Saturday, February 05, 2011

Lessons from Egypt

I know I haven't blogged in a while, but I can't help but share my thoughts on Egypt. After Tunisia's example, the Egyptian people are fighting for their voices to be heard, showing the power of peaceful demonstrations.   Hopefully, in addition to Mubarak stepping down and there being a peaceful transition of power, the rest of the world will learn one or more of the following lessons.

1) Supporting "friendly dictators" is a recipe for unrest, anti- our democratic values,  and never in America's best interest. This is a tactic we've tried repeatedly, believing the alternatives worse.  But in actual democracies, even if leaders we don't like come to power, if they make poor decisions for their people, piss off the rest of the world, or cause hardship to their people, they can be voted out in the subsequent election.  Yes, the palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, but largely because the alternative was rife with corruption, but then they were less content with Hamas when they saw just what their choice meant.  If America has a vested interest in the region, we have ways to put political and economic pressure on whatever government comes to power.  We don't need any particular ruler to make that happen.

2) Israel is not the #1 problem in the middle east.  For years, leaders in the Arab world have tried to focus the attention away from domestic problems and direct the anger of their people at an outside force. And many liberal NGOs, instead of focusing on the oppression of homosexuals, freedom of religion, womens' rights, freedom of speech, and other human rights issues in the many middle eastern countries, have disproportionately focused on the Palestinians, feeding this mirage that Israel is the real and only problem.   I'm not saying that there aren't issues between Israel and its neighbors, but by removing autocracies, it forces Arab governments to actually deal with domestic issues, such as corruption, poverty, and human rights.  Perhaps down the line they can actually look at making peace with Israel and make the actual compromises necessary without fear of losing their #1 punching bag.

3) Good, investigative journalism is imperative to transparent government and a free society.  
As we've see the past few days, Mubarak's thugs have not only targeted protesters with intimidation, firebombs, and shootings, but there has been a strong persecution of journalists in the region, to try to discourage the independent reporting that discredit official government propaganda of what's actually happening.  Rachel Maddow did a good job tying together just why journalists are being targeted (see the broadcast from 2/2).

This further emphasizes the importance of journalism to an open society, yet for the past few years in the the US, journalists are often so afraid of being seen as biased they don't actually investigate national news and politics.  Giving the full picture does not mean asking people on both sides to give official talking points, having a panel of "experts" give their opinions.  It means actually fact-checking what politicans say, whether their actions match their words, what is actually happening on the ground.  And if the report on a story implicates one person or party for doing bad things, not spending half the time asking them what they meant to do/say (do most news stories on Egypt now spend half the time quoting official Mubarak sources?).  Perhaps these indefensible attacks on journalists will reinvigorate reporters, to apply the investigative tactics learned abroad in our day to day news coverage.

As I continue to follow the revolution unfolding in Egypt, I am glad for the resolve of the Egyptian people and journalists covering the story, and hope that the world actually learn these lessons.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Free or reduced price High Holiday options in Atlanta

Since I just researched this for an email, I figured I'd post this publicly for all who were interested.  A number of area synagogues offer free or reduced price high holiday tickets to young adults.  Some places to look at:

Hillel (reform, conservative, and orthodox)
Open Jewish Project at The Temple (reform)
Or Hadash (conservative)
Atlanta Jewish Experience at Beth Jacob (Orthodox shul, learner's service)
Beit Chaverim (reconstructionist)
Kehilla (modern orthodox, explanatory service)
Or Ve Shalom (sephardic)
and any of the Chabads

Feel free to add to this list if you know of any others...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gender Roles and Dating Rules

I know I've touched on this in multiple posts previously, but I wanted to clarify based on some of the comments from my last one and consolidate here.

One of the hardest things for me to get used to in Atlanta is that gender-based dating rules are largely followed.  For someone uncomfortable with the idea of boxing anyone in based on their sex chromosomes, the fact that I've caved and have come to accept to many of these rules seems rather hypocritical.  Lest you get the wrong idea, here's why:

Dating is complicated.  Everyone is trying to one-up those they date, get inside their head, and hopefully be on the same page emotionally.  Gender rules give a clear cut answer to a lot of what the other is thinking, albeit rather arbitrarily.  Assume for the rest of this that I'm talking the first few dates, because things do tend to change when it comes to long term.  For example, Jack and Jill go grab dinner.  Jack tries to pick up the tab, Jill knows Jack sees it as a date.  Jill lets Jack pick up the bill, Jack knows Jill too wants this to be a date. Both know where the other stands and can respond accordingly.

Take something a little less defined.  If it is the guy's responsibility to be the initiator (of planning a date, a kiss, etc), it is the girl's responsibility to make sure the guy knows she's interested.  Even in strictly defined gender boxes, both must be active participants.  The big problem with leaving it up to the individuals to decide who plays what role, is the uncertainty that follows.  If Jack is not initiating, does that mean he's not interested, or desiring Jill to initiate?  And if the latter, does he know how to make Jill know he's interested, i.e. how to play the active "female" role?  Now Jack and Jill are back to the game of trying to interpret each others actions without knowing the context, making the whole dating game that much more complicated.

Now, I'm not saying that we always need to follow the archaically defined gender roles in dating.  However, perhaps we need to learn a little something from the homosexual dating culture (at least how I understand it to be, please correct me if you know this to be wrong).  You don't always have to play the stereotypical "male" or "female" roles in dating, and can swap periodically.  However, make sure if you're not doing one, you're doing the other, actively, and hopefully the other will catch on at some point.