March 12, 2009
The Other Right to ChooseBy Lauri B. Regan
I was standing in the elevator heading up to my law office last week when I glanced up at the nifty television screen. The screen allows people on the elevator to avoid eye contact with their colleagues -- and to watch the latest plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
About half way to my floor, an interesting TV tidbit caught my attention: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are reuniting for a concert tour in order to raise money to teach children about meditation. At first I thought that they wanted to teach kids about taking the proper medication -- or perhaps they wanted to teach lawyers about pretrial mediation. But no, the blurb on the TV in the elevator was talking about raising money for children and meditation.
I went to my desk and got online to find out more about the fundraiser since I found the idea puzzling. Sure enough, the former Beatles will be raising money for The David Lynch Foundation that:
Children across the globe are dying of starvation and disease and these altruistic stars want to raise millions of dollars to teach people to meditate! After my initial outrage, that anyone would choose to donate so much money to what I deemed to be such a ridiculous cause, I had an epiphany of sorts. It came about as I recalled the many pictures I have seen over the years of armed Palestinian children cheering in the streets, "Death to Israel!"
As I recalled the images of the fatigued-clad kids holding up Uzis and waving Hamas flags, I thought to myself, Wouldn't it be nice if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were thinking like Paul and Ringo and allocated a portion of that $900 million dollars that they are sending over to Gaza for meditation classes rather than ‘infrastructure' (better known as arms smuggling tunnels)? And not just meditation classes for Palestinian children -- meditation classes for the entire population of Gaza. There is some pork that even Israelis could swallow.
I had a second epiphany. Obama continues to reach out to the Muslim world, ignoring their violent actions and hateful words and expecting rational discourse and extensions of friendship. Perhaps he should join Paul and Ringo on a tour to raise meditation money for the Middle East. "Imagine all the people" that would purchase tickets were The One to appear on stage. There would be no need for Greek columns or promises of receding oceans. Obama could perform a little dance and promise to send the money to Hamas to teach Palestinians how to meditate instead of shooting guns and hating Jews. Obama's adoring fans would be thrilled to donate to the cause.
And I would sleep a whole lot better knowing that my tax dollars were not going to Gaza to rebuild "infrastructure." Here is why: I am taking my family to Israel next week for my son's Bar Mitzvah. When a Jewish child is called to the Torah, one of the tasks that they are asked to perform is called a mitzvah. A mitzvah is one of God's commandments. It requires performing an act of kindness or a good deed. The mitzvah is what connects God, who commands such an act, with the person performing the deed.
My son's mitzvah project in Israel will include a visit to Sderot, the town that is the recipient of Hamas' Qassan rockets on a regular basis. We will tour Sderot and then visit with children at Kibbutz Sa'ad nearby. My son will give sneakers and presents to eleven orphaned children that live at the Kibbutz. The sneakers will come in handy when the sirens warning of incoming missiles go off and the children have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter.
My younger son has a pen pal with whom he has been writing over the past year, a 10-year-old boy named Kobi, who we will visit when we are in Sderot. Through charity, Kobi was supposed to come to the United States to visit our family this summer. Kobi will not be making that trip due to post-traumatic stress caused by living with the Hamas rockets from which he is forced to escape -- often on a daily basis. Instead, my younger son will meet Kobi in Israel and take him a present.
Noam Bedein is a photo-journalist who lives in Sderot and appeared before a congressional committee earlier this month to ask that Obama's $900 million gift to Gaza be conditioned upon the return of kidnapped Israeli soldier, Galid Shalit, as well as the end of the Qassan rocket fire raining on Israel. Included in Mr. Bedein's appearance before the committee, was a video of the children of Kibbutz Sa'ad responding to the sirens by running to shelter, counting down the 15 seconds and then singing a song. Mr. Bedein explains that it has become a tradition of sorts for the children to count down and then sing in order to drown out the sound of a rocket exploding nearby. Hence, we have chosen to bring Kobi an iPod to help him drown out the sound of the incoming rockets. Perhaps we will download some of The Beatles' music on it.
As he enters adulthood honoring the commandments of God, my son has chosen Kibbutz Sa'ad as his mitzvah project. Last December our family brought Christmas to a poor village in the mountains in Ecuador and the year before we gave Christmas presents to children of several villages devastated by earthquakes in Peru. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr have chosen the art of meditation as their cause du jour. I have grown to realize that when a person chooses to perform an act of kindness, I am not one to judge.
While I have written that Obama has never proven himself philanthropic, he is now, in effect, judging what is a worthy cause for charitable donation. He is playing the role of Robin Hood -- taking from the rich to give to the poor. And in coordination with that dictate, he is removing the tax incentive that allows many in this country to donate funds that they might otherwise not be able to afford to give. As the editors of the Wall Street Journal noted this week:
Obama, aka the "Taxman," is dictating to whom our money must be directed -- he is taking away our free choice.
I do not want any of my tax money going to Gaza. My son asked why we couldn't sue Obama to prevent our money from being sent to terrorists who want to kill us. At 13 he is old enough to understand the Constitution and Congress' right to tax and spend. What he does not understand and what I cannot explain to him is why our country's President and Congress would agree to unconditionally send $900 million to terrorists firing missiles at America's ally. What I could not explain is why Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the like think that they are better able to spend our money, why they want to disincentivize charitable donations and why some of their spending projects are reprehensible.
Obama speaks with a forked tongue. He talks about sharing the wealth and helping those with less opportunity yet he wants to take away the free choice of the American people to determine where their money is best donated. Our system has worked well as philanthropic individuals have set up foundations that build hospitals and schools across the globe, stave off poverty and disease and teach freedom and peace. Look at Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to name just a few. Or walk into any hospital or on any college campus and look at the names on the various buildings that would not exist were it not for the generous donations from altruistic individuals.
In my view, there is only one judge that matters in this life. My son will connect with God through his act of kindness, his good deed of helping children who face terrorism day in and day out. One can only hope that Obama will recall his photo op in Sderot last year while on the campaign trail and will determine that terrorists are not worthy of his act of kindness.
This talk of charity, of Obama, Paul and Ringo, reminds me of another Beatle, the late John Lennon, who sang: "You may say I'm a dreamer..."
Lauri B. Regan is an attorney at a law firm in New York