Thursday, March 29, 2012

3 things whose time has passed & more 3 דברים שעליהם העולם כבר לא עומד

1. Will someone please tell the airlines to just print luggage tags like this?



Mobile ____________________________________

Landline ___________________________________

In other words, the first line is self-explanatory; we no longer need to be instructed that our luggage is supposed to bear our names, addresses, cities, states, and ZIPs. Removal of these superfluous “field labels” would then leave us plenty of room to actually print our entire names, addresses, and cities without having to squeeze them in between the words “Name”, “Address”, and “City”. So that those of us with mile-long names, addresses, and / or cities can actually write them comfortably. Whereas the last two lines are not only necessary nowadays, but they actually do need distinguishing, hence labels. Does anyone reading this have an in with the airlines?

2. Request to all humanity: Please record short voice greetings. The time has long passed when you need to explain: "You have reached the home / voice mailbox of the Almoni family: Ploni, Roni, Bubu, Poopsy, and Snookers. We can't come to the phone right now [really?], but be assured your call is important to us. Please leave your name and phone number [what other number would I leave? Social Security?] after the tone [really? is that what I'm supposed to do when I hear that beep?], and we'll return your call just as soon as we can!"

By which time I'm exasperated. News flash: We all know what to do when we hear a voice recording. A simple "You have reached the Almonys. Please leave a message [beep]" will do it, and we'll all use our time for better pursuits than listening for a [bleeping] beep.

3. Does anyone really enjoy those Rock Stars Sing Children’s Songs albums? Seems to me they go right over the kids’ heads. Do your kids really groove to Ziggy Marley singing Itsy Bitsy Spider? Do you? Wouldn’t you just as soon listen to him sing actual Ziggy Marley music? This hybrid just seems to me like the worst of both worlds. I’ll take Rafi any day.

And we now return to our regular programming:

· I find it interesting how many women feel the need to explain why they retain their birth names. And the most common explanation is "professional reasons". So, we don't question a woman retaining her name if she's a published author, or physician, or attorney, or famous; but supposing a cleaning woman wants to retain her name “for professional reasons”? Memo: It’s 2012: Anyone who 1) earns a living and 2) has a business card -- which includes just about everyone over the age of 21 -- is a professional. But furthermore, why do we women feel we need to explain this decision at all? Does anyone expect a man to explain his decision to retain his birth name? What's wrong with "Why should I do otherwise?"

· It's not that it’s wrong for Jack to like football or for Jill to cook and sew. What's wrong is to fall asleep at the wheel as a parent and just say, "Gender will take care of itself." It is up to us parents to fight gender stereotypes actively. No one will do it for us. The corporate and social forces are out there, and make no mistake about it, they are powerful: McDonald's, Disney, and Toys R Us are all counting on you to fall asleep at the parenting wheel. The only entity that's going to challenge them is you and I. Otherwise -- they win: Pink aisles and blue aisles in the store (would we tolerate White aisles and Colored aisles?). Boxing our children in. With nowhere to go if they're outside the box. So whose side are you on? The corporations'? Or your child's?

· Employers should be obligated to subsidize their employees’ birth control…only upon the employee’s signing a pledge to use it consistently and correctly!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Fancy U. blinds us כשהאוניברסיטה הטובה מסנוורת

The other night I attended a Hebrew production of Mother of Him [האמא שלו] by Evan Placey, a play about the mother of a young man (Jewish - yes, it’s relevant) who’s been accused of rape, and what she’s experiencing during his house arrest leading up to his trial.

In the opening scene, we learn that the press has managed to talk to everyone who’s ever met the accused, and the latest interview was with a teacher at his school, where, when he was in ninth grade, “his mother bought him porn.” What actually happened is that he was caught viewing subscriber porn and was on the verge of getting suspended from school, when his mom rescued him by coming forward with her credit card statement proving that it was actually she who had purchased the porn, not her son. Saved by the mom. She explains: “If he’d been suspended, it would’ve been on his record, and it would’ve killed his chances of getting into a good college.”

The rest of the play aside, which was excellent, this scene says it all for me: North American Jewish parents so paralyzed by the chances of their kids not getting into The College of Their Choice that they cover for them to the point of eclipsing all reasonable (and moral) behavior. What message does going to such lengths send the kids? It’s a short distance from “Anything’s excusable when the stakes are college” to “Anything’s excusable.” Whether or not viewing porn led to committing rape, what happened to “You broke the rules; you pay the price”?

When will Jewish parents unclench their white-knuckled fists, stop hovering over their application-happy offspring, and accept that public institutions of higher learning are acceptable post-secondary holding tanks for their snowflakes? That the sky doesn’t fall if you graduate from State U.? Oh. And spending some time with our kids apart from handing them the latest digital gadgets wouldn’t hurt either.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kony 2012: Feel-good activism? ג'וזף קוני: פעלתניות ריקנית

Sitting here after having clicked Buy to purchase a Joseph Kony bracelet on, feeling foolish, but I'm not certain how foolish. I've always prided myself on questioning trends and fads. Even at age 12, when a fellow seventh grader was selling POW / MIA bracelets ('member those?), I recall asking her, "So how does this help the POWs?" She was visibly stumped, and replied, "Well, uh…the money goes to, uh, send them packages?" I bucked that trend and never bought one.

So here I sit, 40 years later, my daughter having persuaded me to watch the Invisible Children film, and I admit it: I bought right into it, down to ordering the bracelet, during which the thought did pass through my mind: "What if this is a scam?" I was considering searching for "joseph kony debunk" or "invisible children debunk" when I just clicked Buy. My simultaneous thought as a Jew: "Suppose these voices and this technology had been available against Hitler?"

So, after buying the bracelet, I did search for debunking (better late than never), and read a few articles not actually debunking IC's effort, but critiquing it. One of the critiques was that the three directors of IC / JK 2012 earn salaries of $90,000 a year each. While certainly comfortable, I don't find that sum unconscionable. It sounds to me like a middle-class income, which is certainly reasonable for full-time activists, at least as deserved as the salaries of pro athletes and Hollywood stars.

And the effort does take money: He never said that money would capture Kony or stop the LRA; he said that the goal is to plaster Kony's name and image all over the globe, which will hopefully lead to his capture. Well, all that plastering is undoubtedly fueled by money, and if I can keep the engine going from my comfortable home in the Southern Arava, then yeah, I'll contribute a small sum.

Another critique was of the use of the director's son as a heartstring ploy. Yes, I did notice the use of the cute, Caucasian, blond Gavin, but excused it because Gavin's dad (what's his name, anyway?) is right: If Gavin were abducted for even one night, it would be on the cover of Newsweek. And I don't suppose they can really help Gavin's being cute, Caucasian, and blond, can they? Would it have been better for him to look like some kid out of a Roald Dahl story?

Most of the other critiques were variations on "It's more complicateג than that" and of feel-good, one-click "activism" in general. Regarding the latter, it's pretty obvious that this campaign's appeal lies in the hungering among Americans for something we can all get behind: an evil we can all oppose, regardless of where we sit on today's polarized circus we call American politics: They even created a special logo depicting the elephant and the donkey joining together to fight Kony. In fact, I have to admire these guys: They thought of every trick in the book. They really used the media — and their heads — to their full potential.

Regarding "It's more complicated than that" and "northern Ugandans themselves claim they're enjoying the longest period of quiet since 1986", well, I have some experience with claims of this genre: I live in Israel (which doesn't need a bracelet, thank you), and it disturbs me to hear Jews say in response to critiques of our wrongheaded policies, "Well it's more complex than that." No, it's not: Occupation is wrong. Subjugating 1.5 Palis is wrong. And regardless of how slickly it's sold, so is abducting 30,000 children and forcing them into slavery, no matter the "justice" of the cause. I'd gladly wear a bracelet emblazoned with that on it. So, call me a sucker if you like; my Kony 2012 bracelet will just have to serve as shorthand for all of the above.

This just in: I received my order confirmation today, and the letter says: "100% of the money from your purchase goes to the area of greatest need, including our protection and rehabilitation work in Central Africa...It allows us to be certain that we will be able to help children recover from their experiences with the LRA long after the LRA has been disarmed." This answers another concern I had, that of rehabbing these poor kids after their (hoped-for) liberation.