YOUR RIGHT TO SWING YOUR ARM ENDS AT THE TIP OF MY NOSE

I’ve known about this saying from my days at a political science student at the New School for Social Research in New York City. At this point I am not sure who originated the saying, Jon Stuart Mill, Ben Franklin or Oliver Wendell Holmes. No matter who said it, it means the same thing to me.  Your civil rights end at the tip of my nose.

I say this with regard to people in public and private accommodations who want to restrict their activities to those who agree with them philosophically, religiously or any other ly that you want to throw in. What can happen when we translate our bill of rights into a personal antagonism to people who don’t agree with us? Will we now have screening and testing for those who want to go into a restaurant for lunch. You think that I am kidding. I have actually seen a restaurant that only caters to Christians. I saw it in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania bout fifteen years ago. The sign lasted for only a couple of days and was then removed.

How about a car dealership here in South Carolina that displays the Confederate flag? Will car salesmen now ask you if you are a Yankee and refuse to sell you a car on that basis? Is the freedom of religion the only thing that will restrict some people from going into some places?

Where will Christian Scientists be when they are asked to have their children vaccinated and they refuse (as some have and had the state force them to do it). Just because I don’t agree with your version of freedom of religion, will you not let me into your store, your pool hall, your super market, your clothing store, your pharmacy, etc? Have we gone just a week bit batty?

 

 

 

 

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PHOOEY ON YOU GEORGE WILL

 

For many years I was a subscriber to Newsweek magazine. Most of that time, there was kind of any editorial page on the last page of the magazine. I believe that every other week there was a tome by George Will. His pith analysis of the goings on in government, economics and just plain “things,” really interested me. I even started a collection of his writings.

I was even more thrilled one day, when I ran across him in the Dulles Airport and managed a weak, “How are you doing George?” He actually answered me by saying “O.K.” He seemed, at that moment to be a regular kind of guy. He wasn’t a guy who I could have a beer with, but a guy I could have a gin and tonic in the summer with. His appearance seemed to be the same as the picture on the top of his article in Newsweek.

Then, somehow all of that changed. I am not sure if was age, early onset dementia, or just a course change that he saw was needed. I don’t remember if he was a Reaganite, but his writing used to be pretty logical, even if I didn’t agree with some of them.

His pivot was to the far right. He was always pretty conservative, but never this reactionary. He suddenly hated all government programs and chastised all government spending, as well as the liberals who did not know what they were doing. He could have been the precursor to the Tea Party or even to the Brexit people. No one was as skilled as they needed to be to solve any of the world’s problems. I began to see that he was heading to an abyss and was taking certain folks along with him.

He was in the thrall of the Republican Party and not its moderates either. He divested himself of any uncommon sense that he might have had. His writings became somewhat preachy in a strange way. George was always kind of strange, but now he was cantering to the right at a rapid pace.

Now comes the crowning glory. He will no longer be a member of the Republican Party. I will be non-affiliated (whatever that means). He is through with the current crop of R’s and sees the leadership of the party, that he loved, attach themselves to a person who calls an Indiana born person of’ Mexican heritage unqualified because he would not like the wall that Trump is proposing.

Will said that, as Reagan said that he did not leave the Democratic Party, the Party left him that is the same as his saying that the Republican Party left him.

No George, they both are not that way at all. You have laid the groundwork, philosophically for the nomination of Donald Trump, now leader of the Republican Party. You may have been at the beginning of the Trump Year. Go back and read some of your stuff. Phooey on you George Will.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST OR FRANK, BUT DON’T CALL ME SURELY

 

Not sure if any one remembers POST NO BILLS. In Great Britain it was PROSECUTE  BILL STICKERS. A cute rejoinder to that was FREE BILL STICKERS. In the latest round of the MAJORITY IS ALWAYS RIGHT, I hearken back to the Revolutionary War, when two thirds of the colonists were against remaining with England. I hope this sounds familiar.

The other year, when Scotland was having a referendum about staying with Great Britain, these same folks who brought you Brexit were fulminating about why Scotland should stay with the mother country. By the way, Scotland voted 60% to remain in the EU. Does this mean the complete disassembling of the country? Will we now have Northern Island having a referendum about hanging with Great Britain? Will Ireland begin to bang the drums about combining with Northern Ireland?

What about Turkey, the poor man of Europe. They have been battling to get into the EU since forever. What do we tell them about why Great Britain left? Could we now have combinations of countries that are not in the EU trying to get some trade deals together? Was all of this palaver just a way of justifying Xenophobia? No more EU, no more dusky skinned people immigrating to British soil. So answer me this. What about the over 3 million EU people who are in the British Isles. Do they get kicked out? What about the British citizens who work in the EU countries. Do they all get shipped back? Will all of these people now have to apply for work visas, or will they get tossed out on their ear when all of this comes to fruition?

How about the money? England never did get to the Euro and probably never will. What happens when it drops even further and businesses lose faith in British currency? Did the Leavers consider what would happen to the economies around the world? Did they care? Why did the young folks in Great Britain vote to stay in the EU and their parents want to leave? I saw a Facebook post by a Leaver who said that he voted for leaving because of immigration and was sure that most others did too.

Did you see what happened to your portfolio on Friday? Did the Leavers ever think that they would have such an effect on people’s savings around Great Britain and the world, or did they care? Does this mean that the United States is heading in that direction? I sure hope not, although there is talk on the presidential trail about going into turtleization of our economic ties, political ties and military ties with other countries. Almost sounds like the post-World War I philosophy of keeping to ourselves. Now, how did that work out? Do you know about World War II?

AFTER 53 YEARS

Some in my family said that it would never work. When I brought my girlfriend to meet them in 1960, the observation by some was that she did not look Jewish, nor did she act Jewish. To this day, I am not sure what they meant. Yup, I know the insidious prejudices within the Jewish folk that you should not marry outside of your religion, but this was really strange. I figured if Tony Curtis and Paul Newman were Jews who did not look Jewish; it was o.k. for my girlfriend to look like an Irisher.

That kind of continued until we were married on June 23, 1963. My mother, whose non-sequiturs could fill a New York Times book section, even complimented Carol when she told her one day, “I don’t think of you as my daughter in law, I think of you as my son’s wife.” We could never get over that statement. It was said from the heart, but it had a meaning so different from what she meant. Carol spent a lifetime trying to make life easier for mom. I believe she really did succeed. However, if you were not flesh and blood, you were always kept at some arm’s length. It was further complicated by us not living in New York City. Here other in-;law children were part of her daily rituals, but Carol and I were not there to fawn over her regularly.

To compensate for our distance apart, mom would come down for her 2 week visitations and upend mostly everything and break most of our mechanical appliances, including our metal front door. There are stories that I have told about those visitations that I will not portray here. She was a constant presence in our lives even past her death. We still have a video of her singing “My Yiddishe Mama.” We look at it every so often.

Our 53 years together was never a plan. That may sound foolish to some, but it was all too real for me. My dad had passed away when he was 36 years old. Not that I expected to die at that age, but for me it was pretty much in the back of my mind. I have met a number of folks, including close friends, whose fathers passed away at a young age, who feel and have felt the same way. We dubbed ourselves, “The Dead Dad Society.”

Carol and I are two opposite end of the poles. She is soft and I am hard. She entrances with her kindness and I am the bull in the China shop. Over the years we have learned from each other. She has softened my hard casing, and I have stimulated her to get out there and tell what she feels. The climax to this evolution happened in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. We were asked by the President of the teachers union in Pennsylvania to do her a favor and try and calm the waters in this town. We always are ready to try almost anything. We organized a town meeting. I was on first and gave them the hellfire and brimstone speech. Carol’s part was to stimulate them to action. In her usual calm manner, she engendered enthusiasm from the crowd of about 500. When she noted the absence of the Mayor of the town, purely by accident, she enraged some of his family. One of them stormed down the aisle, ready to do her harm. Two large policemen stopped him. I was not permitted to help her. The scene was all over Pittsburgh pt. The next morning I got a bunch of calls asking me why I had started a riot. I had to tell them that it was not me, but Carol. Most of those people did not believe me and think that it was me.

Our relationship has gone through many changes of these 53 years. We have learned that we are not perfect people. We still argue once in a while. We have discovered that we have differing styles when it comes to comforting the other person when they are down or ill. It has taken a long time to come up with that conclusion. We are eternally grateful for our children, who are as close to us emotionally now as they were when they were small. We are so delighted with our grandchildren and the way our children have raised them. As a present to us, our 17 year old grandson is flying to the Charleston Airport this afternoon and we will have him with us for a few days. That is the most wonderful present that our children could have given us on this day. Thank you to all of our friends and relatives for sticking by us all of these years.

THE CHANGE OF NAMES

 

At the news of the death of Muhammad Ali, there were stories about his history and the mention of his birth name Cassius Marcellus Clay.  The Great One ran afoul of many critics when he changed his name to something befitting a Muslim man. I am not sure that there were a bunch of people that understood the significance of what he thought about his birth name, that it was a slave name. There was much anger out there towards Ali because of his conversion and later his objection to the Vietnam War.

Less known because of his demeanor was Lew Alcindor, a famous college basketball player, later a professional basketball player, changed his name to Kareem Adbul Jabar. His was a philosophical conversion to Islam, which he still follows today.

Name changes have been a part of our society since society began (whatever the word society means). As a small sample, we have President Grover Cleveland who changed his name and had his brother serve for him in the Civil War. Many actors and actresses changed their names to appear to be more mainstream (read WASP). Marion Morrison became John Wayne, Frances Gumm became Judy Garland, or Archibald Leach became Cary Grant.

In a more dark time in our world’s history, we had Josip Djugashvilli became Stalin, Vladimir Ulyanov became Lenin. Lev Bronstein became Trotsky, Adolph Schikelgruber became Hitler and so on.

There were many professional athletes who changed their names because they thought that they would be discriminated against if they used their real names. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were ethnic Jews and Italians among others who kept their real names hidden. My own father did not fight professionally under his own name Murray (Morris) Rubin. He called himself Kid Russia.

Changing one’s religion sometimes leads to a name change. A young man, who was the son of a friend of mine converted to Orthodox Judaism and became Shlomo Chizkiyahu   and moved to Israel. His birth name was David Goodman. When I was younger and in a yeshiva ( Jewish parochial school), I was known as Avraham Yosef.

I guess the name change goes along with a change of life, mostly positive. It is a new way to reinvent yourself or trying to begin anew.

IN THE BEGINNING . . .

By this time, you have assumed, correctly, that I am not a scientist. To go even further, I am not an astronomer, a man of the cloth, or a philosopher. It kind of keeps me out of certain conversations. However, there is one thing that I think about pretty often and that is the size and complexity of the universe. I guess if I really wanted to get a hang of that subject, I would travel to England and visit with Stephen Hawking or to New York to hear Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I am but a layman whose pre sleep faux dreams were to fly across the universe and explore the galaxies. I am sure that my early reading of science fiction had that effect on me. Now I am fascinated by the concept that there are probably billions of galaxies and maybe even many dimensions. I will not talk about the latter because it tends to make me nauseous. I do like the stories and films about alternate dimensions. There is a real weird one called Synchronicity, which I did not understand at all.

Now back to the galaxies. I am not sure what kind of mind it takes to understand the vastness of our universe. It defies any kind of rational explanation. It is close to the concept of infinity. When I was a kid and learned that it was a word. The first thing out of my mouth, and I have heard it from lots of kids, can you have infinity plus one. No you can’t. Infinity is the end of the discussion. Is it really? Can we expand our understanding of the universe by using such a word, or must we invent new words to express of what we can’t conceive?

Recent updates to the Hubble telescope have shown thousands of galaxies in a deep field look at certain portions of the sky. Using some estimation, it is likely that there are over 200 billion galaxies up there. Yes 200 billion. As our instruments are refined, as they have been with Hubble, which is above the atmosphere, we will probably find new galaxies. The mind is boggled by these numbers.

Somehow, scientists are questioning whether the expanding universe will continue to expand, or will we someday feel a contraction (maybe in a couple of billion years). We will never be able to get to almost all of these far flung places. We will not even get there with hyper-drive (a sci-fi concoction), or bend the universe by sliding into a wormhole. All of this seems to be part of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

We probably should not even use the word big. There is no human expression to describe the universe. The light that emanates from the furthest galaxy that we have viewed is calculated to be about 13 billion years in its travels. That comes close to the 14 billion years scientists think that the big bang happened. There are also some current theories that our universe is located in a ball that is contained in another, larger universe. If this doesn’t get you feeling overwhelmed then you must be an astronomer or Albert Einstein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHARLESTON, ONE YEAR LATER

 

It was very coincidental that Carol and I were in Charleston, SC one year after the terrible shooting in the Emanuel  Methodist Episcopal Church there (called by locals Mother Emanuel). Nine innocent people were shot down and 5 seriously injured when a racist came in and machined them. The city was prepared for a memorial celebration and we were pretty much in the middle of it.

We had planned to be with one of our scholarship students and his wife on Friday night. Carol had an appointment at MUSC (Medical University of South Carolina) an eminent teaching college. The results of her all day set of tests and meetings with doctors was positive. Praise be for that. At five o’clock it began to rain heavily. We found kind of an underground passageway the parking garage and found the Hominy Restaurant.

Josh and his wife Jen (who works at the hospital) are delightful people). We have known Josh from the time he was 17. That is over 15 years ago. He has turned into the kind of young man that we all would be proud of. Andy McKelvey, who provided us with funds for the scholarship was always attuned to entrepreneurial young people. Josh works for a company that provides products for non-profits and governmental organizations. However, Josh has his sights set on creating a business that would find a niche in the hard apple cider business. His explanations of how he is going about doing this in the basement of his house are mind blowing. He will succeed. I know it.

The next morning we drove from our motel into town and walked on the closed street to the Emanuel Church and watched as there were ceremonies, speeches and the unveiling of plaques in a park right in the middle of Charleston. We spoke to a number of native Charlestonians to get some idea of what has happened since the tragedy. There were many outpourings of the hurt that was done and hopes for better race relations in the city.

Our time on that street was pretty purposeful. Carol and I cannot leave any questions unanswered. We are inveterate question askers.

We wanted to avail ourselves of something a bit lighter in the afternoon. We decided to go to the Charleston Aquarium. It was really quite novel and included the outside bay waters where dolphins play. South Carolina may be one of the few states that do not permit whales, seals, dolphins and other sea mammals to be placed in a captive setting. However, there are many parts of the aquarium where there are explanations of how these animals come to their area.

We learned a great deal about the flora and fauna of South Carolina. They even have an albino alligator which looks to be over 10 feet long. We got all sorts of warnings never to feed an alligator, which may have been the reason for the 2 year old boy’s demise at Disneyworld.

The evening was capped off by a memorial concert by a gospel choir and ensample and the Charleston Orchestra. Our good friend Dr. Washington got us some tickets. It was spectacular. If you have never seen a gospel choir, or heard them, you are missing something wonderful. I was even able to sing a couple of the songs that I knew. Dr. Washington had a solo and did it masterfully. The voices of the soloists and the choir were terrific. The Galliard Hall, which is in the middle of town, is spectacular. It had just been renovated. I would go there any time.

It was also the one year memorial of the death of Dr. Washington’s husband. At the end of the evening we went to a fine restaurant and were joined by two others, both friends of Dr. Washington. Yes, we did try and take the bill, Dr. Washington would not hear of it.

We are still discussing how we believe the relations between the races in Charleston are getting on. In some sense they are still evolving. Charleston has the same kind of problems that other cities have. However, there are many things that have been going on for many years. The relationships between people seem to be different than in other places, Savannah for instances. Charleston is also a port town which is both positive and negative. The downtown is still the place to be, rather than the suburbs. The city has been named the number one city in the United States. It is also known as the “holy city.” It has a vast number of churches and other places of worship.

We will probably spend more time over the next few years exploring the place. There are many musical and theater events there. We have done more excursions in SC in less than a year, than we did in the 13 years that we lived in the Harrisburg area.