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Posts Tagged ‘War’

What’s happening in the world. As Tillerson jets to Russia with a “Make my Day” kind of deal, an Asian physician is dragged off a United plane while passengers documented every minute. This morning, the United CEO has done an about face, finally apologizing for the incident; and simultaneously lovely Melissa, oops, Sean Spicer got his apology right on the third try. Yes Sean, Hitler DID use chemical weapons on innocent people, they just happened to be Jews.

The Jewish people are used to this kind of thing. In fact, a dear friend just told me that one of her son’s friends/acquaintances is a Holocaust denier. And that they actually don’t say it didn’t happen anymore, just that it was more like what we did with the Japanese internment camps…. You know, like a “Holocaust Center?!”

Over the years, I’ve met relatives with numbers on their arms. My first supervisor at an outpatient mental health clinic was a child of Holocaust survivors. One of our Big Chill friends was conceived at a refugee camp in Italy after his parents were liberated from a concentration camp in Poland. I’ve been attending Seders now for almost 40 years, and yet this was the first time I actually ran the show. I knew something would go wrong. I forgot to give everyone some parsley, so I started a new tradition of a parsley posey.

This is the first time I’m actually afraid for the survival of the human race, not just one group of people. Seriously – will Russia decide to sacrifice another pawn. Or maybe North Korea will put us into checkmate?

What kind of plagues should God rain down upon us this time? At least I didn’t poison anyone at my Seder. I’m a compulsive germaphob in the kitchen. Ever since I nearly killed my first husband with a salmonella infested sandwich I picked up at a deli in Harvard Square. I made Great Grandma Ada wash her hands all the time, and we cooperated on the prep for the haroset. Maybe Mr T will get a bad case of boils? Or locusts could infest the Rose Garden?

Our trees are greening and birds are singing. Spring is a time for rebirth, not sarin gas and armageddon. In fact Sean, you were right in one detail, Hitler did NOT use sarin to exterminate 6 Million Jews, “innocent” people, even though it had been discovered by a German scientist. Some speculate it was because he was gassed in the First World War. But most scholars say it was because Churchill would have retaliated if he tried to use gas on the battlefield or in the camps.

“War is chess. Hitler would have sacrificed a lot of pieces that he couldn’t afford to lose.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/04/11/hitler-refused-to-use-sarin-gas-during-wwii-the-mystery-is-why/?utm_term=.9dc38985fc9d

The Nazis constantly searched for more efficient means of extermination. At the Auschwitz camp in Poland, they conducted experiments with Zyklon B (previously used for fumigation) by gassing some 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 ill prisoners in September 1941. Zyklon B pellets, converted to lethal gas when exposed to air. They proved the quickest gassing method and were chosen as the means of mass murder at Auschwitz.

At the height of the deportations, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005220

6 Thousand a day, 6 Million in WWII. Holocaust centers, killing camps. Sarin gas vs Zyklon B vs chemical weapons. A gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe. And this whole Trump administration is one big gaffe.

Today we rode along Skyline Drive to get the long view, the balcony shot. I wish we humans could just decide not to play chess with our lives on this planet.  IMG_0305

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Here we go again. Last night our administration did a 180 on Syria, the whole America First thing was a sham, a synonym for Wall Street First. As a famous general pointed out this morning, we are now fighting a “proxy war,” It’s happened before – a tactical missile strike – in 1986 when Reagan bombed Libya, and last night. It’s a classic “Let’s you and him fight” scenario. We are backing the royal family of Saudia Arabia in the region, as usual, and Russia and Iran are backing Syria’s Assad regime.

And this morning all the pundits are talking. On Twitter, a Brian Williams hashtag took off because it appeared as if the network couldn’t trust Rachel Maddow to report Breaking News. In this house, I was watching Huck try to escape a sinking car on Scandal. We had been under a tornado watch, so trees were still creaking and the wind was moaning. I’d been furiously cleaning and occasionally “cooking” for Passover, which begins Monday night.

Jews everywhere will be preparing a Seder and reenacting the Exodus at their dinner tables. I am a novice Seder-maker, a maker-of-haroses for many years, but never the principle player. There will be half the number of people at my Southern table, and I won’t be making certain fried delectables in chicken fat that nobody eats. Lucky for me Ada and Hudson will be here early, so I will be tutored in the art of making perfect matzoh balls for the chicken soup!

Just as we will detail all the plagues that finally convinced a Pharaoh to let our people go, to leave slavery behind and wander in the desert, let’s examine what led up to our tactical tomahawk missile strike last night.

There was a chemical attack on innocent people, and we saw the pictures in living color. Civilians have been dying and fleeing Syria for years now, but the immediacy of watching “beautiful babies” suffer must have been Mr T’s red line. And he is a knee-jerk reactor as we know from his Twittersphere.

This last week we discovered more connections linking Trump with Russia:

  1. Eric Prince (founder of Blackwater and brother of Betsy DeVos) met a Russian official in the Seychelles with a crown prince of the UAE;
  2. Jared Kushner met a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, in NY, and hey, he’s willing to talk about it;
  3. Carter Page (ex-policy advisor on energy to T’s campaign) met a Russian spy, Victor Podobnyy, in NY.  http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/politics/trump-associates-russians-meetings/

But let’s not forget that St Petersburg was recently the target of terrorism…and that Secretary of State Tillerson is cozy with Putin…and that we called Russia to let them know we were going to strike that air base. Is that something you would do to your enemy? I can’t help but think that behind the scenes, even though Putin must publicly decry our actions, something else is going on in this proxy war. I wonder if Mr T asked his “friend,” China’s Xi, down at the Florida palace what he would do now? #WWXD?

What we know is that instead of talking about trade with China, this airstrike has taken precedence. “One of the most urgent issues for the US is North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US with a nuclear device. It fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, the latest in a series of launches.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39517569

I wonder what North Korea is thinking this morning. That is truly our existential crisis. I’m living in a whirlwind of Seder preparation and packing, sometimes it feels like I’m sinking inside that car Huck was trapped in, bleeding and hallucinating. I wanted to wake up this morning and think it was all just a nightmare…what US president would bomb a country without notice against international law? Like Asia and Kim Jong-un, we are dealing with an unpredictable leader who travels from the Hill to the links at his Mar a Lago resort, treating his presidency like a lark.

I can only hope for our sake that Tillerson and Putin are fighting a fair proxy war, and that chemical weapons will never see the light of day again. Ask yourself four questions, Mah Nishtanah – 1) How was last night different from 1986?  2) Why did we only warn Russia of the attack? 3) Why is a chemical attack worse than a bomb? 4) Is this just another ploy to distract us from the Russian Connection?

And will somebody tell the South that a Passover section in the grocery store should NOT contain anything with flour! I’m going to try and make kugel muffins, with matzoh meal or potatoes. Wish me luck!  wide-spinach-kugel-cupcakesjpg

 

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Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Beatrix Ost, http://www.beatrixost.com, a surrealist artist, theatre producer, designer and fashion icon. It was like meeting a haiku, elusive yet familiar. One cannot help being drawn to her. Wrapped in a long silk, printed sheath, her hair in a turban, she wore pointy toed yellow boots from another century. It seems she divides her time between a farm in Cville and an apartment in NYC.

Ost told the group at her book signing that she had wanted to interview several interesting people – such as the war photographer who lost three limbs in an IED explosion – and she asked each person one question:

“What is the marrow in your bones?”

And so she began to tell us all what drives her to continue creating art. She grew up after the war in Germany, with very little. Hardship is a fine anvil when coming of age. She remembered an aunt who lived outside the city, on a farm. This woman had taken an American officer as a lover, and so she would drive into the city to visit Ost and her mother in a Jeep. Cars were also very rare at the time. Out of the Jeep stepped a magnificent  creature; her aunt was wearing the officer’s jacket, belted tightly around her waist, epaulets at the sleeves, and cork espadrilles. She was stunning.

A sense of style and the meaning of adornment, of creating beauty in the midst of chaos was born. And just recently she met Camille Hautefort, a young woman who was making jewelry out of salvaged bombs from Laos. The woman handed her a weightless spoon one night, it was made from the ordnance found in the highlands of Xieng Khuang province, in the village of Ban Naphia , and Ost said she was so moved she nearly cried holding it in her hand. She knew she wanted to collaborate on jewelry design.

Now this company, Article 22, is helping artisans in Laos and clearing unexploded bombs from fields. Ethical jewelry. And I thought of all the bombs our country has dropped, all over the world. Of how women and children suffer in war-torn countries because men like to play at war. Of how our local candidate for Congress, Jane Dittmar, recently tweeted:

There is an armed man outside of our Fluvanna office intimidating volunteers – if you feel uncomfortable please contact 911 immediately.

Here is a film of Ost’s “Wild, incredible paradise” in the Virginia countryside: https://www.nowness.com/story/no-sour-meadows And you will find her book ,“The Philosopher’s Style,” along with this transformative jewelry at Lynne Goldman Elements, downtown Cville. img_5437

 

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I’ve been thinking about immunity lately. Why is it that some of us never seem to “catch” a cold? While the rest of us succumb to the slightest bug going around. Why did I develop an anti-immune disease (Guttate Psoriasis) at 60 that normally shows up at 30? Maybe it’s just that since we returned from Mexico, illness has descended on my house like a plague. Today, Bob was diagnosed with pneumonia, about a week after I started feeling “normal” again. Ah, the wonders of antibiotics.

It’s well known in my family that the Flapper gave Bob the original hospital bill of my birth when we married. She stayed in the hospital for 11 days in 1948; remember I was baby number six, and the only one born in a hospital, so the doctor thought she needed a rest. My parents were charged a dollar a day for the nursery, $11 for my care and feeding. And at the bottom of the hospital bill was a section for penicillin charges. Antibiotics were so new, they had an important, separate spot on the bill!

WWII brought us not only the bomb, but the quick development of antibiotics. Eisenhower wanted enough penicillin to treat his soldiers after the Normandy invasion and so the original strain, discovered in England in 1929, had to be made and marketed on a mass scale in the United States after we entered the war.

On March 14,1942, the first patient was successfully treated for strephtococcal septicemia with U.S.-made penicillin. Half of the total supply produced at the time was used on that one patient. By June 1942 there was just enough available to treat ten patients.

Just 10 patients in 1942! According to legend history a good strain was found on a moldy cantaloupe in Illinois and our Army doctors (along with Merck) managed to synthesize 300 billion units by D-Day 1944. Pretty amazing in just two years. Which is why our parents were so hypochondriacal. The Greatest Generation grew up without antibiotics, afraid of every cold and scratch their children suffered because in an instant, the grim reaper might appear at anyone’s door. My foster father Jim often talked about his sister who died when her older brothers were swinging her, holding her arms and legs, upstairs in the attic. Just fooling around, having fun. A splinter in her back became infected and that was that.

Which leads me to another kind of immunity, something called “psychological immunity.” In this Atlantic article http://m.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/how-to-land-your-kid-in-therapy/308555/ the author tries to explain why our 20-30 year old adult children are so unhappy, even though their parents did everything they could for them…and there’s the answer. We parents are doing too much, and not allowing our children to learn some pretty simple lessons – like picking yourself up, brushing yourself off and deciding that that wasn’t so bad and I can take care of myself alright. “Well intentioned parents have been metabolizing their child’s anxiety” for so long that once they are unleashed on the world, they don’t know how to handle its ups and downs.

It’s like the way our body’s immune system develops,” he explained. “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle. I know parents who call up the school to complain if their kid doesn’t get to be in the school play or make the cut for the baseball team. I know of one kid who said that he didn’t like another kid in the carpool, so instead of having their child learn to tolerate the other kid, they offered to drive him to school themselves. By the time they’re teenagers, they have no experience with hardship. Civilization is about adapting to less-than-perfect situations, yet parents often have this instantaneous reaction to unpleasantness, which is ‘I can fix this.’

It’s hard not to try and fix everything. It looks like it will take more than chicken soup this time to get Bob back on his feet. Thank you General Eisenhower! And thanks to the universe for our last, hopefully, snowstorm.

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When it’s a glorious Fall weekend, with nights in the 50s and the high for the day is maybe 80, we will always meander our way off the mountain and down into the city, to mix and mingle at the Farmer’s Market, aka Cville City Market. College kids are back in town, and because it’s a big football weekend there are Ducks everywhere (Oregon), so it’s shoulder to shoulder energy.

Breakfast included a locally sourced bacon and egg sandwich with organic iced green tea. This is however a recipe for disaster with my visual field deficit courtesy of a West Nile mosquito. Because the sun was merciless, and live bluegrass music was everywhere, I wore my sun hat and therefore couldn’t see (or hear) anything to the right of me. Needless to say, I bumped into lots of friends and strangers!

What got to me this time was the abundance of heirloom tomatoes. I don’t think I could ever eat another supermarket tomato again. I moved here determined to stay true to the famous Garden State tomato. That and pizza. But it’s time to admit defeat, one out of two ain’t bad. The many-colored and zebra striped heirloom tomatoes in VA are simply divine.

Which leads me to a little riff on loyalty. I’m about as loyal as they come, like James Carville is to Bill Clinton. I still buy Tide and Dove soap. Which is why I’m keeping my options open about Syria. Yes, I’m a pacifist and I detest this run-up to war. You can’t bring about peace by surgically striking Damascus. If I were that opthalmologist-turned-dictator Assad, I’d get pretty darned pissed. But the mere fact that our President has changed his mind, and is asking the Congress to step up to the plate, gives me a measure of hope. This President who stood tall against the Iraq war. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt on Tuesday night.

Because when Virginia’s own President Woodrow Wilson tried to prevent another world war with his League of Nations, he was on to something. And so the world waits for the UN Security Council to vote and for our elected officials to say Yea or Nay. Because Syrian violence is about loyalty – the succession of leadership by bloodline from Mohammed (Alawite a type of Shiite interpretation – 12% minority but ruling class of Muslims) vs a belief in succession by Mohammed’s most able and pious companions (Sunni – 70% of Syrian Muslims).

And btw, 90% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni! Imagine if Jesus had children, and so Christians split into 2 sects; the apostles and saints vs his progeny…instead of say how many? Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Congregational, Lutheran, Baptist….

According to Shiite Islam, Mohammed’s only true heir, imam, was his son-in-law Ali bin Abu Talib. But Alawites take a step further in the veneration of Imam Ali, allegedly investing him with divine attributes. Other specific elements such as the belief in divine incarnation, permissibility of alcohol, celebration of Christmas and Zoroastrian new year. http://middleeast.about.com/od/syria/tp/The-Difference-Between-Alawites-And-Sunnis-In-Syria.htm

Making the world safe for democracy, doesn’t seem to fit in this scenario…at least not without more bloodshed. And unlike my heirloom tomato tart recipe, I can’t envision the end game.

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We’ve all come to that point. A place where there’s no turning back, not enough fuel to land safely at home, but just enough to make it to the next destination. Some people may fold at this point, insist they could never get there, afraid of the unknown, so they’d rather take their chances swimming with sharks. Others may just hover, like Wiley Coyote over a canyon, in their mistaken belief system that the air will keep right on supporting their standing-in-place bodies.

But some keep going. The drums of war are beating once again.

Baghdad is suffering more violence today than it has in years – 1,057 killed last month alone, 50 killed by bombs in the last 24 hours…”More than 4,000 civilians have been killed and 10,000 more have been wounded so far this year, with Baghdad province worst hit.”

I am by no means a Mid-East scholar. But I do like to source my news, to hear all the stories surrounding an issue, to try and not make snap judgements. And that’s why I started reading alJazeera around the Egypt uprising; and I’ve even tuned in to their new American news network, channel 215 on Dish, these past few days.

Because I’d been unplugged in Nashville, and am returning to an inevitable “surgical strike” by our forces in Syria. And I learned that there have been around 20 instances of the use of chemical weapons within the country since the fighting began, which leads one to wonder why the West is responding now? Does a “red line” have to show videos of women and children dying? As one Arab scholar mentioned, “Killing is killing.” How very biblical.

And btw, Russia will veto any intervention proposed to The Security Council, because they think the horrendous attack in a suburb of Damascus on August 21st was actually caused by the rebels. And as I’m listening to alJazeera America, I’m thinking back to my favorite HBO  show of the moment, “Newsroom.”

This fictional newsroom ran a story about Serin gas, a story that proved to be false. And I thought about when the Bride was in Paris during her 2nd semester, about the Serin gas that was used in the 1995 Metro bombings.

And on this rainy morning, I’m really not sure who to believe. Certainly the Newsroom’s General Stomtonovich’s on-air “confession” was cooked by its producer, we saw him do it.

And now the UK has drafted a resolution  “…authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians in Syria.” And we are circling our battleships; the drums are drum drum drumming.

And I think back to the bill of goods we were sold about WMDs in Iraq. And it’s like our whole country has gone out to the edge, once again.

photo 3

 

 

 

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In “Purse Politics; Tote and Vote,” the NYTimes thought it might be fun to do a puff piece on what women Senate and Congress members carry with them all the time. And thanks to Jezebel, I found it! Sen Claire MacCaskill said, “I think most of us, while we may look at the cute little purses, our lives don’t fit in a cute little purse. Our lives fit something that is in between a purse and a briefcase, and that’s what I carry.” http://jezebel.com/new-york-times-profiles-powerful-congresswomen-and-thei-511022241

Right, something in between, like a big purse…a tote maybe. In 2013 we have a record number of women on The Hill, 20 in the Senate and 81 in the House, and all we want to know about are the things they carry? iPads and phones, chap sticks and wallets? This article led to a bit of stream of consciousness for me, so follow along if possible.

A book on my teenage children’s summer reading list was, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It just so happens their English teacher Mr Shea was a friend of the author, and this book has been coined the next best thing to Hemingway in writing fiction about war. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. Unlike lady senators, soldiers in the Vietnam War carried mosquito netting, writing paper, letters from home and tarps to keep the jungle at bay; “For the most part they carried themselves with dignity.”

And I started to think about the things I carry around hither and yon. The damnable iPhone leaves me feeling rudderless should I forget it, and because of my shoulder problem, I’ve switched to a smaller summer purse. I sling it cross-body like a bandolier setting forth to do battle every day with life in the country. Keys, check! Water, absolutely! Wallet is a must have, along with all those plastic cards that let retailers know all my personal information. I’m holding out at Panerra Bread, why do you need one of their cards, really?

When I was working for a newspaper, I always had a small notebook and pencil with me, very old school Lois Lane. Now, I just send myself a text on my phone if I need to remember something. And my text said “WWII and sex.” I’d been listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered” about our GIs and prostitutes in Normandy around the end of the war. Mary Louise Roberts wrote her non-fiction book titled, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France, to bring some attention to some of the lesser known evils of war; like the rise of VD in our troops and the increase in African American soldiers charged and promptly hanged for rape in Le Havre.  http://www.npr.org/2013/05/31/187350487/sex-overseas-what-soldiers-do-complicates-wwii-history

Soldiers to senators, writers to doctors, we all carry a microcosm of meaning with us every day. Diaper bags are toted everywhere with new moms and dads, and they always have less to carry with the second and third child. Still I’d rather read a book about what lady legislators actually do, and how their approach to politics may differ from their male colleagues. What kinds of policy are they willing to compromise on, when do they stand and fight for a bill. Are they cookie-cutter voters with their party mates? Do they bring in cookies for their aides? Are they furious with the GOP for trying to repeal Obamacare for the 36th time? Is a woman fundamentally different in building consensus?

Because in the end, it’s not about what we carry, it’s about what we do with it once we get there. Let’s see; can you guess who is the DC lawyer, the San Francisco businesswoman, the Chicago child psychologist and the Nashville ER doctor?

J&M  0992

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