aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Conservative Jews Allow Gay Rabbis and Unions
The highest legal body in Conservative Judaism, the centrist movement in worldwide Jewry, voted yesterday to allow the ordination of gay rabbis and the celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies.
The decision, which followed years of debate, was denounced by traditionalists in the movement as an indication that Conservative Judaism had abandoned its commitment to adhere to Jewish law, but celebrated by others as a long-awaited move toward full equality for gay people.
“We see this as a giant step forward,” said Sarah Freidson, a rabbinical student and co-chairwoman of Keshet, a student group at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York that has been pushing for change.
But in a reflection of the divisions in the movement, the 25 rabbis on the law committee passed three conflicting legal opinions - one in favor of gay rabbis and unions, and two against.
In doing so, the committee left it up to individual synagogues to decide whether to accept or reject gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies, saying that either course is justified according to Jewish law.
Malcolm Gladwell wonders if we need a clearer definition of racism. He proposes one with three criteria:
1. Content. What is said clearly makes a difference. I think, for example, that hate speech is more hateful the more specific it is. To call someone a nigger is not as a bad as arguing that black people have lower intelligence than whites. To make a targetted claim is worse than calling a name. Similarly, I think it matters how much a stereotype deviates from a legitimate generalization. For instance, (and this is, admittedly, not a great example) I think it’s worse for someone to say that Jews are money-grubbers than it is to make a joke about how Orthodox Jews have large families. The first statement is groundless, and the second is at least statistically defensible. All hate speech is hurtful. But racism crosses the line and becomes dangerous when it encourages false belief about a targetted group. This much, I think, is fairly straightforward.
2. Intention. Was the remark intended to wound, or intended to perpetuate some social wrong? Was it malicious? I remember sitting in church, as a child, while our Presbyterian minister made jokes about how “cheap” Presbyterians were. If non-Presbyterians make that joke, it might be offensive. But a Presbyterian making jokes about Presbyterians with the intention of making Presbyterians laugh is fine, because there is a complete absence of malice in the comment. I think that Richard Pryor or Dave Chapelle’s use of the word “nigger,” or the Jewish jokes told by Jewish comics fall into the same category.
3. Conviction. Does the statement represent the individual’s considered opinion? This to me is the trickiest of the three criterion. In Blink, I wrote a great deal about unconscious racism--how powerful and how prevalent it is. All of us, in our unconscious, harbor prejudicial thoughts. (If you don’t believe me, I urge you to take the tests at www. i-a-t.org.) What is of greatest concern, I think, are not instances where those kinds of buried feelings leak out, but cases where hate speech appears to have been the product of considered, conscious deliberation. Comments made in writing, then, ought to be taken more seriously and judged more harshly than comments made in speech; comments made soberly are worse than those made in anger or jest. Comments made in the absence of emotional or chemical duress are worse than those made drunk, or in some stressful context. When a teenager yells at her mother, “I wish you were dead,” that’s hate speech. It’s malcious and its targetted (I wish YOU were dead, not all mothers.) But mothers forgive their children for shouting those words, because the speech fails the conviction test. When we are frustrated or angry, we say things we don’t mean--and the world, properly, ought to make allowances for us when we do.
Malcolm’s question comes in the context of Michael Richards, Mel Gibson and Michael Irvin. My interest comes in the context of a Northerner living in the South and looking at race here.
Of the three points (content, intention, conviction) the South is egregious on the first, content. And we are nailed for it time and time again. But the South totally fails on the second, the intention test. The vast majority of people I know, including those with what would be considered distinctly racist opinions, have no racist intent. None.
The third, the conviction question, is much trickier. But is the South really any worse on that score than the rest of the country? Exhibits A, B & C are the nation’s prisons, schools and inner city poverty. Someone please point me to a bright shining northern star. There are no rural blacks in the north. Why? Here in the South blacks are evenly distributed throughout.
Right now the Left is smitten with Tom Schaller‘s Whistling Past Dixie. I still haven’t read it but I don’t get it. Schaller’s page 18 proposal is to turn Southern racism into a “burdensome stone to hang around the Republicans’ neck.” How does that help one bit with addressing the serious problem of race in America?
And just what does that say about the Democrats attitude toward race? Wouldn’t it be more noble, respectable and appropriate for the Democratic Party to redouble its efforts in the South, and make Race a defining characteristic of the party agenda nationwide?
The 5 day work week is anti-family
So says Georgia’s own Jack Kingston. But not for you and me, only he:
Forget the minimum wage. Or outsourcing jobs overseas. The labor issue most on the minds of members of Congress yesterday was their own: They will have to work five days a week starting in January.
The horror. [...]
“Keeping us up here eats away at families,” said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. “Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families—that’s what this says.”
LATER: Kingston defends his comments on Fox.