Category Archives: personal views of Roger W. Smith

insensate ideologues

 

without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;

Romans 1:31

 

Jean hugs Guyger

judge hugs Guyger.jpg

 

This post concerns the following recent news stories about the conclusion of the trial of Amber Guyger:

“Amber Guyger was hugged by her victim’s brother and a judge, igniting a debate about forgiveness and race”

By Hannah Knowles

The Washington Post

October 3, 2019

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/10/03/judge-botham-jeans-brother-hugged-amber-guyger-igniting-debate-about-forgiveness-race/

 

Amber Guyger’s Judge Gave Her a Bible and a Hug. Did That Cross a Line?

After a high-profile murder trial, Judge Tammy Kemp ignited a debate about the limits of compassion.

By Sarah Mervosh and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

The New York Times

October 4, 2019

 

On September 6, 2018, off-duty Dallas Police Department patrol officer Amber Guyger entered the Dallas, Texas, apartment of Botham Jean and fatally shot him. Mr. Jean, a 26-year-old black man, was an accountant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Guyger, who is white, was initially only charged with manslaughter. She was later charged with murder.

On October 1, 2019, Guyger was found guilty of murder. On October 2, she was sentenced to ten years in prison.

 

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Absurd — the premise of the news stories; the “issues” they raise. Notwithstanding what the woman did. (I would call it a crime of negligence or stupidity, not premeditated murder. I would not take the position that she should not have been punished. I do not on the face of it feel that her sentence was unfair.)

She regrets it, expressed genuine remorse.

A hug was given (in the courtroom) by the BROTHER of the victim.

What we have here – in the case of critics of the victim’s brother’s and the judge’s demonstrations of compassion (note that the judge did sentence her to 10 years!) — are coldhearted ideologues.

Robespierre would have approved.

This is not a matter of policy or ideology.  It’s a matter of common HUMANITY.

People are not abstractions. They are not things. It’s not a case of, say, some evaluator grading or weighing something inanimate or deciding in which box or category that thing or abstraction belongs. Life is not a game or contest in which an arbitrator or referee decides who deserves to win or lose.

Compassion is never amiss.

Some stonyhearted persons cannot see or practice this. They have, in their makeup, zero sensitivity.

There are plenty of them. Plenty such people in the here and now.

 

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Someone with a head on their shoulders and a heart:

“Some judges seem to be able to turn off their emotions and not see the humanity, but I was never able to do that,” said Jan Breland, a retired judge who heard misdemeanor criminal cases in Austin for 26 years. “These people that come through our courts are human beings, regardless of the things they’ve done. They all have mamas, and they were all little boys and little girls at one time.”

— The New York Times

 

A stonehearted nitpicker with only a faint trace of “humannity” (on life support insofar as concerns blood flow to critical “emotive faculty” organs):

Amanda Frost, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, said the judge’s decision to hug Ms. Guyger was not too far removed from judges who tell defendants that they regret being forced by the law to hand down a certain sentence or who encourage them to reconsider their paths.

“Impartiality is what matters,” Professor Frost said. “If the judge shows it throughout the trial and then shows some compassion to the defendant afterward, I don’t have a problem with that.”

The Bible, on the other hand, was “questionable,” Professor Frost said. [It wasn’t, by any measure.]

— The New York Times

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2019

“expressing outrage” … admirable or to be frowned upon?

 

I received an email from a relative last week. It was, on the surface at least, well meaning, but it could also be construed as condescending.

Re your email expressing outrage with Trump and incarcerated kids, at least he caved (although harm already done can’t be undone).

Without crawling under a rock, I try to avoid at least some of this aggravation. …

No doubt your frequent visits to Carnegie Hall and related forays into classical music (not to mention long walks) are therapeutic. You, like me, might try to avoid or at least minimize all the stuff that aggravates.

 

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I replied to my relative as follows.

I am mostly apolitical and have tried over the past couple of years not to be consumed with hatred of Trump.

The news about the incarceration of immigrant kids has really gotten to me, however. I can’t bear to contemplate it.

Also, immigration has long been an issue I have cared about and blogged about.

I won’t change.

You are right that “harm already done can’t be undone.” I read that the administration has said nothing about the children who have already been separated from their parents and that no steps are underway to reunite them.

I feel that this is an egregious violation of human rights that will not be forgotten and can’t be remedied, it seems. I mean the whole anti-immigrant policy, the characterization and treatment of immigrants as vermin, and worst of all, the separation of parents and children.

 

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Some people profess hatred and scorn for Donald Trump and his supporters, the “deplorables.” They are in the liberal vanguard and can be counted upon to support left of center politicians. When those politicians support policies merely for political expediency — such as Hillary Clinton (one of their favorites, arch enemy of the “deplorables”) voting for the Iraq War — they look the other way. Doctrinaire liberalism and political orthodoxy trump independent thinking, which might, they fear, make them appear ideologically “incorrect” and cause them to lose friends or to be looked down upon by them.

These people want nothing to do with the “deplorables” and isolate themselves in mostly white, upper middle class neighborhoods where they won’t have to rub elbows with the proletariat (George Orwell’s proles).

 

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When an outrage is seen such as the Trump administration’s hard line policies towards immigrants — PEOPLE like you and I (and we are descended, like all Americans, from immigrants) — Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson (a conservative) calls it, with dead on accuracy, “state-sponsored cruelty” — my relatives and their liberal friends are strangely silent.

They hate Donald Trump and Trump apologists such as Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway. They march in parades where placards with a crude caricature of Trump reading “The only asshole is in the White House” are held aloft.

Trump to them represents the antithesis of their enlightened beliefs and values. They are eager to make the distinction manifest — that they are exemplars of values that distinguish the “best people” from ignorant and unrefined people.

But concern for actual people, especially sweaty aliens from the impoverished lower classes arriving in rafts and/or on foot at the Texas border, does not engage their sympathies or excite their imagination. And, while religion may be given lip service, an impassioned appeal to fundamental Christian tenets such as charity also does not move them; it may more often than not be an embarrassment to them and perhaps remind my auditors (heaven forbid) of the religious right.

Hence the advice to me from a relative to not get too worked up over the separation of immigrant children from their parents.

What such people care about is being on the “correct” side of political debates. They are essentially cold-blooded conformists to liberal ideology. Card carrying liberals who can be counted upon for support of ordained policies and positions.

They don’t care all that much about living, breathing, suffering people. The plight of lower class immigrants does not engage them emotionally. Of course, they do care about the welfare of their own families (and the maintenance of their own public institutions and communities), but that’s another matter. As long as they are safe in their suburban enclaves, they are not going to lose that much sleep over a few thousand “losers” and their children locked up in cages.

Caring deeply about man’s inhumanity to certain groups and persons can actually embarrass them. They would prefer that their relatives don’t call attention to themselves by expressing moral outrage, without checking with them first.

A historical parallel comes to mind. Many people felt at the time that abolitionists in their strident denunciations of slavery and insistence on immediate abolition were fanatics who should have restrained themselves. The parallel may not be exact in the present instance, but why am I being advised to “get a grip” on myself and exercise “restraint” when it comes to my distress and anger, indeed horror, over the consequences of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies? This from Trump haters. Haters, but I question the depth and sincerity of their compassion.

 

— Roger W. Smith

  June 2018

drugs

 

“We should treat with indulgence every human folly, failing, and vice, bearing in mind that what we have before us are simply our own failings, follies, and vices. For they are just the failings of mankind to which we also belong and accordingly we have all the same failings buried within ourselves. We should not be indignant with others for these vices simply because they do not appear in us at the moment.”

— Irvin D. Yalom, The Schopenhauer Cure

 

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I have hardly ever used drugs in my lifetime — with the exception of marijuana and hashish in earlier years, that is. I have no desire to. In fact, I am averse to drugs on principle. I don’t like putting foreign substances into my body, even aspirin. There are exceptions; I have complied occasionally when I was prescribed medications.

Nevertheless, I did — like, it seemed, practically every other youth and college student in the 1960’s — use marijuana off and on during that period of my life, specifically during my senior year in college (plus a few times right after graduating).

In other words, occasionally. I wasn’t a pothead. I believe there were a lot of people like me at the time who flirted with marijuana because everyone else was doing it.

I hope it’s okay to confess it. I inhaled. Presumably the statute of limitations will protect me from any consequences.

I remember that the first time I tried it, at the instigation of college roommates, it seemed like nothing was happening. “Don’t worry,” they said, “it’s always that way the first time.”

I remember some enjoyable experiences. Mostly, uncontrollable laughter. Sometimes in the presence of others who weren’t indulging and didn’t know what was going on. I almost never laughed so hard before or since.

Listening once to The Rolling Stones’ new song “She’s a Rainbow,” being mesmerized, and thinking it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. (It’s not that good.)

Later, I some bad experiences with marijuana and, occasionally, hashish. Just the opposite. Lows instead of highs. Feeling bummed out instead of giddy. On such occasions, I felt profoundly alienated and isolated. Instead of giddiness, an unbearable sadness.

I never was involved in making a purchase. I had no idea where or how my friends made purchases, or how much they cost. It seems they got marijuana and hashish of widely varying quality. Some of it seemed to be laced with something, and very powerful. I saw the Beatles film Yellow Submarine while high. It seemed like I was hallucinating and the colors were flashing on the screen.

I never used marijuana after graduating from college except a couple of times, and that was in the period right after graduation, when I was still living near the campus and associating with some of my college friends — I have not used marijuana for over 45 years. For some reason, in those last few experiences, which were in the late 1960’s, I had extremely depressing “highs” — actually, lows. This led me to believe that one’s experience of being high depends a lot on one’s mood going into it. I was depressed in general at the time.

Another thing I found, from experience, was: don’t mix grass with alcohol. I had at least one experience I recall of getting drunk and high at the same time. It was horrible.

I never did any other drugs: no psychedelics. In hindsight, I am very glad that this was the case. For me, it was a good thing.

 

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My college friends progressed, in short order, to doing psychedelic drugs: LSD and mescaline. They wanted to try and experience everything.

I became aware of this during the summer of 1967 when a group of my closest college friends made a cross country trip, unbeknownst to me. I received a postcard from one of them from the West Coast, which was the first I had heard about the trip. I had always had a desire to do a cross country trip by car and probably would have gone with them, had I been asked. But one of them later told me that they had deliberately declined to invite me. The reason was that they thought I was a square when it came to drugs and that it wouldn’t have been fun to have me along because of this. They wanted to take a trip in the conventional sense of the word and also to be able to trip on psychedelic drugs.

I never shared their enthusiasm for drugs, although I did not then and never have tended to be the censorious type.

My friends were speaking with something bordering on rapture about the great trips they were having. But, something held me back, an instinctive caution. I didn’t like the idea of putting chemicals into my bloodstream, and I was afraid of bad trips. It was an intuitive, instinctive thing, a foreboding. I am certain that I would have had very bad experiences had I used psychedelic drugs.

I worked as a psychiatric aide for a couple of years shortly after graduating from college and observed patients whose use of hallucinogens had triggered psychotic episodes. All of them were young. (This was some time after I myself had used or even considered using any kind of drugs, so the fact that I observed this was not relevant to my own behavior. The caution and wariness I had about drug use predated my hospital experience.)

 

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Because I myself have practically never used drugs or craved them, I am not outraged or offended by drug users. Drug use seems to me to be a waste of time, energy, and resources, a depressing aspect of life for many. But, I am not horrified at the thought of drug abuse. I feel it is unfortunate, but, in my mind, it does not seem to be criminal.

Does this mean that I am a softhearted type? Perhaps. An ostrich with its head in the sand? I don’t think so.

Off and on throughout my life, I have experienced alcoholism second hand by observing it among relatives and friends. I have never had a severe drinking problem, so — somewhat as is the case with drugs — alcoholism never alarmed me. But, it did hit a bit closer to home, and so I was consternated when I observed close friends of mine dealing with a drinking problem. A couple of my friends announced out of the blue to me that they had joined AA. I was a bit alarmed, thinking to myself, initially, I didn’t realize the problem had gotten so bad. But, that was it. I never regarded alcoholism as criminal or whatever pejorative term one might care to use. Merely as a problem for some people. A problem that can have serious consequences for them and their families. But, not one that one should be penalized, ostracized, or shunned for.

Which brings me back to drug addiction. I feel that it is unfortunate, but I do not regard it as criminal. Obviously, treatment would be desirable in most cases. But, why are drug users subjected to draconian sentences? Why are they treated as monsters, as scourges of society?

The penalties are far too harsh. Lock ‘em up? For twenty or thirty years or more? How about saying, we require you to complete a mandatory drug treatment program.

Vague, all-encompassing charges (so designed, I would imagine, so that they can “fit” all kinds of offenses, like a one size fits all sock) — such as possession with the intent to distribute — for nonviolent drug offenses result in unbelievably harsh sentences. Such persons get treated like monsters — it seems at least sometimes worse than murderers. They are rent from loved ones and families and incarcerated for 20, 30, 40, or 50 years. For what? For harm done mostly to themselves.

If such people are to be treated as scourges of society and as menaces to the public good and wellbeing or safety, why aren’t such harsh penalties inflicted on offenders with other addictions: gambling, say, or drinking? The criminal “justice” system is inherently unjust — is not rational, reasonable, or fair. (Writers such as Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens figured this out a long time ago.)

 

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What is it that makes some types of substance abuse and victimless crimes so repugnant, so abominable, so shocking, so horrifying to most people, I wonder. (And, why is alcohol abuse penalized so harshly in Muslim countries while winked at, judicially speaking, here, whereas the situation is somewhat the reverse when it comes to drug abuse?)

It seems that a kind of psychodynamic is going on whereby the authorities, serving, as they see it, as the incarnation of public sentiment, as the standard bearers of virtue, denounce and prosecute activities that perhaps they themselves have been tempted to engage in, a repressed desire. So, that by wiping out the “scourge” — by trying to eradicate it through draconian penalties (which do not stop people from engaging in such behavior) — they are removing vermin from the face of the earth, and at the time removing temptation from the front view mirror.

I used to wonder, when A. M. Rosenthal was a columnist for The New York Times, what it was that made him so hysterical when writing about the topic of drugs. Or about the time when New York Post columnist Pete Hamill wrote an op-ed piece asserting that we should carpet bomb Turkish poppy fields.

People become enraged over miscreant behavior that doesn’t actually do harm, such as the case of nonviolent drug offenders. They become zealots in the manner of a Robespierre.

Take the example of former New York State governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after it was publicly disclosed that he had been patronizing escorts. As state attorney general, Spitzer was known for going after prostitution rings. A few journalists noticed this and commented on Spritzer’s hypocrisy after his immoral behavior, for which he could have been prosecuted, came to light.

There have been countless examples over the years of public servants and civic officials who were caught engaging in the same type of activities that they had publicly denounced as immoral and criminal.

 

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If I may, I would like to conclude with a couple of additional comments based upon my own experience.

I do not myself find addictive behavior to be — a priori — pleasant to witness.

In 1970, I saw the film Trash, which got a lot of notoriety and which, it seemed, appealed to my generation. There was a scene where the actor Joe Dallesandro injects heroin into his veins. I almost fainted. Which I guess is my way of saying that the nuts and bolts of drug abuse are not something I like to contemplate.

At a later time, I saw a documentary film made in Amsterdam the title of which I do not recall. It seemed that the filmmakers intended to be objective, and to portray graphically what it was like to live in a country with lax laws regulating vice. I kind of expected to see that Amsterdam was a liberated, fun place. But, in the film, that did not seem to be the case. Indeed, it seemed depressing. There were interviews with prostitutes, all of them middle aged, who were matter of fact about their business. There was a scene of a sexual encounter between a stripper and a customer in a strip club that was dispiriting to observe. And, there were a lot of scenes shot in cafes where aging hippies with headbands were smoking pot. Everything seemed seedy and depressing.

Bottom line. I am not saying, am not advocating: let’s all have a good time and indulge in whatever activities or immoral behavior we feel like. It’s a personal matter, and also one that often has an impact on the quality of life, both on the personal and on the social, public levels, But, when people — out of curiosity, boredom, frustration, or despair; or perhaps because they harbor antisocial tendencies — do engage in behavior that is not pretty but does not directly harm others, I believe that the first thing we should try to do is to understand them and help them to perhaps see that there are alternatives.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2017; updated June 2018

 

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Addendum:

According to an article in The New York Times:

“Attorney General Orders Tougher Sentences, Rolling Back Obama Policy”

The New York Times

May 12, 2017

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, he announced Friday, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations. ….

Mr. Sessions’s memo replaced the orders of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who in 2013 took aim at drug sentencing rules. He encouraged prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of a case and to exercise discretion in charging drug crimes. In cases of nonviolent defendants with insignificant criminal histories and no connections to criminal organizations, Mr. Holder instructed prosecutors to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents so as not to trigger automatically harsh penalties.

This is truly sad.

Dispiriting, depressing.

It is also sad to consider that this story and the attorney general’s cruel (sometimes the plainest word is the right one) directive will probably not get much attention, given that media attention and criticisms of the Trump administration are focused — to the exclusion of practically everything else, it would seem, at times — on President Trump’s firing of FBI director James B. Comey, which has just occurred and has dominated the news all week.

Slightly less than half, 50 percent, of the total of over 200,000 persons incarcerated in federal prisons have been convicted of drug offenses. Of course, the preponderance of them are minorities.

Of the total incarcerated in state prisons, almost a million and a half individuals — about one out of every six — had a drug crime as their most serious offense.

How many of these “criminals” do you think are violent offenders. Want to make a guess?

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 13, 2017


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See also:

“Unity Was Emerging on Sentencing. Then Came Jeff Sessions”

The New York Times

May 14, 2017

Note that the article states that “Mr. Sessions, … as a senator from Alabama supported legislation that would have made a second marijuana trafficking conviction a capital crime.”

Unbelievable.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 14, 2017

 

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See also:

She Went to Jail for a Drug Relapse. Tough Love or Too Harsh?

By Jan Hoffman

The New York Times

June 4, 2018

This article provides a textbook example of the absurdity and cruelty or our policy towards drug offenders.

Besides finding confirmation of my views, I was struck by a couple of paragraphs near the end of the story:

… recent studies show that replication efforts failed. They reduced neither rates of drug use nor crime.

Probation, writes Fiona Doherty, a clinical professor at Yale Law School, is “a hidden body of law” that needs scrutiny because judges and probation officers have wide latitude to define a defendant’s “good behavior.”

The [Julie] Eldred case [the focus of the Times article], which challenges that power, is, ironically, a continuation of the origins story for probation. In 1841, John Augustus, a teetotaling Boston bootmaker, described as the father of modern probation, posted bond for “a common drunkard.” By his death, he had supervised nearly 2,000 people, many arrested for intoxication, their records expunged in exchange for avowed sobriety.

Note how alcoholism was treated back then.

 

— Roger W. Smith

    June 5, 2018

the particular matters; quotes from famous authors

 

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

— William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

— William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

 

“To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit — General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess.”

— William Blake, Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Discourses

 

“AND many conversèd on these things as they labour’d at the furrow, Saying: ‘It is better to prevent misery than to release from misery; It is better to prevent error than to forgive the criminal. Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the Little Ones; And those who are in misery cannot remain so long, If we do but our duty: labour well the teeming Earth.… He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars, And not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power: The Infinite alone resides in Definite and Determinate Identity. Establishment of Truth depends on destruction of Falsehood continually, On Circumcision, not on Virginity, O Reasoners of Albion!”

— William Blake, “Jerusalem”

 

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”Dear Hugo, you must write to me often as you can, & not delay it, your letters are very dear to me. Did you see my newspaper letter in N Y Times of Sunday Oct 4? About my dear comrade Bloom, is he still out in Pleasant Valley? Does he meet you often? Do you & the fellows meet at Gray’s or any where? O Hugo, I wish I could hear with you the current opera – I saw Devereux in the N Y papers of Monday announced for that night, & I knew in all probability you would be there – tell me how it goes – only don’t run away with that theme & occupy too much of your letter with it – but tell me mainly about all my dear friends, & every little personal item, & what you all do, & say &c.”

— Walt Whitman, letter to Hugo Fritsch, dated Washington, DC, October 8, 1863; from Selected Letters of Walt Whitman

 

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“[I]n these lives of ours, tender little acts do more to bind hearts together than great deeds or heroic words. …”

— Louisa May Alcott, Work: A Story of Experience

 

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“… I particularly liked your manner of explanation when you lowered your voice and spoke quietly of the elements that interest us both, the humane particulars of realization and communication.”

— William Carlos Williams, letter to Kenneth Burke, November 10, 1945

 

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“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnified world in itself.”

— Henry Miller, Plexus (New York: Grove Press, 1965, pg. 53)

 

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“In the ordinary is the extraordinary. In the particular is the universal.”

— Frank Delaney (1942–2017), Irish novelist, journalist and broadcaster; blog post re James Joyce’s Ulysses

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   December 2015; updated June 2018

thoughts on the uprising in Gaza

 

re:

“Palestinians have no choice but to continue the struggle”

By Noura Erakat

Op-Ed

The Washington Post

May 16, 2018

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2018/05/16/palestinians-have-no-choice-but-to-continue-the-struggle/?utm_term=.1fa9b9694dc7

 

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The following are excerpts from Ms. Erakat’s Op-Ed:

Palestinians have been organizing demonstrations, boycotts, strikes and demonstrations, boycotts, strikes and outright revolts from hostile foreign rule since 1917, when colonial Britain designated Palestine for Jewish settlement. With the stroke of a pen, the great power declared that indigenous Palestinians, 90 percent of Palestine’s population, would not exist as a political community for the sake of establishing a Jewish national home.

Had Jews merely wanted to live in Palestine, this would not have been a problem. In fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians had coexisted for centuries throughout the Middle East. But Zionists sought sovereignty over a land where other people lived. Their ambitions required not only the dispossession and removal of Palestinians in 1948 but also their forced exile, juridical erasure and denial that they ever existed. So, during Israel’s establishment, some 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes to make way for a Jewish majority state. More than 400 Palestinian cities and towns were destroyed or taken over by Jewish Israelis. Forests were planted to cover the ruins and other evidence of the Palestinian presence on the land.

This “nakba,” or catastrophe as Palestinians refer to it, did not end in 1948. Israel has justified its existence on an unequivocal Jewish demographic majority in a place where Muslims and Christians combined had constituted an overwhelming majority. By its own definition, Israel has set up a mutually exclusive equation: Israel exists if Palestinians do not; Palestinians exist if Israel does not.

Rather than challenge this zero-sum equation of human existence, the United States has provided Israel with diplomatic cover and bottomless military aid. Israel continues to systematically dispossess Palestinians. It continues to steal Palestinian land for illegal settlements while destroying Palestinian homes and evicting families. Israel also continues to deny Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homeland just because they are not Jewish.

This is why Palestinians have been resisting for more than seven decades: They are fighting to remain on their lands with dignity. They have valiantly resisted their colonial erasure. They have succeeded in inscribing their peoplehood in international law and the global consciousness. Despite Israel’s best efforts, they have remained on the land and are not going anywhere. …

Palestinians have endured tremendous suffering and hardship, but there is no choice but to continue in struggle. Israel and the Trump administration are trying to make permanent the exclusivist regime that they have imposed upon Palestinians — one based on racial and religious supremacy: apartheid. But Palestinians, even in this devastating moment, are paving paths of resistance to new and possible futures where freedom is not a mutually exclusive privilege but a natural human condition that can be enjoyed and embodied by all.

 

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Comments by Roger W. Smith (submitted to The Washington Post):

“This is a brilliant op-ed piece that makes its points clearly and forcefully. It presents the issues with stark clarity and is educational for someone like myself, an American who is not Jewish and has not experienced the issues and controversies at close hand. The Israeli polity really is an apartheid system, with the Palestinians second class citizens. The sad thing to me is that I believe a true democracy, notwithstanding that Jews would not be the majority, demographically, would mean Israel would become a better place to live in (not only a more just society) for all.”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   May 16, 2018

 

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See also my post:

“a better, stronger country?”

a better, stronger country?

a modest Mother’s Day proposal

 

 

To make sure that no one feels left out.

And to build upon what Anna Jarvis started (a bogus holiday with no foundation in our cultural or religious traditions whatsoever).

What about a

Men’s Day?

Women’s Day?

Sons’ Day?

Daughters’ Day?

Children’s Day?

Toddlers’ Day?

Spouses’ Day?

Newlyweds’ Day?

Significant Others’ Day?

Best Friends’ Day?

Coworkers’ Day?

Grandparents’ Day?

Great-Grandparents’ Day?

Grandchildren’s Day?

Uncles’ Day?

Aunts’ Day?

Nephews’ and Nieces’ Day?

Cousins’ Day?

Senior Citizens’ Day?

Departed Loved Ones’ Day?

Ancestors’ Day?

Think of the commercial possibilities!

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 13, 2018

waiting for …

 

“New Yorkers are accustomed to waiting. They wait, usually with Job-like patience, for a long-overdue train to pull into the station. …”

— editorial, New York Times, February 28, 2018

 

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This is typical pomposity and snootiness on the part of the New York Times Editorial Board. “Job-like patience”? A ridiculous allusion meant to impress and which shows a tin ear as well as a lofty disdain for the grubby actualities of city life. And, a lack of knowledge of life as it is actually lived in the City.

Do they ever deign to themselves ride the subways along with common folk?

In their high handedness, they remain oblivious to — or perhaps just don’t want to acknowledge (because they would have less to pontificate about) — the fact that the waiting time for New York subways is incredibly short, with very few exceptions. I know. I grew up in Boston, where one often has to wait 15 or 20 minutes for a subway during peak hours (whereas, during rush hour in New York on the most heavily traveled lines, trains arrive every four to five minutes).

To affect disdain for the subway is fashionable now. No doubt, service improvements can and should be made, and upgrades are necessary. But the subway system transports millions of New Yorkers every day and is an indispensable part of city life. That it works as well as it does is a reason for rejoicing.

Yes, rejoicing. The complainers don’t realize how vital the subway is to the city. Ask riders who rely on it. Most of them can’t afford to live in Manhattan or pay for alternative forms of transportation.

Believe me, the Times editorial writers don’t care about how the little people live or what they think. They’re too busy telling the benighted masses what they think is good for them, when it is actually the opposite.

 

— Roger W. Smith

  February 2018

empathy

 

 

One day we were in the garden. Father stood looking in at the pig. Mother was hanging clothes out, and I was weeding. Two travelling journeymen came past. They were dusty, carried knapsacks on their backs, and looked rather wretched. Seeing the pump near the cottage, they asked for a drink. Mother asked if they would rather not have beer, in which case they could come in. I heard Father say she was not to invite such ruffians in, but Mother answered, “Niels, dear, just think if they were two of our own boys.” Father said nothing, but I could clearly see that he was struck by the reply.

— Carl Nielsen, My Childhood  (translated from the Danish by Reginald Spink; Copenhagen, Hansen, 1952,  pg. 91; originally published in Danish in 1927 as Min Fynske Barndom)

 

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As I would have done (not to pat myself on the back).

As my father or mother would have done.

As our Lord would have done.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2018

vengeance

 

If I whet My glittering sword,
And My hand takes hold on judgment,
I will render vengeance to My enemies,
And repay those who hate Me.

— Deuteronomy 32:41

 

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

— Isaiah 53:3

 

The glory of Christianity is to conquer by forgiveness.

— William Blake, “Jerusalem”

 

A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.

— William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence”

 

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This post is about yesterday’s news stories about the sentencing of “monster doctor” Larry Nassar to a term of 40 to 175 years for sexual abuse.

Before I get to my main point – actually, points — I would like to mention some of my deep feelings about human suffering and sympathy.

My mother used to say to me that she had always wished one of her children would become a doctor. She used to say how much she admired our pediatrician, Dr. Cohen, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was the type of caring, humane physician she most admired. He was the type of doctor who was always on call.

I would always say to her, “I couldn’t be a doctor. I can’t stand the sight of blood.” And, indeed, the sight of people or animals suffering, just the thought of it, was something that deeply upset me. Once, I observed boys torturing frogs in a local reservoir with their pocket knives. This greatly upset me. It also struck me that there was no reason for such cruelty, and I couldn’t understand what motivated the boys or why they enjoyed it. I had such feelings about suffering in general, including emotional pain, even minor emotional hurts.

To repeat, I hate to see needless suffering: inflicted upon others; experienced by them.

 

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Yesterday, on January 24, 2018, Dr. Lawrence Nassar was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of from 40 to 175 years by Ingham County (Michigan) Circuit Court judge Rosemarie Aquilina for molesting young girls and women. Larry Nassar, D.O., is a 54-year-old former Michigan State University and USA gymnastics team physician who has also been sentenced (in November 2017) to 60 years in federal court on child pornography charges.

Judge Aquilina, who had opened her courtroom to all the young women victims who wanted to address Dr. Nassar directly, forced him to listen when he pleaded to make it stop.

“It is my honor and privilege to sentence you,” she said yesterday, and noting the length of the sentence, added, “I just signed your death warrant.”

Given an opportunity to address the court before sentencing, Dr. Nassar apologized and, occasionally turning to the young women in the courtroom, said: “Your words these past several days have had a significant effect on myself and have shaken me to my core. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”

Just before sentencing Dr. Nassar, the judge read parts of a letter that he had submitted to the court last week, in which he complained about his treatment in a separate federal child pornography case and wrote that his accusers in this case were seeking news media attention and money. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” he wrote in the letter. There were audible gasps from the gallery when the judge read that line.

Dr. Nassar was accused of molesting girls as young as six, many of them Olympic gymnasts, over a period of many years under the guise of giving them medical treatment. In November, he had pleaded guilty to sexually abusing seven girls.

Judge Aquilina was a fierce advocate for the victims, often praising or consoling them after their statements.

“Imagine feeling like you have no power and no voice,” Aly Raisman, an American gymnast and Olympic gold medal winter, said in court. “Well, you know what, Larry? I have both power and voice, and I am only just beginning to use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve: a life of suffering spent replaying the words delivered by this powerful army of survivors.”

 

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I hate to see anyone suffer. And that includes Larry Nassar. I wish he could be given some hope.

I hope I do not appear to be minimizing the horrors of what the girls who were abused by Nasar experienced. Perhaps I am. I don’t know what it was like.

 

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A sad story. Horrible. So what do I think? And why should anyone care what I think?

That I wonder: is anyone completely beyond redemption?

Should the purpose of punishment be to humiliate and make an example of the victim? To make a statement? I think that that is what the judge was doing. The trial has given her the stage, a platform; she is in the spotlight. She is making the most of this opportunity to impose a draconian sentence on Nassar.

Is anyone so horrible that they cannot still be considered part of the human race? Perhaps amenable or susceptible to making amends and reforming themselves? Nassar is clearly a pedophile. The evidence of his guilt is overwhelming. Is there treatment for such persons?

To repeat: I hate to anyone suffer, and that includes the worst of the worst, the most lowly and depraved.

 

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The Nassar trial was like an orchestrated Orwellian “hate,” with the judge the conductor. Public outpourings of hate seem to be common nowadays. Consider the Women’s March 2018.

I was looking at some photos shared with me by an acquaintance who attended the march on January 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. Here’s what I saw:

A woman holding a poster aloft with what appears to be a doctored close up photo of Trump. Two arrows are pointing to Trump’s mouth. Trump’s lips have been altered and colored brown, so that it appears that his mouth is an anus. On the sign, in big letters, “‘THE ONLY SHITHOLE” is written.

A woman with raised fist, a tattooed forearm, half closed eyes, and pursed lips holding a sign that reads “Kicking Ass & Taking Over the World” with a cartoon Rosie the Riveter type flexing her muscles.

A woman holding aloft a sign that reads “the EMPEROR HAS NO TAX RETURNS.” There is a cartoon drawing of a fat man’s midsection. Where his penis would be, a blank piece of paper is covering it up, with only “1040” written on it.

A young woman with a pink knit cap holding aloft a sign that reads “HELL hath No FURY LIKE SEVERAL MILLION PISSED OFF WOMEN” with the female gender symbol.

Two women sitting on a low stone wall (with another woman between them). Both have large signs on their backs. One sign reads: MY SUPER POWER IS THAT I CAN LOOK AT SOMEONE WITH GETTING A BONER.” The other sign reads “I’D CALL HIM A CUNT BUT HE LACKS BOTH DEPTH AND WARMTH.”

Two guys with broad grins standing on top of a stone wall. They are holding aloft a sign that reads “THE ONLY xxxHOLE IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE.”

An elderly man with a funny hat and aviator sunglasses, holding aloft a sign reading “TRUMP: Racist. Sexist. Fascist. PSYCHO”

Most of the hate is directed at President Trump, and, by extension, to sexual predators.

Much of it seems crude and uncalled for. And, actually, disrespectful. Yes, I do think public figures deserve some kind of respect. As was true of authority figures and adults when I was growing up.

There is a swell — threatening to become a tsunami — of meanness, and a lack of a modicum of decency, in our culture nowadays, in the public square.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   January 25, 2018

 

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In an up email to close friends on February 28, 2018, I wrote:

I wrote on my blog last month: The Nassar trial was like an orchestrated Orwellian “hate,” with the judge the conductor. Public outpourings of hate seem to be common nowadays.

That’s what I disliked about the trial. I know Nassar was guilty of doing awful things.

To know what such a “hate” is, you have to have read “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

 

Judge Aquilina & Nassar

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina; Larry Nassar