Archive | June 2013

Backward Bound

It is fifty years since these speeches were delivered.

With the kind of legislation being passed right now in this and other states I see racial prejudice arising again. It goes under other names such as “illegal immigrants” and “the 47%” but it is racist at its root. I don’t think there’s much difference between Sheriff Arpaio of Phoenix and “Bull” Conner of Birmingham, Alabama. Some are trying to undo the Voting Rights Act and in our state the governor will probably sign onto the end of the Racial Justice Act.

This morning’s T-N reports that the defense budget bill includes barring the closure of any domestic military base including Gitmo. It disallows further nuclear weapon reductions. In general it continues the blank check for the Pentagon. Still under debate is an issue involving sexual assaults and how they will be handled within the system of military justice (those under military authority are under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and  do not have the same rights the rest of us have). Listening to Kennedy’s speech in 1963 I cannot help but feel that here too we are going backward.

In June, 1963, when these two speeches were delivered I had just graduated from high school and was filled with idealism. JFK was then a ray of light in a very dark world. I am fully aware of his weaknesses and mistakes, but he was a true leader for this country, praising what is good and calling for repairing what was wrong. I see very little of that today from either party. Obama is probably the most eloquent President we’ve had since JFK but there is some distance between what he says and does.

It is up to those of us who are not in and of the government to work nonviolently for change.

Muslims Condemning Terrorism

Last weekend I visited a congregation as a guest rabbi.  The last activity of the Shabbat was a study session which was kind of hijacked by someone who insisted that, if there are authoritative Muslims who condemn terrorism, it would be front-page news.  I get that a lot.

My response was and is that most of our news media refuse to publish stories on this.  I believe that is because our news media are owned by a handful of corporations that also have an interest in keeping the Pentagon’s budget bloated.  This is justified by a never-ending state of war.  That war used to be against Communism and is now against “Terror.”  It is easier to let people think all Muslims are potential terrorists than to tell the truth, which is that the Muslim fundamentalists who engage in terrorism represent neither Islam nor Muslims except themselves.

I did a little research and would like to share the results with my blog readers.  These are a few of the items I found on the Web including several sources you can refer to.  If you are truly interested in the subject, some of the sites have email subscriptions.


I also went to look up press coverage of Muslim statements against terrorism.  First of all two American Muslim groups that protest and condemn terrorism by Muslims. and  I subscribe to posts from the latter.  Check out the “Don’t Blame the Jews” page and the :Latest News page.  I found a third such group at
My favorite source for mideast news is which provides a news subscription.  It also has many documents, chronologies, and essays.  One of these is at and it has links to others of interest.
A few items from the press (some from Haaretz)
Okay these are from the more liberal Haaretz and NYTimes but
(The Jerusalem Post is to the political right)
I suppose it depends on which sources of news one follows.
The basics are these.
-The real target of Islamist fundamentalists is Muslims and governments in the Muslim world which are not ruled by what they think of as true Islam (i.e., their version).  That war is not about us and their attacks on us are mostly about opposition to our involvement in their wars.  The widely-spread idea that they are trying to destroy Western civilization and impose Islam on Europe and the US is hogwash.  I note that many anti-Semites have accused the Jews of exactly the same thing.  This was a common belief in pre-WWII America because of such things as Fr. Coughlin’s weekly radio rants sponsored by Ford and listened to by a third of the American radio audience.
– Almost all American Muslims want nothing more than to be accepted as good Americans.  They are adapting Islam to America and not trying to do the converse.  Islamic terrorism is a source of great pain to them and they almost all oppose it and condemn it.
We need to recognize that Muslims are people just like us and those who are Americans are American just like us.  We need to give them human faces and not the cartoonish images they have in much of our media.  There used to be a thing called Brotherhood Week which recommended ways to do this.  Stan Freeburg (anyone remember him) had a song on his “Stan Freeburg Presents the United States of America” had a song called “Take an Indian to Lunch This Week.”  The song was satirical and pointing to the shallowness of much of Brotherhood Week’s activities, but the principle is right.  Experience of actual American Muslims would be a good thing if it is not already part of your lives.
Just for fun here’s the lyrics to the song.  The context is a pilgrim candidate for mayor seeking the Indian vote.  Go to the URL to hear the intro and the song.

Stan Freberg – Pilgrim’s Progress Lyrics


Mayor Pennypacker:
Take an Indian to lunch this week
Show him we’re a regular bunch this week
Show him we’re as liberal as can be
Let him know he’s almost as good as we
Make a feathered friend feel fed this week
Overlook the fact he’s red this week
Let him share out Quaker Oats
‘Cause he’s useful when he votes
Take an Indian to lunch
Pilgrim Chorus:
Two, four, six, eight, who do we tolerate?
Indians, Indians, rah, rah, rah
Take an Indian to lunch this week
Let him sit right down and munch this week
Mayor Pennypacker:
Let’s give in and all do the brotherhood bit
Just make sure we don’t make a habit of it
Take an Indian to dine this week
Show him we don’t draw the line this week
We know everyone can’t be
As American as we
After all, we came over on the Mayflower
Take an Indian
Not a wooden Indian
But a real, live Indian
To lunch