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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2013/ 17 Kislev, 5774

The comparisons you should never make

By Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker


JewishWorldReview.com | Meet Simile and Sui Generis.

Simile, to refresh memories, is a favorite rhetorical device of writers that compares two essentially unlike things that nonetheless have similar characteristics: The quarterback was like a locomotive.

Sui generis, the Latin phrase meaning unique or one of a kind, is a helpful restraint upon the former. Some things, even if they share certain characteristics, shouldn’t be compared. Sui generis is the braking system on a rhetorical locomotive, or at least it should be. That was a metaphor, by the way, and not a very good one.

We in the news business could stand to apply the brakes to our runaway impulse to “similize.” I personally love a good simile, which can inject levity into a column. But lately we’ve seen instances of simile-itis that might have saved readers and viewers some angst, even if writers and pundits were left with less to say. (Let’s go light on the air horns, please.)

In the past several days, we’ve heard news people and others compare Obamacare to Hurricane Katrina and Iraq. Sarah Palin compared our national debt to slavery. Countless times in recent years we’ve seen “Nazi” applied to people with whose policies or politics we disagree, none so frequently as George W. Bush, though President Obama, too, has had a few turns.

All of the above are clearly sui generis and should be retired from any future similes unless they are referring to truly like things, not just a single person’s impression of the world while musing on current events. Katrina is like Sandy because they were both natural disasters, though significantly more people died in Katrina than in Sandy. Iraq is sui generis and nothing like Vietnam, to which it was sometimes compared.

Nazis and the Holocaust shouldn’t be compared to anything else. The systematic, state-sponsored extermination of 6 million Jews, as well as others, is sufficiently horrific to stand alone. Pro-lifers who sometimes characterize abortion as a Holocaust are probably not helping the cause of revelation.

Finally, slavery merits its own place in America’s memory. To compare it to anything else, especially something as mundane as debt, is wrong on its face. Indentured servitude to China might have been a better choice for Palin, who qualified her remark with, “This isn’t racist, but. . . .

Note: Whenever you start a sentence with “This isn’t racist, but . . . ,” you probably shouldn’t finish it.

In Palin’s defense, she obviously meant no offense, and the attacks in response have been so vicious that the attacks themselves are beyond comparison. One in particular was so awful that I won’t repeat it. Just as Palin didn’t deserve such an onslaught, people reading this column in good faith don’t deserve to have such wretched thoughts imposed on their psyches.



These recent examples of similes gone awry raise two questions: What is the impulse that drives our need to make such comparisons? And why do we react so viscerally when we do?

The impulse is usually to elucidate, i.e., this is as bad as that. But it is also partly lazy. Do we really have so little imagination that all we can do is summon Katrina every time an administration fails to meet our expectations? Or Hitler to denote our impression of bad? Surely it is a rhetorical crime to turn someone so evil into a cliche.

From a purely political perspective, the impulse may be driven by the desire to remind people of the past transgressions of political foes. Thus, when commentators say Obamacare is like Katrina, the mind flits from Barack Obama to George W. Bush and only the differences, rather than the single similarity of administrative incompetence, register: People died in Katrina and President Obama only wants to help people. Through subliminal jujitsu, the real comparison lands in the community psyche.

Conversely, as Salon political writer Brian Beutler suggested during a recent conversation, even Republicans may see benefits to this comparison in that it neutralizes the ongoing, negative liability of Katrina for the GOP. But then the cycle continues into absurdity. If Obamacare collapses and Republicans present Americans with Ryancare, we likely can expect Democrats to characterize every glitch as the GOP’s Katrina II.

To the most important point, comparing a horrific tragedy or atrocity to any other thing else trivializes and diminishes it. By trying to capture, quantify and categorize others’ suffering, we trespass on the sacred.

Some things are like nothing else — and should be left to rest in peace.

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