Displays

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Guernica (Pablo Picasso)

Halloween is this Wednesday.

There’s a chain link fence around the front lawn of one of the homes in our neighborhood, replete with warnings that the property is being monitored by cameras. Inside the fence is a Halloween display of political figures, with the ruling party’s portrayed as attractive and human, and the minority party’s portrayed as ghouls of different races and nationalities. The scene is frightful and grotesque. Its smug elitism, entitlement, and shameless and irrational bigotry are on garish display for all to see.

***

On Twitter this morning (and I scold myself for checking it, for I’m always sorry when I do), there were an abundance of tweets commenting on and remembering the victims and intended victims of this week’s attacks. Sprinkled among these were declarations that if Jews wanted to be help they would take Muslim refugees into their homes. These were accompanied by an equal number of tweets citing examples where they had done just that. Also in the mix, were photos of Israeli soldiers confiscating a child’s bicycle.

It always happens, doesn’t it? People of color are victimized by police, or slaughtered in their churches, and the next day social media and the news are flooded with stories and images about gangs and hold-ups.

Cities and villages are bombed, children are shot for doing nothing more than trying to live and play, and the next day we’re reminded of terrorist threats.

Families seeking asylum are arrested and separated. Little ones are herded into concentration camps, sobbing and screaming for their parents, and within days the media and an army of ruling party shills are dishing out mountains of rotting garbage about the imminent threat of a terrorist and gang-infiltrated “caravan” heading to our border.

God forbid we should be allowed an ounce of compassion or sympathy for the suffering of others. God forbid we should grieve with them, or offer our hands and arms in understanding. God forbid we should see our own vulnerabilities in them, our own humanity. God forbid.

I’m sick of self-serving leaders who demonize people for no other purpose than focusing a populations’ grievances at them, rather than at those leaders where they belong.

And I’m equally sick of those who veil their grievances and bigotry with self-righteous moralizing at a time when victims and families should be allowed to recover, honor their dead without being blamed for the sins of complete strangers.

I’d rather see the bigotry up front and center, on excessive display, than have it cast in such an insidiously manipulative, spurious manner.

It just makes the problems worse.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

What?

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When I was living in New York, I had a friend who worked at night, and had to take the subway to her job. Naturally, her friends and family were concerned about her safety. One day, over coffee, she told a few of us she had never been bothered. We were surprised. We had all had unpleasant experiences of one kind or another on our commutes—men who groped us during rush hour crowding; men who followed us to or from our destinations; men who sat next to us in nearly empty subway cars. We all carried small cans of hair spray or deodorant in pockets where we could reach them quickly. Some of us carried pocket knives. Most of us wore whistles around our necks.  We wanted to know her secret.

“Well,” she said, “as soon as I get on the train, I start talking to myself, as incoherently and erratically as possible. And I also make guttural noises and hisses. No one wants to mess with a person like that. They’re too unpredictable.”

***

Like so many women, I was horrified by this week’s events—the attacks on sexual assault victims, brazen assertion of white male privilege, glaring hypocrisy, distortion of history, outright lies, and overwhelming corruption of process by the ruling party culminating in an abrupt judicial confirmation.

I was horrified and sickened and outraged by it all, and even more so today when the ruling party’s shills took to the media to gloat over their success and condemn the victims and protesters who amassed in the Capitol before the confirmation.

I’m not arguing against protests. I’m wholly in favor of them. It’s important for those in power to see our faces, hear our voices, witness our dissatisfaction. But it’s also important to realize that in the face of the kind of recalcitrant evil embodied by 45, his administration, and the representatives who place party above all, our protests will be ignored, and, worse, reshaped for mass consumption as the true evil.

I spent time this morning on social media reading posts and tweets which were alternately eloquent and purposeful, and ugly and self-defeating; and I wondered, in all that cacophony, what message will be heard?

I applaud the chorus of voices rising through the nation, and count mine as one of them, but I worry about how predictable our voices are, and how unsuccessful they’ve been at countering the single malignant voice used by those in power.

It feels as if they are counting on us to be so furious about everything that we are in constant disarray. It not only gives them more fodder for their campaign of lies, it puts us on the defensive.

What do you think would happen if, for the immediate future, we answered their constant lies and taunts on social media with silence, and quietly focused on supporting our candidates? Getting young and old registered, and to the polls?

Perhaps it’s time to behave unpredictably. Mess with their heads. Make them wonder what we’re up to….

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Salt and Pepper

SaltPepper

I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001. We’d come back from a wonderful visit with family in California barely a week before. I was still in its afterglow, as I was still in the long afterglow of four months in Budapest.

Fall was approaching, my favorite time of year. It was a beautiful, mild, sunny Midwest morning. I was relaxed. I was happy.

I came downstairs early, made my breakfast, sat on the sofa in the living room, and turned on the news to see smoke billowing out of the first tower and gawked in disbelief. A few minutes later, the phone rang.

Mom.

New York.

Are you watching? Did you see it?  Her voice cracked. It always cracked. This time was worse.

Yes. I recognized the same crack in mine.

And we watched together, a thousand miles apart, as the second tower was struck, and gasped, together.

My mother didn’t cry much; but she cried that morning.

***

My husband rose about thirty minutes later.

The minute I heard him padding about, I rushed upstairs.

He took one look at me and knew something was wrong.

I think I told him to come down, eked out a few words about the towers, but I don’t remember what I said, exactly. I do know he didn’t linger on the second floor, checking his email, stretching, as he usually does. And I know that when he saw the screen, his face was a mirror of mine—tear-stained, stricken.

I tried to call my mother back, but the lines had gone down by then, so I sent emails to family and friends in New York, hoping they would be received, praying for one answer: We’re all right. We’re safe.

***

Later that afternoon, our spirits numbed by images of burning buildings and planes, we trod off to the grocery store—to replenish staples, get out, breathe.

Everywhere we walked, we saw our shock and grief reflected—in other cars, the parking lot, aisles, checkout counters. No one spoke much. No one smiled. People just shook their heads, sniffled, and sighed.

***

After dinner, my husband gave me a small package wrapped in newsprint, tied with a string.

I bought this for you a while ago, and was going to give it to you for Christmas; but I think you need it now.

Inside the wrapping were the milk glass salt and pepper shakers pictured above.

I know how much you love milk glass.

***

They are a fixture in my kitchen, those shakers, and have been since 9/11, a constant reminder of what preserves, and what burns— salt and pepper.

Both are filled with salt.

©2018 All Rights Reserved