Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up and Looking towards 2017

First, I wish all my readers a Happy New Year, and as much hope as possible for the coming year, though some aspects of the future do now seem awfully dark!

At the beginning of 2016, this blog was nearly dormant. I started it as an exploration of "heroes" and "antiheroes" for secular Jews like myself, and I wrote mini-biographies of a few hundred figures from many cultures and many eras, as well as some general cultural thoughts.

"Judaism provides a code of ethical conduct," I wrote in 2010 when I started this blog. "Many secular Jews feel they’ve left all the belief, rituals, and taboos behind but kept the moral code." I continued: "Some of the heroes of secular Judaism aren’t Jewish. For example, Abbe Gregoire, active during the French Revolution, was instrumental in freeing European Jews from discrimination by defining them as human. Buddha and Martin Luther King are heroes to many secular Jews. Their lives have meaning or they are recognized heroes of secular Jews. Conversely, there are lots of anti-heroes: individuals who are intensely not-respected by most if not all secular Jews."

Unfortunately the idea of a hero has become all-too-relevant under the coming administration. Soon after the November election, I started finding new heroes to write about, not so much from the secular Jewish viewpoint, but from the viewpoint that alas, we might need a few heroes to avoid normalizing the coming disaster and directly or indirectly supporting destruction of valued institutions, disruption of efforts to rescue the environment, terrible bigotry including antisemitism, and persecution of minorities. I've been blogging this theme regularly, and feel sure I'll continue to find new material for posts in the new year.

To reflect my new approach to writing about heroes, I have adopted a new motto for my blog:

"Unhappy is the land that needs a hero." -- a quote from Bertolt Brecht.

Brecht, of course, reminds me of the lurking parallel between our time and his youth in Germany, where a beautiful era of freedom for the arts and music became a nightmare. I'm trying to avoid overdoing these parallels, and to keep my focus on the here and now and our own heroic potential.

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