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Monday, May 31, 2010

Sometimes being Israeli is no picnic

It's the morning of memorial day. I'm in bed talking on the phone with a childhood friend from Israel who now lives in Los Angeles. We're talking about the usual stuff like we do every week, when suddenly she asks me "Did you hear what happened in Israel?" I say no, and immediately all kinds of very scary scenarios go through my mind.

In 1996 I went to Israel to tell my parents that they were going to become grandparents. On my first morning there, I wake up to the sound of my father's agitated voice. I'm too jet lagged to really grasp what he is talking about, but slowly I begin to understand that a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus in Jerusalem. That's how my visit starts. 19 people die. The next morning I wake up again to hear my father talking about suicide bombing. And he sounds as upset as on the day before. And I'm thinking to myself, Am I reliving yesterday? Why is he so upset now, it happened yesterday. Then I realize that another suicide bomber blew himself up, this time in Tel Aviv, 13 dead. Walking distance from my brother's apartment. Another friend of mine lives two blocks from there. This is absolutely crazy, I think to myself. Nuts does not even begin to describe it.

And so the years go by. More suicide bombing, more people die on the Israeli side, a lot more people die on the Palestinian side. In 2001 there were 41 suicide bombing in Israel, 94 die that year, scores are injured. No suicide bombing during my visit in late December 2001, the one I took my daughter with me. Sigh. In 2002 - 45 bombings, the famous Passover bombing on March 27 in Netanya claims the lives of 30 people, total 237 people die that year; 2003 - 23 bombings, total 144 people die in suicide bombing missions that year. December 25, I'm visiting my brother in Tel Aviv when a suicide bomber explodes in a bus stop in one of the suburbs. I'm in a gallery with a friend. I call my brother to check on him. He thinks I'm crazy for calling him. That bombing was 15 miles away, he says, why am I calling him?

My brother lives in the suicide bombing triangle in Tel Aviv. He travels by bus a lot. I don't like to think about him playing with destiny, taking chances like that. People are completely desensitized to bombings and to death and to sirens and to politics, he tells me. There is only so much anyone can take. So as long as no one from your family gets killed, you feel lucky. Until the next bombing. And then you just call around, making sure your kid is fine, the wife is still alive, no one was at the market the day the bomber hit. Good news. Stay away from popular restaurants and clubs, don't wait on the sidewalk for the light to change from red to green if more than three people stand next to you, always locate the exit when you sit in public places. Pay attention to your surrounding at all time. Avoid crowded areas if you want to stay alive.

I learned not to call every time someone explodes himself (or herself) in Tel Aviv. I sound like an oblivious American when I call, my brother tells me. So I don't call, because I don't want to sound like an oblivious American. I'm a jaded Israeli, after all. Kind of. For my brother's sake.

So as all this goes in my mind I ask my childhood friend what happened.

By now everyone already heard what had happened. 6 ships try to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, carrying humanitarian aid. 10 people get killed when Israeli commando stormed one of the ships. Israeli-Turkish relations are in jeopardy, protests all over the world, peace talks are going down the drain, U.N. investigation, U.S. response, condemnations, all the usual stuff. It's all over the place. Israel messed up big time. Now people can hate Israel and feel good about themselves. They are on the side of the victims. Israel is a fascist bully supported by American tax dollars and weapons. No excuses. Even Hamas looks good now, compared to the murderous Israelis.

My friend puts me on hold. All I can think of is, this is very bad news but at least I don't have to freak out about my brother and my friends in Israel. No Iranian bomb, no chemical attack, no scud missiles, no suicide bomber in the triangle.

When she gets back to me she tells me someone has just called her, asked her what she thought about the flotilla incident.

So I ask her: Why do people think we should have an opinion about it, and why does our opinion matter? Am I working for the Israeli Defense Forces? Do I know the secretary of defense (we call him "minister of security"). Am I supposed to form an opinion about it in a matter of minutes? I mean, we've just heard what happened and already people want to know what we think. Does it really matter?

People ask me what Israel is planning to do about Iran. Like anyone in Israel consults my opinion on the matter. People ask me how the conflict with the Palestinians is going to be resolved, like I'm one of the negotiators.

So here's what I think:

This was a no-win situation for Israel. It was a provocation, a test of Israeli resolve, a successful public relations stunt. Israel took the bait and messed up. If things went according to plan Israel would have come out as the bad guy, which it is, but not as an international lawbreaker. That's it. But this is really not the point. This is just another story, another excuse to continue with the blame game rather than find a workable solution to the conflict!

The thing is that no one really wants to find a solution to this conflict. Lots of people get a lot out of it. Legitimacy, power, money, fame, influence, control, more power, more influence, and more money. So there is really no incentive to solve it. Not on the Israeli side, not on the Palestinian side, not on the other neighbors' side.

That's my opinion in a nutshell.

Friday, May 28, 2010

a tribute to the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell

I want to express my appreciation to all those who fight for gay rights, and to my gay friends who take a stand and live openly with or without a partner. Unfortunately some of you can't get legally married in California because we are a little behind some less vocally gay states like... Iowa, for example. But the last word has not been said yet, and the notorious prop 8 will be gone sooner than later, I believe and hope.

As for DADT, I never really understood why Americans make such a big deal about gays in the military. In Israel, where I served two years in the navy, if you have a pulse you can serve. No one cares who you sleep with as long as it's consensual. That's all that matters. Besides, it's nice to have gays in the military; fewer men to sexually harass girl soldiers. Yup, I'm talking from experience.

So it is very encouraging to see that things are finally moving forward in America. One day, being gay will be as trivial as being divorced. Some of you might remember the time when being divorced used to be a terrible stigma, an embarrassment. Now look at it - no one gives it a second thought. Divorced, single, married, whatever. Get on match dot com and see what happens next.

All that's left for us to do now is to wait for the first really high-ranking officer to come out of the closet, perhaps a three-star general, to counter-balance openly gay congressmen and mayors. There will be a big brouhaha on cable television and cyberspace and pundits will say the man is a hero and a role model and all that crap. And then the first openly gay enlisted person will get killed in Afghanistan or Iraq (or Iran... who knows) and there will be another big stir all over cable television and cyberspace because that's a real "human interest" story, and the right wing nuts will probably say that God is striking back at the army because we allow gays to fight for God Bless America. And yadi-yadi-yada.

So here's my tribute:

The best date I had in the last 3 years was with a gay man!

He had a martini. I had rum and coke (I'm a fake drinker). Sometime during the night he said that martinis are like nipples: one is not enough, three is too many. Cracked me up.

We listened to music and talked until I nearly lost my voice. It was almost midnight when we decided to call it a night. Before we got in the car we stopped to look at the ocean. He said it was so romantic and I agreed. At the end of the night I was not worried whether he would call the next morning. I knew he would.

So there.

Now DADT goes for another vote.

I wish all gays who want to serve openly in the armed forces a very safe tour where ever they go. Just FYI, bullets, RPGs, IEDs, and the smartest LGBs don't discriminate and can leave you FUBAR whether you're gay or straight.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the beauty of having a kid

I can’t say that Korea was seriously on my radar screen until very recently. And no, it has nothing to do with the two Koreas being all over the news these days, the rising tension in the Korean peninsula, and the looming international crisis.

It really has a lot to do with my teenage daughter, who out of nowhere and without any warning, became obsessed with anything Korean about four months ago. Overnight her bedroom walls shed the Twilight posters and quickly got covered with pictures of androgynous looking Korean pop stars in tight black leather pants and stylish haircuts, some of which are dyed blond! Then Korean pop music began streaming out of her television set, the laptop, and her iPod. Then she started watching Korean soap operas. Now, every time I come home from work I hear distressed women shrieking over one thing or another, usually a boyfriend or a husband, in Korean.

I learned to make kimbap (Korean style sushi). I cook a lot more rice than I used to, since now there is a Korean wannabe in the house who prefers eating rice out of a bowl with metal chopsticks, because this is how they eat in the Korean dramas. I am starting to accumulate some Korean vocabulary. Coincidentally, I share an office with two Korean ladies, so every morning I harass them with my anyonghaseyo yobo (hello honey), which makes them cringe in horror because yobo is a word used ONLY between a husband and wife, and here I am bastardizing a perfectly fine term of endearment with my relentless campaign to accommodate my daughter.

Interestingly, though, Korean current affairs were not included in the new obsession, unless they had to do with the latest gossip about this or that rock band or singer (SHINee, Rain. Colbert, SNSD, KARA, 2PM, Super Junior, f(x), and the list goes on and on). Until two months ago….when my daughter complained to me about the changes made in the Korean television programming (KBS world). Apparently, reality shows, music videos, and some sappy dramas were cancelled due to the sinking of a South Korean warship by North Korea. According to my daughter, North Korea had sunk a South Korean warship and 46 sailors died. That was in March; long before the investigation concluded that North Korea was indeed the culprit.

I have to confess that this was how I first heard about the attack on the Korean warship. From my Korean obsessed kid. I, the hard core news addict, knew nothing about it, even though I comb blogs and newspapers on a daily basis, trying to understand the world and form some kind of an opinion that is not too far-fetched from reality.

I swallowed my pride and told her that it was a common practice in some countries to change programming when disaster of such magnitude strikes. In Israel, too, some radio stations and the government-controlled television channel change their programming when war breaks out, when a major terrorist attack claims the lives of many, or on days of remembrance, I explained.

“But not for three weeks,” she insisted.

Oh well, girl, I think we’ll have to tough it out this time.

세상에 평화를~!
Peace on earth~!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

God's little helpers

The Invisible Pink Unicorn logo, used to depic...Image via Wikipedia

Last Saturday there was a knock at my door at around noon. I opened the door, and there, stood two women in very conservative attire holding magazines. They asked if Santos lived here. I recognized the name as a former neighbor and told them that he had moved a year earlier. They tried to pull me into a friendly conversation figuring out the last time they had seen him. I didn't know much about him or his family, so there was not much help I could offer.

Soon enough they said they wanted to show me something. I asked if it was religious stuff. They said yes. Right of the bat, I said I was not interested. It did not deter them (neither did the mezuzah on my door-sill). The talkative one launched into a series of questions. She asked for my name. I told her. She asked what it meant. I told her. She broke into a story about how she met someone with an interesting name and what it means and blah blah blah. I stood there and thought, "When are you going to leave? Can't you see I am not interested?" Finally she got the message and said good bye. I smiled politely and said good bye.

After they left I was so mad at myself. Why did I have to be so nice to them? Why did I let them talk and talk to me and did not tell them to just get lost? Is it because I am programmed to be nice to religious people? Is it because I was brainwashed to treat religious people with deference?

I was pissed at myself. For giving in. For succumbing to this bullying of the religious establishment they represented. Who do they think they are? Knocking on my door on a Saturday morning and bothering me for such a long time, trying to be friendly, using all those 'strategies' they learned during the introductory course "how to reach the hearts of the lost souls?" Who the f*** do they think they are, trying to redeem their miserable existence by selling this utter nonsense to me? God damn it. Next time they come I should give them a piece of my mind, tell them what I really think about the nonsense they are spreading all over the world. How they're being conned into believing stuff that anyone with a hint of a brain can tell is pure gobbledygook.

Sam Harris says we shouldn't worry about offending the sensibilities of religious people when we hear them talk religious nonsense; that we should hold them accountable to the nonsense they spread around. And I agree one hundred percent. I just lose my nerve when it presents itself to me, out of habit and a little discomfort, too. No more. I don't want to pretend that it's okay. Because it's not. Next time they come to my door they should be prepared to hear my side of the story. I'm really going to tell them what I think about God and all the nonsense that accompanies that silly notion. I'll tell them about the flying spaghetti monster, the celestial teapot and the invisible pink unicorn; all the other good stuff they can believe in.

This morning there was a knock on my door. When I opened it there stood two women, holding magazines. They wanted to talk to Robby. I said he didn't live here. They asked if they could talk to me about something. I asked if it was about religion. They said yes. I said, "Don't talk to me about religion," and slammed the door in their face.

God, it felt good.

Next time I'll prepare a better speech.

must see:

Michael Shermer on strange beliefs

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

going to Mars

Martian LandscapeImage by Martin Cathrae via Flickr

For the life of me, I don't get why people want to go to Mars. I barely make it to Santa Cruz twice a year.

I know that Neil deGrasse Tyson is all excited about space and space explorations and he's one of the coolest guys in existence, and Stephen Hawkins thinks humans should colonize space, and Obama has some unspecified plans to have someone approaching Mars in 2030. But the idea that "we must make sure we survive and continue," as Hawkins says makes me cringe.

I think the human experiment is starting to look a lot like a failure.

From God's perspective, we failed eons ago and never again proved deserving, even though He supposedly made another covenant with the human race. Just look at the story of The Flood. Before the rain started falling, Noah, the guy whom God Himself chose to preserve our genetic code, did not show any concern for even one other human being who was going to go under water. He probably thought, as long as I got my ark, to hell with the rest of humanity. So obviously empathy is not a strong human trait that emerged from the Flood. Then, the moment he got out of the ark, he got drunk and did something no one wants to talk about with one of his sons, while the other two were watching (this part is naturally not included in the illustrated bible for kids) and then blamed his son and cursed him. What this says about the kind of men who emerged from The Flood, I don't even want to begin to comment.

Fast forward 5,000 years. It still doesn't seem to get better.

When Obama was elected it looked like humanity was putting itself on a rosy path. Kind of. For a blink of an eye. But then, the crazies became so loud, they've been drowning the sane with their noise. I mean, look at the latest win of Rand Paul, the tea party/libertarian guy from Kentucky. The online buzz is all over the place with every crazy thing he's been saying lately, from Obama being un-American for criticizing BP's oil spill, to telling Rachel Maddow that business owners should have the right to bar non-whites from their lunch counters. He has reservations about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That makes me nervous.

This kind of thinking is so passe'. I mean, when people like him ruled the world maybe it made sense to them to think that they can do whatever they want. But let's look at this not so hypothetical situation: Here's a middle aged white guy, opening his business, putting a sign on the door, no black, no browns, no yellows, no Jews, no Muslims, no gays and lesbians. Then one day, let's say some young kid with a gun enters his business and tries to rob him. The guy calls 911. The kid shoots him and runs with the money. A police patrol car screeches to a halt outside, and the black policemen rush to the door. Oops, no blacks allowed. So they call a backup and a white policeman comes in, surveys the damage, calls an ambulance. The paramedic shows up, but he's a brown guy. Can't go in. The white policeman drags the injured business owner out. Takes him to the hospital. Ouch, now it's your Muslim guy who was turned away from that place by that very sign that was placed on the door, and he's the ER guy for the entire night. Ok, so you see where this is going.

My point is, that regardless of all the anti-discrimination laws and indignation of decent people, what these guys, these racist guys, don't get, is that now everyone is connected, and blacks and browns and yellows and Jews and gays are all over the place and we all need each other, we are all connected to one another in one big web of life. Maybe in the old days Rand Paul and his ilk were the sheriffs and the firemen and the doctors and the bosses of the world, but no more.

And can you imagine what will happen to him and his ilk if the government is out of the picture and the police will be run by a private company, all non-whites, and the hospital will be privatized, and run by another minority they dislike, and you see where I'm going again. So this guy, who hates government and everyone who is 'other' will have to go to an establishment run by the government because only those who work for the government will not discriminate against HIM! Luckily for him, the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not allow for government institutions to discriminate against people like him.

So I think that until we get the human race in a better shape, we should let other civilizations colonize space. Or maybe send Rand Paul and his friends up there. Let them harass the space aliens, and be harassed right back.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the fall of the family values guys

Today was a good day for people who enjoy reading about politicians, who fall from their crooked pedestal. A family values guy, a very conservative republican from Indiana, just resigned from congress because he was caught having an affair with a staffer, who looks half his age and is also a third of his weight, at least below the chin area.

Yup, being a family values person and a homophobe is beginning to look like a serious liability.

I mean, the moment a guy starts preaching about family values and the sinful gays, we should immediately start looking in his closet. I think interesting things will be found there. But this is not the point I want to make. And I also don't want to talk about hypocrisy because it is stating the obvious.

What I want to talk about is this part of this guy's statement: "I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff... My comfort is that God is a gracious and forgiving God to those who sincerely seek his forgiveness as I do. "

There are some interesting points to be made here:

1. Why state "a mutual relationship" and not just "a relationship?" Is he insinuating that she wanted him as well? That this hot chick who is younger and prettier and definitely thinner was totally into him in a mutual way? Man, isn't that a satisfying thought.

2. A part-time member? Wouldn't a "member of my staff" be sufficient to describe the situation? Or does mentioning that she was a part-time member makes the affair a little less of an offense because she was not a full-timer? Beats me.

3. Sinning against God who immediately forgives you if you really mean it. How convenient it is to decide that God forgives you because you want him to forgive you, but never consider the one who has not forgiven yet - the wife! Can she forgive as quickly as God or does it really matter for the true family values guy?

Lastly, may I live to see the day when a woman, conservative or not, who is far past her prime time (like this republican guy) a mother of three and a grandmother of two (like this republican guy) confesses to a bunch of journalists that she had an affair with a guy half her age and a third of her weight, and then asks God to forgive her.


I doubt this would happened without His intervention in the first place.

And you know what? This conservative sinner is in the same boat with the woman I am hoping to meet one day. Because without divine intervention, I doubt this young (and silly) part-time staffer would have given him a second look. So he should thank God rather than ask for his forgiveness.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to my blog

Thanks to Eliya I now have my own blog. So first of all, thank you Eliya for setting up this blog for me!

The galia perspective was created to keep the comment area on my FB short for the hurried reader. My blog, on the other hand, will provide a longer version of my perspective on things. If I can make predictions, without committing of course, in this blog I will probably comment on media and politics, single motherhood, working for the government, the immigrant world, and other touchy-feely subjects we all love to talk about.

So here we go...

Starting with politics; my favorite subject:

As you may know, here in California we are going to have elections on June 8. I call them "sneaky elections" 'cause who ever can figure out these special ones; I can barely figure out the November ones with all those propositions written upside down and inside out... where a yes is a no and a no is a yes.

If you are not registered, register now!! You can download a registration form here, sign it and mail it ASAP.

Request absentee ballot, this way you can vote from home, while watching your favorite TV show or eating dinner, and you can have a paper trail (remember Florida!).

On June 22 special elections Dems hope to elect John Laird to the California State Senate.

If you feel the need to support the Democrats as I do, please make sure to make your voice heard on both days: June 8 and June 22.

Need help deciding? Here some name dropping:

Barbara Boxer U.S. Senate
Jerry Brown Governor
Sam Farr Congress
Bill Monning State Assembly

No on Prop 14 Top-Two primaries
Yes on prop 15 Fair elections (put the lid on corporations, lobbyists and such).
No on Prop 16 PG&E monopoly
No on Prop 17 Higher auto insurance premiums (yee-pee)
If you have questions re other props contact me here.

until next time, adios!
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