Welcome to White Rose Magazine. Read this issue's free article.

The White Rose collection, by Indrani Guharay

[ Sponsored ]

Translation of Bhaaratha Samudhaayam Yaazhgavae (Slide 31) here.

Hand of God: Light

Elliot Toman

Look at how a single candle
can both defy and define the darkness.

Anne Frank

Throughout history, humanity has been given the option: feed the darkness or choose to create light. The task of creating light fell mostly to artists and religious leaders. Light has been used literally, figuratively, and metaphorically, all with the intent to show its infinite, eternal nature—its ethereal transcendence.

The interplay of dark and light has been a theme running from Greek and Roman sculpture to Renaissance painting to experimental film. Across cultures and eras, both architects and musicians have given it meaning in the peaks and valleys of their work. In the late 20th century, light art, or luminism, emerged: in these installations, light is the main medium of expression. 

Religions have also focused on the divine aspects of light. In Judaism, light is a symbol for God. In religious symbolism, light is often connected to our ability to see; sacred texts use the theme of blindness to describe those who are spiritually lost. 

Looking deeply into the flame of a candle bestows the ability to restore a whisper of hope—it connects immediately with our souls. After too many years of darkness, it’s time to begin to create light, in whatever form possible, again.

The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson, 2003
Spirit Cloud, Xiaojing Yan, 2017
Saint-Pierre de Firminy, France, Le Corbusier, 2006.
Starlings, Menahem Kahana, Israel, 2016

“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”
Rabindranath Tagore

Church of the Light, Tadao Ando, 1989
The Infinite Crystal, teamLab, 2018

“Light, alone, does not make light. There must be darkness for light to become light—resplendent with dignity and power.”
Tadao Ando

Between You and I, Anthony McCall, 2006

“What makes night within us may leave stars.”
Victor Hugo

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
Plato

Approaching Shadow, Fan Ho, 1954
Double Vision, James Turrell, 2013
Ulrika Randel, 2018
Oberoi Udaivilas Palace, India

“A visionary is one who can find his way by moonlight and see the dawn before the rest of the world.”
Oscar Wilde

Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, Bangladesh, Louis Kahn, 1982
“Bernadette Twirling,” Rodney Smith, 2007
HYBYCOZO, Hybycozo, 2014

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
Francis of Assisi

Grundtvig’s Church, Copenhagen, 1940
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Iran, 1619  

“It is your light that lights the worlds.”
Rumi

Issue V

Elliot Toman

On Reading Thomas Kearney’s Memoir of His Travels Through the New World

Many, content within their cozy cells

Of soft and safe familiarity,

Will scorn or fear the daring that compels

The youth to chase horizons, make them flee

Until the understanding spans the whole

Continuum of all humanity.

To tread the planet’s breadth from pole to pole,

To slumber under foreign stars, and share

Warmth with strangers through bonds of common soul

Spawns enlightenment critical and rare.

The epic journey jointly undertaken

Toughens the sinews of a brotherhood;

Experience’s dawn shall broadly waken

A latent sympathetic hardihood.

The road’s confusion and discovery,

Its joy and danger, thrill and dullness should

Ever embrace, like lovers’ ecstasy,

To make the vistas and the grandeur sweet,

All the mobile conviviality

Richer in slogging through the cold and heat.

For who – but few! – have bathed in every ocean,

Or breathed the air of half the biosphere’s

Teeming diversities through global motion,

Or plunged into the reservoir of tears

And sweat and blood exuded by the most

Of Adam’s race, which evermore coheres

Into a sea that never laps a coast?

The restless, brave, and curious alone

Make trek to tangiate the fragile ghost

Of solidarity’s prevailing groan.

Oh, what prodigious treasure of fulfillment

Accumulated in the greed for road,

When sandaled feet have pressed for full distillment

The liquor to the traveler bestowed!

Oh, one like me remains ashamed to die

(Too lazy to exceed my own abode)

And longs, one day, with fortitude to try

Some great adventure and romantic test

Of worth in journey, and as boldly fly

As Thomas stepped the Earth in ardent quest.



This poem is based on the book: Thumbs Up: A Hitchhiking Irishman and 25,000 Kilometres from Patagonia to the Arctic

Hirelings in Shepherd’s Clothing

How Corrupt Leaders and Failed Reporters Are Fueling the Mass Psychosis

Lockdowns, arbitrary mandates, and nonsensical prohibitions (like no meals on domestic flights) will never stop until we do something about it. This is not about keeping us safe from a virus, and the proof is below.

Brazen Hypocrisy

World leaders, including ours in the United States, routinely break their own COVID-19 orders by going to parties, concerts, and public indoor gatherings unmasked. When caught, they either give half apologies, or double down and justify themselves. This has been consistent behavior since March of 2020. These leaders played the “correlation equals causation” game with us, asserting that people were dying because not enough of us were wearing masks and staying indoors.

If what they have been constantly trying to shove down our throats all of 2020 and 2021 were true, every single public official who was caught violating their own orders should have been impeached for attempted if not actual murder. Just think about it. We were told we were killing our grandmothers if we didn’t comply with all of the mandates, which many officials themselves never followed. Some were so blatant about their hypocrisy, it seemed almost a joke—as in 2020 when Austin, Texas Mayor Steve Adler made a video from his timeshare in Mexico telling Americans to “stay home.” What wasn’t mentioned was that Mayor Adler traveled to his timeshare in a private jet with eight other people. 

Another prime example is Chicago, Illinois Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was caught at a barbershop getting her hair done after enacting one of the strictest lockdowns in the US. Mayor Lightfoot imposed a lockdown that has resulted in the permanent closure of many small and medium businesses, including Chicago hair salons, yet she decided her hair was more important than “flattening the curve.”  When caught, Lightfoot defended herself, saying:

“I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye. I think what really people want to talk about is, we’re talking about people dying here. We’re talking about significant health disparities. I think that’s what people care most about.”

Consider the example of California Governor Gavin Newsom being caught mask-less at an indoor birthday party in Napa County at the height of the California lockdowns that he mandated in 2020. When caught, he offered an apology, saying he made a “bad mistake.” Perhaps that explanation would have been slightly more acceptable had he not lied before the pictures surfaced, claiming it was an “outdoor event.” Not only was it an indoor event, it was at an extremely exclusive venue called French Laundry; a venue where Mayor London Breed of San Francisco attended an indoor birthday party the day after Newsom.

Mayor London Breed as well ignored her own mandates in September of 2020, when she, maskless, attended a concert in San Francisco. As can be seeing in the pictures and videos that surfaced, she did not wear a mask even when she wasn’t eating or drinking. When confronted about this, her response was this:

“Don’t feel as though you have to be micromanaged about mask wearing. Like, we don’t need the fun police to come in and try and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing. We know what we need to do to protect ourselves. I was eating and I was drinking and I was sitting with my friends and everyone who came in there was vaccinated. No, I’m not going to sip and put my mask on, sip and put my mask on, sip and put my mask on, eat and put my mask on. While I’m eating and I’m drinking, I’m going to keep my mask off.”

The major and blindingly obvious problem with what Mayor Breed said is that, like Newsom, she was lying. One of the videos that surfaced showed Mayor Breed not eating or drinking, but standing, dancing, and singing to the R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! After she enacted a mandate telling San Franciscans that masks were mandatory for indoor gatherings regardless of vaccination status, she herself violated that very mandate, and justified it by citing everyone’s vaccination status. 

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan oversaw one of the strictest lockdowns in 2020; so strict in fact, that outdoor activities like fishing and gardening were banned. It was the most controversial lockdown in the US. Whitmer was caught planning a boat trip with her husband for Memorial Day weekend; a violation of the bans she enacted. Her husband, Marc Mallory, name dropped her when speaking to the marina about renting a boat after being told a boat would not be provided to them. When confronted by the local media, she first lied and said it was misinformation. When pressed, she said:

“Knowing it wouldn’t make a difference, [Mallory] jokingly asked if being married to me might move him up. He regrets it. I wish it wouldn’t have happened. And that’s really all we have to say about it.”

Recently, President Joe Biden was caught without a mask in a store where masks were required. Yes, President Biden, the one whose administration is currently fighting to tighten mandates on the American workplace, was caught again in one of those workplaces unmasked.

It is difficult to keep up with all of the hypocrisy as Mayor London Breed has been caught on camera for a second time at a concert, maskless, dancing on the dance floor. Footage was captured and may be viewed here.

Austrian government leaders, including the President and Minister of Health, celebrated at the ORF fundraising gala just days after announcing a full COVID-19 lockdown and compulsory vaccination.

The list could go on and on.

These past two years would be more comedic if lives weren’t being destroyed in the process. Families that were living from paycheck to paycheck and that lost their homes right at the beginning of the lockdowns in 2020 are still homeless. People whose depression intensified due to the long-term isolation have committed suicide. People who were made deathly afraid by the constant barrage of fear-mongering from politicians and mainstream news are still afraid to step out of their homes.

Some of us called attention to all of this hypocrisy, some of us got upset, a lot of us made excuses for them, and most of us have submitted.

The problem is that what has happened will continue to happen at the highest levels until we collectively respond with more than apathy. 

Dr. Fauci and Vaccines

This has been one big episode of mass psychosis, and further proof can be seen in the messaging around the vaccines. When the vaccines were first introduced to us, we were told that life would be normal again. We were told that the vaccine would put an end to all of this, everything could open back up, and we could put 2020 behind us. Then we were told the vaccines really only prevent hospitalization. Then we were told that even after being vaccinated, we should still wear masks, even two masks, and practice social distancing. And we were told all of these things by a man who was recently exposed for lying about funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan, China about the very virus that has consumed so many of our over lives the past two years. We were told all of this by Dr. Anthony Fauci; a man who flip flops so much, a Twitter thread was created by writer and commentator Drew Holden called “Fauci vs. Fauci.

This alone should help any rational person to understand why forty-one percent of Americans do not want the vaccine. It isn’t a deep conspiracy, though some believe so. For many of us, it is quite simple. No one, not the CDC, WHO, Dr. Fauci, our elected officials, nor media reporters, have been consistent in their messaging to us. We’ve seen too many opinions “change,” and too many headlines with the words “we’ve learned…” which some people are beginning to believe means “we lied and got caught,” or “we reported lazily and got caught.” Their numbers  supposedly tell us how much better off vaccinated people are than unvaccinated people, but we also remember learning that the Covid death rate included people who did not die from the virus, but from other diseases with Covid simply being present.

We see and remember these things, and we are skeptical when the same people who have been lying to us all this time now want us to trust them to inject something into our bodies.

We were told the Delta Variant is more resistant to the vaccines, and now we are being told Omicron is as well, yet there is still a worldwide aggressive push for everyone to be vaccinated with the very vaccines they tell us are largely ineffective against the new variants. 

China

We remember how the Chinese Communist Party, in 2020, was unbearably oppressive in its lockdowns. Yet, the U.S., and many other countries, took their cues from China. We did this to such a degree that American mainstream news outlets like the Washington Post, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal praised China for their handling of the virus, though it was revealed later that China lied about its numbers. The initial veneration of China by American mainstream news was  as though China had these outlets in its pocket. Researchers stated that it was virtually impossible for China to have dropped their Covid numbers so drastically after two months of lockdowns, but not before the virus spread to the rest of the world at the same time. A reporter with integrity would have sought these researchers out first before reporting on the communist country’s self-proclaimed victory.

Journalists from China who tried to report on these things were detained, and even killed, by the CCP. Christian pastors in China who preached against the CCP were also imprisoned and killed, both for speaking out against the Chinese government, and for having faith in something other than Xi Jinping and his comrades. 

Yet, this is the same China whose spell seemed to have captured world leaders. This is the same China that major news outlets  scolded America to be more like. This is the same China, by the way, that Governor Gavin Newsom struck a billion dollar deal with in 2020 for California’s mask supply.

Who Should Be Asking the Questions?

Why does it seem as though many of our leaders and media are turning a blind eye to China’s flagrant human rights abuses and authoritarian  government? It is is a question that reporters everywhere should be thoroughly investigating, instead of publishing puff piece editorials, as though China is the starship Enterprise and Xi Jinping is Captain James T. Kirk.

It has become painfully obvious that, by and large, our media runs cover for tyrants and despots. If this weren’t true, the lockdowns would have indeed stopped after two weeks, because honest, investigative reporting would have uncovered all the corruption among our leaders and elected officials. The thousands of doctors around the world who have challenged the narrative  would not have been minimized or ridiculed, but tested against the developing situation. The virologists, surgeons, and front-line doctors who continue to speak out against the prevailing narrative would have had the chance to be heard as much as the doctors we have been currently hearing from the most. There is a video entitled 8 Prominent Doctors & Scientists Engage in a Remarkable Exchange, wherein a panel of eight medical experts  discuss their experiences with Covid as immunologists, front-line workers, and biologists, andthe major issues they have with mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and mandates for children. The video was on YouTube for a few weeks, then YouTube took it down. 

Africa

Yet another set of questions the media is not asking surrounds the recent travel ban the Biden administration has placed on African countries, particularly South Africa. In terms of timeline, this happened just after South Africa told Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to stop sending vaccines due to the plunging demand. One question that definitely needs to be asked is this: is the new variant really a danger, or is it a pretense to punish Africa for not buying more from the US government?  Reported cases from South Africa have suddenly jumped from less than two hundredper day to two thousand per day, and all coincidentally after the ban. The timeline is:

News sites like Microsoft News are attempting to make things appear as though South Africa is now trying to replicate the Moderna vaccine, implying there is not an excess, but a shortage. There is a story posted by MSN dated November 28, 2021 that describes just that. What is misleading about it is the story is that the vaccine replication process dates back to over a month ago, as evidenced by many sources, including this one.

South Africa has more than enough vaccines, and Africa is a vast continent made up of 54 countries; some of which have experienced shortages. This is an important detail because detractors of the truth will attempt to muddy the waters by pushing out seemingly conflicting information to distract from their activities. 

The South African people have spoken many times over; the vast majority of them do not want the vaccine. South Africa’s Covid recovery rate has remained at 97%, Africans in general have been through much more deadly viruses, for which the rest of the world cared very little, and most of the African people would like to be left alone. They should not be punished because of that; especially considering the fact that African countries were not the only places the new variant was found, yet they seem to be the only places where the people are banned from traveling to the US.

Something ominous is coming to the West particularly; in fact, it is already here. But when the evidence of it has reached its peak, know that it will not be the corruption of our leaders or the mangling of the truth by our media who led us to the dark place.

It will be the compliance of us, the people.

Thanksgiving

On November 24, 1977, I stood with my husband, my two-year-old daughter, and seven other extended family members in front of the gated entrance to the American Embassy in Moscow. We were there to receive our exit visas so we could leave the confinements of the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union in search of freedom. 

 The military guard said the Embassy was closed for the next four days. My heart sunk. “Why?” someone asked.

“Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday the Americans celebrate each year,” he said.

It was the first time I heard the word Thanksgiving. Bewildered, I thought, what kind of holiday is it if the government allows its people to celebrate it on Thursday? It must be pretty significant to the Americans. How great it must be to be off from work for four consecutive days! 

With the stroke of a KGB agent’s pen, in a matter of seconds, we became nobodies.

The USSR did not have a holiday that lasted four days, and most celebrations in a country of not enough happened on the weekend when people were already off from work.

It took us months to get permission from the Communist government to leave based on religious discrimination. We were Jews who lived in a country that did not want us. This country did not allow us to practice Judaism. This country took away our identities and listed the religion of our forefathers as our nationality on every official document, turning us into the scapegoats of the socialist society and targets for persecution. Anti-Semitism flourished under the auspices of the brutal totalitarian regime. 

When the Soviets agreed to let people emigrate, most of Jews left the USSR for Israel, but many for the United States as well. I had a hard time understanding the immigration process. Once the Soviet government had accepted our family’s request for asylum status, it had no longer considered us its citizens. With the stroke of a KGB agent’s pen, in a matter of seconds, we became nobodies. Our family had to give up our apartment and quit our jobs, and with that, lost our financial security and the roof over our heads. We became solely dependent on the kindness of relatives and strangers. The Communists had no use for us anymore, and they did not care how we would survive. Decades later, I still cannot get over the cruelty of the socialist government in the treatment of its Jews. They could discard you like a pile of trash when you were no longer needed to achieve their grandiose, but unattainable ideas. 

The totalitarian regime granted our family permission to immigrate to the United States, but still, for it to happen, it was the American government in charge of issuing our exit visas. Nothing made sense. 

If this is how bureaucracy works in America, I could deal with it.

After pleading with the military guard, he checked our documents and opened the gate for our family to enter the hallowed grounds of the American Embassy. My spirit filled with hope.

We walked inside the building, full of anxiety. A secretary greeted and ushered us into an office where a person in charge of visas asked us to sign some documents and handed us the permits to leave.  It all happened too fast, and for me, this was the shortest encounter with bureaucracy I had ever witnessed. It seemed like a blur because, in a matter of minutes, we were ready to go. 

Bureaucracy is tedious everywhere, but the USSR tops them all when it comes to it. While I lived there, I could never enter an office to get my request granted on the spot and had to return a few more times. When I dealt with the bureaucrats in the Soviet Union, they almost always needed another piece of paper to attach to my file before granting my request, no matter how insignificant that request might’ve been. 

Inside the office, I already felt hopeful about my new country. If this is how bureaucracy works in America, I could deal with it. With visas in our hands, we left the American Embassy jubilant.

 The following day, my mother-in-law purchased our tickets to Rome. Two days later, we took a taxi to Sheremetyevo, and boarded an Aeroflot flight that flew us out of the country of not enough. 

On November 24, 1977, anti-Semitism and I had signed our divorce papers. At long last, I shook the shackles of oppression and spread my wings.

We stayed in Italy for three months, awaiting permission to enter the United States of America, and on March 7, 1978, we took a Pan Am flight to New York and landed at JFK. Since then, I’ve never looked back. 

That Thanksgiving Day in 1977 at the American Embassy was the day that forever changed me. I stopped living in fear. I no longer looked over my shoulder or spoke in a hushed tone, afraid of someone overhearing my conversation as I walked the streets of Moscow. On November 24, 1977, anti-Semitism and I had signed our divorce papers. At long last, I shook the shackles of oppression and spread my wings.  

Landing on the shores of the United States of America made me grateful and appreciative of a country that allowed me to become enough. Ever since, Thanksgiving Day had become my favorite holiday to honor. As a proud American, I celebrate it each year together with the rest of the country as a national holiday. For me, the day of Thanksgiving holds extra special meaning. It is a day I give thanks to America, my beloved country that sheltered and taught me to appreciate the freedoms I experience daily. But there is more to my appreciation of Thanksgiving Day.

Fourteen years ago, in 2007, a day before the official holiday began, I was diagnosed with a basal skull meningioma. At fifty-three, I went from being a healthy person to someone who was, within days, given a death sentence. Even though the growth was benign, my situation was dire.

“You have a non-malignant tumor in a malignant place,” Dr. Robinson said inside his office. He explained that the culprit of my illness grew in the wrong part of my body (as if there ever is a proper spot to grow those things), and it was about to kill me. The meningioma at the base of my skull was the size of a chicken egg when they discovered it. It pressed against my trachea and made me stop breathing each night I fell asleep. 

“You needed surgery yesterday, and I will leave now to schedule an appointment for you at Tampa General the day after Thanksgiving so you can get help from the best there is in the field of neurosurgery. Meantime, I am putting you on the highest dosage of steroids to save your life,” he said.

Dr. Robinson did save my life, and not only because of the medication but also by sending me to the best place at the right time. 

I left his office to get another MRI before I headed towards my house. It was the night before Thanksgiving, and I could not stop thinking about the holiday. Should I cancel it? To be honest, I was not in the right spirit to celebrate, but the more I thought about it, the more inclined I became in favor of a large gathering. Weeks earlier, I had invited a big crowd, and now sitting inside my car I could not find it in my heart to withdraw the invitation at the last moment. Plus, I could not call anyone that evening. It was approaching ten o’clock when I pulled into the driveway.

 

Freedom is never free. As I bend the dough, I think about the fallen heroes’ ultimate sacrifices, and I thank them each time I prepare this delicacy.

Inside the house, I shared the sad news with my husband. His mood had instantly changed, and the atmosphere around us filled with dread of the upcoming operation. But in the morning, I continued with Thanksgiving Day’s preparations. Being busy distracted me from the inner thoughts as I baked sweet potato and apple pies, and my husband took care of the turkey.

That day I made my traditional delicacy that I invented. I serve it to my guests every year on Thanksgiving Day. The filling is fresh pumpkin and cranberries mixed with sugar and infused with cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg flavors. 

To wrap the yummy filling in, I use phyllo dough. Every time I do the individual pieces, I fold the dough into a triangle the same way a person folds the American flag to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives to protect the freedoms of the United States. Freedom is never free. As I bend the dough, I think about the fallen heroes’ ultimate sacrifices, and I thank them each time I prepare this delicacy. 

On November 22, 2007, despite the grim diagnosis, I found reasons to be thankful. I was grateful to live in the United States of America, where I was about to receive the best medical care during my craniotomy. Tampa General is a world-known facility for performing brain surgeries, and I considered myself lucky to go there. I did not feel afraid. I had faith and trust in people who would help me get through this enormous challenge. 

American Thanksgiving is a day that is forever connected to the two most important events of my life. Forty-four years ago, back in the USSR, inside the American Embassy, I was granted freedom to leave the godforsaken country of not enough. Fourteen years ago, at Tampa General, the neurosurgeon gave me another chance at life. I am so grateful to America! It truly is the best country in the world. Happy Thanksgiving!


To Life

Of all of the pro-abortion talking points, only one seems to be the most honest to their cause, and that is the argument of personhood; is the fetus a human being, does it have value, and is it worth protecting? These are the questions to which pro-abortion advocates tend to resoundingly answer “no.”

This is not a debate about controlling women’s bodies, or being “only pro-birth,” this is a very sober fight for the life of our next generation; and the fight surrounds the question of intrinsic value. Do our children have intrinsic value? That’s the question to which pro-life advocates emphatically answer “yes.”

Pro-abortion advocates tend to use arguments like these:

“If you’re so pro-life, what about kids in foster care? Don’t they deserve to be loved? Would you adopt them, or do you only care about them being born?”

“If you’re so pro-life, what about kids born into poverty? Are you prepared to support the babies you advocate for?”

“If you’re so pro-life, do you support forced vasectomies? Men are involved too!”

“Halacha says that a woman can have an abortion if the baby is threatening the life of the mother. You wouldn’t want the mother to die, would you?”

Let us address these points.

Firstly, Christian pro-life advocates make up the largest majority of adoptions. 5% of practicing Christians in the United States have adopted, which is more than twice the number of all adults who have adopted. Secondly, in regards to donations to charities, “Some studies…have estimated that faith motivates as much as 75 percent of all charity in the United States.” Lastly, forced vasectomies do not kill anyone, unlike abortions. Those facts should be enough to quell petty arguments, right? Wrong. These arguments do not matter in the macro. They do not matter because at the crux of the pro-abortion argument is that a woman should be able to terminate her pregnancy for any reason she wants to, because “it’s her body”. So, any response to the pro-abortion argument regarding the life or viability of the fetus does not matter. If they did, the statistics previously linked would turn everyone pro-life.

No, it doesn’t matter if every single pro-life advocate adopted 25 children each and effectively ended the foster care industry. It doesn’t matter that there are almost zero cases where the mother quite literally has to choose between her life and the baby’s life, and even in those scenarios, the doctors perform an emergency C-section, where the baby still has a chance of surviving. 

Former abortionist, Dr. Anthony Levantino states here:

“I was faculty at the hospital for nine years, and I saw hundreds of cases of really severe pregnancy complications — cancers, heart disease, intractable diabetes out of control, toxemia of pregnancy out of control. And I saved — in those nine years — I saved hundreds of women from life-threatening pregnancies. And I did that by delivering them — by ending their pregnancy by delivery, either induction of labor or caesarean section. Delivering the baby. And I always tell people: in all those years, the number of babies that I had to — that I was obligated to deliberately kill in the process — was zero. None.”

(The full context of Dr. Levantino’s quote can be found here.)

Pro-choice activists don’t care that, in those scenarios, doctors still do whatever they can to save both the mother and the baby’s life. The mother choosing her own life doesn’t mean her physician must kill the baby; it means that saving the mother’s life is top priority while attempting to save the baby’s life as well. But again, none of this matters, because the pro-choice/pro-abortion argument would either shift to another red herring, or simply argue that “she can do whatever she wants with her body”. That’s the crux of the argument, and that is where focus of the rebuttal should be. 

The root of this debate is simply determining whether or not a fetus is a human being, so let’s talk about that.

The definition of an embryo is an unborn or unhatched offspring in the process of development, in particular a human offspring during the period from approximately the second to the eighth week after fertilization (after which it is usually termed a fetus).

A two-day old embryo has zero probability of turning into anything else except a human being. There is no chance it could turn into a watermelon, or a rock, or a piece of string, or anything else other than a baby human.

And according to Encyclopedia Britannica, an embryo is “…the early developmental stage of an animal while it is in the egg or within the uterus of the mother. In humans the term is applied to the unborn child.”

The definition of a fetus is “the unborn young of any vertebrate animal, particularly of a mammal, after it has attained the basic form and structure typical of its kind” 

In those definitions, the aspects that get focused on the most are the time periods; the pro-abortion argument says what is in the womb is technically only a fetus after about 8 weeks, therefore, before that, it’s nothing but a ‘clump of cells.’ That argument is dangerous, evil, and plain wrong. A two-day old embryo has zero probability of turning into anything else except a human being. There is no chance it could turn into a watermelon, or a rock, or a piece of string, or anything else other than a baby human. The only thing that can happen to it other than developing into a human is not fully developing at all, and that is called a miscarriage, which unfortunately happens to about 10%–15% of expectant mothers. In other words, at what stage the fetus is in when it is killed is irrelevant to the discussion of whether or not they should be terminated. Those fetuses have an 85% chance of coming to full term, and a 100% chance of coming to full term as human beings. Abortion is not simply getting rid of ‘a clump of cells’, it is eradicating a baby by stripping it from its mother’s womb and dismantling it limb from limb. Former abortionist provider, Dr. Anthony Levatino, attested to this very truth before a house judiciary committee in 2019. The entire transcript of his address to the Kansas Senate Health and Human Services Committee can be found here.

The argument that abortions are fine because the fetus is not a human being is a slippery slope at best. That statement is not a prophecy; one can simply look at the policies being pushed today to see that. Politicians and community leaders have been openly pushing for late term abortions, termination far past the stages at which fetuses can survive after birth, since 2019. The linked Atlantic article states:

By defending more expansive abortion rights even in the face of these facts, Democrats are exposing an uncomfortable reality that they would rather not acknowledge: They embrace abortion as a woman’s right to end the life of her fetus at any stage—not the right to end her pregnancy.

At 24 weeks, and now even as early as 21 weeks, newborn infants have survived outside the womb with the help of neonatal intensive care. In Cuomo’s New York—and possibly someday soon in Northam’s Virginia—healthy, viable fetuses even after 24 weeks could easily be killed in the womb rather than delivered.

This is why the abortion-rights movement has long relied upon euphemisms to obscure the unpleasant truth about the right they advocate. Phrases like women’s rights, the right to choose, and reproductive freedom dominate their advocacy, along with dismissive jargon like clumps of cells.

But in defending bills that expand the right to abort viable fetuses, Democrats are giving away the game. Most people, even those who favor some abortion access, instinctively recoil from what they see. These late-term abortion bills do more than reveal Democratic radicalism. They draw back the veil of euphemism to expose abortion for what it is: At every stage of pregnancy, it is the taking of a human life. For the anti-abortion movement, it is a pivotal moment to insist upon that truth.

Again, the argument has been made that late term abortions are only needed in cases where the baby threatens the life of the mother. And again, the twofold problem with that argument is:

  1. To save the life of the mother, the baby does not have to be killed.
  2. The crux of the pro-abortion position is “my body, my choice.”

If the trajectory of the pro-choice/pro-abortion evolving policy over the past few decades is any indication, we will be right back at the debate stages discussing whether or not a woman has a right to kill her baby at any stage of her pregnancy for any reason. And those on the side of life will continue to lose those debates. 

This is what is evil about the pro-abortion stance. It purports to care about the mother and child, but cares about neither. As soon as there is a foothold to be had, they do the bait-and-switch. First the slogan was that abortions were to be “safe legal and rare,” then it became “my body, my choice,” then “late term abortions are only for the rarest of circumstances,” and now we’re back at the “stop controlling a woman’s body” phase. 

The child conceived is not at fault. Even in cases of rape or incest, which make up a fraction of 1% of pregnancies, though tragic, and traumatic, the baby is still not at fault.

If protecting a baby’s life is seen as controlling a woman’s body, the “safe, legal and rare” argument is obsolete. If life in the womb is not really life, or at least not life worth protecting, then who is to say abortions can’t be plentiful? Who cares whether or not it’s rare? Who cares if black American women particularly, even though they are 14% of the childbearing population, account for 37% of the nation’s abortions? It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the pro-abortion argument. 

The truth however, is that it does matter. Having sex has potential consequences, and sometimes the consequence is getting pregnant. The child conceived is not at fault. Even in cases of rape or incest, which make up a fraction of 1% of pregnancies, though tragic, and traumatic, the baby is still not at fault. As stated in the beginning of this article, there are countless programs to give mothers the support they need in taking care of their baby. Killing the baby should never even be a topic of discussion. The person at fault in those scenarios are the rapists, who should face life in prison at best.

One other argument often made on the pro-abortion side is “don’t you believe the man should be held accountable for the baby as well?” My, and virtually all of the pro-life community, answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ My personal position is that absent and bad fathers are to blame for many societal ills including abortion, but this article isn’t about fathers; this one is. I am very passionate about fathers standing in their rightful place as priests over their homes and the redemptive effect it will have on the world. But I have to stress again: the pro-abortionists do not actually care about preventing abortions, so they do not really care about men being good fathers. One should not waste their time and energy making such involved arguments to those who will not even agree that a baby, the most innocent of the entire human species, is a life worthy of saving. We must start there, and stay there, until all human life is cherished, valued, and protected.

To life~



Examining the ‘Israeli Century’

It seems undeniable that the Jewish world’s center of gravity has shifted decisively in favor of Israel. The Jewish state now contains the majority of the world’s Jews, or is about to. It has become the place where Jewish history is being made, for good or ill. Many Diaspora communities remain vital, but they are shrinking in both numbers and influence — especially in the United States.

Israel, in other words, is swiftly becoming hegemonic.

This change and its repercussions are the subject of Yossi Shain’s fascinating new book, “The Israeli Century: How the Zionist Revolution Changed History and Reinvented Judaism.” As the title suggests, Shain believes that, in the current century, it is Israel that will define Jewish life. The Diaspora will continue to exist, he says, and this is not a bad thing; but the prevailing zeitgeist will be Israeli.

To make his case, Shain sweeps through Jewish history both ancient and modern. He sketches the development of Jewish sovereignty, its relationship to the Diaspora that has existed since the Babylonian exile, and the constant push-pull between them. This relationship, Shain posits, has always been complex and fraught. It was, after all, the Babylonian Diaspora that formulated what we think of today as Judaism, and brought it back with them to the Land of Israel when they returned from exile. At the same time, however, the ancient Jewish states — there were several — remained the center of Jewish life, culture, religion, and historical development.

With the destruction of the Temple and the genocide that followed the Bar Kochba revolt, however, the Jewish people had to rethink the idea of sovereignty. Judea was scorched earth, but leaders like the rabbis of Yavne managed to save the Jewish people by creating a kind of sovereignty of the imagination, in which the Land of Israel and Jewish statehood became pure memory, to be restored in the messianic era.

Shain notes that Judaism did not — as some believe — fully divorce itself from politics, but it became a politics that was either internal to the semi-autonomous Diaspora communities or one of negotiation and compromise with the Jews’ gentile overlords, undertaken to head off the disastrous expulsions and pogroms that regularly struck the Jewish people.

With the coming of modernity, Shain posits, this began to change, and it did so rather quickly. In effect, two strains of thought developed. One was the rejection of sovereignty formulated by the assimilated German Jewish communities, codified in the theology of Reform Judaism. This, he says, “meant embracing a broad, scientific education, fluency in German as a substitute for the Yiddish of the shtetls, Protestant ethics, a refined manner, and rules of conduct that reflected their enlightenment, judiciousness, and membership of a flourishing and modern bourgeoisie.”

Abraham Geiger, the founder of Reform Judaism, turned this ambition into a theological imperative. He wanted, Shain notes, for the Jews to change “from being a ‘compact nationality’ into ‘a diaspora in which Jews lived among the nations whom they were destined to instruct.’” Shain adds, “In the new Reform doctrine, Prophetic Judaism was depicted as hostile to the idea of sovereignty.”

Sovereignty, the reformers believed, would corrupt the essence of Judaism, which was to bear witness to and educate the world in the prophetic message. To engage in the world of earthly politics, let alone modern power politics, was something like heresy. Shain describes Reform as formulating “a doctrine based on denying that the Jews were an ethno-national tribe and framing their Jewish revival as a ‘universal church’ that would promote social justice.”

It was these German reformers who established the first relatively large Jewish communities in the United States, and they brought their theological beliefs with them. Shain notes, “The descendants of German Jewish immigrants, who affiliated with the Reform Movement, wanted to put an end once and for all to the incessant questions about their national loyalty. In 1885, they adopted the Pittsburgh Platform, which declared that the Jews were ‘no longer a nation, but a religious community.’”

At the same time, ironically, the Reform vision was failing in Europe. The massive rise in a new, modern antisemitism prompted a rejection of that vision in the form of Zionism. Shain quotes Zionist founding father Moses Hess describing his Zionist awakening: “It dawned upon me for the first time, in the midst of my socialistic activities, that I belong to my unfortunate, slandered, despised and dispersed people. And already, then, though I was greatly estranged from Judaism, I wanted to express my Jewish patriotic sentiment in a cry of anguish.”

Shain also cites the great scholar of the Kabbalah Gershom Scholem, who said of the assimilationist Jews who surrounded him in his German youth that they “lacked discrimination in all matters affecting themselves, yet in all other matters they mustered that faculty for reasoning, criticism, and vision,” which Scholem called a form of “self-deception.” And the great Zionist poet Haim Nahman Bialik, Shain notes, condemned the reformers’ worldview by simply noting, “They stood not firm on the day of wrath.”

In the end, the Zionists won the argument, though in the most tragic way possible. The reformers stayed in Europe, and they died; the Zionists went to Palestine, and they survived. The Holocaust annihilated the assimilationist vision, and the Reform attempt to educate the gentiles in the prophetic vision was incinerated in the ovens of Auschwitz. With the successful establishment of a Jewish state, the Zionists believed that the debate was over. Assimilation and reform didn’t work, the Jewish state did, and that was the end of it.

For myself, who was born an American Jew in a Reform context and eventually rejected it and made aliyah, the most interesting part of Shain’s book is his description of the aftermath: the Zionists may have triumphed on the world stage, but the debate that they felt was settled has continued in the United States. There, the Reform movement remains the dominant strain of Judaism, and has always displayed a measured ambivalence toward the idea of sovereignty. Indeed, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Reform leaders and public figures violently rejected Zionism, until the Holocaust finally marginalized them.

While the Reform movement today accepts Zionism, it continues to display a cautious ambivalence toward it. As Shain notes:

It was in this context that the Reform Movement adopted the new Pittsburgh Platform in 1999, which embraced Zionism and affirmed the “unique qualities of living in … the land of Israel,” but also called for cultural and religious pluralism in the country. The progressive movement hoped to reinforce its legitimacy and institutional standing in the United States by deepening its involvement in Israel.

The Reform movement, in other words, wants to have it both ways: to accept Jewish sovereignty without giving up the theology first articulated by Geiger — the Jews as a universal people dedicated to education of the gentiles in the prophetic vision through the advocacy of social justice.

Shain believes this was codified when “the Reform Movement officially adopted tikkun olam in its doctrine in 1997, and it quickly became synonymous with progressive politics. Ruth Messinger, the former Manhattan borough president and head of the American Jewish World Service … argued that tikkun olam would ‘deter antisemitism by demonstrating that Jews work to provide social justice and dignity for all people regardless of race, religion, and ethnicity.’”

In Shain’s view, this push-pull between Israel and the Diaspora, Reform and Zionism, the particular and the universal, ensuring Jewish sovereignty and educating the gentiles, is the essential issue to be debated and resolved in the “Israeli Century.” He concludes:

At exactly the time of a deep moral crisis among liberal American Jews, who search for a new Jewish, moral, universal foothold in the face of assimilation, the disintegration of communities, and the increasing alienation from Israel, the Israeli Century will require, more than anything else, Jewish creativity that is both rooted and cosmopolitan, which will find a new balance among the threats, both from within and without, facing Jews in Israel and across the Diaspora.

Shain’s is an insightful and, for the most part, accurate assessment of the current state of Israel-Diaspora relations. However, Shain is not an American, and as an Israeli, he is at least somewhat foreign to the intricacies of American Jewish life. This leads him, I think, to miss something quite important: in America, it is probable that the old debate between Reform and Zionism will not be decided by “Jewish creativity.” It is much more likely to be resolved by history itself; and the Zionist argument appears to be winning again.

Indeed, given recent events, especially over the past year, Messinger’s statement seems somewhat farcical. In particular, there is no indication whatsoever that “tikkun olam” is deterring antisemitism in any way. Over the last 20 years, the progressive movement that the slogan symbolizes has become increasingly antisemitic, and while the far-right has committed horrific acts of antisemitic violence, there has also been a wave of attacks on Jews committed almost entirely by leftists, Muslims, and people of color — constituencies that are generally represented by and an active part of the progressive movement. And as shown when the Congressional Black Caucus blocked a censure of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) following her antisemitic statements, to advocate “social justice and dignity for all people regardless of race, religion, and ethnicity” has accomplished very little, even within mainstream politics. Put simply, the tikkunists “stood not firm on the day of wrath.”

As such, Shain is likely wrong that the Israeli Century will “require, more than anything else, Jewish creativity that is both rooted and cosmopolitan.” It seems more likely that the American Jewish upper class — which has always dominated Reform Judaism — will mostly disappear, whether through demographic or ideological collapse. Those who remain will give up on rootedness entirely, and embrace radical progressivism — whatever its real-world impact on the Jewish people.

Faced with this, the question becomes what the Jewish middle and under-classes — who still make up the majority of Reform Jewish congregations in America — will do in response. It seems to me that the imperative of the moment is not to try to work out a balance via “Jewish creativity,” but to attempt to formulate a form of Zionism that can be reconciled with life in the Diaspora.

Most American Jews are very unlikely to make aliyah, and ironically, a total identification with the State of Israel as it currently exists may be counterproductive. What is open to American Jews, however, is something Shain seems to suggest with his idea of the Israeli Century itself: a kind of “Zionism of the spirit,” in which the essential principles of Zionism are given a Diaspora context. These include things like Jewish solidarity, empowerment, self-defense, cultural development, identity, and pride; as well as such basics as the Hebrew language, knowledge of Jewish history and thought, and insistence on a strident protection of the Jewish body. Zionism, above all, teaches that the Jews have a right to be for themselves as much as for others; and this idea is as important and powerful in the Diaspora as it is in Israel.

Shain’s thesis of an Israeli Century is, in fact, something of a way forward in this regard. If he is right that Israel is now the dominating force in Jewish history — and he is unquestionably right — then its task should be to foster and support this Zionism of the spirit in the Diaspora. This will be difficult, but if it succeeds, it could well provide what he calls the “new Jewish, moral, universal foothold” the Diaspora needs, especially in the United States.

This is very much in the interests of Israel in the Israeli Century — however daunting challenges like “assimilation, the disintegration of communities, and the increasing alienation from Israel” may appear to be at the moment. For myself, as one who was and no longer is an American Jew, I can only embrace the words of Chaim Weizmann, quoted by Shain himself: “They can give up on us, but we cannot give up on them.”


Reprinted with permission from The Algemeiner

Benjamin Kerstein is a columnist and the Israel Correspondent for The Algemeiner. His website can be viewed here and his books purchased at Amazon.com.

Arguing with Idiots

I’m right and you’re stupid.  

These days, it’s very difficult to have a conversation with someone on a controversial topic.  We have become very polarized. We have lost civility. Have you noticed how often “discussions” on social media end with personal insults?  And no one learns anything. 

Our society has lost touch with the classical liberal values of freedom of expression and opinion. The great innovation of Liberalism was the ability to speak one’s mind without fear.

This problem has become amplified with the main news story of the last two years: COVID-19. To mask or not to mask? To vaccinate or not to vax? Can I force you to get a shot?  

In theory, a classical liberal discussion would be between well-meaning people, using their opinions derived from well-reasoned principles and using well-sourced facts.  Today, we just don’t see that happening often.  

What went wrong? We used to be able to talk about things and not lose friends. Our society has lost touch with the classical liberal values of freedom of expression and opinion. The great innovation of Liberalism was the ability to speak one’s mind without fear. The word “liberal” itself can be traced back to the Latin word liber meaning “free” (not to be confused with “free stuff”) It is also the root of the word liberty.

So how do we talk about Covid? To start, we must assume the other person is not evil and just has different opinions. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said, “There are some very good people who promote some very bad ideas. We should attack the bad ideas with better ideas.”

At the heart of an opinion is a well-reasoned principle, a misunderstanding, or a fear. That misunderstanding may be from relying on the opinion of others or just bad facts. Find it.

We can attack the bad ideas without insulting the person. But first, we have to establish a rapport with the person. Let them know that you don’t think badly of them, but you just don’t understand their point of view. Ask to be educated. To many, this is very disarming. If they were ready to do battle with a bad person, their opinion of you may start to change and it may be possible to talk. 

Let them start. At the heart of an opinion is a well-reasoned principle, a misunderstanding, or a fear. That misunderstanding may be from relying on the opinion of others or just bad facts. Find it. Don’t criticize the person for having the opinion, and don’t ask why they think that way. Save that for later. Don’t make it personal. Talk about the opinion. 

Examples of questions are:

“I don’t understand how that’s true, but if it is, what are you afraid will happen?”

“That’s interesting! I’ve never heard that. Where did you hear it?”  

Try not to laugh when they quote a network or newspaper you know is biased.  Ask if they remember who said it so you can research it and find out more. Don’t ridicule the media source of their information. They may take that as a personal insult. 

There are those who are offended by anyone who disagrees with them. While it may take longer to find, there is still probably someone in there you can reason with.

When it’s your turn to explain your opinion, start with the well-reasoned principle or the fear, and then apply it to the topic of conversation. Let’s take mandatory vaccinations, for example. One might say, “I believe that my body is my most precious possession and no one, not the government, not even my doctor, has the right to put something in my body that I don’t approve of. If I lose control of my body, I am no longer free. If you will allow others to control your body, that’s your choice. That’s the only disagreement we have.”

In this example, there is no name calling, no accusations, no dueling studies or any facts at all. There is nothing here that should “offend” the person you are talking to. 

There are those who are offended by anyone who disagrees with them. While it may take longer to find, there is still probably someone in there you can reason with. 

A few years ago, NPR published a story about Daryl Davis, a Black man who for 30 years has spent time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. He says that two hundred Klansmen have given up their robes after talking with him.

“If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy — it doesn’t have to be about race, it could be about anything…you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you’re forming a relationship and as you build about that relationship, you’re forming a friendship. That’s what would happen. I didn’t convert anybody. They saw the light and converted themselves.”

The full, fascinating article can be found here.

There is a difference between a conversation and a debate.  You don’t have to do much preparation for a conversation. And please don’t agree to a debate until you are ready with your principles, definitions, and facts. 

Civility is the key to a true conversation for the classical liberal.


[To hear this article in the author’s own voice, please click here.]

Eric L. Bolves is an attorney at law and the managing real estate broker with Engel & Voelkers Orlando, Florida. His practice areas include Elder Law, Bankruptcy and Disability.  He is frequently appointed by Judges as an Attorney Adlitem in foreclosure cases to represent the interests of heirs and members of the military.

Go Find Alice

What keeps me up at night is a haunting suspicion that we have reached the end of reason. A confusion emerges, akin to what Alice must have felt when she fell through the rabbit hole, and what once made sense now borders on the edge of an unacceptable reason. 

No longer am I asked to “know my blood,” as I am told that what my blood is doing doesn’t matter, but rather, whether a Walgreen’s employee has stuck a needle in my arm.

Having COVID-19, indeed, feels like spinning in teacups. In 2020, before vaccinations were available, I contracted the virus, twice, 11 months apart. And both times, I experienced the confusion of cognitive dissonance–what was happening to my body? My toes, my eyes, my tongue, my nose, my lungs, my hair, my reproductive organs, my blood? My body betrayed me with such force that the first time, before Covid was thought to be present in the US, I entered my doctor’s office and asked, “Do I have an autoimmune disease or cancer, because something is dreadfully wrong with me.” However, the delirium of a 103.7° fever lingered beyond recovery. Not because of any long-term physical condition, but because of mental cognitive dissonance.  

Living in a post-Covid body with a pre-Covid sensibility is a strange state of being. All who have survived might consider themselves in studies of one. In my own post-Covid journey, I seek to understand its long-term impact on my body, and, alongside the benefit of my (twice vaccinated) physician husband, I have taken to reading the science to best navigate through healing. However, it seems that peer-reviewed science has lost relevance. No longer am I asked to “know my blood,” as I am told that what my blood is doing doesn’t matter, but rather, whether a Walgreen’s employee has stuck a needle in my arm. It seems more relevant to others to know whether said technician has penetrated my arm with said needle rather than knowing the impact of what the serum inside the vial has accomplished or not. And regardless of whether or not my blood has responded in a positive way to said serum, showing a card or documentation of this moment of penetration is what is required to secure my freedom in what I am told is a free society whether my blood has responded. Never mind that I survived the virus twice and have immunity markers “the same as someone who was vaccinated twice” as written by my physician. 

We are being asked to ignore the instinct of our blood and bones. In exchange for this indiscretion, and with proof of “documentation,” we are being awarded with travel, concerts, restaurants, and access. As a Covid survivor, there are many tests–PCR tests, antibody serology tests, visits to specialists each with a test of their own as new symptoms arise. But the greatest test of all has been the test of reason. 

During my nightly visit to “Survivor Corp,” a website and Facebook group that was recently featured in the New Yorker, a chat thread featured a post of someone’s serology test. The results revealed a high positive presence of Covid antibodies. Curiously, the group admin responded with this post: 

“Admin here. Regardless of antibodies, please click to our website to learn more about the vaccines. They are safe and effective. Talk to your doctors and get vaccinated!” A link to the vaccine site followed. Intrigued that such a blanket statement should exist, I posted an article from Science Magazine, introducing it with a description from Wikipedia;

Science, also widely referred to as Science Magazine,[1] is the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science[AAAS 2][2] (AAAS) and one of the world’s top academic journals.[3] It was first published in 1880, is currently circulated weekly and has a subscriber base of around 130,000.” 

I then posted an article from Science entitled, “Having SARS-CoV-2 once confers much greater immunity than a vaccine—but vaccination remains vital” and added:

“It seems that someone or something is asking the admin to say, ‘get vaccinated regardless of your blood immunity.’ I am curious to learn more. Is this a forum for discussion or is there some kind of overarching agenda corralling people to get vaccinated? What is the objective of Survivor Corp? I am pro-vaccination, I just want clarity. The science supports blood immunity. The U.S. policy supports vaccination. What is the role of Survivor Corp in this free expression platform? Please clarify. Thank you.”

Greater even than the loss of lives through Covid Times is the loss of freedom for the generations that follow. Were freedom to extinguish, then the souls lost have died in vain.

I proceeded to post a second article, this time from the journal Nature about serology tests, but my post froze red, and I was instructed to click. Here is an image of message I received:

Text

Description automatically generated

How appropriate, I thought to myself, that the Victoria and Albert Museum recently opened a new exhibit featuring art around “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” What a fitting counterpoint for a world gone mad. 

Greater even than the loss of lives through Covid Times is the loss of freedom for the generations that follow. Were freedom to extinguish, then the souls lost have died in vain. We are living through the greatest public health crisis of our generation. And yet, we are being asked to turn away from scientific curiosity and blindly follow governmental policy. Our culture already inculcates a co-dependence with pharmaceuticals in our privatized medical system where they stand to come out the economic victor. Their influence is great, and as the opioid crisis reminds us, they are known to use the power of science to thwart the power of reason. As we continue to find our way through Covid Times, may we feel the call to return to reason, #KnowOurBlood, and seek a balanced clarity of the way through this crisis, inclusive of reason, inquiry, and healthy debate. Until then, we are all just drinking Kool-Aid. 

“It was all very well to say, ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. ‘No, I’ll look first,’ she said, ‘and see whether it’s marked ‘poison’ or not.’ —

Alice, Alice, Where are You?


Founder of The Open Temple in Venice, CA, Lori’s transdenominational rabbinate was informed by her studies at the American Jewish University, years living in Israel studying within an Orthodox Jewish framework and graduation from both the Academy for Jewish Religion/California (MA Rabbinics and Ordination) as well as the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (MA Jewish Studies). Her work with Open Temple has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, PBSNewsHour, the Jewish Journal amongst others. She and her husband, Dr. Joel Shapiro, live in the Venice (CA) canals with their daughters. Lori is a graduate of Barnard College.

The Covid Conundrum

Since March of 2020, the United States and much of the rest of the world has turned itself upside-down and inside out over the Corona virus also known as COVID-19. A “Corona Culture” has emerged in the West and its foremost symbol is the mask. People are constantly bickering over the usefulness of the mask, or “the muzzle” as a friend of mine calls it.

At first, we were told it would take a few weeks to “flatten the curve” so that we would have enough hospital beds. This is part of what justified the lockdowns. Those two-and-a-half weeks have now turned into over a year-and-a-half and counting.

For the last year and a half, we have been constantly complaining and whining and crying about masks and vaccines and lockdowns and COVID-19 mandates. We did so even as BLM-Antifa threw Molotov cocktails at cops and looted small, inner-city retail shops.

The truth is that there are three aspects to this nightmare:

The medical has taken priority from the beginning, as well it should. In March of 2020, this was new to all of us. What we did know was that people throughout the world were dying from a recent virus that mysteriously came out of China, either from the delicious bat meat served up in “wet markets” or from the men in the white coats served up in labs. At first, we were told it would take a few weeks to “flatten the curve” so that we would have enough hospital beds. This is part of what justified the lockdowns. Those two-and-a-half weeks have now turned into over a year-and-a-half and counting.

The second aspect, which is almost entirely ignored in favor of the first, is the social aspect. An important question to ask, and one that has been studiously ignored by the press, is how do governmental responses to Covid affect people on the social level?

It is astonishing that people refuse to understand that these masks, while having virtually no scientifically or statistically verifiable effect on virus transmission, do have terrible social consequences.

What we know as a matter of common sense is that the lockdowns, and the forced quarantines of the healthy, have caused increased levels of unemployment and bankruptcy and homelessness and divorce and domestic violence. One need not be a sociologist or statistician to acknowledge the obvious. Crime is on the rise. Homicide is on the rise. And suicide is on the rise. Families are separated. Old people are left alone. And children are kept apart from other children.

Is the “cure worse than the disease”? I honestly could not tell you, and neither, I assure you, could Dr. Fauci. 

This, of course, brings us to the question of the mask which is constantly referred by advocates, both in social media and the mainstream media, as a mere inconvenience. What, after all, is such a small annoyance when it means saving people’s lives? It is astonishing that people refuse to understand that these masks, while having virtually no scientifically or statistically verifiable effect on virus transmission, do have terrible social consequences. 

Law enforcement is far more difficult for any cop when he or she cannot distinguish the face of a criminal and his buddies who just looted the local Walgreens from the faces of ordinary citizens on the street. It used to be that a mask was associated with bank robbers. Now it is associated with everyone.

The masks represent a terrible problem for the hearing-impaired who depend upon reading lips to communicate with friends and associates. My friend who refers to the masks as “muzzles” is hearing-impaired and naturally resents this governmental intrusion on his ability to function in the world because it is personally hobbling.

Most importantly, however, the masks surely inhibit the socialization of young children who are trying to understand and negotiate the world around them and who need to see facial expressions of adults and peers to do so. This could hardly be more obvious.

As for the Constitutional aspect, I am not an attorney, but I do believe that the First Amendment of the Constitution says that the “right of the people peaceably to assemble” shall not be restricted by the government. Well, as the United States is a liberal Constitutional republic, it is restricted by the government depending upon where you live.

I live in California where the rules and restrictions and masks and lockdowns do not apply to elite politicians like Nancy Pelosi or Gavin Newsom. Nonetheless, the Biden Administration is now pursuing a national mandate regarding the vaccine. What people must understand is that if employment, or the ability to move freely within the country, depends on getting the jab, this raises the question of the Constitutional right of the federal government to impose its will on local authorities and the people, as a whole.

Sometimes extreme measures have been necessary, such as in fending off slavery while maintaining the union of the states during the Civil War or, for a lesser example, when John Kennedy federalized the state national guard to ensure that black students be allowed to attend Ole Miss in 1962.

That people are suffering from COVID-19 is without question. 

But among the many questions to be asked concerning this ongoing Covid Regime is to what extent are we willing to forego civil liberties in the name of alleged safety?

I do not have the answer, but I would request that you consider the question.



First Day of School

My first day of school was September 1, 1961. Unbeknownst to me, I boarded a propaganda train that took me through an indoctrination process very similar to what I now see happening in the United States of America. At the time, I lived in the USSR. I was a skinny, seven-year-old kid with big ambitions and dreams of endless possibilities.

In the USSR, adherence to regulations was non-negotiable and absolute. Breaking rules was unacceptable.   

I badly wanted to learn to read and write so I could become a doctor. I was the little girl who rushed to the medicine cabinet to look for a pill each time someone complained about a headache. As I matured, my wish to help others only grew and my desire to be a doctor became my dream.  

The first day of school fell on a Friday. I woke up, washed my face, brushed my teeth, ate my breakfast, and dressed in the special school uniform: a brown dress and a snow-white apron. It was the apron, sewn by Mama’s loving hands and trimmed with lace around the crisscrossed shoulder straps and the little pockets in the front that turned my otherwise plain outfit into the school uniform reserved for special ceremonial occasions, like the first day of school. On any other day of the year, the school code required the girls to wear a black apron. In the USSR, adherence to regulations was non-negotiable and absolute. Breaking rules was unacceptable.

Before opening the front door in the morning, I grabbed my school bag by its handle with one hand, and with the other I held onto Mama’s as we walked together toward school. I did not need an overcoat because the day was beautiful and warm. After all, it was the end of summer. At a leisurely pace, Mama and I entered the schoolyard. I stopped for a second to look around, noticing the lack of greenery and other colors. The cemented schoolyard looked gray and depressing.  The two-story school building painted eggshell-white seemed old and unattractive.

Seeing the other small children dressed up in their unique occasion uniforms made me feel somewhat cheerful. I had never seen so many children in one place until this moment.

A few minutes after our arrival, the person in charge of the assembly approached us. She explained to Mama which group I belonged to. We dutifully walked in the direction she pointed. A teacher with a stony expression stood in front of a group of small children. She did not nod to acknowledge my presence and did not smile as we walked together to the end of the first row in silence.   

Standing in my designated spot, I noticed each child held a small bouquet. That made me wonder why Mama didn’t buy any flowers for me. She probably didn’t know. Preoccupied with my thoughts, I felt confused, odd, and anxious. I did not like the feeling.   

However, it was more than that which made me feel uncomfortable. It seemed oddly strange that all the children were so quiet. Soundless and motionless, as if someone programmed them to behave well, they patiently waited. I imagined they must have attended a kindergarten, “detskiy sad,” where the staff taught them how to behave in public places. For some of them, the indoctrination began at six months. I never went to detskiy sad, grade one was my first encounter with this system.   

The childrens’ perfect obedience bothered me. The youngsters I knew were noisy and unruly. They became fidgety and destructive as soon as an opportunity presented itself. In the eyes of this seven-year-old, the first graders’ behavior seemed peculiar.   

Standing at the end of the first row, I tried to figure out what the children’s conduct meant and realized that I, too, would have to become a submissive and obedient child. Suddenly, the thrill of going to school for the first time left me, and a feeling of dread took control.  

I started to have a big problem with the brainwashing and conformity required of everyone living in the USSR. But on September 1, 1961, in Kotovsk, Ukraine, I became the propaganda machine’s next victim. There was nothing I could do to stop it.

The sound of the National Anthem interrupted my thoughts and brought me back to reality. Unhappy and scared, I quietly stood and watched the sequence of events unfold in front of my eyes. The official ceremony began. A Senior student brought the flag of the USSR to the front of the podium. The color guards and the marching band followed.

Next, I heard La Marseillaise, the Bastille’s famous song of the French Revolution, played. Everyone, except for the first graders, belted out the lyrics in Russian.  I observed the admiration on the students’ faces as they sang in unison. 

When I look back on the first day of school, I realize that my indoctrination started when I walked into the schoolyard. Later in the year, my teacher would instruct my peers and me to memorize the words to both songs. As time went on, the enthusiasm I felt on my first day of school began to disappear. I started to have a big problem with the brainwashing and conformity required of everyone living in the USSR. But on September 1, 1961, in Kotovsk, Ukraine, I became the propaganda machine’s next victim. There was nothing I could do to stop it. 

Shortly after the singing ended, one by one, the school officials welcomed us. Our director spoke first, then the Dean. He had a knack for riling up the students. Lots of clapping greeted his speech. After that, the less essential officials offered their greetings to all in a more concise form.   

Students from the soon-to-be graduating class spoke last. In their own words, they praised the greatness of the school and the ingenuity of the teachers. They made sure to thank the Communist Party for giving them a chance to grow up in a world of “equity, diversity, and inclusion.” Those who talked were the top students of each class. They encouraged the first graders to dedicate themselves to school studies. I enjoyed this part of the ceremony best.  

Eyes wide, I hung on every word of the soon-to-be graduates. In my mind, I envisioned the day I would be the one standing in front of the podium and giving my farewell speech in the schoolyard full of students. On that day, I promised to myself to be the best.

I knew how important education was to Mama and Papa. At age seven, I didn’t fully understand why it was so crucial to them, but years later, I figured out that my parents wanted better lives for their children. They knew the only way to achieve it was through excellent education, which was the key to our successes.  

Living in the Soviet Union was a struggle for everyone, but survival was more complicated for the uneducated Jews.  My parents were the proof of that. Neither one of them went to college, even though both studied at private schools when they were young. World War II had cut their education short.   

At the end of the ceremony, the Seniors brought out the Soviet red flag into the center of the schoolyard again. One of the color guards approached a group of the first graders. He lifted a little girl and placed her on his shoulder. Someone put a school bell in her hand, which she rang until the flags had entered the school building. The opening ceremony was officially over, and the crowd of children dispersed. 

Sixty years later, I now grieve over the current political state of affairs in America, the beloved country that sheltered me forty years ago when I left the oppression of the USSR.

I notice with great sadness how the progressives are brainwashing millions of Americans. They learned from the best and use The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, to plant seeds of discontent and stir up trouble. They create a mindset of victimhood in those who would think of themselves as oppressed. Once they have an active audience, the leftists get to work by using division to manipulate people’s minds. They know that the more divided our society is, the less united the United States of America will be.

My two children went to American public schools and prestigious colleges. Their educational experiences differed from mine for obvious reasons. They grew up in a Western country where the government promoted and encouraged freedom of thought. Still, the longer I live in my beloved United States, the more I wonder about the radical left’s infiltration of our schools. 

I saw it when my son, nine years younger than my daughter, started school. His first-grade teacher’s phrase, “as long as you do your best is all that matters,” grated on my nerves. I could not accept this because the definition of “best” in my mind meant something different: to me, “being the best” is not a flexible standard according to effort. Either you are the best because you excel, or you are not. I also did not like the idea of every child getting a trophy simply for the act of participation without true achievement. 

I feel like crying because I am convinced now that the Soviet Union ultimately won the Cold War without firing a single shot at its mortal enemy. This phenomenon of radical indoctrination arrived at the doorsteps of my beloved, adopted country after the collapse of the USSR.

How can a society produce strong leaders and great thinkers if schools teach them things like that? But the dumbing of the mind is also part of a leftist political agenda. 

This famous quote by Nikita Khrushchev has become today’s reality: “We cannot expect the Americans to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving Americans small doses of socialism until they suddenly awake to find they have communism.”

I feel like crying because I am convinced now that the Soviet Union ultimately won the Cold War without firing a single shot at its mortal enemy. This phenomenon of radical indoctrination arrived at the doorsteps of my beloved, adopted country after the collapse of the USSR. 

The progressives have achieved the impossible. They have persuaded millions of Americans to think that capitalism is wrong, and that freedom of thought should not exist. Under the pretense of social justice, our schools and colleges here in the United States have become the breeding grounds for Marxism and other anti-American ideas.

The same brainwashing instrument historically manipulated the minds of the Soviet people, but the techniques the Communist Party used pale in comparison to the American propaganda machine. The progressives have taken it to a higher level. The Great October Revolution happened at the beginning of the twentieth century when most people living in Russia remained ignorant and uneducated; today we witness the manipulation of American higher education as driving the propaganda machine.

It’s the intellectuals who propel the revolution now unfolding in America, which is scary. Unlike the uneducated masses of the Great October Revolution, their followers are also educated. The scholars are brilliant and know how to manipulate. They attract a specific audience.  They rile up the groups of people who believe they are oppressed and inflate the cause of grievance by promoting hate and violence.  

During my childhood, the government programmed us to believe that the Soviet Union was the best place in the world, that Russia was a country of equal rights and opportunities and embraced everyone’s differences. Their propaganda centered around the greatness of the Communist Party and its leaders and bashed capitalism and its number one nemesis, the United States of America. 

The ignorant and adoring fans hung on to every word and slogan of the Communist Party as if it was God; to many of them, it was. Using hyper-politicization to promote the Marxist Revolutionary Impulse, the totalitarian regime supported patriotism and self-sacrifice in the party’s name. Because of the unshakeable dedication of the socialist zealots, many innocent people became victims. Neighbors spied on and reported their neighbors to authorities, and neighbors disappeared, never to be seen again.

This calamity and the upheaval of human lives occurred because of the non-stop broadcasting of information. The media shoved the news down the people’s throats, the convenient “truth” the authoritarian government wanted them to hear, leaving them no room to think independently. The entire Soviet nation became submissive to the leaders who controlled it with an iron grip. Brainwashed by the propaganda, most could not see the truth. 

For years, I have seen the warning signs of indoctrination taking place in my adopted country, but none of them were as blatant as what I am noticing lately. The radical leftist machine has brainwashed the young impressionable minds with divisive talk about race, social justice, and gender fluidity to create a division. They never let a good crisis go to waste. They use it to divide, conform, and finally transform the core morality of the institution they try to bring down to its knees. The progressives know that by pursuing ideas of discord, America would implode on itself.

Division is a terrible thing. As history shows, it tears a country in pieces, makes mortal enemies out of friends, and breaks families apart.  People have the right to have any opinion they want, but according to the progressives, the only right idea is the one they present. The political agenda pushed onto people by the radical extremists leaves no room for discussion and whoever has a difference of opinion becomes an enemy.

The United States of America is a Constitutional Republic. Its foundation is built on freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government. We cannot allow the progressives to take away the foundation of America. We cannot allow the freest country in the world to die. 

It saddens me deeply that I still have to deal with brainwashing, indoctrination, and political propaganda in my late sixties. I honestly thought I left it behind when in 1977, I boarded a plane from Moscow to Rome, and three months later, flew from Rome to New York. The reason I came to America was to be free. Being told what to think never crossed my mind when I landed on the shores of my adopted country.




Etya Vasserman Krichmar was born in 1954 in Kazakhstan, one of the republics of the former Soviet Union. In 1977, claiming religious discrimination, her spouse, a two-year-old daughter, applied for immigration to the U.S. and were accepted. Now a mother to two children and grandmother of three, Etya is retired and lives in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, with her husband and two miniature dachshunds. She had written and published opinion pieces in the local TC Palm paper.

Biafra: The Price of Freedom

Nearly two million people died because of that cataclysmic event. It was a dark period, and the scars, both physical and emotional are still felt by people today. That’s the reality of war. Even a war that very few people have ever heard of. The war began with a coup, but to understand the war, we must know the story of a people largely lost in the pages of history. My grandfather fought as a volunteer in that war, seeing action in major battles and suffering many injuries. He was of those people whose history has faded, and this story belongs in part to him.

The Igbo are community of over 60 million people who trace their lineage to ancient Israel. They occupy about 16,000 square miles of territory in the rain forests of present-day Nigeria in West Africa. Considering themselves to be descendants of several of the Twelve Tribes of Israel; Gad, Zebulon, Dan, Levi, Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh, the Igbo share many cultural and similarities in religious practice with their Jewish brethren. They follow and adhere to the Laws of the Torah.  For example, every male child born to the Igbo is circumcised on the eighth day after birth according to Jewish law. 

Igbo traditional practices were labelled an archaic set of practices and deemed to be paganism, as the British colonialists introduced Christianity and began their efforts to convert the Igbo.

Their culture is molded by the practice of “Omenana” which means “Laws of the Land,” whose origins can be traced back to the laws given to the people of Israel on mount Sinai.

This cultural foundation of Omenana promotes collective achievement, development, and individual brilliance. As a result of these cultural values, the Igbo have been among the most educated groups in Nigeria. Today, there are more than three million Igbo living in the United States, with many having degrees in higher education.

While there is cultural depth and richness among the people, there still remain many scars from the past and a yearning for sovereignty in their Land. My family is a representative of the devastating experiences of so many Igbo families over the last several decades at the hands of the Nigerian government. My grandfather was born during the early years of British colonial rule in Biafra, the region inhabited by the Igbo. His father, my great-grandfather before him, was a priest in Omenana (Igbo religion), this tradition was passed down to him by his father. At the time of the colonial experience (1914-1960), Igbo traditional practices were labelled an archaic set of practices and deemed to be paganism, as the British colonialists introduced Christianity and began their efforts to convert the Igbo. While my grandfather remained in the practice of Omenana till his death, my father was converted to Christianity as a small child prior to Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960, seven years before the start of the Biafra war. 

The Biafra war lasted from 1967 to 1970. The coup that started the war took place on January 15, 1966, led by junior military officers of Igbo extraction. The immediate reasons for the first coup, however, concerned the nationwide disillusionment with the corrupt and selfish politicians, as well as with their inability to maintain law and order and guarantee the safety of lives and property. During the initial stages, Major Kaduna Nzeogwu (an Igbo) and others who masterminded the coup, were hailed as national heroes. But the pattern of killings in the coup gave it a partisan appearance; they killed the prime minister, the premier of the northern region and senior military officers of the north. Soon after, a counter-coup was staged as a reprisal, killing the Igbo military head of state Aguiyi Ironsi, as well as other Igbo military officers stationed in the north. 

From June to October 1966, a premeditated and well-planned pogrom executed by marauding northerners and military officers of the Nigerian army killed an estimated 30,000 Igbos, half of them children, and caused more than a million to flee to the eastern region. This coordinated attack awaited the right spark, and the attempted coup was the perfect fit.

My grandfather and his family suffered much during the war. My grandmother nearly lost her life by a stray bullet fired by an enemy rifle. My father, who was a small child at the time, was raised in an unstable and dangerous circumstances and was forced to make lots of sacrifices. At the onset of the war, his family was actively moving from one location to the other, continually displaced due to the conflict. Whenever a serious fighting began nearby, they would quickly move to another place. Primarily due to the famine and starvation in the land, children died in high numbers and were tagged as the “Biafra babies” by the international media.

In August of 1968, the Israeli air force covertly sent twelve tons of food aid to a nearby site outside of the Biafran airspace. Soon after, Israel arranged to make clandestine weapons shipments to Biafra using Ivory coast transport planes.

These catastrophes led the Igbo to declare their separation from the rest of the nation on May 30, 1967. A bright, young Sandhurst-trained and Oxford educated military officer named Odumegwu Ojukwu led the movement. The Igbo were the majority in the eastern region of Nigeria, the Biafra. With the declaration of Biafran independence, the Igbo found themselves in middle of a full-blown war, as the regional minority tribes were divided in their support. The minorities feared an Igbo dominance in the eastern region would give them control over the lucrative oil production in the minority areas, which played a vital strategic role. 

The Nigerian government’s main supporters were the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, while France, Israel, and a few other countries supported Biafra. Britain and the Soviets aided the Nigerians with heavy supplies of weaponry; these armaments were crucial in shifting the advantages of the war internationally for political support of Biafra and its French-aligned former colonies of Gabon and the Ivory coast recognized Biafra’s independence. Israel had its parliament, the “Knesset,” publicly debate this issue on July 17 and 22, 1968. In August of 1968, the Israeli air force covertly sent twelve tons of food aid to a nearby site outside of the Biafran airspace. Soon after, Israel arranged to make clandestine weapons shipments to Biafra using Ivory coast transport planes. 

The United Nations was silent and deferred to local bodies such as the Organization of African Unity for policy, advice, and guidance. The Biafran leadership had expected the United Nations to be more involved in sanctioning the Nigerian government and leading humanitarian efforts on ground, but none of these expectations were realized. In October 1969, when Ojukwu reached out desperately to the UN to mediate a cease-fire as prelude to peace negotiations, his pleas were met with a deafening silence.

More than 150 people were killed at pro-Biafra rallies between August 2015 and August 2016 according to Amnesty international.

In 1970, the Biafra movement surrendered, and the territory was reintegrated back into Nigeria. The reconstruction efforts of the eastern region were championed by the hardworking and industrious Igbo men and women as the Nigerian government was uninterested in investing in any infrastructural rebuilding in the former Biafra region. 

The movement for independence was subdued for several decades until its resurrection by the contemporary Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in 1999, led by an Indian-trained lawyer, Ralph Uwazuruike. The group agitates for peaceful secession of Biafra from Nigeria.

There have been attempts by the federal government to stifle their agenda by detaining activists and supporters alike without trial. Protests have erupted and resulted in the deaths of many, with others critically injured. Since 2015, secessionists protests have met a brutal response by the Nigerian security forces; more than 150 people were killed at pro-Biafra rallies between August 2015 and August 2016 according to Amnesty international. 

South-eastern Nigeria is mainly inhabited by the ethnic Igbo people, who often complain of marginalization, accusing successive governments of failing to develop their areas. In the last few years, there has been a resurgence of support for a breakaway state of Biafra led by another secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), founded in 2012 by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, a pro-Biafra independent activist based in the UK. Its mission is to rekindle the spirit of Igbo independence and patriotism. 

My grandfather survived the war and returned to our local village amid widespread jubilation. He was a war survivor and veteran alongside his fellow Igbo brethren with whom had served. One of my maternal uncles had to be flown to Gabon by Caritas international relief-flight evacuation team, which at the time was actively involved in the Biafran humanitarian aid. Every Igbo family has a story of devastation and sacrifice to tell from the Biafra war.

At the end of the conflict, my entire family reunited with the exception of those we had lost in the fighting. To this day, we remain grateful for their devotion and sacrifice. We love and cherish these individuals, who fought barefoot and barely clothed. They slept on dirt roads and in thick forests. There was no shelter. There was nowhere to hide. They marched off to the war fronts courageously and fearlessly. They made a choice to put their lives on the line to serve and defend our land. They deserve to be remembered and to be celebrated.

It is for the sake of future of the Igbos, for our children and grand-children, that I feel it is important to tell Biafra’s little-known story. It is our story. It is my story. 

The Biafra war, represents more than a fight for freedom. It was a fulfillment of prophecy, a connecting link between the Igbos and their Jewish brethren, who share the same struggles for survival, security, and sovereignty. 

I call on our Jewish brothers to seek out their brethren in West Africa, extending a handshake of love to strengthen our unity, as what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

Let us remember that as one people, we have a legacy of the World’s greatest prophets, philosophers, and intellectuals. We must join hands and stand up against those who perpetuate bigotry, hatred, and violence against our brothers and sisters because of their race and religion. We can come together to support each other, knowing that our cause is strong, in order to create a bright future for us all.





King Joe Izimah is a writer, activist, speaker and entrepreneur. As an Igbo, he considers himself an Israelite. And had repeatedly called for the reunification of both houses of Israel. He has written articles on the need for a return to the Igbo culture and religion (Omenana). As an adherent of Omenana culture and Judaism, he has continuously advocated for the resurrection of authentic Omenana amongst the Igbo, who left the religion for Christianity at dawn of colonial British rule.

A Revolution in the Human Soul – Part I

(Excerpted from: What Do White Americans Owe Black People: Racial Justice in the Age of Post-Oppression by Jason D. Hill (Emancipation Books/Post Hill Press, October 2021)


When the Founding Fathers turned on the light of reason over 244 years ago and wrote the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, they achieved a remarkable feat. It was not just, as hundreds have remarked, the creation of an unprecedented political achievement that was the constitutional republic of the United States of America. This republic, replete with its Bill of Rights and subsequent constitutional amendments, was a major civilizational advancement over any other political phenomena that had ever existed. But the major achievement of the Founding Fathers was not political; that was a derivative achievement. 

Until the founding of the United States of America, the history of humankind had been replete (and continues to be) with tragic experimentations in what I shall term political epistemologies, or the attempts to find the right political system consonant with man’s nature as a conceptual and rational being.

They, the first and last of America’s great intellectuals, had done what no other philosopher had done in the history of mankind. They achieved a revolution in epistemology by discovering the proper application of human nature to its appropriate political configuration. For the first time, the requirements of man’s survival qua man, that is, man’s nature as a rational and conceptual being, were grafted onto a social and political environment that supported its rational upkeep. 

The political milieu that they created was a direct corollary of that nature. In other words, they were the first to understand that the teleological endpoint of all human striving—freedom and happiness—required a specific political milieu in which human preservation and the achievement of rational happiness were possible. They were the first to integrate man’s nature with the perfect political environment. America was and remains a metaphysical concomitant of human nature, simpliciter; it is a metaphysical expression in the form of a political republic derived from an unprecedented epistemological feat—the perfect integration of a discovery of man’s nature and the artificial creation of a political system that corresponds to that nature. Until the founding of the United States of America, the history of humankind had been replete (and continues to be) with tragic experimentations in what I shall term political epistemologies, or the attempts to find the right political system consonant with man’s nature as a conceptual and rational being. 

The results fell short of the type of life suitable for a rational being, a life that transcends mere preservation and survival to include the possibility of one that embraces flourishing and thriving. Nomadic wanderers, primal tribalists that made no distinction between animal and human life, despotic theocracies, secular dictatorships, rulership by divine order, majority-ruling democracies, and rule by medieval warlords had all failed to realize that negative liberty and absolute freedom to create a conception of the good for oneself were the fundamental requirements of human nature, morally and existentially. In the bad cases of human history, politics had always preceded and superseded morality—by default or in deliberate ignorance of the proper requirements of human nature, human beings had devised political systems that did not correspond to the objective and rational requirements of conceptual and rational beings, who had to live by reason and the judgments of their minds. 

Without the proper morality, political systems are doomed to fail. But without the proper epistemology, or proper ethical and moral system, values and virtues remain obscured from the realm of human cognition.

The men who devised such systems, from the most primitively tribal ones dominated by hordes to the most exalted of their time such as those formulated under the Roman Republic and Empire, had never sought to question the moral foundations, precepts, and principles that legitimized such systems and made them valid. They never sought to discover that what made a political system valid was the degree to which it corresponded to the requirements of the individual as an individual. A system that secured the rights that protected the conditions indispensable for human self-preservation, flourishing, and the achievement of the end of all human striving had never been properly founded. A political system defended and devised via moral means that secured the achievement of a rational form of happiness that was not based on arbitrary whims, emotions, or desires that could short-circuit the well-being of the individual in the long-term had never existed before the conscious founding of America. America itself was conducive to a form of political happiness that secured the individual’s long-term security, well-being, and flourishing. 

This enterprise belonged first not to politics but to the science of ethics—a science that could discover, with a high degree of accuracy, the virtues and method of cognition suitable to the life of a human being. The translation of this discovery into an organic and material social application is what we may describe as a political system. Without the proper morality, political systems are doomed to fail. But without the proper epistemology, or proper ethical and moral system, values and virtues remain obscured from the realm of human cognition. When Thomas Jefferson declared: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” he achieved a revolution in epistemology. His perception of self-evident moral axioms did not stop at the above proclamations. He extended his list to include the purpose for which “Governments are instituted among Men,” the insight that governments derived their “just powers from the consent of the governed,” and “the Right of the People to alter or abolish” an unjust government.

 Yes, Jefferson did view all these truths as epistemologically self-evident. He did not intend them to be accepted with argument or further demonstration. This was a mighty feat of epistemological abstraction. To have derived from the Right of Nature which posits man’s self-preservation as both a biological descriptor and a normative duty to protect such a life, Jefferson and the Founders perceived the corresponding social and political existential corollaries. We should not, as some have suggested, regard self-evident truths in a practical sense. To perceive something as self-evident is an epistemological function; it means to grasp an irreducible primary as a single unit and, with lightning and brilliant speed, to see the corresponding social requirements for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (equal counterparts) almost automatically. All the self-evident truths were moral axioms deduced from human moral nature. It is the correct grasp of human nature that led to the infallible, sociopolitical, existential corollaries in one’s cognitive, epistemological feat. Any practical application of the self-evident truth is logically posterior to such truths. An application of a precept of reason presupposes the first discovery of the principle via an epistemological route. Thus, we see that the birth of the United States was one formed in the matrices of a practical philosophic system. It was the first nation forged by consciously held philosophical principles in whose application no breach between theory and practice was entertained. It would be too conceptually broad to state that the United States was created as the first philosophical state. That declaration would not be untrue. It would not, however, capture something fundamental about the new republic. It was the first consciously created ideological state. Other civilizations, such as the Greek and Roman, were guided by explicit de facto principles, as have been the cases with communist, socialist, and fascist governments. America and its civilization were literally formed by the conscious discovery and application of an explicit political philosophy. 

America’s political philosophy—its ideology—is a constitutive feature of the civilizational identity of the republic. Without them, America would exist as a geographic entity demarcated by state lines. It would cease to be America, simpliciter. Its de jure founding principles form the core of its political and public culture. It is the foundation which undergirds citizenship and civic identity. But the realm of philosophic abstraction and of social and political reality are expressly integrated by the revolutionary nature of government devised by the Founders. Without the latter, there would have been no way to have tied philosophical principles into concrete reality or into actions guided explicitly and consciously by ideas. Thus, Americans became the first people in history to—consciously or unconsciously—live by holding an explicit philosophy of life. A robust political philosophy that constitutes a nation’s political ideology plays a subtle role of cultivating what we will call civic virtues that cultivate habits of thinking and, thusly, a particular kind of behavior in the public sphere. Such virtues, if only thinly informed by the political principles, still pay explicit attention to the sociopolitical characters of its citizens, what we may call the public face of Americans. That public face was legitimized to the extent that it was grounded in rational principles. 

The Founding Fathers could not have established the proper political system suitable to human preservation and long-term survival without discovering and understanding its moral foundations that granted it its legitimacy.

This is not to say all Americans were rational or moral, but those who chose not to live by the dictates of reason—that is, outside the realm of an objective reality—were (and still are) regarded by the very design of the American system as cognitive and social ballasts. They would be free to avoid reality but not free to evade the consequences of avoiding reality. We may say that the Founding Fathers were fundamentally driven by a moral vocation, not a political one. That they produced a scientifically valid political document was a metaphysical concomitant of their antecedently held moral principles. Their moral sensibilities translated into the concrete realm of action resulted in a political system that, in and of itself, is a moral system. 

The Founding Fathers could not have established the proper political system suitable to human preservation and long-term survival without discovering and understanding its moral foundations that granted it its legitimacy. And since ethics is a derivative of metaphysics and epistemology, they would have arrived at the correct metaphysical and epistemological procedures before being able to conclusively and immutably understand the political requirements and attendant system for the indefinite upkeep of man’s moral nature. Hence, they were comprehensive revolutionaries in the major branches of philosophy—ethics, politics, metaphysics, and epistemology. What type of ethos and mindset equipped them to arrive at the correct moral, political, epistemological, and metaphysical systems that would result in a Constitution that so aptly matched the nature of man? A New Sense of Life Shapes an American Way of Thinking The answer lies in what we may term their sense of life. 

A New Sense of Life Shapes an American Way of Thinking 

The answer lies in what we may term their sense of life. Philosopher Ayn Rand, who defined the term philosophically, described it as a preconceptual equivalent of metaphysics. It is an emotional and subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence. It establishes the nature of a person’s emotional responses and the essence of his or her character. Before individuals are old enough to grasp a concept like metaphysics, they make choices from value-judgments. They have emotional experiences and acquire a certain implicit view of life. An individual’s choices imply some estimate of herself and the world around her including her ability to deal with the world she encounters. To the extent that an individual is mentally active, which means she possesses the desire to know and understand, her mind works as a programmer of her emotional life. As a result, according to Rand, her sense of life develops into a positive counterpart of a rational philosophy. 

The main concept in the formation of a sense of life is the idea “important.” Since the term belongs to the realm of values, one can surmise that that which is important establishes the base of ethics. There can be no such thing as unimportant values or values that are bad since, by definition, they are life enhancing phenomena. One can no more hold a bad value as one can properly hold something that is falsely important. People may be mistaken in their beliefs about what constitutes a valid value in their lives, as someone who claims that injecting heroin is valuable to him and the opiate a value in his life. Here, we would claim that the person has a definitional problem—he has misapplied usage of the term to describe a thing in life that he believes is important. A drug addict may claim heroin as a value in his life; however, for “important” to have a proper application to the life of a rational person, it would have to constitute a real good. The integrated sum of a person’s concept of what he thinks (rightly or wrongly) as important and valuable is his sense of life. For Rand, it represents a person’s early value-integrations, which remain in a fluid, plastic, easily amendable state, while she discovers knowledge to arrive at a consciously directed process of cognitive integration. This means she arrives at and lives by a conscious philosophy of life. 

 The Founders started with a civic love for humanity and man that they translated via a political system that secured the individual rights of each person.

We may say that living by a conscious philosophy of life is the most mature expression of a sense of life. It is the explicit validation of one’s values translated into a comprehensive and well-integrated form of philosophical stylized living. It involves translating into fully conceptual terms the emotional approximations and appraisals by which a person has lived. It means going from living and experiencing the world from a wordless, feeling-bound form of existence into being led by a rational and conceptually valid road map that will direct the course of one’s life. What, then, was the sense of life of the Founding Fathers that may be established against the preceding definition? What emotional projection did they enact upon the universe, and how did the ethos they each commonly held translate into a rational philosophy of life? I believe that the Founders held a passionate love for man and this earth. The most blatant expression of their love of man was to be found in the recognition and defense of him as a rational and autonomous, sovereign individual and all that was entailed in the recognition and affirmation of this truth—that he was deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of his own individual conception of happiness. Their love of man took the form of a deep respect for him, such that he should choose his own conception of the good life for himself with the explicit understanding that it was impermissible for the state to regulate, coerce, or encourage one conception of the good life over another; each man, based on a rational observation and analysis of his station in life and his values, was to be left alone to determine what was good for him and his life. It was no more the business of the state to tell a man whom to marry or whether to marry, whom to worship or whether to worship at all, than it was his neighbors’ business to do so. 

The discretionary power to choose from a broad array of values was his and his alone. The Founders started with a civic love for humanity and man that they translated via a political system that secured the individual rights of each person. The rights, which secured moral axioms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, were as unassailable as the moral axioms themselves. Their exalted sense of life finds its proof not only in the respect for man’s sovereignty and his rightful place on earth as an autonomous agent who had a moral property in his body, labor, and mind but also in their belief that metaphysically speaking, this was to be man’s heaven on earth. Their proclamation of man’s inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness was a reversal of traditional Christian rejection of this earth and this world and the idea of suffering as man’s proper existential fate. Happiness was man’s natural end, and this earth—not heaven or some ineffable notion of an afterlife—was the place where he could successfully achieve it. The theological implications of this philosophic system were vast. Despite the theistic commitments of many of the Founders in creating a secular nation in which the state could establish no formal religion, they were the first political eugenicists in recorded political history. The American man or woman was to be the prototype for a new type of human being—one who needed no redemption, no religious atonement and/or salvation. 

Reversing the mythology of Edenic man, America was its own Edenic paradise where the new and first people could achieve happiness and fulfill their purpose and meaning right here on earth. The Founders of a consciously created secular nation where the primacy of the individual supersedes that of faith, church, and even God are not those who—protestations to the contrary—believed in the concept of man as born with the stain of original sin. Their actions in the creation of America spoke louder than any of those among them who were Deists. Unlike their historical predecessors who had terrorized man, sought to rule, and coerce him, and subordinate him to the wishes and whims and fiats of society, the Founding Fathers saw men as their metaphysical equals, with each possessing no greater share of humanity than any other and with an equal apportionment of moral value. Indeed, it was this recognition that would be the moral foundation for the emancipation of slaves and abolition of chattel slavery, which they did not create but inherited from the old world.

Excerpt to be continued in Part II.






BioJason D. Hill is a professor of philosophy and Honors Distinguished Faculty at DePaul University in Chicago. He is the author of five books, including We Have Overcome: An Immigrant’s Letter to the American People (Bombardier Books, 2018). His latest book is: WHAT DO WHITE AMERICANS OWE BLACK PEOPLE: Racial Justice in the Age of Post-Oppression. (EMANCIPATION BOOKS/Post Hill Press) He specializes in ethics, politics, foreign policy, and moral psychology.

JFK: Why He Matters Still

This week is the 58th commemoration of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Robert F. Kennedy quoted these lines in tribute to his brother, “When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.” 

​This week, we remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Think of it. He could very well have still been with us. Think of the difference in this world if he had lived the vigorous and robust life he could have had. Over a half-century after his assassination on that terrible day in Dallas, his hold on our imagination does not wane. It is important to reflect on the reasons why.

We live in a petty era colored by false pieties, moral relativism, and obsequious pandering to the lowest common denominator. JFK matters to us still because he made courage tenable. Courage to be just. Courage to be compassionate. Courage to be dreamers. And he challenged all our resolves to make it so.

The tragedy of his death, the lost hopes and possibilities, haunt us still. In many ways and at all times. The writer Mary McGrory, who then worked as a White House aide, said on the day of his murder that we shall never smile again. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, also working in the White House then, answered, “No, we may smile again, but we’ll never be young again.” For many, it was the day hope died. JFK was the first post-war leader who inspired hope, a quality that was understandably lost after the descent of civilized Europe into the barbaric bloodlust of genocide. Many historians call the postwar era the post-apocalyptic age. One would be hard put to argue. But hope, like courage, rests not on the shoulders of any one man but lives on from the testament of that man in the hearts of all. All we need is the resolve to remember, and to carry on.

[JFK’s words] challenged us to vigorous service and sacrifice in our daily lives. And most of all, they dared us to be brave.

It is in that remembrance that we answer the question of many scholars as to what JFK’s legacy really was. His Presidency too short to see the fulfillment of many of his boldest initiatives, how is it that he captures our imaginations still? Yes, he demonstrated that in foreign policy – whether during the Missile Crisis or the start of nuclear test bans – coexistence need not mean confrontation nor capitulation. Yes, in civil rights he not only sent federal troops for the dignity of one man, James Meredith, to exercise his right to education at the University of Mississippi but spoke words to the nation on equality that had not been heard since Lincoln. Yes, he put forth the foundations of what became medicare. Yet, the real answer rests in his words as much as his deeds. For those words, those ideas, not only made the progressive legislation of the sixties a reality but they still make us see possibilities in ourselves that we thought unimaginable.

They held out the vision of a generosity of spirit that could realize the ancient dream of the brotherhood of man. Whether on the survival and success of liberty, or the fight for civil rights for all regardless of color or creed, or the dreams of man’s capacity to conquer the stars. They challenged us to vigorous service and sacrifice in our daily lives. And most of all, they dared us to be brave. They lit the flame of courage within each of us that made us all understand that the indomitable spirit of freedom inevitably triumphs over the dark forces of tyranny. Perhaps, that is the greatest quality of leadership. To make people bolder, braver, better than they ever thought possible.

Perhaps at no time since he was cut down has the world been in need of such hope and such courage. It is for that reason that his words stay with us. At no time since the Second World War have the free been so full of fear, fear of being impotent to decide their own lives. At no time since that era has appeasement of terror and villainy been so endemic. Kennedy understood these dangers well. In his 1940 best-selling book “Why England Slept” he wrote “It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.” Today, history repeats itself. Today, so many countries rest, as Bruce Bawer has so eloquently phrased in “While Europe Slept”, in “new cloaks for the old tyrannies.”

The greatest tribute to John F. Kennedy is that his words and vision during his “one brief shining moment” remain relevant as calls of conscience for us today. And if we do not answer those calls, if we do not respond to conscience, then years from now people will ask how it came to be that the family of the free was so willingly complicit in its own self-abnegation.

JFK marshaled the nobler angels of our spirit. He put himself on the firing line of freedom. And through his words and deeds roused a stagnant world from its lethargic slumber. Let us remember. And, in his words, let us begin anew.

For today, we witness too many leaders demonstrating ignominious surrender to political correctness. We see too many voices of conscience hiding from threats or being intimidated in their expression. We see too marked a submission to those who would subvert individual liberty and subjugate liberal pluralism. We forget JFK’s clarion call in Berlin that, ““Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. I hear it said that West Berlin is militarily untenable, and so was Bastogne, and so, in fact, was Stalingrad. Any danger spot is tenable if men, brave men, will make it so.”

Sadly today, we seem to be surrounded with the message that if one wants to survive, one must sublimate one’s beliefs and one’s courage. That indeed there is nothing worth believing in and certainly nothing worth fighting for. In short, that our culture should not stand for something and be prepared to fall for anything. The British writer Melanie Phillips, has called it “a dialogue of the demented.” It is the mindset of the victimized and the demonized.There could be few more poignant days to remind us all that submission to this bodyguard of lies is not a strategy against existential threat, whether external or internal. Fear enslaves millions psychologically, just as the Berlin Wall in JFK’s time enslaved them physically. The legacy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy is the antidote to that fear. JFK marshaled the nobler angels of our spirit. He put himself on the firing line of freedom. And through his words and deeds roused a stagnant world from its lethargic slumber. Let us remember. And, in his words, let us begin anew.


This article was first published in The Suburban, Nov. 22, 2021

Felix Culpa

Departing from the Garden, Adam spoke
At length about the March of History,
Of dialectic, and the world that woke
Out of the fruit’s potentiality.

Cities in glory would leap up like fountains,
Whose tyrannies and wars were worth it all,
Rising in time above the passive mountains-
The heights that they would reach were worth the Fall.

Eve, listening, hid a yawn, and tried to smile.
His talk continued as their steps turned south.
The ground grew harder mile after mile,
And still the apple’s taste was in her mouth.



Hallmarks of Tyranny

Part 1 : Division

If “Never Again” means “Never Again,” it’s necessary to spot the signs that might indicate democracy is threatened. Totalitarian regimes arise with certain dynamics, and if we do not understand these signals, how do we protect hard won freedoms? And when trigger warnings appear that might be red flags for a direction of travel that is dangerous, we must take a closer look. How else to prevent repeating atrocities of the past?

Throughout the ages, a well-used technique of the tyrant has been that of divide and rule. Here, I am talking about social division that is deliberately sowed by those in power.

Image

An aspect of this division is to create a “superior” group which looks down on the other group as lesser beings who are deemed a threat to the them, the “unworthy”.

Tyrants can divide the population on the basis of many things, including class, gender, or race. As outliers and a minority, Jews have been targeted multiple times by governments looking for a scapegoat. The most well-known example today is the targeting of Jews by Hitler and the Third Reich and its catastrophic consequences.

This is not an examination of antisemitism. This is a look at tyranny and at the authoritarian measures regarding COVID-19 being employed by governments around the world. Are these measures about keeping the public safe or are they a signifier of tyranny?

The year 2021 has seen the implementation of government policies around the world that have created a division between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. From my own life science training and from the mouths of immunologists, as seen in the Covid Symposium, 2021 with Byram Bridle, Viral Immunologist, creating this division is false. It is accepted science that there are two ways to achieve immunity, with natural immunity following infection being one of the two methods. The science is inclusive, yet government policy is unnecessarily divisive. The latter says you only contribute to public health if you are vaccinated. Even if you have good immunity from infection (which is durable and robust as confirmed by countless studies), this is not recognized in the UK and the USA, for example, and only for six months in Europe.

In the UK, radio and TV presenters frequently lay into the Covid recovered telling them they must get vaccinated. This is not science based. It is unprecedented. You don’t vaccinate people already immune.

Good health policy, I was taught, unites the population, it does not demonize or coerce. However, we are now entrenched in a situation which is giving rise to the very opposite of good practice.

Some vaccinated members of the public are acting out the government messaging that only the vaccinated “count.” They are the righteous and superior, and the unvaccinated are inferior and unclean. Here is a Facebook comment addressed to someone, Covid recovered, explaining the research on natural acquired immunity:

Image

It is easy to find many Facebook posts saying the unvaccinated should be sent to camps.

Coming out of the pandemic, shouldn’t we be seeing a lessening of picking on the unvaccinated? However, in November, 2021, as hospitalizations and deaths fall in relation to case numbers, rather than dial down the othering of the unvaccinated, the rhetoric and measures against them has been ramping up.

Esther Rantzen on the Dan Wootton show on GBNEWS in November 2021, says the unvaccinated should be denied care from the NHS, including those who don’t take the booster.

In Austria, on November 15th, 2021, the unvaccinated have been forced to lock down. Police are carrying out random spot checks on individuals and have the power to issue €400 fines.

Image

Health care policy has always been to lock down the infectious, the symptomatic, the sick and to let healthy people get on with their lives.

Image

Germany is adopting the same policy, along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and maybe Italy to follow.

Image

This is despite the death rate being much lower now than during the pre-vaccine peak, according to Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute. 

The British media are polling the public to see if they want the policy here.

Image

This group is already so “othered” in the mainstream media it is seen as acceptable to ask about removing their civil liberties.

Let me repeat: deaths from Covid are way down compared to this time last year. In addition, the ONS say over 90% of people in England have antibodies against SarsCov 2. And it’s accepted, even by the British Prime Minister, that the vaccines don’t stop you from getting or passing on the virus.

There is no public health justification for discriminating against a section of society. And that is before discussing civil liberties. This is the stuff of propaganda that sets a group up as unworthy, to which wrongdoing is justified. This is scapegoating.

In the UK, since November 11th, we have already seen a mandate to sack 60,000 care workers for being unvaccinated. Most of whom will already have acquired natural immunity through working on the front line through the pandemic. As have the 100,000 NHS workers facing the same mandate in April 2022. There is no science or sense in this. Immunologists recommend those with naturally acquired immunity as the best protectors of the vulnerable.

Are these public health measures just governmental overreach that will recede or are we witnessing tyranny walk in under the cloak of public safety? I suggest there are enough red flags to be vigilant. Policies based on prejudice and not science are to be resisted vehemently, let alone policies that create a two-tier society.


The Liberal’s Guide to COVID-19 Madness

A virus was leaked, accidentally, from a Chinese lab, which unleashed a rapidly infectious pathogen originally found in bats. In humans, it set siege on the respiratory system. But, apparently, it took a surprising detour to the human brain and brought about, well, . . . collective insanity. No such similar dual-threat damage accompanied polio, smallpox, or the Spanish Flu.

It is impossible to deny, but a pandemic viral in nature left us largely out of our minds—confused, irrational, indignant, and searching wildly in despair. Nearly two years living with COVID-19 drove us mad. Those crown-headed microbes reigned over our capacity to breathe, and think.

Just mention COVID-19 and brain malfunction is suddenly revealed.

Call it: Wuhan Lunacy, which came into competition with a different agitation: Trump Derangement Syndrome. Often it infected the same people who then had the awful misfortune of being plagued by both mental impairments. I fear that they are too far gone to ever rejoin us again. 

The coronavirus and its lethal array of variants have so far killed 5 million worldwide (750,000 in the United States), since its first discovery in January 2020. But imagine tens of millions more who never contracted the disease, were never in need of antibodies to fight it off, took two doses of the vaccine—Pfizer, no less—and a booster shot, and are breathing normally. And yet not wholly free from infection. Just mention COVID-19 and brain malfunction is suddenly revealed.

So much overexposure to contradictory information didn’t help matters. There was little faith in medical experts and government officials. The disease seemed to be poorly understood. Scientific ambiguity was rampant. Everyone was repeatedly told to follow the science—to place their trust in science. But sometimes the science didn’t trust the science. How else to explain the zigzagging directions on the latest knowledge? Lab coats came to resemble monkey suits. Elected officials took different approaches in responding to the pandemic and addressing the general public. President Trump downplayed the virus. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, like a Spanish matador, snarled at COVID-19. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo received an Emmy for his daily performance as corona-town-crier. 

What should an otherwise healthy individual believe? Don’t wear a mask; absolutely wear a mask. Wash your hands like Lady Macbeth; never mind, the disease is only minimally transmitted by touching surfaces. Stay six-feet apart because aerosol particles have short shelf lives; actually, remain further back because viral loads hang in the air like LA smog. Only enter well-ventilated areas. Wait, air-filtration is useless against the Delta variant. Cancel Christmas. Treat COVID-19 like Passover’s 11th plague. Shelter at home. Keep your kid away from old people. Buy stock in Zoom.

Americans were especially predisposed to losing their minds.

We’re only now slowly emerging from that haze of contradiction. 

Americans were especially predisposed to losing their minds. And for good reason. With the possible exception of AIDS, no human sickness had ever before been this politicized and geographically divisive. A disease so prone to skepticism, COVID-19 managed to turn families and friends against one another; houses of worship and small businesses set against the government and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Red and Blue states were fighting a new Civil War, this time with petri dishes and mask defiance. 

Certain large gatherings required no mask mandates—like defunding-the-police protests. Some businesses, like gun and liquor stores, were deemed too essential to remain closed. In California, the Governor and its best-known Congresswomen were permitted to eat inside a restaurant and patronize a beauty salon, respectively. 

Some state boundaries were too infected to cross; the Rio Grande, however, on most days looked like it was hosting a maskless, contagious track meet. Vaccine mandates applied to public and private employees, unless they worked in Texas and Florida, in which case such bodily intrusions demanded by employers could result in steep fines. Vaccine passports were issued but not always required. The number of negative COVID-19 test results, or positive antibody tests, didn’t seem to convince many that one was free from contagion. 

One wonders why poke the bear and improve the “functioning” of a virus that was already killing bats unless the endgame was to make it even more dangerous to humans.

Oh, and there was some dispute whether Operation Warp Speed travelled in slow motion. 

Now there appears to be a debate about whether Dr. Anthony Fauci, Time Magazine’s Guardian of the Year for 2020, lied to Congress when he testified that the National Institute of Health did not provide funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology to conduct “gain-of-function research”—essentially, did the United States help finance experiments that altered the character of the coronavirus before this flu flew the Wuhan lab and took off for parts truly unknown? One wonders why poke the bear and improve the “functioning” of a virus that was already killing bats unless the endgame was to make it even more lethal to humans.

It’s just too much to process with all this finger pointing. It is safe to say, however, that if teams of Chinese scientists were spending time in remote bat caves over a number of years, and returned to Wuhan to tinker with an exotic virus, someone should have thought to flash the Bat-Signal as a distress call to summon help instead of covering it up. Two years of this corona-crusade, and the Chinese are looking more and more like the Joker every day.

Hopefully, we are approaching the end of this viral and mental nightmare. Liberals, ordinarily known as free-thinking, open-minded, procedural, unruffled amid competing claims, and deliberate in assessing risks and making decisions, didn’t fare much better. Passions still ran high. Snap judgments reflexively made. Moments of hysteria that now can’t be undone. 

Calm conversations seemingly eluded everyone. We may never come to know how the virus originated, what should and should not have been mandated, was school closures and at-home learning ultimately bad for kids, could more small businesses have been saved, and, of course, how much has binging on Netflix and Hulu rotted our minds?

Traces of all this COVID-19 madness may linger long after an actual cure is discovered. Regaining our sanity, however, is another matter, entirely.


Light after Darkness

Darkness swirls like a storm
Rapid and relentless, consuming

Passage of time blurred
By monotony stretched endlessly

It’s easy to lose one’s way
Like a boat with water far as the eye can see

Every day a survival
One after another

Not unlike a weary stranded traveler
Simply putting one foot before another

Exhausted yet holding on
Attempting not to fall

Unsure if one fell
If they could get back up again

In such a time
It’s easy to lose sight

Of what life is
Of what possibilities await

As important as ever
To find that light in the darkness

To follow it
Like your personal North Star

Knowing what else may come
What challenges might seem as obstacles

It is the constant you can follow
The light that will always guide you home

So that with each step
Rather than stumble in exhaustion

You will instead find firmer footing
Eyes bright with clarity

That what seemed interminable
Is as passing and fleeting as melting snow

So that when tomorrow’s sun rises
You may meet it with purpose and vigor

That your voice may for another
Bring light into the world chasing away darkness

A Christian Celebration of Hanukkah

Now I understand. Hanukkah is deeply important to my Christian faith.

Most of my years following Christ, I understood Hanukkah as a minor Jewish holiday that grew in cultural relevance as a response to western expressions of Christmas. I knew Hanukkah isn’t recorded in the Old Testament. So it has never been in my Bible readings like the Feast of Passover or the Feast of Purim.

I see now there are layers and layers of beauty and truth and spiritual realities between Hanukkah and my heart.

For me Hanukkah was something about menorahs and miraculously lit candles; I didn’t understand its significance. Last year, though, my mom told me Jesus celebrated Hanukkah and showed me in the New Testament where He did. 

Hanukkah is also called the Feast of Dedication. Here is the verse: “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the colonnade of Solomon.” (John 10: 22 ESV)

I pondered this. How important Hanukkah must be if the Messiah observed it. It was Christmas time when my mom showed me this verse. I was busy; but I felt desperate to understand the holiday. So I began researching.

I see now there are layers and layers of beauty and truth and spiritual realities between Hanukkah and my heart. In the New Testament, Paul teaches this: the human heart given to the Messiah becomes the temple of God, the dwelling place of the One John calls the True Light. 

Here is a brief account of Hanukkah. It’s not exhaustive. 

When Jesus observed Hanukkah it was in the same temple just a few generations earlier the events leading to Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, occurred. 

This is what happened. A gentile empire, the Seleucid, following Alexander the Great’s conquered lands, occupied Israel. At first the occupied Jewish people were allowed to keep their faith and worship in their temple. But as totalitarians tend to do, government policy changed. Freedom of worship was ripped away. Persecution came. The holy temple was desecrated. An idol, a statue of Zeus, was erected and the blood of unclean pigs was splashed in pagan ritual defiling the holy furnishings standing in the temple. 

Generations earlier God had instructed Moses how to have these furnishings constructed; how they should be dedicated and that they were to remain within the holy temple. These included the golden lamp stand–which the Hanukkah menorah now symbolizes.

But there were brave people of God, warriors, who fought to restore the holy place; the holy temple, and the holy items within the temple.

There are many marvelous details of the warfare to restore righteousness and birthright. Several years of fighting; of not giving up, happened. The Jewish warriors were led by Judah Maccabee. These fighters were small in number. They won. The Seleucids left Jerusalem where the desecrated temple stood. 

God’s people did all they could. And when they couldn’t create pure oil from nothing, God did what only He could.

Now the Maccabees began the work of rededicating the temple, of cleansing it, of restoring it.

God had commanded Moses the golden lamp stand must burn with pure olive oil, continually. 

During the dedication, the priests only had enough oil to last one day. But after the lamp stand was lit, the oil lasted for eight days–enough time for pure oil to be pressed from olives by God’s people as Moses had commanded–so the golden lamp stand could provide light in perpetuity. God’s people did all they could. And when they couldn’t create pure oil from nothing, God did what only He could. 

Last year as I learned and pondered, I had a flash of insight from the Spirit about Hanukkah and me, of we, who follow the Messiah. 

Hanukkah is about fighting for holiness. Hanukkah is about knowing God is holy and His Word is holy. Hanukkah is about working, and about fighting, if need be, about losing safety, if need be, about being misunderstood- whatever the cost- to not let His purity in me, in us, become tainted, defiled, with current culture. And this is true no matter how big and powerful and threatening the current culture is.

The Maccabees honored God with holy fierceness. That is what the Spirit was pressing me to understand. I am, you are, we are all living stones making the temple of God.

Peter tells us, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” 1st Peter 3:15 ESV

The golden lamp stand and all the other structures in the temple were representative of God–and for those who believe Messiah has come–of Christ the Lord. 

The Maccabees honored God with holy fierceness. That is what the Spirit was pressing me to understand. I am, you are, we are all living stones making the temple of God. I must do all I can, with holy fierceness of heart, in the spirit of the Maccabees, to honor Christ the Lord as holy. I must do this in my affections, in the way I treat others, in how I spend my time, in how often I give myself to prayer, in how generous I am to those who can’t return generosity, in what media I consume, in how I practice silence instead of verbal judgement of another. 

When the Spirit pressed me to understand the significance of Hanukkah, the only words I have to describe it are white hot fire. Not as in judgement–as in importance. 

And as I do what I can to honor Christ the Lord as holy, God will supply Himself, the Pure Oil, for what I cannot do.