Finding God around the Corners of Walt Whitman’s Poetry

Perhaps the quintessentially American poet, Walt Whitman “mentions God frequently, but he is not a conventional believer,” writes Sarah Rindner. She goes on to subject the religious spirit she finds in Whitman’s best-known work, Leaves of Grass, to a Jewish reading:

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

These verses are from the section of Leaves of Grass titled “Song of Myself.” Rindner observes:

There’s a stereotype of religious life that it is obsessed with life after death, and perhaps also the creation stories that precede both. Whitman is not interested in the beginning or end, and he is right [not to be]. For Whitman, and, I think, for us all, the correct place to focus is the present: on our obligations, our blessings, and our opportunities to grow in the here and now. As the Psalmist reminds us, and is true every day, “This is the day that the Lord made; we shall exult and rejoice in it.”

And then there is Whitman’s description of grass itself as “the handkerchief of the Lord/ A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,/ Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?”—to Rindner, “a potent encapsulation of how a religious seeker might find meaning in nature.” Reading this poem, she confesses, “I see God’s name somewhere in the corners as well.”

Read more at Tradition

More about: American Religion, Judaism, Poetry, Psalms

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy