Saturday, August 23, 2014

Drawing Lessons & Inspiration from Sporting Excellence

Years ago, for my lead college applications essay, I was prompted to discuss a quote with special meaning. I based my essay upon this 1968 quote by Chief Justice Earl Warren: "I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures." The mere act of writing the essay was one of the most important moments of my life. The ideas that were crystallized for me through the process of writing live with me to this day. 28 years later, when I am saddened by life's realities as they come across my news feeds, I still turn to sports. ...

So here are two things that have moved me lately. ...

1) I have been thrilled to learn about and watch 13 year old pitcher Mo'Ne Davis and to watch all the youngsters having fun and competing their hearts out at the Little League World Series. What a joy to watch these kids!

2) As if that isn't enough, I finally had a chance to watch the amazing finish of the 4x400 meter finals at the European Athletics Championships. France's Floria Guei came from ridiculously, impossibly far back to bring her team from 4th to 1st in the last 50 meters of the championship race. I so appreciate such winners -- and not just folks who win foot races, but all folk who have undeniable tenacity, who refuse to lose, and who you just know will persevere and achieve no matter what they are hit with. 

Walter Bieri/EPA
Guie's amazing finish. Photo by Walter Bieri/EPA
I see sports as a microcosm - a small arena in which we see metaphors for what is possible. Call me romantic and simplistic, but a person impossibly coming from behind is no different, a metaphorical level, than other, more meaningful victories that we fight for as we try to improve a world, that, let's face it, on a day to day basis can be pretty crappy for a lot of people. 

Often, all we have is our years of dedicated training, combined with our refusal to lose. But sometimes that is all we need.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Does self-protection justify genocide?: The Jewish dilemma today

I have seldom been so saddened by remote occurrences as I am at the circumstances involving Israel and its ongoing bombing of one of the most densely populated regions on earth.
Today, Jews across the planet are in a horrible position. Jews in Israel love a land and seek to protect it against those who seek their eradication. As they assert their right to defend themselves, they are literally blowing children, families and communities into unrecognizable little pieces.
Jews, as participants in a global community, stand at a moral precipice. I am saddened to offer my opinion, but it is that the global community of Jews risks falling into as deep an evil as is possible for groups of humans to fall into. We can see isolated videos of groups of Israeli's chanting in celebration over the death of children. We can see isolated videos of groups of Israeli's watching and cheering bombings of neighborhoods. We can watch isolated videos of elected Israeli officials and isolated videos of Israeli academics, both proclaiming the right to kill Palestinians, including those not involved in harming them. The "isolated videos" of the justification or celebration of death are too numerous to count. I do not imagine that these videos accurately reflect Jewish sentiment, rather they reflect one segment ofJewish sentiment. But … (and here is the tough part) ...
No matter how justified you are in your anger at your enemies, when your community includes a critical mass of people wishing for and celebrating their utter destruction - to the point of genocide - the rest of the community needs to stand up to it and say "NO, This is not right; we must clearly and effectively denounce and marginalize this sentiment," or they go along with it. It really is one or the other.
I pray that non-violent leaders rise and are able to accomplish the miraculous task of facilitating a new, alternative approach to the seemingly intractable mutual hatred and destruction that characterizes this region of the world.
Mandela did it in South Africa;
King did it in the United States;
Ghandi did it in India.
It can happen. …
Can we find, bolster and otherwise empower the Jewish sentiment towards peace without genocide? I hope so. I will keep my eyes open. and I will actively look for the person or people whom I can support. … We'll see.
And why, by the way, do I focus on the Jewish community? I focus on the global community of Jews, because this is the community with the greatest power to either destroy or to heal…