This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
In anticipation of the Tampa stage-set. I’m thinking about the Isaac weather – bucket loads of rain and high winds I hope for them. Since they’re pouring on the poor and everyone in between the poor and the very wealthy, they deserve the worse of Florida’s weather.
The weather is worsening here, too. Yesterday I went for a walk on the stormy beach in my bathing suit. Returned soaking wet. Well worth it. Sky dark, the sound of the water crashing on shore, visibility only a few feet. If it stays within a safe range, storms are wonderful.
Not so in Haiti with a number dead. What a global scandal that things were like they were and remain so. Even Sean Penn can’t seem to get the job done. He couldn’t handle Kabbalah Madonna either.
On the moon beat, Neil Armstrong is dead. The first moon walker in 1969, after the Great Society had faded in the jungles of Vietnam. On earth we remain where we were. Or some steps behind.
Another shout out for Rabbi Lynn, the latest assault victim of the right-wing. Yesterday a friend of a friend suggested that I might be a good lecturer on cruise ships. She knows a cruise ship lecturer and wants to suggest my name. I think it’s a hoot and a real possibility for Jews of Conscience on the run. So as I contemplate my cruise future I also thought of Rabbi Lynn. Shall I recommend her?
It’s a sign of humility to sin for your supper. Can you imagine me singing Martin Buber for my supper? Indeed, Buberian encounters can happen at sea. Still, I have to be careful of meeting someone on Buber’s narrow (b)ridge. You never know what secret agents might be lurking. Ellis overboard!
On the political, really 1950s beat, reporters have been trying to pick Paul Ryan apart. Or trying to find some scandal to pin his name on. Not much on the sex. They take for granted his marrying into some wealth. When they checked out his wife’s corporate lobbying it turned up some very Republican credentials i.e., like most of them, for years she was a well-paid corporate lobbyist in Washington. Her clients included the cigar industry, a logging company, drug makers, the health insurance industry and a nuclear power plant. Oh well, sounds like Newt Gingrich and Vice President Cheney. Sounds like all of them. The list is endless.
Typical (un)political reporting of our day – the story didn’t go anywhere. Since I have just come from more than a decade among folks like Ryan, I’m weighing in on what these reporters might find – if they knew how to look.
You see, for the most part, with Paul Ryan types it isn’t where to look. Sure people like Ryan engage in everything everyone else engages in, though when they participate in behaviors reporters want to find, they’re usually well hidden. Like being a closeted Gay or having an office wife. On the university level, such behavior involves faculty, chairs of departments, directors of programs and administrators. It even extends to the legal arm of universities.
Listen carefully to Maureen Dowd – she’s got Paul Ryan down and the others I’ve been dealing with: “I’d been wondering how long it would take Republicans to realize that Paul Ryan is their guy. He’s the cutest package that cruelty ever came in. He has a winning air of sad cheerfulness. He’s affable, clean-cut, with the Irish altar-boy widow’s peak and droopy, winsome blue eyes and unashamed sentimentality. Who better to rain misery upon the heads of millions of Americans?”
Believe me, Dowd is right. She’s all over the conservative landscape but know, too, they protect their own. To protect themselves. However, more important is the “empty suit” phenomena, people devoid of personality or anything that would hint at a crisis that involves living. When you enter the empty suit landscape probing belief structures won’t lead past one sentence qualifiers. As in, I am a Christian. Or, I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
As a reporter, you have to remind yourself that the one sentence affirmations cover a host of sins. Don’t think that strongest held beliefs means belief in anything. Most of the time, people in leadership structure don’t believe in anything but their own paycheck. Don’t be fooled by conservatives. Their (un)belief is palpable.
I’m beginning to write about this in another format. For now, I warn reporters that it isn’t so easy for those who think the great questions of the day are about to be debated to realize that in fact a charade is about to begin. Though Hillary Clinton’s belief in a vast right-wing conspiracy was way too strong, I have learned that the people who tried to do her husband in were empire enablers who simply wanted their time at the trough. Think of conservatives as waiting their turn. It isn’t about beliefs. It’s about power and money.
That and whiteness. How dare a Black man like Obama think he has the right to eat at the table of power!
My message to reporters – think closet, emptiness and money. Think whiteness. When you connect the dots you might be underwhelmed. The challenge for reporters is to write a story that is faithful to the truth and a story that someone somewhere is interested in reading. Typically this is done by saying – “OK, believe it or not, this guy/gal believes that, on the domestic front, destroying Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid etc., etc., and, on the foreign policy front, nuking Iran and keeping America armed to the teeth until eternity – that the greatest nation on earth will remain the greatest nation on earth.” When reporters know that they are stretching the truth because there is nothing of substance to deal with, they might throw in their “belief” that Israel is the center of everything that is right with America. If America abandons Israel, the story continues, well, that would be the end of America’s right to govern the world. Where would our city on the hill be then?
Empty suits also pervade the American Jewish establishment(s). Let others in America and around the world fend for themselves.
But, then, the saber rattling turns serious. I see that Israel is demanding that the world community declare that Iran hasn’t towed the line. As preparation for an attack on the American political system, election time, trying to unseat the European socialist, Saul Alinsky radical, secret Muslim, Barack Obama? The great foe of Israel, Obama, who increased every level of support for Israel imaginable? The friend of Elie Wiesel?
Remember Obama’s great opening to the Muslim world. Remember where he flew right after his speech? Buchenwald, a seemingly unrelated destination, where Wiesel joined him. This would have been fine, I suppose, if before or after Obama had visited a Palestinian refugee camp. For my tastes, Obama could have even taken Wiesel along on the Palestinian leg of his journey. That would have been groundbreaking, don’t you think?
Better to head toward yet another diversion, like the Pope’s butler, who sees himself as an agent of God trying to expose the corrupters of God’s real agent on earth, the Pope. Sounds fishy, the whole thing, and no doubt Israel is somewhere in the mix in the ever expanding VatiLeaks investigation.
Seriously, though, traveling Jewish doesn’t get any easier when you have to present your American passport at the credential’s counter of the global classroom. Jewish/American – hybridity is assumed with the emphasis on American. If emphasis is assumed to be Jewish, the negative ratings zoom upward. A strange combination in today’s world. Those of you who don’t travel Jewish don’t want to know. Is that why Jews have disappeared except form the Palestinian archipelago we control?
While we’re on the subject of American Jews, did you see Philip Weiss’s video tour with Jeff Halper, the Jewish/American/Israeli, who pointed out the magnificent olive trees stolen from Palestinian lands replanted as decorative objects for Jewish settlement beautification? With Ace Hardware and the Library of Peace in the background?
Speaking of the Wheel of Colonial Life, thinking of Halper and my last discussion with my Fiji student in Innsbruck. It went something like this: Can she be liberated with the (Christian) colonial religion she inherited? Since she has been conquered by the Bible. Our (Jewish) question is thus related. Can an American/Jewish/Israeli like Halper become the conduit for understanding the Israeli empire he enabled and now opposes? In the end, is there a difference between the conquered and the conqueror when both awaken to the nightmare of history?
Because, you see, when both Halper and my Fiji student seek to return to the before of all of this, they have no ground beneath their feet. There is only after.
Uprooted Fiji woman meet my uprooted American/Jewish/Israeli friend, Jeff Halper. Somewhere in between is an uprooted Palestinian olive tree waiting to return home.
Empty suits hang together. On the rack of injustice. They use the same butlers, more or less. Does it matter where olive trees are planted?
I have a picture of beautiful Hannah, Henry’s daughter, planting an olive tree in the West Bank. The (re)planted (now settlement) olive tree has only four hundred plus years on Hannah’s tree.
We are left here for now. With volcanic fragments, Archipelago Palestine, Ace Hardware and the Library of Peace.
The Holy Land has always been strange. (un)Holy.