Columns - 2003

    Pros and cons

    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    Thanks to the environmentalists, on Sunday, April 6 we once again began our annual national effort to conserve daylight resources by setting our clocks ahead one hour. You might not know the complete history of this so, in honor of daylight savings time, I'll save you another hour by further enlightening you.

    Several areas of the country (which I'll refer to as "them (tm)") do not participate in daylight savings time (which I'll refer to as "daylight savings time"). Why? Nobody knows, including them (tm). Oh, they have explanations ranging from "it messes up the crops" and "the knob on my watch broke off" to "I don't care about the environment." But the most compelling reason was "I tried that daylight savings thing for two years, and I was late for church each year."

    This is proof positive that our great land, and the country that sits on it, does not discriminate against small religions. In fact, we're catered to. How else can you explain losing an hour on Sunday morning, which makes uncounted people accidentally late for church, instead of on Saturday morning when a few dozen of us would still get to services in time for the haftarah and sermon.

    (Next year, when a former inferior court judge starts advocating legislation to move the time switch to Saturday morning, please don't blame me. He didn't get the idea here, unless someone is reading this to him. If you are reading it to him, please skip these first few paragraphs.)

    By the way, if you have a problem with daylight savings time, think how I feel. I now manage two groups at two locations in India. The time difference is thirteen and a half hours. And a half. Where does that come from? With daylight savings time it becomes twelve and a half hours. Still the half. Why? Nobody knows. People think they do, but they don't.

    But before I waste all the daylight that your tax dollars have saved you, let's look at the key issue of the day. War.

    It takes only two. Someone wins, someone loses. But what does the winner really win? And what does the loser really lose? The only answer I can see is in whose deck of cards they play with.

    Personally, I learned in high school to always play with someone else's deck. War is a violent game. Save your cards for poker. Unfortunately this learning didn't help my grades, in more ways than three.

    But today's real main topic has nothing to do with war: protestors.

    Last weekend I was walking down the street to exercise my duties as a citizen of this land's great country; specifically, to get a couple slices of pizza and pick up some CDs and DVDs up to 70 percent off at a store that's closing as part of our wartime economy. This walk took me between two large malls and past a fair number of protestors (as opposed to a number of fair protestors).

    When I arrived around 11 a.m., in the morning (unless you set your clocks ahead two weeks early), I walked past about thirty people on two corners waving flags, beseeching honks in support of America, the war in Iraq, and for Fleetwood Mac's upcoming summer tour. They got lots of honks, several in the rhythm of "Rhiannon".

    At about 1 p.m., no longer in the morning, as I returned home, there were easily two hundred protestors. It looked at first that all four corners were now filled with patriotic war supporters eliciting honks and garbled utterances through the traffic. As I walked further, I noticed that some were actually anti-war protestors. They similarly waved flags and elicited honks.

    Here's what I couldn't figure out. How do they know for whom the honks toll? I think the most fair process would be to count the number of pro-war and anti-war protestors, add up the honks, and apply a straight percentage. It's tangible, scientific, and no chads are involved (unless any protestors are named Chad).

    I would have suggested this to the protestors but I feared that whichever side heard it second would refuse because they'd think it came from the other side. I wouldn't want to start a war. Also, I didn't want them to make me stand there all day counting honks and protestors. I had to clean the attic. What's more, my watch is from Switzerland, and it had an unavoidable influence on my psyche to make me neutral.

    More interesting to me, and therefore to you, than the question of who was winning support in the streets, was the question of what they really are. I thought the first group was protestors in favor of the war. But then the anti-war people are protestors.

    Based on the old adage, originated in Baba Gump, about progress being the opposite of congress, I wonder how anti-war people can be pro-testors. The pro-war people would be protestors, albeit not necessarily Protestant. Does that make the anti-war people contestors? That's not a real word. Are they contestants? If they're contestants, doesn't that mean all people on game shows are inherently negative? Of course, this is true of most (increasingly misnamed) "reality" shows...

    I believe in freedom of speech, but I think that before anyone can block traffic to express their cause, they must be able to answer this seeming paradox.

    Does this mean that a professional never has to go to confessional? (Apparently not.) If making a concession to gain agreement makes you lose something, wouldn't a procession mean you're gaining something in the agreement? Doesn't someone selling concessions at a ballgame make a procession through the stands? If you're a concessionaire, does that mean you're against the Torah being carried through the congregation before it's read? And if you are a concessionaire against Torah processions, is it just because you're not allowed to sell in the sanctuary?

    But I realize that some words have a meaning different than might be indicated by their etymology (gradschoolese for "a word's source in a really old dead language like Latin, Olde Englishe, or Barry Manilow lyrics"). After all, there's a big difference between favoring wearing tefillin (pro-phylacteries, if you will) and promoting safe sex (profilac... never mind).

    For those of you unaware, tefillin is those two little black boxes you'd see people wearing at weekday morning services attached to black leather straps which hold them in place "upon thine hand, and as a forefront between thine eyes". Well, you'd probably never see them, but anyone who went to services would.

    Similar to the black boxes in airplanes and space shuttles, the black boxes in tefillin track dozens of different aspects of quality in an individual's prayers, in case the need arises to investigate why a bad thing happened to a good person.

    Beyond that, the head tefillin also serves as a symbolic reminder of how David smacked Goliath right between the eyes. It reminds us that if we're too philistine, it could happen to us.

    Finally, the arm tefillin is worn on a black leather strap wrapped around the left hand and arm, holding the box on any discernible biceps near the heart. It's a little known fact, but this box is in fact a miniature defibrillator that automatically activates when needed, considering the fact that 99.3% of the non-clergy who regularly attend weekday morning services and know how to wear tefillin are near or in the Age of Medicare.

    Of course, the presence of a defibrillator (an electrical object) in tefillin is the traditional rabinnic reason why tefillin is not worn on shabbat, most major holidays, or first dates.

    So, whether you're a Protestant, contestant, or Swiss, hopefully this month you found no reasons to write to the editor about this column. After all, I didn't even come close to making any naughty black leather jokes.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley. His play Retrograde, published in the 8 Tens @ 8 Festival anthology, last fall had its professional New York premiere on 42nd Street. For more information, past columns, other writing, and other current events, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.