I don’t think it’s a secret (at least not if you’ve kept up with my writing) that I am ethnically Jewish. In fact, though I don’t observe the faith of my ancestors, I am quite proud of my heritage as an Ashkenazi Jew. Continue reading “Solidarity…”
Here’s my latest, thanks to some recent ugly discourse on FB regarding immigration & the military. From the same source, some months ago, I got asked how I felt about Nazi re-enactors who came to local events. Now I’m chewing on why reenactments are needed at all.
There are multiple prompts for this post, but the core points come from the three articles below and the ensuing discussion of access to citizenship through service as an immigrant, which recently changed, thanks to isolationist bullshit coming from the white nationalists (read: Nazis) currently in charge of our country’s administration.
There’s also the editorial cartoon, dated January 17, 2018, from Jeff Danziger, through the Washington Post Writers Group, that depicts a couple of soldiers sitting and talking while on watch against attack in an unspecified desert location.
The first soldier says, “Remember that guy Morales who used to be in our unit? The guy who came to the U.S. at ten years old, did well in school, went to college, then enlisted, made Sergeant, served in a combat zone, honorably discharged, got married, had two kids…”
The second soldier says, “What about him?”
And the first one replies, “They’re deporting him.”
I’m not going to reproduce the dialogue from the FB post, because that would be wrong, but it got me thinking and then it got me angry.
I posted a link to the following HuffPo article because it popped up in the way only FB links to articles can, at least until FB screws up their feed and stops this from happening.
See, I’m from more than one of those “shithole” countries: Russia (Belarus and The Ukraine, if you must know), Poland, Austria, even England, if the English were Jewish. And I grew up in Rochester, in an Italian neighborhood, full of first gen kids. Me and my friends? We’re all children of immigrants. Some of us haven’t forgotten that. And just in case you thought it was only Latinx who were in danger here, there’s this guy, too. Being of European extraction isn’t enough to protect you, if you only have a Green Card.
In fact, some of the bloody awful stuff to come in advance of the Civil War revolved around immigrants who weren’t slaves. In the grand scheme, what white folks did to slaves is far beyond, but this is part and parcel of today’s immigrant trouble. Folks lose sight of it because the Civil War was about slavery and we want to maintain that focus for obvious reasons, but racism wasn’t isolated to slavery by any stretch. Here’s a sample of what I mean.
But you know what finally set me off? This article, HISTORYNET: The Civil War Reenactor’s Brave New World, in turns laments the “good old days” and sees current events as problematic. The money quote is below:
“Reenactors passionately affirm that they exist to honor history, not to serve as a conduit for hatred. But the history of the Civil War is entwined with hatred, both racial and political, and reenactors are confronted with emerging evidence that, in the public’s eyes at least, it is not always easy to take a scalpel and cleanly separate one from the other.”
And that led to the storm. Here’s the result, all in one post.
Seems to me, taking the losing side in any reenactment is an exercise in selective filtering. How do you play a Nazi without believing they were right? I mean, this is more than just a war game where you pick up a tiny plastic figure and put it on a table-based battlefield to explore strategy.
We’re talking about the full kit: Uniform, weapons, language. Same thing with Confederate soldiers. Same with virtually any war-culture where the winners write the books and the losers have to hope that someone will tell their side, eventually.
So that leads me to wonder…
If you can justify playing the bad guy, how does your brain allow it? How do you keep “this is what they did” from being “this is what I would do if I was given the opportunity?”
As it happens, I think (but could be wrong) that I am often the only available “Jew” in this social circle, and that makes me de facto authority on the subject of “what’s offensive” to my people when subjects like these come up. Here’s the funny thing: I make for a poor sounding board. I’m a practicing UU, ethnically but not religiously Jewish. I relate because of my heritage, but I wasn’t raised in the faith.
So when I’m asked how I feel about Nazis who re-enact, I come at it from a different angle than most of my more religious tribe members. It’s personal because I lost family on both sides of the Front in Germany. Austrians who never made it out. They died in the camps.
I also lost a Russian-American cousin who fought in the military. Jack Orshansky was a member of the Army Air Force and he was killed in action in 1945, in Germany. His mother was my Great Aunt. He was a first generation anchor baby for the family, who immigrated around 1900.
Funny, that. Chain migration brought the Orshansky family from Russia to the US, where Jack was born, and then at the tender age of 26 died to help free the Germans from the Nazis.
His brother, Nat, was born in Russia. His cousin, my Grandmother, was born here, in Brooklyn.
In fact, all of my grandparents were born here. All of them were anchor babies. My father, second generation, served in the Army just after the end of the Korean War. Immigrants. Worthless? Because we come from Europe, but not the part the Nazis in this country value.
When I hear how awful these DACA people are today, how they’re all “illegals” and should go home, I have a problem with that. A big one.
I want to know when your family arrived in this country. Forget about “legal” immigration. Laws change and what was once legal now isn’t.
When you call me out for asking when your family arrived, and you suggest that I’m not serious about this, maybe think about WHY I’m asking the question, because almost certainly I’m not joking. I’m deadly serious. I don’t care who you are or how long we’ve known each other.
If you haven’t thought about when your family came here, if you lack empathy and can’t put yourself in the place of these families, many of whom left home for a better life and often just to survive because certain death awaited them otherwise? That’s your privilege talking.
If you can’t see how your privilege makes it possible for you to call these people “illegals” or you side with your friends rather than calling THEM out over their privilege? If you think I’m kidding, I don’t think you know me well enough. I don’t joke about this stuff.
I never ever thought it was funny. I don’t think it’s funny now. I’m not amused. I’m angry. I may not practice my faith but I own every inch of this Ashkenazi Jewish skin and I will call you out. If you don’t like it, feel free to unfriend me. Unfollow me. Whatever you need.
And don’t EVER ask me again what I think of Nazi re-enactors. Or Confederates. Or anyone else who purports to show “the other side, because someone has to.”
If you feel comfortable playing Nazi, I don’t want to be near you. Not ever. If your friends are okay with it? Same.
It is my contention that it is disingenuous at best to point a finger at someone who got here because his parents brought him here without permission, who has served as a member of our defense department, who pays taxes and contributes as a member of society and say that the person is “illegal” when those laws are arbitrary and often designed to shut out people based on race, religion, or any other society-assigned trait. It’s not how or why this country was founded and is antithetical to the purpose of the United States as a whole.
Dave, from Colorado, sums it up best in this sound clip from Washington Journal, courtesy of C-SPAN.org:
I have a lot more to say on the subject, none of it polite.
You’ve gotten this far, so it’s likely that you can find all the ways in which I predicted the outcome of this year’s Presidential election. There isn’t anyone as clear on the subject as Jim Wright, so I will let him tell you what I think of the situation, at least in part. Stonekettle Station: Bug Hunt
There. Got that all out of your system?
I am making a last-ditch attempt at concentrating on classwork before my final projects are due and I wrap up my second BA in Graphic Communication (this Sunday, and thanks for asking). After I finish, I’ll have all the time in the world to blog again, but in the meantime I’m putting these two links on my own blog because I just spent an hour I didn’t have trying to find them again, and it was annoying as hell.
Next time I want to refer to these two articles, I’ll have a way to find them.
Months ago, my Unitarian Universalist minister asked a bunch of us to provide meaningful songs on which she could base sermons throughout the year. Mine, as it happens, was the subject of today’s service.
I chose (off the top of my head) the Battle Hymn of the Republic. A few weeks ago, she followed up with a request that I provide some words to explain why the song had such meaning for me. I thought about her question for days, coming close to the answer and then getting distracted. I went online and searched for a copy of the book I remembered, to no avail.
This morning, after a bad dream in which someone told me my father had died (he’s been gone since 2010), I woke up around 6 and proceeded to diddle around some more, trying to figure out how to approach the subject.
See, when I was a kid, I didn’t understand the meaning of pacifism. I knew the tune and it made me happy that I could read the song’s lyrics and put the music to the words, because I fail at reading music on a regular basis. Music for the musically illiterate, that’s what the Battle Hymn was to me as a kid.
Now, though, it’s got a different meaning.
Here’s the full text of the song. Somehow, the third verse had disappeared from the reproduced version for the service which I discovered when I got there. I added an introductory paragraph to the verse, just before the service started, because I had included it in my words and removing the reference took away from my point.
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Here, then, is what I wrote and delivered to my congregation (more or less):
If I could have stolen one book out of the library where I first attended Elementary school, it would have been a small, brown hardcover book of music and lyrics, tucked away on the shelves in the dark recesses toward the back of the room.
I don’t think anyone else ever checked the book out, but I did, repeatedly, because of this one song.
Honestly, I wish I had my hands on the book. I’d show you the illustration of grapes, the multiple verses.
The tune was easy to plunk out on my mother’s piano, even if I couldn’t read the music.
For a kid who was raised without religion, the flowery, grand language of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” spoke to me in a way no other song did. But I don’t remember why.
I remember all the other things…The smell of the library and that book, at least a couple of decades older than I was at the time (and that’s a solid 40 years ago, now), the location of the shelves, searching for the book, finding it and opening to the song again and again.
Nowadays, I think more about Julia Ward Howe’s words and what they did to galvanize a nation in righteous pursuit of freedom at the price of almost 213 thousand lives. It makes me sad to think such bloodshed was necessary. How easily the words of a supposed peacemaker who entreated his followers back then to beat their swords into plowshares could be used to encourage his more modern followers
to do precisely the opposite in that pursuit.
[Not in the song we just sang, but in the original, these words appear:]
“I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on.”
We do so many things in the name of righteousness, for the sake of freedom or economy, and we sacrifice so many lives to protect these things, I have to wonder: Is there a better way?
I wish I had answers. I have none. Only the memories of a small brown book with lyrics that nobody checked out of the library except me.
As I post this, the sky has gone a fiery shade of pink, which I find oddly fitting.
This is important and you need to see it. If you really want to know what drives me to write the pieces I do, read the post below and watch the clip.
And consider this: In the world today, neo-Nazi and neo-Confederacy groups are working hard to control American politics. Our country is in the same place Germany was when the Third Reich rose to power. We are still putting so-called conservatives in power because many people in the south miss their rich, fat incomes thanks to the destruction of slavery. Some of them believe slavery was a good thing.
Think I’m making this up? Think again:
Look into our prison system, in restaurants, fields, garment factories (where they still exist) and in other places where menial labor means hard work for little pay, and you’ll find modern slavery, “human trafficking.”
It’s all well and good to view our nasty Civil War history through rose-colored filters, but then folks like Steve McQueen (director of “12 Years A Slave”) come along and blow all that rose-colored fantasy away.
Imagine for a moment what would happen if the Tea Party got its way and actually rose to power, with a representative in the Oval Office and enough of a majority to squash the actions of the Senate the way they do the House. Unthinkable, right?
We have less than a year to the 2014 elections. While I don’t see a lot of change in who’s seated in the Senate, there’s a whole mess of trouble in our House of Representatives. In case you’ve forgotten, the next government shutdown threat is scheduled for December. And unless I’ve missed something major in the news, we are no closer to a budget deal than we have been in the last five years. Where’s the discussion? Nobody’s talking. There hasn’t been an update since the end of October. Well, okay, there’s this:
Now, maybe it’s just that they’re trying to work hard and keep the press out of the discussion, or maybe it’s that there hasn’t been any progress. I’m sure everyone would be happier knowing we’re not going to wind up with another shutdown just as the Christmas season gets underway, but I’m not willing to bet we’ll be any further along than we were on the 17th.
How does this all tie in together?
Here’s a massively oversimplified description of the events that led up to the rise of Hitler:
But that really misses the bigger picture. The US wasn’t the only country to suffer in the Great Depression. It was global, no better in Germany than it was here. And that’s the key.
We are in the same depression recovery the Germans suffered in the 1930s. Look at Detroit as a clear example of what our depression has done to the people today. Who’s running Michigan, anyway? Oh, right. Rick Snyder. Not an extremist Tea Party member (in fact, they’re mad at him for promoting tax money to cover infrastructure), but a member of the GOP and a venture capitalist on the side of corporate America.
This is what World War II looked like through the lens, as compiled by The Atlantic in 2011:
Why am I telling you these things?
Because of this:
It’s not theoretical racism. We are not immune. And unless we start to realize and do something about it, we’re going to wind up just like Germany 75 years ago.
On Facebook, where I can often be found expounding on issues that I imagine many of my friends would simply rather ignore, I’ve gotten involved in a conversation about Baltimore’s crime rate. Well, not that, exactly, because the discussion has devolved into an argument about gun control and whether it is constitutional.
One of the points included a reference to United States v. Miller.
I think I’ve read the Wikipedia page before, but today’s read of the statements brought new insight which would, I imagine, cause all other arguments to fall apart:
Imagine for a moment that men and women who keep such arms do so at the pleasure of the military and can thus be called to serve BECAUSE they keep them.
Think on that for a moment. Chew it thoroughly. Because the first part, so often missed, regarding the Second Amendment involves the existence and necessity of a well-regulated militia. The whole amendment reads thusly:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Now I’ve read some things that are concerning the true meaning of “militia” in context of the Bill of Rights when it was originally ratified in December 15, 1791, submitted by James Madison prior to his presidency and while the U.S. Constitution was still in its infancy. I’ve come to associate the term Militia with the Southern Militias whose specific purpose was to put down Indian uprisings and keep the slave population enslaved.
Fast forward a few hundred years. We don’t have a slave population (at least, not the way we once did in this country) and we haven’t had a civil war in 150 years. And our guns aren’t muskets anymore.
Just the same, imagine for a moment that such a burden is actually placed on the gun owners themselves. As a gun owner, you are expected to render your services up to the U.S. of A. at any moment simply because you own a gun.
I wonder just how fast we would see the backpedaling on the sanctity of the Second Amendment and gun ownership in this country. After all, if we have militias why do we need the National Guard?
If the rights and responsibilities of gun ownership include an instant ticket to the draft, how fast would the National Rifle Association’s tune change?
In fact, I wonder that this actual approach has not yet been tried by gun control advocates, because it sure makes sense to me.
We could decommission more of our standing troops in favor of employing those with guns to serve in the National Guard at the will of government. We could save a whole bunch of money, keeping those weekend warriors who don’t have guns at home and deploy only those with guns into battle. Training would fall on the government. No more out of pocket costs for weapons or ammo. We’d have no trouble eliciting gun registration because that’s what guns are for, after all: The protection of our sovereign territory.
If the purpose of owning a gun is to protect the country (as a well-regulated Militia ought to do), it only makes sense that gun owners should expect to be pressed into service anytime, anywhere.
Am I right?
You know, aside from the questionable benefits of drinking overpriced coffee or (in the case of last Friday) tea, and solid support for Marriage Equality – among other things – I gotta give Starbucks credit for hiring people who are generally literate.
Last Friday, I walked in fresh from a philosophical lunchtime discussion that was about to get a lot deeper, about the detrimental effects a professor whose delivery method lacks quite a bit in terms of clarity but who claims to be an authority, and what his impressionable students take away with them having encountered his authoritarian views on the subject.
The subject came up because I was simply appalled at the description said prof gave of a historical British figure, Benjamin Disraeli, the only “Jewish” prime minister of Britain. (a technicality, because Disraeli became a member of the Anglican Church at the age of 12).
It wasn’t the mention of Disraeli but the racial description that caught me off guard. I imagine the point was that this is what people thought of him, but the stereotypical framing of Disraeli’s features, his “annoying voice” (as seen in the movies…yes, really) were classic. And (IMNSHO) dead wrong. How do you prolong a stereotype? Repeat it. In class. When students are hanging on to every word as if it might appear on a test, which is possible.
So we talked about this, at length, at lunch. I know the guy means well, but if I hadn’t been running late, I might have stopped and given my prof a piece of my mind. I’ll be over it again by Wednesday, so I’ll let it rest for now, but on Friday we continued to discuss the subject, up to the point where the barista was working on filling measuring cups with hot steamed milk. She overheard the conversation and pointed me to the article below.
I’ll admit, I’ve been on TED a few times, and I’m pleased that NPR is picking up on these stories as jumping off points, so I get to hear about them more often than I have in a while, but she caught me off guard by agreeing with me on the subject. Bravo for her!
If we only hear one point of view, we might never know there are other points to believe. If the only stories we read are about people who are not us, we lose our own stories and we lose our frame of reference. It’s the danger I see in religious-based homeschooling as well. If you restrict the teaching so you never cover science, if your only sources for truth are intentionally omitting important data, you’ll never know what you’re missing.
And if a professor draws a conclusion that Disraeli is the epitome of a Jew because he has short dark curly hair, small, beady eyes and a big nose, then that’s what you will come to expect. If you opt not to open your eyes to reality, you’ll be surprised to find people of African descent with blue eyes because it never occurs to you that blue eyes are recessive, not impossible. (I made that mistake 20 years ago and never forgot the look on my doctor’s face when I expressed surprise. I should have known better. Now I do.)
This point was so shocking, I lost a portion of the lecture in trying to wrap my mind around what he said.
If we are surprised at the political leanings of the White Student Union of Towson, we should look to our educators. These kids had to learn it somewhere. But that’s not all. Take a gander at the comments in this article from Towson’s Patch.
White Student Union Speaker Preaches Racial Separateness
More than 200 people visited Towson University to hear Jared Taylor, a self-described “racial realist.”
We’re on shaky ground in my class. We’re getting ready to talk about pre-Nazi Germany. Just as it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-diagnosis when one is a medical student, it’s also too easy to see Nazis everywhere. Trouble is, the Tea Party has built much of its party line on the foundation of racial supremacy, intolerance and nationalism, the same foundation on which the Nazis rose to power.
It’s hard not to see them everywhere. The only question (and I think it’s a good one) is whether we have enough of a balance to keep the wolves at bay. There’s an awful lot of paranoia out there right now, and a whole bunch of it is armed to the teeth, supported by the NRA and by power brokers like the Koch brothers.
“Just because you’re paranoid
doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
–Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Okay, all you Tea Party members. Listen up, because this is important.
This guy, 30-year-old Scott Terry, is a prime representative example of the sort of people who vote with you.
I’m sure he’d love me to death: Outspoken independent woman from a religiously questionable background. The only thing this guy lacks is an armband or a hood. Though, honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to discover he simply left them at home, along with his guns.
The 40th Annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) meeting is taking place right now up in Baltimore, a heavily African-American city, and it’s clear from the news coming out of there just how very out of touch with reality these people are, and why they simply could not fathom a Mitt Romney loss last November.
We are still fighting the Civil War, 150 years later. And these (I will remind you) are the jerks fighting the absolute hardest to keep their weapons.
All the earmarks are there. The rise of American Fascism, the ruling class (see Michigan if you don’t believe me that this is happening), and the movement to take away the Democratic process.
It’s by sheer dumb luck that the guy serving the drinks had a camera he could use to capture our aspiring leader-to-be on video, saying to HIS supporters what he couldn’t say to the rest of the American public. His partner, Paul Ryan, said this on camera, just a few days ago:
According to Merriam-Webster.com, the word “Fascism” is currently in the top 1% of lookups and is the 38th most popular word. This means something. It ought to be terrifyingly familiar to you, too. And all because of this guy, Arthur de Gobineau, and his writing way back in 1855:
The CPAC conference is happening in the moral equivalent of my backyard this weekend. Not 150 years ago. Not 75 years ago. Now.
Just how far are we from repeating the mistakes of early 20th Century Germany? I’d say one election away, maybe two.
The Tea Party is mad as hell that we’re not there now, and they’re not going to go away just because we don’t like what they have to say.
This isn’t going to just age out.
The guy in question is 20 years younger than I am. That’s a full generation younger than me.
Someone taught him to think this way.
How did that happen?
And what are you going to do about it?
Yesterday I saw this article from the New York Times come across my Facebook news feed. I know it’s starting to make the rounds. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to take the time to read.
From the article:
“Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear.”
What bothers me most isn’t the stunning magnitude of the study, though I think it ought to come as no surprise, but how the information got lost in the first place. I don’t find the discovery surprising at all.
Many people assume blithely that the Nazi movement was limited to a few camps. Some even deny it happened at all. We’re not talking about the Japanese Internment Camps or today’s immigrant tent cities. Imagine for a moment that for every city, town, hamlet or village in the US there was at least one area where people were rounded up, forced into slavery, required to do hideous acts or simply killed outright because of their beliefs, sexuality or heritage.
Cabaret: Tomorrow belongs to me
Can’t imagine it now, can you, because we’re above that sort of thing here. We learned our lessons. We’re not Nazi Germany.
Right. Yes. Sure.
Only we haven’t ALL learned this truth. Some of us in the US still believe the despicable actions of our southern forefathers were justifiable because people of African descent simply were not human. And that doesn’t begin to cover the atrocious treatment of Native Americans, or of today’s immigrant populations.
Those who think either the Holocaust was exaggerated or didn’t happen at all seem to have that same sense of justification for holding and amassing guns today. Witness this:
Gun Activists Warn Obama is Raising a Private Black Army to Massacre White Americans
Now before you go all crazy on me, I know already that gun advocates are not all extremists. Not all Christians are fundamentalists, either. And not all Jews support Israel. You have only to go outside your local frame of reference to find people who ARE extremists and who DO believe that if you’re not an English-speaking Christian, you’re worthless. And you’ll be surprised, I suspect, to find just how many people agree with the people in this video.
It’s scary to think how many people there are in the US who would think nothing at all of advocating the same sort of violence. We don’t have numbers because our system of government allows so very much autonomy between the states. Our system of information sharing is deeply flawed. Each state manages its own criminal records and laws. Some states go out of their way to avoid reciprocity, claiming States’ Rights.
The overall effect is that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. Given the mob mentality that doesn’t just promote hatred but provides the fuel for acting on it, we may wake up one day and discover the problem is everywhere, right here in our own backyard.
It’s not the government in this country that we should worry about. It’s the rest of the hive mind.
In the dialogue between our various religious factions, we constantly lose sight of the tolerance that helped found this country. There isn’t a single document at the federal level that says the US is all about English-speaking Christians. Maybe that is enough to keep dogma from destroying our country and its multitude of cultures, but I’m not ready to believe that an American Holocaust can’t happen.
Bloomberg Businessweek sums up the problem of gun control and the current debate nicely: A DOJ Memo Shows Why the NRA Wins on Gun Control, but much more telling are the comments. You often hear people say you should ignore the comments in these articles or YouTube videos, but I suggest reading them. The education is there for the taking. You just have to know where to look.
Learn to recognize hate speech and the organizations that promote it and stop supporting them before it’s too late.