Some of my earliest memories are of gatherings at my grandparents’ small apartment in Milwaukee where my relatives would crowd around the dining-room table and talk passionately about Israel. Many had been involved in labor Zionism in their youth, before they immigrated to the U.S. from Russia.
Poetry doesn’t have to be solemn. In a series of poems first published in 1990, U.S. poet Scott Cairns invented a comic character named Raimundo Luz, a Portuguese postmodernist “radical theologian” whose autobiographical verses Cairns pretended to be translating.
Nine days after the events of September 11, when President Bush laid out the grounds and directions of the U.S. response to terrorism in a speech to a joint session of Congress, he declared that this is “not . . . just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom.
If non-Americans attending the recent World Economic Forum in New York had been polled concerning their attitudes toward the foreign policies of the Bush administration, the president would not have received anywhere near the overwhelming endorsement Americans have given him since September 11.
The encounter that most decisively shaped my teaching occurred during my very first year in the classroom. I was fresh out of graduate study at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and the lines of my life, as the psalmist says, had fallen in pleasant places.