Friday, September 14, 2007

Open letter to Tom Engelhardt


I admire your courage in broaching the topic of the Zionist influence on American policy outlined by Mearsheimer and Walt.

When I read their book, Barbara Tuchman's almost wistful memories of her assimilationist-minded family, described in Practicing History, came to mind.

In my view, the promise of the modern world- transcending the tribal aspects of religion without losing the lessons therein, applied to all men, died when the Zionists wrestled control of public Judaism from the assimilationists. The radical, retrograde dreams of a tribal Islamic theocracy, which seemed to be dying a well deserved death with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, were thereby revived, as were the always slumbering dreams of a Christian Theocracy in America.

The unintended irony of supposed monotheists who proclaim, a la, Boykin, that "my god is bigger than your god," would be comical if its effects weren't so tragic.

I still have faith that the public discourse of man will, one day, come to accept the truth of monotheism- all the great religions are but different reflections of the same eternal truths. And that day can't come soon enough for me. Tribalism is such a drag.

I wish the assimilationists success in their philosophical counter-attack on Zionism. More importantly, I pray on behalf of all my Jewish friends, and the millions of other good people of that faith, that the pendulum doesn't swing too far the other way. In our still tribal world, this is a perilous tightrope to walk.

dreaming of a day when we can all live together accepting our differences,

The Dude


STS said...

Hear, hear!

Arguably the core message of Jesus of Nazareth is: don't be tribal. I'm thinking specifically of the exchange in Luke 10:25-37 and it's echo in Matthew 5:43-46.

It's particularly galling to have so many vocal "Christians" pushing us towards a new cycle of Crusades.

"Cassandra" said...

There is a hilarious short film (Academy Award Winner for Best Short 2006), entitled Westbank Story which is a Musical Comedy set in the West, but following the plot and music of West Side Story, that disrobes the tribalism of which you speak.

It's a rollicking laugh for jew, palestinian (and peaceniks like myself) alike, though I suspect extremists on both sides will find it hits uncomfortably too close to home. I saw on a compendium release of "the Best Shorts of 2006", probably avail at your local vid store...

Javide said...

The use of the word tribalism is used as a term to show a component people as distinct within community.
tribe (trib) noun
1. A unit of social organization consisting of a number of families, clans, or other groups who share a common ancestry, culture, and leadership.

com·mu·ni·ty (k?-my?'ni-te) noun
Abbr. com.
1. a. A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government. b. The district or locality in which such a group lives.
2. A group of people having common interests
4. Society as a whole; the public.

Blogger sts cited teachings of Jesus dealing with the concept of 'neighbor' and 'community'.
It is interesting that the word translated from greek as neighbor (see references below) is likely meant to communicate the multiple levels of human relationships; from circumstantial, casual, ethnic and transactional - to caring interpersonal relationship.
The context in both the Matthew and Luke citations is based on the teachings on the moral and spiritual basis of the Kingdom of God which precedes each of them.
The intent of the parable of the 'Good Samaritan' was to contrast the transcendent, spiritual based, relationship between all men and women with the primal motivation of the self and compliance with the letter of the law (law being the poor substitute for personal moral behavior) . Jesus would lead us to express our love of God by extending ourselves selflessly in all interactions; and thus to realize a true community.

This realization or living out of true community is only achieved through spiritual motivation - faith in God.
Man is a dual natured being; we a carnal and spiritual. We naturally develop our carnal and cognitive ability; we grow from infants learning; balance, patterns, speech, pleasure.
We have an innate spiritual consciousness which develops only as we mature - and then it must be exercised to achieve balance with our carnal nature.

Thus the history of mankind…
If we consider our dual nature as analogous to our two legs, we will realize that if we have a dominant leg which has developed stronger than the other - when we walk our path will be skewed and we will tend to walk over time in a circle. And so it is with tribes and nations walking the circle of history.

Humankind consistently misrepresents God's love. We prefer to substitute our own constructions of thought.

As the Dude is fond of William James: many think they are thinking when really they are just rearranging their prejudices.

Note: Translation of NEIGHBOR as used in Luke 10: 25-37 and Matthew 5:43-46
> plesion (play-see'-on); neuter of a derivative of pelas (near); (adverbially) close by; as noun, a neighbor, i.e. fellow (as man, countryman, Christian or friend):

KJV translates as: near, neighbour.
(Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

The Greek translations of the Old Testament utilize plesion ; sometimes without a specific Hebrew original, but frequently from:
Hebrew: r¢a`
comes from a verb meaning "to have dealings," "to associate." The noun reflects the range of possible dealings from the "friend" of the king to stereotyped use in a phrase like "one another." Thus it covers the friend, lover, companion, neighbor, or fellow human being.
(from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, abridged edition, Copyright © 1985 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved.)

Dude said...

I think of tribalism as a restriction of the word man to certain men. Some of our American forefathers who wrote of all men created equal didn't feel comfortable extending that meaning to Africans or Native Americans. I doubt Christianity would have grown as it did if Paul didn't win his debate on the gentiles.