Desert Flower

October 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm (News) (, , , , , , , )

0688172377.01.LZZZZZZZI recently picked up Desert Flower – The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad after finding out a German filmmaker had managed to snag the rights to it. I had heard of it before, but seeing as I only recently officially came into being a snot-nosed feminist, it hadn’t occurred to me to read it.

Waris Dirie’s story is at once heart-breaking and inspiring. One of twelve children, she was born into a Somalian pastoral nomad family and raised in the deserts among those goats and camels. With no ability to read, write or speak a language beside Somali, she didn’t seem to be destined for great things. In fact, she was rather average for a young Somalian female. She tended goats, played with her siblings, had no shoes or education. Like every girl she was expected to marry whoever her father wished in exchange for more camels.

And like every other girl, she was subjected to the awful, awful practice of female genital mutilation when she was only five years old.

Waris Dirie is now a renown supermodel and UN special ambassador for the elimination of FGM. While I read this book, it felt like a small part of me died when I came across her experiences with FGM. When she was five, her mother woke her in the early morning before anyone else was awake and taken out to the bushes where the “gypsy woman,” as she was referred to, waited for them. Dirie was given a root to bite down on and held down by her mother. The gypsy woman herself used a razor stained with the blood of countless other young, helpless girls that this woman cleaned with her saliva and nothing else.

By African standards, this is relatively cleanly, apparently. Anything can be used – razors, glass, sharp rocks and when nothing else is to be had, teeth. The severity of the mutilation ranges from the removal of the clitoral hood to the full on removal of the labia majora, minora and everything else, then the girls are sewn shut. Dirie experienced the latter form – thorns from a nearby bush were used to create punctures for the sewing. After this, Dirie’s legs were bound together in order to create a minimal, “tidy” scar and she was left in a specially built hut to heal for a whole month.

Many girls die from blood loss, tetanus, infection, gangrene and other horrific side-effects of the “operation,” which include pelvic infections, severe UTIs and more. One of Dirie’s sisters bled to death. Dirie herself suffered for many years because she was left with only a small hole through which urine and menstrual blood were supposed to be allowed to escape. She was able to get surgery later in life, but will never regain much of the feeling in that region of her body because the surgery was performed back in the 90s. Nowadays, with medical advances, there are doctors who specialize in reconstructive surgery in order to help women regain feeling and a sense of pride in their bodies again.

I remember being in an Ethics class and the topic of FGM coming up. I argued against it because I feel, as a woman, that it is a cruel, unnecessary and awful tradition to uphold that gives a whole continent a bad reputation. I was told my Western privilege was showing – that it was necessary to approach some traditions with respect and the dignity it deserves because – while it is not my own culture – it is someone else’s cultural practice.

I call bullshit on that. I agree that the Western way is not always the right way, but I see no reason to accept a practice that is so barbaric. Many of the cultures FGM is practiced in are Muslim; men argue that the Q’ran demands it. Nowhere in the Q’ran does it state that you are to maim and brutalize your women. FGM – I refuse to deign it with the term “female circumcision” because it undercuts the severity of what is done – was invented by men in order to oppress women and make them pliable through their pain. Those who argue that male circumcision is equally cruel – what on Earth are you thinking? We do not cut off young boys’ penises. We don’t divorce them from their sexual organs in order to oppress them. There is a vast difference between a small surgical procedure in which the foreskin is removed and the hacking off and permanent crippling of young defenseless girls.

It makes me sick to my stomach that around 2 MILLION girls a year are at risk of being victims of FGM. I hope that, through education and redirection of practices, it will be possible to decrease and maybe eliminate the practice entirely, though it will take a long time. Meanwhile, here is the trailer to Desert Flower where Dirie is played by Liya Kebede:

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Grumpy

September 28, 2009 at 9:16 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , , )

grumpy This was my expression throughout the majority of the Torah services, Yizkor and Musaf and the beginning of the Avodah (at which point, we left).

I have realized I am not cut out to be the member of a congregation as large as this. There were well over a thousand people present. This means it is loud, people are always talking, it is hard for me to concentrate on the actual prayers and it is super crowded. There was absolutely no room for me to move during the Amidah. Someone behind me was constantly basically shoving their book into the back of my head.

Again, the rabbi felt it was appropriate to ask for money. During Yizkor. OF ALL TIMES, DURING YIZKOR. Did it ever occur to him how incredibly rude that is? People have passed away and we’re trying to say prayers for them, and you’re asking us to reach into our pockets? The man moved further up my list of Obnoxious Things And People I Dislike. This is a rather affluent community, I’m sure he could have asked for donations for Israel Bonds or their synagogue at some other point. His stories and interjections were absolutely moot, pointless.

If there is a God, S/He will not make me go back to this place. Ever. Please, please, please let me have transferred to a different school and a different community by then. I can’t deal with this again.

I made sure to email all my professors about my absence, so everything was alright on that front. I finally managed to weave my way through the automated phone system operated by TriCare in order to inquire about getting new contact lenses through someone here in the area. It seems they are willing to cover it, but I apparently still need to talk to someone back in Europe as to how exactly we want to proceed. Simple, people – I need to see an experienced ophthalmologist who can deal with eyes that have been operated on, have a high astigmatism and off-the-charts diopters. Ugh. I hate life.

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Yom Kippur

September 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm (Life) (, , , , , , , )

I did manage to find a place to go for Yom Kippur. However, it’s not somewhere I see myself going back to after my obligation for Yom Kippur is over. The congregation is large, impersonal and conservative. The latter wouldn’t bother me too much, but it’s a little . . . restrictive, in a way. It’s the kind of place where you’ll see older people and young families and very little in between.

Not only that, but the rabbi started being a solicitor for various funds in the middle of services, which I thought was incredibly inappropriate. We’re RIGHT smackdab in the middle of Kol Nidre services. And you ask people to put money into Israel Bonds? REALLY? YOU THINK THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA? He also started harping on our need to support Israel and donate and blahblahblah.

I have no issue with charity. I do have an issue when a religious official uses his role to push political agendas; it’s not something I have ever seen a rabbi do and I hope I’ll never have to see it again. It’s not something I associate with Judaism, the begging for money and propagation of political things is more a Christian phenomenon. Or it was until now.

The whole thing just made me incredibly uncomfortable. A religious official is supposed to offer advice, not preach from the pulpit about how I as a Jew am obligated to support Israel in every possible way. That’s like someone telling C. that she has to support the Pope because she’s Catholic despite the fact that dude’s batshit crazy, not to mention assbackwards on basically every matter of social importance. I am in no way obligated to support a country simply because I am part of a religious entity. I will not publicly support a country and a government on the basis of this.

I appreciate Israel’s existence, but I do not agree with a lot of their policies. I believe displacing Palestinians is wrong. The way Israel was founded is very much akin to the Europeans marching into North American and displacing all the American Indians. I don’t believe military action is necessary all the damn time and I am absolutely horrified at the sense of entitlement that many European and American-born Jews have when they make aliyah, and how perfectly acceptable the racism towards Palestinians is within those Jewish communities in Israel.

So, no, Rabbi Whateveryournamemaybe, I am keeping my money out of Israel Bonds and in my damn pocket. This kind of conduct does not leave me feeling spiritually cleansed, forgiven by God or enlightened. It makes me think I ended up an awful place for a very emotional time, and that makes me sad.

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Day Terrors

June 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm (News) (, , , , , , )

I can shrug off many things, but the shooting at the National Holocaust Museum earlier today has left me shaken. Jezebel compiled a bunch of information on the shooter, James von Brunn. It turns out he is a white-supremacist, anti-Semite, pro-Aryan nutjob. The sole person he shot has died. His website includes gems such as:

The “American myth” (created by JEWS) alleging our Founding Fathers intended that all races, from pygmy to Ainu, be invited to our shores, is based on Thomas Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence: “…all men are created equal.” The meaning of this much quoted statement has been distorted by the ILLUMINATI which subjectively is re-writing history and wielding the “HOLOCAUST” like a battle-ax at the heads of those proclaiming genetic certainties: Men and races are NOT created equal. Jefferson’s statement can be understood only in context of his Era. Our Founding Fathers were Aryans, men of good breeding who understood, empirically, the great differences existing between strains of horses; strains of live-stock; races of men; and between individuals: knowledge confirmed today by the natural sciences of Genetics, Eugenics, and Anthropology. Hitler, as American boobs are beginning to learn, was not all wrong.

I am, in all honesty, terrified. The kind of hate-speech he promotes seems to be directed at me. I am Jewish – but do I not look Aryan? What about those who do not have the protection of such genes?

I did nothing wrong. I have never participated in conspiracies against anyone. I believe in social justice. He does not know me or my family, nor does he know any other Jewish family. He does not know our friends. This, however, would mean he had to think and get treatment for his brand of crazy.

So why does he hate us so much?

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An Act of Kindness

June 10, 2009 at 12:13 am (Fun, Life) (, , , , )

My aunt is a devout Catholic. She is very involved in her church – she goes to mass every Sunday and sometimes even on Saturday, she teaches ESL classes there and cantors Tuesday Novina masses. She sings in both of the church’s choirs, teaches the children’s hand bell choir and the adult bell choir. I hardly see her in the evenings for all this.

So. The Novina mass. She and her accompanist usually are the last to leave the church, which means they need to lock up. Tonight, her accompanist had to leave because she had family in town. My aunt locked up the church.

On her way out, she found a stack of anti-same sex marriage propaganda flyers. She is a good woman. She took them and “put them where they belonged.”

Where that might be?

Our dumpster.

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An Open Letter

June 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , )

Dear Sir,

I realize you thought you were doing a good thing. Your thoughts were tainted by the grandeur of martyring yourself for the cause, ending a reign of terror, a genocide. You were stopping a godless murderer from ending the lives of defenseless children, those who had no voice. You and your friends, you were to speak for these innocents, you were going to protect them.

What you call ideology I call madness. What you call an innocent child I call a cluster of cells, a the half-formed beginnings of what – after birth – will be a human being, with no personality or viability. What you call murder I call choice. Those you condemn I support.

What you do not realize, sir, is that you have no right to make decisions for someone with little choice in the matter. For every woman who, in utmost emotional pain, fells the decision to have a “late-term” abortion does so with a heavy heart. It is a traumatic, invasive, terrible procedure. Those “children” are wanted. You have no concept of the terror and anger and sadness these women feel as they grasp their partners’ hands throughout the procedure. You have no idea of how these people have to pick the pieces of their shattered dreams and hopes they pinned on that pregnancy. Everything they’d wished for is dashed with one visit to prenatal care.

You may think you have the right to judge and shun these women and men, harass them and shame them. It is my duty to correct you, sir.

You are no hero. You are, in fact, an awful human being, as is every single one of your friends at Operation Rescue. How dare you take it into your own hands to pass judgement on someone else when you spend so much time arguing your belief in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. You are nothing but a useless worm. Do you think this is what your God wants?

How ever did you think it was right, even just to shoot another living, breathing human being? You are no martyr, sir, you are an asshole. You committed a heinous crime against another person, defying one of the Ten Commandments, if you feel inclined to placing worth on your own goddamn Bible. Does “thou shalt not kill” ring a bell? No? Then perhaps you are not as familiar with your own scriptures. You are a horrid person, sir. What you and your friends are doing is called domestic terrorism. You shot a man providing invaluable, important services to those who needed them the most. You shot a true humanitarian. Countless of Dr. Tiller’s patients are stepping forward to tell their stories. You are instilling fear in the hearts of innocent people, making them afraid to seek the help and make the choices they need to. Did you know all of them are anonymous because they are afraid of you, of the things you do in the name of a God who surely condemns what you did just as much as anyone with even an ounce of brain matter does?

I hope you rot in Hell.

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Marriage Crisis

May 27, 2009 at 11:02 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

My older sister had her wedding ceremony on Saturday. My mother did not attend.

I have noticed an increasing amount of people being extremely judgmental about this little fact that I do not care for. I don’t think many people understand the circumstances of the situation. It grates. I almost didn’t attend the ceremony either because I somehow, in my gut, just knew it was going to be awful and I would want to kill myself. My gut feeling was right.

My mother does not necessarily approve of interfaith marriage because she herself had bad experiences on that front. My father officially converted so they could get married by a rabbi. HOWEVER, my mother did not insist on him doing this – she told him she would not be leaving him, regardless of their marital status. She was absolutely fine being a domestic partner, but if they were to be married, she’d prefer to do a religious ceremony of her heritage because she had some issues with Catholicism. My father had turned his back on Catholicism by the time he hit college, taking courses in comparative religions and taking a shine to Judaism. So, there is that. Grandma and Grandpa turned out to be horrificly bitchy about it, repeatedly attempting to interfere with the way my parents were raising us by encouraging Christmas and Easter and various other Christian holidays with us. It reached a point where my mother had to threaten they would not be allowed to see us if they did not cut it out.

This may seem harsh, but she has a point. My grandparents had no damn right to interfere with our religious upbringing, if there was to be any. We are their grandchildren, NOT THEIR CHILDREN. Repeatedly making attempts to put Jesus in our life and telling my mother she was an awful horrid Jewish woman who took their beloved Christian angel off the path to righteousness are not appropriate.

On to my sister. S. is not religious at all; she does not identify with Judaism anymore than she does with Christianity, but I think she may inadvertantly be culturally Jewish. A year ago, she married a German Lutheran in a civil ceremony, the way it is done in Europe. She has also had all these fantasies about what her wedding should be like, white dress and flowers and all; she’s had those since she was a child and it dumbfounded and confused my mother and I all the time. S.’s husband, F., is also not at all religious. He’s a could-not-give-a-shit athetist with some leftover guilt from his upbringing.

There was no need for a religious ceremony. Legally, they have already been married for a year. They could have gone with an anniversary party. S. could have worn her goddamn dress to her civil ceremony. But no, she wanted to wear her dress in a big fancy building. Fine. I can deal with this. However, she and F. complied with his parents’ wishes to have a religious ceremony in a church where F.’s mother had worked for twenty years. In Germany, you get whatever asshat runs the majority of the services in that church. The pastor was a total and complete cad.

His idea of interfaith, somehow, meant that he was entitled to make jabs at the Judaism and the fact we do not believe in hanging up a bleeding corpse on a cross for everyone to pray to. He pointedly referred to Judaism as a tradition rather than a faith. He interjected things like, “And now, you have come here to reaffirm your marriage before God, by which, dear bride, I mean JESUS CHRIST.” He gave them a bible as a wedding gift from “the community.” He made the couple kneel before the altar so he could bless them with the crucifix motion despite the couple having said they did not want such a thing.

I was very close to walking out throughout the whole thing. I thought it was rude, inappropriate and does not at all speak of the Christian values I know some of my friends represent. There was no kindness, no love or charity in his sermon, his actions spoke of great disrespect for other human beings who happened to not agree with every word he said. Basically, all he did was ensure stereotypes of interolance within church walls were reaffirmed.

That is why my mother did not go. She had no desire to see her daughter shamed before a congregation for being of a culturally and religiously different group. She had no desire to sit for an hour, staring at a depiction of Jesus Christ bleeding on the cross. She had no desire to have unfriendly encounters with the church servants and the pastor the way I did. This is entirely reasonable, especially since the whole ceremony was completely unnecessary. I wish people would stop talking about how “sad” they were when they heard their “friend did not attend her daughter’s wedding.” It is none of their fucking business to judge when they don’t know the whole story.

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My Beef

April 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm (Life) (, , , , , , )

I am part of a liberal Jewish community back in Germany that is based around the MTV military chapel. We have not had a rabbi in years; to give you an idea, there currently are 1,426,713 active duty service members and another 1,259,000 in the reserves. There are about twelve rabbis in uniform, nine of which are orthodox.

My community hasn’t had a rabbi in years. The community has been pretty self-sufficient; we arranged for services on our own, contracted a non-trained cantor, had a ley leader represent us at the chaplains’ meetings. I invested a lot of my own time into this community, leading services when our cantor was gone, kashering the kitchen, keeping children entertained, clean-up duty, organizing services, going through checklists of what we did and did not need. While we weren’t many, we usually did okay – some people rotated through, but there was always a stable core to the community that was formed, in fact, by local civilians, not by service (wo)men or dependents.

As of last month, we have a rabbi again, an orthodox one. In one fell sweep, he has ripped any and all control over how we conduct services, how we organize situations, has completely changed times on when services are held, etc. According to those who I am in contact with, he is not exactly hostile towards the civilians, but not terribly welcoming either.

So, what inspired this? Well, as you all know, it’s Passover now. Usually our community organizes it and has a pretty grand old time. This year, the rabbi decided he needed to take things into his own hands despite the fact he would not be there. Instead of letting us do our normal thing, he imported a yeshiva student to conduct the service.

Our community has not had a rabbi for about ten years. This means ten Passover seders we managed to conduct on our own. What did he think we do before God sent us this divine message in form of Rabbi Jerkwad? Scratch our ape-like heads and chant “Ugga!” like heathens?

Christ on a cracker. If there is a God, then please, I would like for him to take this jackass back off our hands. I refuse to attend any services this man holds just because he is orthodox and I do not agree with orthodox Judaism. For all I know, he might very likely be segregating the community by gender and because he’s orthodox, he is sure to believe women are not allowed to touch the Torah. Fuck this shit.

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Chag Sameach And All That Jazz

April 9, 2009 at 9:38 pm (Life) (, , )

Passover has begun, we are on the second night of seders. I am skipping out on any kinds of festivities this year, but will be keeping pareve (kosher for Passover). So far, the goyim have been fairly decent about not eating breadstuff and anything containing grains in front of me. Sometime around next Monday, I expect there to be a lusting-for-bread stabbing rage.

As per usual, I will be eating kitniyot (“little things”), meaning I am not an idiot and will not cut rice, corn and legumes out of my diet. I am sorry, but matzah is just not that appetizing and while my vitamin levels may merit celebration after these eight days, I reason like this: You cannot make bread from rice, soy beans, beans or corn. Why should I not eat it? I replaced my goddamn vinegar for apple cider vinegar and that’s the extent to which I will go.

To all non-Jews: I hate you right now.

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Your Political Agenda is Uncouth

March 27, 2009 at 9:30 pm (News) (, , , , , )

I logged onto Facebook today to find a post by someone I considered a friend concerning this article. It’s about a freak accident in which two young women were killed in a plane crash; the plane crashed into a “memorial” for all the “babies” that have been “killed” with abortions. These young women are the daughters of a man who runs the largest abortion “business” in California. Innocent people died here in a freak accident. What did she have to say?

“Well I think THAT is a message from God if there ever was one.”

I am still shell-shocked from reading that. Innocent people – most of which had nothing to do with the abortions – die in a freak accident, and that’s what you have to say? You seriously believe your God is a vengeful God, the kind that somehow punishes some who are unrighteous by your standards, but who lets you spew hatred?

What happened to charity? What happened to compassion? What happened to kindness?

Religion is not about selectively adhering to principles. It’s all or none. If you act like a decent human being, do not mix fibers, don’t eat shellfish, do not have premarital sex – maybe then we can discuss the fact these people are not righteous by your standards. But I know you. You had premarital sex. You mix fibers. You eat whatever you want. You are unkind to others. You have no right and no place to claim others deserve to die for providing women with the service of CHOICE where their own body is concerned. What is right for you is not right for everyone else.

I feel like crying, honestly.

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