Category: America


Over the past 12 years, as Americans have sought a distraction from the moral incoherence of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the game has served as a loyal and satisfying proxy. It has become an acceptable way of experiencing our savage impulses, the cultural lodestar when it comes to consuming violence. What differentiates it from the glut of bloody films and video games we devour is our awareness that the violence in football, and the toll of that violence, is real.

The struggle playing out in living rooms across the country is that of a civilian leisure class that has created, for its own entertainment, a caste of warriors too big and strong and fast to play a child’s game without grievously injuring one another. The very rules that govern our perceptions of them might well be applied to soldiers: Those who exhibit impulsive savagery on the field are heroes. Those who do so off the field are reviled monsters.

The civilian and the fan participate in the same basic transaction. We offload the mortal burdens of combat, mostly to young men from the underclass, whom we send off to battle with cheers and largely ignore when they wind up wounded.

Steve Almond, “A Fan’s Farewell Note”, The New York Times Magazine (26 January 2014), 45.

In recent decades the left that whitewashed the crimes of the Third World rulers has ‘koshered’ any policy that presents as being anti-colonialist. It has turned against Israel and sought to define it as an apartheid regime. The hope was to label it, and then bring it down through boycotts, divestments and sanctions – all the while studiously concealing that such a ‘victory’ would enable mass destruction of the Israeli Jews. They ignore the critical differences: that Israel’s Jewish population represents the return of a people to its homeland; that its Jewish land was bought and reclaimed, not seized; that that Arabs were offered a nation of their own but chose to try to destroy the Jewish state; that much of the Palestinian Nakba was self-inflicted; and that Israel is a vital functioning democracy despite living under constant siege.

The key to the delegitimation strategy is to so exaggerate normal faults and inescapable errors in self-defense, and to invent evils and thus define Israel as an apartheid society. The bald-faced lie of this claim is blatant because in Israel itself, the opposite of apartheid is true. Despite the Arab states’ unrelenting assaults from without, the internal Arab minority was granted full voting rights and all civil rights. Starting as a disadvantaged community, Israeli Arabs have steadily improved their levels of public health, education, and economic well-being – beyond any of the Arabs in neighboring states. They are still behind the Jewish curve but – like blacks in America – they have the full range of democratic mechanisms available to improve their status. Their fate is significantly in their own hands.

The left that airbrushes the evils of ‘underdogs’ or ex-colonial peoples and demonizes the Jewish state, has seized upon the West Bank situation to give the color of validity to its apartheid caricature. In so doing they ignore the fact that overwhelmingly the restrictions on the Palestinians were instituted to protect against terrorism. They omit that successive governments of Israel have offered to give 90% plus of the West Bank to a Palestinian state in return for a credible secure peace agreement. They cover up the continuing Palestinian rhetoric of revenge and genocide. They falsely equate the systematic use of terror and hatred with highly marginalized violent actions or expressions of bigotry. They treat as equivalent official Arab glorification of genocide with a minority desire for conquest on the Israeli side. This ‘neutral’ mendacity encourages Palestinian revanchist policies.

Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg, “Mandela, Apartheid And The Jews”, The Jewish Week (13 December 2013), 28.

Fulfillment of this demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — which is really about mutuality since Israel already recognized the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to self-determination — is a prerequisite for genuine reconciliation, and it should enjoy full support from peace supporters across the political spectrum.

I like to use the metaphor of two families living together in one house, representing the Jewish and Palestinian national movements occupying the small tract of land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Yes, it is true that there will be no peace unless and until a permanent border can be drawn separating these two peoples. The border is necessary, but not sufficient. If, after a border is drawn, current and future generations are taught that members of the other family sharing the house are not there by right, have no legitimate claim, are essentially thieves, interlopers — simply there because eviction was impossible or impractical — the seeds of future conflict will continue to be sown.

Martin Raffel, “Why Recognition Of Jewish State Is Fundamental To Peace”, The Jewish Week (10 January 2014), 26.

Jewish students are largely disengaged from Israel. They are more likely to be able to distinguish between different fraternities and sororities than between the parties in the Knesset, or the panoply of Jewish communal organizations. When ideological groups take strident positions on campus, the majority of Jewish students respond with a deafening “Huh?” Campus professionals will confide that students consider extremism in pursuit of anything a vice; a turn-off, not a turn-on.

Jeff Rubin, “It’s Jewish Education, Stupid”, The Jewish Week (10 January 2014), 28.

The introduction of football made the holiday more appealing to many men. By adding listening to an athletic contest to a feast, families recognized that popular entertainment on the radio enhanced the celebration. Listening to the game was not simply a new custom added to the family feast; it became a central attraction of the holiday for men. While the domestic occasion of the early nineteenth century represented the feminization of the middle-class home, radio broadcast of the game at Thanksgiving helped masculinize the domestic festival.

Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States”, Journal of Social History 32, No. 4 (Summer 1999), 784.

In the 1920s, football finally moved into the home, rather than being merely a form of outdoor amusement which threatened to overwhelm the domestic celebration. The family might dine and then listen to a football game on the radio as a form of after-dinner entertainment. By 1956, football games were televised. Popular entertainment has enhanced home celebration in the twentieth century, whether it was the Christmas program on radio or television or the broadcast of a football game. There is always the question of whether listening to the football game in the living room represented a distinct stage of reinvention of the holiday, or simply a new custom attached to the nineteenth-century notion of feast and homecoming. Men, listening avidly to the game at home, probably thought it was a significant reinvention. They quickly came to regard listening to the game as traditional, part of what made the ritual authentic and meaningful.

Families scheduled their dinner so that they would be finished eating by the time the football game began.

Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States”, Journal of Social History 32, No. 4 (Summer 1999), 782.

What was lost on these devotees of the game was the irony in a family event, punctuated by (mostly) men listening to a game noted for its aggressive body contact, warlike language, male bonding, and the ability of contestants to withstand pain. There had always been gender segregation at the Thanksgiving meal, with men talking to other men, and women conversing with women before and after the meal. As women in the kitchen washed the dishes, and men listened to the game, one could recognize that women (willingly) gave up their leisure, and that men and children benefitted from female sacrifice. Men and women also occupied separate spaces in the home on Thanksgiving, although it was easier for a woman to enter the living room where men were listening to the game than for a man to don an apron and help in the kitchen.

Encamping in the living room, men seemed to find solace in an all-male group, after having participated in an event so female in ambience. One function of football, even enjoyed vicariously, was to reaffirm men’s bonds with other men and their masculinity, to inject some manliness into the sentimentality. Sons, listening to the game with their fathers, were learning the rules of male sociability – and being weaned away from their mothers. Listening to football was an additional masculine element that followed the ritual of carving the turkey, man the gladiator side by side with man the hunter. As such, the football game on Thanksgiving Day provided an added symbolic statement about the difference between the genders.

Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States”, Journal of Social History 32, No. 4 (Summer 1999), 782-783.

…several changes have occurred in American Thanksgiving Day celebrations in their more than 350-year history. Few households now serve mince pie, a onetime tradition. The focus on hunting and wild game is reduced (Ramsey 1979); the emphasis on the bounty of agriculture has increased. Churchgoing is now rare. Prayer persists for some but is combined or replaced with a more secular meal-opening toast for many. The home-centered, active family games that were once prevalent (Applebaum 1984) are often replaced by the passive spectacle of professional sports and nationally broadcast parades hosted by department stores and filled with commercial floats. Hosting by the grandparent’s household is giving way to hosting by the middle generation. And, most directly important for an understanding of contemporary consumer culture, a profusion of branded products rather than foods produced by the household are consumed. Through taken-for granted acceptance of changes, participants perceive universalism in their celebrations when, in fact, the praxis of their feasting is particular to contemporary times and household groups.

Melanie Wallendorf & Eric J. Arnold, “‘We Gather Together’: Consumption Rituals of Thanksgiving Day”, The Journal of Consumer Research 18, No. 1 (June 1991), 24.

Lower-class men had been making merry and poking fun at their betters for centuries, on Thanksgiving and other holidays. In the late 1880s, the upper class developed its own form of misrule in their exuberance after Thanksgiving Day football games. An organization run by college students, the Intercollegiate Football Association, scheduled its first championship game on Thanksgiving Day in 1876. Two decades later the Chicago Tribune estimated that about 10,000 high school and college teams, and those of athletic clubs were playing football on Thanksgiving Day.

The Thanksgiving Day game was controversial from the beginning. Walter Camp, the “father” of modern football, argued that the fact that fans willingly gave up – or in some cases, postponed – their Thanksgiving dinner to cheer for their team showed the popularity of the game. To ministers and Ethelbret Warfield, president of Lafayette College, football on Thanksgiving desecrated “a great national feast-day.” Warfield regarded Thanksgiving as a day to give thanks to God for the blessings of “the Christian home” and “citizenship.” He believed that whooping college boys, storming theaters, starting fights at “saloons, dancehalls, and worse” were taking the first steps in a life of “temptation and vice.” The collegians were also getting themselves arrested, disrupting Broadway performances, and throwing beer mugs and glasses at high-stepping showgirls. In 1894, Ivy League college presidents, embarrassed by all this, shifted the day of the season-ending game to the Saturday before Thanksgiving, moved the location from Manhattan to college grounds, and insisted that students return to campus after the game had finished.

Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States”, Journal of Social History 32, No. 4 (Summer 1999), 777.

Macy’s parade, even in the 1920s, existed not in the shadow of the family feast or the church service, but in competition with the afternoon football game. Football was clearly the more significant of the two forms of out-of-home entertainment, as changes in the timing of Macy’s parade in the 1920s indicate. Initially Macy’s parade offended patriotic groups, who decried a spectacle on “a national and essentially religious holiday.” Macy’s hired a public relations man, who decided that the critics could be placated if the parade in the morning was postponed until at least after church services had ended. The parade, pushed back to the afternoon, began at the same time as the kickoff for most football games. Customers and football fans complained. By the late 1920s, Macy’s had returned to an early morning parade, presumably so as not to compete with afternoon football games.

Elizabeth Pleck, “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States”, Journal of Social History 32, No. 4 (Summer 1999), 782.