Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “civil rights”

Fast Track to Hell: Paul Ryan – Roger Ingalls

I’m from the great state of Wisconsin and proud of it. It’s the home of the Green Bay Packers; the football team that’s won almost twice as many world championships than any other team. It’s a team owned by the community while all other teams are private hobby organizations for fat-cat Wall Street insiders. There’s something sweet about a community team that’s more successful than the bankers’ dream teams.

Wisconsin is also known as the home of Harley Davidson, historic development center for electrical power tools and machining, an original leader in electron-beam microscopy, super computers and, of course, organized labor. It is even rumored that a thousand years ago the Knights Templar buried the Holy Grail somewhere in the Dairy State between the Virgin apex of Green Bay and the Kensington Stone in Minnesota. This is why Wisconsin is often referred to as God’s Country.

Wisconsin does have its embarrassments: Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein and four out of the last twelve gun related mass murders (in the last twenty years) have been committed in the state. However, the biggest embarrassment was republican Senator Joe McCarthy who was responsible for massive civil rights violations during the 1950s. Current Governor Scott Walker is a rights violator too but is considered a pantywaist by comparison to McCarthy.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has selected Paul Ryan (republican representative for WI 1st congressional district) as his running mate for the 2012 election. Paul Ryan goes beyond embarrassment for the state; he is pure evil. He is an agent for Wall Street and is pushing an agenda that continues the transfer of middleclass wealth into the hands of the one-percenters. Here are a few of his ideas:

1)      Privatize Social Security – he wants to turn your social security money over to the same bankers and Wall Street companies that crashed the world-wide economy in 2008 and stole the common man’s wealth and gave it to the 1% fat-cats.

2)      Eliminate Medicare for those who earned it – he wants to give us a partial coupon and then make us buy healthcare plans from Wall Street backed insurance companies. For profit insurance companies don’t care about people’s health, they care about making money for their shareholders. The only competition Wall Street’s insurance companies have is Medicare. All insurance companies offer essentially the same coverage so there really isn’t a free market choice other than Medicare. Once Medicare is gone, the people will be powerless and under the thumb of for profit-only Wall Street. Under his plan, getting the medicine and treatment we need will be a bigger fight than we have now.

It’s my opinion that Paul Ryan is pure evil and is trying to fast track the American middleclass into a hellish existence for the benefit of his Wall Street backers. Why does he have to come from my state of Wisconsin? I guess in a Biblical sense, the Antichrist must originate from God’s Country.

Tribute to Anne Braden Pt. 2

This is the second of two posts. For the first, please read this one first.

Anne Braden, right, and Ann S. Reynolds escorted the Rev. Jesse Jackson when he visited Louisville in 2000. Braden was an early supporter of Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. (Photo: Sam Upshaw Jr., The Courier-Journal)

The next episode for the Bradens, one which spiraled them into the national spotlight occurred in 1954. To help an African-American couple suffering from the Jim Crow laws they bought a house in an all-white neighborhood near Shively for the couple to live in. Neighbors burned a cross in the front yard and shot out the windows. When this didn’t force the family out, they later blew the house up with dynamite.

The investigation, fueled by McCarthy fervor saw the Bradens’ and other so-called Communists charged with “planning the explosion to stir up trouble between the races and to promote communism.” Carl was eventually found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in jail. The conviction was later overturned.

Anne Barden was ostracized from even liberal white circles, but continued until near her death in 2006 to advocate for social justice including issues such as gay rights.

The bravery of a white person to stand up to the ruling white community is a staggering concept, but that  a woman was able to do this and face those in authorities with such conviction is a stunning testimonial and an example to us all.

An activist and example at 80. . (Photo: Bill Luster, The Courier-Journal)

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Black and White – Happy 4th

I am sitting in my coffee shop and two men have just walked in together. They are deep in conversation and I see that one insists on paying for both coffees while the other protests and then gratefully accepts. I sense they exchange this ritual regularly.  One man is black and the other is white. This shouldn’t stand out to me living in the People’s Republic of Berkeley, but it does.

These two men, though they walk straight and fluidly, are both old. They must be in their late 70’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were in their 80’s. They grew up in a different time, another age, when this scene would have drawn everyone’s attention in the coffee shop. Now, I suspect, it is just me.

 

These two men lived through segregation, the civil rights movement, and the general drive by mainstream American to create a non-racist, civil society. I know there are extremists out there, and I am aware that black people still face institutional racism. But when spotlighted, there is a consensus that such behavior is unacceptable.

I am writing this post a couple of days before the 4th of July. I am still not a citizen of the US, but I feel a part of this society because I believe in what it stands for: freedom and democracy for all. I know it is not perfect, but we are moving forward. I know that not everyone is on board, or swimming in the same direction, but I believe there is a dogged majority who embrace these principles. Jewish proverbs teach us that “It is not for us to finish the task, but neither are we free to desist from it.”

The Present and the Future

My blog often criticizes members of our society, organizations and politicians. But today, July 4th, while we fire up the barbeque and chill the bud, lets focus on what we share in common.

I’ll leave you with a song by Janis Ian.  Happy 4th everyone.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Organizations That Matter: The Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA)

The Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) was founded in 1999 to create “an authentic progressive Jewish presence in the campaigns for social justice in Southern California.” The PJA has a double agenda.  Within the Jewish community (the LA Jewish community is the second biggest in the US) they serve to invigorate and motivate the Jewish social progressives. As a Jewish organization they serve as a vehicle to educate, advocate and organize around a broad array of issues including diversity, equality, justice and peace. In February 2005, the PJA opened a San Francisco Bay Area chapter, which is proving just as impressive.

Why do we need a Jewish progressive organization? Why not just join up with activists of all races, religions, and classes? I believe the answer lies in honoring our own rich heritage of social activism. Jews have been involved in high proportions in the anti-Apartheid movement, the civil rights struggles and the democratic agenda in almost every country where Jews can live freely and openly.

Jewish identity, whether from positive or negative angles, is strong within our psyche. Jewish tradition teaches that we have an obligation to work for Tikkun Olam (fixing the world). As the PJA bumper sticker says: to kvetch (complain) is human, to act…divine.

As a minority, even the tolerant climates of California, Jews gravitate towards Jews. For those of us who do not bond in the prayers, study and rituals of our religion, the drive to fight social injustices can be a rallying cry. The synagogue, the foundation of Jewish fabric for so many generations can be replaced for many by such agencies as the PJA, the American Jewish World Service and Jewish Funds for Social Justice (more on these great organizations another time).

We fight for economic justice by educating Jews about our obligation to stand with the working poor, and then we organize the Jewish community to join in campaigns to improve working conditions and secure a living wage for low-wage workers.  We work to reform the criminal justice system and to promote a more just and humane system of restorative, rather than retributive, justice through a ground-breaking program that trains volunteers to mediate between non-violent juvenile offenders and their victims throughout Los Angeles.  We work to promote understanding and tolerance by facilitating several tracks of Muslim-Jewish dialogue.

Through organizing around the values of tikkun olam, through encounter with Jewish sources and learning, and through strategic social justice work, we work to create a Jewishly-literate membership that examines core Jewish values in a new way, and to “bring back” to Jewish communal life many individuals who would be otherwise disconnected.  Under the rubric “tikkun ha ir, tikkun olam(repair of the city, repair of the world), we also participate in the broader community coalitions working to build a better California (and America) for all of its inhabitants.
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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

 

 

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