I have many heroes, I am embarrassed to list some of them here. People who have played positive roles in my life and inspired me to do as well as I can. A random partial list—people with an incredible strong sense of integrity, and wisdom: Harvey Milk. Gustav Mahler, Golda Meier, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Theodore Heschel, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, John Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Menelik II, Johannes Brahms, Martin Luther King, Jr, Senator Phillip Hart. Part of my embarrassment is that I know to many people some if not al of these people had their very negative sides. That’s what fascinates me.
I have come to ask myself what a great leader is? I think one must separate a great leader from a great person. No one is perfect and we are all a product of our times. They were flawed people, they had traits we deplore, some did absolutely terrible things but they also attained great things. Things that inspire me. Things we certainly could not have attained and without them our lives would be significantly less than they are now.
So, I wonder what makes a great leader. What makes someone you can respect for what they have achieved if not for the person they are.
I also look inward at myself and at these great people and know they achieved tremendous feats from which I benefit and which I certainly could have never attained myself.
I look at myself too and I see myself in their time and in their situation and I dare say I would have made fare greater errors in my own stumbling road to mown imperfection.
As I contemplate these heroes of mine—I am reminded of a prayer from the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people: the ashamnu. The ashamnu is a prayer where we confessor sins from a-z—literally according the Hebrew alphabet. When I was a kid I remember saying to my Rabbi that I thought the prayer was silly because why did I need to confess—for example to murder as I had never committed such a crime. He did not respond to my question until his Yom Kippur sermon when explained that we confess our sins communally and though we may not have commit this or that sin as a community have committed all of these sins. As a community we therefore confess our failures—even if we did not commit these sins we have failed to prevent them and failed to live in a community that does not participate in them.
In a way, if you take the arbitrary list of heroes I list at the title of this post, I think you would end up with an entire Ashamnu’s worth of sins and failures.
I won’t nor do I want to apologize or defend or even justify the shortcomings of my heroes. They have inspired me and they have inspired me to do well. To do better. To think better. And to realize in my own humanity I am not a bad person but imperfect. I look back on 2018 and see mistakes as well as achievements. My mistakes and my flaws do not diminish me—even when I think they should. They are a testament to 2019 where I will continue to make mistakes and attain achievements.
At the end of the my life, as Jean-Paul Sartre put it, they will draw a line under my acts and deeds and tally up my life. Though I live in the shadows of my heroes and on the backs of generations who have fought before me so that I can be a step ahead. I realize, with warts and all my heroes still stand tall because we still reap the benefits they have given even with the pain they also have imported on us.
Harvey Milk. Gustav Mahler, Golda Meier, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Theodore Heschel, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Menelik II, Johannes Brahms, Martin Luther King, Jr, Senator Phillip Hart.
There is a humanitarian disaster going on in Yemen. In a world of humanitarian disasters this one truly has our hand in it. The root cause is the civil war whcih is being relentlessly conducted with American backed Saudi support to the goverment forces against the Houthi rebels. But this is no time to blame one side or the other it is a time to act to help the best we can those staring and dying.
I had often been saddened because I could nothing about this. The military situation was so bad no aid organization coud be there. Now I learn that Doctors Without Borders is daring to be there to do what they can with their clinics.
Children are dying, people are starving. I appeal to anyone reading this: please give what you can to Doctors Without Borders. The link is here. Those of you employed check out if your employee will match your funds. Mine will 50% so I will give through them. But if you dion't please use this link.
The link: https://donate.doctorswithoutborders.org
(Mein Führer: Besser Rot als tot)
Writer's note: I started out writing a satrirical piece about how far would the republican populists go in their murderous racism, and i decided to place it in the future as a vehicle to actually explore the current tenor and trend of the debate if we continue to leave this unchecked. So read this piece and wake up America!)
Washington DC— Sometime in the future a house judiciary committee meeting
John Conyers XVI: Rico we have to talk about this later. The Chair wants to start the debate now.
Rico Oakman: John, this won’t take long, what do you think of my idea?
Conyers XVI: Changing the name of the Democratic party is something we should not take lightly, Rico.
Oakman: But this way, we can compete with the Republican Trump Imperium by appealing to their base as well.
Conyers XVI: But The name—
Oakman: I like adding word ‘socialist’ as our forbearer Mr. Bernhard Sanders would have liked.
Conyers XVI: I know combining it with your pro labor idea…I don’t like it. Putting all that together has a bad connotation—know what I mean, Rico?
Oakman: What do you mean, it has a nice ring to it. I like the name what’s wrong this it?
Radolph Duke-Cruz: Gentleman! The hearings are about to begin.
Oakman: Yes Radolph we’re done! (aside to Conyers)We’ll discuss this later but I have the votes.
Duke-Cruz: The House Judiciary Committee will come to order. We have a proposal from Congressman Oakman—
Josephus Schmoe: I object Chairman! Are you really going to let a democrat talk? We saw from Mr. McConnell, what happens when he let just one democrat talk, look what happened to him.
Duke-Cruz: I doubt they will hang me upside down from a cross just for letting them talk about what Congressman Oakman said was a small matter, Continue Mr. Oakman.
Oakman: Thank you Chairman Duke-Cruz. The current proposal does need some explaining before this key vote. We, the Democratic party—or I should say as we shall soon be know as the National Democratic Socialist Workers Party—
Conyers XVI: I object we have not approved the name—we haven’t voted on that.
Duke-Cruz: Please Congressman Conyers we have learned absolutely nothing, if we have not learned that voting is a mere formality. Continue uninterrupted Rico.
Oakman: Thank you, I want to address people’s concern about the current proposal. We feel this is the only real democratic people-focused solution to both racism and immigration. With our current technology we can use gene therapy to make everyone white. We have tried affirmative action, operation head start, the peace corp, immigration reform and these have not worked. Indeed we all know the definition of insanity is to try the same thing again and again even though it has proven not to work. Let me repeat, we all know the definition of insanity is to try the same thing again and again even though it has proven not to work. Making every body white solves the problem. White police cannot accidentally shoot a black man if he is white.
Duke-Cruz: It’s even better than that, The police couldn’t shoot someone who does not exist. (Oakman chuckles)
Schmoe: You can’t agree with him!
Duke-Cruz: Wait your turn, Joe.
Oakman: The problem is solved! The lack of darker skin color also means we can at last abandon policies that make no sense: affirmative action, outreach to ghettos, multi-cultural hypersensitivities. Indeed there will be no ghettos since nowhere will there be a concentration of anything other than white people. And with the immigration problem. Economically speaking, we know there was never an immigration crisis. Moreover, this country’s only native population was mercilessly annihilated by my friends across the aisle.
Schmoe: Objection! This is a committee meeting there is no aisle.
Oakman: Okay, by my friends on the other side of this podium.
Schmoe: Thank you.
Oakman: Nevertheless, I repeat there has never been—from an economic stand point—an immigration crisis. Our economy would grind to a halt if it were not for our generous immigrants to the south who will work at slave labor wages to gather our food, take care of our children, wash our dishes and paint our houses—that remind me my sink needs repairing. Anyway, the only real problem with immigration is their skin color, which makes many people across the aisle—other side of the podium!—uncomfortable. Their newly lightened skin would ease these concerns and allow our economy to flourish as they work for their slave wages along side their newly lightly colored black neighbors.
Schmoe: If everyone will be white what would prevent one of us—I mean one of the white people from working for slave wages? Besides, if I may, the very idea that anyone not racially related to us could possibly pass as us is at best mendacity and at worst deception. Call a spade a spade, that’s what I say! Let’s have racial integrity and pay them what they re worth and we what we are worth.
Conyers XVI: You can’t do this, I am shocked! This would mean the annihilation of entire cultures.
Oakman: Well, we do have a precedence in what we did to the Native Americans.
Conyers XVI: That’s like saying concentration camps are a precedence for putting us all in death camps.
Shmoe: Well objectively speaking, it is a precedence.
Conyers XVI: Are you saying death camps were a good thing?
Shmoe: I am just saying it is a precedence. Whatever we think about it, there is an international legal precedent. We are a nation of laws. Don’t start judging the law, we are nothing without the rule of law and this was one of them …somewhere… we can’t cherry pick the laws we like and the ones we don’t like.
Peter Flinder: I would like to speak in support of this proposal.
Conyers XVI: You, Flinder!
Flinder: As a member of our newly named NDSWP, I want to say I would support this.
Conyers XVI: Your supposedly my friend Peter!
Flinder: I am, but this would stop your constantly jamming down my throat that I am an invisible minority. Now you would be just as invisible and we can be minorities on equal footing! That’s all I want, equality.
Nick Chauchesqueue: Stop this gentleman. This a charade.
Duke-Cruz: We’ve heard long enough from the Democrats, Nick, what have you got to say?
Chauchesqueue: This is unacceptable, making black people white, the idea is absurd. We need this plurality to exist, if for no other reason than to sustain our GDP in the revenue from private jails. My goodness God almighty, we might as well close death row! Think of that: the unemployment! Not just the laid off workers but the walking undead, too. Entitlements will skyrocket!
Schmoe: I can see other problems. How could we control lower quality white people, like Eastern Europe—no offense Congressman Chauchesqueue— these people would take advantage of this whole program and claim to be whitened. How would we know? They could claim to take advantage of our slave labor program—I mean our reduced minimum wage program—for new illegal residents. This would make us the new European Union—good grief then California, New York and who knows else would exit the union.
Chauchesqueue: Exactly. These black people, which you don’t change just by changing the hare’s fur—their skin color is also but a superficial covering up of bleeding hearty Communism of the worst kind. We see right through this. Does changing their skin color change the way the would vote? If we give them a voice, they’d be a trojan horse of democracy!
Oakman: Gentlemen, you are quite wrong, changing their skin color will change them—it will give them White man’s privilege.
Chauchesqueue: Oh! Genius man.
Oakman: And if we have learned anything we have learned the lengths people will lie to themselves and others to protect their white privilege. Well, to protect their newfound white privilege they would be obliged to step up in solidarity with us to do the same—probably even against their own people who refuse to participate in our program.
Conyers XVI: Good god!
Duke-Cruz: Stop trying to hijack God as your argument! Preposterous: black people turning white!
Oakman: We have proof! Look at Clarence Thomas or Ben Carson. I imagine how much more easily we can make more of them if their skins really were white.
Chauchesqueue: But they aren’t white.
Oakman: What are they then? Conyers doesn’t even admit black republicans into the so-called non-partisan black causcus. They might as well be white already.
Conyers XVI: Good god!
Duke-Cruz: Jesus Christ, stop using God as a defense.
Jesus Christ: It doesn’t bother me, he’s talking the name in vain.
Duke-Cruz: All right.
Shmoe: I am confused. They’d be white black people or white latinos. What do we do then?
Oakman: If there’s any problem it will right itself out in a generation: the long range effects are perfectly clear.
Duke-Cruz: Then we’d have to have some system of registration to track them for the first generation—you know keep an eye on them. We could put them automatically on the sexual predators list and no fly zones, etc. Oh, I have it, let them wear a black triangle on their coats.
Schmoe: And the latinos can wear brown ones.
Duke-Cruz: That's discrimination.
Shmoe: Then have them wear triangles the color of their original sin--I mean skin.
Duke-Cruz: That's an even worse idea we won't be able to tell anyone apart. Just make it brown, that's what most of them are anyway despite what they say.
Chauchesqueue: We have agreement?--Oh no, no no, what was I thinking? This can’t work! Cruz-Duke! This is just white washing the problem—literally whitewashing. If I may say, what I like, is this legal precedence—LEGAL precedence—of the concentration camps.
Shmoe: But, consider the expense?
Duke-Cruz: Now gentlemen, let’s compromise. Work camps, clinics, they’d both be expensive. We could give them government guaranteed loans that would automatically garnish from the wages. They could finance their own camps or their own clinics whichever way we go.
Conyers XVI: Good god! Whichever way—it’s already a choice between the two? Let’s drop the hole matter.
Shmoe: You see! This is a democratic power grab pure and simple. So I would like to introduce the amendment. I’ll make it a friendly amendment to Oakmnan’s proposal with a budgetary tie in.
Duke-Cruz: Then, depending on which way this vote goes, we can buy stocks in the supporting company.
Oakman: Oh wow, I never even thought of that one.
Shmoe: Why you are a Democrat and we are in charge. I’ll even support the Democrat’s who cross over to vote with us to get them lobbying jobs before they get lynched in their hometowns.
Conyers XVI: You are the one’s doing the lynching, Sir!
Shmoe: If we do away with black people then who lynches who is a mere academic issue.
Oakman: I do object as well. I mean, Do I still get credit for passing the law if the amendment is accepted?
Shmoe: We’ll see Oakman. And Conyers, lobbying is not that bad once you try it. Trust me the hours are better … so is the food.
Agnus Merkle: There is no problem with immigrants why are we even debating this?!
Duke-Cruz: Congresswoman Merkle? Get her out of here! Jesus, who let her in anyway. This is a men’s committee. It is so difficult being a leader in these conditions. John, let me ask you a question, which would you prefer? Death camps or becoming white?
Oakman: You could get a sun tan after the operation. I don’t have a problem with that.
Chauchesqueue: Wouldn’t bother me either.
Conyers XVI: My leader, I suppose better red than dead.
Duke-Cruz: Thank you, common sense prevails. Next, item—oh it’s irrelevant now, putting prisoners in coal mines. I guess we can go home, our work is done.
It is very hard to take that almost 50% of this country supports a blatantly incompetent president. No one has done more damage to America’s greatness and its reputation. Yet an alarming number of people continue to cheer him on. We’ve become the laughing stock of the foreign press. We are destroying our precious country’s environment with a fervor never seen before in the face of a direness of climate destruction never seen before. It seems like huge swaths of our country live in denial. It’s hard not to see this as totally hopeless. This is even more so for those of us who suffer from depression.
For those who do not know, Depression is a chemical imbalance that withholds any sense of joy or hope in the brain. It causes an artificial feeling of utter hopelessness and despair. This can get so strong that people can sometimes kill themselves while in the throws of this terrible affliction. Add to this already pernicious affliction the daily onslaught of stupidity and evil that emanates from the White House. The result is the feeling that not only will the depressed person never recover it seems like America will also never recover.
But one must remember the depression is not you. Depression tries to convince you that you are your depression. But it is important to remember you are not your depression, it is only a temporary chemical imbalance. Patience and perseverance is what is needed—and strength lots of strength.
But how does one withstand this added burden of the failure of the country to this mix. The answer is: not very well. The suicide rate is soaring soaring suicide rate. Drug abuse is also at an all time high and opioids are a particularly pernicious epidemic. However these are just the symptoms. The core lies actually in the taking away of many many safety nets and checks and balances. So that we are perilously left to our own devices with no help or compassion to be found.
One safety net, the safety net from tyranny is the checks and balances, which are currently missing in the government (and hopefully this will be corrected by January).
The death of trade unions, the loss of another safety net, meant the majority of our workers now lie at the mercy of their employers. If you are lucky enough to have a needed skill, you can do very well so long as that skill is needed and you are able to deliver more than anyone else out there. However, once you are inconvenient you are quickly dismissed with no recourse. At some famous silicon valley companies this predictably happens before a worker is vested in their valuable stock options.
Pensions, some sense of security in your retirement, has also vanished. Social security now does not have a prayer of paying your expenses in retirement. And Medicare does not really help until the end, their hospice is quite generous once you are on the road out of this life.
Now you must save and put your money as foolishly as you dare into the stock market so you can try and build your own pension. If someone starts this too late or their investments don’t payoff, they find themselves facing a most perilous time just when they thought they could relax.
For the seasoned manufacturing worker, the ladder to success is now a shambles, as these jobs have been all squandered off to a combination of automation and free trade.
I live in San Francisco. And when I first moved here in 1985, there was a sense of community. I arrived penniless and jobless. A gay community under siege from AIDS nevertheless had the energy to take me in until I could settle down into what turns out to be a rather lucrative profession as a designer and writer. Anyone trying to come penniless to San Francisco now, will come up against a brick wall of overpriced housing, overpriced goods, overpriced services that only the rich can afford. The safety net in the city of San Francisco no longer exists—except in pier 60 where there is a huge homeless shelter. No one who can afford any kind of rent in San Francisco can qualify for any kind of assistance because their income is too high even if they are barely making ends meet due to the cost of living. The service industry lives in suburbs that are farther and farther away from the city.
I go to my corner gas station and fill up my car. I go into pay the bill and I have no idea where this person can possibly live. Turns out, some live with their parents. Some live with their families or friends (sometimes 6 people to a four bedroom house). Some live out in exurbs which can be an over 2 hour commute away from the city. Those who are lucky enough to live closer to the city by hold down 2-4 jobs to make ends meet. San Francisco is an extreme, but visiting shuttered small towns and you can see the safety net has likewise been retracted though mostly by poverty instead of silicon valley excess as ion the bay area.
Many other safety nets are gone as well: those for the environment. Just access to national or state parks is getting limited as they close their doors or limit their hours. The safety net of drinking water, there are more and more municipalities where drinking tap water is done at their own peril. The safety net of political debate and pluralism has ossified into us against them, good against evil shouting match.
All this lack of safety nets leads the poor soul who has fallen into depression to face odds that seem almost impossible. With no safety net, as someone in a frefall of depresion, they hit the ground with a hard splat. This puts the one who is depressed at far greater risk. The greater risk because those safety nets that could have comforted them, or given them confidence are gone. The institutions, the nature, the community that could once shine light in the darkness abandon people now to face it alone.
Without safety nets the only soft places to land are the quicksands of substance abuse, resentment, hatred and nationalism. I believe these phenomenon come from the same source: the hopelessness and depression of our society and it’s obstinate to understand one thing and one thing alone: uncontrolled greed at the expense of all safety nets, at the expense all victims that must be run over to get their way to the top.
And we see people lying in a pool of substance abuse, as the only affordable flight from their depression
We also see people teeming with resentment. Resentment foolishly aimed at each other — instead of aimed at the rich. For it is the wealthy that profit from this depression. The wealthy likewise manipulate us into hating immigrants, they very people who help us, help clean our house, watch over our children when we work, and befriend us because they are grateful to be here.
There is none nor has there ever been an immigration crisis. We are an immigrant nation how did we survive all these years without a wall? The wall was never necessary. The only immigrants than seem to be causing trouble are some of the more pesky white immigrants. Senseless hatred or fear of immigrants is ridiculous as there are no latino terrorists—yet we act like a weak people scared of our own shadow. The exact opposite of what a great nation should be.
Then we see vicious internecine hatred. I find it very difficult to understand the venom we inflict on each other these days for just having differing opinions. Moreover the extremity of those beliefs have gotten so hyperbolic as to be not worth even defending. Political ideology has gotten blown way out of proportion to consume any kind of human decency or community many once had.
Lastly, and most dangerously is the rise of nationalism. If there is ever a sign of a nation’s weakness it is the growth of nationalism. Nationalism must not be confused with patriotism. Patriots love their country and honor and protect both its moral fibre and its institutions that make it great. Nationalist, by contrast, do not love the country they love the vision of having their own country and want to take it away from you. Nazism is the most durable example of how nationalism destroys a country and does not protect it. Nazism only died away in Germany after the countries total and utter moral collapse and physical destruction. Nationalists do not love: they would rather kill, shoot, build walls, exclude and call their idiocy superiority. Natioanlists would rather kill their own people to hold up their romantic fantasies of a master race or a master country.
So the depressed individual has the triple whammy of their illness, the lack of safety nets or some semblance of humanity, and an epidemic of the most inhumane response to an inhumane situation. By god, how does anyone survive that! If you do, then you have have my undying awe and respect. If you can’t you have my sympathy and the shame of a nation once great before the “Make America Great Again” movement dragged this country into the mud.
The strange thing is, this new lethal depression effects all sides both Trump supporters and detractors. As reprehensible as I find Trump, I do not extend that condemnation to his supporters. Unless we find somewhere some common ground both sides will end up cannabilizing eachother.
In the meantime, we who suffer from depression have to trudge on, against perilous odds to struggle and survive. No matter who you are, you have my sympathy. Remember it’s just a chemical imbalance.
For the prospective reader I thought it would be helpful to post a sample chapter.
You can read the text below, or click here to hear me read it to you.
Chapter 1: Jamie Goldberg
Detroit, Michigan, Spring 1970
“I am sorry, Mrs. Goldberg, it is against the school rules.” Mrs. Bradford’s temples were pulsating. I, Jamie Goldberg, was her least favorite student. I was as annoying as a precocious ten year old student could be. Too smart for my own good, but not smart enough to make life easy for myself. She regularly humiliated me in front of my classmates, leaving me to wonder when I would ever feel like I belonged somewhere.
Mrs. Bradford enjoyed thwarting me with brute strength, if not mental superiority; but my mother was a force for which she was unprepared.
“You can’t let me take my own son out of school?” scolded my mother. Her small five-foot-one frame, bobbing red hair, and outrageous blood-red designer coat with the black tentacle fringe, made her look more menacing than her size.
The tall, gray-haired Mrs. Bradford towered over my parent. “He’s not sick; he’s perfectly well. There is no reason to take him out of school, Mrs. Goldberg.”
“Stopping a war isn’t a reason to take my son out of school?”
“No, it isn’t.”
“You won’t let me take my son out of school?”
“No!” Mrs. Bradford barked.
I saw my mother relax. I could not suppress a smile; I knew Mrs. Bradford had lost.
“Okay, just try and stop me then.” With that my mother, Mrs. Ruth Esther Goldberg, demanding wife, defender of the people of Detroit and mother of the school’s most unpopular student, walked over to my chair and picked me up by the arm. I almost stumbled out of my chair.
“Go, Mrs. G!” cried Brian Germaine, one of the school’s first black students—courtesy of my mother’s political machinations.
“We’re going,” she said as she hauled me out of class.
Amid hoots from the other kids, Mrs. Bradford ran to the school intercom, yelling something I could not hear because, in an instant, I was out of the room.
Mom whisked me into the car where my older brother, Steven, was already sitting.
“What Neanderthal schmucks,” she fumed. Off she drove with us downtown. The ride was jerky, but for us it was normal. Mom’s foot didn’t quite reach the gas pedal so she resorted to giving it a good kick in order to maintain speed.
In the back I was breathless from the tension in the school. I was thankful that the fight was over and settled in my mother’s favor, my terror of the later consequences notwithstanding. I was certain Mrs. Bradford would take revenge on me in front of
class in some dark and horrific way, while my mother, who was trying to save the world, was more than ready to sacrifice her son just as Abraham willingly offered up Isaac. Whether God would stop her at the last minute, I was unsure.
Mom was driving Steven and me to an anti-war demonstration, and it wasn’t the first time her political activities had gotten me in trouble with authorities and my pressuring peers.
When I was seven years old she had maneuvered to desegregate the local school district. She succeeded in getting only one African-American child, the aforementioned Brian Germaine, into our school. Mom’s accomplishment turned all my friends against me. Not at first, but as the kids compared notes with their parents, they ended up hating my guts, calling me “nigger lover” and other names my mother would never allow me to repeat, let alone complain about.
The only real close friend I had after that episode was this very same Brian Germaine, the single African-American whose family had the courage to choose the all-white school.
Unfortunately—that is for me, not for the United States—around my eighth birthday my mother tried again. Any remaining sympathizers disappeared when she and a local civic organization successfully sued the school district for discrimination. The presiding judge ordered the school board from the neighboring African-American township to resign. Then the judge fused the two school districts into one. Instantly my school went from seventy-five percent Jewish and twenty-four percent Catholic to fifty percent African-American and forty-nine percent “beleaguered” Caucasian. The latter group couldn’t get out of town fast enough—except my family; we were in it for the duration.
The school became an integrated/segregated school. The African-Americans stayed among them-selves and took my only friend, Brian, with them. This left me with no one. Neither side thanked me for my association with the ruining of both schools. I was alone, but not left alone.
At first the new world order shocked me.
I heard a familiar voice. I looked up from my gym locker. I smiled. It was Brian. I thought my lost friend was coming back. “Oh, hi, Brian. How is it going?”
Then, he was joined by three more unsmiling kids. “Brian?”
“Get up, Jamie.”
Brian’s voice resonated with that friendliness I associated with our former relationship. I even thought this was a discrete moment for us to declare our mutual friendships with new friends to boot. It wasn’t until he kicked me in the groin and his new buddies kicked my legs from behind that I realized something was amiss. The feelings of friendship quickly blended with howling pain and humiliation, creating a cognitive dissonance from which I was never to recover.
I came home bruised and my clothes dirty, chiefly because they were thrown into the garbage by Brian’s friends. My mother gasped, but she was on the phone.
“Mildred, you have to realize desegregating the schools is the most important—wait a sec, what happened to you?—nothing Mildred, my son just came home a mess. Anyway, keep me posted on Oakland County. I’ll come up there for a strategy meeting … knives? Mildred, that’s no excuse for cowardice … Millie, we have to start somewhere … pragmatism breeds poverty … What do you mean who said that? I did—look I gotta go; I’ll call you right back … Okay, then I am calling the mayor … Fine. Goodbye.” She slammed down the phone, then glanced at the damage. “What happened to you, Jamie?”
“I fell.” She accepted the excuse with a surprising ease.
“You fell? Again? Honestly, how can you be such a klutz. You have to be the most uncoordinated kid in school. What am I supposed to do with you?” It was a question she often asked but never answered. “Can you stop looking so sad all the time? Why not invite Brian and his new friends over to play sometime?” She stared at me and heaved a disgusted sigh. “Oh, go wash up—and change your clothes before your father comes home.”
I wasn’t just the butt of the black kids’ fury. I had become an equal opportunity target; both whites and blacks felt a compulsion to bully me.
But by then, I felt I deserved this fate, even the furtive beatings that followed. My situation lightened inadvertently when Jeremy, a high-voiced sissy tried to come to my rescue. Poor Jeremy. His weakness attracted the malicious beatings of our schoolmates with a fervor unmatched by those associated with
my political views. On the one hand I felt a vague kinship for Jeremy. This kinship extended just enough to make me feel guilty about his torment, but not so far as to join his side. Though I suspected even at
that early date that his was the side on which I really belonged.
At the Kennedy Square demonstration, by com-parison, the action was orderly. We marched resolutely around the square in a vain attempt to stop bloodshed in a distant land. My mother’s passion failed to allay my fear of the intimidating police. On horseback with grim unfriendly faces, they circled the marchers. Other sneering policemen in riot gear stood ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. I was shaking. My mother was defiant. For all their scary intimidation, the police did nothing. To Mom’s disappointment, there would be no arrests this time, unlike the 1968 Poor People’s March, the highlight of my youth.
Then, I was in a sea of strangers, the only white kid. My mother and father had run ahead so Mom could hobnob with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s second in command, Ralph Abernathy. I was marching down Woodward Avenue mouthing what seemed like
the words to songs I did not know. We all walked hand in hand, my eight-year-old white hand clasped by larger black hands. It was a beautiful experience. I was not afraid at all … until the march ended at the waterfront. There, white policemen on horses knew how to deal with people who marched in peace. Without warning, the men on horseback charged the crowd. A terrifying chaos ensued, during which I was pushed away, threw a tantrum, and was subsequently whisked away by Eileen, our house cleaner, who had somehow lost her shoes in the fracas. It was a nail-biting wait for my parents to return.
It was not until much later that night that my father and mother reappeared with a small African-American child named Ladon. He was maybe two years younger than I was. He lived with us for barely six months. Why, I am not exactly sure, though I was quite angry when he left. He was my last real buddy, someone who looked up to me. Ladon’s departure made me realize how alone I was in my own home.
This anti-war demonstration in Kennedy Square was pretty tame by comparison. Still, in spite of the solemn chants—“What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!”—and our orderly marching with placards, I braced for the police to come and destroy us at any second. I was, for some reason, waiting for the hammer to fall. My brother Steven, looking completely unperturbed, shook his fists at them. My mom, noticing this, followed suit. Luckily, all to no avail, Mom’s only achievement was to heighten her youngest son’s fear.
The police surrounded the demonstration but left us alone, much to Mother’s disgust. “What a bunch of cowards,” she muttered. “If there were three more blacks here, we’d be getting trampled right now.”
I stared at the policemen on their horses. They seemed belligerent and proud. I swallowed. I began to chant, “Trample me! Trample me!”
Fortunately for me, they did not comply.
It has been a little over two years since the passing of my husband, Morris Taylor. And strangely enough it is only now that I am beginning to finally clean up the house. You see, I have been holding on to Morris's possessions like a life preserver: afraid anything important to him during his lifetime was a dear treasure to him in the afterworld/life. I was worried that the absence of any of this stuff would send his spirit off to join the company of his first wife in the grave of far off Berrien Springs, never to be seen again. But this was really only the beginning.
For me, it was the start of the most elaborate and puerile superstitions I would acquire int eh coming two years. Fancying myself a devout a-religious person, I was horror stricken as I started believing in ghosts and spirits, talking to candles and all sorts of strange things all of which was somehow entwined with the compulsion to keep dear Morris with me. I actually believed that, if not bringing him back, these beliefs or faiths would keep him from going away.
After two years of tenacious disregard for reality (a trait I picked up from right wing politicians) I finally realizes these beliefs or faiths were actually nothing more than sentiment or wishful thinking born of a fear to go it alone. That somehow an enjoyment or a success without him would be a betrayal as if I didn’t need him any more. So I tried to perpetuate a need for him. Rather self-destructive since he wasn’t coming back—at least not in a form I would ever recognize again.
The futility and hopelessness was only stopped as I realized this was all a folly born of fear and in direct conflict with my deepest convictions: my a-religousness which I explain to you as a disinterest in religion of spirit as driver of anything other than good or bad literature.
I have settled back to my main belief, which is: God or spirits may or may not exist, but I would prefer not to mix in. Religion is a murky bog of quicksand, once ensnared you will find difficult to free yourself or even write about it with any hope for objectivity. So it’s best to just let those sleeping dogs lie and remain confident if there is a truth to any of it that will then take care of itself whenever or wherever it chooses. In the meantime I returned to my belief or faith that if I keep my nose clean I shall suffer the consequence, if any, with the equanimity I have suffered the loss of Master Morris Taylor the former CEO of my life.
So I am surprising myself with the alacrity and determination I now find in discarding Morris’s precious belongings. As dear as his rave review in the 1964 London Times was, it means nothing to me. Nor does, a very itchy afghan knitted by his derelict, if deceased, mother.
But the things I have the hardest time dealing with are the things that seem to have an apparent, if unknown, value.
For example, Morris did scrawl on a plastic envelope that this faded colorful circus advertisement from the Detroit Free Press of 1881 was a Strobridge Lithograph. I have no doubt it is worth the $3,000 he claimed but finding someone willing to pay it is another matter entirely (dear reader, care to buy it?).
Master Morris was a collector and collected things that really boggled my mind: a collection of antique postcards, old Seventh Day Adventist propaganda textiles, old sheet music, and my absolute least favorite and yet most ubiquitous: his rock collection. I can honestly say in the 8 years I have served and lived with Morris, this was the only practice of which I contemporaneously frowned upon, to very little effect. I had a recent visit with one of Morris’s children and could barely hide my glee—when I was trying to feign generosity—when he said he actually wanted the rock collection.
I was bitterly disappointed to see that he had scarcely picked through a tenth of the collection. But he made the point I am grappling. He took just those stones—regardless of its aesthetic quality—which he had collected with his father when they were in Maine. These stones had more than intrinsic beauty or value to him. I was giving them away until a horrified friend told me I was throwing away untold amounts of money—and that really didn’t bother me except the fear I was wasting something. I mean I could auction them off and give the money to charity that does far better work than those who just took his rocks away.
But rocks are the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended): he collected all sorts of antiques, memorabilia and other things I can only best describe as junk.
But the Indian Spring cleaning has been thwarted by these so-called or presumably valuable items. I don’t really know what todo with them. So I hope I discern the junk and just throw it away (first offering it to family or friends who might be attached to them in some sentimental way. For the rest. I wish I could shovel them all on to the set of Antique Roadshow and be done with them. None of these things embody Morris’s spirit or what he meant to me—except the rocks and that’s a negative influence.
I need not fear that I am getting rid of Morris’s memory. His brilliant watercolors still line the house, yielding only for one wall that has the paintings I have used on the covers of the books I have or will have written. But even then, if the house succumbed to fire or earthquake, I am left with such rich memories and life lessons that my life even without all that stuff is still a living tribute to him.
The bright spot in all this, apart from relieving myself of unproductive superstitions if making the house more my own a place I can live in the present.
But you can take away from everything he ever touched and what I am left with is an enduring emptiness in my heart, a place where he once resided. Even if I get blessed to have a new love or a new husband, he will take his place alongside Morris. The hole Master Morris left in my heart shall never fill up—no curator can touch that. Its this emptiness that I treasure and proof of my deep and abiding love for him.
Did I also mention he has a substantial post card collection of rare and…
I have had to struggle with suicidal thoughts these past years. I am surviving with them, coping with them. And maybe if i share some of my experience it can help you too? As many know my husband/Master of almost 10 years died. I suffered a depression, so I am no stranger to suicidal thoughts. Sometimes they seem so strong I fear they will overwhelm me. And sometimes they do. But those thoughts never switch into actions. I find myself stronger than the thoughts. But I also keep in mind three things: First, I am conscious that I am depressed. That those thoughts are my depression talking not me. It gives the me the wisdom to tolerate them and not hate them; but not act on them. Second, i realize in the depths of depression, or a yearning to kill myself, i long to justify people would be better off without me. I even but up this whole argument about prevention, that by killing myself i was saving people from far further misery than if i had lived. These arguments, though, are simply delusional. Lies meant to ignore how much i am really loved. Third, as Master Morris Taylor taught me. If you do commit suicide, the misery you will inflict on everyone who has ever known you is enough to warrant being cursed. I simply cannot do that to my loved ones, my friends, my colleagues -- all who believe in me. I simple cannot let them down. I heard people say that suicide is a selfish act, and i am not convinced that is so. People who find themselves so drowned in misery can't see the results of their actions, and delude themselves that they are not loves nor valued. All I can say is that consciousness is the only antidote. Be conscious of your the state of your body, the state of your mind. Be aware of the gratitude that quivers through every soul, even yours. If suicide is meant to be a call for help, then listen to your own distress call--and help yourself. If suicide seems like an answer, realize it is a Permanent solution to a temporary problem. Problems constantly change, death never does. So I use suicide as a trigger to tell me: don't kill myself, instead kill time (even if its a marathon session of my favorite movies) something to get me to the point I can fall peacefully asleep and wake up the next day to try again. Give yourself time to prove that to yourself, you deserve at least that much. Lastly, for what it's worth: I don't want you to commit suicide because you are smarter than that. I wrote this not because it will save your life, if you are feeling suicidal, but it will hopefully give you tools that you can save yourself with. And if you do, maybe you will discover your own tools. Then i hope you will share those with others, we can never have enough of that kind of wisdom. Need to talk to some? There is a 24 hour hotline that would love to talk to you: Call 1-800-273-8255 (The National Suicide Prevention Hotline).
Today our electoral college, our last line in defense of fascism will officially elect a fascist dictator to the US presidency. Our country is on the precipice of its final destruction as a democracy. An authoritarian regime is about to take over. One so completely divorced from democracy that they currently aim to harm the very people who elected them. So does this mean we are doomed? No. We can descend into fascism, but we can also descend into chaos. Or we can repeat the last 8 years and descend into gridlock with a bad taste in our mouths. Nevertheless we should be prepared for the worst. It leads me to contemplate the fate of the most vulnerable for they will surely bear the brunt. Time has taught us that the ‘vulnerable’ are not the poor or the downtrodden they are the ‘different’. Think your wealth will protect you? I am sure the rich Jews of Germany thought exactly the same thing. So using that analogy, if this were Nazi Germany (and it very well may be) what kind of Jew will you be? There were Jews who disbelieved in what was happening. Surely this cannot happen here? They cried to themselves even as they were being herded onto trains, to experience exactly what they could not fathom. These were the believers in civil society, the believers in institutional safeguards. The vast majority of the 9,500,000+ Jewish population (https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005161). There were Jews who desperately tried to escape. Some succeeded and went to another country where they could get on with their lives while the rest of Germany crashed and burned. Of those who escaped not all fared well. Many were miserable refugees, some, like Stefan Zweig and his wife, committed suicide, and yet others found they had not escaped far enough like Anne Frank’s father Otto who escaped to Amsterdam only to be captured there and sent to a concentration camp. There were also those Jews slow on the uptake. “Oh my god, this is really happening!” they would realize in various degrees of too late. For these Jews a dilemma came up: they had to fight their fate but how? Some went into the underground. Some went into hiding. Some tried marrying Aryans (some 4,700). Others tried forged papers, and even went so far as to fight in the army for the Germans. There were also the apathetic, the apolitical, the ones with their heads in the sand or up their ass. They simply reacted to consequences as they appeared. They went into hiding when kicked out of their homes. They stole food when they were deprived of money. They were shoved into lower and lower levels of pragmatic survival. (about 1,400 of these survived living in Berlin throughout the war). (http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/berlin.html) Then there were these special class of Jews, call them delusional, call them the elites, call them the traitors. They thought working with the Germans would be the way to help attenuate the circumstances. They enjoyed privilege for so long they were useful to the Germans. They gave an air of legitimacy for the fellow disbelievers that it really wasn’t so bad. Their leaders after all would protect them. But nobody could protect them. Even this Jewish elite, somewhat serendipitously called in German the Jewish Rat, could not protect them nor themselves. (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/judenrat.html They were actually called the Judenrat or Jewish Council) Though some did abuse their ‘privileges’ to help their friends or themselves, others wanted to only to find out that wasn’t so easy. They ended up helping the Nazi cause more than they ever hurt it. Of course these Judenrat members did not find these jobs very cushy and were often subjected to the same intimidation, torture and murder as the others. And to be fair, many were forced into the Judenrat, I am referring to those who more willingly participated in them thinking they could reform the Nazis from within. Then there was those Jews who opposed the system from the very beginning. They became the easiest targets of retaliation and often used as symbols of the impending martyrdom to follow. They certainly died with clear consciences. They raised awareness. They disabused the disbelievers, allowing many of them to take action. Many of them won credibility among the underground and as resistance fighters often got free passes from the underground to safer ground. That was surely the fate of Victor Lazlo, the secondary hero of Casablanca. So the question remains. Given on impending Trump presidency: what kind of Jew do you aspire to? Or are you confident this can’t happen here and certainly not to you?
Apart from literature, current events pull at my attention. Donald Trump's stunning takeover of the Republican Party. His candidacy, I originally saw as a joke. This joke has gotten very serious. I am very concerned for the message his ascendancy sends about America. The threat and concern that many groups of people, Women, Muslims and Latinos, must now feel. My Jewish background compells me to call this out and state uncategorically America must defeat Defeat Trump and the attitudes that allow him to flourish.
The personal is political. How one leads one's life is a political act. And for no one was that more true than the early years of Jamie Goldberg. He went to school in the so-called tolerant North. Yet he bumps up against racism he associates with the Deep South. This happens when his mother, a political activist, fights to integrate his school, that is to allow African-American children, who live nearby, to attend the currently all Caucasian school. He finds himself ostracized and in a dilemma: his friends ostracize him for his mother's political views. But they attack his mother. Yet the cost of defending his mother from attacks is further alienation. It creates another bad environment for Jamie, who suddenly finds himself, more often than not, left alone. And this is clearer in the newly published Chapter 5 of this book. By the way. I will be aiming to update this blog on a weekly basis. So if you check in on the weekends, you probably will get the latest entry.