Monday, November 19, 2018

Greetings from Lollipop Farm

My dad left the building here in St. Paul 3 years ago. I still have trouble reconciling the fact that my folks are gone, and I guess this is pretty normal stuff. But he died on Thanksgiving night, and this year, his yahrzeit begins on Wednesday at sundown and runs until Thursday at sundown. Almost a lunar and solar match. Almost. Not quite. 

I've been thinking about Thanksgiving with my dad. When we were little and still living in Bayside, he would hustle us into the car to get away from the Wrath of Mom who usually had at least three, maybe four knuckles jammed into her mouth as she panicked over having a houseful of people. His job was to get us outta the house, out from underfoot, and outta sight. My best memories of those escapes from Mom's kitchen perennially include Lollipop Farm out in the hinterlands of Long Island...although nowadays, Syosset is just another bedroom of the city. The had a miniature railroad and big, white, Long Island ducks that would grab your fingers along with the popcorn you held out. (Duck bites are not duck kisses no matter what Grandma Sarah told us.) But I digress. 

Those were great adventures. We laughed at escaping, we laughed at the ducks, we laughed at the cold We rode the Lollipop Train. No kid knows it at the time, but when we get old, those parental moments... good or bad...are the moments that stick with us. Only you know which are which. They belong only to you.

Missing my folks these days is more about dealing with my own status change. When my Grandma Bessie died suddenly on the Sukkot right after my wedding, Mom (who lost her own dad at 14) turned to me at the graveside and said, "I'm an orphan now." I held her hand and mumbled something quasi-meaningful, but I didn't understand, not even when I said pretty much the same thing to my brother at Mom's funeral. This concept takes time to fully grok.

So it's three years without my dad and his pocketful of commas. I try not to think about the fragile old guy who faded way. I'd rather remember the guy arguing grammar with me on the phone, reviewing the daily word game from the NY Post on the 7 a.m. wake-up call, plotting ways to slip him the Final Jeopardy answer without Mom knowing, and laughing at Black Adder and Are You Being Served. 

But remembering is a lousy substitute for being part of a live group. The truth is that me and my gang are all the same age as the old people at the Survivor's Table at weddings and b'nei mitzvah. We are the Survivor's Table.. Yeah, we're in better shape, but we're still old people by comparison. We know we get humored more than we'd like to admit. And we remember the dead. That is part of living. 

As Thanksgiving swoops in this week, I am keenly aware that my dad died on Thanksgiving night. I am thankful I spent the afternoon reading his favorite English poets to him. I am eternally grateful that I had just escorted Mom to have a bite to eat but returned to be with him when he took his last breath. And when I went to tell Mom that Dad had gone on to Aunt Ruthie's (our euphemism for the world-to-come) without her, I think we were, in a strange way, relieved it was over. 

Mom followed a few months later, the week before Passover. Suddenly, there was no one to talk to about covering the counters. There was no one to talk to about lots of things. Nor would there be, ever again. There is no one who can answer that age old question, "What happened to Vanilla the rabbit?" Only my mother knew the real answer and she refused me. Even when I was 50. Parents are collective memory. When one goes, sometimes we get lucky and the remaining parent becomes the receptacle. You try to ask all the questions, but you won't remember all the answers. There is always something you forgot to ask. Holes are created that are never really filled. 

Not having Ziggy is an overwhelmingly huge hole. Even not having my gruff'n'grum FIL leaves an empty space. Holidays, Jewish or secular, tend to be long on memories; we miss the missing because we can no longer ask the question. 

This is not a unique experience. Everyone who lives goes through it in some fashion, and somehow we come out the other end. No two experiences are alike. No one can tell us how to process. No one does it better or worse. We just muddle through. It's part of living. No, actually, that's wrong;  it's part of surviving. 

Three years later, I get it.

I am an orphan, I am a widow, and in many, many small, fragile ways. I am alone. Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining about being on my own, I rather like it, but there are moments when something funny happens and I'm the only one laughing. It doesn't mean I'm lonely, because I am not. It doesn't mean I don't have people in my life, because I do. I have kids and grandkids, and thank G-d, they have their own lives and mishugas. They don't need mine. If Ziggy and I raised them even remotely right, they are kind, respectable people. More importantly, they are independent. This is important. 

Still, every so often I wonder if I don't wake up in the morning, how long until someone notices I didn't show up for something? 

I don't know of a single widow who hasn't wondered the same thing. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Of The People, By The People, For The People

Well, by now, everyone knows the outcome. Angie Craig is our new representative in Congress. Jason Lewis blamed John McCain for the significant losses handed to the GOP...on Veterans' Day, no less. Don't get me started. 

And now, as of a few minutes ago, it looks like Krysten Sinema is the new senator from Arizona. There are still serious counting events taking place in Georgia and Florida. What most people manage to forget is that the tally on election night is only a projection; actual counting takes several days, even more if there are lots of absentee/mail-type ballots to be counted. I don't think any elections are certified on Election Day or the morning after. Hell, Al Franken's election wasn't certified until June 30th, 2009.
I can't die yet. Al hasn't been certified. I'm gonna hang on 'til then. I can't die not knowing."                                            Ziggy, June 1, 2009 (he didn't make it)

I was at Angie's gathering on Tuesday night after the polls closed. We were hoping for a victory party, but there were no guarantees. There were moments when Lewis was ahead, albeit never by very much. At the end, Angie won by a statistically significant margin. Not an overwhelming mandate, but enough to solidly trounce the Invisible Congressclown. I was relieved more than anything else. 

The one thing Angie and her campaign did that was significant to me was that they kept it simple and kept it clean. The negative ads you saw about her opponent were not coming from Angie's team....and I don't want to talk about those. I want to talk just a little about why I think Angie won. It was because she was present. The focus of this campaign, at least from my perspective, was outreach to the district. After 2 years of not one public town hall meeting, Angie and her team were in every city, every town, every village LISTENING to the constituency. In a time of tariffs and turmoil, she and her team weren't talking; they were listening. And people responded to that. BIG TIME. Over and over that night, as I talked to people from all over CD2, I heard the same thing: 
She was in our face asking us to talk. No one ever did that before.
I did not realize until days later what I had actually heard. I don't know how I missed it or how anyone else was missing it until I started to think about this week's blog and what I really wanted to write about. I was thinking about how we can take our democracy back. How we can bring to fruition the understanding that our Constitution is in jeopardy. How can we go back to being We, The People instead of this fractured, fractious mob scene calling for blood. Someone said it, I was sure, much better than I ever could. And he did. At Gettysburg:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.                                                                                  Abraham Lincoln ~ November 19, 1863
That was not quite 155 years ago. Right now, we don't have just war dead, we have children dead, civilian dead, police dead, minority dead, immigrant dead...but they are just as dead as the Civil War dead. Nothing is going to  bring them back.

Just like nothing is going to least for the foreseeable future...what is coming out of the White House. We can continue to give it column inches and let the current administration yank our chains and sow seeds of division, derision, and discontent, or we can refuse to give them the platform they desperately want. If our newly elected House of Representatives would turn inward into the chamber, toward the tasks at hand that require a unified, united front; then perhaps we have a chance of staving off a complete fall off the world stage. 

Maybe the Democrats have given the sane Republicans a golden opportunity to salvage themselves. They can concentrate on having a joint congress instead of a divided one. Use the new Democratic majority to gently move back to the center where the rhetoric is not so irate. Figure out what everyone can agree on, and learn from the shift that took place on Election Day. Let the change of House colors foster a new sense of cooperation.

End of kumbaya moment. 

And now, back to our regularly scheduled real life. 

  1. Israel and Gaza are at it again. Casualties on both sides.
  2. Forests and towns are burning in California. 
  3. Migrant children are still warehoused in "facilities."
  4. The president is calling on the state of Florida to stop counting the votes and ignore incoming military/absentee overseas ballots. 

Which one of above constitutes a Constitutional crisis?

If we really want to see change, we need to let our newly elected/re-elected congressclowns know we weren't kidding in the last go 'round. It cannot be business as usual. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Remember, kiddies, the 2020 election begins now.

Monday, November 5, 2018

There Are Plenty of Words

Photo courtesy of
Sally Lorberbaum
First it was "thoughts and prayers." Now, it's "there are no words....."  

Actually, there are lots of words to describe what happened in Pittsburgh last Shabbat. So many words, that surely a million miles of shelf space is occupied with all those words. Some are ancient, some medieval, some modern, But there are a gazllions words wasted on explaining Pittsurgh and similar events when a single word works quite well: antisemitism. That's the only word you need for this heinous act. When someone shouts "All Jews must die!" while shooting up a sanctuary during Shabbat service, antisemitism is the only world that fits. And the act the word denotes has been around a long, long time. 

May 17, 1934 ~ New York City
Madison Square Garden
from the Bettman Archive
The Amalekites practiced it in the desert. The Babylonians practiced it. The Romans practiced it. The British, the Spanish, the French, the Italians, and the Germans all practiced it. And the Americans have practiced it for years in this republic. Don't think for a New York moment that it was not practiced here. Antisemites and the New Germany true believers rallied at Madison Square Garden. And they even rose for the Nazi salute in little North Bellmore, New York, where our synagogue was built over the site of a tavern that hid in its basement a treasure trove of Nazi regalia. 

Antisemitism ain't new. The difference right now is that there is a documented upsurge in the number of antisemitic  acts over the course of the last six months. And lots of words are being written about that. And now our countrymen are rising to the silent call to take up arms once more.

Did you know private militias are heading to the Mexican border to "help" the troops sent by Feckless Leader? What surprises you more....that there are private militias in this country, or that they are on their way to the border?

Our very own Feckless Leader, so well known for his masterful way with words, used these in Montana over the weekend: 
                     Barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight.

Like this?
Child survivors of Auschwitz in 1945 

Or this?
Otero County Prison in Chaparral, New Mexico,where immigrant 
mothers have been detained by the United States government.
Photograph by Philip Montgomery for The New Yorker

So when you go to the polls tomorrow, 
  • vote as if it's your child or your spouse behind those wires
  • vote as if you are a new immigrant
  • vote as if you are from Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh
  • vote as if you are gay
  • vote as if you are trangender
  • vote as if you are Black
  • vote as if you are Latino
  • vote as if you are a member of the free press
  • vote as if you are not afraid of huddled masses yearning to breathe free
Most importantly, vote as if the heart and the very soul of this nation depends on your vote.


The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Hang it. It's almost over.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Not If. When

"This wicked act of mass murder is pure evil, hard to believe, and , frankly, something that is unimaginable.Our nation and the world are shocked and stunned by the grief,” Trump said. “This was an anti-Semitic act. You wouldn’t think this would be possible in this day and age.”                                                                                                           Feckless Leader, October 27, 2018
What planet is this jackass living on? UNIMAGINABLE?????? Is he flippin' kidding? 

Possible? Horsehockey! PROBABLE is more like it.  And then he went on to say he was holding a planned rally anyway because the NYSE opened the day after 9/11....only it didn't. That was a lie. The NYSE was closed until September 17th.

       A Pittsburgh Police officer walks past the Tree of Life Synagogue 

       and a memorial of flowers and stars in Pittsburgh on Sunday, 

       Oct. 28, 2018 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

We who attend Jewish communal events for any occasion imagine it every time. 

  • We imagine it when we attend Kol Nidre at Hillel, whether it's at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Minnesota, University of Rhode Island, California, Chicago, Virginia, Maryland, Kansas, Oklahoma, or any place where Jews gather to pray on a campus.
  • We imagine it when we attend an Israel Independence Day event
  • We imagine it when we send our kids to Jewish day school
  • We imagine it at every USY, NCSY, and NIFTY event.
  • We imagine it at early morning minyan
  • We imagine it every single shabbat morning. 
Our imaginations are very active, watching the crowds, one eye always peeled for the oddity, knowing it is not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when.

We may not talk about it, but that doesn't mean the fear isn't there. It is. BIG TIME.

I had planned on writing about how, as a trained theater director and playwright, I watch how people talk and the tones they use. I had planned on talking about how Feckless Leader was lying through his cheesy caps when, in regard to the would-be bomber, he told the singspiel in Wisconsin on Wednesday:
Do you see how nice I'm behaving tonight?
Like he was letting the crowd in on a (wink-wink) secret joke. And then he goes right back to calling the press the "enemy of the People," and bashing other politicians and leaders. This is how he rolls, how he gets all those secret messages out. Only they're not so secret and anyone with half-a-head gets it all.

45's use of apocalyptic language really is a not-so-subtle dog-whistle to his radical base that going after "the enemy" is an end that justifies the means. In a convoluted way, his constant discrediting of the press, his bully-rhetoric, his  belittling of everyone who is not him telegraphs a definite messages to those members of his cult cabal. Those are the messages that sent Cesar Sayoc to Home Depot for supplies. Those are the messages that sent Robert Bowers locked-and-loaded into Tree of Life yelling "All Jews must die!" as he slaughtered people at prayer. And it's the same go-ahead sign that made Gregory Bush try to break into a predominantly Black church, before executing Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones with shots to the backs of their heads in Kroger's parking lot. 

The radical right is mobilizing as we sit here frozen in place. There are more than enough supporters of this not-so-discreet coup that is taking place that it could go down with not much more than a whimper. 

We are standing by watching the systematic dismantling of the Bill of Rights, one amendment at a time. The First Amendment is already under siege from the like of Kelly Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders who spin, embellish, and disseminate the fabrications of their boss without so much as a twitch. Their skills at lying run a close second to 45's. We can revisit this when a news organ is attacked. Oh, wait! That was so last week.

The Second is not exactly free from Twister, either. Remember the phrase "well regulated militia?" Well, it might be time to figure out what that means. Is it a federal militia? Is it a local/state militia? Or is it a vigilante mob with guns and a grudge? Your guess is as valid as mine. I have no idea what it means now.

How about the 4th Amendment? "Secure in their persons,houses, papers, and effects..." unless your skin ain't white and then you are suspect with no rights whatsoever. 

Or the 6th: "the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury" unless you're black or brown in which case that speedy trial includes execution by armed citizens and/or "frightened" cops with guns drawn. [Ziggy would definitely use this as a penis metaphor. Use your imaginations.]

I could go on, but you get the drift. 

Our Bill of Rights is being hammered like a piece of lightweight sheet metal. Little bends become little tiny breaks; nuances fall off like so many brittle shards. Before you know if, you're left with something that might've looked familiar once, but now, is nothing more than a shadow of what it had been. That's the thing about ideas; they're not concrete. Neither is our Constitution. It's fragile in form and thought. 

So, whatever happened to all those Middle Eastern and Latino terrorists we're supposed to be scared of? So far the only mass murderers since 2016 are all white males. 

Republicans, if you are not totally disgusted by the endless chain of certified, documented, and debunked lies, surely all you small government folks oughta be freaking out at the exploding deficit.

WAKE UP PEOPLE. This is just the beginning. That dog whistle is only gonna get louder and clearer unless we vote out the government we currently have. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Midterm elections are one week away.
Don't forget to get your free sticker.
Worth the wait in line!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Have I Got An Oasis To Sell You!

Every time I see Feckless Leader kissing some royal Saudi butt, I remember that 15 Saudi Arabian nationals killed two of my cousins, one of my friends, and thousands of others in my home town. I guess that makes me pre-disposed to not trusting/believing/supporting that particular regime. 

Now that's outta the way. 

In Jamal Khashoggi's last column for the Washington Post, he wrote:
The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power. During the Cold War, Radio Free Europe, which grew over the years into a critical institution, played an important role in fostering and sustaining the hope of freedom. Arabs need something similar. In 1967, the New York Times and The Post took joint ownership of the International Herald Tribune newspaper, which went on to become a platform for voices from around the world.
I don't know about any of you, but I remember reading about Radio Free Europe and Voice of America when I was a kid, and thinking it must be so cool to work at one of those stations. Being able to tell the world in whatever language just how great a country we have, how great democracy is, or how great our freedom of speech, the press, assembly, whatever was. We were a country that lived by our Constitution and its Bill of Rights. 

Then I watched the news and saw ads that put the Cold War propaganda machine to shame. Most were financed by something called The Congressional Leadership Fund and all I could think was if this is what's leading our congress, we are so doomed. I can't remember hearing more blatant hate speech since I used to watch World War II programs showing Hitler's Singspiel. These ads weren't just "Hey, this is what we stand for and you should, too," kinda ads, these were packed solid with fabrication, lies, and terror tactics. Who's chipping in for this shit? It's scary stuff in the worst possible way. Democrats rioting in the streets to take over health care. Really? What are we armed with? PBS tote bags?

And then, word from inside the White House, that Feckless Leader has people trying to figure out how to toss out the election if it doesn't go his way. On CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES, Carl Bernstein (yeah, that Carl Bernstein) said:
I talked to touch with the White House on Friday who believe that if the congressional midterms are very close and the Democrats were to win by five or seven seats, that Trump was already talking about how to throw legal challenges into the courts, sow confusion, declare a victory, actually, and say that the election's been illegitimate.
None of this should surprise any of us. 

But getting back to the Saudis for a moment. 

 At a rally in Montana on Thursday night, Feckless Leader praised a felon/congressman for body slamming a reporter last year. This is the same week Jamal Khashoggi disappeared into the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul and never came out. At least not in one piece. Literally. Not to mention the doppelgänger who went to the Istanbul train station in Mr Khashoggi's clothing. Oh, there was an original idea. 

The real original idea, the one where they murder Jamal Khassoggi and dice him up had to come about because certain Saudi heirs-to-the-throne thought Feckless Leader was in their pocket and he would not object to being rid of this meddlesome journalist who we're sure no one would miss after a day or so. After all, no one did anything about the reporter in Montana last year, and more recently Feckless Ally tweeted:

So if that's okay for the USA, why not the rest of the world?

Sure thing, folks,

For the cherry on top, Feckless thinks we're going to believe he's going to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the not-so-accidental death-and-dismemberment routine in Turkey?

Sure we are. 

But enough of We, the People, will. There are people out there who are going to believe Mr. Khashoggi died in a fist-fight. And there are people at those Singspiel rallies wetting their pants with excitement at how this is going down. They firmly believe America will be made great again through racism, racial purity, and some kind of apocalyptic type of Christianity that's gonna take them all right up to heaven. 

Sure they are.

Frankly, I'm not all that convinced the midterms are going to do us any good. And if there is a blue wave, Feckless isn't going to sit back to work on compromise.

We do not look as though we just fell off the back of the turnip truck now, do we?

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
It's getting to be winter. Make soup

Monday, October 15, 2018

In the meantime, I'm president......

Yes, its true, I'm back from Firenze, but allow me to say it is under serious protest. I flew in Saturday night, went to bed, and woke up to SNOW on Sunday morning. Needless to say, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Not happy about that at all.

I had pretty much avoided the news, fake or otherwise, all week...on purpose. I was on holiday, dammit, and I wasn't going to let anything get between me and Brunelleschi's Dome. To see Bottichelli's The Birth of Venus up close and personal in the Uffizi sucked the breath right outta me. All those years of using it to teach how to unpack a painting in order to see it and there they were. All those times I told students begin with something small and build on that. Start with Zephyr and Chloris on the left, pick one element to compare in each character, and keep moving to the right. I always used the feet. "Are these real, working toes?" I would ask.   It was a great way to open the discussion. A great way to get people to look at the parts that make up the sum of the parts. Know what I mean?

Ferklempt. I was ferklempt.

I slept intermittently on Sunday, but did manage to catch Leslie Stahl's interview with the President of the United States. My favorite line?
 POTUS: Lesley, it's okay. In the meantime, I'm president--and you're not.
I gave serious thought to unpacking that exchange the same way I once did art, but decided I could not. There was no point. But I will unpack one thing for you: Lesley Stahl pushed on facts; Feckless Leader gave her smoke, mirrors, and totally bogus numbers. 
Trump also continues to misstate the trade deficit with China. It’s not $500 billion, as he told Stahl; it was $335 billion in 2017, according to U.S. government figures. The United States imported $505 billion of goods to China, so maybe that’s where Trump gets his number.       The Washington Post

Three weeks until the midterm elections, and I am doubtful there are enough people in this country who are interested in reality, much less facts. 

I cannot write about this stuff without becoming shrill; I am depressing myself.

The Wifely Person's Tip of the Week
A week in Florence is not enough.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Vieni a vivere e di persona da Firenze

This is going to be short because I'm writing on my Chromebook that has a keyboard too small even for my teeny-tiny hands and everything takes much longer to write because I have to backspace damn near every word to correct typos. 

real pizza margarita
Why, you might ask, am I writing on this thing instead of on my trusty big Mac? See, I can't get to the big Mac right now because I am in Italy tromping around Firenze (Florence for those who have not experienced Firenze) with my best partner in adventures, Jen from Israel. We're on a grown-ups only tour to study the art and architecture of Renaissance Firenze well as eating our way across the city. I'd truly forgotten how good Italian food can be, being that in Minnesota there is no real Italian food, just like there is no good Chinese food because everything has been diluted for the local palate or lack thereof. Meanwhile, the pizza I had for Friday night dinner (I was tired and desperate for food) was like the pizza I grew up with. Shabbat dinner at the kitchen table of my Airb&b just blocks from the Great Synagogue was heaven. 

Yes, I went to shul on Shabbat morning where there was an aufruf which made me feel a little less sad about missing an aufruf and wedding back in Minnesota. The amazing part was I had no trouble following the service and the Torah reading, praying, or talking to the women in the women's section. Some of the tunes might've been different...and one guy reading Torah chanted in an almost Gregorian was just like home. The people were lovely and welcoming. I was invited to lunch, but jet lag was calling. By the time Jen arrived, I was ready to rock'n'roll.

Feet under the.....
Seeing things in person that I have only read about, studied, and even, albeit briefly, taught about, is a paradigm shift. The lecturers and the guides put that which we are seeing into perspective, so much so that all the theory that has danced in my head for decades is now becoming very up close and personal. Having read much about Filippo Brunelleschi and the construction of the Duomo, standing beneath it was the stuff of dreams....his, the Medicis, mine. The engineering did not exist to build such a massive thing, so he invented the tools to make it happen. The sheer length of time and labor that went into this undertaking boggles the imagination. 

Here, time is almost meaningless. History less than 500 years old is modern. Ancient history is present in the buildings, the streets, the layout of the city. As you contemplate how the people of Firenze survived the wars, the pestilence, and recently, the extreme floods, time wraps around itself so that the daily bull-oney of our lives in America seems trite and petty....until you see this:

Then you realize the pettiness does not go unnoticed by the rest of the world. 

Let's go back to the synagogue for a moment.

Sinagoga Maggiore Israelitico
Did I mention the shul is behind a wrought iron fence, or that armed Italian soldiers (not the Carabinieri nor the Polizia) stand guard at the gates all day? This is precautionary because the threat is real. Just like the threat was real in northern Virgina this week where a JCC was vandalized with swastikas. 

We live in a dangerous world. A man was just confirmed to the highest bench in the land, despite credible allegations of sexual misconduct, by a senate that forced out a senator for a jokey photo taken in public, for the public, on an entertainment tour where no assault actually took place. Regardless of the allegations, this man deported himself as an intemperate bully and liar under oath, yet the senate confirmed his appointment. What does that say about our senate? That their rules are different from the rule of law? Or that if you're a party member, you can do or say anything you want? 

This is not a tempest in a teapot. This is a real and credible threat to the health and safety of all women. When an Italian waiter asks me how I can allow this to happen, I can only shrug and say I fought against it and lost.

The shining beacon of hope we once were to people across the globe is dimmed, tarnished, and losing visibility. I can only hope that like the city of FIrenze, we can weather this storm and come out, on the other side, stronger and more learned for the experience. 

The Wifely Person't Tip o'the Week
If you have not been to Italy, you should really go.
Perspective is a good thing.

Filippo Brunellschi's death mask.
This is what crazy genius really looked it.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Entitlement, Thy Name Is Kavanaugh

SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh
If Brett Kavanaugh had actually answered questions, I would be more inclined to listen to what he had to say. But he yelled, pulled faces, and prevaricated.The director in me wanted to know who coached this guy. No one goes through that range of emotions unless they're in improv class. The more he ranted, the less I believed him...that's a mother of sons talking. I recognized those sounds as the same kind that came out of 8-year old mouths. If Ziggy were alive, he woulda wanted to take out the ol' truth'o'meter and make Kavanaugh grab the ends. The director in me would not have hired him as a actor. Too unpredictable. Too capricious. Too cocky...and not in a good way. He just doesn't listen or take direction well. Someone needs to talk him off the stage. Fast.

There were some pretty scary things that have come out in the last few weeks about this guy. And I don't mean his sexual history, either. There were things he said that were overtly untrue. Statements that were easily proven to be false. Add to that his political partiality as demonstrated during his tenure with Ken Starr's prosecution of Clinton's impeachment, and this time in the Bush II White House and suddenly you really don't have evidence of a man who has the temperament to sit on the bench of the highest court of the land to render fair and impartial justice. There is more than just a sense of a closed mind coming from this guy; there was something else I could put name to.

The American Bar Association, in reviewing their qualification rating, published a report that downgraded him from Well Qualified to Qualified. Here's the link to the document. Read it; it's worth the time to see what his colleagues and peers have to say about this guy. The word sanctimonious, came up...and suddenly I had a toehold in understanding at least some of my objection to the guy.

There was a hint of what was to come during the first confirmation hearings, an underlying belligerence bubbling right below the surface, as if he could not understand why he was being subjected to what was tantamount to a job interview for a job that was already his. He didn't get the part about how his answers might make or break this entitlement. Without realizing it, he set the stage for his incredibly bad behavior during the questioning by Rachel Mitchell. No, he behaved as if the decision was already made and he was entitled to this promotion. The anger, the venom, vituperative snarling at questioners all made for great TV drama, but did nothing to convince a whole lotta people this guy is fit for the job. If the display of anger won't disqualify him automatically from SCOTUS, his lies most certainly should. 

One relatively minor lie stands out for me, as if it's a dog-whistle to look for other inconsistencies, and that was the line about getting into Yale. At the Judiciary Committee hearing last week, he stated: 
I have no connections there. I got there by busting my tail.
Except his grandfather, Edward Everett Kavanaugh attended Yale. In 2011, the New York Times did a story about this practice:
Admissions offices have long defended legacy consideration as merely a tiebreaker among equally high-qualified applicants. But among legacy applicants for Princeton’s class of 2015, 33 percent of those offered a spot were the children of alumni. Harvard generally admits 30 percent, and Yale says it admits 20 percent to 25 percent. For all three, the overall rate is in the single digits.
No one is discounting the idea that he had the smarts for Yale, but he had to know his grandfather was an alum, and so did Yale. Why lie about it? Did he think it would be overlooked and/or ignored? Such a simple, little fib...but it speaks volumes for the man's character.

#15 James Buchanan
#29 Warren G. Harding

Character. That's the whole shebang in a nutshell, isn't it? Leaders are supposed to be leaders because they display character. We like to delude ourselves into thinking all our past presidents were men of character, of high moral standing, of ethics, and of inner fortitude. That's the stuff that's supposed to distinguish a leader from a follower. Theoretically. But it's not always true. One can look to pro-slavery President James Buchanan who practically laid the groundwork for the Civil War while believing the SCOTUS ruling on Dred Scott would resolve the issue once and for all.  Or more recently, Warren Harding whose administration owned the Teapot Dome Scandal

Not exactly guys we look up to these days for some pretty obvious reason.

Which means that if you have an administration with questionable morals and ethics, you need a Supreme Court with an abundance of them to keep the administration from running off the rails. Hiring a guy for a job that is a job-for-life who displays that kind of terrifying anger proves unequivocally he is not the guy for this job. 

If you do not know where your elected officials sit on the issue of confirming Kavanaugh, please find out. As a voter, your voice counts at this juncture. If you want him in that seat, tell your congress persons. If not use the power of your constituent status to let her/him know how you feel. 

The power of millions of angry women has been awakened. Ignore us at your own peril.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Scenery occasionally needs changing, just like a dirty diaper.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

May It Be A Sukkot Of Kindness, Beauty, and Peace

The shul sukkah with Chef Nataliya
This  is another abbreviated episode, on accounta it's still Jewish holiday season and the next round begins at sundown: Sukkot. That's the one where we build little booths with thatched roofs. We're supposed to live in them, but these days, you take your meals in the sukkah when possible. 

The first year I was doing this blog thingee, I wrote  a pretty good piece explaining the holiday and some of the traditions. I'm not going to cut and paste, but here's the link: Exalted Guests....or WWJT: What would Jefferson Think? The tradition of inviting Ushpizin,  exalted guests, into one's sukkah, is really a magical tradition and one that I somehow manage to ponder anew every year. Who would I want to talk to this time? What questions would I want to ask? What questions would my guest have? And, being I can't help myself, what would I cook?  This year's guest list is tough. I have no idea who should sit at that table, who I want to have sit at that table. 

Artists. Architects. Musicians. Thinkers. NO POLITICS!

I am sick to death of politics and want none of that discussion at my table. I'm seriously tired of the garbage news, and the hate-speech that seems to be permanently attached to those mouths. I'm tired of vetting news stories. I'm tired of thinking, "Oh, that cannot possibly be true," only to find out it's not only is the story true but people are actually believing this crap they're reporting on in the first place. And no matter what I think, this crap spills into everyday conversation like so many toilet paper ads: really gross yet inevitable. 

Yes, folks, the moon is made of green cheese, and there is no such thing as global warming. And yes, all the Democrats are out there coming for all your guns. Shazaaam! You found us out! Happy now? Yes, it's your very own personal, constitutionally guaranteed right to read whatever baloney you wanna read and believe whatever you wanna believe. Yup. You've got the right to do just that. You've got the right to believe coal will come back, the seas won't  rise as the ice caps melt, the world really is flat, and that Spain shares a border with the Sahara Desert. That does not mean the rest of us have to agree. 

During this week of Sukkot, I am going to focus on art, music, beauty, and how we treat our world. I will be adventuring with Little Miss both this Monday and Tuesday, as well as next Monday and Tuesday. We will go to shul in the morning, eat lunch in the sukkah, and then have an afternoon adventure, just like I used to have with her dad, her uncle, and their cousins and friends. We will go to Como Zoo one day, weather permitting, and the science museum (where a friend of Uncle Senior Son is an exhibit builder and will take us behind the scenes) on the other. Someone wants another visit to the Art Institute next week, and at least one park...maybe even Hyland Park...if the weather is fine. But whatever Little Miss and I decide to do, there will be talk of autumn, of harvest, of Sukkot, and what we do to heal the world.  

She may be 3-not-quite-4, but she has a pretty good grasp on what is kind, what is needed, and stuff we can do together to make things better. She'll be a good one to invite as one of the Ushpizin; she's already got an opinion and it's worth hearing. 

I want Little Miss to see kindness in action, the beauty of both the creative world and the natural world, and to experience the peace that comes with the transcendence of sacred time. 

I'll let you know how it goes. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Ushpizin should be people you want to listen to.
Choose wisely.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Iron Your Own Wrinkles

Here we are, the night before the night before Yom Kippur. Old family tradition requires that I freak out right about now because I know I've forgotten to do something, get something, iron something. Because it's just me, anything I've forgotten to do can wait, something I forgot to pick up at the store I probably won't need because Yom Kippur is truly a fast. But the ironing.......

Okay, I still have stuff to iron before I hit the sack tonight, but that was kinda planned because I'm on the last load of laundry at the moment.

Yes, folks, I iron shirts. And skirts. And handkerchiefs. And pillow cases. Yeah, I'm a throwback to another age, but if you must know, I secretly enjoy the chore. It has, in some ways, replaced the zen of lawn mowing, something I really do miss. Ironing is like that. It  begins with wrinkly chaos, has a middle that shows improvement, and ends with very crisp, very tidy stuff. It's mindless, yet not mindless. It's cathartic; when I'm done, I know I have accomplished something tangible. 

If only I could iron out the wrinkles in my own life. 

But that's kinda what Yom Kippur is for. Smoothing the wrinkles requires admitting they are there.  Kol Nidre requires a look back at the life one has lived. On the eve of Yom Kippur, before the official start of the holy day, one is expected to have come to final review of one's year. We can ask forgiveness for sins between one's self and G-d, but not for sins committed between people. So if I dope-slapped my bro while he was here last week, I would have to ask his forgiveness. Forgiving me for dope-slapping the guy is not Her department. 

My prayers tucked into the Kotel last October

Which is an interesting concept if you think about it. In this version of confessing, you are not off the hook for bad behavior with a couple of al-chet verses and a bit of chest-pounding. Nope. You own you own actions and it's your own job to clear your own slate. If you want absolution, you have to work for it. No one can do it for you. Talk about a cathartic exercise! However...

Even if you manage to get absolution from everyone, there remains a caveat: one must strive not to repeat the errors. That can be hard. That takes a different kind of work, but if you know where you went wrong, why not try to avoid the same pitfalls?

With the midterm elections moving closer everyday, this may be a good time to reflect on the vote you will cast in November. If the candidate you currently support mirrors your philosophy on a wide range of subjects, and you agree with the platform-stated policies, then your vote is easily decided. But, if you look at your candidate's positions only to find there is a burgeoning gap between the beliefs and philosophies you share, it might be time to shop for a new candidate. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Independent doesn't matter. Your party membership doesn't matter. What does matter is that you take a moment for introspection, Jewish or not, observing Yom Kippur or not, to consider the magnitude of your vote this particular year. EVERY vote is going to count in this very contentious midterm election. 

For those who observe, have an easy fast.  And to all, 

גמר חתימה טובה 
G'mar chatima tova -  

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.