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Here I stand, bare feet on ancient stone. Looking down at the water…
How did I get here?
It’s 3am in Tsfat, Israel. Dark outside. Full moon over the 4,000 year-old graveyard behind me…
I was on the way home to California from a business trip in London.
As if by an unseen hand, I was led out of my well-worn hotel room and down the switchbacks to this holiest of places in this holiest of cities. Yitzak Luria‘s Mikveh.
I feel like Indiana Jones, except there is no khaki or wide-brimmed hat…I am as naked as the day I was born, no barrier, coram Deo. Even my watch and wedding ring have been taken off.
Just me. Just God. Just now.
My name, David, which never made much sense to me, seems oddly right for, perhaps, the first time ever. I have cultivated nicknames all my life. I think of the double delta of David’s monogram…
I think back over the last 48 hours here in Galilee.
Invited into the back rooms of synagogues…
Rabbis pointing through the texts of “secret books” in Hebrew and asking questions….
- How did you learn Hebrew?
- Your name is David, are you sure you aren’t Jewish? You look Russian…
- Where do you sense the presence of God here in Tsfat? Where is that feeling the strongest?
- What are you doing here?
I did not choose to stand here. I’m not even sure what a mikveh is…I was led here…
I need answers to three questions. Just two days ago, I wrote those questions on a tiny slip of paper, rolled it up, and placed it in the Western Wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem at sunrise. My forehead against the cool ancient stone, my palms up high, time collapsed…the better part of an hour evaporated like the morning fog…
It is dark outside. Not even the roosters have begun to crow…
I slide into the biting cold of the fresh spring water, holding the pole and stepping down the ancient steps. I breathe deeply and submerge….
The world disappears.
I pull my knees up against my chest, going fetal in this womb-tomb.
An avid surfer, I am used to being underwater and I gently roll backwards….
A glow emanates from nowhere and everywhere. I open my eyes underwater to confirm the experience and the light vanishes…
I come up for air twice and submerge again. The glow returns, and I feel enveloped in the Khesed-love of the Creator. Answers come to me faster than I can receive them.
I generate a will to receive.
Something shifts around me. The third time under turns into a dream. I feel as if I am breathing underwater. The glow gets warm.
All of my theological legalisms about baptism vanish and dissolve into an ocean of God’s presence.
As I climb out and dry off, my soul comes to total rest. I will walk for hours until the hilltop town awakens. Like an old snakeskin, I have shed something. A new season is starting…
Where is your “mikveh” where you take off everything in the presence of God?
When’s the last time you were there….?
Come home, America.
Now would be the time.
Al Qaeda has been decapitated. The seven dwarves of wannabe Bin Ladens are hopeless.
The Cold War is over in Europe. As over as leisure suits.
We get most of our oil from the Western Hemisphere. No real reason to import it from the psycho-political Middle East.
Libya is not our problem. The chaos in Mexico is.
Time to come home, America.
We are a New World nation.
We started dabbling in Old World politics in McKinley’s administration with the “White Man’s Burden” and the Philippines. It was a slippery slope. 110 years of adventure with a ton of heartache.
Now is the time to realize the great promise of the New World.
The founding fathers warned us against “entangling alliances” in the Old World.
We ignored them.
And we have paid.
In gold and blood.
We had no business in World War One. None. No one is even sure what the war was about, almost a century later. Why send our young men into that meat grinder?
And had we never messed around in the Philippines and taken over Hawaii in a sleazy way there would have been no Pearl Harbor. Russia would have eventually defeated the Nazis without us (do the math). There may not have ever been Nazis in the first place if we had not tipped the scales of WW1 so that Germany was crushed.
It is time for America to come home.
If Europe cannot defend itself without our help, then that’s their problem. Why did they need us to straighten out Kosovo?
If Korea is hopeless without us, then Asia has to band together to subdue the nut case pariah nation of North Korea.
We are obsessed with the Middle East. As Dr. Phil would say: How’s it workin’ for you now? Israel is plenty able to kick the pooey out of anyone who messes with them. And last time someone fired scuds at them it was because our soldiers were shooting up Mesopotamia. We get the Israelis in more trouble than anything else.
These fights are not our fight.
Our natural GNP level is 20% of the global total (with 4% of the population), this has held steady for a century. We had a short percentage spike in the 1950′s while the rest of the world rebuilt after the disaster of WW2. It’s time to go back to our “natural” sphere of influence of 1/5 of the globe. Right now, we are acting like we own the whole enchilada. Imperial over-reach has killed more empires than anything else.
It is time to:
- Pull our troops out of Europe.
- Pull our troops out of Korea.
- Leave the Eastern Hemisphere, militarily. 100% withdrawal.
- Help Mexico fix Mexico.
- Establish a free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere, the New World.
- Stop worrying about trade with India and China. If they won’t play nice (which they will), then transfer those jobs to North and Latin America.
- We won’t even start with the schizophrenic nation of Pakistan, our worst ally…ever.
- Build a world-class freight railroad system from Alaska to the tip of Chile.
- Re-align the military to protect the Western Hemisphere. Seamlessly. With big oceans on both sides and no natural enemies, we are easy, and cheap, to defend.
- Develop a joint Western Hemisphere Navy (like NATO was) to which we would supply 3, not 12, carrier groups.
- Thus save trillions in military expenditures and foreign aid, all the while enhancing our security. Oh, by the way, this would balance the budget.
- Be on good terms with the Old World, but stay out of their un-solvable feuds.
- Have every student in our hemisphere learn English and Spanish in addition to his/her native tongue. No exceptions.
- Create a national volunteer service throughout the hemisphere to build the infrastructure. Mandatory two years after high school. Get our young people out from in front of screens with video games and Simpsons reruns and out doing some good.
- Eliminate drug cartels.
To resurrect a term, it is our manifest destiny to be the leading nation (with great partners) in the New World.
Come home, America.
This vision made it into the epilogue of The Blackberry Bush, my 2011 novel.
Please pass a link to this article to everyone you know. Thanks.
PS: Just was reminded by a friend that McGovern’s acceptance speech in 1972 was entitled, “Come home, America.” 8-track, flashback! Here are the closing lines:
So join with me in this campaign. Lend me your strength and your support, and together we will call America home to the ideals that nourished us from the beginning.
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick — come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this “is your land, this land is my land — from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters — this land was made for you and me.”
So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.
And now is the time to meet that challenge.
Good night, and Godspeed to you all.
-George McGovern, 1972, who lost to Nixon, who resigned in disgrace shortly thereafter…
If you are a conservative or a Christian (I am both), one of the boxes you seem to have to “tick” is “pro-Israel.”
This also seems to imply, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.
I am a great admirer of Israel. They have the best democracy and the most vital and diversified economy (from electronics to agriculture) in the Middle East.
The Israeli national anthem “Ha-Tikvah” stirs me emotionally.
The Hebrew Bible is one of my happy places. Our congregation, Robinwood Church, is preaching through the Psalms (have been at it for a year and a half).
One of my mentors, Prof. Dr. Ralph Gehrke, read Isaiah in Hebrew with me every Saturday for ages.
However, I find that some of the black-and-white pro-Israel sentiment in the circles in which I run is often un-reflected at best. Ignorant at worst.
Here are some random thoughts:
- We don’t need to “defend Israel.” They have a formidable military and a credible nuclear deterrent. We have never fired a shot in defense of Israel and have never needed to intervene to help them. They buy our arms. Fine. So do many Arab states.
- We need to focus less on the Eastern Hemisphere and more on the Western Hemisphere. We have a fixation on the Middle East. Because we import oil? Most of our imported oil comes from Canada, Mexico, and South America. We are only 4% of the world population, and the main reason for our budget deficit is our bloated “police the whole world” military. We got entangled in the Eastern Hemisphere during McKinley’s term (Philippines) and we have been messed up ever since, with very little to show for it. The Founding Fathers warned us against “entangling alliances” in the Old World. We have the resources to make the Western Hemisphere a democratic, prosperous heaven on earth.
- Although there is much overlap, biblical Israel and modern Israel are not exactly the same thing. Modern Judaism was hatched after the New Testament was written, when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and they had to reinvent themselves. As did Christianity, Judaism had a Reformation in the 1500s (the hasidic/lurianic impulse) that still affects them to this day.
- You can’t draw a straight ethnic line between ancient Israel and the modern state of Israel. Golda Meir was born in Milwaukee. Most of modern Israel has Rhineland into Eastern European (Ashkenazi) and Spanish/Portuguese (Sephardi) bloodlines. Middle Eastern DNA roots among them are sketchy at best. You can look up Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish lineage on Wikipedia.
- The main tribe (of the 12) remaining somewhat intact is the tribe of Judah. From which we get the word “Jew.” The “ten lost tribes” are, well…lost. The tribe of Judah was NOT given the entire holy land, only a county-sized area around Jerusalem. The tribe of Judah can lay no biblical claim to the northern West Bank (Samaria), the area around Tel Aviv, the areas of Galilee and the Golan Heights. God never, in the whole Old Testament, gave the entire land of Israel to the tribe of Judah. The other tribes are gone, as are their claims. It’s like Texans coming back after centuries and laying claim to the whole former USA territory. Not saying that Jews all over Israel (or anywhere in the world for that matter) don’t have a right to their homes, I’m just saying that their saying “the Bible says so” is overstated. There is another tribe, Levi, from which we get the Kohenim (priests), but they were, expressly according to the Bible, to be given no land. Just for the record, I believe Jews (and all of us) have a right to own land anywhere in the world, including the West Bank and Gaza, if they want to buy it. Being a libertarian, I believe in open borders.
- There are lots of Palestinian Arab Christians. But conservative US Christians prefer non-Christian Israeli Jews over them anytime. They actually got angry when a Palestinian Christian got elected to be the head of the Lutheran World Federation. A pastor told me last week: “He’s probably really a Muslim.”
- I often hear people say “God is pro-Israel so I am pro-Israel.” It’s simply not that simple. The Israelites were the “good guys” in the Bible, so anyone who uses the label Israel today must be the “good guy.” Often, but not always. Israel was very fallible in the Old Testament, and not always the object of admiration. You could bring that line or reasoning to its breaking point by being “Pro-Ahab” because he was the king of Israel. And using the label “Israel” today, which modern Israel has more of a right to do than anyone else, does not equate you with biblical Israel. The two nations (biblical and modern) are deeply related, but not identical.
- The Bible is ambiguous as to whether Israel is a physical or a spiritual nation. Galatians 6:16 makes it clear that the two are not necessarily mirror images of each other (you can be one without being the other).
- The Bible is also ambiguous as to whether or not the promise of the land (ha-aretz) is conditional upon Israel’s faithfulness, or permanent. According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, only 57% of Israelis believe in a “higher power.” Israel is a much more secular nation than the United States.
Not asking anyone to be anti-Israel. The whole world should love and admire Israel. Modern Israel is an amazing nation. I tip my hat to them. I want to see them prevail. They have much to add to the world.
Just asking us to consider de-emphasizing our American fixation with the Eastern Hemisphere in general and the Middle East in particular. Had we stayed in the Western Hemisphere, our homeland, the New World; well then, Pearl Harbor and 9-11 would never have happened.
Also asking us to question the “straight line” thinking that equates ancient Israel with modern Israel. One was the mother nation of us all, at some level. The other is a different and amazing contemporary society. Sure, there are deep connections. But there are also some disconnects.
Please forward this to others…
Have a look at my other essays–80,000 recent page views.
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I’m going to plant a flag on this issue.
Please hear me, I respect the opposing view. I just don’t share it.
The truth is, God gave the whole earth to the human race and told us to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.
Even when he gave Israel to the children of Jacob, he warned them to treat the foreigners nicely; that they would be evaluated, as a nation, by their hospitality toward them. All through the Old Testament stories, there are prominent foreigners sharing the lives of Israelites (e.g. Uriah the Hittite) at a high level.
I have Scandinavian heritage, and you have the right, in my ancestral homeland (the Swedes call it “Allemansrätten”), to wander across anyone’s property, as long as you respect their privacy and leave everything the way you found it. And you can camp for free on anyone’s land, as long as you don’t disturb anyone or make noise, for up to two nights.
I believe in the right of every peaceful man or woman on Earth to be able, unhindered, to:
- Travel anywhere on planet Earth he or she can afford to visit. As long as you pay your way and are not a burden.
- Seek and take gainful and respectful employment anywhere it is legitimately offered.
I don’t believe in gated communities.
I don’t believe in national fences that keep people in (Berlin Wall) or keep people out (Mexican border at Tijuana).
All God’s people have access to all God’s world.
People of Western/Northern European ancestry have no greater right to staying in my California county than people of Latino ancestry.
And I believe that a mobile population is good for the economy. Anytime free labor can find its way to free capital, there is prosperity for all. That’s the free-market libertarian in me, talking.
Mobility is a basic human right.
The big question is: Do you see people as an asset or a liabilty?
Sure there are people who are one or the other. But on balance, how do you see the human race?
America was founded on the idea that people are, on the whole (and with some exceptions), an asset. Look at the Statue of Liberty. We saw the “huddled masses” of peasant Europe as an amazing asset. They built the farms that now feed us. Their blood now runs through our veins…
Overpopulation is a total myth. Europe and Russia are starting to decline in population. Most of America is empty (every spend much time looking down out of the window seat?). Our rural areas are depopulating. Detroit has thousands of acres of emptiness and some of it is returning to native forest. Sure there are areas of overcrowding, but Anglo North America could easily handle two billion people. (Currently 350 million). Our biggest challengers in this new century will be China and India, because they are blessed to have more people. More workers. More ideas.
We have to re-think transportation and energy–but that’s been done before and we can do it again.
People are not bad for the earth. People are beautiful and creative. We are the crown of creation. Made in the image of God.
I live in California. We are so blessed to have hard-working Latino and Asian immigrants in our midst. They have, together with us, built this state. I have driven all over our great state for the past ten years, and most of it is….empty. There is room for all–especially those willing to work.
You can’t have free markets (and I’m a free market guy) without freely mobile labor. We can’t put a fence around America.
My wealthiest California friends say “Unless we let inexpensive labor connect with our abundant domestic capital, we may as well ship all of our manufacturing to China.” Sobering.
Fences just accumulate and build up tensions, artificially. It’s where weapons tend to congregate. The barbed wire fence across Korea is a source of great tension right now.
Truth is, fences don’t work anyway. The Great Wall of China was a colossal failure. And the “Iron” Curtain rusted in one generation. Walls will always be breached, just like in medieval warfare. Eventually, European towns just quit building them because they were ineffective.
We have to learn to live together. It won’t be easy. There will be huge challenges.
We may have to get rid of the welfare state altogether to make for a workable world.
But building more fences is not the answer.
They won’t last.
They won’t work.