Archive for November, 2011

THE JESUS CACHET

I was lied to as a child. As a kid in the ‘fifties, I was taught that anyone could grow up to be president. Not so. Several clear caveats existed. Then things changed. Well, some things.

In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro became the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee. A woman! Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton served as secretary of state. So did Colin Powell. A black man! Barak Obama won the presidency (with Sarah Palin opposing as the Republican VP candidate.) Herman Cain now targets the White House. What a country, America!

Only where does that leave me as a Jew? At least in Republican eyes? Last Saturday night in Des Moines, six GOP presidential hopefuls—Mitt Romney not among them—assured Christian conservatives that they were devoting their lives to Jesus. Texas Governor Rick Perry even asserted, “In every person’s heart, in every person’s soul, there is a hole that can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.” They put a sign out on Republican ballots: “No Jews need apply.” That, by the way, would include Jesus.

The Christian litmus test for election is a terrible sham. Christian conservatives rail against government from a religious perspective, but their position doesn’t reflect Christian tradition. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21). Jesus’ followers register quite a shock upon hearing that statement. The text suggests that Jesus understands government’s legitimate role while emphasizing that the kingdom of God plays another—and greater—role. I’d love to see the verse(s) in the Gospels in which Jesus castigates Rome for over-regulating the Judean economy and espouses the concept of unfettered free markets.

As a Jew, Jesus knew better. The Torah’s commandments are clear regarding economic justice. Pay the laborer swiftly (Deut. 24:15). Leave what has not been missed while harvesting one’s field and vineyard for the poor (Deut. 24: 19ff).  Maintain honest weights and measures (Deut. 25:15). This sense of communal responsibility did not abrogate the marketplace. Understanding human nature, it placed limitations upon commerce to protect the vulnerable from predators.

All this raises an interesting question: Where does the dovetailing of Christianity and conservative politics leave House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R.-Virginia)?  He may well have his eye on the White House in 2016. But how can he as a Jew represent the values of his tradition and appease the Christian right? Yet Republicans accept Cantor’s conservative values as legitimate. So isn’t it time they concede that such political values may be held by anyone of any religion? Maybe even none? Allegiance to Jesus in the political arena and a related hyper-capitalism represents no more than hypocrisy writ large.

If Republicans possessed the courage to acknowledge the truth, any American boy or girl—or transgender person—really could grow up to be president. Even I would have a shot at flying regularly on Air Force One. But sadly, many people view the concept of America for all as particularly un-American.

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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available in soft cover and e-book at iUniverse.com.

 

HERMAN, GOD AND ME

Herman Cain and I have something important in common. God speaks to us. Regarding Cain, I guess God wanted to comfort him after four women accused him of sexual harassment when he headed the National Restaurant Association. And what could make someone feel better than God urging him to be a candidate for the presidential nomination? Las Saturday, Cain told young Republicans in Atlanta that God said exactly that. Ever humble, Cain told God he was the wrong man—not another Moses. But think about it. If God wants you to be president, how can you lose?

As for me, I was walking on Clement Street when I saw something burning. Not a bush exactly. Well, not at all. Actually, a fire was burning in a trash container. Like Moses, I had to take a closer look.

That’s when the voice called to me. “David, David.” Or at least, I thought it called my name. I could have been talking to myself. I do that. A lot. The thing is, a name called twice in the Torah signifies a major breakthrough in the history of humankind. Bigger than Texas governor Rick Perry drawing a blank on the third federal agency he wants to axe (oops!) if he becomes president.

“Hey, man, go inside that store there, get me a six-pack and leave it right here,” the voice commanded. “Is that you, God?” I asked. “Whatever floats your boat,” the voice answered. Except that’s more the story of Noah and the Flood. “How do I know it’s really You?” I asked. The voice had a ready answer. “I spoke to Herman Cain. And to Rick Perry’s wife, Anita. Ask them. I get around during election season.”

“Not so fast,” I said. After all, Abraham took on God about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. “You told Cain he should run for president, and you told Perry’s wife the same thing?” The voice came right back without missing a beat. “I talk to all Republicans. Have you ever heard of one who hasn’t spoken with me?” I shook my head. The voice went back to command mode. “Beer. Now.”

I stared at the fire and startled. It was getting smaller. Not like the burning bush. Then I noticed a tiny speaker on the light pole a few feet away. D’oh! God wasn’t speaking to me at all. No matter how self-important I may be—I’m the author of SLICK!, a helluva terrific novel full of geopolitical satire—I know I’m no Abraham, Moses or King David (although red hair runs in my mother’s side of the family). I walked away.

“Hold on!” cried the voice. “When God talks, everyone listens.” I flipped him off. “That’s a take-off on the old TV commercial for a brokerage that doesn’t exist anymore. ‘When E.F. Hutton talks, everyone listens.’ Crappy spots. Buy your own beer. I’m outta here.”

I felt somewhat bad about deserting whoever it was who’d rigged up the speaker. The ploy was clever. You’ve got to respect that. But when it comes down to it, some people will say anything for a drink. Or a vote.

Want to respond? Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com.

I’ll be reading from SLICK! this Monday night, November 21, 7:00 pm — Phoenix Books, 3957 24th Street between Sanchez & Noe, San Francisco.

 

THE I-BOMB

My SLICK! launch party went well. I read parts of three scenes. One described the aged Sultan of Moq’tar being confused about present-day events but remaining proud that neither Jews nor Israelis live in the sultanate—except for a long list of both who actually maintain residency, as well as monthly visits by an Israeli cardiologist.

Hypocrisy inspires satirists. And where do satirists collect their material? From the world around us. This past week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran is attempting to build a nuclear bomb. Innocent, peace loving Iran? The Iran that wants to wipe Israel off the map? As Captain Renault (played by Claude Rains) remarks in the classic film Casablanca regarding accusations of gambling at Rick’s Place (owned by Humphrey Bogart), “I’m shocked.” Of course, Major Reynaud gambles at Rick’s all the time.

As expected, Iran vociferously denied the charge, calling it a fabrication emanating from a bullying Washington. And Iran has its allies, even if they remain an arm’s length away. Russia and China—paragons of virtue both—continually seek to counter American influence. They may not like Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but they will use their seats on the UN Security Council to prevent further sanctions or other actions from deterring Tehran. Business is, after all, business. Russia engages in much trade with Iran in the areas of agriculture, telecommunications and aviation. China needs every drop of oil it can get.

The news is quiet today. But Israel, according to the media, is seriously contemplating an attack on Iran. Truth or dare? It’s possible that Israel—if Prime Minister Netanyahu can get sufficient agreement in his cabinet—will actually pull the military trigger, as fraught with risk as such an attack might be. On the other hand, Netanyahu may be goading the U.S. and NATO to launch their own attack, perhaps with Israeli assistance. Or he may be pushing the UN to implement what French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé has termed “unprecedented sanctions”—in spite of Russia and China’s opposition—rather than risk seeing a major conflict in the Gulf, which France and Germany oppose.

If an attack does take place, the Sunni Arab states of the Middle East will doubtless continue to reveal their own hypocrisy. Although hardly fond of Israel, Oren Kessler reported in the Jerusalem Post online (11-9-11), they privately support Israel doing the dirty work for them while condemning such action publicly. Saudi Arabia and Egypt fear a nuclear Iran and may feel compelled to go nuclear themselves. But what else can we expect from peace loving nations who are Muslim brothers at heart?

Where do we go from here? Iran states that any attack on its soil will be met with “iron fists.” U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta yesterday warned against an Israeli attack citing “unintended consequences.” Anyone who has played sports understands the concept of trying to intimidate an opponent. “Woofing” we used to call it.

Let’s hope that woofing is all it is. Because this game may produce a great many losers. And there’s not a satirical sentiment in that statement.

Want to respond? Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com.

And a special salute to all veterans. We care!

HIJACKED!

I wanted to devote this post solely to SLICK!, my new novel available now as an e-book at Amazon and soon in digital and soft-cover formats at Amazon, iUniverse.com, and bn.com (Barnes and Noble). And why not? SLICK! covers territory that’s as fresh as last Saturday’s New York Times.

In SLICK!, the United States seeks to strengthen ties with the small Persian Gulf sultanate of Moq’tar. American military forces may need a new base of operations to project power in the region. Truth followed fiction. The Times reported that the U.S. military will build up forces in the Gulf now that our troops will be out of Iraq as of January. Fiction followed truth. In 2003, we began pulling troops out of Saudi Arabia. Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain took on increased importance as staging points. How stable they will be remains to be seen.

Truth and fiction intertwine here in America, too. I refer to the Occupy movement, occupying lots of media coverage in the Bay Area—particularly events in Oakland.

Yes, Americans should vent their rage against unfettered capitalism, a greed-filled financial industry that believes it’s “doing God’s work” and Washington’s rejection of responsible regulation. The nation’s right wing has contributed to the problem, not the solution.

But the movement that started with the occupation of Wall Street and spread nationwide has, at least in Oakland, been hijacked. And, that hijacking was inevitable. While well-meaning people from all walks of life assembled to raise their voices—that’s what the First Amendment is all about—virtually no one had anything to say beyond, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” The “leaderless” crowds displayed no desire to propose a specific agenda for Washington and support political candidates—which the Tea Party did admirably, as much as I disagree with their economics.

An Occupy movement rudderless from the beginning proved highly susceptible to being taken over by anarchists. A tiny minority, which shows up at protests of all sorts, they make big headlines by provoking and engaging in violence. As if Oakland’s city government were the problem. (It has its own problems to be sure.) In the process, they display no qualms about making it difficult or impossible for the small businesses downtown to do business, thus hurting many of the city’s working people whom they claim to represent.

It’s easy to smash a window, set a car on fire or put someone’s eye out. It’s not so easy—or cheap—to replace the window, repair the car or restore someone’s vision. I repeat a point I made in “Post-Mubarak Egypt and Torah” (2-11-11): Marlon Brando, as a Hell’s Angels-type in The Wild One (1953), is asked what he’s rebelling against. He answers, “What do you got?” When the folks standing and camping out in Oakland’s Civic Plaza figure out what they’re for and communicate it, they’ll occupy a proper place in history.

Want to respond? Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com.