Back to School: Life in Palestine (1)

So how was your child’s first day of school? It’s always so traumatic, sending the little tykes off on their own, isn’t it? At least it didn’t involve tear gas and an altercation with the military.

Well, here, by contrast, is the first day of school for the Palestinian children of the (Palestinian) village of Tuk’u, in the West Bank, near Bethlehem. According to my sources, the school day began with an unprovoked incursion into town by the Israeli military, and descended from there into a tear gas fusillade, a chaotic detention of a few school children, and various other sorts of mayhem, only imperfectly captured in the video and stills below. I’ve spent time in this village, and villages like it, across five trips to the region, the most recent one in the summer of 2019, my last trip before the pandemic struck. Testimony from first-hand experience: the Israeli military invades villages like Tuk’u, Beit Ummar, Abu Dis, Sawahera, Surif, and Halhul essentially at will, going out of its way to target school-aged children, and imprisoning them indefinitely without charge. Better to instill the fear early than wait until they understand the need for it. That’s just what a military occupation is.

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Bishop John Shelby Spong, RIP

I was saddened to learn today of the death of John Shelby Spong, Bishop Emeritus of the Newark, New Jersey diocese of the Episcopalian Church. Though I can’t claim to have known Bishop Spong very well, he was a close friend of my parents’, and a constant presence in our family home. He was for decades Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Christ Hospital in Jersey City, where both of my parents worked–my father for forty, and my mother for thirty years. So we knew Bishop Spong less as a bishop than as a hospital trustee. The stories–or legends–I heard about him for decades were about health care, not theology.

Spong speaking in England; photo credit: David Gibson/RNS

Christ Hospital started its life as an Episcopalian institution. It later merged (or attempted to merge) with St Francis Hospital across the city, a Catholic institution. The merger initiated an apocalyptic sectarian battle for the mortal souls of both hospitals, a battle in which (I’m told) Bishop Spong did a fair bit of the fighting. Eventually, after a series of Jesuit-worthy legal complications I’ve never been able to grasp, Christ Hospital was consumed by the godless and soulless CarePoint Health System. By then, Bishop Spong had had the good sense to leave the hospital behind; Jesus Christ may or may not have been resurrected, depending on your theology, but Christ Hospital was not going to be resurrected, at least not in the form it originally took as an urban community hospital in the Episcopalian tradition.

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Desert and Diachronic Fairness

Chapter 5 of George Sher’s Desert offers an account of retributivism according to which wrongdoing generates an unfair balance of benefits and burdens that requires redress. Because this imbalance exists at a given time, but is redressed across time, Sher thinks of retributivism so conceived as exemplifying a conception of diachronic fairness, that is, of fairness exemplified in an act of balancing across time. Chapter 6, “Desert and Diachronic Fairness,” seeks to articulate the principle involved, conceived generally enough to cover both punishments and rewards. 

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The Lessons of 9/11: Twenty Years Later

I post this every year around 9/11, so here it is again with some revisions.

Today is the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from two decades of perpetual warfare. I offer them somewhat dogmatically, as a mere laundry list (mostly) minus examples, but I have a feeling that the lessons will ring true enough for many people, and that most readers can supply appropriate examples of their own.

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9/11 + 20

This Saturday marks the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. To that end, I thought I’d haul out some of the more edifying things I’ve written over the years about, or of relevance to, 9/11. In doing this, I’m to some extent plagiarizing at least the form of Chris Sciabarra’s most recent blog post at his blog, summarizing the twenty annual posts he’s written about 9/11. But plagiarism in this case is intended more as a tribute than as mere theft. If you read one thing about 9/11, you should read Chris’s Post of Posts.

The old World Trade Center site, April 2017.
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New Blogger: Kevin Carson

Having welcomed a new blogger yesterday, I’d like to welcome yet another–Kevin Carson, who’s agreed to blog at Policy of Truth. I figured that PoT hadn’t gotten sufficiently left-wing and anarchist, so it was time to up the ante. Sectarian designations aside, I thought Kevin was just the guy to shake this place up a little. The twenty years he’s spent working in hospitals (and the insight he brings to the subject) also coheres nicely with PoT’s recent focus on issues in health care. That said, I’ve given Kevin carte blanche to write on whatever he wants, including re-publishing the posts he writes for other outlets, and/or serializing the various book/paper manuscripts he’s always working on.

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New blogger: Suleman Khawaja

I wanted to welcome a new blogger to Policy of Truth, my brother, Suleman Khawaja. Suleman is currently a hospitalist at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey, where (in Ridgewood, not at Valley) he also runs a private practice as an expert witness on a variety of medico-legal issues. He received his BA in Political Science (minoring in Philosophy) at Duke University, and got his MD at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. He did his residency in Internal Medicine at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. By a strange coincidence, both Suleman and I studied extensively with Alasdair MacIntyre–as a graduate student at Notre Dame in my case, and as an undergraduate at Duke in his.

Suleman will be blogging here primarily on health care issues, with a particular focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Desert and Diligent Paranoia

Suppose that a person is diligently paranoid. In other words, imagine a person who, by conventional standards, worries excessively about risks that involve low probabilities but high stakes. Imagine this person’s applying the precautionary principle in ways most people find problematically risk-averse. And imagine her actively planning for exigencies or emergencies in ways that consume emotional and material resources, thereby undercutting her capacity for ordinary enjoyment. Where most people would simply overlook these remote but apparently scary risks, the diligent paranoid expects them, planning and drilling for them, rehearsing what she would do when (not if) they come to pass. Indeed, diligent paranoids seem to feel a certain gratification when disaster occurs, since it confirms their irrational belief that life is a series of disasters. They appear to lead a problematically joyless existence, focused on mere survival rather than on a richer conception of human flourishing–the classic case of the person who lives her life by fear rather than some more wholesome motivation.

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