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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. 16, 2010 / 9 Teves, 5771

The Empty Chair

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The most striking feature of this year's presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize was the empty chair reserved for the winner.

Liu Xiaobo could not attend; he had a previous engagement imposed in December of 2008. That's when he was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment for "inciting subversion of state power," that is, advocating freedom in the "People's Republic" of China. In political speech, words can mean their opposite.

To prosper, even to survive in a typical people's democracy, which is neither the people's nor a democracy, it is advisable to watch your speech, or even the look on your face -- to hold your mouth right, as they say.

Though he was unable to deliver the traditional Nobel Lecture, there are some silences that speak more eloquently than the longest speeches. Just as the absence of a great man is felt so much more powerfully than the presence of the mediocre.

The aura surrounding that empty chair said it all -- and said it so well that the authorities in the People's Republic erased pictures of it on Chinese websites.

Despite his absence, a statement from the Nobel Prize winner and prisoner was read at the ceremony in Oslo. It was the one he had delivered at the conclusion of his trial-and-sentence. (The two tend to merge in police states.) To read it now is to entertain the thought that, if Liu Xiaobo had not earned a Nobel Peace Prize, he might have deserved one for poetry. For this is what he said:

"I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who have monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. ... For hatred is corrosive of a person's wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and block a nation's progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes ... to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love."

No prison can hold the spirit of such a man. For his is a power beyond the state's, a power his warders fear but may never understand. Till the day it overthrows them. Add the name of Liu Xiaobo to that of Solzhenitsyn, whose words from prison and exile were far more powerful than the pronouncements of those in mere political power.

Whether issuing orders from the Kremlin or the Forbidden City, Havana or Beijing, in the end the commissars cannot hope to compete with the message sent by the sight of a single empty chair. No wonder they sought to keep its image off the internet; it said more than all their party slogans and official pronouncements.

How long, oh how long, must China -- and the world -- wait for Liu Xiaobo's deliverance?

Time and again

I wonder how long

the night will be.

-- Tu Fu (713-770)

Although he is still imprisoned, the statement from Liu Xiaobo at the conclusion of his trial will do as well as any Nobel Lecture and better than most. Much like Martin Luther King Jr., or before him, Henry David Thoreau, Liu Xiaobo is freer in jail than others are out.

Far from defeated, this prisoner sounded victorious. He was not forlorn but full of quiet hope: "I firmly believe that China's political progress will never stop, and I'm full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom...."






Liu Xiaobo's absence from the ceremony in Oslo, and his presence there, both symbolized by that empty chair, are a tribute not only to freedom but a reminder of its price: the courage to fight for it, to suffer for it, and to do so gladly, hopefully, unafraid.

As another Nobel Prize winner put it in his acceptance speech, man "must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed -- love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice." (William Faulkner, December 10, 1950.)

One unafraid man is more than a match for a state full of fear. No such state can stand forever against a man whose courage is rooted in the faith -- in the knowledge -- that love is stronger than hate.

Nor is Liu Xiaobo's love only abstract, a love of principle or people in general. Ideologues regularly declare their love for The People. It's just people they despise, especially those who might have opinions of their own and refuse to be cowed. It's easy enough to love in general; it's loving someone in particular that is the challenge, the real test and triumph.

Here is something else Liu Xiaobo said at the conclusion of his trial in a statement that would turn out to be his Nobel Lecture two years later:

"Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I'd say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. ... (o)ur love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one. Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars. ... Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes."

Water lilies bloom on the Great River.

Brilliant red on the green water.

Their color is the same as our hearts.

Their roots branch off.

Ours cannot be separated.

-- The Emperor Wu of Liang (464-549)

There is no defeating a spirit compounded of courage and love, uncontaminated by any desire for revenge, full of hope for the future despite everything. At the end of his statement, Liu Xiaobo declared: "I hope to be the last victim of China's endless literary inquisition, and that after this no one else will ever be jailed for their speech." May it be so. His courage, his faith, his capacity for love ... all offer new grounds for his great hope.






For sophisticated critics, Ponce's music is insufficiently abstract, dense, minimalist, teutonic -- name your favorite curse. Sophisticated: a word akin to sophist. Manuel Ponce is, in a word, too Mexican. Oh, if only he could free himself to compose like a European. All he'd have to do is cut out his heart. This much Mexicans and Americans share: a cultural inferiority complex. Anything foreign must be better because it's foreign.

The third movement of the string trio (Cancion: Andante expressivo) is indeed a song sung slow and expressive, as sad and noble as a long ago time still burning us with its gaze, demanding: You must change your life.

You can hear it all in Ponce's music, Todo el Mexico. The way the campesinos look in the barren flats, silent and sullen, the violence stirring within. The way the businessmen deal and the politicians speak (endlessly), the way families gather around the table and beggars outside the cathedral....

Then comes the Rondo -- scherzoso, and business picks up. You can almost hear the Gershwin-like taxi horns around the Zocalo.

Funny -- funny strange and funny just funny -- how you remember just where you were when you first read a great book. In this case, R.H. Tawney's "Religion and the Rise of Capitalism." I can see the typeface of the paperback now as I turned the pages while getting a shoeshine on the edge of the great plaza. I told the bootblack my father had been a zapatero, a shoemaker, and thought it would give us something in common. As soon as I said it, I knew how stupid and condescending it sounded, an impression confirmed by his glance at this gringo with money in his pocket and neglected shoes on his feet. A zapatero would have been a step up from his vantage point. I fled back to my book, hiding my face. How long has that scene been marinating in my memory -- 30, 40 years now? I really must change my life.

Why must they have the musicians at such concerts deliver an always too-long introduction to each composition and composer? What ever happened to Concert Notes? It's the same mistake announcers on some classical music stations make. My, they do go on. But it's worse when musicians do it. When they can play so well, why waste their talent talking?

Interspersed on the program was some work of composers who are Mexican in name only. The pieces could have been written at any up-to-date conservatory. Like so much of modern music, they are more modern than music, more exercises than compositions. There's nothing wrong with exercises; they sound beautiful overheard in the hall of a music school, or listening to a symphony orchestra warm up. But they should not be confused with the kind of art that speaks, and lets you know: You must change your life.

The high point of the evening, since a Pan-American program must include America, too, is the Dvorak quartet. (No. 13 in G, Op. 106) Naturally, the most American number on the program would be by a foreigner. We're a Nation of Immigrants and all that. It's a truism, but at the heart of every truism is a truth.

Antonin Dvorak discovered and discoursed on America in his music -- much as Tocqueville did in his prose. Few things introduce an American to his own country as well as the works of foreigners. They see things with fresh eyes, and listen -- as Dvorak did -- with fresh ears to jazz beats and gospel hymns and the sound of dynamos. Throughout his American pieces there is the undisguisable, inexhaustible, unerasable American sound. It is the sound of hope. Hope ever renewed generation after generation, fulfillment after fulfillment, disappointment after disappointment, lull after storm. Theme, climax and reprise.

Then the players walk away, and the audience disperses into the cold, now music-charged night air. The concert ends. The music doesn't. Neither does its power, its demand, its imperative. I really must change my life.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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