I’ve been the vice-president of a postal union, a college professor, a journalist and musician, an author of many books, and for twenty years a counselor in a residential crisis and transitional housing program. For eight years I wrote a column on religious liberty for a Muslim newspaper. The photos above reflect some of my central concerns, which are the rise of Islamophobia in the US, similar to the rise of antisemitism a hundred years ago, and the influence of the Israel/Palestine conflict on American culture and politics. I am also concerned about the sinister transformation of the American economy into an ATM for the corporate upper class, and the repression of economic opportunity for everybody else.
I am the executive director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation, a small public-interest nonprofit I helped to organize after 9/11, created to deal with early manifestations of violence and religious bigotry against Muslims, but also against Sikhs, who are often attacked by people who mistake them for Muslims. The Interfaith Freedom Foundation had an office with living quarters in Fremont, California, a community with large immigrant populations. We publicly advocated against unconstitutional parts of the Patriot Act before municipal governments, successfully protested unjust deportations in San Francisco, and were AMICI to an important Supreme Court case.
Because of age and because I now suffer from a condition that makes it hard to stand or walk, I have become less active, but continue to write. Furthermore, I have made this website a personal one—instead of one exclusively for the Interfaith Freedom Foundation—because I wish to disseminate my personal writings, and to take positions regarding the current electoral struggle (and perhaps subsequent ones as well), which a public-interest nonprofit is technically prohibited from doing. But the issues the Foundation first raised and defended are important, and deserve the attention of the wider public.
I do not argue that Muslims and Sikhs have religious liberty out of charity, Christian or otherwise. Religious liberty is a right—today, tomorrow, forever. People who oppose religious liberty and the “free exercise thereof” by religious minorities are undermining the US Constitution, and America itself. I believe that the most effective weapon against religious bigotry is interfaith solidarity, of both clergy and laity. (If you are interested in being on the Advisory Council of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation, please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Because I am concerned about the problem of evil in human behavior (and the fact that modernism seems to have very little to say about it) I wrote three books on the subject, called the ‘Genesis Trilogy.’ The Death of Judeo-Christianity: Religious Aggression and Systemic Evil in the Modern World is about the manner in which American religion can inadvertently disseminate aggression. Trauma Bond: an Inquiry into the Nature of Evil is just that, an inquiry into the way people internalize the violence they experience, which often becomes an aggressive emotional orientation that they act out against others, or against themselves. The fact that victims act out the aggression they endure has become a part of the vernacular wisdom of humankind, and in my opinion should be the basis for a new moral psychology.
The third book in my ‘Genesis Trilogy’ is How Finkelstein Broke the Trauma Bond, and Beat the Holocaust: Traumatic Memory and the Struggle Against Systemic Evil. It is a collection of sometimes harrowing but mainly inspirational stories about people who overcame the effects of traumatic memory, which enabled them to explore rational alternatives to destructive behavior.
I’ve also written three novels, which can be purchased on Amazon.com. (Simply click on the book on the right side of my website, and a link will take you directly to Amazon.com.) My last novel, Dangerous Pilgrims, is a story about a journalist who gets caught up in the genocide of the Mayan Indians in Guatemala. Many of my published essays are on this website as well, as well as some excerpts from my books.
This is partly to disseminate my message, such as it is, especially considering the fact that people don’t read books the way they used to. I particularly like the long-form essay, in which one takes a knotty social problem and examines it from every possible angle, arriving at some kind of conclusion, however tentative, that can guide behavior. George Orwell and his generation of British writers were particularly good at this form of literary journalism, and their methods are still instructive.
New writing will appear at this website on an irregular basis, probably about ever two months or so. (Unless it seems a good idea to write short columns on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The horrific election cycle of late summer and autumn of 2016 lends a certain urgency to one’s thoughts.) I am interested in moral and psychological social problems best explored with the written word…and as the reader may already have figured out, I’m not in the game for the money, although I’d be the last to refuse it. Being able to write in a public space such as this is, for me, the opportunity to struggle with the three most important recurring questions facing humankind: the problem of good and evil, the nature of the world we live in, and the pursuit of the good life.