Mayor Bloomberg’s private residence is protected 24/7 by an armed policeman who stands guard outside. The White House, Congress and most other government buildings are protected by armed guards or policemen and somehow no one worries about how these people are vetted or whether there’s increased danger by putting weapons in their hands. Why then does the same suggestion to protect schoolchildren in this way provoke such controversy? No one says that this should be the only security improvement considered in our efforts to prevent or control mass murder, but clearly politicians consider it a good deterrent when it comes to their own safety. Until we come up with a way to profile potential killers, this seems the most logical system to implement immediately. And, since most young children look up to men in uniform, this would certainly be a calming and reassuring presence, especially for those who have already witnessed or survived extreme danger.
The much lauded Amour, Michael Haneke’s latest film which explores the relationship between two octogenarian, long-married piano teachers, is a movie that deals with end of life and its humiliations, sufferings and ultimate loving dedication. Though it might seem impossible to find fault with depicting an adult topic of such sensitivity, there is a streak of self-righteousness running through this movie that thwarts its ultimate purpose.
So after two full years, how’s that Arab Spring “thing” working for you? Not feeling like it’s going our way? Feel free to join the ever-expanding club that embraces that overwhelmingly disappointing notion.
Here are some words for the media to avoid in discussing unexpected death by violence, particularly mass murder: healing, closure and moving on. Whether these have been supplied by pop psychology, grief counselors or other types of do-gooders, they are insulting to the victims and their survivors and set up unrealistic, undesirable standards for the rest of us. Only one day after the Newtown massacre, newscasters, planted all over that devastated town, stood solemnly at attention with their ubiquitous microphones, talking about how the community was coming together to help each other move on. Within a few short days, the “c” word had surfaced and soon enough, the president of the United States flew in to personally console the grieving families - another media event. What happened in Newtown is profoundly tragic, made more so by the tender ages of these schoolchildren and by our lack of understanding of what caused it or how to prevent it from happening again. The appropriate response to such grief may be respectful silence at a time when no words can offer solace.
Really, how am I supposed to present Judaism and the Jewish people as unlike the enemy in, among other things, their treatment of women, when women keep getting arrested for wearing prayer shawls at Jerusalem’s Western Wall?
On its official website, The American Girl doll company prides itself on its line of historical characters whose biographies comprise a look at our country’s past, stressing significant aspects of our history in a way to engage young girls. It further describes its plant: “American Girl is headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin, in two warehouse operations and distribution facilities totalling 560,000 square feet. With the thirteen American Girl retail stores and additional warehouse and distribution sites, the company’s facilities total 1.7 million square feet. Among the company’s various locations, over 2,000 women and men are currently employed full or part-time throughout the year, with the ranks swelling to more than 4,300 during the holiday season.” Don’t let all the numbers of square feet and employees veil what’s been omitted - despite its patriotic name, American Girl dolls are actually made in China.
Unfortunately, America suffers from a serious case of military illiteracy. Many Americans regard the military with ambivalence. We fluctuate between “Support our Troops,” banners being flown over NFL games or “Bring the Troops Home” protests where demonstrators want to downsize the military and direct the savings toward social problems. Both attitudes resonate but neither provide what we as a citizenry must demand — accountability.
The Kennedy Center Honors celebrated its 35th anniversary last weekend with a group of extraordinary and diverse life time achievers in the performing arts. Even President Obama noted that they “have no business being on the same stage.” But the three remaining members of the 70’s band Led Zeppelin – vocalist Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and guitarist Jimmy Page– came together for this annual celebration with actor/director Dustin Hoffman, late night talker David Letterman, bluesman Buddy Guy and dancer Natalia Makarova. The group was honored at the State Department, White House and Kennedy Center with a taped- for- CBS-TV tribute (airs December 26) and late night gala supper.
While Major Nidal Hasan served as army psychiatrist at Fort Hood, he was a clean-shaven American Muslim. After he was imprisoned, awaiting trial for murdering 13 people and maiming 32 others for the glory of Allah, he decided to redouble his religious identification by growing a thick beard and mustache Though army regulations specifically prohibit soldiers from wearing beards, Major Hasan and his lawyers argued that this was a matter of religious liberty and the alleged killer appeared in court defiantly hirsute, looking as sinister as Rasputin. The presiding judge claimed that this was disruptive, fined him and had him forcibly removed from the courtroom. The judge also mistakenly accused the accused of spreading feces in a restroom (it turned out to be mud tracked in by a guard’s boot), ordered him shaved and then refused to recuse himself as defense lawyers had requested. This was appealed and the accused has scored his second victory, thumbing his mustached nose at the American army and the American people. The appeals court, composed of civilian judges, never ruled on whether ordering Hasan to be shaved violated his religious rights, hiding behind the claim that grooming issues were the purview of military commanders, not military judges. Instead, they agreed that the judge was biased against the defendant and ordered him removed from the case.
While conservatives might be in a bit of a post-election funk, this is no time to compromise our principles—especially on foreign policy and national security, where Team Obama’s record has been less than stellar to say the least.