Thursday, November 25, 2010

...On the other hand - some blame is sometimes warranted

I recently found this abstract:

It's from an academic paper examining the press coverage of the inquest into the death of Jordan Heikamp. The tone suggests that the press was blaming his poor mother for not conforms to ideals of motherhood instead of searching for societal problems.

Well, I happened to have been following the inquest rather closely at the time, and read most of its press coverage.

Yes, Renee Heikamp was portrayed as a "bad mother". I'd argue that it was an accurate description. The evidence was that she declined a placement at an appropriate maternity home, didn't want breastfeeding advice, didn't bother to read the instructions when making up bottles of formula, didn't bother to take her newborn baby to the doctor, lied to her social worker and said that she take the baby to the doctor and reported that he was gaining weight, and most of all, failed to notice that her baby boy was starving to the point of being just skin and bones.

To repeat: this was NOT a case where a mother didn't have access to proper food or medical care or community support.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to use blame to avoid tough issues

Let's say that there are some serious issues in your societal. Want to feel like you are addressing them while avoiding any responsibility whatsoever? Play the blame game!

Are there women who feel overwhelmed by pregnancy? No problem - just join the endless abortion debate! You can yell and scream for years without lifting a finger, let alone providing better services, protecting women from domestic violence, having better maternity leave policies, or providing social and financial support. As an added bonus, you can find those who argue with a straight face that men should be legally allowed to walk away from any unwanted pregnancy without paying child support "since she could just abort".

Are there parents (particularly moms) who feel torn between home and work? Again, no need to look at putting practical solutions in place. Just have an endless stay-at-home vs. working mom debate, complete with nasty name-calling and rhetorical flourishes. Brownie points for animal references, like comparing daycare to a dog kennel or saying that if you wanted to get out of the house, you should have a cat instead. On the other side, try to use images of maximum sloth and financial irresponsibility. If you continue long enough, no one will need to deal with parental leave, or funding childcare, or putting before and after school care programs in place, or any other flexible or creative alternatives.

More recently, I've been watching the growth of the financial chaos variation of this. Are there families drowning financially? Apparently, this means more debate! We can all throw around blame for having kids, blame for being materialistic, blame for being too selfish to support everyone else, blame for having the wrong priorities, blame for lacking faith....and this will nicely delay any demands that may be made for real changes based on financial reality.

Separation of Church and State: why this Orthodox Jew supports gay civil rights

Since so many people seem to be confused by me and my position on gay rights, I thought I'd post a basic explanation.

Simply put: I support a separation of church and state.

I don't want the government passing laws simply as a basis for enforcing religious beliefs.

I also don't want the government telling me what to believe, or telling my rabbi what to do.

Make sense?

I've often used the line, "male homosexual sex is as morally bad as eating bacon-wrapped shrimp", and gotten a collective "huh?" in reply.

Yes, Leviticus has some harsh things to say about (male) homosexual acts. It also has harsh things to say about cross-dressing, and eating pork or shellfish.

Now, as an Orthodox Jew, I'm not going to argue that Leviticus is total garbage. On the contrary - I deliberately avoid eating pork or seafood.

I believe in religious freedom. If I want to follow Leviticus, that is my right. I don't feel that I have to defend my dietary restrictions to others.

On the other hand, I don't go around picketing Red Lobster. I don't carry signs saying "God hates shrimp". I don't protest the fact that advertisers see fit to air commercials with bacon at times that Jewish children can see them. I'm still close to my mom and sister, who think that bacon-wrapped shrimp is delicious. When I was looking to hire a law clerk, I didn't ask candidates for their views of shellfish. In short, I worry about my own religious observance, and see no need to shove my views down anyone else's throat. I have no right to assume that anyone else really cares what MY holy book says.

Combine the two together, and it's not just a cowardly mishmash, as some would suggest. It's something much greater: a formula for tolerance and religious co-existance.

As others have pointed out, tolerance is not the same as acceptance. It gets criticized because it doesn't seem nearly as warm and fuzzy. I would argue that it is actually more powerful. Acceptance is about expanding what you approve. Tolerance is what you need when you reach the limit of acceptance, and get to the point that there won't be agreement or approval. It means that everyone has certain rights and society needs to operate according to certain rules WHETHER OR NOT we happen to approve of someone.

So, the question of "what do you think of homosexual acts?" can be "who cares?" Unless you want to shoot the breeze on theology, it's just not relevant.

By the same token, living with tolerance means that I don't need to concern myself with what anyone thinks of the fact that I don't accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour (nor, for that matter, do I believe that Mohammad was the latest and greatest prophet). I can demand my civil rights anyway. I know history and current events well enough to know that this isn't something that I can take lightly.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How does your religion impact the rest of your world view?

What is the impact of various religions on the thinking of their members, in areas that don't necessarily seem to have much to do with religion?
[Note: I previously posted this on the Babycenter Religious Debate Board]

I'll give some examples from Judaism:

- the traditional strong emphasis on religious study morphed into a very strong emphasis on secular studies

- just as Jewish texts are never simply read and just taken literally, at face value, but are debated and analyzed to death, there is a tendancy to take the "analyze everything and accept nothing at face value" approach into all other areas

- since Judaism focuses so much on Jewish law, there is certainly no stigma to be "legalistic". To the contrary, becoming a lawyer in the secular world seems natural

- strong notion of using one's own experience of oppression to fight for the rights of others who are oppressed. The idea is biblical ("do not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in Egypt"), but the mindset is still very strong today even among secular Jews (eg. "do not restrict the legal rights of gays, for you know how it felt when the Nazis took away your rights")

- since Judaism has so many rules, there tends to be an understanding of other religions that have rules. There is also a willingness to fight for minority religious rights, even by secular Jews, since restrictions on practices were often a tool of oppression against Jews [which explains why my agnostic/atheist Jewish mother, who worked as a teacher, was constantly explaining to her non-Jewish colleagues why they shouldn't expect Hindu students to eat meat or JW students to do Xmas activities or Sikh students to take off their turbans or Muslim girls to take off their hijab...]

- communal obligations. There are Jewish teachings about the amount that one is obligated to give to charity, but very strong communal organizations were supported by even secular Jews

- food and feasting! Judaism requires certain feasts on certain holidays. Even Jews who do nothing else will often still do this - the Passover seder is the most enduring Jewish practice. There is a definite urge to get together with family and friend and prepare huge quantities of food.

- Music and dancing are mentioned in the Bible as expressions of joy (see descriptions of the Israelites at the crossing of the Red Sea, or of King David). No big Jewish event (wedding, bar mitzvah, etc.) is complete until there is a frenzy of dancing, including people being thrown up on chairs and hoisted up, even among secular Jews.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Confession time: music the kids made me like

I would have happily continued to spend life in a retro 80s bubble....but I have kids who are now tweens. They recently took control of the radio in a bloodless coup.

Most of the music drives me batty, but occasionally, in spite of myself, I notice that I like something. I'm not SUPPOSED to like new stuff, and I'm certainly not supposed to like things with inappropriate lyrics. I'm a respectable, religious mom, after all.

But dang, these songs are just way too catchy, and I like the attitude.

"So what" (Pink) - just awesome
"If I Had You" (Adam Lambert)- gets me singing and dancing
"FU" (Cee Lo Green)- rude but hysterical, ironic blending of old-school Motown soul and modern attitude
"I've Got a Feeling" (Black Eyed Peas) - overplayed, but still a great anthem, and it's so cute to see the kids' reaction to hearing "mazel tov - l'chaim!"

It could be worse. My little niece and nephew decided that they like the corus "hotel, motel, Holiday Inn", even they they don't have a clue why the rest of the lyrics are so bad. They just enjoy the Holiday Inn during family road trips.

Now, I just need to ask my 11 year old to teach me how to download these songs onto the iPod and arrange them into a good workout mix. Yes, I also rely on her for advice on modern technology. Did you know that on Yahoo email, there is a "talk to the hand" smilie? I've sent thousands of business emails without it, but one of my first emails from Daughter #1 had it. I laughed so hard that our argument was forgotten.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

No, a uterus is not a public viewing gallery

Crazy Babycenter post of the day:

It drives me a bit bonkers, as a mother and a family lawyer, to hear this discussed in terms of RIGHTS.

An ultrasound is a medical procedure, people.
It's not spectator sport. It's not a form of prenatal visitation.

The answer to the question "who should be there?" is simple. Whoever the mother wants. Period.

For some of mine, my husband was by my side, and I was grateful for his supportive presence. I can't imagine NOT having him there when our first miscarriage was diagnosed, or when we got confirmation after a scare that the second pregnancy was indeed viable and healthy. These were deeply emotional times for us. He didn't get there by demanding "rights". He got there by being my totally supportive rock, and showing that the well-being of the baby and I was his absolute top priority.

For others (and I had to have quite a few), he wasn't there. While I preferred to have him around, I realized that medical procedures aren't about having a fetus perform for an audience. It was about getting medical care, and that couldn't always wait for my husband to be available. It was a medical and scheduling issue, not a larger statement on future attachment to a child.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tarek Fatah

We heard Tarek Fatah speak last night and bought a copy of his new book, The Jew Is Not My Enemy. He's a great, powerful speaker, with the courage to speak his mind regardless of whether it fits with anyone else's party line. I'm looking forward to finishing the book as fast as I can.