Manage episode 292776512 series 121090
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The CDC’s Big Mask Surprise Came Out of Nowhere (The Atlantic)
Israeli strikes hit Gaza tunnels as diplomats work for truce (Associated Press)
Jewish Americans in 2020 (Pew Research Center)
Kerry Anderson: [00:00:00] So the Trump administration approach was to accept that might is right, Israel won and Palestinians need to accept that they've lost. They need to surrender their hopes for kind of their own national identity or even sort of basic civil liberties in exchange accept a little bit of money and that was never a realistic approach. And absolutely, I think if you look at it, both the cutting off of age of the Palestinians, the, the moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the effort was to essentially kind of break any will or any hope that the Palestinians kind of had for a future state or something.
Sarah: This is Sarah
Beth: And Beth.
Sarah: You're listening to Pantsuit Politics.
Beth: The home of grace-filled political conversations.
[00:01:00] Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for a new episode of Pantsuit Politics. Look, the title of today's episode is Fraught. We are talking about the CDCs updated vaccine guidance. We are going to talk about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. We're bringing on our friend and Western Asia expert, Kerry Anderson, to walk us through what's going on in that region of the world in greater depth and at the end, we're going to talk about church. So it's just all the things in one place.
And I wanted to just start by telling you about an experience I had this weekend, because I know we have had several challenging episodes lately. I went to my church in person yesterday. I've been several times, so it wasn't my first time back, but we are still getting used to what church looks like in this particular season and my daughter, Ellen, who is five, [00:02:00] was thirsty, then she was hungry and then she was bored and ready to go home. She was basically like having an angry and verbose octopus sitting on top of me for most of the service and the sermon just happened to be about how very important it is to clear your life of noise so that you can meet God in silence.
And I'm just here to tell you that even though it was a lovely message, it did not work for me in my life at this particular moment and that was hard. I wasn't angry about it. Nothing that was preached was wrong at all. It was just really hard to hear and so I wanted to just acknowledge that we've had some conversations here lately that are not meeting some of you where you are, and we totally understand that and the other thing that I thought about after the church service was that it is so important to me to choose to put myself in places where people don't meet me where I am.
It is so important to me to continue to show up in those places and to think [00:03:00] through what is it in my mind that rejects this right now and why is it making me feel this way and what does that mean for my relationships with these people? And ultimately I think going to church and hearing a sermon that doesn't meet you, where you are, is a really beautiful, important part of being a member of the church and so not at all to compare what we do here to church, of course, but just to say, continuing to show up in community, understanding that sometimes we meet that resistance to me is a really wonderful thing and I appreciate y'all doing it.
Sarah: [00:03:42] The goal was not, we will elect a democratic president and then we will all agree. It is to get good, competent leadership to allow space to have these conversations, which we weren't capable of having through the four years of the Trump administration, because everything the stakes felt so high constantly [00:04:00] that, you know, the emphasis had to be on agreement at all costs and I think now that the stakes are still very, very high, but it does feel like there's space for conversation and disagreement and to work on each other again and I like that. I think that's really important.
Now I will say. As we start talking about the CDC, then I don't feel like the CDC has met us where we are one single time, this entire pandemic. I am not busting on the people who have made massive sacrifices throughout the entirety of the pandemic. The people who work in the CDC, who worked long hours under incredible stress, that's not what I'm talking about, but I am talking about that once we all get our feet underneath us and have some space to think through what worked and what didn't work. I think we should start with the CDC because I think there's a lot there. That's not working.
I listened to Michael Lewis who has a new book coming out on the Ezra Klein show and he was talking about that the CDC [00:05:00] wasn't run by political appointees for a very long time that shifted during the Carter administration. His case and he makes it quite well is that, that has been a huge detriment to the organization and I think that's a conversation we should have because it feels like we're either dragging the CDC behind us or with this latest guidance that people vaccinated people don't need to wear masks, like they're giving us whiplash and it just feels like they cannot get the sort of social science aspect of this messaging right no matter how hard they try.
Beth: [00:05:31] And perhaps they shouldn't. I keep thinking about this. It is really important to me that the CDC is the place that says exactly what Dr. Willinsky just said, Hey. We've done some research. We've looked at the data, we've scrubbed it hard, and we feel really confident about the efficacy of these vaccines. I'm not sure then going to the policy is the right next step. I almost feel, and I can't believe I'm arguing for like the creation of more government agencies, but there is a point where I [00:06:00] think it's a different set of considerations. Somebody needs to be the pure science and somebody needs to be able to overlay the science onto policy and onto our Federalist system because I think the biggest problem with what the CDC just did was the absence of coordination with states.
This really hung some governors out to dry and governors that have tried to be very cooperative with the federal government throughout the pandemic and so, you know, I just did a nightly nuance on the situation at the Southern border with unaccompanied minors and my conclusion, the more I work through that issue is that using the department of Homeland security and the department of health and human services to greet, care for, process and reunite families is kind of like going into my kitchen and grabbing a meat thermometer and a butcher knife to go construct a building outside my house it's just the, the, the, the wrong tools. And we're asking too many [00:07:00] things of these government agencies. And that's really how I look at the CDC right now. It needs a narrower purpose, I think.
Sarah: [00:07:07] Well, I think it's big enough and it has a history enough that you can, I could reformulate the organization. You know, you have a arm of the organization that is very focused on science, and then you have an arm of the organization that is fo focused on public health and public health persuasion, which I think is like this whole scene that we are recognizing as very difficult. Now I get what they're let me just say this too. I understand what they're doing here, I just don't think they're articulating it. We talked about in this, in our last conversation, the presence of the vaccines changes this conversation dramatically. The presence of vaccines that are this efficacious means that we are shifting from societal procedures to individual risk assessment.
When there were no vaccines and the only strategy we [00:08:00] had was a group strategy then that was a very different space then now where we have vaccines and we can protect people and we don't have to depend solely on group strategies and I just think that, that we have not articulated that clearly enough, that has not been something that as a society we're shifting towards and we're really working on and so it just feels like when we abandoned a group strategy, that everyone feels like we don't have any strategies. No, no. We have a very, very, very effective strategy through the vaccine. That's why the numbers are bottoming out. Right.
And I think that that's just, but that's something we have to like really, really talk about and I totally agree. I mean that conversation aside, this guidance, not only left governors, who've worked so hard and mayors who've worked so hard out to dry, but it left like big [00:09:00] corporations who want to spend a lot of time worrying about, but like the Walmarts of the world and the targets of the world in particular, their frontline employees in a really, really difficult position because again, it's like, it's this honor system which is really, that's impossible. That's impossible. Right?
And I mean, there's a part of me that's like, should we sweat this too much? The people who weren't going to wear mask because they are defiant about wearing masks. They haven't worn mask. They weren't going to wear mask. They're not going to wear masks. The mask are off the table for those people. We all know it. So we have been able to control. And increasingly control the virus through vaccines, even in the presence of these people who are defiantly anti mask, nothing coming out of the CDC is going to change their minds.
Beth: [00:09:42] Well, and I am ready to stop asking frontline workers to try to police that behavior, right? Because that is that's one of the least fair things that have happened. There's been a lot of unfairness through COVID 19, but asking somebody who works at Walmart to police mask wearing is way up at the top of the list. I think that shift [00:10:00] Sarah from collective mindset to individual mindset is made infinitely harder by the fact that we've never had a coherent, ethical, philosophical framework that tells us to what degree we balanced those objectives throughout the pandemic, because the issue at the beginning of the pandemic was that many of us rapidly snapped in a whiplash kind of way.
Exactly what we're experiencing now. In a whiplash kind of way. So many of us rapidly snapped from an individualistic society to a collectivist mindset where we said, I am willing to stay at home. I am willing to not do things. I am willing to wear a mask. I'm willing to change damn near every aspect of my life to protect other people, which is something I am rarely asked to do to any discernible degree and we battled about that because we had people saying, whoa, I am still an individualist mindset, and I'm going to stay there and you have not made the case to me, that switching to a [00:11:00] collectivist mindset makes sense.
And now we're going to asking everybody to be in that more individual risk assessment place. That's a hard turn for people who have for over a year, really shifted to the collectivist place. And understanding that as effective as the vaccines are, we have not sufficiently answered questions for parents. We have not sufficiently answered questions for parents of immunocompromised children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. We have not effectively answered questions for people who, for whatever reason are not medically able to get the vaccine and without that guidance turning the switch again, back to individualism, I understand why that's really hard for people.
Sarah: [00:11:45] What bothers me in the coverage is when they are asking Joe or Jane Doe on the street, how they feel about this, we have no background information about that. You know, and I think that's, what's so difficult too, because the [00:12:00] reality for me as an individual who is fully vaccinated, even with small children in my house, I carry no anxiety about catching COVID. When I say I trust the science of these vaccines, I, I mean it, I would roll into a MAGA rally without a mask on and not think twice about it. I'm just going to be honest with you. That's where I'm at with these vaccines.
And so when I'm hearing people say, well, it was too early, I'm just like, well, but who, who, who, where are you coming from with that? And I don't mean like to disagree with it. I just mean, like, I just think that this is very complicated because if you are still centering your anxiety, if you are still centering your risk assessment as a doubly vaccinated person on the behaviors of other people, then I I'm confused by that. I don't need that anymore.
Beth: [00:12:48] Not for somebody else in your household
Sarah: [00:12:49] for you, right. For you if you are out. Like, cause I just, once I got both vaccinations. I'm gonna be honest with you. I've stopped thinking about other people's behavior, because I think that they're now, I [00:13:00] think in my personal risk. Now to the collectivist thing, that's not all the way done, right? So my 12 year old son got a vaccine on his 12th birthday, Sunday. Thrilled, not because I'm honestly worried about his risk from COVID because let me be clear, I'm not. I think that COVID is incredibly low risk for children, but to me, the collectivist choice was even though it's low risk and I believe the vaccines are also very low risk, that was still the collective right choice to do, right?
Because I do want a space where my kids couldn't spread it, that we're not that we're still getting closer and closer to, if not herd immunity, something that protects more and more members of the population who maybe can't get the vaccine and so I'm happy to make that choice for my kids. And when it is safe and out there in the public for my six year old, and my almost ten-year-old, we will be first in line again.
So I think there's still collectivist. That's right. We're we're all switching gears, constantly. Collective, individual. Am I making this assessment for my children? Am I making that assessment for myself? And I think the CDC, instead [00:14:00] of helping guide us through that complicated risk assessment, just dumped more information on people who are already overwhelmed with all these different factors to consider when they're making that individual right assessment.
Beth: [00:14:11] And I do not think that everyone is where you are, Sarah. I do, I hear in our audience that people are not unburdened about other people's choices for their own personal risks by the vaccine and that's okay. I'm not mad at anybody about that. I think that's normal. Every aspect of risk assessment, somebody out there is going to be more conservative than my, than I am and somebody is going to be more open to taking on risk than I am.
Sarah: [00:14:36] That's such a good point. I think you should, like, let's just double down on that emphasis. I think that's so important. We say risk assessment and we hear like test as if there's one right answer and there is not. It is an individual assessment and therefore will be different for every individual. I think that is so important.
Beth: [00:14:52] And it's not always rational. I've been thinking about this. Every time, you and I talk about risk assessment, especially around kids, [00:15:00] you bring up the fact that we worry more about kidnapping than car accidents and that if we wanted to put our energy in a productive place around risk assessment with kids, we would all be way more into car seats and installing them properly and making sure our kids are sitting in them properly and every time we talk about that, have you ever been bowling when they put bumpers in the gutters?
Sarah: [00:15:22] Yeah.
Beth: [00:15:22] It is like the ball of the conversation hits one of those bumpers in my brain and I've been considering why. Like, I just cannot get wrapped up in car seats. It's I can physically feel that like resistance to what you're saying every time we talk about it.
Sarah: [00:15:39] Cause I am very into car seats, very.
Beth: [00:15:41] You are very into car seats.I just, I can't get there and I honestly think, even though I objective, really agree with everything you're saying and know it's right. I honestly think I've got some kind of barrier because when I was in a fatal car crash, I had two small kids in the car and I think there is something for me that cannot [00:16:00] go to thinking about how awful it would have been if those kids had been hurt worse than they were. I just think there's some kind of block there that I haven't gotten past. That is not something that is unique to me I think in assessing risk. I think we bring all kinds of things conscious and unconscious to these decisions.
And while we're being transparent, the CDC has been consistently more conservative than I have been in my individual risk assessment during the pandemic. I have felt from the beginning, like the CDC was a little bit behind the scientist that I was following in terms of what are effective and reasonable precautions to take around COVID-19. So if I were getting a grade on my compliance with CDC standards throughout the pandemic, I'd probably get about a B minus and I'm okay with that. That doesn't mean that I think the CDC has been stupid, wrong, the worst needs to be banned. Um, and it doesn't mean that I think people who have been an A+plus with [00:17:00] the CDC are neurotic or anxious or anything else. It's just, I think we always have to be considering, like there is information and then there is individual assessment and how do we meld those together in a way that feels both socially responsible and individually realistic?
Sarah: [00:17:19] Yeah. I mean, I think that's right. I think that part of the reason this guidance didn't hit me as hard is because I have not been the person like waiting for the okay from the CDC on every single thing, because I do feel like they are slow and the people I trust for the record, Zenep Dufetchi came out and said, what are you doing? We should have kept mask on for a little bit longer, even though she has repeatedly criticized the CDC for being too slow. So there there's also have enormous empathy for the CDC. So cause you know, somebody over there as being like, we can't make you people happy. Either too slow or too fast.
Beth: [00:17:51] That's right. It isn't possible and here's the other thing. I have been out since this guidance was released. I am perfectly happy to keep my [00:18:00] mask on indoors right now.
Sarah: [00:18:01] If it's still on the door of the business, I'm not trying to make anybody's life hard. If you have a sign on the door of your business that says mask, I'm wearing a mask, even though I don't think I have any real risk factors, to be honest. Again, definitely not trying to make any poor person at Walmart's life hard or small business or whatever.
Beth: [00:18:18] And if I am out with my kids, I will wear my mask and I'm not looking to take my kids to like a 200 person indoor wedding right now. No, because while I also think the risks or them.
Sarah: [00:18:28] Or ever.
Beth: [00:18:29] Yes, seriously, just because that's not fun. But I also, I agree that I'm, I'm not tremendously worried about my two kids risks around COVID. They go to school with kids who I do worry about, and they socialize with kids who I do worry about and so I am still working hard to minimize their risk and exposure because that collective mindset has sunk in with me and I'll probably forever change a lot of my behaviors because I'll be thinking more about public health and, [00:19:00] and that's good. That's what I want to do. Kind of going back to our episode a few weeks ago, I want to integrate this into my life in a healthy way.
Sarah: [00:19:07] Yeah. And I think that that 100%. I'm looking, I'm always trying to get people to think more collectivist mindset. Like I think that that is really positive and there is, you know, an aspect of this that as long as there is, COVID-19 out there as a virus circulating, there is a aspect of collectivist thinking we have to maintain, and it is going to stay out there and we should make break. I wish we would bring more of that to the flu season. I'm going to wear a mask next cold and flu season. I really, really liked not getting strep throat like a lot because strep throat sucks and so like not getting it for the first year in probably five years was fantastic. I'm a maintain that.
And I think that that sort of, like you said, integrating that and thinking about, I hope we all are better at thinking about public health as exactly what it is. The health of the public and not just our own individual [00:20:00] choices and health at every second, because there are a lot of places that we could use this thinking. Whether it comes to clean water, clean air, our use of plastics, you know, the food system, like there's a lot of places where we could use a more collectivist mindset about our choices and how they affect the health, safety, and lives of our fellow citizens.
Beth: [00:20:20] 100%. So I am not mad at the CDC. I think the communication and coordination here was poor and I expected better of this administration and I also think that what they said is true.
Sarah: [00:20:31] We just love you. We want better for you.
Beth: [00:20:34] I'll tell you what I am frustrated by. I am frustrated that so many state and local governments have concluded that vaccine passports aren't worth the effort. I am frustrated that we seem to have just given up on widespread testing. By this point, why do I not have a box of rapid tests in my kitchen to make sure before we go somewhere where we're going to see a lot of people that none of us have COVID. Like, there are [00:21:00] so many things that we could still be doing to help the comfort level of parents, to help the comfort level of immunocompromised people, to help people who can't get vaccinated and we've just given up because it's too hard and all we're doing is leaning into the mask thing that really upsets me.
Sarah: [00:21:17] Well, I will say this on the other side of the testing. Here would be my concern. If we leaned into testing like that, which is the Yankee situation. So for those of you who haven't heard, the Yankees, like the baseball team, they all got Johnson and Johnson. They were in this situation and they were tested and like eight of them had asymptomatic COVID. Okay. So again, not to just keep, if we need a bingo card and it needs to have Ezra Klein, Zenep Dufetchi and Tressie McMillan Cottom and y'all can just fill it out every time.
But Zenep Dufetchi wrote about this and she said, here's the issue. They're taking really, really sensitive tests [00:22:00] constantly as a part of the testing protocol within baseball and so it is not surprising that they were carrying the virus and that they were also symptomatic because the vaccines, were asymptomatic because the vaccines work and so my fear is like, if we were doing that because people cannot, cannot keep the peace with these breakthrough cases. Like I agree with her. I wish the media would stop carrying them because I think or covering them because I think that they increase vaccine hesitancy.
People cannot hold the complexities of what happens with breaks and not this sounds like exactly the opposite of what I usually argue with public health, which is trust me with information and they can make the risk assessment themselves but I do worry that with vaccine hesitancy, if we were doing all that testing and we were seeing like, because vaccines don't prevent you from ever coming in contact with COVID or any, or taking any of that viral load into your body, it just makes your body so efficient at fighting it that it doesn't turn into a severe case. Right. But I just think that that [00:23:00] level of complexity, I'm not, I'm a little worried that that would get through if we were testing all the time and people were like, I have COVID, even though I have the vaccine.
Beth: [00:23:08] I feel like that both makes and undermines my point. It makes me mad that the Yankees are able to test three times a day and I don't have a test in my kitchen if I need to travel somewhere, you know what I mean? Like I wish that I think you're totally right, that we have people who would overuse it. But I don't think that is such a large percentage of the population that we should have given up on that effort the way that I feel we've given up now, hopefully somebody out there is developing something that's going to come to market soon and all my fears about this are going to be alleviated.
But especially when we get kids back in school in the fall, we should have tests at home to use once a week or something. I, I get that, you know, I objective really know that my pillow is disgusting. Right. I objectively know that at any given time, there are millions of microorganisms floating around my body. I cannot [00:24:00] think about it too much. It is exhausting and so I don't want to look every day to see if I have any trace of COVID but some guidance, especially to parents. Hey, these are your tests. You're going to take them Monday morning. If there are symptoms, your going to take them later in the week, if not, you're going to wait until the next Monday. That seems to me like such a reasonable way to try to move the ball down the field here.
And I think that could also erode some of this sense of do we trust each other? I don't really trust anybody. I don't trust these people who I live with. That is going to kill us. You guys, we in America already did not need more of that suspicion of one another. If we are going to do that worse now, because people are taking their masks off. I am worried about that.
Sarah: [00:24:42] Well, not to just continue to pile on here, but I think part of the reason the testing is problematic is because our quarantine policy is broken. Yeah. We have to fix that too. Yeah. The really good writing recently that we were using a sledgehammer where a scalpel would do and [00:25:00] it was damaging and it was making people go out when they knew they had COVID because the quarantine policy was so ridiculous and, you know, I think that that's the problem too. Like, we don't really have a good quarantine, like a good, very focused and scientifically based quarantine policy and until we get that figured out, what good is the testing going to be?
Because the people would not get tested because they didn't want to get under the 14 day quarantine, which lots of scientists and epidemiologists are now saying was overkill so I think that's the problem too. It's like, look, listen, if it's this, you get three things in a pandemic: testing, tracing or vaccines, which do you want to focus on? Let me be clear. I am so glad that United States focused on vaccines. I am, but I don't think it's, now that we've gotten the vaccines, to your point. I don't think all it like all is lost.
Okay. So we still have energy and focus, let's direct it back to contact, tracing [00:26:00] and testing because the next thing that comes along, even though we can develop a vaccine quickly with this new tech, I sure would like to be where Korea or Japan was, where they could really tightly contain it and quarantine people for the next one so that it doesn't, you know, I love the quote that it's like, we sat, we, we wanted, we didn't want our freedom restricted, but in the end it was a massive restriction of freedom because the pandemic stretched on for so long. I would definitely like to be there but I think that that's part of the problem too.
Beth: [00:26:31] And there is a piece of me on the other side of all this, which I realize we're not there yet, but on the other side of all this, I am okay with asking is the United States, just a country that can't do something like masks so we have to lean harder into other strategies? That makes me sad because it seems like such a simple thing and I don't really get it. I haven't from the beginning gotten people's resistance to it but if that is the reality, I don't want to survive another pandemic in sort [00:27:00] of, and that's what we did with this. We have done sort of measures all over the place and if we needed to be more realistic about what Americans will and won't accept, then I think we ought to start looking more at testing and vaccine passports.
Sarah: [00:27:13] Now we do have a moment of hope we wanted to share surrounding COVID and vaccines and the next cold and flu season, which is Emily Oster did an interview with Stefan Bansal, the CEO of Moderna and there was one particular piece of this interview that you and I were like, praise the Lord. We love the sound of this so much. So Emily Oster asked him what he's most excited about, and he was sharing that, you know, we all know this, the efficacy of the flu vaccine is about 60% in a good year, only 30% in a bad year, but they believe with MRNA, they could do a booster with both the COVID variants and seasonal [00:28:00] strains of the flu that could get the world to 90, to 95% efficacy for flu. Oh my Lord. That is a mazing. I really enjoyed not getting the flu this year and if we could get a booster shot that contains both COVID and flu booster, so we don't have to get the flu. That would be so awesome.
Beth: [00:28:19] And to the point of many of our friends who have not taken COVID very seriously, the flu does kill people also. It would be a. Magnificent lifesaving thing to be able to inoculate in a, in a really meaningful way against the flu. So I'm excited about this also.
Next up, we're going to talk with Kerry Anderson, who is an expert on policy in Western Asia. Kerry has spent time, significant amounts of time physically in Israel, physically in west bank and Gaza. So she is going to talk with us about the big picture perspective on what's going on there. I fear that by the time this episode airs, the number of casualties, the buildings [00:29:00] that have been destroyed, that everything that we know today will be even worse and so hopefully Kerry can help all of us understand more about why and who is involved and how this might ultimately resolve.
As we need to think about the situation unfolding between Israelis and Palestinians, it was important to us to consider the big picture context of Western Asia, the historic relationship between these countries, how this is playing throughout the world and so we have with us, our beloved Western Asia correspondent, Kerry Anderson.
Kerry, thank you so much for joining us again.
Kerry Anderson: [00:29:50] My pleasure. Thank you.
Beth: [00:29:52] So you have spent a significant amount of time in this region and I'm wondering if, as we enter this conversation, you could [00:30:00] help us just understand for those of us who have not spent time here, what a normal day looks like, uh, specifically thinking of Gaza because of the population density there. I'm not sure most of us have a lot of perspective on what it feels like to be in Gaza and I'm wondering if you could talk about that a little bit.
Kerry Anderson: [00:30:17] Sure and yeah, I think it is important to think about a normal day would vary between, are you a Palestinian in Gaza? Are you in Israeli, in Israel? Are you a Palestinian in the West Bank? Um, so for Gaza, of course, guys, that is an extremely densely crowded place and it should, this is still true, but it used to be the most crowded entity on earth. Um, so we're talking about a whole lot of people crowded into a very small area. They are, there's the sea and then there are big walls around the rest of the Gaza strip.
Many of these people are refugees. You have generations of [00:31:00] refugees. The infrastructure in Gaza was, was never great. After the 2014 war with Israel and the blockade of out of the infrastructure is very, very bad so you do not have reliable electricity. There are all sorts of problems with access to clean water. Unemployment is extremely high. It's very difficult to run a business. So it's, it's tough. It's a tough place. Gaza on a normal day is a tough place to live. Most of these people have absolutely no way out. Yeah, Israel of course is a very different place to live on a daily basis and of course it's important to recognize there are Jewish Israelis, there are Arab Israelis.
There is a huge diversity. I think it's really important to recognize both Palestinian and Israeli societies are really diverse. Um, it's one thing that has always made them so interesting to me is there's a lot of internal diversity and of course of the West Bank, you would have Palestinians and then you would also have [00:32:00] Israeli settlers. So life on the West Bank, if you're Palestinian is also difficult. There are a lot of problems, a lot of obstacles to running business, to working, to getting around the West Bank, but it is not, it doesn't really compare to Gaza at all. I've had to choose between the two I'd definitely choose the West Bank.
Sarah: [00:32:22] Tell us the political situation before this violence kicked off and then quickly escalated because there were a lot of domestic politics at play for both Israelis and Palestinians. The Israelis are what, on their fourth election in two years, there was a suspension of Palestinian elections. Tell us what the political situation was before all of this happened.
Kerry Anderson: [00:32:48] Yeah. So the immediate, um, run-up and I think we can maybe talk a little bit later about it is important to take a big picture look at kind of the root causes. But if we're talking about, say the couple of [00:33:00] months in the run up to this latest flare up, there were several things happening. So both Israeli and Palestinian politics have, are in a state of flux. As you said, Israel and, uh, I think it was end of March, early April had its fourth election in two years and the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu who tried and failed again to put together a coalition and so then, uh, the leader of a different party, Jared Lapid was working on forming a new kind of election when all of this happened.
And we can talk more later if you want about there, that all definitely plays a role in what's going on right now. On the Palestinian side. So Palestinians haven't had a presidential election since 2005. They have not had legislative elections since 2006 and Palestinians are really fed up with all the leadership. Like Hamas in [00:34:00] Gaza, the Palestinian authority in the west bank, um, and so there was quite a lot of pressure to hold new elections, which were then, and January, they announced that they would be holding you elections this year, but shortly before all of this flared up, they indefinitely postponed those elections. So that also plays a role.
A bunch of other critical factors and this is, um, of course there was the issue of the evictions of as at least 36 families in Sheikh Jarrah, which is a, uh, sort of a, it's a neighborhood in east Jerusalem and, uh, we can get more into the complexities of that as well. This is not new. This is an ongoing situation, but it was a particular milestone that there was going to be this eviction of these families and that represents a lot more to Palestinians than just the eviction of a few families, which is [00:35:00] still a big deal.
So that was going on. We of course have had the pandemic. Um, Israel is one of most vaccinated countries in the world and life in Israel in many ways is back to normal. That is not true for the Palestinians who've not had the same kind of access to vaccines. It was Ramadan. We just a few days ago had Eid and so some of this came to a head when Israel put some restrictions on who could go to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque and on some typical Eid celebrations at Damascus gate.
All of us coincided with Jerusalem day, which is a time that certain Israelis celebrate the 1967 takeover of east Jerusalem. There's other stuff going on, but you can kind of see it's it's, uh, it was like a perfect storm. So we got all of this violence in Jerusalem and then Hamas is kind of like, well, Hey, what about us? And Southern Hamas are launching mantra of rockets cause they weren't always want to [00:36:00] make it about them and Israel responded so that's kind of shows you kind of how this all snowballed into this incredible violence that we're seeing right now.
Sarah: [00:36:10] Well, in quickly, I've read a lot about the current domestic situation with Netanyahu, which we didn't even mention is currently on trial for corruption charges that there's been a, an empowerment, like sort of a political empowerment of some of the far right very nationalistic political groups in Israel. Do you agree with that? Have you, have you seen that?
Kerry Anderson: [00:36:32] Yeah, so I think there's a couple of things here. Part of this is a long-term trend. Israeli politics have shifted very much more to the right in the last 20 years. So that's, that's a long-term trend, reflecting quite a few things that have happened in Israeli society. Um, but also right now, this is politically advantageous for Netanyahu and even Jared Lapid, he was trying to form a new coalition recently. This is not an exact quote. He says something [00:37:00] basically, it was like, there's always a fire, whatever it's in Netanyahu's interests. And that's true.
Sarah: [00:37:06] That's a big deal to sort of like exhibit any sort of domestic disagreement in the midst of violence, right. That doesn't usually happen in Israel.
Kerry Anderson: [00:37:13] But I was surprised to see that quote. I think it represents some quite serious frustration because this is not the first time that stuff like this has happened at a time that is very much in Netanyahu's interests. As you said, he is on trial for corruption. He has been trying to put together a coalition and, and failed and everything that's happened looks like it's going to really. So the efforts to put together a coalition under Jarred Lapid are now basically halted because that really depended on having at least one of the Arab Israeli parties in the coalition, which itself is quite unusual, maybe unprecedented. But now that we're seeing this violence within Israel, between Jewish Israelis and Arab [00:38:00] Israelis, there's sort of a sense that, well, that can't happen now so it's quite possible that Israel will end up with a fist election coming up.
Sarah: [00:38:08] And I mean, at what point does this become a constitutional crisis? At what point do we say there is no government to be formed? I've been wondering that with every election and it just keeps going on and going on and going on.
Kerry Anderson: [00:38:19] That's a great question. I think they're a lot of Isrealis answering that. Yeah. I don't have a creative answer to it.
Beth: [00:38:26] Can you orient us in Israeli politics for a minute? When we say far right in Israel, what are we talking about?
Kerry Anderson: [00:38:32] So it can mean different things. A big part of that is relation to the Palestinian. So it's a very hawkish perspective and part of that comes from the collapse of the Oslo Accords. So there were, there were Israelis, um, and the Oslo Accords were always controversial within Israeli society. Netanyahu was never a fan, but there were Israelis who supported the two-state solution and supported the Oslo Accords.
When the Oslo [00:39:00] Accords collapsed, the Isreali perspective was that that was completely the fault of the Palestinians. Um, I will say the Palestinian perspective of of course, very different, but so I think a lot of Israelis felt kind of betrayed and, and gave up on that and so I think today a lot more Israelis are okay with this kind of indefinite occupation than was true 20 years ago. So that is a part of the shift to the right. There are other factors there that have to do specifically with Israeli internal politics too.
Beth: [00:39:30] So that's kind of a helpful orientation to Israeli politics. Can you talk more about people who are just coming to understand the situation about Palestinian governance? I worry sometimes even in my own language that I am sort of putting Hamas on equal footing with the Palestinian authority that I lose the fact that there are Muslim Palestinians, Christian Palestinians, you know, that there is not a monolith here that they're not even geographically contiguous. So can you just talk a little bit about who [00:40:00] makes decisions on the Palestinian side and why.
Sarah: [00:40:02] Well, and I think just to add onto that, I think it gets confusing because we're talking about governments, but then we're advocating for a two-state solution and I think there's a sense of like, how do we have a government if there's no state.
Kerry Anderson: [00:40:13] Absolutely and I think that's a really critical, I think any time you're looking at anything to do the Palestinians, we have to understand they don't have sovereignty. That's just a kind of fundamental starting point. Yeah. And it, it is confusing. So I'll try to explain it kind of basic way that, so if we go back to the Oslo Accords, so before the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians had no governance over themselves in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. That was completely all forms of governments were essentially provided by Israel. Mostly.
Then with the Oslo Accords, you had the creation of the Palestinian authority and that was based on the premise that we are working toward two states and so Palestinians there, there were elections. So we're actually [00:41:00] like pretty few free and fair elections for awhile where they elected their president, they're own legislature and that was the Palestinian authority and that Palestinian authority today still has certain governance responsibilities in parts of the West Bank. Where it gets confusing is that even if we set aside Gaza for a minute, the Palestinian authority does not govern a contiguous territory in the West Bank. There are enclaves there. They also report to the area's AB and C and basically Palestinian authority has a governance and authority in areas A, usually more urban areas.
There's kind of mixed Israeli and Palestinian authority in areas B and then there's areas C, which are controlled still by Israel and all of this, if you look at the map, it's crazy. It is not contiguous at all. Israel controls any kind of [00:42:00] roadblocks between like areas A, B and C. So if you just imagine you're at Palestinian business person and you want to move goods simply within the West Bank, that's really complicated. If you want to go visit your family, one part of West Bank to other part of the West Bank for Eid, that's really complicated and we're not talking about a big space. Anyway, that's kind of the situation in the West Bank.
There's also east Jerusalem, which Israel considers, that Israel says that it has sovereignty over east Jerusalem. Uh, next Eastern Islam but most, um, countries don't recognize. That East Jerusalem is a mix of, uh, Palestinians who have kind of a weird status and, and Jewish Israelis. Then you have the Gaza strip and for a while the Palestinian authority was in charge. So Isreal used to have settlements there. They pulled all of those out a while ago and basically handed over governance to Palestinian authority, but in 2006 and, in an [00:43:00] election, um, Hamas won that election and that gets super complicated, but basically there was a war between the Palestinian authority and Hamas and Hamas won in Gaza. So Hamas basically governs Gaza. So that's, it's actually more complicated than that because you kind of have a sense of how complex all of us is.
Sarah: [00:43:22] Well, in many nations, including our own categorize Hamas as a terrorist organization. Yes, yes.
Kerry Anderson: [00:43:28] Yeah. And it, it is. Yeah.
Sarah: [00:43:30] And I think that's, that's the other confusing part when we're talking about elections and like Beth said, like distinguishing between Hamas and the Palestinian authority. I think it just gets really, really complicated. And let's just further complicate this and add some layers of understanding around the surrounding region. You know, my sense of this and tell me if I'm wrong, is it feels part of what has happened in the region that has fueled this current conflict, [00:44:00] is the Trump administration's approach to the Abraham Accords and to negotiations in the regions, which felt to me like it was just meant to completely break the backs of the Palestinian people. To exclude them from the negotiations, to bring in more countries and to it just felt like it was backing them into a corner. Am I just, am I reading that all wrong?
Kerry Anderson: [00:44:22] Yeah. So the Trump administration approach was to accept that might is right. Israel won. The Palestinians need to accept that they've lost. They need to surrender their hopes `for kind of their own national identity or even sort of basic civil liberties in exchange accept a little bit of money and that was never a realistic approach and absolutely, I think if you look on it, both the cutting off of aid to the Palestinians, the, the moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Um, several others have said the Trump administration type, the, the effort, what was to essentially kind of break any [00:45:00] will or any hope that the Palestinians kind of had for a future state or something and then they also pursued the Abraham reports.
I think, I think you can look at those two different ways. One is yes, it was trying to further destroy any leverage the Palestinians might have because there's such a massive power disparity here in this conflict and one way that the Palestinians can try to balance out a little bit is through alliances and support from other Arab states, which we'll be honest, have not been great about that. But so by getting deals between like Israel and the UAE and Israel and Bahrain, and Israel and Morocco, and a couple of others, to have normal relations with Israel, without Israel, really having to give up anything seriously um, in terms of Palestinians, that was a big goal of the Trump administration.
Um, now you can also argue [00:46:00] that peace deals are good and it's good for like Israel to have normal relations with other Arab countries. So I think there's a couple of different ways to, to. Look at that, but for sure, part of it was to undermine some of the, the little leverage lots of the Palestinians had.
Beth: [00:46:15] And what's the end game on that? Is it to strengthen Israel as a counter force to Iran in the region? Or what would, what do you perceive as the Trump administration's goal?
Kerry Anderson: [00:46:24] I think the Trump administration had a lot of senior people in it who really fundamentally believe that Israel should be in charge of the West Bank and then the west bank should be settled by Jewish Israeli. So whether you have, you know, members like our, then secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who are coming at that from a sort of evangelical Christian viewpoint, or whether you have simulate Jared Kushner, who is coming at that from a specific Jewish American viewpoint, you know, I think that was a big role, I think.
Yeah Iran played a bit of that. I think the UAE joined into the Abraham [00:47:00] Accords because of Iran, but I think that within the Trump administration, there isn't, there was an ideal logical perspective that we kind of wish the Palestinians would just go away and be quiet and Israel should just control all of this land and it, when I mentioned Kushner, I also want to be clear. Within the American Jewish community there is a diverse range of perspectives on those issues. So just because Jarred Kushner held that particular one doesn't mean that everybody else does.
Beth: [00:47:28] I know in the past when conflict has escalated, Jordan has sometimes been involved and I have been reading that the relationship between Netanyahu and Jordan specifically is pretty strained. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Kerry Anderson: [00:47:41] Yeah. The relationship between Israel and Jordan is always strange. Obviously they have a peace treaty. They've had a peace tree for a long time. So of course, Israel was created in 1948 and the creation of Israel and the [00:48:00] displacement of Palestinians are inextricably linked. These are, these are two things together. So 1948, there were Palestinians who fled what was the original state of Israel and many of them fled into the west bank and Jordan and Jordan at the time, and this is all very complicated, we can get into it more, but effectively what happened was the 1948 war was that Jordan controlled what is today Jordan. It also controlled the west bank and it controlled Eastern Jerusalem.
So the west bank is called the west bank because of the west bank of the Jordan river and was part of Jordan at the time and then with 1967 war, of course, Israel then occupied all of Jerusalem, including Eastern Jerusalem and also then the west bank. Eventually there was a peace treaty and as part of that, Jordan still plays a role and [00:49:00] not really governing the old city of Jerusalem, but it still plays a role in kind of managing the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Hormel Sharif, which is on top of what Israelis would call the Temple Mount. So Jordan still plays a role there. Um, but it's kind of, it's complicated because a lot of a majority of Jordanians are Palestinian. So Palestinians play a major role in Jordanian politics. So it's always been kind of a cold peace.
Sarah: [00:49:31] Referencing that long history I think is important. You made a really important point to us before we started this conversation, which is that it's really important to keep in mind that both of these populations are traumatized. That you know that the formation of Israel is inextricably linked to the Holocaust and the belief that the Jewish population would never be truly safe without the formation of a state. The Palestinian population is [00:50:00] traumatized by the formation of that state and there's still one of the world's biggest refugee populations and not mentioned the loss of life and the trauma of displacement over these decades.
And I just think, you know, it's not that we are comparing those traumas and making them equal. But I just, you know, one of our listeners said, I just, how am I supposed to find nuance with the decision making in Israel? And I said, for me, you know, I cannot, the nuance comes because I cannot and will not separate conversations about the formation of Israel from the Holocaust and I think that the formation of that state and the trauma it placed on the Palestinian people has been for many decades, particularly in American policy just sort of ignored and I know that recognizing both of those is complicated, but I think that we have learned that ignoring them is even worse.
Kerry Anderson: [00:50:47] Yeah, absolutely. I really think this is really essential to understanding the conflict and to having empathy with both sides and it's even oversimplifying it to say both.
Sarah: [00:50:59] The many, [00:51:00] many sides.
Kerry Anderson: [00:51:00] Yes, yes, absolutely. I mean, you know, Israel was formed, so, so Zionism, which is the idea that the Israeli people need their own state, that existed before the Holocaust and reflected the experience of pogroms and Russia and Eastern Europe. And you know, the many other ways in which the Jewish people suffered violence and discrimination, particularly in Europe and then of course we have the Holocaust, which, you know, the Zionists and tell them we're having trouble convincing a lot of Jews that they should move to Palestine but the Holocaust made it really, really obvious to Jewish people that the argument design is remaining, that the Jewish people would never be safe if they didn't have their own land, their own government and their own defense. That became a very easy argument to make after the Holocaust and I think it's essential [00:52:00] to understand there is a massive power disparity between the Israelis and Palestinians, which you can get into more, but a lot of Isrealis don't see it that way.
They see themselves as a small group of people standing against a world that wants to annihilate them and they see, you know, that the best defense is a good offense and so they, they hit hard in Gaza. That that's intentional. That that comes from a sense of, we are these people whose very survival is at risk and so if you hit us, we're going to hit you back way harder to make sure you never hit us again and that's, what's driving a lot of that on the Israeli side.
You know, the, the Palestinians also suffered a lot of trauma. I was in Israel during Israel's national day one time and when they, they celebrate 1948 and the creation of Israel, and it was great fun. I thoroughly enjoy the celebrations, but I also felt kind of guilty about it because for my Palestinian friends, that's the [00:53:00] Nakba. That's the catastrophe. That's the day that their community fell apart. That's the first wave of refugees, that Palestinians and the first experience of displacement and there's massive Palestinian trauma too, both from what the Palestinians have endured in the west bank and Gaza, but also from what Palestinian refugees have enjoyed elsewhere.
I mean, Lebanon in particular. The Palestinian refugees are subjected to incredible violence during the Lebanese civil war. So there's so much trauma on both sides and I do make clear, I'm not trying to equate those traumas. These are not equal traumas. I don't think kind of anything can equal the Holocaust, but just because somebody has trauma is more than something else.
Sarah: [00:53:45] Do we condone every action, right.
Kerry Anderson: [00:53:46] Exactly and I do think, I think Beth was saying the other day, you're talking about when our identities are threatened, we are dangerous. When a traumatized [00:54:00] person's identity is threatened. They are dangerous. Both groups in this conflict are deeply traumatized and their identities. I mean, this is an identity conflict. This isn't a religious conflict. This isn't an ancient conflict. This is a conflict of identity, nationalism and land and religion plays a role, but that's not the main issue here and both fundamentally Palestinian and Israeli as identity directly threaten each other and that is a hard, hard, hard thing here. They're not just physical threats to each other. They threaten, their very existence threatens each other's identities.
Beth: [00:54:42] And that seems to me to be so connected with how personalized the violences that's happening right now. We hear a lot of stories, not just of bombs and rockets, but of really one-on-one two on one kind of [00:55:00] conflict happening and I wonder, Kerry, if you think that is because we're talking about like, actually, do I have a house to live in? Is this my spot? If it is just pandemic related? I mean, I could think of a hundred reasons that that would be, and I wonder what your perspective
Kerry Anderson: [00:55:14] is. Yeah. It's so hard. Well, so here maybe let me kind of make an artificial division between what's happening in the territories in Jerusalem versus what's happening at between Israeli Arabs and Jewish Israelis. So yeah, I mean, there's been a specific attempt to separate Gaza from Israel. So it used to be that a lot of Palestinians from Gaza would go and work in Israel. That hasn't been the case for quite a while, long time now. So a lot of Israelis don't really have to deal with Palestinians in Gaza, except when Hamas launches rockets. Um, the west bank and East Jerusalem in Israel, are there still interaction near the, the wall that Israel has built in the west bank and other policies have clearly [00:56:00] try to separate housings in west bank more from Israel than it used to be the case.
But these are societies that have a natural interaction with each other a lot of the time and it does make that personal hmm, element difficult. Um, in the west bank, you have Israeli settlers and Palestinians frequently interacting in hostile ways. Then within Israeli society, we have Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis. So Arab Israelis are Palestinians, but they are Palestinians who did not leave in 1948 and were given Israeli citizenship. They account for one fifth of the Israeli population. They do have a citizenship. They have mostly had equal legal rights. That's kind of changed recently. They have suffered from systemic discrimination and then in 2018, Israel passed the nation state law, [00:57:00] which quite specifically downgraded Israeli Arabs status, um downgraded. Arabic was no longer the primary official language and just, some other important stuff.
So the Arab Israeli situation, where right now we're seeing is mob violence in certain places between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis and this is really deeply personal one-on-one violence between neighbors in a lot of cases. So in some cases there's been situations where people are coming from outside the town to participate in the violence, but there has been some really, really deep, you know, violence between neighbors and that's extremely concerning to a lot of people. It very much, I think, does reflect the, of decades of systemic discrimination that Arab Israelis have faced as well as you know, it was, we were talking earlier about the shift to the right and Israeli politics and this is another part of it.
Um, [00:58:00] when I was first in the region over 20 years ago, A lot of, there were definitely Israeli sort of said, well, Israel is for Jews and not anybody else, but there were a lot of Israelis would have said, oh yeah, Arab Isrealis, they're totally one of us too and they're equal. And, um, that's kind of shifted. I mean, that really became clear that the 2018 law that really said, you know, Israel is a state for Jewish Israelis and Hebrew is more important than Arabic and, and other things. So I think we're seeing a real outpouring of frustration there. I think the pandemic plays in all of this too and I just think everything's more unstable.
Sarah: [00:58:38] What do you see as the, sort of the objectives for this current round of violence? You know, could this end soon, do you think the US has a role to play here? What is the end game?
Kerry Anderson: [00:58:54] I don't know.
Sarah: [00:58:56] Yeah. I don't think anybody does. I think that's, what's so hard.
Kerry Anderson: [00:58:59] That's, what's [00:59:00] so hard and I think the U S absolutely has a role to play because we need to accept that we do and always have played a role in supporting Israel. Israel is the biggest recipient by far of military and other forms of aid over the years. The Palestinians are very well aware of that. We are not a neutral actor in this and so I think to try to, I think the administration right now is kind of trying to play it as well, but worried about suffering on both sides. We staunchly support Israel and a two state solution and we're just, we're so far beyond that.
That I think that is very 20 years ago thinking, um, I think it ignores the reality that things have moved far beyond that. It ignores the reality that US has never played a neutral role in this conflict and we can talk about why, whether it's good or bad, but that's just a reality. I also think that, yeah, this gets into a whole other discussion of the two-state [01:00:00] solution, which I'll just briefly say it personally I used to really feel like that was the best option. It was a flawed option for sure. But I felt like that is the best way for most Israelis to really get what they want and the best way for Palestinians to really get what they want.
It is a tragedy to me that I think that is no longer a realistic possibility. And I very, very much like to see US policy move beyond this kind of knee jerk oh, this support the two state solution, when like nobody really thinks that's, I mean, I don't think many Israelis and Palestinians think that's going to work anymore and even within the Washington foreign policy community, I mean, that used to be like an absolute article of faith and even that's changing. Nathan Brown at the Carnegie endowment had a really good piece about this recently and I think we're really seeing an acceptance that that's just not a thing that's going to happen anymore. And I think that's incredibly sad, but I think that's a reality.
Sarah: [01:00:59] Do [01:01:00] you mean like there is no path forward for a state for the Palestinian people?
Kerry Anderson: [01:01:04] I think there is no longer a path forward for a Palestinian state and an Israeli state side by side. I just think the, the settlements in the West Bank have expanded too much and, and the settlements had entire infrastructure around them too. There's a road infrastructure and other things there. I don't see how it's ever going to be rolled back and, and the wall that's built, the wall was not built along the 1967 border and it's built in the west bank, um, in many cases and I think it's just the facts on the ground, no longer support, a functioning viable Palestinian entity there. So I just think it's really hard to see how to move beyond that. I don't have any creative solutions.
Sarah: [01:01:48] That's a heartbroken note to end on, but I don't have any other questions. Do you, Beth?
Beth: [01:01:52] I don't. Thank you, Kerry.
[01:02:00] Sarah: [01:02:05] We know that's a difficult spot to end the interview. We want to thank Kerry for bringing all the complexity and empathy and, um, difficultness of this conversation to the issue here on our podcast.
Beth: [01:02:19] Sarah, just processing that interview for a second. I want to share that I have felt just in knots about this situation, and I want to try to say as clearly as possible, what I think about it right now and I'm interested to hear where you are. I think that Israel has such a disproportionate amount of weaponry and power here, and that the way Israel is choosing to use it, knowing about how densely populated Gaza is knowing that even if you can very precisely target your bomb, civilians are going to [01:03:00] die and that is the reporting that almost everyone who's died so far is a civilian.
I think Israel has a great responsibility to find a way to end this and I think that it is disincentivized to do that right now because of prime minister, Netanyahu's political fortunes and I think that is a gross abuse of power and I think that it is wrong for the United States to impede the United Nations calling for a ceasefire and I'm happy to see so many US senators and house members saying.
So, and I also fear pouring anti-Semitic sentiment or sentiment that could grow into antisemitic sentiment on top of the white nationalist fire that is already smoldering in America and I fear [01:04:00] losing the history and the real concerns of Jewish people, not just in Israel, but across the globe in having a clear discussion of the responsibilities in this region right now and so I just, I have probably been more timid in my statements about this than a lot of our audience wants. It is because I am watching Asian Americans be brutalized on subways and the streets of America over COVID-19 having originated in some still unknown way in China and seeing how quickly we can go from a tiny piece of incomplete information to personal hatred and violence. I do not want to be part of creating more of that.
Sarah: [01:04:47] You know, we talk about on Pantsuit Politics all the time that our central sort of orienting value and principle is we do not dehumanize, [01:05:00] even when villainizing seems so easy and so simple, and absolutely the right thing to do when we look around at people who think and talk and act and believe the same things we do and there is sort of an easy path to villainization. Understanding that criticism and negotiation and pressure are not villainizing and I think that because of the complexities Kerry lays out so well, because of the history of both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people and the world population of Jewish people that simplifying the situation is, is not the path forward.
It is enormously complicated and when we simplify even under the [01:06:00] best motives, that that has a ripple effect, right. Even if we are holding the complexities for ourselves, but articulating something that we think is a simple moral position in this issue, it doesn't stay within the boundaries sort of, of our own mind, right? We are influencing other people. Our opinions and our expressions of those opinions ripple out in good ways and in bad and I think centering the complexity of this situation always, and the understanding that it affects human beings, both Palestinian and Israeli on the ground every day is difficult. It's why, you know, the end of our interview with Kerry is so heartbreaking, but anyone who is selling you anything different than this is heartbreaking and complex and almost [01:07:00] impossible is selling, not analyzing and I just think that we have to really, really keep that front of mind always.
Beth: [01:07:10] Fraught part three outside of politics edition.
Okay, Sarah, I want to go back to church and the sermon that pressed all my buttons as I was not experiencing anything approaching silence. I just wanted to talk to you about this because you and I have been in places before where we have talked about, like, there are so many distractions, things get very overwhelming. We need to take breaks. We need to detach from our technology, et cetera. And I feel like it's time for an update of that conversation because, and I, you know, I can't detach this from pandemic life and all the changes to life that have happened over the past year or so.
So whether it's that, whether it's the ages of my kids, whether it's just natural, personal development, the things that were characterized in this sermon and that I often [01:08:00] characterize as distractions myself so again, this is not a critique of the sermon, just thinking through how I took it in. Podcasts, music, videos, magazines, books, et cetera. Those are the ways that I come home to myself right now. Those are the things that draw me back into having some of my own thoughts. The kind of thoughts that are connected to whether for you it's faith, morality, whatever. It is really easy for me to experience God as I think of it in terms of my personal faith in silence.
I think it's why I love my yoga mat so much. That is when I feel that the closest to prayer that I get because it's silent and I do think it's a wonderful, important, rich experience and also it is really hard to come by in my life right now and so where else do I have that kind of meaningful encounter with something bigger than me? It is often by putting my headphones on while I'm cooking dinner, folding laundry, taking [01:09:00] a walk, doing something else that invites me into bigger questions and I kind of want to take back some of, some of my strident about this earlier, because I, I really have shifted in terms of what I would classify as a distraction versus what I would classify as a deeply meaningful part of my human experience.
Sarah: [01:09:22] Listen, I love silence. I often drive in my car with no noise. In fact, I would say that's the majority of time that I spend in my car by myself. There is no other audio on. I spend time in my house. My house is fairy blessedly, quiet during the day when all my people are gone, I would like to go on that silent retreat at the monastery in central Kentucky like I love I'd really, truly love silence. And also I'm just done with, should.
You know, I wear this bracelet, we've talked about it a lot. My word for 2021 is gentle and I think I'm just coming [01:10:00] home to the best expression of gentleness on myself and others is just abandoning should. I can feel myself doing it, looking at my screen time updates or checking something, feeling distracted, and I can feel that voice firing up. You should do this. You should do that. You should do another tech Shabbat. You should. You should. You should. And just telling that voice respectfully to sit the hell down. Like I am a shoulder, I should over myself. I should all over other people, but you know what? 2020 we all had way, way too much should. What, enough should to last us the rest of our lives. At least that's how I feel.
And so I also find that when I can release that a little bit for myself, I find more space to do the things that are care and not should. Like, I find more space to, to rise to the occasion, [01:11:00] to care for myself and for other people when I can let the should go, because there are spaces where care is needed and it takes effort and it takes energy and it takes silence sometimes and so I'm not saying that there aren't places where we sort of have to rise to the occasion and where we have to make sacrifices and where we have to, you know, not to lean on this, this quippy line that I'm kind of getting tired of, but like do, say, have hard conversations, do hard things. The whole thing, like I think that's important and I think there can be too much of a centering of our own needs.
But I'm just the, the should the, there's this, this background of should. That is that I think I'm seeing for the first time, but like for who, like, who am I shoulding for? Why am I shoulding all over myself? And so I think that that for me is really, is [01:12:00] really key, whether it's about silence or distraction or exercise or therapy, journaling, meditating, this the long list of, and I didn't even get into like parenting shoulds, but I'm just trying to release
Beth: [01:12:14] that. I'm trying to teach my children that too, as I, as I learned it myself. Yesterday, my girls really wanted pancakes for breakfast and we've talked before about how I, my doctor's recommendation, I'm eating gluten-free and dairy-free right now. So pancakes are like the epicenter of thing I cannot have. So I make them for everybody and my girls are like, mom, why aren't you eating this? And Jane goes, oh right, you can't and I said, you know, Jane, I'm choosing not to.
I think it's really helpful for me every time, I feel tempted to eat something that is not in this plan to step back and say, I can eat it if I want to. Nothing is going to happen if I eat this pancake, probably be fine, you know, and I'm just committed to this right now to see how it feels in my body and so I'm choosing [01:13:00] it and it helps you remember all the time that we are making choices. And you know, that framework has really helped me kind of get through the days that I haven't exercised or whatever, like I've chosen something else.
In that way, it's very congruent with what the sermon that I was resisting was about because part of the point was, if you spend lots of time in silence, it connects you to something larger than yourself, which puts everything into perspective and fills you up with love and fills you with greater love like you were just saying Sarah for other people. And I do think it is necessary to find that greater love for yourself and that less should, more I desire or I commit, I think once you do that for yourself, it's much easier to do it for other people, much, much easier. Um, so it wasn't, um, again, it wasn't at all that it was a bad sermon. I just also really value my podcast and music time right now.
Sarah: [01:13:56] Well, and I think the power of silence, [01:14:00] be it meditation or in many other ways is that there is discomfort and I think as much as we can practice and grow in our awareness and that not like a response instead of a reaction to discomfort, because the role of cell phones and my life in those like quote unquote distractions is when I want to not experience any discomfort. When I'm just numbing out and I'm like struggling with something and I don't want to spend a moment sitting with it and feeling that discomfort.
And I think that that is the role of like silence and the negative impact of distraction and I think in our relationships with each other, you know, I think we see that too, just the running from any discomfort and as much as we can not lean into it every time cause sometimes there's space where you're like, no, I don't have any, I don't have any left to lean into this discomfort right now. But even recognizing that and saying like, well maybe I'll, I'll save up and I'll tackle it another [01:15:00] day without just refusing to acknowledge its presence. That listen, that's a massive amount of progress in my book.
Beth: [01:15:06] I think that might be the characterization that I was rejecting so strongly though, because I listened to a lot of things, I take in a lot of what could be classified as distraction that challenges me. That does make me uncomfortable. It makes me think hard about things. Um, and so, you know, maybe some of this is just about curation, like what are you choosing to fill that non silence with?
Sarah: [01:15:28] I don't mean like all distraction is comfortable. No, I totally agree with that. I also take in a lot of content that is challenging, but I think there's something inherently challenging about being with your own thoughts. I have a lot of people in my own household who like we have a, a lot of conversations about, I think this is what happens with sleep. Why people like I have my husband and my eldest son listen to podcast to go to sleep and people watch TV to go to sleep and then when you wake up in the middle of the night and you have to put yourself back to sleep, then you're stuck with that like that really [01:16:00] difficult thought pattern.
I have a really bad habit now where I'm flipping on my stomach, which is terrible for my neck and back but man, it helps me calm those thoughts and go back to sleep, something about that and I think that that's what I'm talking about. It's like that the feeling of that, just that one, that running commentary in our heads can be exhausting and uncomfortable and I think we have a damaging narrative where it's like, well, you should be present with those all the time, which I don't think is true but I do think recognizing that like jerk reaction to like get away from them all the time can be positively impactful as well.
Beth: [01:16:36] Well, we appreciate you inviting us into your non silent spaces, um, and are so glad that you are here when we have conversations that are really tough like all of the conversations we've had today have been. We hope that you'll have the best week available to you. We'll be back with you here on Friday.
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