Tag Archives: politics


This is what it’s about.

I love when music addresses political topics, and this statement completely captures the dynamic between the music and the ideas it tries to embrace and represent.

Of course music cannot actually say anything about politics – music is just music. But political ideas refracted through music achieve a different dimension. The reality of politics on the ground may be too full of practical detail to make good opera, but opera, through being narrated by music, automatically lifts ideas on to an emotional and imaginative plane and we see political ideas in a different light.

David Pountney

Pountney is the librettist and director of an opera, with music by Peter Maxwell Davies, that tells three stories of student activism: from Germany, China, and the United States. And I hope I get to see it.

(Thanks to @NaxosUSA for posting a link to the article.)

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I used to worry that I wasn’t as musically omnivorous as I ought to be. My love of classical music started with piano and grew into chamber music, but I had very particular tastes. I liked late-medieval and Rennaisance polyphony, developed a taste for Baroque trio sonatasskipped over Mozart and Schubert, would sometimes admit to a weakness for Brahms’s chamber and solo piano music, and dug back in around 1905. I’d listen to a lot more than that, of course, but I devoted most of my time to music from before 1750 or after 1900.

And I’d listen mostly to CDs. Radio used to annoy me. I couldn’t get into it, all that unpredictability, plus the torture of getting to your destination just when you’ve gotten involved in a story or a multi-movement symphony and having to shut off the narrative.

But now I’ve been spending longer chunks of time in the car (a girl who lives in western Connecticut may have something to do with that) and have found myself listening more to the radio. Those longer stretches of time have let me sink into the narratives of prose or music. I now like the unpredictability of radio, the game of trying to figure out what’s playing if it hasn’t been announced yet, the space of wondering what I’ll hear next rather than preparing myself for what I know is the next track on the CD.

And I like that I hear music I wouldn’t have picked out otherwise. I find myself judging less and listening more. I’ll listen just for the sake of hearing what they have to say, what they have to play.

Today is Election Day. I was driving west on Route 34 in the early evening, listening to election coverage on public radio. And I got so discouraged by everything I heard that I plucked a CD out of the holder and slipped it in. I couldn’t summon up the neutrality to listen to the results that were beginning to come in. I couldn’t bear to listen. And so I shut out the world, shut out politics and the economy and illogic and anger, and I reveled in the music.

The band on the CD was The National.

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Gay and Jewish, Part II

I seem to be on a big Jewish kick.

That’s what I get for talking about how Reform Judaism is all warm and fuzzy and accepting of gays like me, and then saying that I’ll come back to the topic. And for my obsession with a Yiddish song. And for being Jewish.

So, here I am. Back to the topic, two weeks later. And as I promised (threatened?), I’m asking: what about other branches of Judaism?

Last month, 175 Orthodox rabbis signed onto a Statement of Principles on homosexual members of the tribe.

It surprised me. While Orthodox Judaism obviously adheres closely to the letter of the law, and some of the laws aren’t so fond of homosexuality, much of it was warm and accepting.

My favorite parts:

  • All human beings are created in the image of God and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (kevod haberiyot). Embarrassing, harassing or demeaning someone with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction is a violation of Torah prohibitions that embody the deepest values of Judaism.
  • We affirm the religious right of those with a homosexual orientation to reject therapeutic approaches [i.e. ‘change’ therapies] they reasonably see as useless or dangerous.
  • Jews with a homosexual orientation who live in the Orthodox community confront serious emotional, communal and psychological challenges that cause them and their families great pain and suffering. Rabbis and communities need to be sensitive and empathetic to that reality.
  • Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community. They should participate and count ritually, be eligible for ritual synagogue honors, and generally be treated in the same fashion as any other member of the synagogue they join.
  • Jews with a homosexual orientation or same-sex attraction should be encouraged to fulfill mitzvot to the best of their ability. The attitude of “all or nothing” was not the traditional approach adopted by the majority of halakhic thinkers and poskim throughout the ages.
    [Halakha is Jewish law.]

*The bullet points above and below are excerpts; the full text is available here.*

The parts I understand but don’t love:

  • Halakhah sees heterosexual marriage as the ideal model and sole legitimate outlet for human sexual expression. The sensitivity and understanding we properly express for human beings with other sexual orientations does not diminish our commitment to that principle.
  • Halakhic Judaism views all male and female same-sex sexual interactions as prohibited.
  • Halakhic Judaism cannot give its blessing and imprimatur to Jewish religious same-sex commitment ceremonies and weddings.

That said, even the items that cannot accept homosexuality are qualified in compassionate ways:

  • It is critical to emphasize that halakha only prohibits homosexual acts; it does not prohibit orientation or feelings of same-sex attraction, and nothing in the Torah devalues the human beings who struggle with them.

Regarding the prohibition on same-sex marriage:

  • Communities should display sensitivity, acceptance and full embrace of the adopted or biological children of homosexually active Jews in the synagogue and school setting, and we encourage parents and family of homosexually partnered Jews to make every effort to maintain harmonious family relations and connections.

The last item on the statement is particularly interesting to me. Continue reading


Filed under politics, random

Gay, Jewish, and happy

Judge Walker of California overturned Prop 8!

The fight’s not over, but I (and lots of other people) are still awfully happy about this step.

Anyway, that’s just an intro to a post that I was writing already. About equality and religion.

Because religion always comes into it. Because even though I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, I was. I was surprised that in response to my post of signs from the National March for Equality, people started talking about Christianity.

As I said in one of my comments on that thread, I’m Jewish. I don’t think about Christianity all that often unless something prompts me to. Christianity doesn’t really govern my day-to-day life (except that I get Christmas and Good Friday off from work but have to take personal days for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). More to the point, Christianity doesn’t govern my morals or principles. It’s just not relevant to me.

But lots of people in this country of ours are Christians, and many of those are devout believers for whom the religion does govern their morals. Fine. Let them be happy and healthy in their Christian lives. I’m all about people living their lives the way they want to. But what does that have to do with me, I wanted to ask?

Nothing, really. But some people can’t seem to separate their perspective from the idea of absolute truth. So they tell me my “behavior is sinful, wrong and will one day be judged.” Sigh.

So I asked another question: what does my own religion say about my gay-itude?

When I was still in high school, before I had a clue that I was gay and years before I came out, my rabbi gave a sermon on gay rights. And he didn’t hide his sermon on a small Shabbat service with forty attendees. He saved it up for the High Holy Days, those holidays that bring in all the twice-a-year Jews, so that he could tell my entire congregation – hundreds and hundreds of people – how important it was to welcome gay people into the Jewish community. This was in the mid-’90s, when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell came into law and most people weren’t speaking out that loudly.

I heart my rabbi and his longstanding support of my peeps.

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Who says you have to like it?

Wow. When I posted the signs from the March for Equality, I had no idea that I was going to get Freshly Pressed, and that my blog would suddenly get hundreds of views and a slew of comments, both supportive and argumentative.

So, um, hi, everyone.

My grandmother had a great retort for complaints. She’d ask, completely matter-of-factly: “Who says you have to like it?”

She was born in a tiny shtetl called Szarkowszczyzna. She moved to the States after surviving the Second World War and living in DP (displaced person) camps. She didn’t have an easy life, to put it mildly. But that’s background info.

Sometimes there are things that have to happen, or that are going to happen, regardless of what you want. You don’t like getting up early for school? You don’t like that millions of gallons of oil have gushed into the Gulf in the past twelve weeks? You don’t like that same-sex couples in my state can get married?

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Months after the March for Equality

Me & my sign. Still can't hear you, Obama.

Back in October, I went to the March for Equality in Washington, DC. One of my favorite things about the march was seeing all the different signs people made. Some were fierce. Some were funny. Some were just plain silly. Most spoke the truth, however they chose to angle it.

I started writing this post months ago. I was motivated to post it because of the 1 for All campaign to highlight the importance of the First Amendment.

Here are some of my favorite signs from the march. All of them were made and carried by people exercising their First Amendment Rights. Like me (pictured at right).

  • Be careful whom you hate – it could be someone you love
  • How does our marriage hurt yours?
  • Less is not equal
  • Let’s have a summit, Mr. President. I’ll bring the beer.
  • Gay marriage killed the dinosaurs
  • How would you like to drive through a state and suddenly not be married?
  • What about our American dream?
  • When do I get to vote on your marriage?
  • I’m missing football for gay rights
  • Always a bridesmaid, never a bride
  • All we are saying is: give queers a chance
  • Save marriage? Ban divorce!
  • I’ll have what you’re having
  • We are Americans, not a wedge issue
  • Can you believe we still have to protest this crap?
  • Where’s our fierce advocate?
  • Someone drew a circle to exclude me – so I drew one bigger to include them.
  • Discrimination is so gay
  • Continue reading


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Yeah, I’m a feminist. Want to make something of it?

The more I wish I didn’t see it, the more I see that women get different treatment in just about every aspect of life.

Take this opening paragraph from the BBC News:

Gunmen have attacked the office of a Western aid agency in north-western Pakistan, killing six people, police and the agency say. The victims, including two women, were all Pakistani nationals.

Why don’t they just say this? “The victims, four men and two women…”

Or this. The other day I was transcribing some letters at work. The writer twice used the phrase “a young woman” but never “young man.” And the fact that I was transcribing letters at all – well, I can’t think of a single male at my level who would be asked to do that, even as a special favor (which this was). Never mind that at my job, the four top guys are all, well, guys.

But my favorite? International Women’s Day, which was this past Monday. Yes, International Women’s Day. Does anyone else find it problematic that women get one day? That approximately half the world’s population gets 1/365 of the recognition time? Other interest groups (and they’re all important – please don’t think I’m knocking any of them) get full months. Even the shortest month is 28 times longer than one day. Who decided that one day is enough to call attention to women’s issues? How is one day enough to read up on multifarious struggles and have an intelligent discussion of solutions? Can we even count how many countries exist in the world in one day, let alone explicate the particular plight of women in each one? In one day?

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Freedom to Marry Week

join the conversation

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I just walked by a bumper sticker that irritates me every time I see it:


So… all married women are bitchy, controlling tightwads who keep their husbands on a short leash? Riiiiiight.

If there were a bumper sticker insinuating similarly nasty things about a religion or a culture or disability or ethnic background, it would get people all riled up. But snide assumptions about half the population? Like most people even notice.

The other day I was in a store, one of those amusing places that sell Shakespeare action figures and handmade pottery and batik cloth and fun but pointless games. They had a little basket of bumper stickers, most of them about peace, compassion, loving the earth, sharing the road, and hating George W. Bush. So far, so good. But they also had a solid collection of stickers like the one above, trying to be funny by relying on a strong dose of misogyny. I mean, really? They love the earth and want all people to get along, but it’s ok to make fun of women?

It doesn’t make any sense to me.

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Election Night

Come around for tea
Dance me round and round the kitchen
By the light of my TV
On the night of the election
Ancient stars will fall into the sea
And the ocean floor sings her sympathy

I usually don’t quote other people’s song lyrics, but this Bic Runga song is going through my head. We’re watching the election results. My girlfriend is drinking tea. We’re not dancing around the kitchen, though, or anywhere else for that matter. And it’s not our TV, since we don’t get any channels at home. But ancient stars and ocean floor – there’s something historic about tonight. Super Tuesday, 2008.

I’ve never been so keyed up about an election, so inspired by a candidate, so excited to vote for him. Co-workers are talking about how this reminds them of 1960 and 1968, years before I was born. Everywhere I go, people sense that this is an important time.

Meanwhile, CNN is saying inane things, trying to keep people’s interest while polls close and counts roll in. Commercials are telling me to live life passionately and buy strange headache remedies. It’s jarringly incongruous.

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