Monthly Archives: November 2010

Flashback Friday: Cardozo sex and Rice masturbation

In this month’s Cardozo Jurist, [edit: let’s just say her name is Shmara Shmliss and she doesn’t want her name to show up in a google search] who wrote a column about how the stress and pressure of law school inherently leads to sexytime thoughts and a desire to hook up. I always argue that Libraries are supersexy, but because they are filled with books, and books have knowledge and knowledge is power and power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Also, libraries are filled with smart, youthful students. And sexy librarians!

In reality, librarians are almost never sexy librarians.

Anyways, her column reminded me a good deal of something that I had written for the Rice Thresher. (pdf: Mintz thresher column)

Here are the columns.

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The Lost Columns: Jews, Gays, and Paladino

The Cardozo Jurist came out yesterday. I originally wrote a column following my normal trend of addressing gay rights within the Jewish community. However, after talking with other people about it, I came to the conclusion that I’ve driven the topic into the ground. Because I have never done that before.

Furthermore, the tone of the column was just a bit too over the top. Because I have never done that before, either.

Anyways, here is the Lost Column. I’ll post the one that was actually published later.

Today is election day. As a Texan, it is hypocritical of me to criticize other states’ political systems. It is also fun and easy — the New York gubernatorial race doubleplus so.

It was only a few election cycles ago when a Cuomo was the alternative to “the homo” and Carl Paladino was a registered Democrat. Of course, barring a sudden state-wide revelation that rent is too damn high, one of the two is governor-elect by now. However, the end of the election does not mean that campaign discussion has to end as well. Notably, Paladino’s tea party rhetoric about gay marriage in an address to Orthodox Jewish leaders deserves continued discussion, especially at a Jewish institution like Cardozo.

Upon first glance, Paladino’s speech does not seem too far from expected Republican talking points: “I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”

Paladino even wisely omitted from his speech one especially nasty bit in his prepared text: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

However, this idea that certain demographics can be targeted within our society as less valid or less successful than the overarching uberculture is a dangerous concept, especially for the Jewish community. In New York, Judaism may seem like a well integrated, or maybe even dominant, ingredient in our pressure cooker of a nation. But for those whose world does not end at New Jersey, things can be quite different.

Back in 2007, Ann Coulter revealed in a CNBC interview an attitude towards Judaism that one does not often hear out loud: Jews need to be “perfected” into Christians. From her perspective, much like gays, Judaism is not an equally valid or successful option.

It is easy to dismiss Ann Coulter as a washed-up pundit begging for attention. But Coulter’s rhetoric is echoed in secret throughout the nation. This past month, U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert [what is the proper style here?] explained in a Newsmax magazine column that the government functions best when it is run by Christians. According to him, Christians are “the one[s] God has ordained to run the country.” Apparently other people, Jews included, are not an equally valid and successful option.

The Jewish community may be comfortable in our self-imposed urban ghettos. We can feel praised as talking heads throw around the term “Judeo-Christian” as if it meant something. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend has kept ties close during the War on Terror. But every time a pundit rants about the War on Christmas or the nation’s Christian foundations, it is a glimpse at just how thin the protective bubble is around non-Christian religion and culture. This may not be obvious at Cardozo, but it is in the rest of America. And when the courts are done explaining that Islam is actually a religion, and gay baiting no longer gets out the vote, Judaism will still be a minority, no matter how many times someone uses the phrase “Judeo-Christian morality.”

The problem is not just antisemitism or homophobia, but rather the idea that demographics can be targeted and attacked as less valid or successful than the dominating norms,  with no support but bigotry. The Jewish community must draw a line at attitudes like Paladino’s, even after election season has finished. The same moral influence that has pushed Ann Coulter and Rick Sanchez off the air should stand with anyone who wants to attack minority groups to score points. And right now that stand is with the gay community. After all, we shared the same ovens.

 

I went to the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear and all I got was this rambling blog entry

Summary!

This past weekend I attended the Comedy Central Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. For a gathering of 200,000 Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert fans, there was a severe lack of drugs.

Despite previous expectations, stereotypes about Stewart and Colbert’s targeted audience, and claims rally just being “liberals hooking up,” the crowd was distinctly older and more diverse than I had anticipated. During a jaunt on the Metro the day before the rally, we encountered a family – Ma, Pa and kids –  who had traveled to DC from central Pennsylvania. And as we checked out the sites on the mall the day before, it was difficult to count the impressive number of older couples and families wearing Stewart/Colbert paraphernalia.

In the end it was not some grand youth rally, nor some liberal love-in, nor some giant hookup fest (at least not at the rally itself, maybe at the bars that Saturday night). So then, what was it?

In the end, the rally accomplished two major goals. First, it rebutted irrational fears of Muslims. Secondly, it demonstrated that two comedians with little actual message could get more people to show up than pundit with an established, forceful message.

Now, the musical numbers were fine. And the juxtaposition of Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam playing Peace Train, followed by Ozzy Ozborne singing Crazy Train, followed by the O’Jays singing Love Train was a lot of fun. I half expected either GirlTalk to show up and start mixing, or the Coors Light Train to come through.

And we did see some funny signs and neat costumes. And the cute Indian girls next to us shared their box of donuts.

Lots of people took pictures of this sign.

In fact, there were some pretty impressive costumes.

Zoiby want balloon!

We all still have Zoidberg!

Zimbabwe!

Although she did put the miss in misdemeanor, I think that most of her crimes were actually felonies.

But amongst the signs and posters and costumes and such, Jon Stewart had some criticisms of the media and Stephen Colbert played his character. There was some commentary about the state of the nation and media when Stewart handed out his medals for acting reasonably, and Colbert handed his for fear (One of Colbert’s was an award to media entities that wouldn’t let its members come to the rally. Because no one was there to accept it, he gave it to a little girl. She was adorable).

But a continuing theme throughout the rally was one mocking and rebutting anti-Muslim sentiments. It was not obvious, nor explicitly stated. But it was there. Whether is was the applause when Father Guido Sarducci came to Islam in his list of religions, or when Kareem Abdul Jabbar showed up to teach Stephen an important lesson about judging groups by an actions of a few members, or when Yusuf Islam came out on stage to sing, there was a continuous thread of non-threatening Muslims at the rally. In fact, right next to where I was standing was an obviously Muslim family. And several of the signs at the rally were along the theme of: “Where are the moderate Muslims? Holding this sign!”

It was a good thing.

Of course, in a crowd of more than 200,000, it is difficult to ascertain just how much of the population there was Muslims, but there definitely seemed to be a concerted movement of “We Are Normal Muslims, Please Stop Being Scared of Us.”

But beyond the pro-moderate Muslims, the message that Jon Stewart attempted to send with the message is that political debates should not be fought in numbers or name calling, but actual arguments and fact-based debates. He tried to express this in his final speech. But besides getting Keith Olbermann to change his format, I do not think it will have a direct effect. Stewart got lucky once when he took people by surprise with his earnestness and honesty. But Fox News is not Crossfire. Nevertheless, I think that Stewart will get his desired result in some form, though not as a direct result of his appeal.

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was attended by around 215,000 people.

I was there!

This rally came after, and in a mocking reaction to, Glenn Beck’s Rally to Restore Honor, which attracted around 87,000 people.

I'm glad someone did this

In a Democratic system, the authority to govern is derived from popular support. If one side can get more people to support it, then it will be assumed correct.

What Jon Stewart has done is raise the bar. At the beginning of his rally he joked about how the success of events like his are judged entirely by size.

Mr. JON STEWART (Host, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”): I think you know that the success or failure of a rally is judged by only two criteria; the intellectual coherence of the content and its correlation to the engagement -I’m just kidding. It’s color and size. We all know it’s color and size.

And while he would prefer that such events be judged otherwise, size and content are an easy solution. However, with his massive turnout Stewart has created an instant rebuttal. Whenever anyone holds a general rally to their cause, such as the tea party events over the past year or so, now the instant response can be: “But did you have more than 200,000 people? Because two comedians were able to get more than 200,000 to show up for their non-cause. Certainly if your cause has public support, you could at least match some basic cable comedians.”

Of course, this could be a bad thing as well. What applies to Tea Parties and Beck could also apply to unions and the NAACP. Perhaps this rally will cast a cloud over legitimate Democratic or liberal efforts to create a rallying call.

But at least with populism out, it does force people to find other avenues to support their causes, and Stewart’s ideal of reasonable argument is an alternative. Then again, we have had name-calling and partisan politics in the U.S. since Federalist v. Anti-Federalists. And Stewart seems to think that a 24-hour media could act as a proper check, but as Fox has shown, there are way better ways to make money.

There is also the concern that such an elimination of populist outlets, or at least reducing their power, is anti-democratic (small d). If the number of people supporting a cause is not a proper measure of the support it should be given in our society, then what is?

The answer, probably, is representation in government. Our system is established to filter the argle bargle of mob mentality into the high Senate, the low House, the protected Judiciary, and the electorally collegiate Executive. No matter how many people you can gather into a single place, that does not make policy. It is what our Constitution says, and it is the end message of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear: 200,000 people? That’s fine. Now get them to convince people to vote, or sway their representatives, or propose policy. Stewart doesn’t really intend to do much of that, besides shame people. And he already does that way better on his show, demonstrating the political and media FAILs of the day. But what policy can Tea Baggers propose? Perhaps repealing the 17th amendment, or privatizing something or other. But as Republicans have demonstrated during this election cycle, they don’t really know where they are going to cut in order to balance the budget.

And as we go into the next Congress, people will start to realize just what Stewart and Colbert’s rally has demonstrated. Gathering a bunch of people doesn’t make policy. It makes a gathering of a bunch of people. And it was a gathering that was fun for the people at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, and probably will be seen as a letdown for the Tea Party once they realize that everything hasn’t changed.