Belated (But Not Completely Outdated) Happy New Year

I know Anne Laurie handled the start-of-holiday greetings, so I’m tagging on behind, with a few hours (and roughly 100 shofar blasts) to go in Rosh Hashanah, the head of the year.

Really, I’m doing so just to give me an excuse to post this image:



I know of vanishingly few fine-art images of Jewish ritual life — even fewer of views of religious practice out in the world.  So when my art-historically sophisticated wife sent this on, it was a surprise.

Anyway, I find this holiday one of those that works on me, atheist-Jew that I am.  The two stories read on the two days of services come from the Abraham cycle.  Day one, we read of the expulsion of Ishmael and Hagar from the camp.  Day two, the binding of Isaac.*  Terrifying stuff, terribly sad, much grist for thought.

And then, after the chanting is done, apples and honey all round!  As we say in my family, so to you:  may the coming year be as sweet as this apple and this honey.

Open thread, y’all.

*If you want to read a brilliant, horrific account of the path the Akedah — the Isaac sacrifice story — took in Jewish history, look no further than Shalom Spiegel’s classic, The Last Trial.  For an equally brilliant dissection of the literary technique in the story, the first chapter of Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. is so good I believe every writer should read it.  Here’s the essay on its own. (In it, Auerbach compares the story of the sacrifice of Isaac to the scene in the Oddyssey, book 19, when Odysseus’ housekeeper recognizes the long-lost hero by the old scar on his leg.  Just a brilliant bit of literary analysis, and a great introduction to thinking about one’s own writing from the point of view of technique and desired ends.)

Image:  Alexander Gierymski, The Feast of Trumpets, 1884.

More on the March

The Washington Post, not surprisingly, has a lot of coverage of this week’s anniversary, including tons of photos and video clips. (And an admission that the paper wasn’t so prescient at the time.)

As a lead-in, here’s Dan Balz on “The March on Washington’s unfinished agenda”:

In the way history can be conflated, the March on Washington has been reduced to a few vivid images. One is the size of the gathering, with photos showing a crowd flowing from the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and stretching the length of the Reflecting Pool and beyond. The other and most iconic by far is the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech, which continues to echo powerfully 50 years on.

But history plays tricks, for there was much more to the march than those sharply etched memories. For the Life magazine issue published right after the event, the editors chose neither King nor the crowd for the cover. That distinction went to two of the march’s principal organizers, labor leader A. Philip Randolph and civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin.

The peaceful march drew more than 200,000 people to Washington on a sweltering summer day. It is rightly remembered as one of the most uplifting moments of the civil rights movement, and as others have said, it is the most famous mass rally in U.S. history.

But as the nation prepares to commemorate the event, it is useful to recall its origins, ambitions and legacy and to remember which of the organizers’ objectives have been fulfilled and which have not…

Many of those who will be in Washington this week say the commemoration of the march should not be a celebration. “It’s very important not just to commemorate the march but to have us recognize that we’re 50 years away from that event and if we examine progress, it’s clearly a mixed blessing,” said Margaret Simms of the Urban Institute.

Robert Dallek, who has written histories of the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies, quoted one of his mentors, the late historian Richard Hofstadter, as saying that “America is the only country that believes it was born perfect and strives for improvement.” As far as the country has come in the 50 years since the March on Washington, much remains to be done — as it always has.

Also, from the Root, a fascinating interview with March participant Gloria Richardson, co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (plus a slide show on women Marchers).

Minnesota Meetup

commenter gbear says:

Best kept secret on Balloon Juice is that there’s a Twin Cities meetup at Shamrocks Grille at 995 West 7th Street in St. Paul tomorrow at 5:00pm. So far there are two of us confirmed to be there, and I’m not telling you who the other person is. It’s been popping up in various threads for the last few days but it appears to be a sleeper. Be part of a select few and have one of the best burgers in town.

That comment was last night, so it’s today.

Minnesota meetups are fun-I’ve been to one-so be part of the “select few”

Open Thread: Honors for Bayard Rustin

Better late than never, via commentor J.Ty. Hard to think of a more deserving recipient:

[Last] Thursday, the White House announced that Bayard Rustin, the trailblazing civil rights activist, will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.

The timing couldn’t be better. Rustin was a key advisor to Martin Luther King and the primary organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — a job he seemed to have prepared for all his life. Many Americans will be celebrating that event’s 50th anniversary on August 28, and insisting that the country complete the march’s unfinished business of economic justice, full employment, voting rights, and equal opportunity.

Honoring Rustin with the Medal of Freedom tells us something about how far America has come as a nation in the past 50 years. After all, he had four strikes against him. He was a pacifist, a radical, black and gay. Controversy surrounded him all his life.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, Rustin marshaled his considerable talents — as an organizer, strategist, speaker and writer — to challenge the economic and racial status quo. Always an outsider, he helped catalyze the civil-rights movement with courageous acts of resistance. Rustin was a brilliant thinker and strategist, but given his political liabilities as a gay, black, radical pacifist, he also relied on his incredible charm to win converts to the causes of peace and civil rights. A remarkable tenor, he frequently sang gospel and blues songs for his audiences. Had he not become an organizer, he could have become a popular entertainer.

Rustin is not as well known as other civil rights leaders in large part because of his homosexuality and his brief flirtation, during his twenties, with Communism. Although highly respected in labor, pacifist, and civil rights circles, he was typically a behind-the-scenes organizer rather than a public figure…

I remember, back in the 60s, my union-dockmaster father telling me that Rustin had been written out of America’s political history because (I quote), “the chickenshit Goo-goos were afraid of being associated with a guy might get called a Commie.” The old man was temperamentally incapable of pacifism, but he respected honest pacifists and despised ‘tough guys’ whose only bravery was big talk cheerleading mob violence.

Disability Rights Are Human Rights, Too

Even the “luckiest” of us are just TABs (Temporarily Able Bodied)*. Because this particular failure-to-legislate disgrace by the Dung Beetle Republicans is a minor personal obsession, Tammy Duckworth’s latest email caught my eye:

Before I was wounded, I never expected that the Americans with Disabilities Act would have such a profound impact on my life.

This landmark bill – passed with bipartisan support – made our nation the world’s leader in protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination. It has also made it possible for me and thousands of other Veterans to continue living a full, mobile life.

Now the Senate has the chance to encourage other countries to adopt our own high standards by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Tell the Senate to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

Approving this treaty should be a no-brainer. After all, it won’t change U.S. law. Ratification will simply encourage other countries to meet our standards. A more accessible world is also good for our service members stationed overseas who might have family members with disabilities there with them.

But Republican extremists have made this non-controversial treaty into a yet another partisan vote. Even after fellow disabled Veteran and former Republican Majority Leader Bob Dole visited the floor of the Senate in his wheelchair this past December to support the bill, Senate Republicans voted it down.

Fortunately, the Senate is expected to vote on the treaty again after August recess. We have an opportunity right now to encourage Senators to reject the Tea Party propaganda about this treaty, and do the right thing.

As to whether this issue is “really important” — who actually wants to discriminate against people with disabilities? — commentor Origuy linked just this afternoon:

A handicap ramp in front of a Fountain family’s house is in the middle of a neighborhood squabble.

Vincent and Heidi Giesegh say their neighbors are threatening legal action if they don’t remove the ramp. They say the next door couple is worried that the ramp will hurt the value of their home. The Giesegh’s say they need it for their 16 year old daughter Kirsten who has Cerebral Palsy…

The Giesegh’s neighborhood doesn’t have an HOA, and the family says the City of Fountain told them it was ok to install the ramp and widen their driveway for a handicap van. 11 News went next door to get the neighbor’s side of the story and they told us no comment…

* Edited, because commentors correctly pointed out that not all of ‘us’ are TABs.