Posts Tagged ‘Nazis’

Letter From Claverack 04 21 2017 The past fights the future…

April 21, 2017

Apple blossoms dressed the trees in the orchards as I drove along 9H earlier today, the first, best sign of spring I’ve seen though, once having noticed them, I was aware that small buds of green were appearing on other trees.  The ones outside my windows don’t seem to be sporting them and I’m sure they will come eventually, which is how this spring has seemed – eventually we will get there – just not yet.

It has been a quiet sort of day.  Earlier I spent some time at OMI, an art center near me that I have known about but had not visited and that was my loss.  The two-hundred-acre campus is dotted with sculptures, the main building with art exhibits.  Today quite beautiful children were painting, running around in young life’s exuberance, bringing smiles to all the adults.  I offered up a thought for good lives for them; the future does feel cloudy right now.

It’s not just that this is a gray day.  Generally, I am an upbeat sort of person [or at least I think of myself as that] and today I’ve not been.  The state of the world has been weighing on me, both close to home and far from here.

Close to home, I am burdened because a friend sent me suicidal texts and I was incredibly concerned and finally asked the police to do a “welfare check.”  They did.  He then texted me he wanted nothing more to do with me.  Truthfully, I did the right thing and, at this moment, it hasn’t turned out well. For me and, I expect, not for him as he is in deep trouble and won’t admit it.

Candles to be lit; prayers to be said and to continue, as best we can.

Paris is continuing as best it can after a policeman was shot yesterday and two badly wounded by a terrorist who was killed as he was fleeing.  IS claims responsibility and France is having elections on Sunday.  The far-right candidate, Marie Le Pen, is threatening to remove France from the EU so that it can control its own borders.

She has a chance of winning.

The far right is making its might felt all over the place.

And that is so worrying to me.

For a brief, shining moment in my life it seemed we might actually be headed toward a global society and it has not happened.  It was around the time the Berlin Wall went down, a moment I will forever remember.  Driving down Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, headed west, my bestest friend, Tory Abel, called me on my car phone and said: do you know what’s going on?  As I was listening to classical music, I didn’t.  The wall was falling.

There are all kinds of suppositions about why that magic moment did not result in a better world.

Right now, I am reading a book about “the weekend” in British homes in the 1930’s and one of the revelatory bits was about a British Lord who became a Muslim because he saw Islam as the bulwark against women getting the vote and having shorter skirts and working.

He would probably have a lot in common with IS.

Change is hard.  And changing centuries of tradition is hard and people will fight it.  IS is fighting it.

When all of this works itself out, I won’t be here.  It will take more than a lifetime.

And that is history in the making.  It takes lifetimes to work itself out.

If you are not aware of it, Chechnya is conducting a campaign against gays.  It is putting us in camps, not unlike the Nazis; there are tales of torture and death.  Can this be happening in the 21st Century?  Apparently so.  The reports are horrific.

The President of Chechnya has declared he will eliminate the gay community by the beginning of Ramadan on May 26th.

Putin has declared there is no evidence this is happening and that is Putin’s view of the world: no horrible thing is happening.  There is no sarin gas is Syria, there is no campaign against gays in Chechnya, there is no fill in the blank.

 

 

 

Letter From New York 06 06 2016 On feeling as if I lived in Cloudcuckooland…

June 7, 2016

I am sitting in a bar where I stopped to wait to hear from brother and his wife, about their progress into Manhattan via Uber.  It is slow going out there.  I just arrived in Manhattan from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, having flown in on a private jet from Martha’s Vineyard.

It is not a normal occurrence in my life but I do have a friend who belongs to the private jet club and he was coming into New York and offered me a ride with him so that I could be in New York tonight when my brother arrived as opposed to tomorrow morning.

At Teterboro, there were, it seemed, hundreds upon hundreds of private jets lined up waiting for their owners to go somewhere.  It was an amazing sight.

We then looked at a plane my friend is thinking of adding to his fleet, a plane capable of making it from New York to Beijing, non-stop.  It is another world in which I occasionally waddle but do not live.

Long ago, when I was young, I was in a production of Aristophanes’ “The Birds.”  Two con men find their way to Cloudcukooland, where birds talk and rule.  It is a political satire first performed in the Fifth Century BCE.

And I thought about it tonight when I was looking at headlines about the current political scene.  In one of my letters recently I said that I was appalled that Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.  His position as such is causing me to come out of the closet as a liberal, which I am not exactly… 

A reader of my “Letter From New York” wrote back with a five page email about why, in the end, he is voting for Trump.  I haven’t answered yet.  I can’t quite figure out what to say.  His position is all based on the fact Trump is an “outsider” and it is time that an “outsider” was elected to shake up the system.

Well, I think it well might be time for an “outsider” to win the election but not this “outsider.”  He’s a wacko, a bigot, a looney tunes billionaire who has hijacked the Republican Party and no one in the Republican Party is actually calling him to account for that. 

The press is treating him like he is a serious person when in reality he is a serious charlatan.  He is a billionaire and has declared bankruptcy more times than Carter has little liver pills, as my best friend from high school, Tom Fudali, used to say.

I am so outraged right now that this poseur, who is stirring up the worst elements of American culture, is riding them to a nomination for President.  I am aghast.

Not that I am not aghast at the Democrats, too.  Who, riven with discord, are tearing at each other every step of the way to the nomination.  In the end, it will probably be Hillary Clinton, a flawed but qualified candidate, who will, until election day, have to deal with the bitter divide stirred by Bernie Sanders, some of whose supporters say they will vote for Trump if they can’t have Bernie. 

What?

You would give the country to a flawed AND unqualified candidate out of spite?

No wonder I was thinking today that I am living in Cloudcuckooland.

Republicans, look at your candidate.  You are about to officially nominate a racist bigot to head the ticket of the Republican Party, Lincoln’s party, the man who freed slaves.

He is criticizing an American born judge who is presiding over a case against him because he is of Hispanic heritage and encouraging his supporters to denounce the man. 

The man, albeit a billionaire [we think], is pandering to the worst instincts in our culture and is absolutely not calling us to be better, to be greater, to actually deal with the very serious issues facing America today.  He is calling us back to a past we had thought we had escaped…

But before I go today it is the anniversary of D-Day.  Salutations to those men who served our country, waded into death and took back Europe from the Nazis.  All honor to them.  Thank you.

Letter From New York 01 27 16 Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson all get in a car…

January 27, 2016

As I type, the train is sliding south towards New York City.  To my right, the sun is setting and the fading glints of golden sun are reflecting off the ice floes in the Hudson.

Friends warned me yesterday when they heard I was coming in to bring my boots.  The city is warming up and the snow is melting, creating rivers at the intersections.

There are a couple of meetings and then I get to see Kevin, my nephew, and to give him his wedding anniversary present to carry back to Washington, DC, where he and Michelle live.

Ammon Bundy, of the Oregon Stand-Off fame has been captured while one of his top lieutenants and frequent spokesperson for the group, was shot down after, reportedly, charging at the police.  According to reports, the dead rancher, LaVoy Finicum, had vowed to die before he went to jail.

About eight occupiers are still within the Refuge and are managing a live YouTube stream from there.  One faced the camera and said, “They’re coming to kill us.”  The FBI has been taking a patient stance on this one, letting time play out.

Playing up, or perhaps acting out, is Donald Trump who won’t appear on the Fox Republican Debate because Megyn Kelly is one of the moderators.  He used the word “bimbo” in relation to her in a tweet.  The tweet went : “I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!”

What would a day right now be without another piece of mind from The Donald?

Perusing the entertainment news this evening, I fell upon a story of a new film, based on a Vanity Fair story, that has Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando all jumping into a car together to reach New York after 9/11.  The movie that will star Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson.  Brian Cox is Marlon.  Wait, Joseph Fiennes is a white actor best known for “Shakespeare in Love.”  Ahhhhhh, what are they thinking?  We’ll find out someday.

But what a concept, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson in a car crossing America, together!  Sounds like an absurdist play… I think.

The Iranian President is visiting Italy.  A museum there covered its statues of naked men and women to be sure he wasn’t offended. When Italian journalists questioned this, no one has taken responsibility.  It happened but no one seems to have ordered it.  President Rouhani didn’t ask for it.  The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, didn’t suggest it.  The head of the museum is shrugging his shoulders.

Do you remember the DeLorean?  It is making a comeback!  A company has been formed and will make about four a month, to be sold for about $100,000 a piece.   It’s the car Marty McFly and Doc Brown flew into the future with in the “Back to the Future” series of films.

The Fed has hinted today that it is possibly still on track for a March rate hike which caused another day of market swoons.  But not for Facebook, it soared on rising revenue! But Apple, darling Apple, fell after reporting its best quarter ever but folks are worried it doesn’t have much up its sleeve for the future.

After the Nazis occupied Denmark and began ordering Jews to wear a yellow star, the Danish King started doing the same in an act of solidarity with his Jewish subjects.  Today Danish lawmakers passed a law that allows Denmark to seize the valuables of refugees seeking asylum there. 

It doesn’t seem a very Danish thing to do and underscores how frightened Europe is about the influx of immigrants.  The Danes are going to make the immigrants live in specific areas or camps which is going to increase their isolation and their dependance on the Danish government.

The US, historically, simply lets immigrants in and lets them go about their business, making us incredibly diverse and relatively peaceful in our diversity.  Europe doesn’t seem to be following our example — we haven’t done it perfectly but over time we have gotten more right than wrong.

The golden tinged sun has set; it is dark, the city approaches…

Letter From New York 01 18 2016 Hotel California to present day travails….

January 19, 2016

Minnesota Los Angeles Fred Pinkard Rocky II Ron Bernstein Adagio Nik Buian The Eagles Glenn Frey  Hotel California Paul Krich David Bowie Donald Trump British Parliament about Trump Martin Luther King Day JFK RFK Nazis Genocide

In the long ago and far away, I left Minnesota and ended up in Los Angeles.  Volunteering at a theater as an usher, I met Fred Pinkard, an African American actor who guest starred in television shows and was in Rocky II; never famous but almost always working. 

I needed work and he put me together with Ron Bernstein who owned Adagio, a little “Cafe California” kind of restaurant down the street from Paramount.  As a favor to Fred, Ron hired me.  I was not good.  I was actually going to be fired.  I could feel it. 

Staying up half the night one night, I kept thinking about it and worked out a system.  The next day everyone on the staff gathered round me at the end of my shift and asked:  what happened?  I had worked out a system.  I went from being the worst to the best.  

Late at night after all the customers had left, Nik Buian, the manager and I, would crank up the music system and pull out all the bottles of wine that had been left behind with something in them.  We’d drink them, talk about life and fold napkins for the next day, sometimes to four in the morning.

We’d listen to The Eagles non-stop.  They were his favorite and I can never hear “Hotel California” without thinking of those nights with Nik, folding napkins, learning about wines and sharing good times with a good friend.

Eagles founder Glenn Frey died today at 67.  Not much older than I am. 

I am surrounded by mortality this week.  Wednesday I will be giving a eulogy for my friend Paul, much of it written but in need of a bit of burnishing.  My friend Paul, David Bowie, Glenn Frey and I now find I am at the time of my life when friends are beginning to go and it is sobering.

Life is sobering.  As I am sitting in my dining room the world is full of all kinds of travails. I know that and am frustrated because I can do so little to change any of it.

This morning I had a conversation with an old work friend who confessed to me how scared he is about this coming election.  No one appeals to him; they all frighten him and he will vote based on which one frightens him less.

This is not good. It seems worse than the choice between the lesser of two evils.

Extraordinarily there was a debate in Parliament today about whether to ban Donald Trump from the UK because of “hate speech.”  Now it is the purview of the Home Secretary to ban someone from the UK but it was an extraordinary opportunity for the Brits to weigh in on the American election process.  One member of Parliament described Trump as “an idiot.”

He is far from that.  He is manipulative, decisive and pandering.  He is bringing out the worst of us.  He reminds me of the crass politicians of ancient Rome and that’s not good.

What is good is that today is Martin Luther King Day and we are remembering an extraordinary man who changed the fabric of American life. He taught black Americans to move beyond their fears and called to white Americans to be the best they could be.  When he died I was but a boy and already reeling from the death of JFK.  His death and that of RFK mangled my mind, probably for the rest of my life.  I still reverberate with all those deaths from the ’60’s when I was young and realizing the world for the first time, making my first realizations of what life was about and what life seemed to be about in those days was killing.

And it hasn’t changed.  We have not had many high profile murders as those but we have fallen into the grinding news of killings on a daily basis all over the world, killing that is disgusting, motivated by twisted religious beliefs as the Nazis twisted people into genocide.

Letter From New York 07 01 15 Different ways to celebrate nationhood…

July 1, 2015

By the time this summer is over, we may be calling this “The Grey Summer” as most days seem to be more grey than sunny. Today is no exception, nor was yesterday, nor the day before. When I left the building this morning, William, the doorman, warned me it was supposed to rain. So far it hasn’t but the day hasn’t been sunny.

Yesterday was another day that got away from me without a Letter, too many meetings and calls and running to make appointments, through the crowded subways of New York.

On my way to a 5:00 drinks meeting at the Warwick Hotel in Midtown, I passed through the Times Square Station, where many of the city’s line converge. As I was getting off the 1 train to head to N, Q, R line, I met a man in a wheelchair, holding out his hat, plaintively asking for money. Usually, I don’t but this time I slipped him a dollar.

Traveling toward the N, Q, R I passed a man with stumps for arms and legs, sitting in a motorized chair, singing with one of the most breathtaking voices I have ever heard. Then came the man on a microphone pronouncing the end of the world, loudly, stridently and incoherently for the most part. Just yards from him was another man, handing out Biblical Literature with a friendly smile and soft voice. I nodded to him and smiled back.

Just another subway day…

It’s the 1st of July and that means it is “Canada Day!” So Happy Birthday Canada! I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Canada. Many of my relations are Canadian. My maternal grandmother’s sister emigrated from Sweden to Canada rather to America like her sister. So there were Canadian cousins and not infrequent trips to Winnipeg where they lived.

In my senior year of college, I spent some months there with my college roommate who was marrying a very proper Torontonian young lady. He wanted me around for moral support. [That may not have worked out so well; her parents definitely liked me while they loathed my roommate.]

But the marriage happened and I went back to Minnesota to finish my degree with lots of great Canadian memories. Like us, they celebrate with barbecue and fireworks.

There is another celebration of nationhood going on also. IS is celebrating one year of its Caliphate with a spree of executions. I don’t know if they are including fireworks. They have been particularly gruesome in their celebration. They have taken to crucifying [yes, you read that right, crucifying] young boys who, in their opinion, did not sufficiently fast for Ramadan.

They have started beheading women, which they haven’t done before. They have locked people they don’t like in vehicles and then used them for rocket practice. I am not sure what constitutes magic to the Islamists but they have been beheading men and women accused of that crime. And, of course, if you’re Shia, better hope they don’t find out. That will get you killed, too. Sodomy results in being thrown from a tall building. Some children have just been tortured. Some have been buried alive or sold as sex slaves and, if they can get them to, they are being recruited for the Caliphate to fight. They have a group called “Cubs for the Caliphate” that grooms young fighters.

What a way to celebrate. Good old blood and guts on the streets!

I will take a moment to pray for those who have died in these terrible ways.

There are over three thousand who have been executed, not to mention all those who died in the fighting.

Not physically fighting but verbally sparring, the EU and Greece are still attempting to resolve their differences. Tsipras announced that Greece would accept most of the latest European proposals and markets soared on the news but that doesn’t mean the deal will be done.

Merkel and other European leaders are saying no negotiations until after the referendum on Sunday. What’s the point?

And in a note that is sad but more hopeful, at least about the human condition, Sir Nicholas Winton passed away at the age of 106. In the months leading up to World War II, Winton managed to get over 600 children out of Prague before the declaration of war between Britain and Germany.

He worked as a one-man advocate for children when most resources were working to get intellectuals away from the Nazis. His efforts, which earned him the title “Britain’s Schindler”, were unknown for nearly fifty years after the war. He didn’t mention them. Only when his wife found papers in the attic was he convinced to speak about what he had done.

Good job, Sir Nicholas! Good job!

Letter From New York 06 24 15 But it looked good in the movies…

June 24, 2015

It is a sunny day in New York City, the temperature is in the 80’s but the air is not sodden with humidity, as it was yesterday. Pleasant enough, with breezes, that I walked a mile to the restaurant where I met a friend, Guy McCarter, that I hadn’t seen in some years. It was nice, in that we picked up again as if no time had passed at all. We visited and then he headed to a meeting and I sauntered back to Todd’s office.

Tonight I am meeting a friend at 5:30 at the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel, home of the “Round Table” back in the 30’s, and then to dinner with another friend at Nirvana, then home to read I suspect.

Last night, I stayed up too late finishing Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop,” a funny book about the newspaper business pre World War II.

Joseph J. O’Donahue IV, who I had the great pleasure of knowing, was born in 1912 and passed away 88 years later. He was a great bon vivant, considered one of the best looking men of his generation, and sailed, mostly, through life with grace and elegance.

Mismanaged trust funds left him hard up at the end of his life but he carried on with huge style and was a fixture on the San Francisco social circuit.

He declared that civilization had ended with World War II.

I don’t know that is true but certainly sometimes it seems that on some levels the world was more civil then.

Treatment of blacks was worse in this country. Joe once brought Josephine Baker, the African American dancer who had wowed France, to El Morocco in New York and was turned away. He never returned to the Club. If Josephine wasn’t good enough, he wasn’t either.

Now that I think about it, it wasn’t so terribly civilized then but it sure looked good in the movies.

There were the Nazis. And there had been the “War to End All Wars,” which was merely a prelude to the big show, World War II. Joe was asked to leave Germany by Adolf Hitler after protesting the arrests of Jewish friends.

And there had been the Great Depression, not a good time for anyone.

No, civilization didn’t end with World War II, a new age opened up.

And that new age, in which we live, isn’t particularly pretty either. IS militants blew up a couple of tombs in Palmyra yesterday. They were about 500 years old and held the remains of important Shia. IS is, you see, Sunni. They have also mined the classical ruins to discourage any efforts to take them back.

Palmyra was a place that was on my bucket list. It will probably have to stay in the bucket. In interesting news, if not a media stunt, is that Lexus is developing a hoverboard like the one used by Marty McFly in “Back to the Future.” They plan to test it out in Barcelona in the next few weeks. I’ll be following.

The Queen [Elizabeth II of Great Britain] is visiting Germany. While there, a small robot performed for her and charmed her.

She may not be charmed by the fact she may have to move out of Buckingham Palace for an extended period of time, as there is so much updating to be done. Wiring, plumbing and decorating all need to be brought into the modern age as, for the most part, nothing has been done for at least sixty years.

In September the Queen will become the longest reigning British monarch. She will overtake Queen Victoria that month. Given that her mother lived to be something 103 or 104, I am guessing we may have the Queen around for a while.

One of the things which has been around for awhile is the Greek Debt Crisis, described by one as the slowest moving financial train wreck in history, which could be a good thing. Had a collapse happened three years ago it would have been much worse.

Monday’s optimism that a deal could be done has faded and a meeting broke up early because of “major policy differences.” There are only six days left to the month. At the end of June, Greece needs to make a payment and it doesn’t have the money. The European Central Bank is propping up Greek banks as depositors remove a billion Euros a day.

I feel a little like I need propping up after having stayed up too late reading. I’m off soon to drinks and dinner and hopefully a pleasant night in New York.

You have one, too, wherever you are!

Letter From New York 01 27 15 On the 70th Anniversary…

January 27, 2015

A light dusting of snow continues to fall but we did not have the major storm that was predicted; it veered at the last minute to the east, sparing both the city and Claverack. I’m still waiting for the plowman to come and do the drive but that’s minor compared to what might have been. All is calm.

The deer are scampering across the drive as I type, continuing their restless wanderings. Jazz plays on Pandora and I have a fire in the Franklin stove. It has been a lazy day. Trains weren’t running into the city this morning. It was, in effect, a snow day.

Sipping morning coffee, I read the Times and finished last week’s edition of The Week, my favorite magazine. In the afternoon, while doing some household things, a British mystery played. It seemed like that kind of day.

It is snowy and cold and winter desolate. Perhaps not unlike the January 27th of seventy years ago when Russian troops liberated Auschwitz. German soldiers were lining up prisoners about to gun them down when the warning came that the Russians were coming and they fled.

58,000 were forced on a death march from Auschwitz to other camps. 15,000 of them died before reaching other camps. Left behind were thousands deemed too ill or weak to walk.

Today, about 300 survivors of Auschwitz gathered in a white tent for ceremonies to mark the anniversary. The Presidents of France and Poland as well as the American Director, Steven Spielberg, of the famous Shoah Project, are joining them.

It is possibly the last major anniversary that will be attended by survivors of the camp; they are aging and passing from the scene. Many are in their 80’s now; the youngest in their 70’s. Soon time will have silenced their voices.

Let us hope the memory of what happened doesn’t fade and that we never again allow such things to happen.

But the signs aren’t good. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe, perhaps now at the highest levels it has been since the end of World War II. Jews are leaving Europe at a faster pace than ever, frightened by the events around them. This was underscored during the Charlie Hebdo terrorist action in Paris where hostages were taken in a Jewish grocery store, with four being killed.

One of the stories I read today stated that Anti-Semitism is not returning to Germany; it never left. But there was a time when boys weren’t afraid to wear their yarmulkes and now some are.

90% of those who died at Auschwitz were Jews. The others were of Romani descent, political dissenters, homosexuals and others the Nazis hated. They hated extravagantly.

One survivor asked the question of how men could spend their days slaughtering human beings and then go home to their wives and children, eat dinner and listen to music? Because we are human beings, capable of extraordinary dichotomies, including the ability to do just that. Many days at Auschwitz 6,000 human beings were killed. In the end over 1.1 million died there, 15 square miles devoted to death. And those who did the killing went home at night and seemed to live normal lives. Is it possible? Yes, because it happened.