Saturday, August 21, 2010


Beyond Toleration: The Enduring Message Of Washington's Letter To The Touro Synagogue

Rob Boston

Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 12:34:28 PM EST

President George Washington received an interesting letter 220 years ago today.

Washington was visiting Newport, R.I., and Moses Seixas, an official at the Touro Synagogue, wrote to welcome our first chief executive to the city and to solicit his views on religious liberty.

Washington's reply, dated Aug. 21, 1790, isn't as well known as some other historic documents from the founding period, and that's a shame. Every American should read it.

"The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation," Washington wrote. "All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

In today's Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank cites the Washington missive in relation to the ongoing controversy over the so-called "Ground Zero mosque." Milbank contrasts Washington's eloquence with some of the bigoted and inane things that have been said about the proposed Islamic cultural center by today's political leaders.

Milbank certainly makes a valuable point. But for me, the importance of Washington's Touro Synagogue letter has always been twofold. His message transcends any contemporary controversies; it is a powerful statement of religious liberty that belongs to the ages.

First, Washington makes it clear that mere "toleration" is not enough. There was a time when religious majorities believed that their willingness to tolerate members of other faiths (as opposed to killing, exiling or imprisoning them) was a great step forward. It was, but Washington recognizes that much more is needed for society to be truly free. All persons have an inherent right to liberty of conscience and the benefits of citizenship regardless of their beliefs about religion.

Secondly, Washington's reply repudiates the wrong-headed idea that the United States is an officially Christian nation. (Glenn Beck, David Barton, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, et al, please take note.)

Remember, the Jews of Newport wrote to Washington one year before the Bill of Rights was ratified. They had good cause to be concerned about their status in the new nation, given the problems they had experienced in Europe.

Washington set their minds at ease. All alike possess the same rights, he noted, and bigotry would never receive state support. Nowhere in Washington's letter do we find any credence for the idea that America would be officially Christian but that Jews would be "tolerated" in the practice of their faith. Washington's letter specifically rejects that idea.

Employing a nice turn of phrase, Washington added, "May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

The Touro letter echoes sentiments Washington expressed in a 1783 letter to some Irish immigrants. In that missive, he observed, "The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment."

Washington's message of religious freedom still speaks to us after more than 200 years. I wish all of our political leaders would adopt his "enlarged and liberal" vision.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cat: Owned? or Abuse?

Working: What does a work ethic do?

     I like to say that my parents (in general) & my Father (in particular) raised me with a Work ethic, I show up to work almost every day, I don't call out sick if I'm not actually sick or hurt. I believe I've missed a sum total of about 2 weeks total on the last 9 years, that wasn't due to illness or circumstances beyond my control. I'm not a saint however. I do run late on a regular basis; usually due to the terrible region known as the George Washington Bridge, the Cross Bronx Expressway & the Major Deegan Expressway, none of which are guaranteed to be moving at any given time. When the Yankees are playing, it's mostly a Disaster Area!

     Many of the folks I work with do not share my ethic. Many call in without regard of how it will look or how it will affect the job. I have been known to benefit from this in the form of OT. I have also been stuck working with people who really didn't want to work with anyone other then their regular partner, as their "rhythm" gets messed up- whatever... I believe that a work ethic is the difference between an average and an Outstanding employee. The city however feels differently.  What do you think?

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Blogher10: A 1st Timers' view

Well, the Ecological disaster in the gulf is supposedly contained, after 85 days. For those of you with a statistical bent, the amount of oil actually released into the gulf will never be known- BP will put out a number, but can you really believe a company that initially says that the release was 5,000 barrels per day, but upon looking at the camera feed was more in the range of 60,000 barrels per day; the amount is Enormous! Only Time will tell how badly we are all screwed- but make No Mistake, we are all Screwed!

I was able to attend a Very Small Part of Blogher10 in NYC. I thought I wouldn't be able to go at all, but then that particular weekend opened up for me & after asking several folks on Twitter ( I posted that I'd like to obtain a Cocktail ticket, with the intention of trying to meet some of the folks that post on Twitter. @justheather of came through with her husband's ticket(he couldn't attend) The following are some of my observations.

You really need to attend the whole conference! This Cannot be denied! I knew that there was a lot I might be interested in checking out, but the schedule is Extensive! I only saw things from the vantage point of someone on the edges. You gotta be In it to Win it,& There's a Lot of Great Stuff going on!

Be Sure to arrange to meetup with folks you follow/stalk/ are Twitter/Facebook buddies with. I'm not a guy who gets a lot of Social Anxiety- I work in a Ghetto & there are many occasions when I'm not in a familiar environment. That said, I didn't make any arrangements & when I showed up- I was Alone, in the middle of a crowd! I showed up after work at about 10:30pm on Friday night. Until I saw a post by @schmutzie at around 12:30 that indicated she was in the same bar & Direct Messaged her; The only person who spoke to me was the Bartender!
-By The Way- Big Hugs to @schmutzie,@palinode & @lod (laid off Dad) for being the Great Canadian Bloggers & people they are. I'm not sure if laidoffdad is a Canadian, but he's certainly in Good Company!

I showed up Saturday afternoon (Unfortunately, as soon as I thought I could go for the Whole weekend, I was Mandated by the job for Saturday evening& Night & Sunday evening & night, due to Call Volume) I walked around the art exhibit met the self-described "kissame mob"-
I then ran into @herbadmother & volunteered for Tutu duty for her son Tanner (tutusfortanner)
"Do I make you Horny? O.K. Nauseous, but it's a start..."

I ran into @sarcasticmomLC, who took this shot (I think) I wandered around for awhile, but, as expected for a guy dressed in a tutu, was alone again. My day considerably Improved after I went back to the bar & DM a few folks who were Twittering.

The Awesome @thecaffeinatrix came down for a drink & we hit it off. Apparently, she knows everybody! So all of a Sudden a lot of people came over to talk. I met @looneytunes, dead on her feet & the last person I met was someone I follow regularly: @borneochica, at around 1:30am She's a Great Writer and we exchanged some chit-chat. That made my night!

There are still some folks I would have loved to meet, but circumstances prevented it:
I know that using Twitter handles is Geeky, but that's how I know these folks!

It is also Weird that,I know things about many of these folks, but don't actually know them! I know for Instance, that @borneochica is vexed by a Wonky drier at home that she can't seem to get fixed. I know she likes to run & is very fit & while she speaks passable German, she's slowly learning the Swiss dialect. Yet,While I think we could have a sit down & a good conversation (a distinct pleasure in this world), I didn't feel like I should invite myself along when they (the women)went to get food (and I was also Tired & had a 45min. drive in front of me)

I picked up the car and drove out through the city streets, using my "Street eye" to pick out all the details, the hookers in the blocks around the Hustler Club, using their phones as a cover to scan the traffic, then smiling & beckoning, the restaurant workers sharing a cigarette (or a joint) out the kitchen door, the "rocks" scanning the area around the park for the Unwary,all a part of NYC.I have a lot of Unconventional knowledge, built up over time. I don't normally blog about it- perhaps I should. I am reticent to disclose other peoples' affairs. I think it's bad karma. but maybe I can work on changing enough of it to matter, while still holding the Truth clear. I'll let you know...