Politics · Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Politics and pundits

When did decency, courtesy, common sense, and respectability vanish from political debates and campaigns? On Tuesday night, America and the rest of the world witnessed an interaction between our two presidential candidates that defied all semblance of kindness and decency. As someone who observed the entire spectacle, I was horrified at the remarks that were exchanged.

In spite of the moderator’s valiant attempts to maintain order and adherence to the topics presented, both candidates found ways to wander all over the spectrum of subjects. As insults began to be exchanged, the decibel level finally reached a place that made everything incomprehensible.

This is not simply an issue of Republican versus Democrat, Trump versus Biden, conservative versus liberal. Both participants turned important national issues into personality conflicts or denials of all statements made by the other party. It amused me that handshakes were not allowed due to Covid-19. If that situation were not in place, I seriously doubt that either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden would have wanted to get that close to his opponent.

On the local level, Senate and Congressional races are no less ugly. Is it possible that hurling insults and accusations has been going on for some time and I never noticed before? We have candidates suggesting that their opponents are liars, robbers, and almost everything else short of being convicted felons. It can’t be the presence of social media in 21st century politics that has made the difference. My personal view is that the frequency of crime riots, hostilities, and social discord have made the exchange of nastiness more common.

Like most Americans, I can hardly wait for this election season to be over. Filling the television station and other media with hate and unpleasantness is wholly distasteful. I have stopped wondering who is honest and who is not, who is sincerely determined to improve our world and who is self-serving. But I sincerely keep looking for a candidate in any of these political races who asks for votes based on his or her record, not because the opponent is slimy and unworthy. From the looks of current situations it’s not in the foreseeable future and we can all hope that election day arrives as soon as possible. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

To be a hero

Following up on the tribute to RBG, it occurred to me, both as a writer and an educator, to imagine what is required to be a hero. What I know about RBG is that she did not set out to be one but achieved that status nonetheless. Her biography tells us that she was committed to working for others, being honest to herself and the rest of the world, and doing what was right.

Let’s assume that you decide at an early age that you want to commit your life to doing good deeds for your world. In order to get there from here, you must first learn as much as you can. Sources of knowledge are family members, religious leaders, educators, and endless books of all types.

We make a mistake when we narrow research to a very small field. No matter the discipline, learn as much as you can about as many subjects as possible. My experience suggests that truly learned people have studied fields ranging from astronomy to zoology.

Defining the scope of your heroism is the next step. If you want to be a national or international icon, you will probably need to distinguish yourself in politics, scientific research, or global humanitarian achievements. If your definition of heroism is more local than global, you may want to focus your time and energy on matters within your immediate space. That may be your block, community, town, religious group, city, or state.

There are numerous ways to make yourself known for good works. Teaching is one choice. If you don’t have the credentials to teach, schools of all sorts always need volunteers. And if education isn’t in your heart, there are as many volunteer organizations as there are diseases, causes, or political inclinations.

And if you choose to be a hero to your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew, that’s a major responsibility in itself. Carefully choose the words you utter. Do everything possible not to insult those around you. The kids are listening and inclined to imitate what you say and do. When you are unpleasant, unpredictable, and unkind; these are the phrases and behaviors they receive.

Most likely, few people wake up and declare, “I am going to be a hero.” RBG certainly did not. That doesn’t mean that we can be reckless or accidental about the messages we transmit. You may never know when a man or woman will one day think of you as a hero. Shalom.

Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

What we waste

One of the frequent conversations in our household is the imperative to finish everything that is on your plate. From my standpoint, one should eat until hunger has been satisfied and the state of satisfaction has been reached. The other approach is that you are obligated to finish everything on your plate.

Is there one correct answer to this debate? The reasoning behind everything that is on your plate is that it is a crime to waste anything, be it food on your plate or leftovers in the refrigerator. My position is that the world isn’t negatively impacted by leaving some food when I have eaten as much as I want or need.

Here is the question that I offer to you. What truly constitutes waste? Is it leaving food on a plate or cooking enough for 45 when there are only two or three who are eating? What is the consequence of cooking too much? We deplete food sources and supplies but is this really harmful? My response is that it’s only harmful when others will not have the food they need as a direct result of our gluttony.

If we extrapolate a bit, how can we reduce waste of many of the resources to which we have access. For one, it seems to be a waste of gasoline to drive to a nearby location when walking is easily accomplished. From there, it seems to be a waste of resources when we use too many plastic bags and fail to recycle them. Likewise, paper bags can also be recycled if we spent the time and a small amount of effort.

Better yet, use the heavy duty bags that are available in large chains and grocery groups, eliminating the brown and skimpy plastic bags. In other words, it’s clear that a large component of waste is pure laziness or lack of concern for protecting and preserving our world. Somehow, it all amounts to doing the right thing for our planet and the smaller parts of it in which we reside. I’ll stick with my belief that the world isn’t harmed when I don’t finish what’s on my plate unless I have purchased and prepared too much food to help those who don’t have enough. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Reprisal

Dictionary.com’s definition of reprisal is the following: (in warfare) retaliation against an enemy for injuries received, by the infliction of equal or greater injuries. It goes on to define, the forcible seizure of property or subjects in retaliation.

The research I have uncovered most recently in preparation for my next book has furnished the word reprisal. While the US is in disputes with various countries, we are not in the midst of a declared war. As a result, we don’t see or hear this word very often.

During World War II, one of the many reasons why Jews and other captives generally did not attempt escape or brutality toward captors was the fear of reprisal. When one captive hurt or killed a soldier, killing in retaliation would take place. One of the authors I’m reading (Martin Gilbert) estimates 1200 deaths of reprisal to one escapee or injured Nazi.

All of this causes me to wonder about what we do to others out of reprisal. Cutting someone off on the road who has tailgated you or done something similar surely constitutes reprisal. Refraining from writing to someone who hasn’t written or emailed you in some time is reprisal. Putting your child on timeout simply because you had a rough day and can’t handle his behavior is reprisal.

Someone hurting you doesn’t give you license to hurt anyone else. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that it is never acceptable to do intentional damage to someone. But the point is to examine our motives in terms of our actions toward others.

One of the countless truths I’ve learned from my husband is the wisdom of giving others the benefit of the doubt. If he hasn’t heard from someone, he speculates that the other person has been busy or ill. In all of our years together, I have never seen him get angry while driving, much less committing acts of reprisal. The example is an excellent one for all of us to follow.

These days, we have few occasions to worry about reprisal in terms of acts of war or violence. But retaliation and reprisal are probably more common than we realize. Once we consider the examples and symbols of reprisal throughout history, it becomes clear that injuring someone because someone injured you is simply unacceptable. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Ethical dilemma

Relaxing in my recliner yesterday afternoon, I was beginning to feel guilty about the process of sitting there, doing nothing. You’ve just published a book, I reminded myself. There are numerous actions you can take to promote said book. A few people in your address book haven’t been told about it. You could always create a press release. And on and on it went.

Suddenly, I began to think about the Protestant work ethic that we learned and practiced, no matter what our religion, geography, philosophy, socio-economic level, or shoe size. The gist of that was that if you work hard, and are thrifty and efficient, you would be entitled to eternal salvation.

To those of you who are too young to have heard of the Protestant ethic, we were introduced to it when we were forming methods with which we would be living our lives. Laziness is not an acceptable option. Neither is wasting time. While my personal religious beliefs don’t allow for buying or working my way into heaven, it’s curious that I was feeling that I was committing some type of sin by doing nothing at all.

How do we get to such beliefs? One easy answer is that many of us make ourselves responsible for ongoing hard work and producing results – at all times. In other words, if you are relaxing, you are not accomplishing anything and that’s bad. In addition to working on promoting my book, I could be working on cleaning some clothes out of my closet, dusting, writing my next book, or beginning dinner. In other words, sitting on my chair with only my thoughts for entertainment was a mistake and something inherently negative.

Clearly, I need to redo this type of thinking and allow myself the ability to do nothing without benefit of guilt. But before I do so, I will still need to persuade myself that the Protestant ethic as I interpret it is obsolete or irrelevant.  I’m pretty certain that demanding activity and energy from myself is a reasonable expectation. But maybe, ethics, Protestant or otherwise, can and should be suspended in deference to peace of mind and self-preservation. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Promises

As an observer of the world around me and the people in it, I am frequently intrigued by the seriousness of the word “promise.” My students are taught from an early age that promising is never to be done casually or without complete intent to fulfill that promise.

I haven’t identified the origins of the “pinkie promise,” but if you and someone else lock pinkies, you are both solemnly committed to completing your end of the commitment. Having been asked to participate in this type of oath, I am happy that we are successful at teaching our young people about the importance of keeping their words.

Are we Americans faithful about being true to our pledges? Marriage vows generally include statements about fidelity and respect, yet we see frequent spousal abuse, infidelity, and abandonment. Every time I see someone burning a US flag, I shudder. For all my life, I have promised and will continue to promise to defend that flag and have nothing but disdain for those who do harm to it.

And on it goes. We are going to build a wall. No we’re not. We are going to send money to those who are without income and resources to feed their families. No, we need a month’s recess. The adults who should be demonstrating the urgency of being true to their words are failing to do so.

When I tell my students that they will have the opportunities to do craft projects, I must make certain that those projects materialize. Likewise, if I promise a treat, that must also come to pass. Our actions must verify that our words are to be believed or nothing is ever going to be believable.

Someone named Rodd Thunderheart once said, “A man’s only as good as his word.” Sadly, I don’t know who Rodd Thunderheart is or what drove him to the observation. But a more reliable and familiar source also tell us, “A man is only as good as his word,” and this is Proverbs 20:6, Hebrews 13:8.

Beyond that, I prefer this quote from someone named Marie Forleo. She says, “To be responsible, keep your promises to others. To be successful, keep your promises to yourself.”  As I contemplate the subject of promises, I must agree that we begin by making and keeping promises to ourselves. Once we are adept at that, keeping promises to others is likely to be our standard practice. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Growing forward

How old were you when people stopped asking what you wanted to be when you grew up? The question changes as you add years to your life but the older we become, the more prevalent the belief that we no longer need to wonder about our dreams.

Now I am thinking that we need to ask ourselves frequently, regardless of our ages, what we want from life that we don’t have. The reasons why our goals are unrealized can be simple or complex. But I suggest that aspiring to something (anything) is healthy, productive and quite rewarding.

Let’s back up a bit. When we entered college, many of us were quite focused about our career aspirations. In my case, I was determined to become a high school literature teacher. Some of that came to pass although I admit to having flirted with anthropology, journalism and law school.

While we may not need to make similar decisions later in life, not having to make a choice of careers doesn’t mean the same as mentally retiring. If your job doesn’t make you happy, what kind of activity would? Maybe you have always wanted to raise cocker spaniels. Maybe you wanted to grow orchids. Or maybe you’ve wanted to run a marathon.

All or any of those are aspects of growing forward (self-actualization, if you prefer). It often has nothing to do with money. In other words, you might not need a multi-acre estate to have a kennel. Most likely, you can do it on a smaller scale. Raising orchids would probably require less capital. And as far as running a marathon, it may be advisable to begin with a 5K or 10K before you tackle 26 miles.

What do you want to do or be when you grow up, whether it’s 20 years or 20 days from now? It is a better time to think of growing forward rather than growing up. This may be the best chance you will have to fill your life with puppies instead of regrets. Shalom.

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Patience

During one of my recent sojourns of solitude, I had the time and motivation to think about life now and in the future. It’s true that I have multiple memories in which to immerse myself but at this point, I am more concerned about those events to come than those that have already come to pass.

A word that recurred in my thoughts was patience. This is an attribute to which I always and continuously aspire, personally and professionally. The danger, it seems, is to confuse patience with postponement. As it concerns the publication of my book, I must remain conscientious about being patient rather than inactive.

And so it occurred to me to wonder if I have the right to ask others close to me to have patience, both in their dealings with me and with others. The best example of this is my recent observation that when you marry for the second (or third) time, having been married before gives you no expertise whatsoever in being married to the current spouse. And so, if I was married for x number of years to someone else, that has nothing whatsoever to do with my current marriage during which I continuously seek patience.

At no time have I wondered about the virtue or lack of virtue in the practice of patience. My best guess is that it’s a given, in the same realm as kindness, loyalty, fidelity and generosity, among others. And so, I continue to practice at being patient, very often with myself. When you have sent query letters to literary agents or publishers as I have, the warning that you may not hear anything for three or four months makes patience mandatory.

Try as I may, I can’t think of any way to become more patient than to practice it by being silent when I am feeling impatient with someone else. And when it has to do with me, I remind myself that good things rarely happen quickly or spontaneously. The good news is that if we don’t work on patience and other goals, we have no ways to benefit ourselves or those whom we influence. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Growing

Most of us had the childhood event that included the purchase of something that was too big. Buying clothes that were a little large was smarter than buying things that fit right now because they would be too small in a week or month. And so, we learned the expression, “You’ll grow into it.”

Those who have been following my blog journey are aware that I have been working for over a year on a book that is more important to me than virtually any other effort I have undertaken. The subject of the book is the Holocaust and I frequently realize that the subject and its importance are so vast that I have scarcely a chance of thoroughly covering everything that I want to and that should be covered.

Yesterday, I realized that in the same way as I “grew into” clothes as a child, as writers, we find the way to “grow into” the projects that we undertake. Thinking about my earliest professional writing events, they were small-scale letters, emails, memos or notes. But with persistence, open-mindedness and more research than I have ever done anywhere, I find that I have grown into the book that I am writing.

This realization comes as an immeasurable relief to me. When you consider that over six million Jews were exterminated in addition to the many million who died while fighting in World War II battles, the subject has rightfully become the subject of thousands of books. My goal has never been to write a best-seller, landmark book or Pulitzer prize winner – most simply, I am doing my part to make certain that the Holocaust is never repeated.

For those who see projects of any type as too big, too important, too long or too anything else, I promise you that with hard work and sincerity, you will grow into that work. Beginning is the most difficult phase but not beginning is worse. Take aim and fire when ready. Shalom.

Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle

Freedom

No matter how hard I try to understand, it simply eludes me how many people have so much trouble with following instructions. Just now I was at a local large department store with signs prominently notifying shoppers that all who want to shop there need to wear masks.

Although I didn’t count them, I’m certain that I saw at least five or six adults who either didn’t comply when entering the store or they had removed them once they were inside. If you have the virus and sneeze in my vicinity, you may have infected me, in spite of the fact that I was wearing my mask. Likewise, if someone else had it and sneezed in your space, you could now have the virus.

Maybe you think that the virus is a hoax and the 100,000+ people in this country who have died from it were coincidences. Or maybe you are Superman who has a powerful, invisible resistance to disease.

Being a rioter during our recent civil unrests doesn’t make you less the idiots. Most of the peaceful protesters wore masks although there was no such thing as social distancing. But the looters who had nothing to do with protests were jammed together and literally exposing themselves to each other’s germs/viruses. Try as I may, I can’t feel very sorry for those who become ill. But as Forrest Gump so aptly stated, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Stupid takes on a brand new meaning when you stupidly endanger others.

Seeing signs that quarantine is un-American or unconstitutional verifies that those who believe it have no understanding either about America or its constitution. Yes, you have Constitutional rights to many liberties, none of which is hurting others. People much smarter than you or I have determined that public health is protected through quarantine and social distancing. If you are more worried about your Constitutional freedoms than you are about potentially infecting me, we are going to fight.

This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Be free and brave enough to trust those who are smarter than you. Shalom.