Category Archives: World Situation

Volunteering

It’s Saturday morning. I have had a full week, being the support person for my husband who is going through Proton radiation at Loma Linda. That’s another story, which I’m about ready to share. I could have stayed in bed this morning, getting some rest. I don’t sleep well in Loma Linda and it’s a blessing to be in my own bed.

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But I’m at a phone bank for Hillary Clinton. For me, this election is that important.The phone bank isn’t anything like I pictured. It’s not official looking in any way. We’re all volunteers.

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We’re at someone’s house a couple of miles away from where I live. Women and men, young and old, every color and ethnic group, we’ve brought our charged cell phone or laptop. Some people work through their laptops. Others of us spread out and begin to call. I hear one man speaking in Spanish.

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Today some people are calling Ohio, reminding people to vote, talking about Clinton’s policies. I’m helping to check people in, and also with the calling in our area, asking for volunteers for the coming week. We don’t know each other. What we have in common is a love for our country and a belief that Hillary is the person running for President who is qualified to lead us. It’s truly grassroots.

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I talk to an 86-year-old woman who is upset about the FBI Director’s statement. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” she says. “Now we’re not focusing on the issues anymore.”

It’s not a large group yet as its early. Six people walk in, asking to volunteer. Later in the day, more volunteers are signed up and will call. By the end of the week and Election Day, the house will be packed.

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There’s nothing phony here, no political axes being ground. But it’s all very organized and there’s attention to detail. I think that’s the kind of government we would have under Hillary. She’s willing to work hard and she’s willing to learn. She’s surrounded by people who work to solve the problems we’re facing. 2016-10-29-10-23-51

Facing Terrorism

When I opened my computer today I saw the following headline:

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-10-36-33-am“Oh, boy,” I said aloud. “The Muslim community must be going crazy.”

I hadn’t read the article yet. Didn’t know that Ahmad Khan Rahami had been radicalized. Didn’t know he was 28 and that his family lived in New Jersey. I just saw the name and guessed he was Muslim.

It reminded me of when I first read about Madoff. “That’s not a Jewish name, is it?” I asked my husband.

I was hoping that uber-scoundrel was not Jewish—not of my tribe. I knew that if one of us does something wrong, the rest of us gets painted by the same guilty brush. Even if we are completely innocent.

I was afraid of a backlash and that was before the recent resurgence of anti Semitism that is plaguing our country and our world.

I can only imagine what the law abiding Muslims across America are thinking right now. Gone was their hope that their names wouldn’t be linked with the identity of this terrorist. But the truth is that Ahmad Khan Rahami did this. Not a whole group.

When I opened the article I learned that Ahmad Khan Rahami shot the first officer who approached him in the stomach. He injured another. His intent was to injure and kill as many innocent citizens of New Jersey and New York as he could. He was going after civilians enjoying the last days of summer, just as all of us are in our own hometowns. The bombs were loaded to inflict huge damage to flesh and bone. No wonder he is called a terrorist. His actions are terrifying.

So what do we do? What is our course of action? Do we stay indoors and hide? Do we say that all Muslims are terrifying? Do we give into the terrorists’ acts?
I say no. Let’s stay on a steady course. Let’s not be afraid to live our lives. Let’s not forget the acts of bravery by the police and fire departments. Let’s use reason and rational judgment before we act. Let’s be intelligent about how we analyze what has happened and how we should react. Let’s be guided by wisdom and actual facts.

 

Leaving Yad Va Shem

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Though in the background the shadow people linger,
six million and more of them,
Here we stand, three generations:
the present moving toward the future.

Evil did not triumph.
The Third Reich turned to dust.
Their empire in ashes,
As were their victims.

Goodness prevailed
Though the cost was beyond measure.
Who can comprehend the savage brutality?

Who can deny that it happened?
What is in a hand?
What is in a name?
The fingerprint of humanity.
The identity of a soul.

Quest, Part Two

I haven’t written for awhile–the reason I’ll go into on another day. Let’s just say for now, I passed my written Driver’s License test and I can finally go forward in life.

The other day when I looked up from studying the DMV manual, I was astonished to see a world transformed by nature’s paintbrush. Here I’d been traveling coast-to-coast to see the autumn leaves, and what do you know–the trees in all their glory are right in my backyard.

 

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I have to admit that even in the grip of anxiety about the test, I had seen one crimsoned tree, which took my breath away.

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But I had no idea of the treat I had in store. Where ever I go, there is more beauty to see.IMG_7425

I’m always searching for wisdom and I love when the world presents a metaphor for what is true in life. The truth is that you don’t need to go far from home to find your heart’s desire. With patience and the ability to see what’s right in front of your eyes, you’ll find all that is most meaningful is at your fingertips. We need to slow down enough to see it. We need to be grateful enough for what we have instead of seeking far and wide for what we think we want.

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Nature’s beauty is also a balm to our hearts as we watch the horrible deeds of terrorists worldwide. My heart is filled with sadness and fear, but observing the cycles of the earth, I get some balance. I can believe that evil will not triumph–that the murders of innocent people will not go unanswered.

This Thanksgiving, we will gather our family close–we will rejoice in being together, but we won’t forget those whose lives have been torn apart.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

 

Unconscious Racism: Let’s Move Forward

When Barack Obama was elected President I thought it was a signal that racism was dead. I thought so much had been accomplished but that’s because my rose colored glasses were firmly in place. It’s taken cell phones with cameras to uncover the truth about how Blacks are treated by police in this country. But it’s not only police brutality at play here. After several months, I’m beginning to understand that our societal core is racist.

Let me see if I can start to explain white privilege.  It’s so integral in American society that we don’t even perceive it. It is not overt—I don’t think it is even conscious. Let’s begin with the color of our skin.

 

Natural Nude?

Natural Nude?

Last night I was on a website that sells clothing. I was looking at underwear. Because I’m writing about the years I taught at Meany and about race in our country, I’ve become more cognizant of what is “natural” in America. And here on the website was a fine example: I had only one choice of color for my sports bra: “natural nude”. It is a beige or light tan color. In other words, if your skin is not of that color, you are unnatural? In one sweep of the language, all people of color are excluded from the societal norm when buying this product.

This is only one way people of color are marginalized in our society, and you may say that it’s not that important. But the constant bombardment of such messages takes a toll. I can relate somewhat during the Christmas season. As a Jew, I am not part of the celebration. When the “National Christmas Tree” is lighted, I feel that even though my grandparents all immigrated to the United States over 100 years ago, perhaps I am not a real American.

 

The 88th Annual National Tree Lighting, sponsored by UL, stays safe and bright with over 750 lights and 500 ornaments on this year's tree.  Photo courtesy of Charlie Samuels/UL.

The 88th Annual National Tree Lighting, sponsored by UL, stays safe and bright with over 750 lights and 500 ornaments on this year’s tree.

Jennifer Holladay, in her book, White Anti-Racism Activism, says: “White skin privilege is not something that white people necessarily do, create or enjoy on purpose….White people receive all kinds of perks as a function of their skin privilege.”

She then gives some examples.

“• When I cut my finger and go to my school or office’s first aid kit, the flesh-colored band-aid generally matches my skin tone.

  • When I stay in a hotel, the complimentary shampoo generally works with the texture of my hair.
  • When I run to the store to buy pantyhose at the last minute, the ‘nude’ color generally appears nude on my legs.
  • When I buy hair care products in a grocery store or drug store, my shampoos and conditioners are in the aisle and section labeled ‘hair care’ and not in a separate section for ‘ethnic products.’
  • I can purchase travel size bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores.”

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Many years ago, I’d figured out that the pinkish beige color, FLESH, in the crayon box, was racially exclusive. Same for FLESH-COLORED bandages that were beige. I’d never thought about hair products before, although I’ve noticed the special section for people of color. (I’m always so focused on finding a product that will give me volume that I don’t have time to think of anything else in the hair aisle.)

Flesh-colored?

Flesh-colored?

 

Once you become aware of this inaccurate color description, you begin to see it everywhere. In an article, “White Privlege: Flesh Colored” in The Society Pages, Lisa Wade gives more examples. One of the most ironic and outrageous is the description of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ball gown:

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Flesh-colored? It didn’t match the flesh of the beautiful  first lady!

Barack Obama, Manmohan Singh, Michelle Obama, Gursharan Kaur

As well meaning whites continue to awaken from our long sleep of oblivion, there are attempts to right this basic wrong. Here is an example:

 

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When I taught middle school in the Eighties, I tried to raise the consciousness of my students. One exercise I learned in a Graduate School multi-cultures class was this: You are sitting on a park bench and an American walks past you. Describe the American. The descriptions written offered a fascinating look into the American psyche. Most of the “Americans” were white and male, sort of like all our Presidents until Barack Obama came along.

 

 

Normal skin? Is that what an American has?

Normal skin? Is that what an American has?

 

 

Genocide

Do you feel like the world has gone crazy—that it’s tilting out of control on its axis? The headlines in the news make me think I’m in the Twilight Zone and we have regressed a century or two. What happened to the progress we had made as civilized people? World War II was brutal, but hadn’t the world learned from this? It could never happen again, right? And what about the gains the Civil Rights Movement made? Were they so negligible? Didn’t we learn over the years that we were part of the same species, more alike than different no matter our race, country, religion or sexual orientation?

In the era when the Berlin Wall went down it seemed like global peace and freedom from tyranny for all were right around the corner. I remember that New Year’s Eve in 1989 when we believed all things possible. We never envisioned that could include the genocides in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda in the 1990’s.

As I began writing this blog, I wanted to know when the Rwanda Genocide had occurred. I googled it and was led to the page below. I don’t remember the history books of my youth including any of these acts of genocide. Reading about them made me feel sick, but I read each one. I encourage you to do so, as well. It puts perspective on the genocidal acts in the Middle East right now. ISIS is following in the bloody footprints of their predecessors.

Man’s capacity for inhumanity seems to be inexhaustible.

Below, copied from : http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/genocide/

The term ‘Genocide’ was coined by Polish writer and attorney, Raphael Lemkin, in 1941 by combining the Greek word ‘genos’ (race) with the Latin word ‘cide’ (killing). Genocide as defined by the United Nations in 1948 means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including: (a) killing members of the group (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Recent to Past Occurrences

I am Homo Sapiens

Je suis Juif. I am Jewish. I wrote this on my Facebook page in solidarity with the Jewish people of France. IF  you’d asked me a few months ago if I’d ever make this declaration, I would have said, “No, why should I? I am American, first and foremost. Judaism is my religion, not my identity.” All true, as well, but sometimes you have to stand up and be counted.

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We used to say, “Never forget,” about the Holocaust. But then we began to say, “It’s a new millennium. We are ‘Free To Be You and Me’. It could never happen again. ” We thought for a moment we didn’t need to be vigilant. But we were wrong. It’s a global world and there is an enemy out there who not only wants to annihilate the Jews, but the Western way of life for everyone.

“When it was Hitler and the Nazis,” my daughter said this morning, “at least you could identify the enemy. Now, who can find the head of the snake?” A New York Times article today verifies her statement:

PARIS — Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen formally claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the deadly assault a week ago at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people, saying that the target was chosen by the Qaeda leadership and referring to the attackers as “two heroes of Islam.”

If the claim of direct responsibility holds up, it would make the attacks in France the most deadly strike planned and financed by Al Qaeda on Western soil since the transit bombings in London in 2005 that killed 52 people. And it would serve as a reminder of the continued danger from the group at a time when much of the attention of Europe and the United States has shifted to the Islamic State, the militant organization that controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq and has become notorious for beheading hostages.

It is a clever enemy we are facing. Did we realize in April, 2013 that the Boston Marathon attack was part of a larger battle? Or were we saying it was an isolated act? If we ever had that thought, we can give it up now. In November when worshippers were knifed or shot in a Jerusalem synagogue, did we register that these were our brothers, and that this was part of a coordinated attack on all people who love freedom? Or were we a little too busy getting ready for Thanksgiving?

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Being Jewish, I’ve been the target of prejudice all my life. One day in second grade, classmates surrounded me on the playground, singing an anti-Jewish chant. I was sick with fear as they tightened the circle, pointing their fingers at me and shouting, “Jew”.

Many of my friends from every religion and race also knew first hand about stereotypes and prejudice. We learned to take people for who they were, not for the race or religion they were born into. That’s why so many of us were activists in the Civil Rights Movement. All our lives we’ve been determined to be decent human beings who wish goodwill to all.

But I’m afraid our reactions have become knee jerk rather than thoughtful. We have been naïve. There are people in the world who have no interest in letting freedom ring—just the opposite. As much as I don’t want to, I need to take off my rose colored glasses to be able to read the fine print in what is presented as fact. Often, it is propaganda. It’s time to see the real world and be a part of it.

 

 

The Jewish New Year: 5775

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Rosh Hashana is one of the most important Jewish holidays. It translates from the Hebrew into Head of the Year. Several people have asked me what the holiday is like. For our family, we will have a big dinner at our house tonight and tomorrow we will go to the synagogue. At our dinner, we have a mini-service and eat the traditional foods from the recipes handed down through the generations. Apples and honey play a prominent part, symbolizing the sweet things of life. The shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown, signalling the ancients’ way of announcing the beginning of the holiday. At my house (once a teacher always a teacher) we will fill out a worksheet that asks, what can I do for my family, my community, and the world to make it a better place?

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Every year I write a little something. I will share with you this year’s.

 Rosh Hashanah   5775

Tonight, we celebrate the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5775.

We celebrate

our love for family and all humanity,

our desire to help our fellow man,

our hope to be the best people we can be,

our prayers for peace in the world.

We celebrate by reflecting on our past year. We remember the good things we have done, and the bad things we have done. We make a pledge to be better people—to do more good things—to put our words into action. Life is not a game of perfect. Just like golf, we will make some mistakes. But we never give up.

We have ten days to think about who we are and who we want to be. We search our inner selves We slow down for a day to take stock. This is something our great-grandmothers and grandfathers did, as well. We carry on the heritage and connect with the generations before us.. In these Ten Days of Awe, we center ourselves by remembering we are not the sum of our accomplishments or the amount of our possessions. No, we are human beings who are moral at our core. We remember also to be grateful for what we have, especially our families and good health.

On Yom Kippur we ask for guidance and forgiveness of ourselves and of those who have wronged us. Every year we pray that all people can learn to do this so that hatred and prejudice will disappear. We pray that war will be no more—that people will not be power hungry and greedy. This year, we have seen the opposite. In Syria and in Gaza we saw that children were used as human shields. We saw many people cut down in war. We saw anti-semitism rear its ugly head. We saw ISIS emerge with its desire to control the world and destroy all people who do not believe exactly as they do. We saw prejudice and hatred against Blacks, Jews, Muslims and other minorities right here in our country. All this is troubling and frightening.

This year:

Our prayers for peace are even more important.

Our courage to stand up and be counted is even more important.

Our connection to each other is even more important.

Our commitment to learning the facts and not falling for stereotypes is even more important.

Life is a series of contrasts—the bitter and the sweet. Tonight, at the beginning of the year, we won’t worry about the bitter.

Tonight, it is all sweetness: HONEY and APPLES.

Another Sadness Report

There is just too much sadness in this world.

Globally, I can’t believe what is happening. The song refrain “In My Own Lifetime” keeps going through my head. In my own lifetime, I never thought I would see such destruction and such heartless acts of savagery. Beheadings? I never thought I would see such prejudice and hatred.(the beating and intimidation of Jews walking to synagogue in Europe). I naively thought that we had progressed as human beings, but I see that I was wrong.

On a personal basis, I am losing too many friends. I just received this email:

I have felt sad this weekend about the loss of our very special friend, Diane.

It made me think about the people who lived in the house with Diane and our happy times at UW, living and laughing together, studying together, creating and performing homecoming skits together, attending parties together, and generally being carefree with great adventures awaiting in our futures. Also about the amazing contributions to our families and communities that we all have made over the last 40 plus years. It is my understanding that Diane also was a dynamic leader in her Chicago community and has many devoted friends and family members, as do all of you.

So I just wanted to send a big hug to each of you in memory of Diane. Continue reading

In Praise of Crying

There’s a lot of sadness in this world, my dad would say. I think I could write a book with that title—each chapter talking about a time when his words would resonate in my life. He started saying it when we were young and complaining about something trivial, but he continued saying it into his nineties. He said it so often that I hear it in my head all the time. My kids, grown up now, say it too.

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There IS a lot of sadness in this world. Sometimes my world becomes so sad that the weight of it fills the room—like when my brother-in-law got throat cancer and died. And we didn’t know whether to tell my mother-in-law—whether to disturb her dementia with truths. Whether to pull her out of the nursing home to take her to his funeral. You’d want to go to your son’s funeral, right? Or maybe wrong. That was a sad time, but you didn’t have time to dwell on it. You had to make decisions—you had to argue with siblings about what to do. That pushed the sadness away.

I don’t know why I am so sad this morning. Is it the world situation, which terrifies and saddens me? Is it that wonderful friends have been diagnosed with cancer and brain tumors? Is it because I’m now just beginning to process that we moved away from a place where I had twenty-five happy years? Is it that I have been looking through photos of my life with my granddaughter as she prepares to scan them into the computer? She is already twelve—no longer the three-year-old who loved to play Goldilocks on our front steps. Don’t get me wrong. She is a lovely girl, inside and out. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way, but how did it happen so quickly?

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And how have the years flown away since my own little family looked like this?

 

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Or is it just plain melancholy I’m feeling? In our society, we’re not allowed much space for sadness. In the nineteenth century, there were spots in gardens set aside for people to sit and examine their melancholy. It wasn’t seen as an illness. Now we say these people are depressed and we should find a cure for it; medicate in some form. I usually medicate by overdoing. I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think let alone cry. But this morning was different.

I took a walk along the lake, listening to an audio book. This kept the mind busy, giving me no time to think. Then I happened on some dead bushes. I idly wondered if they were victims of the drought. My attention was caught by the original tag on one of them, waving in the breeze. Someone had placed it on the plant when it was healthy and blooming. Now the withered plant was dead. The hopelessness of it hit me and I began to cry.

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I pulled myself together and kept walking. I didn’t start crying again until I was in the kitchen cleaning out the pantry cabinet, throwing out food that had passed its sell by date. One side of my mind told me to cut it out, eat my breakfast and get on with it. The other side told me to let go of my sadness—to let some of it, at least, seep out of me. It was when I was cutting up celery that I began to keen like some banshee. I put down the knife and leaned against the sink. I was alone in the house and could make as much noise as I wanted. It was only the dog I scared. He looked at me with alarm, then ran to get a toy to drop at my feet. I sat on the floor and hugged him. Normally I would have told him I was okay to reassure him, but not this time.

So why am I telling you this? I’m not sure why I’m revealing so much. I know that when I got up and started cleaning up the kitchen, I stood outside of myself, wondering what someone would think if they saw me: is that old lady batshit crazy? I wondered how many other women did as I was now doing—cried when no one else could hear. Maybe fifteen minutes later, I realized my tears weren’t feeding my depression—my sadness—. Instead they were easing it. I was doing something I should have been doing all along—crying out my grief, not trapping it inside to fester. The phrase, “It’s All Right to Cry”, that Rosie Greer sang on Sesame Street began to play in my head so I looked up the words. Here are some of them:

It’s all right to cry
Crying gets the sad out of you
It’s all right to cry
It might make you feel better

Raindrops from your eyes
Washing all the mad out of you
Raindrops from your eyes
It’s gonna make you feel better

With Robin Williams’ death, there has been much talk about depression. Maybe that’s why I’m sharing my experience. Because you know what? I feel a lot better. My chest doesn’t hurt and I can take a deep breath. Yeah, it’s all right to cry.