Category Archives: All politics is global

Red Ink

France Newspaper Attack

Those who can’t keep one thought in their head go around slaughtering people, but it’s incumbent on the rest of us to keep two or more. The murderers of four cartoonists, two cops and at least six other people in France have created martyrs in the way they spend so much time hoping to do, and, as in the case of your average religious-fanatic douchebag, it’s ill-deserved. Paris’ Charlie Hebdo magazine, once you (okay, once I) have heard of it and check it out, is a juvenile, simplistic, slapdash and occasionally mildly amusing satire pub. That the pushbutton provocations of its cartoons would move anyone to mass-murder is a measure of how mangled the minds of these extremist morons are.

I’m sure many people who have put up memorial messages today were not familiar with the content of the “speech” they were defending — and in this, they have a small thing in common with those who oppress and kill in the name of the Bible or Qur’an. Not that I’m comparing anyone who stands up for unconditional free speech to a murderer — keep two thoughts in your head. But many of the same people would not want to be thought of as defenders of the borderline homophobic, definitely Der Stürmer-style caricatures more than occasionally appearing in Charlie Hebdo. (A helpful sampling, for legit and necessary marketplace-of-ideas purposes, is here; note to religious zealots, please don’t kill me.) One pic of Muhammad “creating Islam” by mixing “doom” and “hatred” and “camel urine” into a cauldron is straight out of medieval anti-Semitic caricature, with the players changed.

And I too believe it should all be allowed — but just ’cuz I as a Jew approve of the right to issue marching permits to people who would exterminate me, I’m not obligated to show enthusiasm for what they do. NO speech is ever an attack warranting deadly retaliation, but not all free-speakers have something worth saying. And not all of them take risks worth taking — for a mature consciousness, there has to be a better reason for doing something than that someone told you not to do it. Muslims are insulted by seeing depictions of Muhammad; millions of decent, lawful, loving everyday Muslims. And indiscriminate retaliation against this precept, because a relative handful of monsters try to enforce it lethally, may be something to be reluctantly defended, but not readily applauded.

There are so many transgressive and discomforting cartoonists and comedians out there who deserve to be considered as well as protected…your Sam Hendersons, your Amy Schumers (note to religious zealots: don’t kill Sam Henderson and Amy Schumer). But we should keep parallel thoughts, and not maintain double standards. It is so common for the full weight of society (though yes, not specific bursts of gunfire) to be leveled against anyone who mounts satiric or sober criticism of Israel (my own people’s homeland) as an unspeakable anti-Semitism, when it’s just criticism of a government, open to and needing criticism just like the crazed theocracy ISIL wants or the national-security state America is getting or your own town if it didn’t pick up the garbage last week. How many people care about the average Muslim enough to modify their outrage now?

I mourn how life is ended for the victims of this insanity, and life is changed forever for their loved ones, and life is harder for the Muslims of France (whose representatives immediately denounced the attack on life, democracy and expression) and the rest of Europe (where haters were already marching against Islam earlier this week and real leaders like Angela Merkel were sticking their neck out against such hatred in all forms). I hope the atrocity in Paris gives rise to a determined sense of broadened community, not just a self-satisfied gesture of militarized defiance. Guess which one is more likely? I’m sorry, but je ne suis pas Charlie, not exactly. I hope that’s not…heresy.

Trek Unspoiled


Canon is set in stone but the future is in wide open space. Everyone might have “their” Star Trek, but the Abrams era is a Trek for everyone. At one point in the newest flick Kirk admonishes McCoy, “enough with the metaphors,” but the meta is in steady hands, as an all-action movie unfolds its morals with unfailing navigational skill. It gives away nothing you haven’t seen in ads to remark on the masterful mirroring throughout the movie, the ways in which we compare not just “classic” and “new” timelines but directions in which human choice and narrative invention can go. The enhanced humanity of…let’s just say Cumberbatch, vs. the accentuated humanness of those opposing him; he and his (for now-unnamed) ally wiling to do anything to achieve their aims while the Enterprise heroes are determined to always think of something more to preserve the common good; the immense efforts to keep one craft airborne by an entire model society while one man’s crashes with abandon, to untold innocent-citizen consequences; Pike’s mentor who wants him controlled and Kirk’s mentor, Pike, who wants him to flourish. That last point is pivotal since the movie hinges on the impulsive young Jim Kirk’s continuous re-creation of the rulebook and his right of passage to account for his own consequences. Uncharted territory and immutable principles for living (and letting others live) are an uneasy balance, and create the essence of adventure and of results we don’t see coming. But in this film we understand the quasi-military, semi-utopian Federation, in a widening world being defined as they move through it, as not a set of rules but a laboratory of values, and the movie’s nonstop cliff-jumps and space-races are a symbol of the kinds of risks and dangers that can still exhilarate rather than overpower us. In real life our own planet is in peril and the rest of our own history unseeable yet anxiously awaited; with classic optimism and fresh imagination, Abrams’ Star Trek gives us the future to do all over again.