Human beings are blessed to inhabit a small, finite planet with frangible environs that many generations before ours have called a Garden of Eden.
Today’s graduating class of 2017, the townspeople of Chapel Hill and the human community at large could find ourselves faced with immense challenges in the near future that lead all of us to acknowledge how the integrity of this wondrous “Garden” will likely be jeopardized by an insistence of humankind on holding steadfastly to a culturally prescribed illusion: there are no limits to the growth of global production, consumption and population activities by the human species.
Our deepest concerns for the future of life as we know it could be that our unshakeable belief in endless economic and population growth is patently unsustainable in a planetary home of the size, composition and ecology of Mother Earth.
Flag has no place
The Confederate flag is a symbol of a violent, expansionist, racist chattel slave empire that commited treason against these United States. Its ongoing use is a big fat middle finger to decades of progress on race relations, however tepid.
Its presence in a public setting creates a hostile environment; it has no place in civil society.
Flag is not the issue
Slavery was an ugly socioeconomic and moral blight upon the Confederate States of America, and from the time the United States of America was founded in 1776 until the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution after the War Between the States, that same socioeconomic and moral blight was upon the United States of America. In that context, “the Confederate flag” is no more or less a symbol of “a violent, expansionist, racist chattel slave empire” than the flag of the United States of America.
Furthermore, secession has never been legally defined as treason.
The flag is an inanimate object, and cannot, by itself, create anything. A poor understanding of what the South fought for, its being spread by the media and historical revisionists in academia, and liberal politicians and activist groups using it for their own purposes are what create a hostile environment when the flag is displayed in public.
Israel can do better
I’d like to address Josh Ravitch’s claim (he calls it a “fact”) that “Israel protects the rights of its citizens, irrespective of religion, race, gender or sexual orientation.” (CHN, April 11)
This idea about Israel as a democracy is the heart of the matter for many arguments about Israel, its role in the Middle East, and its relationship to the United States. Let’s put aside the occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, as well as the siege of Gaza, which many Zionists agree are not good for Israel so that we can focus on whether Israel protects the rights of all its citizens, of whom more than one and a half million people (according to Israeli government statistics) are Palestinian Muslims, Christians, and Druze.
They can vote in Israeli elections, and serve in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), hold civil service jobs, and represent Israel as diplomats. Nevertheless, they are discriminated against in many ways:
Despite making up over 20 percent of the population, only 7 percent of the budget is spent on services for them. Because some benefits come to army veterans, those citizens who do not serve miss out on help with mortgages, new household subsides and education Orthodox Jews do not serve in the military, but have special subsidies for these benefits.
As a result, more Arab citizens are poor, unemployed, less educated, and less healthy. They also get harsher sentences for the same crimes as Jews. There are laws against intermarriage with Jews and they often cannot acquire land and build homes on it. In addition, some Arab citizens were internally displaced in the armed conflict following the founding of Israel in 1947-49. They are not refugees in the same sense as many Palestinians now living in camps in the West Bank and Gaza (and other countries) are refugees, but they are unable to live in the homes and villages they were living in before the founding of the state and they cannot live in Jewish towns without approval by the towns’ admission committees. Some of the most egregious examples include Bedouins whose “unrecognized” villages have received no electricity, water, telephone lines, education, or health facilities and have been repeatedly destroyed in order to make way for Jewish communities in the Negev. Then there are the Ethiopian women who were sterilized without their knowledge in the guise of “health care.”
As Americans, we know about Jim Crow laws, red-lining banks, and unequal treatment in the judicial system. Israel is rightly proud of its openness to people of all genders and sexual orientations, but in other ways, the shining city on a hill is pretty tarnished. Some Israelis would like to do better: Look at this message from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who has made anti-racism advocacy a cornerstone of his political work, and served as a vociferous defender of the rights of Israel’s 1.7 million Arab citizens long before he was sworn in as the country’s 10th president in July 2014.