Monthly Archives: January 2021

The Whole World is Watching

“I can’t keep silent, in light of how my country has changed her face/ Won’t quit trying to remind her in her ears, I’ll sing my cries/Until she opens her eyes.” Israeli poet Ehud Manor as quoted by Nancy  Pelosi, US House Speaker 1/13/2021

On Wednesday, January 6, I turned on the television to follow the United States Congress’ certification of the election of Joseph Biden as our 46th president. I listened in anger as Donald J. Trump delivered an inflammatory speech to thousands of protesters, egging them on to “take back the steal.” I watched in disgust as thousands of protesters, including one wearing a Camp Auschwitz tee shirt,  began their march to the Capitol. And I watched in horror as the insurrectionists, brandishing Confederate flags, Nazi symbols, and pitchforks, breached the Capitol. As members of Congress were evacuated, took cover on the Chamber floor, or hid in darkened offices, the riotors marched through the “People’s House,” vandalizing offices, graffitiing doors, and leaving behind a trail of destruction.

After summoning my husband to come immediately to see what was playing out in real time, I texted my children. “Are you watching the news? Protesters breeched the Capital. National Guard being called in” I wrote.”The entire Congress is behind locked doors away from windows!”

“Mom,” my daughter wrote back a minute later. “Everyone in the world is watching.”

That was confirmed soon after when friends in England emailed me with just a subject line, “What the hell is going on?”

“Another day in Trump’s America,” I responded.

Yes, just another day that many of us saw coming. Since announcing his candidacy and targeting Mexicans as “rapists,” Donald J. Trump has used his vitriolic rhetoric to disparage those who stood in his way and enflame those who supported him. In 2017, the president stated soon after the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia ,that there were “very fine people on both sides.” His repeated inability to denounce neo-Nazis demonstrated to me that the lessons of World War II and the Holocaust meant nothing to him.

I also have been appalled by his comments directly targeting Jews.After the October 2019 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, Trump’s initial reaction was to criticize the Pittsburg, Pennsylvania synagogue. “If there was an armed guard inside the temple,” he said, ” they would have been able to stop him.” In August 2019, he accused American Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel by voting for Democrats. In December 2019, speaking at the Israeli American Council referred to the dual loyalty cliché, and then went on to call Jews involved in real estate “ brutal killers, not nice people at all.” During the Republican convention, Mary Ann Mendoza,  a Trump supporter was pulled from the event’s line up after protests of her promotion of anti-Semitic and QAnon conspiracy theories on her Twitter Feed. 

His comments and policies have also impacted Latinos, Muslims, Blacks, Dreamers, Africans (“shit-hole countries”), and Asians (“kung fu” flu). Even the disabled—including those who suffered physical or emotional injuries as a result of their military service (“losers” and “suckers”)—have been the target of the president’s disrespect and scorn. 

Meanwhile, since George Floyd’s May 2020 murder, the United States has come face to face with its long history of systematic racism. The president has only fueled the flames, In June 2020, in a precursor to last week’s violence, Trump and his administration ordered that law enforcement officers use tear gas and other riot control tactics to forcefully clear peaceful George Floyd protesters.The president then posed for photographers in what he perceived was his “law and order” stance that included his holding an upside down Bible. 

Despite his history of disrespect, cruelty, and divisiveness, between 21% and 30% of Jews (depending on poll used) still voted in November to give him another four years, citing what he and his administration had done for Israel (and their pocketbooks). In my opinion, they should be ashamed. Trump is an antithesis to every moral tenet of Judaism. He is a bully, a liar, a cheat, a womanizer, and a self-absorbed, unempathetic narcissist who has no respect for anyone who does not fawn over him—unless they are despots. And now he is being called a traitor to his country.

On January 13, the US House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for a second time. Time will tell if the Senate tallies the 2/3’s majority to convict him. It may take years to determine the political, financial, and legal fallout for him and his sycophants.

In the weeks leading up to the November election, while I was involved in getting out the vote against Trump, I purchased a sticker from the Jewish Democratic Council of America that read “Tikkun Olam: Repair the World. Defeat Donald Trump.” He lost the election. Now he needs to lose all support and credence. Like Haman, may his name and legacy be drowned out by groggers, by history’s judgement, and by the voices all good people who recognize the damage he has done to our country and the world.

Sources

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/09/trump-americans-who-died-at-war-are-losers-and-suckers/615997/

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/25/rnc-speaker-pulled-from-schedule-after-she-tweeted-anti-semitic-conspiracy-thread.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/27/us/pittsburgh-synagogue-active-shooter/index.html

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/election-2020/rioters-at-capitol-shattered-windows-graffitied-doors-left-behind-debris

https://www.timesofisrael.com/how-did-us-jews-vote-polls-offer-imperfect-take-though-big-picture-is-clear/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/un-says-trump-slur-on-shithole-countries-is-racist/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/09/trump-israeli-american-council-anti-semitic-claims/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/06/03/priest-stjohns-church-trump/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-that-jewish-people-who-vote-for-democrats-are-very-disloyal-to-israel-denies-his-remarks-are-anti-semitic/2019/08/21/055e53bc-c42d-11e9-b5e4-54aa56d5b7ce_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-kung-flu-trump-sparks-backlash-over-racist-language–and-a-rallying-cry-for-supporters/2020/06/24/485d151e-b620-11ea-aca5-ebb63d27e1ff_story.html

Featured image by Robert Couse-Baker

Fallow 2020 may help us reconnect with what we have

In her book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, British writer Katherine May recounts her own “sad” time where she was forced to hunker down after family illness. “Wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of hour human experience,” she writes, “and wisdom resides in those who have wintered.”

We are all “wintering” now through this pandemic. As we welcome good news with the rollout of the vaccines, we also grieve for those we have lost, those who remain ill, and all of us who have had our lives upended. But there WILL be a spring. I am not sure if I ever want to go back to the phrenetic pace of our previous life. 

My whole life has always been about filling up my calendar. I thought this would change once I retired to Florida, but the last five years have been even busier. My days—and in many cases Larry’s as well—were filled with concerts and theater subscriptions and annual Disney passes and movies and dinners out. I scheduled so many events that neither  Larry nor I could keep up, resulting in revelations of upcoming plans mere hours before they occurred. “You were going to tell me about this WHEN?” Larry asked, as he dressed quickly to get to an afternoon tribute band concert being held in our 55+ community. “Sorry, sweetheart,” I responded as I quickly threw on some makeup. “I thought our tickets were for the evening show!”

Our lives were also filled with trips to visit our children as well as to see places on our bucket list. When we weren’t away or running around to our innumerable commitments, we also enjoyed visits from friends and relatives. We refer to  it as “The Tourist Season,” where our sunny home in Florida looked much more enticing than their snow and ice covered homes February through April.

That life as we knew it drastically changed in March.

Our daughter Julie and her family had flown in from Colorado on March 7 for a week, just as COVID cases were beginning to spike. We stayed in a rented cottage on Indian Rocks Beach, celebrated the long distance birth of our grandson on March 8, and enjoyed the sunshine. We felt safe on the sparsely populated beach. Once we got back to  our home, however, we cancelled our plans to visit Disney World and prepared all our meals at home.

On Saturday, as Julie’s husband Sam packed up their rental car for the trip to the airport, Julie pleaded with us to shelter in place until this was over. “Stay home, Mom and Dad,” she begged. “This is really serious.”

Despite her entreaties, my husband Larry and I were still debating whether to attend our community theater group’s production of Deathtrap. “This will be our last foray for a while,” I reasoned. “We should support our friends who put so much time preparing.”

One hour before we were to leave, our son Adam called from California. “If you promise not to go to the play,” he told us, “we will spend the next hour Zooming with you so you can watch your six-day-old grandson.” We complied. Outside of trips to doctors, the supermarket, and small, socially distanced outdoor meetings , we have kept our promise for the past nine months.

But maybe, for those of us fortunate enough to have survived 2020 without major physical and financial catastrophes, this year has been a break from our normal “Rush, Rush, Rush” routine. Larry and I have found a new rhythm that has given us respite in unexpected ways.

Each morning, we exercise, sometimes together (bikes, walks) and sometimes on our own (Larry’s pickleball and my swims). After lunch, we spend a leisurely hour or two n the couch doing duplicated crossword puzzles, working silently until one or both of us say, “I need help!” I find time to write while Larry satisfies his passion for history and sports with the help of Google. After dinner, a shared affair, we watch a Netflix or Amazon movie and read. I say a prayer of gratitude every day that I am going through this difficult time with Larry, my soul mate and best friend.

We both have appreciated the power of online technology, allowing us to keep up with far flung family and friends. Adam, and his wife Sarah have kept up their part of the bargain, Face Timing with us several times a week with the camera trained on our ten-month-old grandson. Although we have yet to hold him, we have at least been part of his life, watching him sleep and poop as an infant to seeing him experience applesauce for the first time, pop his first tooth and crawl backwards. 

Thanks to his long, elaborate stories, our five-year-old granddaughter often checks in with Zayde. She asks him to retell the story of how Wicki Wolf was foiled again by the forest denizens, which include “good” wolves, moose, and even a visiting alligator who somehow survives the Colorado winters. Julie and her husband often share the screen. Frequent emailed pictures and videos of both grandchildren keep us further in touch.

True, there are times that I fear we have maxed out on Zoom. Synagogue services and board meetings. Book clubs and writing groups. Planned meet-ups with siblings and cousins and friends. But we still have much more down time that allows us to savor what we have rather than rush to taste something new. Although physically distanced, we have become more emotionally connected with the people for whom we care and even reconnected with those whom we lost touch in the frenzy of busier schedules.

As 2020 end, I know I join millions of others in being glad it is over. A popular meme summarizes those feelings: “2020. One Star. Very Bad. Would not recommend.” I look forward to a healthier, happier, and more huggable 2021. But I also hope that I will retain the lessons I have learned as I experienced my own wintering.

First published in (Capital Region, New York) Jewish World, January 7, 2021