartali had used his fame to help. Nissim and the Oblati Friars of Lucca forged documents and needed photographs of those they were helping. Bartali used to leave Florence in the morning, pretending to train, ride to a convent in which the Jews were hiding, collect their photographs and ride back to Nissim.[19][20]Bartali also used his position to learn about raids on safehouses.

Bartali was eventually taken to Villa Triste in Florence. The SD and the Italian RSS official Mario Carità questioned Bartali, threatening his life.[20] Bartali simply answered, "I do what I feel [in my heart]".

Bartali continued working with the Assisi Network. In 1943, he led Jewish refugees towards the Swiss Alps himself. He cycled, pulling a wagon with a secret compartment, telling patrols it was just part of his training. Bartali told his son Andrea only that "One does these things and then that's that".[20]

In June 2012, a book about Bartali's wartime activities, Road To Valor by Aili and Andres McConnon, was published.[21]

In 2013, Yad Vashem awarded Gino Bartali the honour Righteous Among the Nations.[22] He is a central figure in the 2014 documentary My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes.[4]

Posted by David Bogner on July 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Exhilarating

Winston Churchill once famously quipped, “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result”. 

While that may be technically true (having been shot at, I can provide my own affirmative data-point to the body of research), the famous quote doesn’t begin to address the fairly obvious question of what it feels like before you know the shot has missed you.

I can say with authority that glib media phrases such as ‘crude, home-made rockets’ and ‘the low odds of actually being hit’ don’t really mean much when the sirens are going off all around you, and you find yourself caught out in the open, doing the sick mental math that reveals that it will take you longer to reach shelter than it will take the incoming rocket to reach you.

And so you narrow your focus.

‘There’s a parked car over there that might offer some cover from shrapnel’.

‘There’s a low stone wall across the street that, if I crouch down next to it will protect me… at least from one direction’.  Which way is Gaza again?

‘The gutter and curb next to me will offer a snug place protected from two sides if I lie down really flat in the dirt collected there’.

And while these thoughts bang against each-other inside your head, the Red Alert siren wails on… and you know with absolute certainty that somewhere up in the sky is an inbound rocket packed with explosives and ball bearings, that has to land somewhere very soon.

True, statistically, the odds are extremely low that it will land on or near you.  But the odds are dead certain that it has to land somewhere (that pesky old ‘what goes up must come down’, thing).

It’s strange how gambling quickly ceases to be an enjoyable pastime when the stakes include your life.

Why am I telling you this?  Is it because the 200+ projectiles fired at Israel on July 14th didn't even make the international media needle twitch? 

Maybe.  Partially.

But it is also because I want you to join me in something... something that will allow you to experience a tiny fraction of the reality we Israelis endure on a daily basis... something that will allow you to become a bit more 'woke':

I want you to download a free app called ‘Red Alert: Israel’. 

Once you have it on your phone or tablet, please go in and enable notifications and select ‘All Areas’ from the settings menu.  This will allow you to be notified each time a projectile (rocket or mortar) is fired at at any part of Israel by one of our ‘neighbors’.

Keep in mind that each and every time you hear an alert, somewhere in Israel (usually in multiple places simultaneously), thousands of innocent human beings have suddenly been given between 10 and 50 seconds to get themselves and their loved ones to shelter – any shelter – before the projectile lands. 

Looking at your watch that may seem like a fairly long time.  Trust me, when the sirens are blaring, it is an instant.

Be warned, this app will disturb you at inconvenient times.  And it will almost certainly wake you up in the middle of the night. 

But I think it is important for you to be aware of the rocket attacks in real time - not just read about them on the rare occasions that the foreign media outlets decide they are 'newsworthy'. 

I think it is essential that you know with absolute certainty, in real time, that thousands of innocent people just like you  - people with hopes, dreams, loved ones, plans, possessions, talents, aspirations - have suddenly been forced into survival mode, and are running for cover or laying in the dirt, trying desperately to make themselves smaller… as explosive tube(s) filed with death streak through the sky towards… something.

I can tell you from experience (although certainly not as extensive as those living in the Gaza periphery or Kiryat Shmona), ‘exhilarating’ is the last word that comes to mind during those precious seconds while you wait to find out if the shot has actually (hopefully, please G-d), missed.  This time.

Red 1

Red 2

Red 3

Red 4

Posted by David Bogner on July 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Really?! In 2018 We're Still Arguing About Breastfeeding?

I honestly don’t get the never-ending uproar about breastfeeding in public.

I was so confused by this that I googled “arguments against public breastfeeding’, and noted that the following three reasons (in one form or another), are consistently the top three results:

#1: Public Nursing is Indecent (naughty, provocative, sexual, etc.)

Okay, what you're saying is that boobs are first and foremost sexual things, best kept for private enjoyment.

Think about this scenario for a second: You and your wife/Significant Other are in the privacy of your bedroom ‘making whoopee’ (to borrow a chaste phrase from ‘The Newlywed Game'), when suddenly one or more of your young children crashes the party unannounced. I don’t know about you, but the arrival of a little kid on the scene is like a bucket of cold water that instantly takes romance off the table.

See how something sexual instantly lost it's sexuality based on context? 

I’m a healthy heterosexual man, so I'd clearly be lying if I were to suggest that I don’t find the female form attractive. What can I say... I'm hard-wired that way. And yes, I’d even go so far as to say that when a woman dresses in such a way as to accentuate or partially reveal her breasts, it is only through a conscious effort and mental review of baseball statistics, that I don’t resort to leering. I think I’m fairly typical in that respect.

And I'll go even further... I think it is safe to say that if I encountered a bare-breasted woman in the course of my busy day, I would almost certainly be powerless to look away (discipline, social taboos and batting averages be damned).

However, toss a nursing baby into the picture... and, splash!, all erotic thoughts are instantly extinguished, just like with the gate-crashing kids in the boudoir.

#2: Public Nursing Can Be Dangerous (i.e. could lead to sexual harassment or even attacks)

This seems to have been covered by explanation for #1 above, but let’s try it again using smaller words:

Boobs are sexy. Boobs with a baby attached are not. Either way, they are hers, not yours.

Of course, Rule #34 of 4chan’s rules of the internet posits that ‘absolutely every possible thing has porn of it. No exceptions’. Which would strongly suggest that 'breastfeeding moms' must be a serious turn-on to some segment of the general population, however small. If this seems to apply to you, then guess what? You may have your own personal kink that you’ll just have to figure out how to keep under control. Again, your problem, not hers.

Think of it this way:  If you aren’t allowed to touch or harass the girls at the strip club where they are deliberately trying to turn you on, I think it is safe to assume that, at a minimum, the same rules apply to non-erotic venues where erotic intentions can't safely be assumed.

#3: Public Nursing  Causes Awkward Social Interactions

Okay, here I have to kind, sorta give a grudging partial point to the haters. 

NOTICE: I am not in any way suggesting that this is a valid reason to prohibit breastfeed in public. Full stop!

[I am 100% certain that this unambiguous statement will in no way inhibit someone from flaming me]

That said, I can totally recall countless times when I’ve had to study the ceiling or suddenly get very interested in my fingernails upon noticing that the woman I've been talking to had a baby attached to her by more than a snugly. 

But again, my problem, not hers.

Truth be told, I've had to avert my eyes and give the same kind of visual ‘pass’ in public to anyone  - male or female - who suddenly had the uncontrollable urge to scratch themselves in an intimate place (we’ve all been there!). And if you’ve ever encountered anyone a week or two after they’ve visited a waxing salon, you're familiar with ‘the dance’ (and hopefully have been polite enough to ignore it).

In fairness guys, women are forced to routinely put up with (and ignore) us ‘rearranging the troops’ when they fall out of ranks on hot, sweaty days. I'm confident that you can find something else to look at if she happens to be feeding her kid.  And if you can’t manage to maintain eye-contact with her, might I suggest an alternative destination for your eyes that, these days, is even more natural: your cellphone (while you’re there, you can check the baseball box scores).

Bottom line, forget all the crass boob jokes and Victorian-era prudishness. Breastfeeding is what they were designed to do.  All the other real or perceived visual/aesthetic considerations are, quite literally, in the eyes of (and therefore, the problem of), the beholder. 

We can’t suggest that women are full and equal (note I said, equal, not identical), participants in the business and social realms, while demanding that they don a Burka or go into forced hiding while doing one of the things that they were purpose-built to do.

Yes, many workplaces (and a few public venues) are providing lactation rooms; and that can be a comfortable option for women who wish to avail themselves of these conveniences.  But such places are the exception and not the rule.

And please don’t suggest that nursing moms should go into the bathroom in order to avoid offending your delicate sensibilities, since that’s where you go to do the private things that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in public.

That’s a crap argument! [pun intended]

You wouldn’t think of eating in a bathroom. It is ludicrous to suggest that a baby should!

Posted by David Bogner on July 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Bring Home Karim Jumhour!!!

This is the defining moment when Israel can either demonstrate to its Arab sector that they are full and valued citizens, or hand ammunition to Hanin Zoabi and the rest of the ‘Joint List’ who constantly tell Arab Israelis that the State doesn’t care about them.

Tuesday evening, a 7-year-old boy named Karim Jumhour was videotaped being kidnapped from in front of his home in the Arab city of Qalansawe.

We know from bitter experience that when Jewish Israelis have been kidnapped, the police and defense establishment know how to pull out all the stops and make finding the kidnap victim(s) a top national priority.

Doing the same for a kidnap victim from Israel’s Arab sector, besides being absolutely the correct thing to do, would also go a long way towards demonstrating to a sector that has (legitimately) felt disenfranchised and under-supported, that they are full citizens; entitled to the same protections and resources as Jewish Israelis, and that their lives matter every bit as much!

In light of the 4 million shekel ransom demand, the motive for this kidnapping seems to be financial rather than nationalistic.  But when your son or daughter has been taken and their life hangs in the balance, does it really matter why?  

I hope that this event gets the full response that Israel is capable of providing; both from its government and from its media and public.

Bring home Karim Jumhour!!!

Posted by David Bogner on July 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Come On Out... The War's Over! [at least for now]

In the 1970s, the last four confirmed WWII-era Japanese soldiers (also called 'holdouts') - Corporal Shoichi Yokoi, Private 1st Class Kinshichi Kozuka, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda and Private Teruo Nakamura - were, captured, killed, successfully ordered to lay down arms and convinced to surrender (respectively, and in that order).  

Fascinating stories, all... and an afternoon passed reading about them would not be considered poorly spent.

Those four faithful soldiers had been hiding out for decades in caves and bunkers in remote locations on Pacific islands, either unaware or unconvinced that WWII was over; the outcome decided thirty-some-odd years before.

I mention this random factoid in order to convey a gentle hint to my online friends: 

If you find yourself suspiciously examining every single thing you see or read to test whether it seems to suggest support or or criticism of your preferred political party / office-holder / dogma / position / turf... guess what, you are a holdout.  You are behaving as though the war is still raging, and are hiding in a bunker (of your own making), ready to shoot at anyone and anything that moves.  

Historically, people in bunkers (and those with a bunker mentality), are notoriously difficult to dislodge for the simple reason that they remain willfully ignorant of the changing reality outside their bunkers.

I completely get it.  The outcome of the last 'war' was not to your liking.  In fact, even some of the people who crossed party lines and tipped the scales are experiencing a bit of 'buyer's remorse' just now. That has to be especially frustrating in such a closely fought contest.

But guess what?  You (and your country) survived.  There is no shame in having been a loyal soldier on the losing side.  But your current behavior - your fixation on, or denial of, the outcome -  is neither helpful nor liable to garner the results you seek.

The good news is that, unlike in real a war, there is a new political 'war' to 'fight' every four years in the US ; a 'do-over', in playground parlance. 

That's the beauty of living in a strong, vibrant democracy with a proven mechanism for periodically facilitating the peaceful transfer of power.  A peek at a history book should go a long way towards allaying your fears, and assuring you that the pendulum inevitably swings back.. and never, ever, stops moving.

The bad news is that it's hard to influence the current regime, and harder still to have a hand in picking the next one, if you are still holding out in your bunker, shooting blindly at anything that moves... engaged in a conflict whose outcome was decided years ago!

Come on out, the 'war' is over (at least for the next couple of years).  

Posted by David Bogner on July 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, July 09, 2018

Go Ahead and Bring Up Paris...

There’s a powerful line in the classic film, Casablanca' where Rick drunkenly chides Ilsa, saying “I wouldn't bring up Paris if I were you. It's poor salesmanship".

Image result for "I wouldn't bring up paris if I were you"

The line is powerful, not because Rick is right and Ilsa is wrong… but because we, the viewer, are aware that to broach the subject of Paris will lead to a painful discussion ... and that some hard truths are inevitably going to be shared.

Over the last couple of days we’ve been reading a lot about the genuine national disgrace of immigrants to the US who were actively recruited to serve in the US military with the promise of a path to citizenship, now being quietly (ok, not so quietly anymore), discharged… and told that the previously offered path is actually a dead end.

That's 'Paris'.  That's the uncomfortable linchpin of a discussion that nobody seems prepared to have.

Specifically, what nobody seems prepared to discuss is the far greater national disgrace that the US Military is so strapped for man-power that it had to stoop to recruiting non-citizens to do the heavy lifting of defending the freedoms and liberties of the very citizens who routinely  ignore and shun them.

Well, America... I wouldn't bring up 'Paris' if I were you... it's truly bad salesmanship!

Are the freedoms and rights you shout and carry on about on college campuses, in editorials and in town hall meetings, so cheap and meaningless that you (and your children), can’t be bothered to take a short turn standing watch to protect and defend them? 

Is uniformed service something that only the children of ‘other people’ – that great invisible, unwashed underclass – are expected to do, while your kids are left free and unencumbered to pursue their important, charmed, successful lives?

Is patriotism a costume you take out of the closet and put on for parades once or twice a year to make yourself feel part of something worthy and good, while the rest of the year you and your families support and idolize an elitist movie industry that consistently and deliberately portrays the military as evil, and veterans as irreparably damaged, drug-addled, ticking time-bombs?

Yes, it is a terrible thing that these immigrants who volunteered for military service in exchange for a path to citizenship are now being told ‘thanks, but no thanks’.  But that issue can’t be discussed in a vacuum. 

If you want to bring up 'Paris', you’d damned well better be prepared for a bunch of larger, broader discussions; discussions that, so far, aren't taking place:

The discussion about what exactly it means to be an American.

The discussion about what responsibilities and obligations come with that privilege.

The discussion of how despicable it is to ignore the very existence of dishwashers, bus-boys, lawn-mowers, home care-attendants, house-cleaners and other immigrant laborers who make your comfortable lives possible, while expecting these same invisible human beings (and their children), to fight and die for you… all while your precious children attend expensive colleges, and grow up to run things and write policy checks on an account to which they never made a single deposit!

So, yeah… go ahead and ‘bring up Paris’.  It’s a legitimate discussion; no matter how potentially divisive and painful.  

But don’t think you can broach such a fraught subject and not be expected to confront all the unpleasant truths attached to it.

Posted by David Bogner on July 9, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hoping For a Bad Meal Seems An Odd Strategy For An Evening Out

Okay, so here’s the picture I’d like to paint for you today:

After a contentious office discussion, you and a big crowd of friends, acquaintances and coworkers have come to an uneasy consensus as to where to go out for dinner.  The choice was far from unanimous… but then, in these workplace ‘cattle-call’ situations, a narrow majority is often the best one can hope for.

You all arrive outside the designated restaurant and, as often happens, a few of the more vocal proponents of the place begin loudly singing the praises of the venue’s chef, ambiance, and entrees… while a few of the more vocal detractors begin loudly knocking the shoddy décor, the crappy service, limited menu and inedible food.

All this, of course, is going on outside on the sidewalk before anyone has even crossed the threshold or been shown a table.

The crowd shuffles slowly into the place and is seated, and the vocal fans and foes of the restaurant begin loudly vying to sway the silent majority (who voted for or against the place, but have, so far, decided to reserve judgment), to their camp.

Now, as anyone who has ever dined out can tell you, going out to a restaurant is one of the most subjective experiences in life (which is why I’ve chosen it for today’s hopelessly-flawed analogy). 

The décor, although static, is just as likely to appeal to me as it is to offend the sensibilities of someone seated at the next table. 

The service will depend on how busy the place is, and can vary drastically even from server to server. 

The mood music can be caustic or conjure fond memories of one’s youth. 

The food is subject to arguably the widest range of perception since even expertly prepared meals may not live up to expectations (or one’s memory of the last time it was ordered)… and, of course, even great chefs have off nights.

So you and your crowd have ordered and begin receiving the various salads, appetizers, soups, entrees and desserts (hopefully in approximately the correct order).

I get that many of the group are unhappy with where they are right now.  I know they wanted with all their heart to have the group go a different way.  But this is where they are for the rest of the evening. 

So, why, at this point, are the nay-sayers still waging their full-throated campaign to convince everyone what a horrible mistake this place was?  It seems to me that once everyone is seated and eating their meals, they would share – at least momentarily - a common interest in trying to make the best of the situation.  

Why continue to ridicule the décor and table-service.  Is there a chance the management will give the place a facelift before dinner is served?

Why berate or sabotage the staff?  Don’t you  know these servers have unfettered access to your food?  

Why denigrate the chef to his face?  Do they think insults will motivate him to make an extra-special effort to turn in a Michelin-star-worthy performance for an ungrateful bunch of loudmouths who are already predicting his failure?

Short of walking out (something many threatened to do at the outset, but few actually followed through with), it would seem that the smart thing to do would be to try to make the best of the situation.  After all, most people in the world don’t have the resources or choice of going out to dinner.  In fact, most of the world would be deliriously happy if there was simply ample food on their table to get them through the day. 

So in that context, this idea of periodically being able to have a say in where to go to have someone prepare your food and serve it to you (and then clean up afterwards), seems to be a bit of an under-appreciated luxury.

Metaphor clear enough?  Obviously, there’s no magical, O. Henry-esque ‘reveal’ at the end of this essay.  I’ve been pretty ham-handed with where I’m headed, metaphorically speaking.

I get that Trump is an inarticulate buffoon. I suspect that for many, he was a gag-choice (think Jesse Ventura in Minnesota).   I can’t watch Trump  speak… it’s too cringe-inducing. But for all his ineptitude and seat-of-the-pants management ‘style’, by accident or design he isn’t screwing up absolutely everything.  Whether talking about the economy or some of the thornier foreign policy mine-fields, a couple of things appear to be, inexplicably, working out for him.  And by working out, I mean to America’s benefit, not just Trumps. 

I get that Trump and many of his appointees are rank amateurs who are clearly making it up as they go along.  Guess what, I can give you a long list of appointees in every Democratic and Republican administration who were also amateurs with little or no government experience.  Some were political patronage drones and some were savvy policy wonks.  But all had no choice but to produce or perish.  Some rose to the occasion… others didn’t. 

But when I see every YouTube mouth-breather and street-corner bigot being blamed on ‘Trump’s America’, I have to wonder if these same people were somehow in hibernation or medicated under previous presidents.  In my experience, idiots don’t wait for particular seasons and opportunities to strut their stuff.  Their bigotry and ass-hattery are well-developed and on display for most of their adult lives, and had little connection to who lived in the White House when they were filmed behaving badly.

But back to the topic at hand, my point is that once a group has exercised some semblance of democratic process, and the results have been announced, doesn’t everyone have a shared interest in making the best of the situation?  There’ll be plenty of time after the meal and back at the office to dissect take-away lessons from the experience, and campaign for the choice of venue for the next office outing. 

But while you are actually sitting in your seat, why try to ruin an unavoidable experience that is already underway?  Why insult the chef, trip the waiters and vandalize the furniture?  This time you got Red Lobster.  Maybe next time you’ll get your way and steer the group to Peter Luger.

I guess I don’t understand the mindset of those who, having had their preference rejected (by however narrow a margin), would pray for food poisoning rather than hope that perhaps the breadsticks and one or two of the less-complicated entrees might be safe.

After all, like I mentioned earlier, not many in the world actually have a choice.

Posted by David Bogner on June 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Sit Down and Shut Up!

This just in from disgraced Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert (yes, the one who just got out of prison!), in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, about the way Israel is dealing with the violence from Gaza:

 "In this context, I think that we have to consider other options of operations which will be less violent and damaging…I mean, it's not a thousand kids only, there were tens of thousands of people and they were, indeed, there were many casualties and there were 62 people killed. And I am terribly sorry and sad about it… Is it necessary to use the guns the way they were used, snipers the way they were used? (...) I have questions, I have doubts”.

Okay, listen up surrender boy.  The current catastrophe in Gaza is the gift from your failed Kadima party that just keeps on giving (you do remember the ‘Disengagement, don’t you?!). 

Thirteen years ago, you and your elitist cronies assured us you knew what was best for us.  You promised us that a frantic, unilateral retreat from Gaza was the best and only solution to Israel’s problems.  'The world will respect us', you said.  'The Palestinians will thank us', you said.  'There will be no missiles from Gaza', you said.  'The seeds of peace, so generously sown, will spontaneously sprout flowers all over the middle east', you said!

That was the summer of 2005. 

You were a Cabinet Minister in 2005 and Prime Minister from 2006 - 2009. 

Before you were shown the door, your popularity rating had slipped to below 3% in most polls, and a ‘Google Bomb’ brought up your Wikipedia page whenever anyone did a Hebrew search for the term ‘Miserable Failure’.

So am I missing something?  Did you get smacked around in prison so hard that you lost all memory of the 'Disengagement' from Gaza over which you and your Kadima-led government presided?  Did the disastrous war in Lebanon (which ended with you and Tzippi Livni literally pleading for a cease fire), slip your mind?  Did you forget that according to the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement, the enemy was required to do only two things:  Return our kidnapped soldiers and disarm Hezbollah?

Up until the moment the bodies of the kidnapped soldiers were dumped like yesterday’s trash at our northern border, you and your feckless Kadima comrades didn’t even know if they were alive or dead.  It was a devastating gut-punch to Israel, and a huge PR win for Hezbollah.  And as for the promise that the Iranian proxy in Lebanon would be forced to disarm?  How’s that working out so far?  Interesting that the UN Security Council isn't meeting to discuss non-compliance with that resolution, right!

So you’ll excuse me if I suggest that you should have confined your entire interview to those last few words:  “I have my doubts”.  We know.  We had them too (and still do).  But back in 2005 you managed to convince everyone that you knew better… that you had all the answers.  That you had no doubts.

In case you hadn't noticed, it's not 2005.  It's 2018.  You're not in charge anymore. 

I get that you're unhappy with the news from Gaza.  Take a number… nobody (except, perhaps Hamas and Islamic Jihad) is happy watching the news from Gaza these days.  Unfortunately, managing that snake pit in Gaza from outside is a lot like trying to cook a meal without being able to lift a pot lid or open the oven door.

So unless you have a more concrete solution than ‘we should consider other options’, just take a knee and let the grown-ups have a crack at this.  You had your chance.  We'll let you know if/when we've finished cleaning up your mess.

Posted by David Bogner on June 7, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Committing [National] Suicide

The classic definition of chutzpah is murdering one's parents and then pleading for leniency from the court because your're an orphan. So, what do you call it when someone commits suicide in an attempt to similarly garner sympathy or preferential treatment?

I won't waste time discussing the legitimacy of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, or which / how many entities actually represent the Palestinians in that struggle.  What baffles me is the methodology the Palestinians are employing in that struggle, which is, at best, chutzpadik, and at worst, suicidal to their national aspirations.

Abba Eban once famously quipped that, "The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."  This has been proven wrong on a couple of notable occasions when Arab leaders opted for peace and progress when opportunities have presented themselves.  I'm referring, of course, to the Egyptians and Jordanians.

But either the Palestinians are incapable seizing any of the multiple opportunities that have been presented to them... or they are actively working towards a different outcome.  I honestly don't know which is correct.

Here is a short list of the opportunities  - clear paths to statehood - which the Palestinians have missed: 

  • In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed the partition of Palestine and the creation of an Arab state.
  • In 1939, the British White Paper proposed the creation of a unitary Arab state.
  • In 1947, the UN would have created an even larger Arab state as part of its partition plan.
  • In addition 1948 to 1967, Israel did not control the West Bank. The Palestinians could have demanded an independent state from the Jordanians. On the contrary while Jordan was in control Arafat said there was no longer a claim as it was no longer part of Palestine. Once it was back in Israeli hands it miraculously became disputed land again! This is one of many reasons Israelis remain cynical.
  • The 1979 Egypt-Israel peace negotiations offered the Palestinians autonomy, which would almost certainly have led to full independence.
  • The Oslo agreements of the 1990s laid out a path for Palestinian independence, but the process was derailed by terrorism.
  • In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to create a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank. The Palestinian response was not only a resounding 'no' (without a counter-offer), but also the launch of the 2nd Intifada.
  • In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from almost the entire West Bank and partition Jerusalem on a demographic basis.
    [source]

During the 2005 'disengagement', Israel withdrew its military and civilian presence from Gaza, leaving extensive agriculture infrastructure to the Palestinians. Yes, Israel continued to maintain control of Gaza's airspace, land borders (with the exception of Gaza's border with Egypt, abandoned by Israel in 2005), and territorial waters.  But that was not a punitive or unilateral decision on Israel's part.  It was part of the Oslo accords which, to date, neither side has formally abandoned. 

Instead of creating a new proto-state on the Mediterranean, the Palestinians destroyed the existing infrastructure and diverted much of the international humanitarian aid they received to terror programs; launching thousands of rockets at Israel and building scores of attack tunnels under the border.

Now Gaza's government (Hamas) has started a novel campaign of directing thousands of their own people to violently breach the fence with Israel, invade and overrun the country and carry out murder and mayhem as they go.

This goes far beyond missing opportunities.  It is committing national suicide!

How can the Palestinians ask for sovereignty for themselves when they don't understand or respect the inviolability of sovereignty?

How can the Palestinians expect to be given a state when the explicitly stated goal of their national project is to destroy / supplant an existing state?

How can the Palestinian leadership reasonably hope to be entrusted with the protection and welfare of their own citizens when they don't understand (or are willfully ignoring), a basic tenet of statehood: that when forced to choose between the safety and welfare of its own citizens and the safety and welfare of demonstrably violent invaders, a state must always choose to protect its own citizens?

Which brings me back to my original question:  What benefit does the Palestinian leadership expect to gain by this suicidal play for international sympathy if it results in the demise of their national aspirations?

Posted by David Bogner on May 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Yom Yerushalayim

I'm once again following the time-honored ritual below:

Find a quiet place... turn off the lights... put a box of tissues within easy reach... and press play:

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Click here to see an interview that General Uzi Narkis gave less than two weeks before he passed away.

Partial Transcript / translation:

Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above. [The open square of the Temple Mount.]

[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.

[Gunfire.]

Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.] [More soldiers’ footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there. [Gunfire.] We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here.

We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City. [Gunfire.]

Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands! All forces, stop firing!

This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over. Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance but don't touch anything in the houses, especially the holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel: [Soldiers weeping] El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen! [Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.] [Soldiers are weeping.

Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.] Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!]

Posted by David Bogner on May 13, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

... a nation like any other.

There is a quote that is usually attributed to Chaim Nachman Bialik, the great modern Hebrew poet (and great-great-great-grand uncle of actress Mayim Bialik), who said, ''We will be a normal state when we have the first Hebrew prostitute, the first Hebrew thief and the first Hebrew policeman". 

That quote always bothered me.  After all, why set the bar so low?  Aren't we supposed to be 'a light unto the nations'?

It wasn't until I was watching the Eurovision finals last night that something clicked, and I finally understood the context of his quote.

In order to be a ‘normal state… 'a national like any other'… Israel has to not only accept, but also embrace, its normalcy.  More than that, we have to make the rest of the world see and accept us as completely normal.

It's great to have brilliant Israeli Nobel laureates and scientists so we can point and say how erudite we are. 

It's great to have achingly beautiful Israeli models and actors so we can point and say how attractive we are.

It's great to have a healthy, thriving democracy so we can point and say how evolved and civilized we are.

And it's great to have impressive military and intelligence capabilities so we can point and say how powerful and self-reliant we are.

But Bialik understood that a 'normal' state is the average of its people, not its top 1-2%; That the typical citizen - the everyman/everywoman - is not necessarily a scientist, a model, a legislator / jurist, a spy / commando… yet can still excel, impress and astound!

The average citizen of a 'normal’ state is a work-a-day person, struggling valiantly to carve out a life for him/herself and family.  That means an endlessly normal list of normal occupations including bus drivers, bank clerks, secretaries, insurance agents, telephone operators, ad executives, rear-echelon soldiers, entertainers, policemen and yes, thieves and prostitutes.

Israel has been participating in the annual Eurovision Song Contest since 1973. 

Including last night's triumph, we have won a total of four times.  On the face of it, that feat would seem to be fodder for our list of bragging rights along with Nobel laureates, models, military heroes, etc.

But look at the Israelis who have won:

Our first win was in 1978 with Alphabeta, sung by Izhar Cohen the child of Yemenite immigrants (considered at the time to be an underprivileged minority).  We won the following year with Hallelujah, sung by Gali Atari, another child of Yemenite immigrants.  Our third win came in 1998 with 'Diva' sung by Dana International, a transgender individual.  And last night's winning song, 'Toy' was performed by Netta Barzilai. 

While I was watching Netta peform, a few things hit me all at once:

First, although Barzilai is a fairly typical surname among Jews from Morocco and other North African communities, I hadn't seen or heard one person categorize her by ethnicity.  That's huge for us Israelis that Netta's family origin is such a non-ssue that nobody feels compelled to hyphenate her Israeli-ness.

Next, while almost all of the Eurovision performers in last night’s program were talented singers / performers, most looked like they could easily moonlight as runway and print models.  In the back of my mind I couldn't help wondering if some of them might not have been selected if they hadn't first won the genetic lottory.

Netta, like most of us, doesn't come close to conforming to the prevailing - and certainly flawed - modern ideals of beauty as sold to us by the entertainment and fashion industry.  She is a plus-sized woman with a larger-than-life stage presence that is at first a bit shocking... but very quickly quite appealing.  She is so completely at home in her skin that she practically forces the viewer/listener to recalibrate in their head what ‘normal’ is for a star.

And the lyrics of her song reinforce her moral authority to take up the #metoo banner in the name of everyone who has ever been objectified, harassed, victimized or assaulted... deftly and rightly taking it from the manicured hands of Hollywood A-listers who, let's face it, look better the morning after an all-night pub-crawl than most of us looked on our wedding day.

When Christina Aguilera sings, "I am beautiful no matter what they say, Words can't bring me down...", it's honestly a little hard to feel her pain...or reflexively, to believe that she truly understands the self-image issues that the 'normal' woman (or man), wrestles with.

But when Netta sings, "Look at me, I’m a beautiful creature... I’m not your toy. You stupid boy”, you instantly get that she is not talking about some subjective external criteria of beauty... she is talking about the intrinsic beauty & value of every human being, and the right we all have to not be reduced to a kind of object, prize or plaything.

What a powerful yet obvious message!  And it carries extra gravitas because it is delivered by a 'normal' everywoman.

This is the 'normal' that Bialik was talking about.  This is the 'normal' that Israel consistently projects. 

We Israelis are worthy and valuable, not because we have accomplished all these wonderful things through the luck of being born exceptional... but rather in spite of the fact that we were not.

There can be extraordinary things to be proud of in being ordinary.  But to do so, one has to first be prepared to embrace and celebrate being 'normal'.  Last night’s Eurovision performance /win was all that, and more!

Netta

Posted by David Bogner on May 13, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New York Times Report Card: D-

Last night just after midnight, Iranian military forces in Syria launched a missile strike on Israel using between 18 and 20 Fajr-5 rockets. 

For reference, each of these unguided rockets is about 6.5 meters long (a bit over 21 ft), has a range of approximately 75Km (about 50 miles) and can carry a warhead weighing 175 kg (385 lbs) – consisting of either high explosives (HE), fragmentation, submunitions, incendiary, smoke, or chemical payloads.

Here's a glimpse (lest anyone confuse it for a home-made Kassam):

Fajr-5-960x400

Israel's Iron Dome system intercepted 4 of the incoming Iranian rockets, and the rest reportedly fell short/wide of military bases and civilian areas in the Israeli Golan Heights, causing no damage.

Naturally (and justifiably under international law), within an hour, Israel launched air and missile strikes on a number of military targets in Syria, destroying nearly all Iranian military and strategic facilities in the country.

Equally naturally, The New York Times reported the Israeli aggression... and soft-pedaled the Iranian attack.

Let's check the highlights:

Headline:

"Israel Strikes Iranian Targets in Syria as Tensions Escalate"

Hmmm, to anyone skimming the headlines it sounds like Israel is the aggressor here, no?

First paragraph:

"JERUSALEM — Israeli fighter jets struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria overnight, Israeli officials said, following soon after what the Israeli military described as an unsuccessful Iranian rocket attack against its forces in the Golan Heights."

Again, the Times leads with "Israel struck...".  Always Israel attacking, never 'allegedly', 'reportedly', etc.... and always 'targets... never 'military targets', and always active verbs. 

Then as a follow up, whatever Iran may or may not have done is not confirmed, it is only what "...the Israel military described"... and even then it is important to point out it was a "failed Iranian rocket attack against forces in the Golan Heights". 

According to the Times, not only did the Iranian attack not hurt anyone or anything, but it was absolutely, certainly an attack on 'Israeli forces'; a good trick for a rocket that has no guidance package, a range of 50 miles, and which was fired at an area dotted with civilian communities!

The article then spends two paragraphs trying to connect the violence to Trump's withdrawing the US from the Iran Nuclear deal.  Then, and only then does the patient reader find out more clearly what happened.  and the Times doesn't disappoint:

Fourth Paragraph:

"Overnight, Iranian forces fired around 20 rockets into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, targeting forward positions of the Israeli military, according to an Israeli military spokesman. The rockets were all either intercepted or fell short of their mark, the spokesman said, but were nevertheless a significant escalation in Iran’s maneuvers in the Middle East. Though Israel has hit Iranian forces in Syria with a number of deadly airstrikes, Tehran has been restrained in hitting back, until now."

Yes, Iran fired rockets.  But not approximately 20 rockets... but rather "around 20 rockets".  I hate to split hairs, but the former is the accepted word when the exact number is not known in a  professional setting or a military conflict.  'Around' is more commonly used when discussing how many rocks your son may have thrown at your neighbor's dog.

Again, the certainty on the part of the Times that the Iranian rockets were "targeting forward positions of the Israeli military" despite there being no way to actually aim them with an accuracy of less than a few kilometers (at best).  

And the paragraph ends with a real whopper, even by NYTimes standards, pointing out that even in the face of punishing Israeli airstrikes, "Tehran has been restrained in hitting back, until now".  No context.  No reporting of the constant Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map.  No mention of Israel's clearly stated red line of moving Iranian advanced weaponry into Syria.  Just 'Iranian restraint'.

I won't continue to parse the article, even though it continues to reinforce Israel as the aggressor and Iran as the mature, patient, statesman-like victim.

Overall Grade for today:  D-

Why not a big red F?  

Well, whether by accident or design, The Times used 'Jerusalem' in the dateline instead of Tel Aviv.  Also, instead of using the usual formula of 'Israeli occupied Golan Heights', they called it "Israeli-controlled Golan Heights'.

Baby steps.  If they can include a couple of accuracies in each article - even accidentally - I'm willing to give them a barely passing grade.

 

Posted by David Bogner on May 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Seeding Winds of Change

Over the past few weeks Palestinians in Gaza have begun using low-tech incendiary devices  suspended from kites and helium balloons to set fire to crops, trees and infrastructure on the Israeli side of the border.  So far the fires cause by these improvised flying devices have caused millions of Shekels in damage to the Israeli agricultural communities along the Gaza border.

I'll leave it to others to waste their breath trying to explain to an uninterested world why every sovereign country has the right to protect its borders (not to mention the responsibility to protect its citizens), from demonstrably hostile invaders.  

I've gotten to the point where I just don't have the patience or headspace to explain what should be obvious to a hostile audience that is actively rooting for the people carrying out the mayhem.

So as I read yet another article about Gazan helium balloons lofting flaming payloads into Israeli wheat fields, I was struck by a thought:

These oversized balloons, and the Helium to fill them, are relatively cheap, widely available and can carry a modest payload.  And they go wherever the wind takes them.

What if Israel were to set up assembly and launching points along the Gaza periphery for our own helium balloons, and wait for a  favorable change in the winds? 

But instead of carrying fire and destruction into Gaza, the Israeli balloons would carry small humanitarian payloads; first aid kits, asperin/tylonol, candy, toys, flashlights, toiletries, cosmetics, batteries, spices, etc..

The Hamas military government would almost certainly try to foil such grass-roots gestures by forbidding Gazans from touching things flown over the border by 'the Zionist enemy'.  In fact, they would probably claim the items were booby-trapped with explosives or poison (perhaps planting a bit of both to frighten their population into compliance). 

But if enough balloons were launched... and enough Gazans received a glimpse of humanity from the people they've been indoctrinated to believe are completely lacking in that quality... it can't help but influence the winds of public opinion, at least in a small way.

Just floating an idea...

Wind

Feel free to take this idea and run (fly) with it!

Posted by David Bogner on May 8, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Imitation is the sincerest form of... colonialism?

Taking offence seems to have been raised to an art form these days. 

Don't believe me?  Just take a peek at the Sturm und Drang over a young woman in Utah who committed the unforgivable sin of 'cultural appropriation' by wearing a prom frock modelled after a traditional Chinese dress known as cheongsam or qipao.

Kindly also note that in the previous sentence I have brazenly committed an act of cultural appropriation by using the German 'Sturm und Drang' rather than a less objectionable (but also less descriptive), English equivalent.

So what was the fuss about?

Like pretty much every prom attendee since the dawn of social media, the young woman in the article shared pictures of herself online wearing the Asian-inspired dress... and was immediately crucified by the cultural sensitivity police.

"My culture is not your prom dress.." wrote an outraged gentleman; presumably of Chinese ancestry.  He continued his tirade in a follow-up post, “For it to simply be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience, is parallel to colonial ideology.”

Wow, a Utah high schooler furthering colonial ideology with her sartorial choices!  Who knew?

Another guardian of cultural purity named 'Jeannie' wrote: “This isn’t ok.  I wouldn’t wear traditional Korean, Japanese or any other traditional dress and I’m Asian. I wouldn’t wear traditional Irish or Swedish or Greek dress either. There’s a lot of history behind these clothes. Sad.

Note that this upright, sensitive person is Asian and says she wouldn't even wear traditional Asian clothing!  GIve me strength!  And as if there isn't enough to hate about her already, ending a post with 'Sad' makes me want to Photoshop Trump hair onto all her online pictures!

Also, I'm a little offended that her presumably Asian parents appropriated American culture by naming their hyper-sensitive little angel, 'Jeannie'.  But let's stick a pin in that for the moment (assuming that isn't somehow appropriating Haitian Voodoo culture).

One would think that in today's shrinking world, multiculturalism (also known as ethnic pluralism) would be a welcome change from the old days where minority cultures were expected to shed their cultural identities by diving (or being thrown) into of the great melting pot.  And to a certain extent, it is.  But at the cost of taking those cultural touchstones - particularly clothing - and turning them into quaisi-sacred vestments that can be wielded/worn only by authentic members of the source culture.

I've written in the past about my unfulfilled kilt-envy, and how I've adopted wearing a lungi in extremes of hot-humid weather.  In the former case where I don't think I could get away with it; and the latter where, at least in semi-privacy, I can, I see no problem whatsoever.  

Truth be told, the couple of times that Indians have seen me wearing a Lungi (in my hotel room or out by the pool), the reactions were unanimously positive.  And considering that Queen Victoria, a British monarch, was largely responsible for popularizing traditional Scottish culture and costume, you'd have to take a lot of upper-crust Brits to task over alleged cultural appropriation before attacking me for lusting after a Utilikilt.

So why is it that people are so uptight about Caucasians adopting the fashions of Asia and Africa?

When Zahava and I hosted an African visitor several years back, he gifted me a beautiful Dashiki which I have been, frankly, terrified to wear outside the house because of exactly the sort of foaming-at-the-mouth-PC nonsense mentioned above.  I'm white.  So what?!  I didn't colonize Africa.  I work and travel extensively in Africa and am friendly with many wonderful people there.  Why is wearing a bit of their cultural kit considered insulting; particularly to non-African people who have never set foot in Africa and are likely projecting their white guilt onto me?

My wife and daughter enjoy the style and comfort of wearing Indian Shalwar Kameez here in Israel; especially in the summer.  And Ariella has even worn a Sari I bought her.  In neither case were the garments worn ironically or in any way meant to be insulting or demeaning to the people of India.    

Of course, one could argue that it is possible to go too far when trying to 'go native', making it seem a little, um, forced (as Canada's Prime Minister and his family found out):

Trudeauindia-627x376

So getting back to the article that sparked this little rant, why, if a caucasian woman decides to wear a dress in the Chinese style should it be considered cultural appropriation and culturally insensitive?   We enjoy so many other aspects of Chinese culture - cuisine, games, frgrance - in our day-to-day lives.  Why not clothing?

We're not talking about black-face minstrel shows or lawn jockeys! 

We're not talking about native American buckskin and feathered head-dresses!

We're not talking about dressing up like a 19th century coolie with clogs, buck teeth and a long queue (braid)!  

And we're certainly not talking about dressing up in religious garb (although, I find it ironic that none of the PC police seem to be bothered by religious garb being forced upon non-native visitors by certain countries):

Hijab 2
Hijab 2

So, yeah... I'm honestly curious what harm can come from someone wearing clothing or accessories that come from (or were inspired by), other cultures.  How is it insulting to the source culture?!

Call me old fashioned, but to my way of thinking, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery.  

Posted by David Bogner on May 3, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (2)