Friday, December 20, 2013

The Man in Me

I hadn't posted this article about a month ago due to believing it would be posted on another web source. However, that did not happen, so here are my thoughts on hypocrisy, hatred, and bias in the internet age. Well, in one particular regard, at least.... (issue of Bob Dylan, Israel, and internet banning, or whatever you call it...)


Thousands of years ago, the Jewish people were forced into slavery and tormented like animals, treated like chewing gum on the bottom of one’s shoes. In the millennia that followed, society tried its hardest to scrape them off of the bottom, from the inquisitions of Spain and the pogroms of Eastern Europe to the confinement to medieval ghettos and, most infamously, the Holocaust. The anti-Semites did not win, however; they did not rid of the mess. What they did instead was strengthen a people, who continue to this day to face hatred, discrimination, and the desire of many to see an end to their existence.

Sixty-Five years ago, Israel achieved its independence. From there it harvested doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, philanthropists, and people of all beliefs, professions, and passions. Nonetheless, there are an astounding number of people who wish to see the end of Israel. The Jews in particular, of course, but also there are individuals of various backgrounds whom call Israel home, including Christians, Muslims, Druze, Ethiopians, Indians, Japanese... the list goes on.

Moving to Israel is referred to as making “Aliyah”. This word means ‘moving up’. Not because Israelis think Israelis are superior, but because Israelis think Israel is superior. Which is fair to say, considering the number of people who desire to own it and think of it as the holiest place on Earth. The reason Israeli immigrants’ migration is referred to as Aliyah is because no immigrant is seen as an immigrant, but as an individual who has joined the higher rank. A better person, now a citizen. Israel has always been the land for refugees, for people running away for the sake of a better life. The many Sudanese refugees can attest to this, as can many Palestinians who fled their own country searching for a safe haven.

I don’t claim that Israel is a perfect country. They are run by a government, a leader with motives of his own, prejudices of his own, and poor judgment of his own…. However, I recently came across a website that was created in order to share with the world the song lyrics and guitar chords of many of Bob Dylan’s songs. For those of you not familiar with Dylan, he is a singer/songwriter who has been active since 1961 when his name became big in the New York City, Greenwich Village folk scene. Dylan was born Jewish and converted once as a born-again Christian. He has found Judaism once again and has showed his support various times, most famously when he visited the Western Wall and described his feelings towards Israel in the song, “Neighborhood Bully” in 1983 (  

Despite Dylan’s clear support for the Nation of Israel, the individual who shared his lyrics and chords on this website has decided to block Israeli citizens from viewing his website. He refers to this as a “Cultural boycott of Israel”. He explains this action as, “…a long overdue reaction to the absurd inhumanity that is demonstrated in its actions and that goes against everything that I and this site stands for. Access to --------- has been blocked for visitors from Israel.”

                This individual goes on to explain that it is not an act against Jewish people, but against the state of Israel and its actions. Without going into the entire situation and explanation, let me just ask, why the Hell does the state of Israel care about Bob Dylan lyrics? He also provides links which answer why he doesn’t block other countries, he explains that it would be inconsequential. I bequeath thee to put aside any anti-Zionist beliefs and think about the sentiment here. This man is at one point claiming to have no qualms with the Jews, by religion or descent, but he blocks these people, these people alone from viewing his website. His reasoning being that he wishes to… punish the state of Israel? According to, “In Kenya, authorities violated international refugee law when they closed the border to thousands of people fleeing armed conflict in Somalia. Asylum-seekers were illegally detained at the Kenyan border without charge or trial and forcibly returned to Somalia… In Uganda, 1,500 people die each week in the internally displaced person camps. According to the World Health Organization, 500,000 have died in these camps... Vietnamese authorities forced at least 75,000 drug addicts and prostitutes into 71 overpopulated “rehab” camps, labeling the detainees at “high risk” of contracting HIV/AIDS but providing no treatment.” continues the long list of countries violating human rights laws. On the website they explain a particular situation in Egypt, “Egypt’s treatment of refugees from Syria is a violation of international law. Hundreds of women, men and children have fled conflict only to be subjected to abuse and discrimination. For some, prolonged arbitrary detention has ended with forced deportation – in some cases back to Syria….” (October 17, 2013)

Cases like these occur all over the world at the hands of nations’ governments and police forces. The creator of the Dylan chord website does not block his website from Kenya or Uganda or Vietnam, nor any other country. This block has been exclusively created against the access of Israelis to Dylan’s lyrics. Lyrics which could uplift, enlighten, and entertain children, soldiers, and the average bloke. This is Bob Dylan we are talking about here; a man of peace and justice and lyrical brilliance. Robert Allan Zimmerman is a Zionist Jew by any definition of the word.

What distinguishes Israel from these other countries? What do you suppose that special trait is?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Wonder, wonder, how I wonder....

Lately I've been thinking about friendship a lot. Who friends whom, who stays lifelong friends, how this whole FRIENDSHIP thing works.

Is it a coincidence that oftentimes the most genuine and kind-hearted people are drawn to the equally magnificent sort? Is it meant to be? Written in the cosmos a priori and there's no avoiding it? Or... is there something less metaphysical about the whole thing?

I predict it's all in our hands. Considering how many awful people I have befriended in my past, I guess that says something. Although, most of these awful people were weeded out. Not by me! God, no, I would rather live on Tums tablets for a year than face conflict! Time and events just kind of... did the job for me.

It's still on my mind, however, "How was I so fortunate as to attract the wonderful people into my life that I have?"

It wasn't about luck or chance, it was about being the people we each needed to have in our lives.

Most of my friends are absolute saints! Their patience, love, and empathy never ceases to amaze me! There are also specific types of causes I/we like to help with. Two of the most common causes within my friends are animals and mentally ill people. Obviously, if you go to events and things that associate with these causes, these are the people you come across, but I find myself attracted to this type outside of predictable situations as well.

Why animals, though? Why the mentally ill? Maybe, and this is a big maybe, but maybe what we all relate to are... those two groups.

For example, I remember what school was like. People will turn you into "just an animal". The way they would feel fine harming an innocent animal is just how they would treat me, and it's the same way these Saints were treated. The bullies would close you into a box; the one they've created for you in their mind, and they would beat you. They would no longer see you as a living thing, but as a way of venting hurt and anger and pressure and stress and everything that made them feel bad. It would give them such power and make them feel so much better about themselves. Day after day they would do this, recharge themselves, and go home telling themselves, "At least it wasn't me."

The Saint, however? Day after day, they would be humiliated and hurt, take a deep breath, and go home asking themselves, "Why was it me? I am powerless."

Animals and the mentally ill are two of the most powerless demographics in society. Along with the homeless, the elderly, and children. No matter your race, heritage, or class, if you fall into one of these categories, you are immediately labeled as weak and helpless. You are immediately a target for the masses and can easily be overtaken and taken advantage of. The bullies will corner you, they will take any sense of joy from you, and they will leave you for dead. Each time it gets easier for them. Only a handful of Saints will have someone there to defend them. The rest will have to defend themselves... or fall.

From these damaged goods, Saints arise. Not always, of course, but there are those special individuals whose decency and courage cannot be shattered. When these Saints stand back up, push their way through the carnage, and allow themselves to be reborn, they become the ones this world needs.  There is an incredible amount of power and beauty within these individuals. They may never be aware of it, but they are the ones we all owe credit to. The ones who won't stand around and watch others be bullied, who will be there for others when they need someone to listen or help or just sit next to.

Not everyone is able to appreciate the Saints, of course. They are an unusual breed. They usually look like everyone else, but their insides are more dented and bruised. Their hearts have more bandages and stitches. Sometimes they are loners or introverts or just shy. Sometimes these people put on a hard exterior to keep away the bad guys, and the good guys. Other times, they welcome anyone who will take them and love them; accepting the risk of being hurt again.  And sometimes they never fully recover, they go through life playing the past over and over again in their head, trying to escape the memories and pain, but they cannot. These memories are scarring and will FOREVER affect the Saint.

Then these Saints find one another. Slowly.

It could be at any restaurant.

They sit down at parallel tables and both order the tofu salad. These Saints are tired of seeing companies slashing open animal's necks and telling us, "They were born for this purpose".... Just like the Saint was born a freak and her purpose is to be harassed. How kids will be kids, and therefore it's okay if some of them are hurting and teasing the weird kid. How New York City is a rough city and you'll "always" meet those people who will mistreat you and touch you inappropriately and treat you like.... like... like a slab of meat. Like chopped liver. Like a cow on a farm having her calf taken away and then shoved onto a milking machine so someone else... some other, stronger individual can enjoy the taste of her milk.

It could be in the psychiatric ward of a hospital.

The Saints enter, curious, wanting to volunteer and help out a little. They enter the guarded gate and looks into the sad, bullet hole eyes of patient after patient. Each one with stories of prison, abuse, rape, racism, cruelty... and no one to listens, because these people cannot be helped. They were born to be weak and society will treat them this way. If they don't speak up, they are stupid. If they do speak up, they are crazy and need more medication. These are not people, these are defective puppies at the puppy mill. These are nerdy kids who need to learn to suck it up. These are the ignored individuals of the world; they must remain silent. We all must remain silent or be classified as one of them.

The Saints won't be fooled, though. The Saints cannot be shut up or shutdown. They will always do the right thing. They will be mocked and hated and society will try to cast them off as "mentally ill", "animals", and "freaks".

Perhaps that's not so bad.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Who do you consider a role model?

I am going to start this post by saying, I love the YouTuber known as Hannah Harto. She started out with a segment called 'My Drunk Kitchen', which has evolved into personal logs, world travel, mass worldwide volunteering, and probably various other adventures. I find Hannah to be a delightful character to follow. She is honest, real, a LGBTQ superwoman, and always can make me laugh. The fact that she uses her fan base as a way of inciting good deeds and positive messages is really inspiring!

The only thing wrong with Hannah's YouTube channel is the demographic. According to Wikipedia (an always reliable source-- merp), the majority of YouTube users are in the age range of 14-17 years old. This is clear when viewing the audience of almost any YouTuber's meet-ups with fans. Again, Hannah has many positive influences on these kids, she is straightforward about sexuality, body image, and various other topics teens need to hear about. In which case, YouTube is a marvelous place to learn. My question is, however, is a "show" based on the fun of cooking while highly intoxicated really the sort of thing that should be presented in a shared space with what is good and right and just? Should a 16 year old watch their beloved "leader" talk about empowerment and beauty, only to be followed by this same "leader" downing drink after drink and attempting to use the stove while sloshed?

Next to the other role models of today; the provocative, raunchy-mouthed, vodka-glugging sorts we know and love/hate, Hannah is a saint. I recognize this. I also realize kids will learn and see and hear these things in a million other places before and after 'My Drunk Kitchen', but does that make it permissible? According to videos of Hannah's and many like it, drinking is what youth is about. Sloppy inebriation is youth and fun and friendly, it's not until you start becoming old and boring that alcohol is the bad guy....

I'm not saying alcohol is bad, I certainly have partaken in my share. I know the invigorating feeling of the whole shebang! On the other hand, I've also read all the lists on saying how "you're getting old when you can't drink as much". It's "uncool" to not drink as much as possible while you're young enough to. I've seen the propaganda. I know how many 20-somethings buy into the lies of the advertisements. Television shows of middle aged women, too! Those who drink tons of wine are more fun, exciting, and youthful. That is who you should aim to be. Men will like you, your kids will like you, and life will just be peachy keen... if you drink away your troubles.

We're also reminded time and time again that some alcohol is good for your heart. Maybe this is so, but so is exercise, so is getting enough sleep, so is not going out to party every night. These lies are going to be the downfall of society. Maybe even of your life!

I am writing on this matter because of someone particular I have in mind. Someone who just turned 21 and is convinced in order to feel young, and fully experience life, drinking excessively is necessary. I overheard this person saying the other day, "You've had that bottle of vodka since Halloween? I've probably bought 7 or 8 since then." and another time, "She rarely goes out. People over 20 don't drink and have the same fun we do. I don't want to be like that."


Now, I will mention, this may not (hopefully) be the typical sentiment of the early 20 year old. See, this early 20 year old is particularly, what's the word? Stupid? Yes.

Do people over 20 drink just as much as people under 20? Generally, I would say so. Probably more because they can afford it and have real life issues which they like to drink away on the weekend.

Do people over 20 have just as much fun as people under 20? Most probably would say they do. Maybe not as often due to work and responsibility, but heck, maybe these individuals are onto better things than clubbing and passing out!

What I'm trying to say is, you can be an alcoholic at any age, that doesn't make you a better person. Shocker! Dare I say, it makes me sad. If you feel old and boring at 21, you have a LONG time to go, during which you'll be very depressed. Hate to break it to you.

It has been said time and time that the role models of today are terrible (not that they're any worse than Ozzy or Jimi or The Ramones...), but I think society needs to start establishing what they consider bad role modeling because it's gross or weird or annoying and what sorts of issues we actually have to focus on. We have to remodel what we consider the social norms and what can be laughed off as "kids will be kids", as opposed to, "I do not want my child exposed to this and I do not want this to be considered right or acceptable." Because in the end, what your kid's friends think and do and see does affect what your kid will think and do and see.

If I had the power, I would remind websites likes YouTube and Buzzfeed and all those sites who their audience is and what sort of message they are sending them. Adult or child, we are all influenced by what "everyone else" is doing. Don't drink the Kool-Aid is what I am saying, even if it has added vitamins.