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 like.