Monthly Archives: October 2010

Classified Transparency


Julian Assange, Wikileaks
Image by New Media Days via Flickr

By M. Alexander

The New York Times reported on October 23rdWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is on the run from authorities”.  He recently released 391,832 classified documents concerning the war in Iraq.  Some hail him as a hero.  They claim his mission is noble, removing secrecy from modern government, adding a level of transparency to an opaque world.  Others believe he is a villain with no respect for government and no idea of the potential consequences of his actions.

When I first read the article, I looked up to Mr. Assange.  It is easy to see the rebel, the man surreptitiously fighting against government secrecy as a modern day Guy Fawkes, a hero unwilling to bend to government ideology.  However, Mr. Assange is far from a hero.  He did not remove the names of soldiers involved in clandestine operations.  Though The United States has no “combat” troops left in Iraq, this information endangers many US soldiers who remain in the region.

I am all for transparency, but there is no use whatsoever in disclosing these names to the general public.  Though I have little faith left in The United States Government, I still believe that they have reasons for not disclosing many of these documents.  Sure, most of them have been stamped “classified” rather unnecessarily, but their public release can put American lives in danger.  It is easy to classify Mr. Assange as a hero or a villain.  However, he is neither.  He is merely a man who has taken the wonders of modern technology a little too far without realizing the potential disastrous consequences of his actions.

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Out of Apathy


By M. Alexander

When I was a freshman in college at NYU, I fell in love with my best friend.  I was miserable. I had never felt anything like this; an intense unrelenting pain buried in the depths of my clenched stomach.  I had no energy. I could not get out of bed.  I attached everything I wanted in life: unconditional love, security, and children, to this one girl I had known for barely 6 months.  Before I told her that I loved her, I was already convinced of my imminent rejection.  I had rejected myself so how was anyone else supposed to accept me?

I began to numb myself using a variety of different drugs.  I could stay in bed and slowly my feelings began to dissolve.  How great is the bliss of apathy when it immediately follows misery!?  It is pure, uncut escape.  Since this first unrequited love 4 years ago, I cannot remember having any strong emotions.  Now that I have 3 months without any mind-altering substance, I find that my defense against misery is still holding strong.  I am not able to feel joy and I am not able to feel sorrow.

I vacillate between acceptance and the desire to change; I can accept apathy and nihilism or I can slowly rid myself of the notion that nothing matters.  The major issue I am facing is: how do I bring myself to care enough to bring myself out of apathy? It is as if I fell into a pond of quicksand, each day becoming further and further entrenched.  At a certain point, I became so stuck that now I do not know anything else.  It is comfortable, it is safe.

Thinking will not get me out; feelings will not help me to escape.  It is action! I must put one foot in front of the other.  I must help someone in need.  I must vote according to my principles.  I must do the next right thing.  Knowing that it will be an arduous, lengthy struggle, I will be able to pull myself out of the trenches one fiber of my soul at a time.  Feelings will not be comfortable, but I will be able to feel again!

Alexander Dumas says “there is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.”  I have already experienced seemingly bottomless grief, it is now time to realize and experience my dreams of joy and happiness.

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To Magen David or Not to Magen David?—That is the Question


A red star of David, the symbol of the Magen D...
Image via Wikipedia

By M. Alexander

I wear a necklace with The Star of David around my neck.  I remember the first day that I got it.  I was working front desk at a 4 star hotel in Santa Monica.  Before I left for work, my parents told me I should probably tuck it into my jacket so that it would not be visible to guests of the hotel.  Before my parents told me this, I had not really considered whether I was going to tuck it in or not.  Several bellhops wear their cross visibly.  Why should my Magen David be any different?

I now felt ashamed.  Not ashamed to be a Jew, quite the opposite.  I felt ashamed that I would even consider not wearing my Judaism proudly.  The Star of David was once an obligation, something people were forced to wear to distinguish them as a lower class of people.  It is now a sign of pride and connection.  I feel connected to other Jews, people who might be strangers if they remain unaware that I am a Jew.  It is a reminder that wherever I go, whatever I am doing, I am a Jew.

I walked into work with The Star of David over my jacket.  My manager gave me a look and said “are you sure you want to wear that?”  I nodded my head.  The Chief of Operations walked by and asked me to tuck it in.  I told him that the bellhops always wear their crosses, why is this different?  He had no response and he walked away.  These two interactions did not make me more hesitant, they solidified my pride.

Next, a guest walked in to check in to the hotel.  I told him his room category.  He asked for an upgrade and I told him that the luxury rooms were completely full.  He then said “But I’m a Jew, can’t you do anything for me?”  This completely stopped me in my tracks.  Yes, I felt a connection to this man; yes I believe that as Jews, we should help each other.  But I truly did not have any luxury rooms available.  I now felt bad that I could not help this man.  He was no longer a mere customer; he was a member of my tribe trying to manipulate our connection.  After he left, I tucked n my Magen David.  I now understood why my parents did not want me to leave it showing at work.  It is not shame or fear; it is because I am a mere employee, bound to the rules of a corporation.  I must treat everyone the same.  I do not care if The Magen David changes the way people look at me, but at work, it is important that it does not change the way I look at others.

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All About Proposition 19


A Cannabis sativa leaf.
Image via Wikipedia

By Ben Spielberg

Break it up, roll it up, light it up and inhale. I can almost hear the cacophony of lighters igniting at once if California’s Proposition 19 passes this November. Proposition 19, or Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 has the following implications for the average consumer, aged 21 and over: they may carry up to one once of marijuana, they may use it in a private residence, and they are allowed to grow plants in a space of up to 25 square feet. The existing laws of intoxication will still be enforced, however—for instance, driving under the influence will bring about the same repercussions as driving drunk. Another interesting part about this attempt to regulate marijuana usage is that the proposition states that a person above age caught selling marijuana to a minor will face between three and five years in federal prison.

I am a little torn hearing about this potential legalization of marijuana. Not only am I in recovery, but I’m serious about recovering as well. I loved smoking weed when I was younger, and now that I’m sober how will I possibly deal with these new, socially acceptable triggers? In a way it is really no big deal—there are drug triggers everywhere around me. I walk into CVS and I see a pharmacy. I buy cigarettes at liquor stores. This is an issue that runs a lot deeper than jealousy; rather, this is an issue of freedom and personal liberty. Our jails are the most overcrowded in the world, and I don’t think taking my grandmother from her assisted living and throwing her in the joint is really going to do any good. Sometimes we forget the laws were invented to protect the people, nor hurt us.

It is estimated that in California alone, about $14 billion a year goes into the marijuana industry. That means this state could potentially gain $1.4 billion annually in taxes. Maybe state parks won’t have to be forced to close down every year. It is difficult to determine the consequences of such actions, but maybe regulating and taxing marijuana could lead to a child’s dream–swinging in a beautiful, green park while the rest of the world slowly breathes in and inhales the smoke.

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