Sunday, March 5, 2017

We are American

So, yesterday, an American boy (same boy who has been sending him "Romans") told my oldest son "sometimes I forget you are an American because our beliefs are so different." My son replied, "that is the point of America, we each have the freedom to our own beliefs." Among many other things, the boy insists that supporting our President is our duty as an American, which to him means we are not to question anything our President says or does (of course, somehow the same was not applicable to President Obama). I think the following quote from President Theodore Roosevelt sums it up quite well.

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else. -- President Theodore Roosevelt. The Kansas City Star, 18 May 1918

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


When my husband served for a year in Iraq, we used his extra pay to send our kids to private school because our local schools back home were overcrowded and underfunded. When looking at school vouchers and private charter schools from a purely self-interested point-of-view, it is easy to like the idea of having help sending our children to the private school of our choice in such a situation. But, when you scratch beneath the service, it leads to some very concerning issues and questions.

The reason Obama required all people to buy health insurance was to ensure the pool of insured was large enough to even out costs. If healthy people avoided buying insurance until they were diagnosed with a major health problem, insurance companies would be left covering largely only the most expensive to cover. Now, let us think about this issue in terms of our schools.

Under school choice programs, the money follows the child. The money can follow the child to a private school.

Who sets private school admission policies? Would such schools be required to admit students with disabilities? If not, what happens to such students? If those with IEPs are not able to gain admission to one of these publicly funded private schools, our public schools are going to be left providing for those students. Just like the insurance pool, our schools will be left with much less money to support those with greater needs.

There are many other questions to consider as well. Who sets the standards for education for each of these schools? Would private religious schools, accepting state and federal money, guarantee that the education provided meets the standards for separation of church and state? Who sets the tuition rates? Would such schools be required to admit students who cannot pay beyond state and federal funds provided? Who determines where such schools are located? Would such schools be equally distributed across communities? Would rural communities have such options? Would lower income communities have such options? Or would we end-up finding such schools targeting higher income areas? How does this help our society improve? The best thing we can do to make America great is to provide quality education for ALL of our children! I fear school choice works against that goal.

Monday, January 16, 2017


I know I am talking about religion a lot lately. It is because I am being confronted by just how pervasive evangelical Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is around me. I have never been in a community before where such beliefs were so insidious. It is the cause of much cognitive dissonance for me as I interact and befriend those who seem like good, nice people and then find my oldest son and I are each being sent Christian scripture (Romans), which leaves us explaining that we don't believe in Jesus and never will. We do not believe in the concept of needing to be saved and never will. It is even doubly troubling when those trying to convert you are your Embassy colleagues, social sponsor and neighbor wrapped-up into one.

I've always believed that being friends with those who have differing views, religions, cultures was a wonderful experience to truly understand each other. And, it always has been. So, I am sussing out my beliefs in a more concentrated way to help me figure out why I find myself uneasy with all of this. Here is where I am at so far.

My Jewish identity is very important to me. Not because of some fear of G-d, but because for millennium my people have been persecuted, killed, or assimilated into near extinction. And, even years after the holocaust, there are fewer Jewish people today (2014, 14.2 million worldwide) than existed in the 1939 (16.6 million worldwide). I want to continue to build my people up. These feelings have grown stronger through the years, really taking shape upon the birth of our first child. I want for our children to have a Jewish identity and pass that on to their children.

All that being said, I do not believe that whatever higher power exists would be in the form of a corporeal being of some sort. I do not believe the bible is the inerrant word of G-d. In fact, I was taught that the reason we use a hyphen when spelling out G-d is that humans are not possibly capable of capturing the essence of G-d in a word. So, if we cannot capture the essence of G-d in a word, how arrogant must we be to believe that humans could possibly capture this higher power's message, meaning and full intent in the form of a group of words (a bible). Even if assuming various bibles were based on historical events thousands of years ago, these stories have been passed down from one generation to the next, from one language to the next, with human interpretation and agendas at each step of the process.

Whether the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Shruti, or some other text, each bible has a place in its community as a guide for family, community, and individuals. Still, these guideposts were a product of their times, based on the customs and ideals of the community and political/religious leaders at the time each portion was told, written, translated, and/or re-translated. Far too often, this has resulted in biblical text being used as a weapon against those who believe differently. In my opinion, that is not a valid or appropriate purpose for any biblical text. Bibles should be a guide toward our humanity, not away from it.

So, I find myself asking, "if you don't believe the bible is the inerrant word of G-d, why work on keeping more and more kosher with each passing year? Why work on following the mitzvah more with each passing year?" I think it is because, more than anything, it is about keeping and growing in my Jewish identity and passing that identity on to our children. It is about celebrating, honoring and educating our children on our customs, stories and traditions and helping rebuild our community. But, it is never about using our customs, stories and traditions as a weapon against those who believe differently.

So, where does this leave me in my current situation? I don't really know. I'm still trying to work that out!