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5 Spiritual Lessons I Learned From My Pregnancy

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Whether this is your first time out or you’ve already been around the bend, take a moment to congratulate yourself, Ms. Mom. You are a miracle maker. You, hovering over the toilet in the midst of all-day sickness, are in the midst of accomplishing what no one else on this earth but you can do. What pregnancy has taught me thus far is that motherhood, whether it is via pregnancy, foster care, or adoption, is a spiritual calling. Keep these five key lessons in your back pocket when you’re worn out and need a reminder of how divine you truly are.

5. Parenting is a calling, not a career, a chore, or the result of a shopping trip.

“I want a child” is an all-too common phrase in today’s world. If you’ve ever said it, listen very carefully to discern if the emphasis is on “a child” or simply “I want.” Having a child is not the answer to a mid-life crisis or a vision board checklist. Nor should motherhood ever be defined as a chore. If I hear one more person tell me how tired I’m going to be once my child is born I’m going to start wearing a spit up-covered t-shirt that says, “Duh! Who cares?” My child is already my life, not a task on my to-do list that takes away from “me-time,” nor a person who exists to make me feel special. Child rearing is a devout work. Unless you are accepting of the idea that you will, in some way, be on the same level as Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and an ascetic from time to time, just buy a dog and be done with it.

4. Childbirth is a spiritual experience.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth should be required reading for every expecting mother. Regardless of how you choose to give birth, you should be aware of the fact that we have been acculturated to treat birth as an illness worthy of hospitalization. A baby is not a tumor in need of removal for the mother’s survival. Giving birth is not only a life-affirming experience, it is the primary connection we have with God and the source of our continued existence. By ignoring this fact and forcing patients to focus on pain, the medical community has done a huge disservice to women. Instead of believing that our bodies are doing exactly what they are meant to do, women focus on the struggles of pregnancy and the pain of labor, psyching themselves up for an experience worthy of a horror film. As a result their fear diminishes their faith in themselves and the very natural spiritual process of bringing new life into this world.

3. As with any spiritual experience, there are great moments of hope and of doubt.

Episode after episode of Call the Midwife has been running on my DVD player for months. Each baby that is born brings a tear to my eye. Finally, the other day I heard myself saying, “I get to do this. Me. This is for me.” Then it hit me that a part of me had doubted all along that I could have this incredible joy for myself. Sometimes we put up walls of doubt to protect our most fragile emotions. The hope that engulfs you every time you have a good ultrasound, a good doctor’s visit, can easily be consumed the following day when you’re sure you haven’t felt your baby move enough. For me, one nosebleed sent me flying into a state of panic. Doubt creates a tough barrier for faith to crack through. But it must, not only for the sake of our relationship with our child, but so that we may fully partake in this incredible blessing.

Continue Reading…

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Will the 21st Century Reunite Church and State?

Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Before, organized, uniformed and relatively disciplined and conventional Arab armies fought under their national flag. Today the armies have been replaced by terrorist gangsters and black-cloaked jihadists. Conventional war has been replaced by terrorist attacks. Battles fought between tanks and infantry in remote deserts have been replaced by battles fought in densely populated civilian areas and behind the protection of human shields.

In my view if such events as the Gaza conflict last summer were played out in the 1960s and 70s, the support for Israel in the West would have been greater than it was even then. The savage and murderous actions of the Palestinians are far more shocking today.

So I again ask the question, what has changed? And the answer is: The morality and values of the West. They have been transformed almost beyond recognition.

The statement was made by Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, in an address to the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, an Israeli think-tank housed at Bar-Ilan University. The direct nature of his dialogue suits his history as a military leader. It is also a far cry from today’s “polite” approach to anything relating to Biblical values in a mainstream media discussion. “Thanks but no thanks,” is what you’ll usually get, followed by some snide accusation of hypocrisy or inferiority. But has this anti-values attitude truly impacted our culture for the better?

Kemp argues, “The destruction of defining values mean that people will now accept physical acts that would before have been utterly abhorrent to them.” As Richard Dreyfuss recently argued in a PJMedia/Diary of a Mad Voter guest post:

Western kids are reportedly trying to join ISIS; why? Perhaps because the only spiritual movement being discussed in public, however ugly its ideology, is extremist Islam. Judeo-Christian spirituality seems pallid and disconnected; certainly Americans are no longer learning the secular faith of the Constitution, the musculature of republican democracy, its values of individual worth, its religious tolerance, its embrace of opportunity and merit.

Kids who grow up in a spiritual void may drift to ideological thuggery because we let go of its most powerful enemy, the mobility of mind that comes from Enlightenment values.

Perhaps one of the greatest questions we can ask ourselves as we head into 2016 isn’t who, but why. If the 20th century was defined by the separation of Church and State, the 21st will need to be defined by the reuniting of God and politics across the moral divide.

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Smart Tips for a Quick Trip Through the TSA

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi

shutterstock_123163654

Millennial kids, and even those a bit older, probably don’t remember the good old days of air travel when you could actually meet someone coming off of the plane or you could sit at the gate with the travelers waiting for their flights to depart until the final boarding call.

These days we have to take our shoes off and walk on dirty floors, pack everything we’re carrying into small bins (including our best coats) and then stand with our hands up in a small booth-like structure. Next we scramble to pick everything out of the bins, put our shoes on and make sure we get everything we started out with — that is, if we’re lucky and don’t win the TSA lottery of being picked for their special attention, in which case we might miss our flight.

We can look back to those pre-9/11 days with nostalgia, somewhat like the song, “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.”

I remember the first time I traveled after 9/11. I wore a long skirt with brass buttons, Mexican silver bracelets on my wrists, and carried my travel bag which had my mother’s small nail scissors in it. Well, I apparently rang every bell in the TSA arsenal of alerts. I was quickly whisked out of line for special consideration in front of a long line of people, including many I knew.

My mother’s scissors was confiscated, along with my bracelets. With a lot of effort, I got the bracelets back, but my mother’s scissors, which I’d treasured, was gone forever. This was my welcome to the new world of travel.
I seem to be a favorite of the TSA gang, especially at LAX. I wear longer skirts and sometimes double them when I’m flying in winter from Los Angeles to frigid Wisconsin, so often I am chosen for special attention and wanded, frequently by agents I’ve had to look way up to. Apparently many TSA women are chosen for their commanding height. I’ve offered to take one skirt off, to no avail.

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Arlene Becker Zarmi, right

At La Guardia, I was wearing only one long skirt, but was still taken for inspection. I complained and was taken to the supervisor. He had a great suggestion for me: instead of my longer skirts, he suggested I dress like a the rather full-figured gal in skin-tight jeans who was standing near us. The jeans were so tight that I doubt even an IED could be hidden there except, perhaps, in her very generous derriere. So, fellow travelers (especially the females), your best bet is to wear skin tight jeans. The TSA people, perhaps both male and female, might be so involved in eying the jeans that they might miss the Glock in your bra.

Well, I wasn’t about to wear skin-tight jeans, however, I did fly from LAX again, this time in a much shorter skirt and thought I had it made. I thought wrong. Two tall and formidable TSA women (they needed two, as I might have been a dangerous terrorist) took me into a little room. We all agreed that it might have been my bra with its uplifting wires that was setting off the alarm, but they gave me an intensive full body search anyway. So serious are these folks about keeping us safe and catching possible terrorists that I watched as two TSA basketball types were making sure that a ninety year old lady, who stood about four feet high, wasn’t carrying any dangerous weapons. I was relieved to know, after the TSA agents did their thorough search, that she didn’t. Bravo! TSA averted another potential catastrophe in the air.

That said, wheelchairs are actually a great way to avoid standing in long lines and having to do
the TSA bunny hop (articles in bins, shoes off etc.). All wheelchairs, which can be provided by the
airport with attendants to push them, not only often go to the head of the line, but all accompanying travelers do so as well. Those travelers also get to ride in the airport elevator with the attendant, who knows the airport well, thus helping you to get to the gate easily. The attendants also, in my experience, have nicely taken care of putting items in the bins, as well as picking everything up at the end. So, if you’re feeling a bit under the weather, having done the town wherever you visited, you might request this great service. (I’m obviously being a bit sarcastic about that last part — please save the wheelchairs for people who really need them.) The majority of the wheelchair attendants have been pretty wonderful to my husband, who actually does need a wheelchair in large airports because of his difficulty in walking in them. However TSA agents are still as vigilant in checking wheelchair travelers as they are with the general traveling public.

At LAX (yes, LAX again) when my husband and the wheelchair attendant got to the TSA area, he was patted down and the thin skull cap he was wearing was lifted up (again for fears of a gun, knife, or IED), then he was whisked off to have both his legs x-rayed (he has a prosthesis on only one). To make sure they were really on the ball, the TSA team even x-rayed the wheelchair which (a) belonged to the airport (b) consisted only of tubular steel and canvas and (c) was in the control of the wheelchair attendant at all times. When my husband pointed this out and asked why they were x-raying the airport’s own wheelchair, they responded curtly, “policy.”

The TSA agency does try to be traveler-friendly and has a web page where many questions about their policies are explained, or at least clarified. Children under twelve and travelers over seventy-five don’t have to take their shoes off (neither does anyone at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport, as Israeli security agents profile travelers, which is considered to be politically incorrect in the U.S.). The web page spells out the amount of liquid you can bring, as well as what medically important equipment you can have with you, and other pertinent TSA mandates. The TSA web page also has a separate kids‘ and parents’ page. On the kids’ page there’s a cute video of a dog family going through the checkpoints. The family includes a mother, father, little boy and a baby. The video is obviously designed to make kids feel comfortable with the entire process. Another page has coloring pages and — get this — a K9 family. This is a euphemism for the dog sniffers, but kids don’t know that and so they think it is cute. Apparently someone in the bureaucracy (or its ad agency), has an ironic sense of humor.

You can also make things a bit easier by applying for pre-TSA check-in status. The application fee is $85, which is non-refundable, and you must provide proof of U.S. residency. If you pass the application process you are alloted a KTN ( known traveler number) which you should be give when making a reservation.
Where available, there are pre-check TSA lines which allow travelers to keep on their shoes and belts, keep their laptops in their cases, and keep the 3-ounce liquids in their cases. All children under the age of twelve are allowed to accompany, without separate applications, pre-checked travelers of parents or guardians.

If you decide not to go through the pre-check process, then you may want to remember two things to help minimize your travails (the origin of the modern word travels) with the TSA. Wear tight jeans or use a wheelchair. If you can combine the two by wearing tight jeans in a wheelchair, then you’re sure to make your TSA experience a snap!

 

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Common Core Is Making Kindergarten Way Too Academically Hardcore

Monday, May 18th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
Preschool on the Ballot

Photo: AP

What do you remember about the time you spent in kindergarten? For me, it was a magical time of singing, learning to skip, and playing make-believe in the post office our teacher had set up in our classroom (we used those little silver scissors to cut stamps out of construction paper, gluing them onto handmade envelopes with that sweet-smelling white paste). We played with blocks, painted masterpieces with tempera paint — one boy named Tony got paddled for smearing it on the walls — and played foursquare with bouncy red playground balls. And even though it was only half-day kindergarten, Mrs. Liptak made all thirty of us squirmy kids lie down for a short nap time. We were rewarded with a snack afterward and then piled onto the buses to go home. We learned our ABCs and numbers in kindergarten, but were not taught to read or add until first grade. Everything about it was fun and happy and it set the stage for more formal academics in the years to come.

If you have children in school now, you know that things have changed drastically. David Kohn writes at the New York Times:

But increasingly, these activities are being abandoned for the teacher-led, didactic instruction typically used in higher grades. In many schools, formal education now starts at age 4 or 5. Without this early start, the thinking goes, kids risk falling behind in crucial subjects such as reading and math, and may never catch up…

In the United States, more academic early education has spread rapidly in the past decade. Programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have contributed to more testing and more teacher-directed instruction.

Another reason: the Common Core State Standards, a detailed set of educational guidelines meant to ensure that students reach certain benchmarks between kindergarten and 12th grade. Currently, 43 states and the District of Columbia have adopted both the math and language standards.

But does it work? Do tiny children need serious academic work at a young age in order to succeed later in life? Experts are increasingly saying no. Kohn cites several studies showing that children do worse when structured play is replaced with early didactic teaching. One study of 400,000 15-year-olds in more than 50 counties found that early school entry provided no advantage to students. Another study found that those who started school at age five had lower reading comprehension than those who start school later. A study of children who had attended “academically oriented” preschool classes vs. those who went to schools that encouraged “child initiated learning” discovered that by the end of fourth grade, the student who had received more formalized instruction earned significantly lower grades than children who were encouraged to learn through play, suggesting that the didactic instruction may have slowed their academic progress.

What do you think? Should preschool and kindergarten children be focused more on academics or should children be encouraged to play more and explore the world around them without the structure of formalized education?

Just for fun, I’ve copied and pasted the Common Core English Language Arts Standards below so you can get an idea of what children are now required to learn in kindergarten. You can see why there’s not much time for painting and playtime anymore — and why teachers are insisting they need full-day kindergarten to accomplish all of this in one year.

 

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.A
Print many upper- and lowercase letters.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.B
Use frequently occurring nouns and verbs.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.C
Form regular plural nouns orally by adding /s/ or /es/ (e.g., dog, dogs; wish, wishes).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.D
Understand and use question words (interrogatives) (e.g., who, what, where, when, why, how).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.E
Use the most frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., to, from, in, out, on, off, for, of, by, with).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.1.F
Produce and expand complete sentences in shared language activities.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2.A
Capitalize the first word in a sentence and the pronoun I
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2.B
Recognize and name end punctuation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2.C
Write a letter or letters for most consonant and short-vowel sounds (phonemes).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.2.D
Spell simple words phonetically, drawing on knowledge of sound-letter relationships.

Knowledge of Language:

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on kindergarten reading and content.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.4.A
Identify new meanings for familiar words and apply them accurately (e.g., knowingduck is a bird and learning the verb to duck).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.4.B
Use the most frequently occurring inflections and affixes (e.g., -ed, -s, re-, un-, pre-, -ful, -less) as a clue to the meaning of an unknown word.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5
With guidance and support from adults, explore word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.A
Sort common objects into categories (e.g., shapes, foods) to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.B
Demonstrate understanding of frequently occurring verbs and adjectives by relating them to their opposites (antonyms).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.C
Identify real-life connections between words and their use (e.g., note places at school that are colorful).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.5.D
Distinguish shades of meaning among verbs describing the same general action (e.g.,walk, march, strut, prance) by acting out the meanings.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.K.6
Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts.

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Is Motherhood a Blessing, or a Curse?

Sunday, May 10th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Women have innate superpowers. Thanks to a century-old patriarchal system of doctors, politicians and insurance companies, women have been fooled into believing they have no power. What’s worse, thanks to a cadre of covert female agents, women today willingly hand over their unique powers to the hands of government agents who control the “threat,” either through a strict drug regimen, surgical procedure or both.

Women who refuse to relinquish their power face fear and intimidation tactics: You will be in pain; you will lose your figure; your partners will leave you; no one will employ you; you will be alone. Who ever thought the power to bring forth new life would be so damned scary?

Despite our overwhelming biological urge to reproduce, young women today are told to push off pregnancy or avoid it entirely. The women who don’t fall for this charade, the ones who take the leap into pregnancy and motherhood, are punished with promises of horrific labor pain and traumatic birthing experiences. Think about it: When is the last time you saw a peaceful birth recounted on television? Walk into a new-parents-to-be class at your local hospital and you’ll find out the number one reason young women are attending: “I want to know how not to be afraid of the pain.”

Mother of modern American midwifery Ina May Gaskin has made natural birth a feminist crusade, and rightly so. The myth that women need to be strapped to a table and drugged in order to give birth (a common practice from the 1920s through the 1960s) has led to generations of women entering birthing classes out of sheer fear that their bodies will fail at exactly what they are designed to do best. Pregnancy fear is the culmination of a cultural obsession with obtaining the perfect female body. Gaskin explains:

Remember this, for it is as true as true gets:  Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine.  The Creator is not a careless mechanic.  Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo.  Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.

And yet, we live in a culture that correlates birth to illness, babies to growths that must be removed, and childbearing to disease. When is the last time a sex-ed curriculum didn’t lump in pregnancy with chlamydia as an unwanted, avoidable side effect? Is it any wonder, then, that the reproductive power of women is treated as a threat to the State to be feared and controlled?

This Mother’s Day it’s time to rethink the way we view mothers and motherhood in America. Fostering healthy pregnancies should be one of the top priorities of the feminist movement, as should supporting all mothers, whether they have given birth or given their hearts to an adoptive or foster child. Mothers are the providers and caretakers of life, the sustainers of a great nation. As Gaskin observes, “When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.”

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Quit Negging America into Self-Destruction

Monday, May 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

NSFW: Language

In the second season premiere of HBO’s pro-guy, pro-small business, pro-capitalist genius of a counterculture conservative comedy Silicon Valley, the guys once again incorporate a sexual metaphor into their business strategy: negging. Negging is a method by which you insult someone in order to get your sexual desires fulfilled. Twisted? Yes. A functional strategy in a certain sphere of sexual culture? Absolutely.

And it works on the Internet as well.

Before you dismiss those who neg as perverts, keep in mind that negative, provocative, reactionary content drives the majority of clicks on the Internet. Case in point, my colleague Robert Wargas’s latest commentary: How Long Does America Have? His primary evidence that we’re in self-destruct? Baltimore riots, yet another media-fed frenzy that would die down if mothers like this one were more connected to their children than they are to the endless stream of panic-consciousness coming through mainstream and social media outlets.

Those riots, like the ones that turned Ferguson into Gaza, thrive off negging (what Ed Driscoll ironically refers to as “riot porn“). As does Wargas’s second piece of evidence involving Christian bakers, the gay mafia and a crowdsourcing site who my colleague Paula Boylard referred to as “jackbooted fascists” who “won’t be happy until all Christians are in ghettos.” So, a crowdfunding site cut off a fundraiser for someone you support. Whatever happened to bypassing the website and sending them a check directly? But the point of the thing isn’t to give the couple financial support, it’s the negging, feeding the idea that someone hates someone else and therefore the country is obviously going down in flames.

Why are Millennials “the poorest generation in 25 years”? Because their parents neg them, of course. According to S.E. Smith, “everyone loves to hate on millennials” and they have the Internet quotes to prove it. Millennials aren’t just despised on the Internet, they’re despised because of their attachment to the Internet. When analysts aren’t ragging on websites, parents are ragging on their Millennial kids for wasting too much time online. So much for the value of social networking.

Thanks to the relentless negging on the Internet there are entire movements devoted to disconnecting from virtual reality. Often referred to as “slow” movements (i.e. slow foodslow fashion) they’re usually dismissed as hippie garbage until they’re given more scientific twists, as in the new Positive Psychology, or spiritual ones as in the case of the mindfulness movement. Apps have been created to help you join in the social media detox craze.

Think they’re crazy? The rates of ADHD diagnoses among children ages 4-17 have gone up a steady 5% every year from 2003 to 2011. A full 20% of the US college population now has ADHD. The simple math tells you that these kids were born into the Internet age, and its more than the speed that boggles their minds. “Impulsivity” and “depression” plague them as well. Surfing the net at fiber optic speeds, it’s easy to figure out why: Even the most popular kitty is a grumpy one.

According to Urban Dictionary, negging consists of “low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.” In other words, work hard enough to make someone feel worthless and eventually they’ll not only believe you, they’ll become dependent upon you for emotional support. Key word being “dependent,” a.k.a. everything a Constitution-loving, Declaration of Independence-touting American should work at great lengths to avoid. The “distended orgy” of which Wargas writes does exist …on the Internet. And gleefully so! The question is, if we stop feeding the beast will it cease to be a threat to our civilization? That would require the opposite of disconnect. It would mean connecting for a cause greater than negging one another on. And perhaps that is our greatest challenge of all.

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New PJTV VIDEO: The Government Has Been Stealing From You!

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 - by Sarah Culvahouse Mills

As Scott Ott says,

“Any particular tax scenario sucks, we just have to figure out the one that sucks the least.”

Bill Whittle hosts this in-depth, three-part discussion series, to review the alternative tax plans that are being suggested, and to try to figure out which does suck the least.

Bill is joined by Grover Norquist, of Americans for Tax Reform; Terry Jones, of Investors Business Daily; Curtis Dubay, of the Heritage Foundation; Daniel Mitchell, of the Cato Institute; Steve Hayes, of Americans for Fair Taxation; and Scott Ott, his co-host on Trifecta.

You can get the first of the video series for free in the PJ Store. The remaining episodes will be for members only or people who buy the video package.

More special coverage of Tax Day by PJ Media:

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New PJTV VIDEO: 5 Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Taxes

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 - by Sarah Culvahouse Mills

One week and one day before the taxman comes to your place of business, we offer you five ways to get back at him. Check it out:

Tomorrow, PJTV releases its latest video series, “Death By Taxes: How the Government Steals From Us” on PJTV and YouTube. Bill Whittle hosts Grover Norquist, of Americans for Tax Reform; Terry Jones, of Investors Business Daily; Curtis Dubay, of the Heritage Foundation; Daniel Mitchell, of the Cato Institute; Steve Hayes, of Americans for Fair Taxation; and Scott Ott, his co-host on Trifecta.

Like and follow us for release alerts of the first of video series.

YouTube Preview Image

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5 Rules for Victory in the Culture War

Friday, March 27th, 2015 - by Frank J. Fleming

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Wars. Everyone loves them. Lately we’ve had the War on Drugs, the War on Terror, and the War on Women. But unlike those wars that come to an end when we defeat drugs, terror, and women, there is an unending war we’re all involved in: the Culture War.

Everyone knows the culture war is important to the future of this country, but the right has been deficient in fighting it. The only reason the right hasn’t been wiped out by the left’s cultural dominance is that the left’s ideas are so screamingly idiotic. But if we want classical liberal ideas like freedom, individualism, and punching hippies to gain ground, we need to go after culture.

HOW TO FIGHT THE CULTURE WAR

1. Consume.

To influence the culture, you have to be a part of it. And you have to know what’s out there and what’s popular. So read books, watch TV or the latest Netflix series, go to the movies, and play video games. And if you still think you don’t understand things, play more video games.And if your wife is like, “Why are you playing video games all the time?!” tell her, “I’m trying to save the country!” Why does she never believe me when I say that?

2. Make something.

And now that you’re part of the culture, you need to make things to add to it so the culture doesn’t suck. That means you need to get to work. Me, I write. You may have noticed that. You’re perhaps reading things I wrote right at this moment. I recently released my first novel, Superego (I may have mentioned it before), and I work at the creative agency making all kinds of cool stuff. But perhaps you don’t write. Maybe you sing songs or draw or something. I think that’s stupid, but run with it anyway. And you can also just blog and tell other people about the good stuff you see out there. Like you could say to other people, “Have you read Frank J. Fleming’s novel, Superego? It’s great!” That’s just an example of the things you can say, but if you want to steal that, that’s fine.

3. Don’t propagandize.

Okay, so you’re making cultural contributions to society. Now how do you use this to influence people toward liberty and free markets and all the good things? My advice: Forget about it.

Goal number one should always be to entertain. That should be your sole focus. If you have principles you truly believe in, that will seep into your work in a natural way. It’s like your principles are this nice curry sauce and the work you produce is this meat, simmering in the curry sauce and taking on the flavor of the spice, and now I’m hungry.

If you try to propagandize, it compromises your work. Like with fiction, trying to make a specific point about politics or something often means making characters act artificially or having one-dimensional villains to use as strawmen. I’m sorry, but no belief is so important that it’s worth bad art.

And realize that a lot of the younger people these days grew up seeing all the partisan arguing and are tired of it. So while some people like the red meat in politics, that never influences anyone, as your targets are all vegans. If you’re righteously ranting, you’re losing.

4. Abandon your favorite words.

So what do you want to promote, anyway? Liberty? Freedom? Rights? What the hell does that mean?

We cling to a lot of words, but things that mean something very specific to us may mean something completely different to someone else. Plus, because of politics, a lot of words and phrases carry a lot of baggage and will get you dismissed as soon as you open your mouth (“That’s just another right-winger ranting about magic ‘free markets’!”).

So abandon all of your favorite words — which only promote lazy thinking — and instead try to get to the core of what you want to promote. What’s another way to say you like liberty? To me, that means I think it’s possible for people to get along without having to constantly point guns at each other and tell everyone what to do. Really, I’m a pacifist. A well-armed pacifist.

5. Forget politics.

So you have all these great principles you want to share that you know will lead to a free and vibrant country. So how do you turn them to crap? Add politics.

Politics is all the principles we hold dear, seen through a glass darkly. Take everything you value and add compromise, tribalism, and power-hungry people until it’s all a bunch of garbage. And yet politics seems to be where all the focus always is, as people try to have the tail wag the dog and think they can drag the public where they need them to go by passing the right law or electing the right sociopath.

Conservatives especially have this idea that they need another Reagan, and everything will change, but it’s a fantasy. There is no Reagan who will fix everything. And there never was a Reagan in the first place. He never existed; it was just a shared delusion on the right. Check Wikipedia, and you’ll find there’s no entry for him.

If we want to make a better country, we need to talk to people and not to politicians. Let the other fools spend all their energy and anger banging their heads against the wall of politics while we put most of our energy into culture and cultivate a people who want freedom and treasure their opportunities, and let the politics follow from that. The reason to fight the culture war is that it is where the main battle will always be. And that’s why I will never stop playing video games. Just don’t tell my wife.

*****

Image illustration via 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

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5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 - by Becky Graebner

ashandalderopenforbiz

While living in Washington, D.C., I launched a hobby business at the end of August 2014 on Etsy.com, an e-commerce site focused on handmade and vintage goods.

I realized that my little hobby business made me really happy—and the prospect of growing it into something bigger was really exciting. I formed an LLC in October and, by December, I decided to take the leap and build a full-fledged website which went live Friday, March 6, 2015.

Since beginning this journey last August, I have learned quite a few things…

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 1. Time spent doing “Business Stuff” > Time spent doing “Fun Stuff” 

When I initially envisioned myself owning a business, I saw myself spending the majority of my time designing and producing my product—the “fun stuff.”

I laugh now (but happily).

In reality, most of my time is spent “running” the business.

Besides actually creating my product, I also handle all the financial and legal matters, the management of the website and social media accounts, the creation of some promotional graphics, taking photographs of the products, physically packing and shipping items sold…  The list is long enough to fill up a 5-day workweek…and then some.

(I’m sure you small business owners out there are nodding like bobble heads right now.)

This is the reality of “small business”–but I like it!

2. Read up on State and Local Sales Tax, as well as Use Tax 

Longer explanation not needed—just do it and make sure you collect the right amount.

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3. You will spend a lot of time doing little things that nobody sees

Business is a lot like building a house. Although people won’t actually see things like framing or subfloor, you have to spend the money and time to install them–otherwise your house won’t be a well-built house!

Before the “OPEN” sign makes its debut, a lot of time is spent framing the business and completing integral tasks that customers don’t see. For example, setting up accounting software to manage sales, opening bank accounts, weighing products for shipping, etc…

Due to the nature of Wisconsin and its zip codes, I had the pleasure of manually entering 800+ zip codes into BOTH of our e-commerce platforms. It was horrific, but taking the time to enter state sales tax rates correctly was better than the alternative: being penalized by the state or paying the tax myself.

If you take the time to frame your business appropriately, business will run more smoothly once you open–and you won’t have to worry if you cut corners.

4. Even if you are small and just starting out, think about long-term growth

I purchased an accounting software and promptly outgrew it within a few months. Initially, the software was purchased because it integrated with my Etsy.com page. However, once I purchased my own website, I found they didn’t work well together.

If I had been thinking about long-term company goals versus immediate needs, I would have initially bought something that worked with more e-commerce platforms and websites.  It wasn’t a huge hitch in the plan to switch accounting software, but it did eat up valuable time and a little bit of money.

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5. Assign proper value to your work

When I first started out on Etsy.com, my prices were low. I was more focused on offering products at a price-point I thought conservative shoppers (or my friends) would feel comfortable paying versus proper MSRP.

I broke even in two days—so it wasn’t a disaster of a lesson to be learned—but I regret undervaluing my time and my work. If I had priced my products more fairly, I would have a) made a little bit more money and b) had more money to reinvest in my business!

Don’t undervalue your time, effort, and creativity.

*****

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the fourteenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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This Surprising Piece of Advice Could Save Your Life if There’s a Cataclysmic Event

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out. But we’re hopeful someone will come and light the way.

This was the intro to NBC’s post-apocalyptic series Revolution, which painted a bleak picture of how the United States might fare in the event of a massive — fifteen years in the show — power outage. After I recovered from my initial shock at an America gone so wrong that in fifteen years no one could figure out how to generate electricity (Common Core math, anyone?), I began to wonder how long it would take our country to descend into the near-anarchy portrayed in the show — where people panic and the government collapses in the wake of a nationwide emergency.

In his new e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror, James Jay Carafano says there are two crucial moments that determine whether someone will survive a disaster. The first is the “golden hour,” when a seriously injured individual needs to receive emergency medical care in order to survive. The next tipping point is the 72-hour mark. Individuals who can’t get water or are exposed to harsh weather for up to three days will likely die.

But what happens if the crisis is extended and ongoing and the government is unable to provide assistance in the wake of a catastrophic event?

In his book, Carafano, the Heritage Foundation’s leading expert on national security and foreign policy challenges, gives examples of events in the United States that took a tragic turn when a disaster struck, like during a major power outage in New York in 1927 when a cascading power failure produced a blackout. Despite the fact that the blackout only lasted for a day, Carafano says, “In a city already on the edge with sky-rocketing crime, racial tension, and civic unrest, the dark unleashed a night of terror and looting unseen in New York since rioting during the Civil War.”

Other communities Carafano studied handled crises significantly better, in part because members of the church or the community pitched in to help. Carafano notes:

There is a pretty broad consensus that faith-based organizations are among the top performers during a crisis. The tasks they perform, such as supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need, or providing mental health responses for everything from stress and grief counseling to recovery from spousal abuse, can be immensely valuable for communities struggling to survive in the wake of a catastrophe. Being connected to a faith-based organization could well be critical for staying alive when nature or men do their worst.

Carafano is spot on with this advice.

Our family attends a church with about 500 members, representing a wide range of ages, income levels, job skills, and life experiences. We have engineers, carpenters, welders, counselors, lawyers, nurses, business owners, auto mechanics, hairstylists, teachers, farmers, computer specialists, and homemakers. We also have a collection of wise, white-haired men, who slogged through the jungles of Vietnam or marched across Europe during the time they served in World War II. No matter what the crisis, I have no doubt our tightly knit church community would rise to the occasion, beginning on Day One with an enormous pool of skills and talents from which to draw. Moreover, the extensive experience and wisdom in the group could be combined and leveraged to provide leadership and innovative solutions to problems that arise in a doomsday scenario.

According to Carafano, decision-making during a crisis is crucial:

It helps to have a strong moral core to drive that decision-making. … Ethical decision-making helps individuals during stressful situations determine the right course. Further, the more collaboration there is among the right people at the right time focusing on the right issues with the right information, the better are the decisions that get made. That kind of trusting relationship makes it a lot easier to get the right things done.

Churches are well suited to the task of producing ethical leaders with a “strong moral core” in the wake of a disaster. In most churches, the individuals best prepared for leadership in a crisis (qualified in part by their good moral reputation) have already been identified and are likely already serving in the church in some capacity.

But Carafano warns,

Sadly, America is going the way of Europe. According to surveys, the number of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation has been growing rapidly. By some estimates, the percentage has doubled since 1990. The best advice—if you want to up your odds of surviving a disaster—is don’t become a part of that statistic.

Which brings me back to Revolution. Other than a token nod to a religious relic now and then or a discussion between characters about “something out there,” no reference was made to organized religion. It left me wondering how the writers envisioned it. Did the disappearance of the churches in Revolution’s America precede the Blackout and the collapse of the government or was it the other way around? Did the churches die after everything collapsed?

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Learn These Secrets on How to Survive Aggressive People

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015 - by Helen Smith

From the description:

Whether an aggressor is a seasoned predator or an irate individual, hostility is almost always preceded by warning signs–if we know what to look for. Surviving Aggressive People dissects the psychology of aggression. It exposes the subtle cues of impending violence and offers timeless methods for transforming a potential disaster into a peaceful victory. Using time-tested methods for conflict management and crisis intervention, this book offers persuasion and peacemaking skills that historically have been reserved for law enforcement, psychologists, and other professionals working the front lines of emotionally charged situations. In today’s world, these skills are a must for everyone. Newly updated, with a special appendix for healthcare workers, the enduring knowledge in Surviving Aggressive People can help deter hostility before it spins out of control. It might even save your life.

The book has some good advice that I have used myself on occasion. For example, the golden rule of violence prevention is “an adversary is less dangerous when he perceives you as similar to himself.” Smith gives some tips on how to reduce this “psychological distance”: Use humor, and employ politeness as a preemptive strike. When I used to see clients for disability claims, some would be angry and distrustful when they walked through the door. I stocked the fridge with Pepsi, Mountain Dew and other drinks that people seemed to like and when someone got upset, I would say, “Would you like a Pepsi or Mountain Dew? Then we can talk about your concerns.” It made people feel welcome and as if they were in a safe environment. I guess the caffeine wasn’t always the best idea but “would you like bottled water or caffeine-free herbal tea?” didn’t have the same ring to it and sounded haughty.

Anyway, you get the idea. The book is full of these helpful hints that may help you to reduce your chance of being a victim of violence and provides a framework for how to avoid it. I recommend the sections for healthcare workers on how to respond to neuro-behavioral aggression. It is surprising how few of them get training on how to respond when a patient gets aggressive. This book will help.

******
Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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What Is the Best Thing About Being Human?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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5 Ways to Avoid Christma-fying Your Hanukkah

Monday, December 15th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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It’s fairly obvious that we Jews just don’t get Christmas. Don’t believe me? Check out BuzzFeed’s attempt to get Jews to decorate Christmas trees. (“Who’s Noel?” “Is that like, ‘grassy knoll’?”) Yet, every year we Jewish Americans wrestle as a people over whether or not to incorporate Christmas traditions into our own Hanukkah celebrations. It’s tacky. It’s trite. And it’s really, really lame. Here are five Hanukkah/Christmas hybrids that all Jews need to avoid this holiday season.

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Should We Care When Our Political Leaders Fail?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first four parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” “Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power,” and “Should You Trust Your Gut or God?“ Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts hereWarning: some spoilers about season 3 discussed in this installment.

Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials within her are roaring lions; her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are unprincipled; they are treacherous people. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our culture has a seemingly natural distrust of people in power, but that wasn’t always the case. Before November 1963 we put great faith in our political and spiritual leaders. Those pre-’63 figureheads like JFK, Ike and FDR, Fulton Sheen and Billy Graham are still heralded as role models of moral society. Today’s faith is different. We look for hypocrisy and mock it intensely. All spiritual leaders are televangelists skilled in chicanery. Our politicians are now supposed to be our messiahs, and when they fail we as a nation fall into despair and chaos. When did we forget God, and why does it matter that we’ve left Him out of the equation?

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My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Editor’s Note: We’re launching some discussions this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,”  Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and this collection of discussion starters from yesterday: “60 Questions to Provoke Debates About How to Fix Our Popular Culture.” To learn more about Liberty Island and their extraordinary writers see the collection “How To Join This Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers.”

Dear Jeremy Swindle,

I’d like to thank you for inspiring me with your PJ Lifestyle articles this fall. They confirmed for me something I already knew and now take extreme pleasure in bragging to others about: my younger brother has more natural writing ability than I.

You have a lot of potential, Jere, and lots of choices about where you’re going to choose to focus your creative energy and how you’ll refine your craft. In figuring that out I’m going to try to caution you against some of the mistakes that I’ve made over the last 15 years in my wanderings across culture, religion, and political ideology.

Your writing and your destiny is your own and it’s not my agenda to try to convert you to my positions. Rather, I want to try and give you a map of the territory that I’ve explored so far. Some of the books and authors I’ve gone through may be helpful to you as you continue do develop your own style and priorities.

I believe it’s important to study broadly across many subjects. Over the coming weeks and months my goal is to finish the giant-size recommended reading guide that I’m making the first part of my book. I’m planning on 365 books total, organized into 7 lists of 52 each. And as I’m writing each part in epistolary format with a specific reader in mind, for this opening section I’ve decided to write it to you, Jere. I’m trying to assemble an alternative college reading list, a Good Will Hunting, DIY, just-pay-the-late-charges-at-the-library, book-reading education. This is still the most entertaining scene of the movie, isn’t it?

At the core of the list there are several writers I’d direct more attention to than others. These authors are worth trying to take in in full. They range from famous, even legendary, long dead figures to writers only a few years older than you who I’ve worked with for years. All continually inspire me — just don’t assume that I necessarily agree with everything they write or that I’ve read all of their works yet. Here’s the list, I’ve written about most of these authors already and will be presenting the case for each of them. Some, like Aleister Crowley and Ann Coulter, are very misunderstood by many — don’t make the mistake of dismissing a writer just because some of their soundbites might throw you: 

  1. Howard Bloom
  2. Robert Spencer
  3. Michael Ledeen
  4. Daniel Pipes
  5. Kathy Shaidle
  6. Barry Rubin
  7. David P. Goldman
  8. Andrew C. McCarthy
  9. Leszek Kolakowski
  10. Paul Johnson
  11. Thomas Sowell
  12. Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
  13. Stanley Kurtz
  14. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  15. Ben Shapiro
  16. Dennis Prager
  17. Joseph Telushkin
  18. David Mamet
  19. Robert Anton Wilson
  20. Camille Paglia
  21. Weston La Barre
  22. J. Christian Adams
  23. Shelby Steele
  24. Ann Coulter
  25. Adam Carolla
  26. Michael Walsh
  27. William F. Buckley, Jr.
  28. Andrew Klavan
  29. James Madison
  30. Roger Kimball
  31. Theodore Dalrymple
  32. Allan Bloom
  33. Roger L. Simon
  34. Douglas Rushkoff
  35. George Gilder
  36. Hannah Sternberg
  37. Frank J. Fleming
  38. John Waters
  39. Glenn Reynolds
  40. Helen Smith
  41. Ray Kurzweil
  42. James Wasserman
  43. John Whiteside Parsons
  44. Maimonides
  45. Niccolò Machiavelli
  46. Benjamin Franklin
  47. Aleister Crowley
  48. Booker T. Washington
  49. Israel Regardie
  50. Thomas Jefferson
  51. John Adams
  52. Ron Radosh
  53. Victor Davis Hanson
  54. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
  55. Franz Rosenzweig
  56. J.R.R. Tolkien
  57. Michael Barrier
  58. Frederick Douglass
  59. Alejandro Jodorowsky
  60. Lisa De Pasquale
  61. Shmuley Boteach
  62. Abraham Lincoln
  63. Gary Lachman
  64. Sarah Hoyt
  65. Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Jere, I hope to include you on a future version of this list…

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Should You Trust Your Gut or God?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first three parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone,” and “The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The idea of Olivia Pope is one of a woman who trusts her gut instinct so implicitly that she bases her every decision on it. As a result she unwittingly justifies a range of crimes, puts her life and the lives of her employees and friends at risk, and helps terrorists escape the country. Sometimes listening to your gut just isn’t good enough. Which is probably why God provides a wise alternative in Torah: the prophet.

Biblical culture believes that God speaks to human beings. Sometimes this is done in a group setting, like when the Israelites entered into a covenant with God on Mount Sinai. Other times this is done on an individual level, as when God called out Abraham, spoke to Moses through the burning bush, and when God speaks to His prophets. Given that God spoke to His priests through the long-ago destroyed Temple, Rabbinic Judaism tends to view prophets as the stuff of biblical history, despite the prophecy of Joel:

And afterward [after the restoration of Israel], I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

The Spirit of God in prophecy, known in Rabbinic Judaism as the “bat kol,” is highly regulated by Rabbinic law and culture:

In any event, the consensus in Jewish thought is that no appeal to a heavenly voice can be made to decide matters of halakhah where human reasoning on the meaning of the Torah rules is alone determinative. In non-legal matters, however, a Bat Kol is to be heeded. …In modern Jewish thought, even among the Orthodox, claims to have heard a Bat Kol would be treated with extreme suspicion and dismissed as chicanery or hallucination.

But is it really wise to always trust your gut?

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A National Call for Gratitude this Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Lately my editor, David Swindle, has been encouraging me to develop a series describing my own out-of-the-box Jewish faith. It’s this mish-mosh of biblical proverbs, Torah adages, stories and songs tightly woven together by my American colonial heritage and intense Zionist pride. There is no one perfect word to describe my Jewishness beyond biblical in nature. Orthodox, Conservative, even Reform I am not. Reconstructionist or Renewal? Forget it. But I find commentary from all denominations (“streams” we call them in Judaism) interesting and acceptable in a “with malice towards none, with charity towards all” kind of way that gives me the liberty to define my Judaism in a way most of my compatriots are simply afraid to do. Which is probably why David finds my approach so fascinating. It’s rare to find a Jew who isn’t somehow fettered by the chains of guilt.

So I begin at the beginning, with Thanksgiving, the quintessential Jewish and American holiday. Traditionally Jews celebrate the idea roughly 1-2 months earlier during Sukkot, a festive fall harvest holiday in which we humble ourselves before the God who brought us out of bondage, not because we are perfect, but because He loves us and wanted to dwell with us. (Sukkahs, as in “tabernacles,” as in “the Lord tabernacles with us.”) When you understand the story of God and Israel as a passionate love story, the struggles are contextualized as are the prophecies, into tough tales with happy endings. When you understand the metaphor of God and Israel as a greater metaphor of God’s love for humanity (we’re just the physical reminders) you open your heart to the immense, overwhelming love of God. And there is nothing more you can do as a human being than reflect on that truth with awe-filled gratitude.

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The Key to a Woman’s Sexual Power

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See the first two parts in Susan L.M. Goldberg’s series exploring ABC’s Scandal through the lens of Biblical feminism: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?,” ”Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone.” Also check out an introduction to her work and collection of 194 articles and blog posts here.

The husband/wife relationship is central to feminism. Historical, first-wave feminism studied matrimony in terms of legal rights. Contemporary, second-wave feminism approaches marriage in terms of sexual and economic power. Biblical feminism seeks to understand the spiritual relationship between a husband and wife, and how that spiritual relationship manifests into physical action. To do so, we must begin at the beginning, with Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

“Rule over you” is a phrase that sends chills down any feminist’s spine. But, what does it truly mean? A study of the original Hebrew text provides radical insight into one of the most abused verses of Torah:

This brings us to perhaps the most difficult verse in the Hebrew Bible for people concerned with human equality. Gen 3:16 seems to give men the right to dominate women. Feminists have grappled with this text in a variety of ways. One possibility is to recognize that the traditional translations have distorted its meaning and that it is best read against its social background of agrarian life. Instead of the familiar “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing,” the verse should begin “I will greatly increase your work and your pregnancies.” The word for “work,” izavon, is the same word used in God’s statement to the man; the usual translation (“pangs” or “pain”) is far less accurate. In addition, the woman will experience more pregnancies; the Hebrew word is pregnancy, not childbearing, as the NRSV and other versions have it. Women, in other words, must have large families and also work hard, which is what the next clause also proclaims. The verse is a mandate for intense productive and reproductive roles for women; it sanctions what life meant for Israelite women.

In light of this, the notion of general male dominance in the second half of the verse is a distortion. More likely, the idea of male “rule” is related to the multiple pregnancies mentioned in the first half of the verse. Women might resist repeated pregnancies because of the dangers of death in childbirth, but because of their sexual passion (“desire,” 3:16) they accede to their husbands’ sexuality. Male rule in this verse is narrowly drawn, relating only to sexuality; male interpretive traditions have extended that idea by claiming that it means general male dominance.

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Women and the Scandal of Doing It All Alone

Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Editor’s Note: See Part 1 of Susan’s ongoing series analyzing the connections between ABC’s Scandal, current events, and Western values: “What’s Evil Got to Do with It?

Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.

Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.

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People Treat Me Like an Adult and I’m Too Polite to Correct Them

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I was reading Dalrock’s blog and saw a post from a mom blog about a woman who is upset because she is treated by others like a child:

When I was a little girl, adults would often brush aside my viewpoint or do things for me because of my age. I couldn’t wait to grow up and take control over my own life. Fast forward a couple decades later. I’m a mom in my 30′s, but I still find myself being treated like a child by other adults and I can’t figure out how to stop it from happening without being rude.

I should start by saying that I’m not a particularly small or helpless person. Sure, I’m 5’4″ in sneakers, but I’ve always been athletic and loud, by no means a shrinking violet. My peers have never felt the need to baby me, in fact, when I was in college and on vacation with my sorority sisters, they once told me that in the event of a burglary, I was the one they would turn to for protection and a plan of attack. But those older than me treat me like I wander through life with my shoes untied and a teddy bear dangling from one arm, and I can’t seem to get them to stop.

The author of the piece goes on to complain that people do too much for her and provide with help and assistance:

Bosses have refused to let me walk a city block alone at night to the parking garage, even though my coworkers go without being questioned. I’ve been passed over for assignments involving incarcerated individuals lest I get hurt and given assistance I didn’t ask for with boxes or files. Whenever I have voice my distaste for being treated like I’m an incompetent toddler, people get offended and tell me they are just trying to be nice, and I feel like an evil witch.

I have always had the opposite problem. People have always treated me like adult as long as I can remember. I am not that tall or large –around five foot six and 120 pounds, but people always think I am taller and much larger than I am. I have rarely been given assistance for much, walked alone in NYC without so much as an escort, and usually was the one people asked for help, not the other way around. I have worked with incarcerated individuals for years and lifted my own boxes and files without assistance (unless I asked my wonderful husband!). In short, I have been treated as a competent adult for most of my life–and maybe it’s because I acted like one or maybe it has to do with one’s facial appearance or a combination of physical and psychological attributes.

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8 Reasons Why Jews & Christians Should Re-Think Celebrating Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.

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Would You Survive a Horror Movie?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 - by Robert Wargas

Those with long memories will recall that Wes Craven’s Scream, which came out way back in 1996, was praised for its hip “self-awareness,” coming as it did in a particularly “meta” era of ’90s postmodernism, full of overrated cult fare like Pulp Fiction and Clerks. The film’s edginess consisted in banging on the fourth wall without quite breaking it. In one scene, for instance, a horror-movie fanatic and video-store clerk (remember: 1996) played by Jamie Kennedy tells his fellow teenagers about the “rules” of surviving a slasher film.

One of these “rules,” which is now common knowledge, is that in order to survive one mustn’t practice the carnal arts. Those who do it always get it. What the less eloquent might call “c*ckblocking” is an established horror-movie tradition. In the first Halloween film, Michael Myers ruins one couple’s tryst by stabbing the guy and then assaulting his teenage girlfriend—which might sound like a standard Friday evening at Roman Polanski’s house, but for an audience of 1970s suburban teens it was genuinely frightening. Come to think of it, every horror movie has a boyfriend character, football letter jacket and all, who gets his head caved in while fetching a few beers from the fridge. Each series has its own tropes. The Friday the 13th movies rely on the obligatory sex-in-the-woods scene: two camp counselors set up a tent, and before long Jason shows up with his machete for an especially kinky threesome.

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10 Ways to Avoid Regretting Your Wedding

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The average wedding in America costs roughly $30,000. Egged on by countless wedding TV shows, magazines, and websites, people throw what appear to be pseudo star-studded events that aim to rival the kind of blow-out parties you only see in movies. In the end you wind up with one night of clouded memories, a ton of photos, and a group of hungover people hovering over breakfast in the hotel lobby the next day. The bills may last you months, even upwards of a year. And for what? To make your grandmother happy? Because you really liked that episode of My Fair WeddingYou can have a great, regret-free wedding without sacrificing yourself to the Wedding Idol. Here’s how.

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