White rioters looming over their black victims
White rioters looming over their black victims
White rioters menacingly loom over their black victims in Detroit, 1943

We’re fooling ourselves if we believe
things will ever go back to normal
Did your grandpas or great-grandpas
ever get over the bitter disappointment of
club-wielding, Okie-hating sadists
in the third or fourth ramshackle migrant camp
or the scent of rotting, blood-soaked detritus
blending with their own rotting flesh in Guadalcanal?

Standing angrily in bread lines searching for bottlecaps, a-penny-a-piece as they trudge through filthy cities in soles worn-through, heels too low to recover or beating the shit out of the Blacks whose time in the trenches made ideas of place less clear stomping the Pachucos with spit-shined oxfords the…


Your brief guide to the five and a half hours I can’t get back

These debates sucked. And they sucked primarily for two reasons.

Reason #1: The DNC needs to get its shit together

2016 was a brutal election for Democrats. Losing to Trump was devastating to the nation but also threw the party into disarray. But even before that, the bloodiness of the fight between Clinton and Sanders left lasting scars. The Russian email hack revealed deeply pro-Clinton bias among DNC leaders from whom impartiality is required for grassroots enthusiasm and an active base feeling like they’re really selecting the nominee. I’m not going to relitigate 2016 as I don’t think that’s helpful. Its specter, however, haunts this election cycle and we’ve got…


22/365

Today, Eric Swalwell announced he was suspending his short-lived presidential campaign. He departs the crowded field with Mike Gravel who announced his campaign was winding down over the next week. That brings the total number of major Democratic candidates down to 23 from its high of 25. (There are actually 266 Democratic candidates who have filed to run, most of whom have no campaign to speak of.)

It’s “game over, man!” for the Bill Paxton-looking candidate

From his announcement, it was clear that Swalwell’s campaign was meant primarily to bring more light to the American crisis of rampant gun violence and the need for better gun control legislation. If…


21/365

I grew up during the Reagan years when American exceptionalism was so ubiquitous that it poured out of big and little screens and oozed out of the radio. But the 1980s weren’t the first decade overrun by a romantic, idealized, deceptive vision of America — that’s been our inheritance since a slave-owner proclaimed our independence by declaring all men created equal. This Rockwellian facade has always been a poisonous fallacy; every national myth disguises a hideous injustice.

Reagan implored us to forget what we learned about ourselves in the 1960s and 1970s

Postwar patriotism ebbed and flowed in the latter half of the twentieth century, riding highest among straight white men, so privileged as to…


20/365

In 1993 while I was still living in Arcata, California, I was looking for work when Luta Belcher told me of an opening. Luta had been working part-time as a prep cook and part-time as a busboy at a Mexican restaurant that a lot of the rock kids had worked at over the years. Reyes Y Casas Viejas was ostensibly a Mexican restaurant that served Tex-Mex in Eureka, about a mile east of Old Town. …


19/365

“SOCRATES: All in all, I responded, those who were chained would consider nothing besides the shadows of the artifacts as the unhidden.”
-Plato, Republic, VII 514(a)

“To a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish.”
-Yiddish Proverb

Those shadows on the wall aren’t all there is

It’s a funny thing, perception. When we look at the world, what do we see? Is it the world as it truly is or is it the world as we understand it: filtered, colored, mutated?

As one of two Jews at my elementary school (the other, my sister) at the end of the 1970s through the mid-1980s, I saw the world as…


Day 18/365

Tonight, like last night was far more riveting than I expected. Debate #2 had four of the five top-polling candidates on the same stage: Biden, Bernie, Buttigieg, and Harris. Walking in, I believe there were three main questions:

  1. Would Biden be a target due to his front-runner status?
  2. Would Bernie differentiate himself now that his policies are widely embraced?
  3. Who would most stand out among the other candidates?

All three questions were clearly answered by the end of the night.

Tonight had a gold-medal-top-of-the-heap-head-high-shoulders-back-dramatic-spotlight-swelling-music victor that ran away with the debate. I believe we will see a significant shakeup in…


Day 17/365

I believe the debate tonight was a rousing success. When the 2016 Republican candidates all gathered on stage it felt a vacuous bunch of attention-starved hucksters trying to one-up each other and Donald Trump. Tonight’s debate showcased a similarly crowded field but was surprisingly full of candor, policy, and substance. I had anticipated the number of candidates on stage would have precluded learning anything new about candidates and Democratic party segmentation. I was very wrong. I learned a ton.

Here is my rundown of the candidates’ performances.

↑ Julian Castro: Castro has really flown under the radar with…


Day 16/365

I’m not sure how many people are closely paying attention to the Democratic candidates in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election. For those that are, I hope they’re more balanced than I. I know I’m being fairly neurotic about it. In spite of how it seems, I don’t believe it’s meritorious to devote all of one’s energy towards learning about 25 candidates, analyzing their platforms and policy proposals and thinking about political strategy.

This really isn’t a humble brag about my time investment; it’s legitimate self-criticism. One might think that based on my behavior, I believe that I…


Day 15/365

I found my way to Hasidism while in Santa Cruz by traveling an unusual path even for those who made similar journeys. I developed a relationship with an incredibly unique rabbi that provided a taste of both what was and wasn’t the Lubavitch world I was about to enter. In Santa Cruz, before my first encounter with Orthodox Judaism, I had started regularly attending a conservative Jewish synagogue.

Santa Cruz in the mid-1990s was an admittedly odd place to discover Hasidism

Conservative Judaism is a form of liberal Judaism but with greater adherence to traditions and ritual. At one point, Reform and Conservative Judaism were part of the same Reform movement but at…

Eli Rothman

We are normal and we want our freedom.

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