Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Month: May, 2011

Taking a Stand: A Reflection on Elie Wiesel and Hedy Epstein

These days I am thinking of two Holocaust survivors.

I met with one today: 86 year-old Hedy Epstein and I had lunch at Blackberry Cafe in Clayton.  The other is receiving an honorary doctorate tomorrow at Washington University: 82 year-old Elie Wiesel, who will also give the commencement address.

Mr. Wiesel and Ms. Epstein have in common the central experience of their lives: their families destroyed by the Nazi genocide.  He survived the Auschwitz death camp, and she left Germany in 1939 on a Kindertransport to Great Britain.

Read the rest of this entry »

Simile for the On-Going Nakba

“You feel like an infantile child with a magnifying glass that tortures ants, you burn them.”[1]

–IDF Soldier, on Operation Cast Lead

Manifest Destiny

1.

And that claim [to Oregon] is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

–John O’Sullivan, 1845

2.

…after we become a strong force, as the result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine… The state will only be a stage in the realization of Zionism and its task is to prepare the ground for our expansion into the whole of Palestine by a Jewish-Arab agreement… The state will have to preserve order not only by preaching morality but by machine guns, if necessary.

–David Ben-Gurion, 1938

3.

Benny Morris:  Remember another thing: the Arab people gained a large slice of the planet. Not thanks to its skills or its great virtues, but because it conquered and murdered and forced those it conquered to convert during many generations. But in the end the Arabs have 22 states. The Jewish people did not have even one state. There was no reason in the world why it should not have one state. Therefore, from my point of view, the need to establish this state in this place overcame the injustice that was done to the Palestinians by uprooting them.

Interviewer: And morally speaking, you have no problem with that deed?

Benny Morris: That is correct. Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history.

Haaretz, 2004

Exit-Interview

She’s spent four years at SLU
And is moving on

I’ve spent fourteen years at SLU
And am moving on

We had class together fall 2008
Her tender sophomore year

We’ve met ten or twelve times since that class
Invariably in cafes and restaurants

(I never once used the “adjunct office”
For “office hours”)

And there was that spending binge downtown
At Left Bank Books right before Xmas break

I knew that she was a writer
From the student profile she turned in the first day

(Maybe I was too exuberant about it
She sometimes eyed me as if I had a screw loose)

She’d come to my mind when I’d read
What Brooklyn College teacher Allen Ginsberg said

“Older people gain vigor, refreshment, vitality, energy, hopefulness and cheerfulness
From the attentions of the young

And the younger people gain gossip, experience, advice, aid, comfort
Wisdom, knowledges and teachings from their relation with the old”

She wondered if Kerouac meant, “Accept loss forever”
Or “Accept loss forever

During the 75 minute conversation amid Café Ventana sunshine
We drank champagne

I toasted her with a clink
She took a photo of me from her fancy phone

Sitting there she looked out in the distance as if in a trance
Watching for Ecstasy to come around the corner

I didn’t tell her
That Yeats’ “For Anne Gregory” didn’t apply to her

I said “good for you!” to refuse the Fulbright and instead
To embrace Teach for America in D.C.

(Love conquers all
Besides, prestige is so overrated)

The word “soteriology” was never mentioned
The word “diarrhea” was used once

Karl Rahner never came up
But Shawn Copeland did

We agreed “women’s ordination” doesn’t go far enough
If it only installs women in hierarchical power position

(Still, I ponder
How many kids & women & men

In Catholic churches may never hear HER
Illuminate Word & World & Wonder)

There’s Marx’s thesis on Feuerbach that the philosophers have interpreted the world
The point, however, is to change it

There’s Jesus’ vision of the brokerless Kingdom of God
A program of free healing & open commensality

Broken Spanish & homesickness
Barbed wire & acrobatic empowerment–all shared

I invited her repeatedly to be guest speaker in social justice classes
For her riveting, no bullshit Nicaragua testimony

In a parallel universe Mev at 25
And she at 22 would be best pals

She’s soon to move to Washington DC
Accompanying the kiddos

She’s not got mind-reading power yet
But she knows how I am going to end this–

I can’t give her a big official prize for scholastic achievement, GPA, something quantifiable
I can only remind her of this

Alexis Mary Lassus:
“You’re a Genius all the time”

Sundus’s Inquisitive Mind (Writing down the Bones/273)

What is my role in this world?
Am I capable of making a difference?
What can I do to help?
Do I fall under the trap of stereotypical thinking?
Is just my awareness of injustices over the world enough?
How can I do something about those injustices?
What good does it do to write all of my thoughts when no one will read them?
Should I say something?
Why didn’t I say something?
Do I believe in my writing?
Am I well-off by normal American standards? Read the rest of this entry »