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An Open Letter to President Obama: On Fighting Radical Islamic Terrorism - What I Learned From A Bedbug

Dear Mr. President,

I did not want to write this letter.

For one thing, I am a civil servant, and I don't want to cause any trouble. For another, it's a heavy and upsetting topic, and I'd much rather kick back and relax on the weekend. Here's a third: I doubt my qualifications to speak to you. I'm not smart enough, not educated enough, and you have experts all around you, and updates 24/7/365. And finally, I am a Jew, so you might think that my agenda is only to help my people.

I will reach out to you anyway, Sir. In all these capacities, as the total person that I am. It is you who has the power and influence to fight back, and I believe the American people are waiting for you to do it.

Here is a little bit about me, Sir. My Hebrew name is Hadassah - born in 1971, the same year Starbucks was founded, on the Fast of Esther.

The Fast of Esther is associated with the Jewish holiday of Purim. It happened roughly 350 BCE, in Persia. Around that time, a Jewish man named Mordechai saved the king's life. His "reward" was the wrath of a royal advisor named Haman, who became enraged that Mordechai would not bow down to him.

Haman plotted against the Jews and almost succeeded in having them killed. But Mordechai's niece, Hadassah, interceded with the king, who was also her husband. Because of the way she handled it, the evil advisor was hanged.

Just like me, Hadassah was terrified to speak. She knew if she messed up what the consequences would be. So to bolster her merit, she asked the Jews to abstain from food for three days and pray. The Fast of Esther commemorates this.

It is in her honor, that I tell you the following story. Hopefully G-d will help me.

It's about a lesson a bedbug taught me. Or to be more specific, the existential threat posed to me by a bedbug. Which sheds light on the situation in which we find ourselves, with radical Islamic terrorism.

Exactly one year ago, my daughter woke me up in the middle of the night, screaming.

"Mommy, come here! Please! Wake up!"

I couldn't imagine what was making her scream like that and I came running into her room.

"Look! Look!"

She lifted up the sheet from her bed. At first, I couldn't tell what she was showing me.

"Is that dirt?" I said. It looked like the edge of the sheet had earth on it or something, like a lot of earth someone packed into the part where a fitted sheet gets tucked under the bed.

Then, the dirt started moving...independently.

"Oh my G-d," I said.

I didn't even know what a bedbug was. But it didn't take a genius to realize that our home had been invaded by thousands and thousands of bedbugs. And they were all over her bed.

All she saw at first was a single bedbug, crawling across the bed. But what lay beneath was an explosive nightmare of pestilence.

I thought I was so quick-thinking, grabbing that entire mattress and the sheet and taking everything downstairs. Back upstairs, I back-slapped and congratulated myself: "Well, we're done now, let's go to sleep."

But it wasn't over - not at all. It could have been over with pretty quickly, but I refused to admit that we had an infestation. And even when I did admit it, I refused to call in the big guns, i.e. a proper treatment company, and kept dealing with it "on my own."

Which of course, made everything worse.

By the time we finally got rid of them, we'd bought and discarded mattresses; washed and thrown out half our clothes; and spent a ton of money on two separate full treatments.

By the time I admitted how bad things were, we were on the verge of selling our apartment and starting over completely in another building.

That's what I need to tell you, Sir.

Radical Islamic terrorists really are an existential threat to this country. To every country that speaks in the name of freedom.

I know you want to handle things reasonably, and not get too dramatic. I know you believe we can win this thing by encouraging moderates to speak. That you don't believe in being direct and confrontational.

That's how I handled the bedbugs, at first. I didn't want to believe they were a threat; I didn't want to attack them full-on. I tried to use a "natural remedy."

But my efforts failed miserably. Until I went to war on the bugs, they kept on ruthlessly destroying me.

Radical Islamic terrorists are like bedbugs in every way. They mindlessly march forward hatefully, they multiply, they feed off of innocent people and they don't respond to anything except obliteration.

Mr. President, don't be like me with the bedbugs. I beg you, take the radical Islamic threat very seriously. You have a mighty gift of speech, expansive intelligence, the power of the pen and of the military, but most importantly you have the attention and respect of Congress and the people. Use these.

You know in your heart, Sir, that these people are an imminent threat to all we hold dear. They are not nice and reasonable and decent. All they want is to consume and to destroy - and they have no moral compass.

President Obama, in every generation there arises a threat like this. You have the power to take them out - please do it, with every weapon in your arsenal.

May G-d bless you and help you to do this.

Very respectfully,

Hadassah Miriam Rachel (Dannielle) Blumenthal

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All opinions my own.


How the U.S. Should Respond to "Radical Islamic" Terrorism


"Radical Islamic" in quotes, because this is not true Islam, but rather a modern, manufactured, extremist and insane ideology that really exists to repudiate the lure of Western culture.
Focusing on these moronic types because they seem to be everywhere causing trouble in the world, whether it's knocking out Twitter feeds, kidnapping and raping women for sport, or cutting off people's heads as trophies.
Because they have targeted both America and Israel, the land of my birth and allegiance, and the land of my nation, which I love.
And because we can learn some very specific lessons from using them as an example of how the U.S. messes up when dealing with terrorists generally.
In this way: We are overly, slavishly, sickeningly polite, when a straight-on frontal attack is what's called for.
We think we are so smart, responding with "quiet" moves like sanctions and the like. We've become so politically correct about things, so Ivy-league educated, so postmodernist, so postcultural and postcolonialist, that we literally have lost sight of what is up and what is down.
It's very simple: You're not supposed to honor terrorists. You are supposed to kill them. They are not just "bad people," they are bad people on a mission to take away life, freedom, and humanity from everybody else.
The U.S. demonstrates flawed reasoning in dealing diplomatically with the fools who take the name of Islam in vain. They seriously believe that such idiots are worried about comics. They are not - believe me, they're not.
Religion for them is only a deception. They use it the same way they use women and little kids as human shields. Because they know you'll get scared to fight back - you'll run away.
A couple of thoughts about misplaced respect.
On Passover Jews read the Haggadah, which literally means "to tell." We tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we tell related stories and sing songs along the way.
Part of the service concerns the "four sons" who ask about the Jewish faith. There is the wise son, the simple son, the one who does not even know where to begin - and the rebellious one.
Re: the rebellious one - he is "wicked," and the father is to stand up and knock his teeth out.
For a long time this response bothered me. Surely the rebellious son is, deep inside, a very good child. Reach toward him, my instincts said, and perhaps he might be redeemable.
But the rabbis who wrote the Haggadah were smarter than me. They knew that there is a difference between questions asked out of curiosity, and daggers disguised as questions - pure hate.
The wicked child, even if this is a Jewish child, is the child that you must symbolically strike. The evil cannot run its mouth at the table, because it's only before long before the entire community is infected. Spirituality is delicate; it needs protection.
Here's another story.
The Torah tells of King Saul, who in ancient times was punished because he did not slaughter all the people of Amalek. Instead of listening to G-d, he showed mercy on the enemy.
Again, why the seeming cruelty? Why punish him for being a good guy, with a conscience?
The answer comes in another story about the same king. He was so jealous of his servant David, who eventually became king. Because David was the better warrior. And in his quest to murder David, and quench his jealous thirst, the king wound up killing an innocent town of Jewish priests.
So you see? When you follow your "gut instincts," or the fashionable thinking of the day, you may tell yourself it's smart and common sense. But it is also possible that you've lost your moral compass, and someone has to remind you of that - bring you back to Planet Earth.
I have no idea what the U.S. is thinking when it comes to terrorism. I don't know the story on the ground; I'm sure it's "much more complicated" than it seems on the surface. It always is, isn't it?
But there is one thing I know for sure. It is never a good idea to "respect" a terrorist, and it's just plan dumb to let them fool you into believing that they represent any kind of religion.
Sadly, some people are on this Earth just to do others harm.
And the appropriate response is to destroy them.
_____
All opinions my own. Photo credit: Johannes Grødem - Flickr: Day after Oslo bombing, via Wikimedia

Electable

That elusive, incredibly valuable quality we call a "leadership brand."
Really, what we mean is "charisma."
What is it? Who has it? How do you get it? Can it be taught, or bought? Or is it something you're born with?
As a little girl I used to watch Sunday morning political TV. I remember how the panel went at it on that show,The McLaughlin Group. And they would vote on the issues throughout the show, and at the end.
"Issue 1!" John McLaughlin, the host would say, and Eleanor Clift and John Buchanan would go at it.
"Issue 2!" then round and round.
Always McLaughlin would have the deciding vote, and always he'd be right on in my mind...because you know what? He was electable! Even though McLaughlin was a moderator, asking for the expert opinion of others, he was the real leader. He had that secret ingredient.
Very few people have true charisma, which is why so few are electable. In fact it is not something you can teach, buy or acquire. It is something you must be born with.
You know who has it? Which leader came to your mind when I asked? Yep, you guessed it - President Barack Obama. You can agree with his policies or disagree with them (and I am a super-supporter of Israel, so I've got a lot of concerns to be sure), you can criticize his performance on this stage or that, but it is undeniable that if the President shows up at your front door you are going to be elated.
When that doorbell rings you'll say, "Hello, Barry," as if you had known him all your life. Because he has the capacity to make you feel like a friend, and you'll get out there and play basketball with him even if you've never played.
Here's another leader who has it: former President Bill Clinton. Again, you may not agree with him; I'm not so old that I don't recall all the scandals that dogged him throughout his Administration. And I don't think we've seen the end of those. But similarly to President Obama, there is something about Mr. Clinton, when he shows up on TV, that makes you simply agree.
A third example, because not all leaders are Democrats: former President Reagan. Who did not laugh and enjoy Michael J. Fox's portrayal of Alex P. Keaton, the junior Republican wannabe who quoted all things Reagan to his former-hippie parents on Family Ties? It was Reagan whose charisma extended well past his own persona - he actually successfully branded the entire United States. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" - what a priceless symbolic moment, and nobody else could have uttered those words in that way and generated such a level of patriotism.
We could go on here, and it could take all day. But the point is this: Very few people actually have any sort of charisma, much less the kind that would get them elected.
It's hard to admit that you're scruffy, unfunny and plain. But if you are, take a seat with the rest of us, and get on with your life and enjoy it.
Personal branding can take you very far. But the key is to amplify what it is that you have, not create whatever it is that you don't.
It's why women look better without an excess of makeup. We'd rather know the natural you, than have to find the real person among the layers.
___
All opinions my own. Photo by Connie Liegl / Flickr.

The Real Threat To Israel's National Security (A Comment On Ridley Scott's "Exodus")

Ridley Scott's "Exodus" may not be historically accurate on all counts. It is not supposed to be, and in changing the facts a little bit, it is extraordinarily effective. Whether you're Jewish or not it is impossible to escape the power of this film artistically, spiritually, and religiously.

Without giving away too much, the essence of the movie is Moshe's character. Christian Bale convincingly plays a man who is settled and happy in Egypt's royal palace at first, who thrashes and flails at the mere thought of being a Jew by birth. Yet by the end he finds ultimate meaning in leading the people - "my people" he now says - to the Promised Land.

We are introduced to G-d through the person of a child. Bale argues with Him forcefully and repeatedly throughout the movie: We're supposed to understand that Moshe has his own mind, wants others to do the same, and comes to G-d out of his own choosing.

G-d honors this, but He says to Moshe - don't write the Ten Commandments unless we're on the same page.

Moshe nods understanding and writes them.

The leader is worried about the prospects of the Jewish people. "What will happen when they're not running anymore?" he asks. Meaning, what will happen when there are "two Jews and three opinions," when the people are fractured. How will they be saved again?

That, right there, is such a powerful message of the movie and for Israel its main point.

The real threat to Israel's national security is the failure to acknowledge the Jewish religion as its foundation - to serve G-d the way we have been asked to.

Just as the Jews were liberated from Egypt through a series of miracles, we can only hope to obtain and retain the Promised Land with wildly out-of-proportion G-dly intervention and support.

But we've forgotten. We articulate the promise of the land to us, but we repudiate the rules of its giver.

Which are, that Israel it is a Holy Land and we Jews are entitled to it only in accordance with the tenets of observance to the faith.

Over and over again throughout our national history, G-d has hit the "eject" button specifically because we disgraced His name. Our holy Temples were destroyed as well, because we disgraced our kinship through baseless hatred to each other.

When we serve, we will be blessed, and when we don't we will be punished accordingly.

It is true, the modern State of Israel was formed by people who were not religious. In a series of miracles, that continue on to this day. I believe that G-d wants the Jews to settle it. But we have taken the liberty we've been given too far. With the arrogance of thinking we can totally disregard our Maker in the process, and just do things the way we want.

You can't separate Zionism from Judaism. The two are related, they are one and the same, they are integral.

When you realize this, it becomes clear that the enemy is really ourselves. It's the ego which says we are smarter than G-d, that the Torah is obsolete, and that we can make up our own laws to supersede His.

But it's not - and we can't.

Our failure to serve in the proper way, to honor the land's essential identity, is the root of the strength of the terrorists - those who seek to eliminate and eradicate the Jewish state and blow its people sky-high.

The battles appear to be happening on Earth, but they are really taking place in Heaven. As the representatives of our physical enemies say: "The Jews are not worthy of the Land," because we refuse to adopt a theocratic model of governance while they (so they say) are willing to.

If we would only humble ourselves and submit as a nation to the One G-d. If we would only, even in concept, admit that the Torah is the governing law of the land. If we would only honor spiritual leaders and the study of Torah instead of mocking them and spitting on it as a useless waste of time as versus military service and industrial work.

This may be very hard to comprehend, but in a sense Israel's national enemies are its best friends, because they remind us who we really are, when it is oh so very tempting to forget.

In the movie the Pharoah asks Moshe how his G-d can be a "baby killer." It reminded me of the war in Gaza last summer, when the terrorists (as usual) turned on their own people and then blamed the Jews and Israelis for attacking them. They are masters of this propaganda.

There are time when religious service calls you to pain, torture and death. It is extremely hard to understand. But we waste too much time deconstructing G-d's ways, too much time relying on our own ideas of right and wrong, as well as worrying about what the rest of the world thinks.

One thing I do know: There are enough deadly nuclear weapons pointed every which way in the world. A military war is worse than fruitless. It is absolutely crazy to play a game of chicken and tell yourself that G-d will really save you in the end. Why does it have to get that far?

If only we would bend our necks and accept the yoke of G-d. Take just a step in that direction, and re-establish Israel as a Jewish State in service of the One.

That is the real task which G-d has set for us. And strangely it seems easier for us to fight a bloody war than to submit to His supreme power over the world, over our lives and over the Land.

It is hard to submit, though. It's hard for me. I understand.

May G-d mercifully lead us to do the right thing, because we are a nation weak in our ways. May He help us to accept the yoke of nationhood once again, so that He delivers us from strife and re-establishes peace on Earth and in the Jewish national homeland, with a single snap of His fingers.

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All opinions my own.

Comment: The First 20 Minutes of "Century of the Self: Happiness Machines"

Link:
http://vimeo.com/85948693

Comment:

This is a seriously good show. It's going to take me a while to get through, but in just the first few minutes I learned about:

  • The connection between WWI propaganda and the birth of modern advertising, marketing, branding and public relations
  • How "public relations" got its name - as a better-sounding substitute for propaganda
  • How Freudian theory was used to sell cigarettes to women

If any of this sounds good, I highly recommend watching this show. I'll keep posting comments as I watch it.

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All opinions my own.

A Comment On Tim Hill's "Entering The Third Age Of Branding"

Here's the article:
http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2013/05/23/third-age-of-branding/

Comment:
Respectfully - the first and second age of branding, agree were about functional then emotional/symbolic value respectively. The third age of branding, perhaps could be defined age the age of the brand hijack by people (per the book of that name). True we are bombarded by brands and look at them in the context of a total experience. But the point of branding today is to deliver an authentic human experience - almost like buying a friend. This is why employee branding has become primary (because they must believe) and why social media matters (because we talk to each other over the brand's official language - per the Cluetrain Manifesto.)

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All opinions my own.

"Why should Muslims repudiate terror? 99.9% of Muslims have nothing to do with terror."


This is a great branding question that came to me by way of Twitter. Even though it's none of my business what Muslims do, I will try to answer it. Not just because it is of interest professionally, but out of many personal interests as well.

By way of a lengthy introduction to my thoughts, here is what happened to us just last night.

It was about 8 p.m., just after Shabbos ended. The local kosher pizza place was packed. It was as if none of us had eaten for 24 hours, we had to go out and get our "fix" of pizza, french fries or whatever...like blades of grass sticking up out of the earth after a long winter, we came up for air and out to socialize.

It was nice.

About half an hour into sitting there, I looked out the window and saw three police officers headed towards the shop.

I'm a little slow on the uptake, and it didn't occur to me that we were sitting right on top of the window, literally, so that if there was any trouble we'd be first to get hit, G-d forbid.

It did occur to me that there were two cop cars sitting outside the synagogue on Saturday morning, presumably to defend us against a potential terrorist attack, like a sympathy attack for the one in Paris.

My husband got beat up for being Jewish as a kid. He took self-defense for many years. Immediately upon seeing the cops he started to tell us, "Get away from the windows. Get away from the windows now."

I looked up and it seemed like some people were backing away from the doorway, as they looked outside with fear in their eyes. I stood up and the rest of us did too.

The cops walked up to some object around the corner from the pizza place and shone a skinny flashlight on it. I was terrified...what if someone had planted a bomb just outside? I imagined the headline flashing across The Washington Post, "Jews Firebombed At Local Pizza Establishment," and I could see in my mind the blood spattered all over the faces of the people who had eaten there so happily five minutes before.

Probably like a lot of people, I strive to be oblivious to all the potential dangers of life so that I can actually go about my daily business. But it's always there, under the surface, and the sight of those three police officers really triggered it.

What went through my mind in those few seconds? Because there was apparently nothing outside, and the police officers walked away and we finished our food.

I was not thinking that the local Muslim community had somehow targeted us. I have to tell you, as I said on Twitter - I live among Muslims, I work with Muslims, and I observe Muslims in the area community all the time. As a Jew whose observance is pretty far from what it should be, as someone who makes flimsy excuses for her failure to do better, I only wish that I had half of their religious devotion.

  • It was a Muslim woman praying on the D.C. Metro who inspired me to cover my hair in the traditional Jewish style many years ago, a practice I have since abandoned.
  • It was a Muslim employee who showed great loyalty to me in a workplace where, frankly, I was stabbed in the back so frequently, left and right, that I did not even see the knives coming anymore. 
  • It is a Muslim colleague who is so deeply respectful of Allah, who is really G-d, the one Universal G-d we all share, that said "No, No, No" when someone jokingly referred to him as "the G-d of the website," meaning that he had great expertise. 
  • It is the Muslims who live in my building who convene prayer groups, quietly, bringing food to one another's homes. They stand in the elevator with me, we do our laundry in the same machines, and I am obviously Jewish but have never once felt any hatred from them.
  • And it is a Muslim who, in Paris, saved Jews from the recent terrorist attack by hiding them in a walk-in freezer.

It is true, occasionally we have had the experience of hatred directed at us. But it is rare, and one could argue that Jews just as occasionally direct their hatred at Muslims. If there is extremism, as the Dalai Lama once wrote, "there are troublemakers in all religions" and it exists on both sides.

So I was not afraid that Muslims had attacked us. But I was afraid that radical, hateful fundamentalists speaking in the name of Islam had done so.

Which gets us back to the question of brand. Why should Muslims repudiate terror, if they are not terrorists?

And in the question itself is a kind of raw honesty, which is the honesty I have experienced from my Muslim colleagues, and which I appreciate.

The answer is that unfortunately, people (and groups) often get labeled inaccurately. It may not be true, it may not be fair, but there you go, there it is.

Even more unfair, to Muslims in particular, is that people have spoken on their behalf and called terrorism a religious thing.

Jews are no stranger to anti-Semitism, and to justify it many labels have been slapped on us. We're all wealthy money-cheaters, right? We're manipulative liars who all work for the Mossad.

It goes on and on...and it's particularly sad to hear of a local young woman, Jewish and - like most Jews - not wealthy. She goes to public school, where the kids thought it would be fun to throw coins in her face.

Worse yet is when Jews do bad things, things that have nothing to do with religion at all, and say they are acting in the service of G-d himself. That is nothing short of blasphemy.

So I really, really get it. I get that people act crappy no matter what religious label they possess.

And I'm not here to attack Muslims, apologize for Jews, or anything like that at all. I don't have a hidden agenda. What I want, very explicitly, is to live in peace. And just like violence begins with words of hatred, peace begins with conciliation and mutual understanding.

What we know is this, like Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof: "It's a very big world," plenty big enough for all of us to share.

G-d is also infinitely merciful, and infinitely gracious.

What we learned in synagogue this week: If we take just a couple of steps toward Him, he will take care of the rest, and take care of all of us.

So branding would be very helpful now. Muslims and Jews in particular ought to speak words of peace, together with mutual respect and security.

Branding does not have to be a tool of propagandists and corporate shills. It can be used for higher purposes.

Done right, maybe it could help bring the Great Redemption that all of us seek. Without the needless bloodshed.

Let's unite the world in favor of peace. Let's call the enemy what it is - terror - and get together as a planet to eradicate it.

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All opinions my own. Photo by Bart via Flickr. No endorsement expressed or implied.