Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How should we think about antisemitism?

This is the monologue for the latest episode of Why? Radio. The topic was “How to Think About Antisemitism” You can hear the whole episode online here. 

People think that prejudice is simple, that it involves lack of thought. The most common response to someone’s bigotry is that the offender just “doesn’t know any better,” and that he or she simply needs to get out more, meet new people, and be open-minded. While it’s true that lack of experience can make prejudice worse, this kind of ignorance is anything but simple. It’s built on history, attached to our common texts, and supported by all aspects of our lives. Most of what justifies our prejudices is so familiar that it is invisible to us; this is particularly true about antisemitism.

I am, no doubt, the first Jew that most of my North Dakota students will meet. Most of them will not even discover my background until midway through the semester, when it comes up in discussion. When I taught on the East and West coasts, my students recognized Weinstein as a common Jewish name, but not here. Most have no idea. But these young men and women who have never knowingly interacted with a Jew before me, feel they have a strong understanding of what Jews believe, of what our place in history is, of what’s wrong with us. Most have been learning about Jews since they were old enough to understand what Christmas is, and all regularly encounter jokes and slights about us on the internet. Almost everyone has seen who we are framed as incompetent, neurotic, and dominated, in almost any Ben Stiller movie. Meet the Parents, There’s Something About Mary…lessons on how Jews simply don’t operate properly in the world.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Why? Radio needs your questions about antisemitism -- by tomorrow!

Dear listeners,

Tomorrow (September 3), Why? Radio will be prerecording an episode called “How to Talk about Antisemitism,” with guest Daniel Goldhagen, author of numerous books, including The Devil that Never Dies: The Rise and Threat of Global Antisemitism and Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust.

Since we won’t be broadcasting live, we hoped you could submit a question in advance. We’ll try to get to as many as we can.

Send your questions to askwhy@und.edu or post them below.

By the way, the shorter version of the episode will be broadcast on September 14 at 5 central, and the longer podcast will be available around that time as well. As always, your feedback is most welcome!

Thank you in advance and, as always, thank you for your support!

-Jack Russell Weinstein and The Why? Radio team

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How should we solve the problem of refugee children? (Answer: Sell them to the highest bidder.)

The photo and background on the refugee crisis can be found here.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that as many as ten of the children the United States deported back to Honduras have been killed by the very people they were escaping from. They were sent back because American activists pressured them to do so, and given my horror and grief at the news, I wanted to find a way to persuade opponents to change their minds and welcome refugee children. I think the answer can be found in the Evangelical Christian community.

It has become very popular amongst some Evangelicals to adopt children from Eastern European countries. Special needs children appear to be the preference, in part because the orphanages are terrible and any child who needs extra care faces a horrendous and lonely life. But the children can only be adopted if the prospective parents pay huge amounts of money to foreign agencies, sometimes more than $30,000. Often, the adoptive parents are folks who have committed to living debt free, so they raise money at their churches and from friends, have bake sales, and work tirelessly to gather their pennies. Even so, despite their promise to avoid debt, many will take mortgages to get the fee. When the children do arrive in America, they become a kind of status symbol in the community, a way of publicizing the parents’ commitment to love and care for those in need.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are we morally obligated to accept the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

(Video has NSFW language.)

As anyone on social networks knows, the Internet is full of videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads to support the ALS Association, an organization that advocate for issues related to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). As part of the Challenge, the participants nominate the next water dumpers who then get to nominate the ones after that. The question I want to ask is whether or not someone is morally obligated to accept the Challenge, or whether they can reject it and still be considered a good person.

The Ice Bucket campaign has been curious to watch because it started as a choice: people were challenged to either donate money or dump water on their heads. Getting doused was supposed to be a punishment for being selfish. But now, presumably, people are doing both and drenching themselves to show that they donated. Being frozen has become a reward for doing something charitable.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Is civil disobedience not a "nice" thing to do?

This is the monologue for the latest episode of Why? Radio. The topic was “Saying 'No' Through Civil Disobedience” You can hear the whole episode online here.

Today’s episode is about not getting along with people who are committing what our guest will call moral crimes. We’re going to talk about a variety of topics, all of which are familiar to us in political debate. It will be easy to see them as purely hypothetical, so for the sake of our discussion, I wanted to provide a concrete example that can’t be theorized away: a neighborhood father is a registered sex offender.

The man in question abused a young girl for many years. He served time in prison and is now married with two kids of his own. His children are great. They are well-behaved, friendly, easy going, and the girl is friends with my daughter, so she spends a fair amount of time at our house. My daughter, however, is not allowed to reciprocate. She’s forbidden from going to their house or playing in their backyard. We have never had the parents over for coffee and we won’t, but we are cordial to the mom, and cool but polite on the rare occasions we see the dad. The other neighbors seem to treat them similarly, especially those with kids.

Listen to the Jack Russell Weinstein/Alan Colmes Interview on open-carry gun activists and on whether gun owners are a protected class.


Last night, I was interviewed by Alan Colmes on Fox News Radio. The subject, not surprisingly, was open-carry laws, but he was particularly interested in my comments that gun owners are not a protected class. That last issue has been picked up by the NRA, Opposing Views, Campus Reform and others.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised by the attention this innocuous comment got, since protected classes are clearly defined by the courts. But, if things remained simple, I wouldn't have a job, and I'm happy my remarks were layered enough to bring out the philosophical issues underpinning my earlier blog post.

Anyhow, here is the link to the interview on Fox News Radio's website.

Please submit your comments below. Since all of this started on PQED, it would be nice for my readers to have a say, as well.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why? Radio and Fox News, together?!?! Why?'s Host Jack Russell Weinstein to appear on Alan Colmes show, tonight at 6 p.m. central

A special event:

Tonight, Wednesday, August 13, at 6 p.m. central (7:00 Eastern)

Jack Russell Weinstein, host of Why? Radio,
interviewed by
Alan Colmes on Fox News Radio.

Inspired by the recent viral PQED blog post and video, Jack and Allan will be discussing gun ownership and why Jack believes that gun owners are not a protected class under the U.S. Constitution.

Alan Colme’s show is syndicated nationally and can be heard on your local Fox News Radio station, as well as online at: http://radio.foxnews.com/listen/


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Is it moral for me to have children even though I don’t have a job? [Ask a philosopher]

James from The Why? Movement (nice name!) asked:
“Is it ethical for me to start a family with the knowledge that I do not have a full-time job (i.e. one that has health benefits) at the moment, but the hope that I will by the time my child is born?”

In the United States, having children has moved from an expectation, to a question of rights, to a matter of privilege. For much of human history, married couples were expected to have babies and to have them quickly. If they didn’t, it was usually because one of the two were physically unable. But these days, we have shifted from asking when people will have kids to asking whether they should be allowed to. James is asking the latter.

There were lots of reasons for these changes: developments in birth control, changes in the status of women, lower mortality rates of children, a more sophisticated understanding of what marriage is, and the advent of child protection organizations that can take children away from unfit parents, are but a few. But three philosophical shifts are particularly important.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Two brief videos about the open-carry debate.

For those of you who are interested, the University of North Dakota asked me a few questions about the viral PQED entry:  

How should people respond to open-carry gun-rights activists? 

and my follow-up: 

Should people run away from open-carry activists? A response to a thousand comments. 

I think they turned out well; thanks Craig for asking!

(Post your comments below and please consider visiting out YouTube channel: TheIPPL.)

Monday, July 14, 2014

How should we talk (and post) about Israel and Gaza? A guide to remaining human.

Israel and Gaza are at war; there really is no other word for it. And as the fighting escalates, so does the propaganda. The fact of the matter is though, that no matter how much blame the media gets for presenting one-sided points of view, it is everyday people who are doing most of the arguing. Inflammatory blog posts, poorly-researched news stories, and misidentified pictures are being shared at breakneck speed. All of it is being presented as equally true and each new post is touted as the smoking gun. It’s got to stop. It does no good and prevents any possibility for reconciliation.

With that in mind, I would like to propose the following guidelines for real discussion and true understanding:

1. Consider the experience of the other side.

Arguments are weapons and tend to eclipse the reality that people live under. History is important, but what motivates people is what they encounter outside their door or in their bomb shelter. So, in order to have a real discussion, we need to empathize and enter into the perspective of each side.

For example, it is terrible to live in Israel when Hamas is lobbing missiles randomly into neighborhoods. People are petrified and the randomness of it all makes matters worse.

Now, there are many who will read this last sentence and will protest “but Israel bombs…,” but STOP! We’ll get there. Just be quiet, calm yourself, and reflect. If you are reading this blog post right now you are not in danger. Take a moment and consider the experience of living under the threat of hundreds, if not thousands, of randomly fired missiles, and remember, everyone in Israel loves their families and wants a good life. Being under the constant threat of arbitrary missile fire is an awful way to live.