Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

The recent Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza, the daily pictures of bombed out and annihilated neighborhoods, dead and wounded women and children, has incurred the wrath of the US.  Anti-Israel sentiment, even among long-time supporters, is startling, and I think that Israel was taken by surprise, though negative global reactions would never deter Israel from her pursuit of justice anyway.  The Israeli government has always been willing to accept the killing of innocent women and children because the greater goal is the survival of Israel itself.  They claim their actions are justified because every nation has the right to protect itself, even if the exercise of that right includes the killing of innocents.  If Israel is attacked they claim to have the moral right to seek justice against their attackers to ensure such attacks never happen again. This is their argument.

But I have a problem with this thinking.  I don’t dispute any nation’s claim that they have a right to protect itself; however, I do dispute the manner in which they exercise that right. Okay, here’s the argument as I see it:

Hamas attacks Israel using long-range missiles (to little effect), terrorist attacks through tunnels, killing soldiers, kidnappings, etc. Israel responds with tank fire, mortars, and finally a ground assault that results in huge casualty numbers, mostly women and children .  Israel justifies going after Hamas, the bombing of Gaza, and the killing of innocents on the grounds that Hamas had attacked Israel without justification. The gist of this fallacious thinking claims that the wrongness of Hamas’ actions justified a similar wrong committed by Israel.  In other words, two wrongs make a right: “Wrong + wrong = right.”

Here’s the given about war:  They result in the deaths of innocent people. Now, a nation may have a vested interest in seeking justice by punishing those responsible for acts of aggression against them.  However, any justice achieved is offset or lost if innocent people are at risk. If Israel goes after Hamas to seek justice as a “moral response” to their ongoing attacks against Israel, and a genuine sense of justice is based on a clearly defined moral system commonly accepted by “moral people/nations,” then Israel must adhere to all components of moral conduct, not selectively choose what parts to use or it is not genuine justice.  Therefore, if the seeking of “justice” results in the deaths of innocent people, then that action is not a moral response to “terror”

Israel wants the conflict to end, but they want to end it in a way that it does not start up again in six months or a year.  The primary target of the Israel aggression is, of course, Hamas.  Hamas aggression towards Israel has triggered “corresponding” response because, as both the US and Israel agree, Israel has a “right to defend itself.”

The reasoning then is Israel does not want a ceasefire unless it can be certain that Hamas won’t again dig tunnels again or fire long-range missiles targeting Israel. They must be confident that cannot happen.  Therefore, to ensure this outcome, Israel is willing to do whatever is necessary to destroy tunnels and missile launching sites, without any regard to the evitable loss of innocent life. The cost of Israel’s certainty is, let’s be clear, measured b;y the death of Palestinian children.  Every day children are losing their lives because of the kind of war this is.  There is no “front line”; all of Gaza is the battlefield.  Consequently, there is no where for Palistian people to escape; there is no safe haven, no bomb shelters (which of course the Israelee citizens enjoy); no where.  By these standards, and because children are killed every day, without moral justification, Israel has found itself, again, in a situation where it is morally acceptable to allow the children of Gaza to be killed, while their own children are not at risk. [What is an analogy here?].

Hamas is responsible for the dead children, not Israel; Hamas rejected a ceasefire, so they are responsible for the dead children…that our bombs killed…because they are the ones who kept this conflict going. You cannot blame the victim for the crime.

If it is true that Hamas military machine is hiding among the people, using them as shields, storing weapons in schools and hospitals, then it must also be true that there is no other military option than to bomb those sites to destroy weapons that are being used and will no doubt be used in the future.  If the goal or objective for Israel is to exercise its right as a sovereign country to defend itself from attacks from other nations, and it accepts that the cost of its defense is killing children, then its right to defend itself cannot be called moral right.  Rather, it is a “bully’s right.”

This seems typical of the kind of conflict in Mideast regions.  Hamas, without the vast military might of Israel, fights the only way it knows how: invisible, hiding in tunnels and among the people, willingly to sacrifice the lives of the innocents—sacrifice may be the wrong word; this kind of Jihad requires the death of innocents, their deaths becoming a weapon of retaliation against the Jewish conscience; but this doesn’t work because a vast majority of Jewish population do not want a ceasefire—and see their “country” in ash and ruin.



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Charlie Parker and MilesSince March 12 marked the 92nd birthday of beat generation icon Jack Kerouac, I knew I had to program a Jazz show that spun Kerouac readings with 50’s jazz beboppers Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Mingus, and others. That “beat-bop” era was arts-rich in other areas too: revolutionary freedom of speech, civil rights comedy of Lenny Bruce; the crazed-hipster satires of Lord Bucklely (it’s worthy to note here that his use of hipster language proves the antithesis of the idea that hipster jargon is creatively shallow), the uber-cool hipster-infused social narratives of Babs Gonzales, and jazz-backed readings from Kenneth Patchen, Micael McClure, and Alan Ginsberg.

Kerouac’s hipster paean to the “hot pursuit of pleasure,” his famous, culture-changing novel On the Road, became the back-pocket Bible of just about every highway thumb-wagging beatnik and hippy I ever came across.  Even now, almost sixty years after the novel was first published, young people are still fascinated by Kerouac, his book, the beat generation, and his archetypal story of the journey to self-discovery. They were (and still are) the thronNeal and Jackgs of young, somehow disaffected kids, from different cultures and of different races, who rejected their parents’ mainstream, middle-class pursuit of the American Dream.  The Way of the Beat was an alternative, counter-culture way of looking at the world, a “Way” devoid of “…the sickness of mass consumerism and pop culture conformity,” and a genuine belief in the activism of ideas, codified in On the Road.  And what are these ways?

  • the belief that all experience is good and that life is the archetypal hero’s journey
  • a cool, almost Zen-like, disaffected demeanor (defined by sun glasses at night)
  • a devout interest in all things Zen and Buddhism
  • a shared understanding of the language of beat
  • a reverence for the working class, the poor
  • a hip intellectualism defined by apocalyptic poetry, jazz, Bop, Zen Buddhism, and drugs

The first time I ever saw a copy of On the Road was on my father’s booksRoad Scrollhelf, probably sitting next to his copy of Lenny Bruce’s How to Talk Dirty and Influence People.  When I first read it in 1965, I thought the book was difficult and annoying to read.  It didn’t follow any type of narrative I had ever read before, and the prose seemed erratic to me and out of control. Moments of inspired and energetic writing inevitably gave way to the vast passages of flat and rambling description.  But, of course, that is the consequence of Kerouac’s writing process. The writing itself, the actual act of composing the work, laying type to paper (note Kerouac legend of a not-stop alcohol-, marijuana-, Benzedrine-fueled night of writing Road on a single roll of teletype paper fed into his typewriter), is intended to reflect Kerouac’s way of  perceiving and understanding his world.

Despite the novel’s flaws, I see a great deal to admire about Kerouac’s book, especially the descriptive passages about jazz with its references to specific jazz musicians.  They have a shameless enthusiasm and energy that draws me immediately into Kerouac’s jazz moment.  It’s a Zen-like, spiritual thing for him, listening to jazz, drawing inspiration from the sound of improvisation.  Kerouac particularly admired Charlie Parker; his name is referenced more than once throughout the novel.

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Visual Puns

I love puns.  I came across Marsha Tosk while grazing Arnold Zwicky’s langauge blog.  Her sculptures are visual puns but also challenge the understanding through a cultural context.  I wonder how my students would respond given the need for a process of meta cognition.  The transfiguration of painted polyresin puns: “Bagels and Locks”—by Marsha Tosk

bagels and locks

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