Archive for March, 2017

EASTER/PASSOVER 2021

March 31, 2021—Washington, D.C. Responding to bitter invective launched by the America First party, formed after the 2018 midterm elections, Adam Schiff reassured the nation that the White House’s annual Easter Egg hunt will be held this Sunday. “That I’m Jewish and just hosted a family Passover Seder in the White House should not and will not alter a beautiful tradition,” said the 47th president.

During his campaign, President Schiff pledged that being the first Jewish president would not affect his conduct in office “beyond holding to the high moral principles on which I was raised.”

Former president Mike Pence, interviewed on CNN, disavowed America First claims that the annual White House Easter egg hunt would be canceled or that President Schiff would not attend. Mr. Pence, whose 25-month presidency was marked by an inability to move forward initiatives first proposed by his predecessor Donald Trump—including health care, tax reform and infrastructure—has kept a low media profile.

However, he stated, “It’s my duty, especially after last November’s stinging defeat, to speak out against the hateful rhetoric with which a small percentage of Americans assaulted President Schiff during and after the campaign.”

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, himself Jewish, was “gratified that Mr. Pence stood up to this kind of anti-Semitic hatred that dishonors our country.” Blitzer sought an interview with former president Trump. A spokesperson responded that Mr. Trump “was busy.”

Since resigning in December 2018 after Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate, Mr. Trump has spent almost all his time at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. His wife Melania visits from New York one weekend a month. Mr. Trump is only the second president in American history to resign his office. Richard Nixon did so on August 9, 1974.

In late-April 2018, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), current House minority leader, spoke out that Mr. Trump’s presidency was untenable following the White House’s failure to respond when Russia annexed East Ukraine. Holding fast, Mr. Trump proposed no U.S. response in early June when Russian agents fomented demonstrations in Latvia and Lithuania leading to the establishment over the summer of pro-Russian governments pledged to withdraw from NATO. “Why does NATO need those guys?” he asked.

Mr. Trump’s resignation proved inevitable when in mid-November, “Classic Republicans” insisted that the nation be spared further congressional inquiry and embarrassment. They responded to the joint revelation of a “smoking gun” by then-Representative Schiff (D-California) and then-Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who complemented Mr. Schiff’s winning ticket. Both played critical roles in confidential House and Senate reviews of Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

The Justice Department ordered Mr. Trump’s returns made available to Congress in August following media revelations that for over a decade, close associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin made major investments in, and loans to, various Trump companies.

Critics also noted that Mr. Trump wasted more than a billion dollars on the design phase of an unbuilt wall on the Mexican border. A pre-Thanksgiving Gallup poll placed Mr. Trump’s approval rating at eleven percent.

“Easter, like Passover, offers people hope for the future,” said President Schiff. “The United States is beginning a new day. It’s better that we hide colorful eggs children can discover on the White House lawn than bury truth in the Oval Office.”

Reality (absolutely): You can read the first two chapters of my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website. I’ll host a celebration on Sunday, April 30, selling and autographing softcover books. Can’t be there? Go to Amazon for a copy in softcover or digital format.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

SQUEEGEE MAN

I have a confession. While it’s hard to reveal the truth about ourselves, holding things in just builds pressure and invites a self-defeating explosion. So, I’m going to lay myself bare.

I have a thing for shower squeegees.

Please, don’t let your imagination run wild. There’s nothing unwholesome here. It’s just that San Francisco’s water leaves mineral deposits on tile and glass. I need a squeegee to wipe down—the tile and glass, not me. (Disclosure: It takes me longer to clean the shower than myself.)

Okay, I could ignore my standards and view shower squeegees as merely utilitarian implements. But I want my shower clean. For that, you need the right squeegee. And here’s something that may defy political correctness: not all squeegees are created equal.

I’ve had great squeegees. I’ve had lame ones. The great ones, which are hard to find, share a few common traits. The unit is wide but not too wide, so you can clear water from those narrower areas of tile or glass while your progress remains swift. The blade—don’t overlook the corners—is firm but not too firm, so water flows right down the wall or door with a single wipe. Too firm? You can’t get a good seal. Too loose? Although you squeegee the same area over and over, water remains to taunt you.

My first squeegee, purchased after our bathroom was redone years ago, might have been the best. I think I bought it at Bed Bath & Beyond. Naturally, the model was discontinued. In fact, all good squeegee models get discontinued. It seems that manufacturers and retailers just can’t leave a good thing alone. New models always seem to be inferior. When you’re fortunate to discover a squeegee that does a reasonable job, you rush back to the store to stock up. You find them discontinued, too. Shop online? You need a squeegee in your hands to make that important a purchase.

Sometimes, a bad squeegee turns out to be a good one if in a completely unexpected way. A few years back, I bought one with a curved, supple blade figuring it would get a good grip on those shower walls. It didn’t. Then I had a thought. Maybe it would do a better job on my car’s windows than traditional automotive squeegees. It did! Whenever I need to clear my car’s windows before driving off, this squeegee makes the task virtually effort-free. I liked it so much, I bought one for Carolyn. Would I let someone borrow it? Fuhgeddaboudit.

We all have our foibles. Some, like the constant tweeting of a president of a major nation, can be foolish if not injurious to the commonweal. Fortunately, others—like mine—are quite innocuous. I rarely find myself in a store that sells bath products, but when I do I always check out the squeegees. If one looks like it will do the job, I buy it and eventually put it to the test. If it performs up to my demanding expectations, I go back for more. But of course, the store will have sold out, and I’ll be lucky to find a new model worth the investment.

Wow, I feel so much better for having shared this!

Now for another foible: I write fiction. Read the first two chapters of my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website. I’ll host a celebration on Sunday, April 30, selling and autographing softcover books. Can’t be there? Go to Amazon for a copy in softcover or digital format.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

RACISM REVERSED

The recent presidential campaign and Donald Trump’s victory spurred new conversations about racism. Ironically, while America has made great progress, unexpected forms of racism have been cropping up.

White racism, of course, hasn’t disappeared. A week ago, Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) represented it by tweeting in support of far-right Dutch prime ministerial candidate Geert Wilders: “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” (Wilders’ party finished second on Wednesday with 20 of 120 parliamentary seats.) King believes non-whites can make no contribution to Holland. This isn’t new for King. In July 2016, he asked on MSNBC, “Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?” Last Tuesday, King predicted, “Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other” before white Christians become a minority in America in about thirty years.

Western European and American civilizations have accomplished much. We can be proud of this heritage. But humanity being what it is, they also gave the world the Inquisition, colonialism, Hitler and nuclear weapons. Slavery formed a backbone of American economics for centuries. Jim Crow followed for another hundred years. Meanwhile, major civilizations flourished elsewhere. They, too, committed atrocities.

Our faults acknowledged, a great many Americans believe that anyone of any genetic or cultural background can share our nation’s values and enrich our society. So many native-born people and immigrants have. Yet a new group is under attacked.

In some circles, it’s fashionable to condemn white Americans as racist. Not some whites. All. “Progressive” quarters speak of “white privilege.” Yes, whites often have it easier in a society not yet free of racism, overt or subtle. But the concept of “white privilege” is mean-spirited and distorting. It makes “white” or “Caucasian” an epithet in the way anti-Semites make an epithet of “Jew.”

This week, I discovered another variation of anti-white sentiment on a Facebook post. It’s called “white fragility.” In a 2015 article, a (white) woman named Robin DiAngelo, who holds a Ph.D. in multicultural education, told Michigan Radio, “Racism comes out of our pores as white people. It’s the way that we are.” Given that condition, DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility”—whites simply can’t handle the fact that they are racists.

Must genetics or upbringing condemn every white American? In reality, white Americans hold varying views about race and “the other.” So too, individuals in all racial groups hold varying beliefs—including racist attitudes—about people who are different. The problem: If all whites can be tarred with the same brush, white racists and anti-Semites logically can continue spewing foul stereotypes of all other groups.

Racial progress isn’t swift as we’d like, but America will move forward despite those on the far left who, like many on the far right, see genetics as all. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that 84 percent of whites approve of white-black marriage. That strikes me not as white fragility but as white flexibility.

It also gives me hope that we might—eventually—realize Martin Luther King’s dream that people will be judged on the content of their character rather than on the color of their skin. That is, if the politics of some Americans’ doesn’t devolve into yet another form of racism.

Now for a purely self-serving word: Read the first two chapters of my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht on this website. I’ll host a celebration at the end of April, selling and autographing softcover books. Can’t be there? Go to Amazon for a copy in softcover or digital format.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

MUNCH’S “SCREAM” AND SARAH SILVERMAN

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is an icon of modern art. A genderless person resembling a space alien with round eyes and hands on cheeks projects a scream from a gaping mouth. Many see angst. I see something else.

You may have witnessed the same expression at a comedy show. Great humor move us because it comes from the truth about ourselves, families and fantasies we usually keep bottled up. Pop the cork, and we laugh. Howl. Scream.

The anonymous character in “The Scream” isn’t walking on a bridge harboring suicidal thoughts triggered by life’s meaningless. Rather, the Screamer has come from a set by the comedian Sarah Silverman. Munch’s character is screaming and laughing at the same time.

Have you ever laughed when you “shouldn’t?” We all have! Take this Silverman joke that appeared in CNN’s series, “The History of Comedy.” And be forewarned. This is adult stuff.

Silverman mentions the time she was licking jelly off her boyfriend’s penis. Yes, that’s what she says. The punchline? As she’s scarfing up jelly, she thinks, “I can’t believe I’m turning into my mother.”

The audience howls. I howl. And for good reason. From the get-go, our brains make important connections. Silverman reminds us that we’re adults. We do “dirty” things and have “dirty” fantasies. That goes for everyone. Why? Because we’re all normal. In fact, we’re so normal that our parents probably do/did similar things. This leaves us shocked. Uncomfortable. But it presents the truth: at some time in adulthood, we realize that our parents are/were also adults like us. We can’t help turning into our parents, ultimately recognizing that our likes, dislikes and foibles are simply human—as are theirs.

Silverman’s joke is deadly serious. In reminding us that we become just like our parents, she destroys the naïve image we hold of ourselves as better than them, their generation and all humanity who preceded us. Looking squarely into the mirror, we can no longer lie. With a measure of pain and possibly relief, we shed self-deception and acknowledge that, like our parents and everyone else, we’re fragile and flawed.

Discovery of our blemished humanity then presents us with a choice. We can scream, as Munch’s subject does—or appears to do. Or we can laugh, which on canvas may be taken for a scream. We can embrace humor to find our balance in a world as brittle as we are. Granted, laughter may not solve all our problems. But by throwing light on dark places, laughter offers us healthy release to cope and keep our balance.

I recently spoke with a friend who is an oncologist. He often takes a humorous approach with patients confronting their imminent mortality. He knows he can’t always help them avoid onrushing death, but he can help them face it with more courage, perspective and grace. I used that approach in my novel The Boy Walker.

Today’s America finds itself in difficult, even terrifying political circumstances. Activism is called for. But I propose that comedy also plays a key role in our response. If we fail to see the humor in a president with hair rivaling that of the three clowns on “The Simpsons”—Krusty, Sideshow Bob and Sideshow Mel—we won’t take him seriously enough. And put him in his place.

You can take very seriously my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht. I’ll host a launch party at the end of April, selling and autographing softcover books. Stay tuned for details.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

SWEDEN CLARIFIED

Two weeks ago, President Trump cited a terrorist attack in Sweden. No such attack took place. Mr. Trump backtracked, saying he’d referred to a report on Fox News. Trump opponents leaped on the issue. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Sweden has undergone major changes since admitting large numbers of refugees. That includes growing anti-Semitism, partly from right-wing ethnic Swedes but mostly from Muslim immigrants. In April 2015, I wrote two posts on the issue, “Should the Jews Leave Europe?” I asked my Swedish-Jewish friend for an update. He emailed this (slightly edited for length):

“It’s not that Sweden is a more dangerous country to live in than any other country (Sweden is probably more safe). However, I do think Sweden is becoming more similar to other countries (like the US) with segregation, “bad neighborhoods,” gang violence, etc. When I grew up in the 80s there were very few neighborhoods like that, now there’s a lot. I think our country is moving in the wrong direction in many respects.

“The welfare state (which we are all very proud of) is only sustainable if there is a low unemployment rate and if the majority of the people feel like they are a part of society. That’s not the case right now in several neighborhoods and cities throughout the country. One reason is that we have had a large influx of immigrants over a short period of time (largest number of immigrants per capita in the EU), many of whom have very low education, don’t speak the language, etc. We have relatively few “easy jobs” to offer, partly due to the fact that we have very strong unions and high thresholds to the labor market. This creates parallel societies which is not good for a country. I think the anti-Semitism is the same as before, although there haven’t been any new attacks lately (thank God).”

What about immigration to the United States? We should continue taking in immigrants, including refugees. Much larger than Sweden and far more heterogeneous, we do a good job of turning immigrants into Americans. But it’s time for a rational discussion of immigration policy. The m idle ground: We can fulfill our moral obligation to take in some refugees while retaining the right to choose what kind of immigrants we want and how many.

Middle-ground positions remain unpopular in this political era of far-left battling far-right. Last Sunday, speakers at an “Empty Chair” town hall meeting in East Oakland condemned California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, as too centrist and thus unable to oppose President Trump. Nonsense. Swinging to the far left rather than seeking common ground only further polarizes the nation. Harmful Trump initiatives should be opposed without question. But common sense should prevail over ideology.

Exodus 23:3 offers the commandment to not favor the rich in legal matters, “…nor shall you show deference to the poor man in his dispute.” Every deliberation should look at the facts and lead to an objective solution. Analyzing Sweden’s challenges and our own regarding immigration obligates us to step back, take a breath and view the situation as it is, for good and ill. Only then can we arrive at policies that are both practical and humane—and that people of good will can support.

One highly partisan opinion: You’ll enjoy my new novel The Odd Plight of Adonis Licht coming soon.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too.

To respond, click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.