Letter: Obligated to respond | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Obligated to respond

Normally, I do not step into the ring of debate with intellectual lightweights like Maurice Emmer, who, along with other reactionaries, solely resort to insults and name-calling and fail to address the position of my arguments (see Emmer’s and other’s juvenile, substance-less “comments” to my letter, “War Crimes, Not Defense,” in the online edition of The Aspen Times.) However, since Emmer appears only able to attack me rather than my points of view, and because he completely misrepresents the targets of my criticisms, I feel obligated to respond.

While I am not able to criticize all the oppressive groups and oppressive actions in the world, I decide to focus on the atrocities and forms of oppression backed by significant power/resources/capital that are often silenced or unacknowledged. My critique of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians has come to the forefront recently because, unlike the regional conflicts Emmer cites, the Israeli state’s misactions are routinely denied or concealed and, more importantly, Israel’s misdeeds incite much more consequential global social conflicts that potentially challenge world peace. But again, my writings on Israel’s abuse of power and extremist, unthoughtful Jewish behavior is slight in comparison to the body of my writings that critically address centuries of European oppression of people of color and, yes, oppression of Jews (“Racial Discrimination, Origins and Patterns”).

I welcome a Google search of my writings, called for by Emmer. One will discover that my writings as a graduate student and professor of sociology are most critical of my own racial group’s oppressive actions, the colonialist and racist misdeeds of my country (the United States) and ancestor’s country (United Kingdom) and, indeed, my own privilege and precarious hierarchical social position as a white male (“Realizations and Confessions of a White Man”). It will become apparent that my writings are critical of all forms of social injustice and human-rights abuses as well as the marginalization of minority groups (“Social Justice and Critical Public Sociology” and “W.E.B. Du Bois, Race, and Human Rights”). One of my books on the horizon demonstrates that I challenge my fellow white sociologists to incorporate the marginalized perspectives of people of color into the canon of sociology and fight against racial segregation in the discipline (Drawing the Sociological Color Line). Another dissects the socioeconomic abuses, psychosocial deficiencies and cultural decay of the new power elite (The Aspen Elite). Clearly, my criticisms run much deeper than Emmer suggests.

Challenging the damaging operations and structures found in the social world and the injustices of human beings — promoted by extremist Christians, Jews and Muslims — is discovered in a long, honorable and thoughtful tradition of certain key figures in Judaism. Problematically, this noble, commendable tradition has been silenced by more extremist politicized Jews who seek power and profit and devalue human community, intellectualism and spiritual understandings. Powerful Jewish thinkers such as Martin Buber, who is critical of extremist Zionism and oppression of Palestinians, offer an alternative version of Zionism and the Israeli State that I completely endorse. Great Jewish minds and actors, such as Abraham Heschel, who fought against social injustices and social power mismanagement, need to be reinvigorated in the debate over human-rights abuses of Israel, not the ranting of Jewish fanatics. More importantly, critical self-reflection is needed among individuals like Emmer whose extremist, non-tolerant rhetoric drag Judaism into the gutter.

Sean Elias

Glenwood Springs


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