Snarky Snippets — Bah Humbug!

They say that ignorance is bliss.  If that is true, there must be a heck of a lot of really blissful people in this nation!


The height of ignorance?

Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to manufacture, let alone sell, Auschwitz-themed Christmas ornaments???  Has the Era of Trump, or the populist movement really made people so cruel, crude, classless, tasteless, and effing ignorant?

From an article in The Washington Post

Amazon has halted the sale of Auschwitz-themed products such as Christmas decorations, a mouse pad and a bottle opener, following an outpouring of disgust on social media led by Poland’s official memorial museum.

The items featured images from Auschwitz, a former Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1.1 million men, women and children died during World War II. An Auschwitz-themed star holiday decoration was described as a “high quality snowflake,” with the seller, going by the name of Fcheng, describing the bottle opener as a “memorable gift, perfect for every festival.”

In 2018, a report from two watchdog groups found that Amazon was continuing to profit from the sale of white-supremacist propaganda such as books, swastika jewelry and baby onesies featuring an image of a burning cross — despite the company’s policy against selling products that promote hatred.

More than a few times I have noted that the 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech is often too broadly interpreted, and that every ‘right’ comes with a corresponding responsibility.  Amazon shirked their responsibility in allowing these hate-themed items to be advertised and sold.  But, perhaps the bigger problem is the fact that there is actually a demand for such items, that people will actually buy this crap.


What the heck are they thinking???

Every now and then, it happens that a fetus will implant in a woman’s fallopian tube rather than the uterus.  Left untreated, this would ultimately result in the death of the mother, not to mention the fetus.  This is called an ectopic pregnancy, and the only viable treatment is to surgically remove the fetus from the fallopian tube.

The state legislature in Ohio, however, has decided that they know more than all the gynecologists in the world, and there is a bill before the legislature, HB413, that would require doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy” into a woman’s uterus, or be charged with ‘abortion murder’.

Lots of problems with this bill, but the main one is that reimplanting an ectopic pregnancy is medically impossible!  The procedure does not exist!  It cannot be done!  Are the lawmakers in this state really that effing stupid???

It is bad enough that Ohio and other states have passed some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the country … the world, for that matter.  Women’s rights?  HAH!  The bozos are spoon-fed by the evangelicals who have an unreasonable desire to ensure that women are given only the rights men see fit to give them.  But now, they are almost ensuring that every gynecologist in the state will be in prison for murder and women who need a doctor will have to go to another state to find one!  Might be a better idea just to sterilize all male babies at birth … there, problem solved!

Sorry … I got a little carried away there, but this is about the stupidest one thing I have seen come out of the state legislature, ever.

Under the bill, physicians who perform abortions would face 15 years to life in prison, and removing an ectopic pregnancy is considered an abortion in this bill.  The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists argues that pro-life physicians should end such ectopic pregnancies as “There is no chance for survival of the child, either inside or outside the womb, but there is a very real, imminent danger of death or disability for the mother.”

But, some people are apparently so appalled by the concept of ‘abortion’ that they would see the mother die in an attempt to save a fetus.  Too bad those same people aren’t equally appalled by children separated from their parents and thrown in cages.  Too damn bad they aren’t equally appalled by children going to bed hungry at night or living on the streets.

Needless to say, doctors aren’t too happy with the bill …ohio-doctor-tweetCommon sense says that the bill is for show only and cannot possibly pass the legislature and be signed into law by the governor, right?  Right?


Okay … I’m going to go do some housecleaning to work off some of this angst & ire.  Have a nice evening, folks!

Elie Wiesel’s Greatest Lesson

Wiesel-5Last week (02 July) the world lost a great humanitarian, Elie Wiesel.  Mr. Wiesel was perhaps the most well-known survivor of the Holocaust, author of 57 books, a political activist, professor and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, as well as other awards far too numerous to list here.

Today, amidst the news of Mr. Alton Sterling, Mr. Philando Castile, and 12 Dallas police officers, I came across a tribute to Elie Wiesel that included the speech he gave upon acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.  On reading this speech, I was struck by how so much of what he said then applies today.  The lessons of which he speaks are ones that we have yet to learn, some 30 years after his speech and 70+ years after the Holocaust.

“I remember: it happened yesterday or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the kingdom of night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed. 

I remember: he asked his father: “Can this be true?” This is the 20th century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent? 

And now the boy is turning to me: “Tell me,” he asks. “What have you done with my future? What have you done with your life?” And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

And then I explain to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. You must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe. There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism, and political persecution, writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right. Human rights are being violated on every continent.” 

Wiesel-6I am particularly struck by this last paragraph and the words: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. You must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

For those who sometimes ask me why I write about the topics I do, for those who would say, “Filosofa, lighten up, write about only happy things … relax”, this is the reason.  I am no Elie Wiesel, for certain, but then, most of us are not.  Still, if every person of good conscience speaks out against injustice, the collective sum of our voices is greater than the whole.  If we do not, if we sigh, shake our heads, and think that it “isn’t happening to us”, then we are guilty of being accomplices.

Today, each and every one of us has a voice that we did not have some 20-30 years ago.  We have the internet, we have social media sites, we have blogs, we have online journals.  Most of us will not go on to win a Nobel Peace Prize or to write 57 books, most of us will not contribute to catching criminals and oppressors.  But what we can do is heighten awareness of the social and humanitarian injustices in the world.  We can cry out against police killing people because of their race.  We can refuse to accept discrimination of an entire religion because of the actions of a few.  We can write letters to Congressmen letting them know of our angst.  We can, at least in many democratic societies, vote for men and women who are fair, who will fight against injustices of all sorts.

I always had great admiration for Elie Wiesel and am saddened by his death.  His life was fascinating, and I cannot even begin to cover it in this post, but there is no better tribute to the man than his own autobiographical book, Night.  If you have not read it, I highly recommend it.

There can be no better way to pay tribute to the man than to live by his words, to speak out, to not hide among the silent majority.  The United States has long been known as the country where people are willing to open their doors and open their arms to minorities and the disadvantaged.  Let us do our part to maintain that reputation, rather than to someday be seen in the history books as the nation that closed its eyes and looked the other way.  I hope that, at the end of my own life, when asked what I did with my life, I will be able to reply as Elie Wiesel did:  “I have tried”.

 

How many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

– Blowing in the Wind, Bob Dylan, 1962

Idiot of the Week: Rep. Pat Ownbey

Why is it that as soon as I finish writing about one big idiot, another one passes right before my very eyes?  Just when you think you have found the absolutely biggest, vilest, most disgusting creature, here comes one even worse!  I am thinking I should make this a regular feature of this blog … “Idiot of the Week”.  Meet today’s subject of the roast:  Oklahoma State Rep. Pat Ownbey.

ownbey

Idiot of the Week – Pat Ownbey

Last week, Mr. Ownbey copied to his Facebook page a letter written by one Paul R. Hollrah (another bloomin’ idiot).  The title of the letter was “Radical Islam – A Final Solution”.  Remember that Hitler’s “Final Solution” was the Holocaust?  Well, just wait until you see what Mr. Hollrah’s concept is.  Now, I named Mr. Ownbey as the biggest idiot here, though Mr. Hollrah actually wrote the letter and the ideas posed in said letter are the creations of Mr. Hollrah.  Hollrah, however, while also a huge idiot, is basically a nobody, while Ownbey, being a representative of the people of Oklahoma and, as a member of Congress, a representative of us all, has a significantly higher standard to live up to, thus he is the bigger idiot for supporting the ideas of the other madman!

Please feel free to follow the link above for the entire letter, as it is much too long for me to include in this post.  Meanwhile, let me summarize.  Hollrah claims that Islam is not, in fact, a religion and therefore not eligible for 1st Amendment protections in the U.S.  Their goal, he claims, is to overthrow western governments by force and violence.  He calls for all Muslims to be quarantined, prohibited “from residing anywhere within the civilized nations of the Earth.” He goes on to suggest that since President Obama, Prime Minister David Cameron, and Chancellor Angela Merkel will not “do what is necessary to protect us,” the citizens of the western world must “take matters into our own hands.”

Okay, where to start?  First, the claim that Islam is not a religion.  Of course Islam is a religion!  It is nearly as old as Christianity and has nearly as many followers worldwide.  Let us look at the definition of religion: “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.  A particular system of faith and worship.  A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.”  Surely there are other, more in-depth definitions, but these pretty well sum up the scope of what religion is.  I do not see anything that would exclude Islam.  It is neither the responsibility nor the right of any individual to decide what qualifies as a religion.  Period.  Islam is followed by 1.6 billion people worldwide, some 23% of the world’s population.  And since it is a religion, it is covered by the 1st Amendment.  Period.

The goal of Islam has nothing to do with overthrowing any governments, western or otherwise.  Like Christianity, there will always be a handful of radicals.  Think Westboro Church.  Think Pat Robertson.  You do not judge the whole based on the actions of the few!!!  How many times … oh never mind.  I am neither Christian nor Muslim, however I know a bit about each of those religions, enough to know that both are based on peace, not hatred.  The hatred is solely the creation of people, of individuals who have, for whatever reason, chosen to interpret their religion to suit their own warped ends, usually a thirst for power.  I have good friends who are Muslim.  They are as peaceable as am I … probably more so.

Finally, the premise that the citizens of the world must take matters into their own hands …. Frankly, this sounds like a threat against national security and I believe this man needs to be on a terrorist watchlist, or at least on the radar of Homeland Security.

All that said, Congressman Ownbey, having posted Hollrah’s letter, apparently fully agrees with the content and premise of the letter, as he made no comments to the contrary.  This, my friends, is not the behaviour I expect from a representative in the federal government!  I am more frightened of both Mr. Ownbey and Mr. Hollrah than I am of any group of Muslims!  These two gentlemen are terrorists, make no mistake.  They promulgate fear, and that is what a terrorist does.  Mr. Ownbey is up for re-election in November, and I beg the good people of Oklahoma to please get this man out of government! 

Earlier today I read two posts by a young fellow-blogger speaking of his African heritage.  One thing he said that struck me then, and seems appropriate in this post at this juncture was “When you let yourself imagine that all these and more were done to millions of people over a long period of time by other humans, you begin to feel almost guilty to be human.”  When I read of people like the two men in this post, I feel guilty to be a member of the same race, the human race.

Barefoot and Pregnant?


I suppose it was inevitable that I would be writing, yet again, about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …

Why, I ask myself, am I so fascinated with the politics of Turkey and its president?  The answer, I think, is two-fold.  First, he is a western leader, a powerful figure on the global playing field, and a key player in the refugee crisis.  A leader who has shown the world his thirst for power and his intolerance for opposition — a very dangerous duo. But secondly, I believe that watching Erdogan’s behaviour can give us, here in the U.S., some idea of what we might expect in the unlikely event that Donald Trump were to be elected to the office of president in November.  Erdogan and Trump have many similarities, the most obvious being a narcissistic personality and a very thin skin when it comes to those who do not see eye-to-eye with them.  They both lash out and threaten those who they perceive as their ‘enemies’, whether real or imagined. So, think, as you read this, about our own albatross, da trumpeter, and see if you notice certain similarities.  What has Mr. Erdogan done now, you ask?

First, there is his stance on women.  In a speech on Sunday in Istanbul, he clarified his view of women.  Here, I think I will let his comments speak for themselves:

  • “You cannot bring women and men into equal positions; that is against nature.”
  • “Rejecting motherhood means giving up on humanity. I would recommend having at least three children.”
  • “A woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete.”
  • “In this country, for years, they [women] carried out the treason of birth control.”

In March, Erdogan declared the country should “develop its own unique values of gender equality”.  Well, based on the above quotes, I would certainly call it ‘unique’, though I am not sure where the word ‘equality’ fits into the picture.  It is reminiscent of a phrase coined in the early 20th century by Arthur E. Hertzler, a Kansas doctor who said “The only way to keep a woman happy is to keep her barefoot and pregnant.”  I understand that there are cultural differences between the ideas of the west and, say,  Asian, Middle Eastern, and African nations.  But, Turkey claims to be a western-style democracy, so I do not understand how Erdogan can rightfully have such misogynist ideas.


On 2 June, I published a post, Of Miss Turkey, Genocide and Divorce, about the German resolution which, if passed, would label the murder or displacement of nearly all Armenian subjects living in Turkey in 1915 as ‘genocide’.  Erdogan had warned that passage of the resolution would “ … damage future diplomatic, economic, business, political and military relations between the two countries.”  Well, Germany’s Parliament did, in fact, pass the resolution last week, and predictably, Erdogan is … well, perhaps ‘unhappy’ would be somewhat of an understatement.

Erdogan lashed out at the German Parliament, specifically at the 11 members who are of Turkish ancestry, saying, “What sort of Turks are they?”  He then called for each of those 11 to have a blood test to verify their Turkish ancestry!  WHAT???  I did not realize that a blood test could determine ancestral origins!  Now, as I said in the beginning, look for similarities between Erdogan’s rhetoric and that of da trumpeter, who has repeatedly questioned President Obama’s country of origin.  Need I say more?

Turkey also recalled its ambassador from Berlin … no surprise there, and I doubt that Angela Merkel is either surprised or overly-disturbed by that move.  However, what is disturbing is that Cem Ozdemir, one of the 11 Parliament members of Turkish descent, has received death threats since the resolution passed last Thursday.  This was apparently a result of a ‘tweet’ by the mayor of Ankara (Turkey) naming the 11 and saying they “stabbed us in the back”.  According to German media, it was retweeted by many Turkish nationalists, some of whom made death threats against Ozdemir, who was one of the initiators of the German resolution.  German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said he had also received many death threats from German far-right extremists.  Again, can you picture this type of a response from da trumpeter and his minions?  I can.

Further, Erdogan lashed out at Germany stating that Germany ” … should be the last country to vote on a so-called ‘genocide’ by Turkey.  First, you have to account for the Holocaust …”  The problem with his rant, of course, is that Germany does not deny the horror of the Nazi regime during World War II, and the Holocaust.  Germany has worked hard to overcome the legacy left to them by Hitler, and continues to do so.  Erdogan is trying to deny the Armenian Genocide.

Unfortunately for the world, Erdogan’s temperament and thin skin is almost certain to erode the EU-Turkey migrant agreement, and I cannot even begin to speculate at this time on what that will mean.  Well, actually I can, but I prefer not to just yet.

I think that for both Turkey and the U.S., this quote by Turkish author Elif Shafak says it all: “If we do not speak up now, tomorrow we might lose even the rights that we take for granted today.”

Update to post re: pastor Steven Anderson

Shortly after I posted the blog about the pastor in Tempe, Arizona, Steven Anderson, https://jilldennison.com/2016/02/12/women-should-not-be-allowed-to-vote-says-who/ I did, in fact, receive a reply to my e-mail requesting number of followers:

 

replt

 

I was surprised to receive a reply at all, and even more surprised by the number of followers.   I just wanted to update this blog with this information … I leave you all to draw your own conclusions.

Women Should Not Be Allowed To Vote??? Says WHO???

Something was brought to my attention today and at first glance I blew it off with a “yeah, right, as if anybody is that stupid in the 21st century in the U.S..  But it apparently took up residence somewhere in the back of my mind, and I finally decided to “give it a google”.  WHOA!  Apparently there are a few people that stupid in this, the 21st century!

One such person is a so-called “pastor”, Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, who believes that “women should be banned from voting and confined to their home”.  Mad yet?  Just wait.  I am woman … hear me ROAR … ! Anderson (I refuse to dignify him by referring to him as “pastor” Anderson) follows with this:

“You know what they mean [by women’s rights]? The right to divorce your husband is what they mean. You know what they mean? The right to rebel and disobey your husband, the right to divorce him, the right to go out and get a job and make your own money, the right to tell him what to do, the right to go vote for our leaders as if women should have any say in how our country is run when the Bible says that ‘I suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence’?”

He once went on a rant about how women shouldn’t be allowed to read, talk, or leave the house without permission from a man. He has even demanded that women keep their mouths shut in church.  (Filosofa says:  Hello … knock, knock, knock … anybody home in there?  Welcome to the 21st century and you have just royally pissed me off, so watch your step, BUCKO!!!)

Deep breaths now … 1 … 2 … 3 …

In 2009, Anderson gave a sermon titled “Why I hate Barack Obama”, in which he said he “had been praying for the death of the president.”  Not surprisingly, he was contacted by the Secret Service.  In an interview with CBS News he said he would like Obama to die of natural causes, as he does not “want him to be a martyr” and “we don’t need another holiday.” (presumably in reference to Martin Luther King Day)   In an interview with another reporter, he said he “would not judge or condemn” anyone who killed the president.

His message of hate is not confined to women and President Obama.  This may surprise you, but he also hates gay people.  According to USA Today (12/04/2014), Anderson declares that no “queers” or “homos” are allowed in the church, and never will be as long as he’s pastor. He goes on to say killing gays is the way to an AIDS-free world by Christmas.  In one sermon, he stated: “All homos are pedophiles. There, I said it, they’re all pedophiles.”  His message is that killing gays is a divinely sanctioned way to rid the world of AIDS. “Because if you executed the homos, like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant,” Anderson said.

Coexist

And the kicker … Steven Anderson brands all the still-living Holocaust survivors as “paid liars” who are simply lying when they talk about their experiences in Hitler’s death camps. He claims to “know” that Hitler’s Holocaust didn’t really happen, and that the current residents of Israel are not really Jews but a “Satanic counterfeit” placed there by the Rothschild’s family of Europe.  (Where in the heck did this guy lose his marbles, or … what rock did he slither out from under???)

Many adjectives come to mind regarding this man.  In the interest of professionalism, I will use none of them.  I do not claim to be of the Christian faith, nor to understand it in full, but many of my friends are Christians and I have been given to believe that they are a peace-loving people, people who believe in love, not hate … tolerance, not persecution.  I have written before about the Westboro group, and the evil that they perpetuate, but this Anderson character is the very definition of evil, even worse than the Westboro clan.  What is truly frightening is not that one man (idiot?) believes this rhetoric, but that he has followers!  If you look him up on Google, you will find 17.5 million hits!  I do not know how many gullible souls have succumbed to his rhetoric and are a part of his cult, as that data is not readily available. I have left messages on the church’s website asking for membership data, but have received no reply as yet.  On the website, you will find that his hate-mongering sermons have been translated into 115 languages.  He claims that, while he holds no college degree, he has memorized over 140 bible chapters “word for word”.  Apparently none of those chapters were the ones that talk about peace, love and tolerance.

A New York Times article from May, 2015 claims that “seventy-one percent of American adults were Christian in 2014, the lowest estimate from any sizable survey to date, and a decline of 5 million adults and 8 percentage points since a similar Pew survey in 2007.”  With churches like Faithful Word and Westboro, is it really any wonder?  Think about it.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, January 27th, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  This is the day designated by the United Nations in November 2005 to commemorate the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 2 million Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.  One of the best-known survivors of the Holocaust is Elie Wiesel, who wrote:

“I swear never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.  We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.”

Certainly powerful words expressing even more powerful thoughts.

The idea expressed by those words is one that many may have forgotten, as it is an idea that seems lost in today’s society, both here in the United States and across much of the globe.  When immigrants give up every possession they own and leave their homes to seek safety for their children, they are the human beings who are enduring the humiliation and suffering.  We must take sides, but unfortunately far too many governments and politicians have convinced citizens that these immigrants are evil, that they deserve to die.  Who, then, is the oppressor in this case?  Is it Syria, whose current leader Bashir al Assad is accused of genocide against the Syrian people, or is it we, the United States and other countries seeking to bar immigrants?  Who is the victim?  To me, it is obviously the men, women and children fleeing unimaginable brutality with only the clothes on their backs, asking for little other than a safe haven for their families.  Certain politicians, however, would have you believe that the citizens of the United States, indeed, the entire nation, is the victim.  Would somebody like to attempt to explain to me how we, sitting in our warm homes with plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear and soft comfortable beds to sleep in are the victims?  What of the people carrying their children on their backs, sleeping on the ground and constantly listening, watching, waiting for the sounds of gunfire?

It may well be the case that you and I can do very little to solve the situation in Syria, Afghanistan or other areas in the Middle East that are under siege by evil regimes, ISIL or revolutionary forces.  We must leave that battle to the United Nations and the leaders of the free world.  However, we can fight injustice, we can be a voice for the victims and a thorn in the side of the oppressors.

Think next about the situation right here in the U.S. where the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  Assuming a 40-hour work week and a conservative 15% withheld for federal, state and local taxes, plus other deductions, that leaves the employee with a whopping $246 a week, or $1,068 (rounding) per month.  I am retired, living on social security, and my monthly check is fully 50% higher than that, yet I would have a very difficult time supporting myself if I did not live with my daughter!  Yet, the oppressors, in this case the majority of one political party, believes that keeping minimum wage rates low should serve as an incentive to the employee to “better himself”.  Do we speak up, so we refuse to vote for people who are living on salaries some 15 times that of the minimum wage worker (and this is the average base pay for a senator, not including perks, travel, expenses, etc.)  Who is the oppressor and what can we do about it?

The list goes on and I could offer many more examples within our own nation, African-Americans discriminated against in so many ways even a half century after the Civil Rights Movement, Mexican-Americans being insulted and threatened by political candidates, single mothers trying to find a way to take care of their children and asking only for a bit of understanding, a little help paying the bills while she is trying to earn a GED.  People sometimes tell me to shut up, that I make them uncomfortable, that my voice is not heard by many and therefore does not change anything.  Perhaps they are right that my voice is not heard.  I have just under 100 blog followers and another 10-15 Facebook friends who read my blog, so it is not exactly the New York Times or Politico.  But I do what I can.  Imagine if every blogger posted just once a month about human rights violations, crimes against humanity.  I do what I can … and at the end of the day, it is not the oppressors, not the naysayers that I need to answer to … I answer only to my own conscience and it answers back … “Good job, Filosofa!”

Are We Doomed to Repeat the Past?

History is indeed cyclical and history does sometimes repeat itself, despite our best efforts to learn from the past. There are a number of not-so-shining examples around the globe today that may ultimately prove this point.

  1. With anti-Semitism seemingly on the rise in much of Europe, Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf is being re-published (the new version is 2,000 pages compared to the 800 page original) and it is reported that the German Teachers Union is in support of the new, annotated edition being used in German schools.  I am conflicted about the re-publication of the book, as I certainly do not advocate the banning of books, however I am not eager to see this book on shelves at my local bookseller.  I don’t think there is any danger of your average citizen grabbing it up and adopting the ideology of Hitler.  However, I do not see a reason to re-publish the book in the first place … it is nothing more than a treatise on anti-Semitism … and I am thoroughly against using it as a teaching tool or as required reading in schools.  When I hear the phrase “we will not forget”, whether in reference to the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, or any other historic episode, I wonder whether that is true.  Certainly those of us who lived through any of those events will never forget, but what about future generations?  Has enough time passed that we have actually forgotten the lessons of Hitler’s domination and of the Holocaust?  Very few Holocaust survivors are still alive today, and those are 70+ years old.  In another twenty years, there will be none left to remind us.  Certainly there are enough books and films, but is that enough?  Is it possible that we might forget the lessons and be lured once again into the mentality of bigotry, narcissism and racism that was Hitler’s dark legacy?  I hope not, but I am not sure.  To use Mein Kampf in teaching school children seems a recipe for disaster.  Despite an overall decrease in the number of members of “official” neo-Nazi groups in Europe, neo-Nazi propaganda and activities have nearly doubled in the last three years. (Felicity Capon, Newsweek, 24 March 2015)
  2. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Vladimir Putin, President of Russia and a former KGB officer, is working toward a goal of resurrecting an empire similar to the USSR of yore.  In an address to the nation in April 2005, he is quoted as saying “ …we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” In March 2014, Putin annexed Crimea, then a part of the Ukraine, saying that “Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia”. He has also made statements that Ukraine and Russia are “one nation” on more than one occasion.  More recently, in September 2015, Putin lent military aid to support the crumbling al Assad regime in Syria.  (Colum Lynch, Foreign Policy, 7 October 2015).  Due to falling oil prices, the Russian economy is already crumbling, and yet Putin has somehow seen fit to involve his country in the war in Syria.  One must ask the question:  WHY?  It is a situation that bears watching.
  3. At here in the U.S., racism is yet again on the front lines.  A 2015 poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in conjunction with CNN found that 49% see racism as a big problem, as compared to just 28% four years ago.  Another 33% see it as “somewhat” of a problem, while only 12% think it is either a small problem, not a problem at all, or don’t know/don’t care.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s rhetoric in his bid for president seems to have given a boost to white supremacist groups such as Stormfront, a white supremacist group referring to themselves as “white nationalists”.  Much of today’s racism against African-Americans can be seen in events such as the murder of Trayvon Martin and the exoneration of his killer under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law, the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland as well as numerous others. The question becomes, are these events a cause of increased racism, or the effect?  I do not know the answer to that question, but before it goes any further, lawmakers, police departments and courts need to analyze and, in the words of Donald Trump, “figure out what’s going on”.  We cannot tolerate a return to the racist environment of the Civil Rights era, and that appears to be precisely where we are heading.

None of the above examples, taken at face value, indicate a return to the past.  There is still a long way to go until a neo-Nazi party comes to power in a European nation, or the Soviet empire returns to power in Eastern Europe, or the United States returns to the Civil Rights era of the 1950’s-1960’s.  But these are indicators that the winds may be blowing in that direction and I think it is prudent to realize this, be ever-vigilant and carefully elect leaders who will use their power to stop any further progression toward a return to a past that holds nothing but shame … a past that is made of “we will never forget” moments.

Review of The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

This is a story within a story within a story. In this book, many questions are asked, still more are implied, yet few are answered, mainly because some questions quite simply have no answers. You will either love or hate this book; there will be no middle ground. But either way, it will make you think about things in ways that you may never have thought about them before; you will ask yourself tough questions that you may never have asked before. That is Jodi Picoult’s trademark. The questions are important questions, questions about forgiveness, redemption, retribution and conscience.

The story, then, is a modern-day tale of a young woman, Sage, and an old man, Josef, she scarred by her recent past, he by his distant past. The old man has lived in this small town in New Hampshire for more than sixty years and is well-liked, a retired school teacher, former kids’ coach, “everyone’s adoptive, cuddly grandfather”. Not long into their friendship, the old man asks Sage to help him die. There is a catch, though … she must forgive him for his past before he dies. His past as an officer in the Third Reich, a Nazi, a participant in the killing of more than six million Jews during the Holocaust in World War II. That is the story within the story. And then there is the story within the story within the story, which follows a young Jewish girl from a town in Poland through the labor camps and ultimately through Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

It is important to make the distinction that this is not, per se, a book about the Holocaust, but about the question of forgiveness. The Holocaust, the most heinous crime in modern history, is simply the background, but as such it gives this book significant historical value it could not have otherwise achieved. Is it possible to forgive someone for an act that was not committed directly against you, or must forgiveness come directly from the victim? If that is the case, can there ever be forgiveness for murder or wrongful death? Are there some acts that cannot possibly be forgiven? Are there varying degrees of guilt? Are there levels of guilt and an imaginary “line in the sand” where forgiveness is no longer possible? For example, everyone may agree that killing six million Jews is unforgiveable. Would a lesser number be easier to forgive? Say, three million? Or how about a half-million? Or was killing just one Jew unforgiveable? If that is the case, how does that differ from any other killing? Is there a difference between actually being the person to commit the act, being an accessory to the act, being an observer and not trying to stop the act? So many questions, so few answers. These and others kept me awake pondering for hours during the time I was reading this book and I concluded that if there are answers to these questions, I do not know what they are.

The Storyteller is an excellent book, one of the few works of fiction to which I will give a five-star rating. There is conflict, both internal and external, the major characters are well-drawn and highly believable, and there are enough plot twists and turns to keep the reader guessing about some things until the final pages. Oh yes, and there is just a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, though that part seemed a bit contrived to me. If you are looking for some light summer reading, put this book down now and move on. It is anything but light reading. However if you are looking for something to challenge your mind and cause you to search your own soul, question your own beliefs and values, please do yourself a favor and read this book! I would like to add here that I do not recommend The Storyteller for most children under about the age of seventeen, as there are some fairly graphic descriptions.

Disclaimer: I am an independent, unpaid reviewer. My reviews are entirely my own works and I only review books that I have actually read. I welcome all comments, whether you agree or disagree with me, however, inappropriate content in comments is not acceptable and will be removed.