Linda Dittmar, an Israeli-American native of Caesarea, describes a 2007 visit to her home town in northwest Israel, with her friend Deborah Bright, an American photographer who was in Israel to search out and record what little remains of depopulated Palestinian villages demolished during the war of 1948—which Palestinians call Al Nakbha (the Catastrophe).
Children of the German School at Eerde … America is rounding up and imprisoning people labeled as so-called “illegal aliens,” taking children from families and detaining people in crowded, sometimes abusive conditions. Increasingly, the arrested include American-born…
Our world is escalating toward the sort of brutal intolerance of “the Other” that led to World War II. This time, though, the government and people of the United States are perilously close to embracing that brutality themselves.
In this post we review two books that add to our depth perception regarding tolerance and intolerance, though without offering solutions. Denis Lacorne’s The Limits of Tolerance traces the history and vulnerability of the Enlightenment value of tolerance. Robert Bartholomew and Anja Reumschussel’s American Intolerance indicts the United States for its terrible history of official and populist intolerance toward each new influx of immigrants.
Edwin L. Battistella’s book Sorry About That is a compilation and analysis of stories of pubic apologies in the primarily U.S. experience. Leaders everywhere make apologies, yet apology-phobia is a global disability. Apology is complex in human relationships. Effective public apologies are even more complex. Public apologies differ with cultural context, just as personal apologies differ in language and timing.
“Truth for children” is a phrase from a radio address by Emmanuel Levinas in September 1945, shortly after his release from a German prisoner of war camp set aside for Jews. The Geneva conventions had protected Jewish prisoners of war from the worst atrocities of the Holocaust, yet death was a constant threat. It was a time of Jewish awakening for many. As Hammerschlag writes, quoting Levinas (p.54):
“’The Jew lent his own significance to the sadness that he shared with his non-Jewish comrades, a consciousness of Judaism acute as a spasm.’ Within this context, the biblical accounts of the Jewish people took on a new significance. ‘After so many detours,’ Levinas suggested that the stories of the patriarchs, of God and Pharaoh, became true ‘in their elementary truth, in their truth for children, in their vulgar truth.’”
“The Church, the Draft Board, and Me” recounts my conflicts with the Catholic Church, whose ethics were called into question by the war in Vietnam, and the U.S. Selective Service System, which refused to honor my conscientious objection to participation in war.
In telling that story, it sketches my evolution, despite encounters with predatory priests and a vindictive draft board, from youthful candidate for the Catholic priesthood to adult a-theistic Quaker who still asserts that “God is love.”
During the Contact Improvisation class at Intermountain Yearly Meeting 2018, we explored ways to connect and move through the language of touch, how to vary pressure to create stability or momentum, how to touch reassuringly to communicate trustworthiness.
We explored ways of giving and taking weight, and generating three-dimensional aspects to dancing. People rolled onto the floor and onto each other’s bodies. All this was done through deep listening, responsiveness to others’ physical invitations, and checking in with one’s own essential self for boundary making.
The fact that religious systems include a substantial element of magic thinking and mythology does not disprove their usefulness in a difficult world. Religious belief has been common in all cultures since the beginning of human time because, from an evolutionary point of view, it has demonstrable survival value. At all times of history, human life has been a dangerous and fearful proposition. Religion has often functioned well to abate fear, instill intention, promote courage, and protect from despair.
In the last few months in the U.S., we are testing our language, searching for the right words. For examples, do we use “not guilty,” exoneration, vindication, exculpation, absolution, assoil, absolve, or acquittal? These are all related, but each is different in nuance and significance for our future.
Selecting the right words is a universal human challenge. How do we to find and use language to express and communicate to others in public discernment processes?
Genuine spirituality demands honesty, freedom, tolerance and equality, values running counter to the religious power structures that have been dominant for so long. It is a process of rediscovering and having a renewed appreciation of our place in nature, an emphasis which contrasts with the efforts of traditional religion to set humanity apart from its natural origins and even to set us apart from the needs and pleasures of our own physical bodies.