31 January 2014

Being bi blows

Bisexuality is not a point on a spectrum that has heterosexuality on one end and homosexuality at the other.  It’s more like the flip-side of a coin with monosexuality, which includes both of those other sexual orientations that in truth have more in common with each other than either alone do with bisexuality, on its reverse.  Yes, heterosexuals who only have sexual attraction toward the individuals of the opposite sex and homosexuals who only have sexual attraction toward individuals of the same sex share many characteristics, but less so in both cases with bisexuals.

The idea of bisexuals flitting back and forth between partners of both sexes is, in virtually all cases, a myth.  The overwhelming majority of bisexuals, male and female, are predominantly either mostly androphiliac (attracted to men) or mostly gynephiliac (attracted to women).  Bisexuals such as Freddie Mercury who alternate with ease across the gender lines, true biphiliacs, are a rare exception.  In Freddie’s case, he had more opportunity.

Although sexual attraction may be slightly influenced by culture, society, and advertising, sexual attraction itself occurs due to biochemical physiology that is beyond the control of the individual caught in its throws.  This is true whether you’re straight, gay, or bi.  For bisexuals either predominantly gynephiliac or androphiliac, an intense attraction toward someone of the other gender often comes by surprise and sometimes at the most inconvenient of times.

I’ve known I’m bisexual at least since I was fifteen years old.  My attraction to females is so strong, however, that it makes that easy to forget frequently. believe it or not.  Of course, that’s aided by the fact that bisexuality is misunderstood and often ridiculed not only among straights but among gays (male and female) as well. 

Many straights thinks of us as crypto-gays and many gays think of us as cowards passing as wannabe-straights the way many light-skinned blacks once often passed as white to avoid legal or extralegal discrimination, and as some still do.  If it were a choice, I would choose to be monosexual of either variety, straight or gay.  But it’s not.

As I said, I first became aware of my occasional sexual attraction toward males when I was fifteen, and I was really confused because, like most adolescents (and adults), I was caught up in the dichotomy of straight versus gay and had not ceased being intensely attracted to girls and women (still haven’t, in case you’re wondering), so I was just confused and decided to put off dealing with it till later.  As if normal teenage angst weren’t enough to worry about.

Fortunately at the time, I was just getting involved in the youth activities of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Tennessee.  We had a very active chapter at our parish and I got very involved at the diocesan level also.  The atmosphere was very open and egalitarian and non-judgmental.  Boys and girls were equal, no one was bullied, outsiders were accepted as they came, and if they chose to remain the same, still accepted.  Outside of official activities, we smoked, drank, toked, and had sex like any other teenage group.

Then came university, where I joined a fraternity.  The culture of the Greek system was radically different, more traditional, with rigidly defined roles.  The second-class status to which women were relegated within the system overall disturbed me.  I felt like there was something wrong with me because I actually liked women.  Saw them as something other than to fuck or help out with bake sales.  To be fair, not all frat guys are like that, but, at least at the time, that view dominated.  And nearly all the Greek women, sorority girls and fraternity little sisters, accepted their role as second-class members of Greek society.

NOTE:  I’m talking about “Greek” as in the collegiate fraternities and sororities in the United States that identify themselves with Greek letters.  Like DTX in “Animal House”, only with better grades (usually) and not as much fun (usually).  No relation to the country of Greece.

To add to my sense of psychological dislocation, those drives I’d first experienced in adolescence burst forth shouting to be heard.  They weren’t in response to any one person in particular, and may have risen because of the repressive nature of the Greek subculture.  The fact that I also became even more attracted towards women made it even worse.

Things reached a crisis point spring semester that year, after the expectation of being an associate member had ended and initiation finished.  I underwent severe emotional turmoil and would have killed myself were it not for my best friend in the fraternity.  Even though I was still attracted to women, those other feelings made me afraid I was gay.  I almost killed myself because if I were gay I couldn’t go out with women anymore.

Yes, I know how stupid that sounds.  When I told that to my friend at the time, he laughed his ass off, and after being offended for a moment, I started laughing too.

I made it through university in four years, though I ceased being active in the fraternity after my sophomore years.  Six months after graduating, I enlisted in the Navy the very day the USS Challenger blew up shortly after take-off.

It wasn’t until I got to my duty-station in the Philippines and began having lots of casual sex with lots of women with whom I had little emotional connection that those urges appeared again.  I never followed through on them, but the more random fucking I did, the stronger they got.  It reminded of a couple of times during university when I’d been the only (outwardly) straight person in a group and felt an equally intense urge to be with a woman.

I should add here that had it not been for AIDS, I probably would have been just as promiscuous when I was at UTC.  But I had a sense of foreboding as soon as I read the article about the cluster of Karposi’s sarcoma cases that appeared in June 1981 and followed the explosion of the epidemic closely.  I figured out long before the CDC admitted it that sex was a primary vector of infection and that it didn’t matter one fucking bit about your orientation.  Had AIDS arrived a couple of years earlier, before the Great Herpes Crisis that killed swinging at the end of the 1970’s, AIDS might have come to be known as the Straight Disease rather than stigmatizing further the already stigmatized.

During the NIS investigation of me on suspicion of espionage, one of the issues was whether or not I was homosexual or had any sexual experiences with other males.  Lengthy sessions with the base psychologist and a battery of psychological tests showed I wasn’t, and the polygraph didn’t even blink when the question came up.  Both the extremely thorough investigation and the polygraph cleared me of espionage, incidentally, otherwise I’d be communicating from Leavenworth instead of my apartment in Chattanooga.

By that time, I was dating the woman who would become my second fiancée, whom I later married.  I never got those other urges with either her or my previous fiancée.  Nor, I should add, during my relationship with my girlfriend in Paris.

My ex-wife and divorced six years later, and after lots more random fucking, sometimes even with married women, I quit having sex.  About a year later, in my late 30’s, I finally tried sex with men, a few times anyway.  Maybe it was because the sex was casual, but emotionally I felt nothing.  That doesn’t mean I got no physical pleasure from it; I did.  But I knew that continuing to have sex with other guys knowing that I could never have the kind of emotional connection that I could achieve with a woman was not good for me and unfair to them.

So, I’m bisexual.  But I’m also monogamous.  I will not get involved sexually with anyone with whom I do not have a solid connection emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually as well as physically.  If that were to happen with a man, it would be by accident over a long period of time, but then that would probably be the same case with a woman (isn’t falling in love always an accident?).  This is the case, I believe, with most bisexuals, at least after they have adjusted to what they have either discovered or can no longer deny about themselves.

In truth, labels such as “heterosexual”, “homosexual”, “bisexual”, “androphiliac”, “gynephiliac”, etc., should be stricken from our language.  Labels are not about accuracy, they’re about definition, and definition in this case is about limitations and control, or rather hate, just as much as it is in the case of defining God, where the first step in trying to dominate God is belief.

If someone is anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-bi, anti-trans, even anti-straight, what you are really is anti-human,  As a human, I object to that.  No matter how human your anti-human feeling is.  If someone has found another human to share their life with, ideally for a lifetime but in the absence of the ideal at least for a long time, who the hell is anyone outside of that relationship to do anything but be happy for and envy them?  Certainly not I.

24 January 2014

Let's eliminate the Middle East

Yes, perhaps if the phrase Middle East were in quotes above it would leave the title less open to misinterpretation, but that wouldn’t be any fun, would it?  Naturally, I am not talking about wiping the Middle East from the planet, just from the map and our vocabulary.  It is imprecise, culturally and geographically biased, susceptible to misunderstanding, and therefore useless in terms of accuracy.  Though the term has been called Eurocentric, it is more precisely Anglo-centric, originating at the height of the British imperial century (1815-1914).  I also suggest that the related acronym “MENA” (Middle East-North Africa) also be dropped.

The broadest definition of the term “Middle East” came at the 2004 conference of the G8 nations, based on the definition of USA’s Bush administration.  This included the entire Muslim world, because to the Bush administration Middle East = Muslim = terrorist (or oil in the case of “friendly” regimes).  Often called the “Greater Middle East”, this list includes the “traditional” Middle East nations in Anatolia, the Levant, the Arabian peninsula, and Mesopotamia, as well as those in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and North Africa.

Anatolia, also called Asia Minor, is the peninsula containing most of the (soon-to-be Islamic) Republic of Turkey, its Asian portion.  The Levant includes Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, the Sinai peninsula of Egypt, and Hatay province of Turkey, the capital of which is Antakya, the ancient Syrian city of Antioch.  The Arabian peninsula nations are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates), Qatar, and Bahrain.  Mesopotamia is made up of Iraq, Kuwait, and Iraqi Kurdistan.

The city of Antioch, the great rival of the Egyptian city of Alexandria for power and influence in the Eastern Mediterranean world in late ancient times (and with it one of the two great centers of Hellenistic Judaism), was founded by Seleucus I, one of the Macedonian Diadochi succeeding Alexander the Great.  It served as the capital of the dynasty that he founded to rule over the Seleucid Empire. 

Historically always considered part of Syria, Antioch has been part of Turkey since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire.  No one in Antakya is at all eager to rejoin Syria at this time, however.  It is the most culturally diverse region of Turkey and celebrates that diversity.

The nations of the Greater Middle East as defined by the G8 (Group of Eight) and the USG (United States government) include the core Middle East nations of Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, UAE, Yemen; the North African nations of Algeria, Djibouti, Libya, Mauretania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR; Western Sahara), and Tunisia; the South Asian nations of Afghanistan, Azad Kashmir (Pakistani Kashmir), and Pakistan; the Caucasian nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia; and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

These G8 nations, by the way, are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States of America.  So here we have the absurdity of having an envoy from Russia, whose easternmost border comes to a mere 82 kilometers (51 miles) from the western border of the U.S.A. state of Alaska, referring to events in Morocco as happening in the “Middle East”.  Or that of an American cultural attaché in Athens discussing the same thing, something possible since the USG (United States government) still uses the same definition.

The term “Middle East” first began to be used by the British imperial government in the middle during the 1850’s, the decade that witnessed both the Crimean War, which involved all the major imperial powers of Europe and West Asia, and the assumption of rule of the Empire of India by the British government from the British East India Company.  As defined at that time by the British government, India included modern India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, and, at least hypothetically, Afghanistan.

As a term useful to locating an area, “Middle” East has no meaning without having other regions on either side, which was the case with the imperialist colonial vocabulary of the British imperial government, where it was part of a referential scheme that included the terms Near East and Far East, all three referring to separate regions.  The system of terminology references the nations of Asia in relation both to each other, the UK’s Empire of India, and the Ottoman Empire. 

The term “Near East”, often mistakenly equated with “Middle East”, refers to Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Levant; in the case of the last, most of what is now Jordan was then part of Arabia rather than the Ottoman Empire. 

The “Middle East” was everything between the eastern outskirts of the Near East and the western border of the Empire of India. 

The “Far East” was everything west of the UK’s Empire of India.

Some writers have accused the term “Middle East” of being Amero-centric, but in the context of this three-term scheme that doesn’t make any sense because the UK’s “Far East” is America’s Far, Far West.  For example, Oliver Perry did not get to Japan by sailing around the Horn of Africa and through the Molucca Straits.  In another example, the Philippine Island were the most western of American’s colonial possessions throughout most of the first half of the 20th century.

Inhabitants refer to the area included in the Greater Middle East by other names: the Maghreb, which includes the North African nations along the Mediterranean Sea (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya), Bilad al-Sham (the Levant), and the Mashriq (eastern Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and the nations of the Arabian peninsula).  Egypt is not included in either the Maghreb or the Mashriq, nor is Iran included in the latter.  Egypt, along with the Sudan, are assigned to the Nile Valley, considered a region in and of itself.

The term “MENA” which I decried above is an acronym for Middle East-North Africa which at least acknowledges the difference between the two separate regions.

Another often misunderstood and misused term related to all of these is “the Orient”.  When I first heard the name of Agatha Christie’s famous novel, I though the Orient Express was in China, because at the time I heard it (mid-1970’s), “Orient” meant East Asia.  In truth, the line ran from Paris to Constantinople (now Istanbul) from 1883 to 2009.  A plan by the governments of the German and Ottoman Empires to extend the line from what was then Constantinople to Baghdad, then part of the latter empire, and its nearby oilfields played a major part in sparking the First World War.

The term Orient derives from the Latin for “East”, and in the Roman Empire referred to most of the area of the “traditional” Middle East.  Its major usage came about after the division of the empire into four prefectures in the 330’s CE, one of which, taking in Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Libya, was called the Prefecture of the Orient.  Orient did not mean something distant, exotic, and foreign, just the eastern end of a far-flung empire in relation to its western half, the Occident.

In its geoscheme of the world, the UN assigns the nations of the “traditional” Middle East to the subregion of Western Asia, except for *Iran, which it inexplicably attaches to the subregion of South Asia (the nations of British India) despite its millennia old cultural and historical ties and megannni old geographical ties to the former subregion.  Of course, the UN also assigns the subregion North Asia (Siberia), to the region of Europe, despite its extension  to within 82 km of North America and being part of the region or continent of Asia.

An alternate name for Western Asia is Southwest Asia, perhaps because of another subregion called Southeast Asia with which it is parallel.  However, since the subregion in question is almost entirely west of the meridian through the Ural Mountains and therefore directly south of European Russia, Western Asia is the more accurate.

So, this is what I propose: accept the name Western Asia.  This would lend itself to an acronym referring more accurately to the same area as the rather inaccurate term “Greater Middle East”, similar to that in current vogue (i.e., MENA) as WANA.  I think from the context in which it is used, folks will be able to discern that the writer or speaker is not discussing the Washington Association of Nurse Anesthetists.  Or if using the alternate designation, that the speaker or writer is not discussing the Solid Waste Association of North America.

* Iran should definitely be included in Western Asia for the reasons listed above.

The Real Birth of America

America was not born on 4 July 1776, at which time the Declaration of Independence of the “United Colonies” was only signed, not yet ratified by the individual states. 

Nor was it born on 1 March 1781, the day the Articles of Confederation, under which the still-sovereign states had been governing themselves in the Continental Congress since 1777, became fully ratified.

Instead, America gave birth to itself over a period lasting from 4 March 1789 to 15 December 1791, the dates when the Constitution and the subsequent Bill of Rights became effective, in a process in which the individual states gave up the sovereignty of their individual selves to the People of the whole in the name of the common good. 

America has been reborn again and again and again thanks to Article 5 of the Constitution, which allows for amendments and is bad news for reactionaries and historical revisionists masquerading as so-called “strict constructionists” since the existence of that provision destroys the very ground upon which they stand. 

The sovereignty of individual states ended 4 March 1789.  The argument for “states’ rights”, advanced by the slave-holding Confederacy and more recently by Chief Justice John Roberts and the right wing of SCOTUS in NFIB v. Sibellius (2012) as well as every power interested in preserving its ability to abuse the rights of every one of the People of the United States within its reach is not an attempt to uphold the Constitution but to overthrow it.

That is the first lesson.  The second is like it; do not judge the countries of North Africa and Western Asia which saw regimes change or begin to change during the Arab Spring by the standards of 21st century America but by the process that began in 1770.

Here endeth the lesson.

17 January 2014

America is NOT the greatest country

This is one of my blog posts of material that is not mine.  It comes from Wikiquotes, originally from the opening scene of the pilot episode of the HBO series The Newsroom entitled "We Just Decided Top", written by Aaron Sorkin, the show's creator, and spoken by the lead character Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels.  McAvoy is a burned out cable news anchor ratings whore appearing at Northwestern University sandwiched in between a talking head from the left sitting on his right and a talking head from the right sitting on his left.  After a ridiculous exchange between the left on his right and the right on his left, a student asks the panel "What makes America the greatest country?", to which both talking heads give meaningless answers.  When the emcee pins Will down for an answer, this is what results:

‘Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there's some things you should know, and one of them is, there's absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world.

‘We're 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force, and number 4 in exports.

‘We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined. 25 of whom are allies.

‘Now, none of this is the fault of a 20-year old college student. But you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the worst. generation. Ever. So when you ask, “what makes us the greatest country in the world?” I dunno know what the fuck you're talking about. Yosemite?

‘We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors. We put our money where our mouths were. And we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn't belittle it, it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in our last election. And we didn't... we didn't scare so easy. We were able to be all these things, and to do all these things, because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

‘First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.’

The following video from Youtube shows the whole scene: 

15 January 2014

Will $COTU$ one day dissolve the Union?

In the past decade, the Supreme Court of the United States ($COTU$) has handed down some truly mind-boggling decisions.  Three stand out.

In their 2005 decision in the case of Kelo v. City of New London, the court’s majority ruled that eminent domain can be used to seize the homes and property of private individuals on behalf of for-profit private corporations. 

And y’all are worried about your guns, which, by the way, are a far greater danger to the health and safety of Americans than all the terrorists of the world.  Combined.  Worry about your homes instead; I spent  14 months homeless and I don’t recommend it.

What was most jaw-dropping about the Kelo case was that it was the liberal wing of the court which delivered the majority decision and the people of the United States into the mercy of Corporate America, the fourth branch of government.

Much better known thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement is the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, decided in 2010.  The plaintiff, Citizens United, is a pseudo-grassroots movement organized and financed by and for the benefit of the Brothers Koch.  The Koch brothers, Charles and David, together the third richest family in America next to the Gates and the Walton families, coopted what began originally as a true grassroots movement and steered it in the exact opposite direction it real founders wanted.

The majority in this case ruled that corporations are people with the same rights as actual human beings.  They also ruled that money equals speech and that therefore Congress has no right to limit its use in elections because it would be a violation of the First Amendment.

I have not seen any comment to this effect in anything I’ve read, but the most pernicious decision of the last ten years has been that in 2012 in the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.  The NIFB, a Nashville-based outfit, was suing to block and possibly overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The majority decision affirmed the right of the federal government to require individual citizens to purchase health insurance, doubtlessly a boon to that branch of Corporate America.  However, it rejected the effort of the law to induce states to broaden their Medicaid coverage and allowed states to choose whether or not to follow that provision.

In other words, according to the justices who took part in the majority, it’s okay to lay down burdens on individual citizens as long as those burdens benefit corporations but not to lay burdens on states that will benefit a sizable group of citizens. 

I bet you’re thinking right now that this sounds like another reprehensible example of right-wing heartlessness.  Wrong.  It’s the liberal wing again, joined by Chief Justice Roberts.  Yes, it was the liberal justices who voted that states don’t have to provide better healthcare to poor people.

Of course, among the States most eager to jump both feet-first on the band wagon for denying expanded health to the poor were Tennessee and Georgia, both entirely dominated by the Republican Party’s right wing, also known as the Tea Party, or, since its cooption by the Brother Koch and wedding to the Christian Right, as the American Taliban.

The most dangerous part of the NFIB decision, an aspect of it of which no one, as far as I know, has written is that by allowing states to pick and choose whether or not to obey a certain section of a federal law, these five justices have, in effect, overturned the results of the Civil War and the Reconstruction which followed.

Why is this, you ask?  The Civil War decided once and for all that individual states of the Union are not sovereign entities.  If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, the cry of “state’s rights” is certainly his or her first. 

Most recently, “states’ rights” was the slogan of the white supremacist resistance to the civil rights movement.  Before that, it was the slogan for Jim Crow.  Before that, for the defeated former Confederate states.  Before that, for the anti-abolition movement that led to the organization of the Confederacy.

The truth of the matter is that “states’ rights” as sovereign entities died in 1789 with the ratification of the Constitution.  Whereas the Declaration of Independence was signed by the “United Colonies” and the Articles of Confederation were signed by the “State in Congress assembled”, the U.S. Constitution was signed in the name not of the states, but by the People of the United States.

After looking at the decision this way and realizing that $COTU$ had, in effect, overruled the victory of the Union over the Confederacy, several other questions came to mind.

When is $COTU$ going to rule that states don't have to abide by the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

When is $COTU$ going to rule that states don't have to abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

When is $COTU$ going to overturn Brown v. Board of Education?

When is $COTU$ going to reaffirm Plessy v. Ferguson?

When is $COTU$ going to rule that states don't have to abide by the 15th Amendment?

When is $COTU$ going to rule that states don't have to abide by the 14th Amendment?

When is $COTU$ going to rule that states don't have to abide by the 13th Amendment?

When is $COTU$ going to reaffirm the decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford?

When is $COTU$ going to rule that states don't have to abide by the Bill of Rights?

When is $COTU$ going to declare that the Union is dissolved?

13 January 2014

Houses of Yahweh

Unknown to most Christians and many Jews is the fact that in the first century CE there were not one but three temples to the shared deity of the Judean and Samarian peoples who followed the Jewish and Samaritan religions.  Each of these temples was officially known as a Beth YHWH, or House of Yahweh. 

The true pronunciation of the national deity’s name was corrupted by the Masoretes in their rewriting of the Tanakh which replaced the vowels rendering the name as Yahuweh to those from the substitute word Adonai (meaning “Lord”), which is how we ended up with the unrecognizable (from the standpoint of the original) mangling we know as Jehovah.  This in effect castrated their god; the ending “-weh” is masculine while the ending “-wah” is feminine. 

Of course, maybe the Masoretes, who were scholars of a Jewish sect disdained by the orthodox rabbis as heretical, were simply acknowledging the transfer of the divine penis from the overall godhead to the aspect known as the Holy Spirit or Ruach ha-Kodesh in which Christians had sex-changed the feminine Ruach of the Jews to its own masculine Spirit.  Divine penises do not just pop into existence from nowhere, after all.

The principle of never saying the name of the deity is a superstition deriving from a twisted misinterpretation of the Third of the Ten Statements (often misnamed as “commandments”), which exhorts devotees of Yahweh to not take his name in vain.  The truth of the matter is that claiming “God is on our side” or speaking in his name violates the injunction of the Third Saying rather than merely speaking the name Yahuweh, or its modern version Yahweh.  Perhaps the most pretentiously hypocritical affectation is to not even write the complete word God but using the form “G-d”.

Historical background

As a people, Israel formed in the late 13th century BCE as a nomadic tribe among the city-states of northern Canaan.   Ancient Hebrew and ancient Canaanite are identical.  Israel did not wipe out the Canaanites; the Israelites are Canaanites.

Israel did not go down into Egypt as a people because at the time when a group of Canaanites started to migrate in that direction, Israel did not exist.  When these Canaanites left Egypt, it was not as escapees from bondage buts as fallen rulers fleeing the wrath of the formerly ruled.  This was in 1530, and the new Pharaoh chased these Canaanites, known as the Hyksos, back into Canaan, where he conquered them and all their territory, in the process destroying the stronghold of Jericho.

In other words, Joshua didn’t fight the Battle of Jericho; Ahmose I of Egypt did that.

Anyway, from this time on, Egypt controlled all of Palestine and southern Syria, for some periods dominating northern Syria, parts of Anatolia, and northwestern Mesopotamia as well, up to 1150, when it lost its administrative center at Beth Shean (Scythopolis). As late as 1130, by which time the Sea Peoples had established Philistia, the city of Megiddo was still part of its empire. After that year, the Philistines dominated all of Palestine, which is how it got the name. The Exodus did not happen. It is a fiction, a foundation myth, like the Irish legends of the Egyptian princess Scota and her husband Goidel Glas being ancestors of the Irish.

Moses, who according to the Torah led the “children of Israel out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”, is a fiction too.  The name isn’t Hebrew; the name as most Americans know it comes from the Greek.  Moses is the form in that language of the Aramaic name Mazas, which is the form in that language of the Persian name Mazda.  Mazda, also known as Ahura Mazda, was the One True God in the religion of Zartosht, or Zarathustra, known to Greeks as Zoroaster, the first lasting monotheism of the world.

Native Canaanite peoples began returning south in the mid-13th century, but remained on the eastern periphery of Philistine territory.  Moab arose around the year 1250 BCE.  Edom was founded about 1180 BCE.  Ammon, in between them, was established in 1000 BCE.

The Philistines were granted or took the area of the five cities (Gath, Ashelon, Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza) in 1175 BCE.  By 1130, they dominated all of the southern Levant, what is now called Palestina, by which name the area has been called since at least the 6th century BCE.  As a consequence, the south became virtually deserted by its native peoples except for isolated hamlets and small bands.  The population shifted north to what is now southern Syria.

In the early decades of the 9th century BCE, as the power of the Philistines began to decline, Omri, king of the heretofore landless Israel, had managed to secure thru alliance, marriage, and conquest, dominion over nearly all of what is now known as Galilee and Samaria (the territory rather than the city).  He founded the new city of Samaria as his capital and rebuilt the cities of Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer.  His realm, greatly increased by his son Ahab, became known as Beth Omri and Samerina, but never by the name of his tribe.

In the mid-ninth century, Hazael, Aramean king of Damascus, became the dominant ruler in the Levant, conquering territory of Beth Omri down to and including the city of Dan, and influencing the rest of the kingdom.  A short time later, a division in Beth Omri/Samerina resulted in a junior petty kingdom ruled by Beth David. 

In 830, Hazael of Damascus conquered and destroyed the Philistine city of Gath, the major inland Philistine center.  This cleared the way for the reoccupation of the mostly deserted area by the descendants of its former inhabitants.  But the area remained unimportant until the capital of Samaria was conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BCE.

The kingdom of Samerina fell along with its capital, and much of its population joined their cousins in Teman, the south, which soon came to be called Yehud.  In the mid-seventh century BCE, warriors from Yehud settled as military colonists in a buffer zone between the newly liberated Egypt and its former rulers in Nubia.  Their central colony was at the island of Elephantine, but there were satellite settlements across Egypt.

When Babylon conquered Assyria, they assumed control of the region, and around 595 conquered Yehud, but leaving it as a client kingdom.  It revolted in 587, and its capital and major cities were destroyed, and it was made a sub-province of the province of Samerina.  This arrangement remained with the fall of Babylon and rise of Iran.

Upon the conquest of Samerina and Yehud by Alexander the Great, Yehud gained temporarily on Samerina when the latter revolted and was occupied by Macedonian soldiers.  By the end of the Wars of the Diadochi, the entire Southern Levant lies in the hands of Ptolemy.  In his capital of Alexandria, two-fifths of the city were allotted to Jews and Samaritans.

In 219, Samerina passed to the Seleucids, and Yehud in 198.  The population of Samerina was almost entirely pro-Seleucid and pro-Hellenistic, but while Yehud had a faction of the latter, another pro-Ptolemy, anti-Hellenist faction formed.  This division in Yehud, combined with the chaos in the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires, led to the Judean Civil War and the rise of the Hasmoneans, who became equally as Hellenistic as their Oniad predecessors and more tyrannical than their Herodian successors.

Speaking of the Oniads, the heir to the last Oniad high priest fled to Egypt from the internecine strife among his own kindred and founded a temple at Leontopolis, in the district that became known as the Land of Onias.

The Hasmoneans became clients of the Romans and were eventually deposed by the Herodians to the great relief of the population.  Upon the death of Herod and the deposition of his son Archelaus, Samaria was joined to Judea as a subordinate district of the sub-province, somewhat of a reversal of the arrangement under the Babylonians and Iranians.

Houses of Yahweh

Seven temples of the Jews and Samaritans have been identified from archaeological remains or verifiable historical records as having been called a “House of Yahweh”.

The earliest House of Yahweh was at Samaria, first built by Omri and greatly expanded and embellished by his son Ahab.  Yahweh was worshipped there alongside Asherah.

Yahweh, probably the same as Yam/Yaw/Yahu, son of the Canaanite patriarchal god El, was the “national” god of the tribe of Israel, the same way that Qaws was the “national” god of Edom, Chemosh was the “national” god of Moab, Milcom was the “national” god of Ammon, Melqart was the “national” god of Tyre, and Dagon was the “national” god of Philistia.

Ahab was the great builder of the Omrid dynasty, not only expanding the city rebuilding programs begun by his father but erecting new temples to Baal Hadad and other gods.

Next in chronological order is the House of Yahweh at Tel Arad, which was a military citadel built soon after the destruction of the Philistine city of Gath in 830 BCE.  It was built next to the ruins of what was once an extensive city in the Early Bronze Age.  In this House of Yahweh, there were (and in its remains still are) pillars to both Yahweh and Asherah.

The citadel at Tel Arad is one of two major known centers of the southern kingdom, known for at least a couple of centuries as Teman, Hebrew for “the south”.  Jerusalem, which had thrived along with Shechem in the Middle Bronze Age and like it been reduced to a small town in the Late Bronze Age, had not existed for centuries at this time and there is no evidence it existed again until after the return of the exiles in the 5th century BCE.

Paintings on the wall of a shrine at Kuntillet Ajrud in northeast Sinai with accompanying inscriptions show Yahweh, El, Baal, and Asherah.  One specifically mentions “Yahweh of Samerina and Asherah” and “Yahweh of Teman and Asherah”.

An inscription dating to the mid-8th century BCE from an archaeological dig at Khirbet el-Qom, which lies between Hebron and Lachish, mentions Yahweh and Asherah together, but without the place-names found at the inscriptions of the previous site.

Just a couple of kilometers from what would be the later walls of Jerusalem, another settlement, in this case a city or town rather than a military citadel, was built at what is called Tel Motza around 736 BCE.  Here is the third identified House of Yahweh, and like its two predecessors, Yahweh was worshipped alongside Asherah.

The archaeological evidence above demonstrates that for the Hebrews or Israelites of both Beth Omri (House of Omri) or Samerina and Beth David or Teman, henotheistic polytheism was the norm rather than an aberration.  Such would remain the case for another few centuries.

The kingdom of Samerina joined a regional revolt against the Assyrian empire in the later 8th century BCE and was captured in the year 722 BCE, upon which its capital and everything in it was destroyed.  It population was deported to the Assyrian heartland.  Refugees flooded southward, greatly expanding the population of the southern kingdom, which Assyria allowed to remain as a buffer between its outer territories and the Nubian-ruled kingdom of Egypt.

Egypt overthrew and its expelled its Nubian rulers in the mid-7th century BCE, and imported warriors from its neighbor to the northeast to help defend it from the threat.  Although there were settlements of these mercenaries and their families at the capital of Memphis, Pathros, Noph, and the northeast border towns of Migdol and Tahpanhes-Daphnae, the major colony and center of cultural and religious life of these Hebrew settlers was on the island of Elephantine (Yeb in Kemitic) on the border between Egypt and Nubia.

Here at Elephantine, around 650 BCE, arose the fourth House of Yahweh.  In contrast to the cult in Palestine, Yahweh’s consort here was Anath-Yahweh, another of the three major goddesses of the Canaanite pantheon.  The probable reason for this is that when the Hyksos of Canaanite origin had been in Egypt, Anath had been their major goddess and she had been inducted into the native Egyptian pantheon. 

From inscriptions and an abundance of surviving papyri, we know that Bethel, Haram, Eshem, and Nabu, Anath-Bethel were also worshipped at this House of Yahweh, in addition to Khnum, a god native to the Egyptians whose temple was immediately adjacent.  There were also Arameans, as the contemporary papyri refer to these colonists, among the military colony of Syrene (Aswan) across from Yeb.

The Assyrian Empire fell to the Median and Babylonian empires in 609, and in 597 the latter’s king, Nebuchadnezzar II, conquered the Southern Levant.  The kingdom of Yehud, by which name it was now referred, became a tributary client.  When Yehud rose in rebellion in 586, Nebuchanezzar reconquered it, destroyed the “city of Yehud”, and deported its people to Babylon.  We have no way of knowing to which settlement the phrase “city of Yehud” refers, but archaeological evidence demonstrates that both Tel Motza and Tel Arad were destroyed at this time along with the “House of Yahweh” in each.

After this, Nebuchadnezzar added Yehud as a sub-province to the already-existing province of Samerina.  Worship at this time was probably conducted at local shrines, and the only known remaining House of Yahweh was at Elephantine.

Babylonia fell to the Achaemenid Empire of Iran in 539 BCE.  As part of the conquest, it ruler, Cyrus the Great, assumed control of the fallen empires western territories, maintaining its organization and adopting its language, Aramaic.  Much admired these days for what is called his Declaration of Human Rights, Cyrus allowed the descendants of peoples conquered by Assyria to return to their homelands and allowed them to pursue their own worship.

In 525 BCE, he conquered Egypt and so became overlord of the Hebrews there as well.

Under the influence of their monotheistic overlords, the Hebrews, both Jews and Samaritans, moved from henotheism to monolatry and eventually to monotheism.  When the first new House of Yahweh, the fifth known, was built atop Mount Gerizim next to the city of Shechem, it featured only the one deity, Yahweh.  Shechem, built on the ruins of the Bronze Age city of the same name, was the capital of the province of Samerina.

To the south, in the sub-province of Yehud, exiles had returned also, but rather than return to their earlier settlements did like their cousins and erected a new city on the ruins of another Bronze Age city, this one at Jerusalem.  Here they constructed the sixth House of Yahweh about the year 425 BCE.  It paled in comparison to the temple on Mt. Gerizim, but like it featured only the one deity.

Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquered the Levant and Egypt in 333, and by 331 founded what became the most important city in the Mediterranean in ancient times, Alexandria.  To the Jews and Samaritans he allotted two of its five divisions, and the settlement there became the major center of Hellenistic Judaism.  Its synagogue was the largest of the ancient world, but there was no temple.  Alexandria became the seat of the Ptolemaic empire.

To the north, another city founded by Seleucis I, Antioch, became another center for Hellenistic Judaism and Samaritanism, but with much less influence than its southern rival.

The man who would have been high priest Onias IV fled Hasmonean-ruled Yehud for sanctuary in Egypt, which granted him territory in the district of Leontopolis that became known as the Land of Onias.  There he built the seventh House of Yahweh in 154 BCE, but its importance was overshadowed by the nearness of both Alexandria and Jerusalem.

After conquering and forcibly converting the Idumeans who had been previously forced southwest into the Negev by the Nabateans in 110, John Hyrcanus turned north to conquer Samaria and destroy the city of Shechem and its temple.  Only two Houses of Yahweh now remained.

Five years later, Aristobolus I conquered the southern half of the kingdom of the Arab Itureans, whose realm extended from Mount Lebanon and Damascus south to include Galilee, adding Galilee (Galil ha-Goyim, “District of the Gentiles”) to the Hasmonean kingdom and making the rest tributary after having forcibly converted its population.

Among his other qualities, Herod the Great, an Idumean descendant of forced converts who overthrew the unlamented (by anyone) dynasty in 37 BCE, was a prolific builder, and in 10 BCE he rebuilt the House of Yahweh on top of Mt. Gerizim as well as a new city on the ruins of Samaria called Sebaste.  He also expanded the temple of the Jews in Jerusalem.

Upon the deposition of Archelaus in 6 CE, his territories of Judea, Idumea, and Samarea were joined together into one Roman sub-province of Syria as Judea.

The Judeans rose up in revolt against Roman rule in 66 CE, with some of their Samarean cousins joining them the next year. 

The Samarean revolt was crushed later in the same year that it began by a legion under the legatus Sextus Vettulenus Cerealis, who then destroyed the temple on Mt. Gerizim and the adjacent city of Sebaste.

Jerusalem fell to the legions in 70 CE.  The Romans destroyed the city entirely, tearing down its walls and dismantling the temple mound down to ground level.  The war dragged on for another three years, however, until the fall of Masada.  That same year, 73 CE, Vespasian ordered the temple at Leontopolis destroyed so that it would not become a center of dissent.

When the Samareans did not join the Bar Kokhba War of 130-135 CE, Hadrian rewarded them by rebuilding their temple, their House of Yahweh, on Mt. Gerizim.

After the Samareans rose in revolt against Flavius Zeno Augustus in 484 CE, he destroyed their temple once again, after which it was never rebuilt.

List of known Houses of Yahweh
(Their location and dates of existence)

Samaria – 878 BCE-722 BCE

Tel Arad – late 9th century BCE-587 BCE

Tel Motza – 736 BCE-587 BCE

Shechem – 450 BCE-110 BCE

Jerusalem – 425 BCE-70 CE

Leontopolis – 154 BCE-73 CE

Shechem – 10 BCE-67 CE

Shechem – 135 CE-484 CE

Footnote:  Evidence from Hosea 2:16 (8th century) suggest that at that time the Hebrews prefaced the name of their national god, Yahweh, with the title "Baal", meaning "Lord" or "Master".

12 January 2014

Yes We Can...

While I believe than any other contender in the past two American presidential elections would have brought dark times upon America and the world unseen since John the Divine had his hallucination about the Apocalypse, Barak Obama is not what I would call a great President.

Yes We Can…

            …keep Gitmo open for the entire eight years of the administration
            …legalize indefinite detention for America citizens
            …increase SIGINT surveillance of all American citizens and those of the entire world
            …increase the body count of those assassinated by drones to five times that of the previous administration
            …dither over Syria until the situation is beyond hope
            … reward the finance bourgeoisie for their rape of the world’s economy
            …increase Russia’s influence in Southwest Asia by abdicating our role
            …not say anything for nearly a week about the worst man-made environmental disaster in the planet’s history
            …do absolutely nothing about immigration reform
            …deport more people than any other American president
            …repeal more gun control laws than any other administration, thereby putting more firearms in the hands of people willing to use them on other humans
            …target American citizens for assassination
            …prosecute more whistleblowers than any previous administration
            …obstruct investigation and prosecution of war crimes by members of the previous administration and their subordinates
            …ignore war crimes and human rights violations by American military and civilian personnel during our watch that should be prosecuted
            …continue kidnapping people and holding them away from human rights monitors in violation of the Constitution, the UN Declaration on Human Rights, and several treaties
            …continue to sanction torture as US policy
            …loan at zero interest $7.7 TRILLION to the same American and foreign financial institutions which brought on the Great Recession while withholding funds from struggling American families going bankrupt, defaulting on loans, and having their mortgages foreclosed.
            …end net neutrality and destroy the Internet as we know it.
            …et cetera.