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CHUMBUG!

The other day I was sitting in a coffee shop in SF minding my own business, being tortured by an endless barrage of sentimental Xmas songs coming through the loudspeakers. It’s time, I realized, to post my annual rant about this irritating, phony, commercial season that’s foisted upon us earlier and earlier every year. Originally a performance piece, here it is:

Chumbug!

 

So, nu? It’s not enough that I’ve been hocked to death by Xmas for six decades, now it’s Chanukah too?!

Christian America has been trying for years now to pacify Jews with misguided notions of equal time: televised menorah lightings, dreidl dolls with curlable hair, latke dinners at 25 bucks a plate. Children’s books on Chanukah spill from bookstore shelves—I saw one in which Chanukah was interwoven with the birth of Jesus.

I guess it serves us right for draying so much about being excluded: Christians don’t understand our tribal custom of guilt-tripping, which calls for no response other than…well, expressions of guilt! Enough with the Chanukah bushes already! I don’t want Chanukah any more than I want Xmas. Not only is it a minor holiday, it isn’t even politically correct: it commemorates some sort of Jewish war victory. No one used to pay any attention to it, not even Jews. But the more Xmas fever rose, the more obvious the inequality became. (By the way, Xmas as a national disease is about to go official, with the American Psychiatric Association planning to list Xmasphilia in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.)

Xmas deserves that listing: it isn’t a holi-day, it’s an event that lasts from October through January. That’s three months, or one-quarter of the year, or 25% of the time we spend on the planet. I’ve done the math: If I live to 75 I will have spent roughly 18 years coping with the anger, resentment and depression induced by the so-called holidays.

The real tsuris is that I’d finally gotten a handle on it, when suddenly, after years of encouraging me to deny my ethnicity, Christians started pressuring me to become a Real Jew. Carolers arrived at my doorstep singing “O Chanukah” and “Dreidl, dreidl” in four-part harmony, demanding latkes. I received an ecumenical card, “As we celebrate Xmas and Chanukah…” When I objected to the wreath in my office, the person who hung it let loose with an incoherent, sentimental ode to menorahs. Huh?

Fellow Jews, we must act, and fast, before a dreidl decorates every streetlight, and Day-Glo stars of David invoke guilt and capture gelt. We must organize so that come next October, when electronic menorahs play “Little Star of Bethlehem,” we’ll rise up in unison and shout

 

CHUMBUG!!!!!

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This year’s hot item

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Bill Maher, Islamophobia, and Political Correctness

 

FSM

Breaking News! Bill Maher, host of Real Time and the now defunct Politically Incorrect is politically incorrect!

So say students at UC Berkeley, who are petitioning the administration to rescind Maher’s invitation to speak at their December commencement, claiming Maher “is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for.”  Over 4000 have signed the petition. To sign a counter-petition, click here.

Maher has been accused of bigotry and racism elsewhere as well, for his jokes and comments on the Muslim religion, to wit: “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing.” The students’ petition calls this “hate speech.” I call it the truth.

Bill Maher is one of the world’s most ardent atheists, and gives equal time to all religions. As noted on SF Gate, “Maher, along with Oxford professor Richard Dawkins and the late journalist Christopher Hitchens, are among a group of prominent atheists who have taken a no-holds-barred approach in their outspoken disdain for religious doctrine of all faiths.”

As Maher once said, were he alive during the Crusades he’d be raving primarily about Christianity—which he still does—but he’s living now, when ISIS is beheading people. “Islamophobia!” scream his critics.

Well, count me in as an Islamophobe: whether it’s coming straight from the Koran or a perversion of the religion, had I been born in one of many burka_2679987bpredominantly Muslim countries I’d have to go out covered from head to toe and could be stoned to death for adultery. As a Jew I wouldn’t have visited Germany during Hitler’s reign; as a woman I won’t visit Iran now.

Oh, but the politically correct cry self-righteously, we must respect religious customs! Why? Why should I respect any religion that treats women as pariahs? It’s time we stopped this hands-off bullshit of forgiving misogyny and oppression in the name of religious doctrine. For the record, I’m also critical of Orthodox Judaism for barring women from certain religious ceremonies, the morning prayer in which men “thank God I’m not a woman,” and the baffling, bizaare custom of making women shave their heads and wear wigs. As for the Catholic Church, it continues to ban abortion and even contraception, damaging millions of women (and men, and children) with outmoded, antisex edicts.

Ironically, it’s primarily liberals who toss around this term Islamophobia. “Liberals need to stand up for liberal principles,” Maher said during a round-table discussion. “But then when you say in the Muslim world, this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.”

Bill Maher might just end up with a fatwa on his head, like Salman Rushdie who lived in hiding for years, like the cartoonists who portrayed Allah unfavorably, like the filmmaker who was murdered for doing the same. If that isn’t intolerance in the name of religion, I don’t know what is. Why should we respect it?

 

 

Labor Day: The Hard Work of Mothering

A slightly different version of the following was originally posted on Dirty Laundry on Mothers Day 2008. Some of the statistics are out-of-date, which most likely only makes them more alarming.

cartoon mothers w: kidsAs the media does every so often, CNN recently reported the latest calculation of what mothers would earn if they were actually paid, in cold hard cash, for their labor. That number would fall somewhere between $117K and $149K per year, a figure arrived at by estimating the average hourly wage for the various tasks involved in mothering: cooking, nursing, chauffeuring, etcetera. Of course, this “news” was delivered by two giggling anchors: they didn’t take it seriously, or expect their audience to either.

Mother’s work is, so received wisdom goes, performed purely for love, and the notion of financial remuneration is simply hilarious.

Never mind that we pay nannies, nurses, housekeepers, day care providers, even the teenager next door for babysitting. And never mind all those studies proving, pretty definitively by now, that women lose income over the course of a lifetime when they spend years mothering. Or that they’re sometimes left to fend for themselves during hubby’s midlife crisis, if not sooner. We seem, as a society, to be terrified of this issue. We seem to think that if mothers were paid for their work, the family as an institution would crumble.

Back in the 1970s the International Wages for Housework Campaign, a network of women in Third World and industrialized countries, formulated a list of ambitious demands “for the unwaged work that women do to be recognized as work in official government statistics, and for this work to be paid.” More active in Australia and England than in the U.S., the movement never went anywhere, and today it’s all but dead: an Internet search dug up articles that were either decades old, or in fringe publications promoting social anarchy.

In 1990 the International Labor Organization estimated that women do two-thirds of the world’s work for 5% of its income. In 1995 the UN Development Programme’s Human Moneyhouse$$Development Report announced that women’s unpaid and underpaid labor was worth $11 trillion worldwide, $1.4 trillion in the United States alone. No doubt these figures are much higher today. (I looked up more recent U.N. reports, but, I confess, found them indecipherable.)

Even more mind-blowing is the system by which governments compute productivity. In If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, Marilyn Waring explains the complexities of our economic system, which “counts oil spills and wars as contributors to economic growth, while child-rearing and housekeeping are deemed valueless.”

Motherhood isn’t devalued in monetary terms only. In the early 1980s I enrolled in Empire State College, part of the State University of New York, to complete the requirements for my Bachelor’s degree. ESC was a school of independent study, and life experience earned college credits.  A written narrative had to detail the work and reading done in each field, and be approved by a committee. School policy excluded mothering as a field of study, but my mentor thought that raising a child with a disability, and what I’d learned of the medical system and social work organizations as a result, might be credit-worthy. I wrote up my papers for credit in that and a number of other fields. For writing I got 32 whopping credits. For public relations I got 9; for fundraising, 12; and for political activism, 15. For raising a child with a disability, after much committee debate as to whether to even include it, I got three credits, the lowest amount of all my life experience. If nothing else, I received a stunning education from SUNY.

I don’t know why the majority of the world’s population thinks mothering as work is laughable, and wages for housework a ridiculous concept. I only know that whenever some idiotic anchorperson laughingly tells me what I would have earned as a mother had my work been deemed monetarily valuable, I go into a rage.

 

Still Writing: New Blog

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Readers and other Dirty Laundry Followers! 

 

I’ve just begun a new blog, Still Writing, with a primary focus on writing, books, and most particularly, my books.While the site is still under construction, I’d be delighted to get some visitors, commentary, followers, and feedback. The construction is going slow, but there’s a hefty number of posts up that I transferred from another old blog, BookBuster, soon to be permanently shut down. In fact, I just put up a Dirty Laundry post from last year about the wide world of publishing, so come on over.

 

book piles

 

When Language Changes

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Grant Barrett & Martha Barnette. Photo credit: Website A Way with Words

Grant Barrett & Martha Barnette. Photo credit: Website A Way with Words

The podcast has become my primary form of cultural enlightenment, and lately I’ve been listening to A Way With Words where Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette answer questions about words and phrases in the English language—or, according to the official description, “A Way with Words is a call-in public radio show about language. It’s heard across the country and around the world by broadcast and podcast.” The subject is apparently inexhaustible, and the hosts are enthusiastic researchers and conversationalists. Besides making me laugh a lot, they’ve taught me a thing or two about this language I’m always going on about, and forced me to look at the reasons behind some of my raving reactions. It turns out I am not alone in my rage over some new turns of the English screw—for instance, using nouns as verbs, such as turning the honorable journal into a self-help regimen (to journal), or overuse of trendy phrases (going forward tagged onto the end of anything with a future, no matter how distant or vague).

Actually, those aren’t the best examples, since I’ll probably always loathe and refuse to use them. The place where I need to loosen up is in adapting to change, understanding that language is a dynamic phenomenon that evolves along with the speaking species. Failure to adapt might, in fact, be seen as failure to evolve. It turns out that much of what we take for granted as gospel already differs from its original usage, only we don’t always know it since the changes occurred before we paid attention, or even eons before we were born. Linguistic change has probably been a part of culture since the first cave dweller uttered his first hello to his cave mate, and they both burst into astonished laughter—or so I imagine the scenario.

As I’ve learned from Grant and Martha, it’s the transitional stage, shortly after a word begins its long, slow journey from one meaning or nuance to another, that’s so hard for some people. It’s during this period that I and others with my sensitivities cringe at the new. The first time I heard the word impact used as a verb it was by a favorite disk jockey on the radio (“We’ll have to see how this development impacts the community”). I was alarmed; I assumed he’d used it incorrectly, and I’d have to re-evaluate my respect for the guy. But soon I was hearing how things impacted other things all the time, and with every utterance I cringed. I know I’m showing my age here; to impact went viral a long time ago, way before the Internet even, and I no longer blink much less cringe at it anymore. I myself have never, however, used impact as a verb. Or journaling. Nor do I say we’re going forward. I absolutely refuse to jump on these linguistic tropes. Oops! I just did it with trope! I remember when that term went viral: I was at a weekend conference with someone who used it repeatedly, until I bluntly asked her what was up. She apologized and said it was indeed a virus she’d caught. How about we ruminate on that for a while, on the word virus, its literal meaning and its YouTube meaning. Look it up. I especially like Definition #3: any corrupting or infecting influence.

As you can no doubt tell by my tone and my avowed “refusal to jump on linguistic tropes,” I have yet to integrate my new awareness of language as a changing phenomenon with my gut reactions. What can I say? I’m working on it. Evolving. I think I’ll go journal write in my journal about it. Maybe I’ll change going forward someday. On second thought, maybe I won’t.

 

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