Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reincarnated Lenny Bruce Speaks of The Jewish Problem

“… Israel calls in public speeches and schoolbooks the Arab citizens of Israel a demographic nightmare and the enemy from within. As for the Palestinian refugees living under occupation, they are defined in Israeli History schoolbooks as a 'problem to be solved’. Not long ago the Jews were a problem to be solved.”

--Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan, Lecturer in Language Education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem anda member of Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families for Peace.

Before there was a Jewish Problem
there was a Jewish Question.
Maybe they were the same thing.

No one wanted the Jews to live in their country.
People hated them.
Why? Because they were different.

They wore yarmulkes,
striped shawls, and smelled of fish.
Fishy! Yech!

They spoke a different language,
and lived in filthy ghettos.

After years of being squashed
until their blood coated stones
along every road leading somewhere,

but not to the pub except
for the occasional schnopps on Shabbos,
no, they didn't traipse to the beer garden

where the National Socialists,
or Nazis as they later came to be called,
decided to solve the problem.

The Jewish Problem, was not as so many had said,
religious. It was racial, which gave the Nazis
a legal basis for everything. This was so brilliant.

Jews were now excluded from six branches of industry.
Properties were de-Jewdified.

Jews were prohibited from attending concerts, films, and theaters.
Jews were prohibited from attending German schools.
Jews were prohibited from bearing firearms.

You know what’s next.
We’ve all heard about the six million
who died in the ovens, and how the world

didn't want to know about anything
until it was too late, which is about when
the Jewish Question became the Jewish Problem.

Where do you stick the Jews
who survived the Holocaust?
You out there in the audience.
Where the fuck d'you put them?

There was a search party.
Everyone looked around.
Uganda was too far from where the Jews wanted to be.

The Jews became a People for a Land
for a Land without a People.
But that was a slogan, not the reality,

because it seems
there were many people
who lived in Palestine, the Palestinians,

primitive people, said the army men,
wild beasts with schmutzy teeth.

Fast forward to today when Israelis have a problem
with people who retain keys to houses
that are now occupied by families who light candles
and invite the Shekinah of peace into their homes on Shabbos,

while during the week Israeli soldiers order Palestinian women to strip in front
of their children for security reasons, and as jailers, torture and lock up young men without decent food or clean mattresses who run checkpoints that force old men to wait in line for hours without water.

Jewish life is filled with irony,
which some of you out there call a Jewish sense of humor,
but this is not funny.

And how can I, Lenny Bruce, who in my day
talked a lot of unfunny stuff,
not cry out as a Jew,
how can I not say that justice and mercy belong to us all?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sh’mah Yisra’el

Hear O Israel,
from a daughter
who can only read the alliterative text of Hebrew
with glasses that need a new prescription
and a mouth that gets filled with saliva
from a tongue that knows not how to deliver
two-dotted vowels—

Here O Israel
from your daughter
who was born in the same year
you were created,
after World War II had folded
its charred arms around
the only hope that was left—
Israel, the land of milk and honey—

You were the voice of my parent’s generation
who planted trees along new boulevards
and carried ashes sewed
inside the hem of their clothing
to cry along the wadis of your limestone beds,
hugging Exodus by Leon Uris.

You gave them a bright torch
to carry every high holyday
for all their days
raising money and donating shoes—

a reason to drink tea
in a glass mug with a lump of sugar
coating their tongues with sweetness
as they stamped letters,
made phone calls,
argued with each other in the accent
of wherever they’d come from.

Israel, my heart is heavy
with the dreams of my parents,
this second generation daughter
who wanted a lasting peace
to fill the crevices
of your Wailing Wall
with a light of its own creation.

Instead, only war and massacre,
dairy farms and steel plants
laid to rubble.
Twisted iron stabbing the earth.
And the sighs of the six million
each time another official
invokes their name.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

For Destiny Arts
There weren’t always cell phones.
People went home to make a call
or stopped in a telephone booth
to put in the right change.

People called long distance
or person-to-person
asked to reverse the charges
or to make a collect call

which meant whoever picked up the phone
had to foot the bill.
There weren’t always cell phones.
There were longer silences.

People rolled down car windows
and waited until they got
behind closed doors, which is not to say
those were the good old days.

They were just different,
with longer pauses.
Now we keep talking,
text messaging, I aMMing each other

we can hear each other think
we can hear each other think


Think of all the places you use your cellphone. Where are you?

I'm talking on my cellphone in the bus
I'm talking on my cellphone at the mall
I'm talking on my cellphone in the bathroom
I'm talking on my cellphone in the hospital

Think of all the places you hear other people talk on their cellphones. Where are they? Where are you?

I hear you talk on your cellphone when I'm at school
I hear you talk on your cellphone when I'm in the supermarket
I hear you talk on your cellphone when I'm waiting on line to buy lunch

Group work:
Team up. Pick one of the above scenarios and develop a conversation.

Individual work:
1. 9/11. You're in the Towers. You're calling who? What do you say?

2. You're on the street. There's an accident. Who do you call? What do you say?

3. You're an astronaut. There's another life form outside the spaceship. It's telepathic. You don't need a cellphone. What do you say?

4. Make up your own.

5. You're sending a text message to your boy/girl friend who just found out that a best friend was killed. What do you say?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oakland is a Holy City
At the orientation this evening, the first of several for 40 transition task forces with a total of approximately 800 members, who are meeting over the course of the next six weeks to give Mayor-elect Ron Dellums five recommendations. A process "to bring the brilliance of the people of Oakland together," according to Kitty Epstein, a representative from Dellums' staff. She said this is "historic and unprecendented" in the way this is happening. I'm on the task force for Transparency and Ethics in Government.

Friday, September 15, 2006

First Online Date, Background Check

So by no agenda do you mean you don’t care any number of California figs whether a said page turner wears poppy or propane blue nailpolish or doesn’t have hands altogether, but manages to turn turn turn through a suction device strapped to the top of his or her forehead, which leads to another question, do you have an agenda regarding the gender of the person who might join you for a latte on some semi-lit afternoon when the light filters in slanted Greek pillars across the city? Just wondering.

Or by no agenda do you imply that somebody somewhere did have an agenda and wrapped you hard around his or her bullet points until you started to bleed so badly you needed to tie a tourniquet along any number of pressure points to staunch what was rising up inside you like a revulsion washing away what some people might describe as a tender feeling? Just curious.

Or by no agenda do you mean you are open to the moment, to fill a container of whatever two people can become together and not have any preconceived notions regarding whether a container should come from Neiman Marcus, or Ross, or fed by streaming video? Because I think everyone has some kind of agenda even if it's a non-agenda except of course for moments when we're inside our own puzzle. A background is the hardest part.

Like times when I didn't know what or how to say something without an agenda, found hidden ones tucked inside other pant cuffs, pockets, velcro fasteners or zippers that were missing teeth and plain broken. Now my agenda has turned into a to-do list. I do, I do, said the Cowardly Lion. Keep going. Take a bus to North Beach. Walk home without an umbrella. Drive five hours to Disneyland just to give Mickey Mouse a hand.