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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2008 / 27 Kislev 5769

Our movies and ourselves: What will you be watching this holiday weekend?

By Don Feder


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | A friend told me: "Show me a list of a person's favorite movies and I'll tell you what he believes — including his politics." Another said he could pretty much tell how someone felt about America by his reaction to John Wayne movies.


I'm inclined to think that cinema shapes reality far more than reflects it. But the type of movies we are drawn to reveals our worldview — provides a map of our inner selves.


The left adores films that are anti-American, anti-faith, politically correct, paranoid, cynical and nihilistic. In the past few years, the critics have salivated over trash like, "No Country for Old Men," "There Will Be Blood," "Million Dollar Baby," "The Departed," "Atonement," and - most recently - "Batman: the Dark Knight."


Movies that reflect middle-class norms and Judeo-Christian values are derided as dull, clichéd, unrealistic, simplistic and saccharine,


An over-the-top example of the left's disdain for normalcy is the piece by City Editor Wendell Jamieson in the December 19 New York Times ("Wonderful? Sorry, George, It's a Pitiful, Dreadful Life") in which the writer takes a sledge hammer, a chainsaw and a flame-thrower to "It's a Wonderful Life."


The Capra classic is #11 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best American movies -- just behind "Singin' in the Rain" and ahead of "Sunset Boulevard." It was Frank Capra's favorite film and Jimmy Stewart's favorite role.


Movie maven Roger Ebert observes: "What is remarkable about 'It's a Wonderful Life' is how well it holds up over the years. It's one of those ageless movies, like 'Casablanca' or 'The Third Man' that improves with age. Some movies, even good ones, should be seen only once. When we know how they turn out, they've surrendered their mystery and appeal. Other movies can be viewed an indefinite number of times. Like great music, they improve with familiarity. 'It's a Wonderful Life' falls in the second category."


Until exclusive broadcast rights were acquired by NBC in 1994, it was shown dozens of times during the holiday season each year. As a Christmas movie (that wasn't intended to be a Christmas movie), it was more popular than "Miracle on 34th Street and "A Christmas Carol."


Generations of fans have been charmed and inspired by its gentle humor, pathos, humanity and life-affirming story.


The storyline, for those who haven't seen it: A sense of duty compels small-town George Bailey (Stewart's character) to give up his dreams of greatness in the wide world, to save the Bailey Building and Loan and help residents of Bedford Falls achieve their modest dreams of home ownership.


In the process, he marries the woman he's always loved, has four adorable (if at times irascible) children, makes a crucial contribution to the community and builds a wonderful life for himself.


A crisis and the prospect of disgrace and imprisonment drive him to despair and the verge of suicide. Enter his befuddled guardian angel, who brings him to a true understanding of his worth, by showing him what the world around him would have been like if he'd never been born (his wish while standing on a bridge contemplating a plunge in the icy water below).


Jamieson -- and, presumably, The Times — finds "It's a Wonderful Life," "a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife."


In other words -- follow your dream, even if it leads you to a life filled with material success that's spiritually impoverished, and others suffer in the process?


The elite thinks bitterness and narrowness are the defining characteristics of small-town America.


If the hicks are mean-spirited and all that, why do the cities have much higher rates of homicide, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse and other social pathologies than the sticks?


For George Bailey, Jamieson tells us, "disappointments pile up." He's the "pathetic older sibling," who's "emasculated when his bad hearing keeps him out of World War II." Finally, "all the decades of anger boil to the surface" and George "explodes" with justifiable rage. Liberals are big on rage - anger being a sign of authenticity.


Jamieson would probably look at "Casablanca" and say, "It's a story about a disillusioned drunk who's manipulated by his ex-girlfriend, in the midst of municipal corruption."


According to Jamieson, Bailey's also a chump for sacrificing his happiness for those around him.


Not that the left is opposed to sacrifice in all cases. When it's for "racial justice," the downtrodden, spotted owls, the planet, the Kennedys — liberals are very much in favor of self-abnegation. It's sacrifice for family, friends, community and country that it finds incomprehensible.


Two things are worth noting about the way Jamieson sees Stewart's alternate reality - when George Bailey glimpses a world without him, and Bedford Falls transmogrifies into Pottersville.


The fate of George's family and friends is meant to show his positive impact on the lives of those around him. Instead, Jamieson draws a negative lesson.


The writer condescendingly observes: "Now as for that famous alternate reality sequence: This is supposedly what the town would turn out to be if not for George. I interpret it instead as showing the true characters of these individuals, their venal internal selves stripped bare." Thus "flirty Violet" becomes a tart, gruff but loveable Bert is maniac cop, and Ernie the cabbie is lonely and chronically depressed. How liberals love to psychoanalyze.


The Talmud tells us we all have two natures (the good inclination and the evil inclination) struggling for dominance. Sometimes all it takes is an act of kindness, or a good example, to push us in the right direction.


Jamieson's other bit of brilliance is when he smugly admits that he prefers Pottersville (a honky-tonk hell) to prosaic Bedford Falls.


Pottersville "looks like much more fun than stultifying Bedford Falls - the women are hot, the music swings, and the fun times go on all night. If anything, Pottersville captures just the sort of excitement George had long been seeking." Why then is he horrified by this vision? Our hero wanted to see the world and design buildings, not wallow in the gutter.


Apparently, it's irrelevant that George's wife becomes a mousey, spinster librarian, his mother is a bitter, dried-up hag who runs a dilapidated boarding house, Uncle Billy loses his marbles when the Building and Loan fails and ends up in the loony bin, the pharmacist, Mr. Gower, goes to prison for accidentally poisoning a child, and all of the men on a transport ship die in a kamikaze attack because brother Harry wasn't there to save them (because George wasn't there to save him when he fell through the ice as a child), and so on.


But then, what are a score of ruined lives compared to the babes and rock-around-the-clock action of Pottersville? By the way, it's interesting that a sophisticate like Jamieson finds gambling, fast women, bright lights and blaring music among life's most delightful experiences.


The great lesson of "It's a Wonderful Life": Each life is special. Be we ever so humble, there's no one like us. We actually can make the world a better place — or, in the words of the angel Clarence: "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"


The great lesson of liberalism: There are no great lessons — no absolutes. Life is meaningless. Other than self-gratification and various causes (anodynes to make us forget our hopelessness) our lives serve no purpose.


Because this perspective is so relentlessly bleak, the left is driven to spread the pain — that is, to make the rest of us miserable too. Hence their urge to tax, control, regulate and order our existence down to the minutest detail.


But aren't liberals compassionate and charitable? Only in movies. In real life, it's conservatives who walk on the Bailey side of the street, and liberals who are more like mean, old Mr. Potter — the wheelchair-bound misanthrope and control freak.


In 2006, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, wrote "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." Brooks found the following:


Although liberal families on average have incomes 6% above those headed by conservatives, the latter give 30% more to charity than the former ($1,600 against $1,227).


Conservatives also do more volunteer work. And, they are more likely to give blood. (When it comes to blood, the left believes it's more blessed to take than to give -- especially at tax time.)


In 2004, John Kerry took only one of the 25 states where charitable giving is above the national average. Bush won the other 24.


Of the 10 reddest states (which Bush won by more than 60%), on average, charitable giving, as a percentage of income, is 3.5 percent — almost double the average in the states Kerry carried by the same margin — 1.9%.


But the left is like Henry Potter in another important way. Potter owned just about everything else in Bedford Falls, but was driven to distraction because he couldn't get his grasping hands on the Bailey Building and Loan.


Like Lionel Barrymore's character, the left wants it all. It owns Hollywood, most newspapers, national news magazines and network news departments, except for FOX.


That's not enough. Like sour, covetous Mr. Potter, it plots and schemes endlessly to control or destroy the one medium it doesn't dominate -- talk radio. Potter had a bank-run and a stolen deposit working in his favor. Liberals have the Fairness Doctrine, which they mean to resurrect in the next Congress.


But, I digress. We are drawn to movies that reflect our sense of life - cynical or joyful, obsessive or clear-headed, hopeless or hopeful.


Of course the left loathes films like "It's a Wonderful Life." How could it not? This courageous, ultimately optimistic, little gem of a movie is a ray of light trying to penetrate the shriveled soul of modern liberalism.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Send your comments by clicking here. JWR contributor Don Feder is a former syndicated columnist for the Boston Herald and author of Who's Afraid of the Religious Right? (Regnery) and A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America. He works as a freelance writer and media consultant and serves as the president of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation.

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