Category Archives: History

Humanity v. Human Nature

OK, I give up! (almost)

Too many of my friends and relatives watched the debate last night!

WHY?

Was there any intelligent HUMAN who didn’t know which way the evening was going to go?

Didn’t you know you were tuning into a new version of The Apprentice?

I want to be clear, I never intended to watch, I do not watch reality TV shows. They have never appealed to me. I don’t enjoy watching my fellow  humans humiliated and belittled and shamed in front of millions of other humans. In my own life, I have experienced all of the above (thank goodness, not in front of millions). Why would I ever want to watch anyone go through such a negative, dehumanizing, and belittling experience? It never made sense to me. No, I don’t want a medal. This was my choice.  

What I do not understand is why was I one of the few who knew it was going to be a bloodbath for Democracy. If you had the slightest knowledge of either candidate, how could you think this debate could go anywhere else? And please, let me not give the debacle last night the title of “Debate”.  It was no debate…shouting match! personality clash!  forget issues and points of law!

Where in the aftermath is the compassion for both gladiators? The lion being starved and prodded within and without by forces who were determined to have a bloody spectacle. And the lamb, prodded by forces within and without who insisted the lion’s natural instincts for devouring his prey were tamable. Nero would have been proud. 

I for one hope there is not another one.

But if there is going to be another one… do yourself a favor so you can be prepared to understand the two candidates clearly. Watch PBS Frontline program Election 2020: Biden vs.Trump. It is an in-depth look into each of their lives. It may appear to be biased. Personally, I do not think it is. There is not a single human being, including the Pope, without yin and yang or as I prefer zits and warts. The program illustrates the zits and warts of each candidate. For me, it’s a personal choice of which zits and warts are acceptable.

In my world, I will hopefully choose humanity over human nature. In reality (God, I’m getting to hate that word!) I realize until I have been truly tested, I will never know what my choice would be. 

However, I do have brilliant role models who help me find my way. On my 80th birthday I asked a friend to find photo portraits of these role models to hang from the ceiling at the party. Here is just a partial list:

William Shakespeare, Sigmund Freud, George Gershwin, Ulysses S. Grant, Sandra Day O’Connor, Billie Holiday, Abraham Lincoln, Marlon Brando, Doris Lessing, Virginia Wolfe, Mary Wollstonecraft, Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, FDR, Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, Charlie Chaplin, Maria Callas, Eleanor Roosevelt, Buster Keaton, Marilyn Heit Leibovitz, Georgia O’Keefe, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Albert Einstein, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Dianne, Lori, Pamela, Rainer Maria Rilke, Frederick Douglass Gustaf Mahler…

Not one of these beautiful people are without his or her zits and warts. However, everyone of them, when confronted in life – as we all are – chose their humanity over their human/animal nature. 

Who are your role models?

Love ~ Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. VOTE!

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

Had enough?

My Dear Friend and Family –

I don’t need to say anything or to do anything.  I just ask you to open your heart, your soul, your mind and listen to Senator Amy Klobuchar. 

Love,  Sally -Jane

RBG… A Light Has Dimmed

My Dear Friends and Family, 

On Friday night, September 18th,  after returning home from a life affirming and joyous outdoor Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) celebration with seven others, a lovely mix of family and friends, a friend texted me about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  I went into a tailspin (aka depression). 

What was my problem?  Her imminent death had been a foregone conclusion for years. Her heroic mission kept her alive beyond the miraculous. Her staying power was Herculean. Knowing what her demise would mean to Affordable Care, Roe v. Wade and so many other issues of humanity,  she left a request to the American people:   

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Mitch McConnell used the same rationale while Obama was President. But that was 15 minutes ago and he changed his mind… again.

All right!  All right!  From the moment I heard of her demise, I found myself wallowing in dark and dangerous thoughts.  

Always at these times, I go into a dialogue with myself. Here it is.

Me: (in fear of the future) OMG what am I going to do?  What’s going to happen now?  Is there going to be a Revolution…Civil War…do I have to join a gang of vigilantes.   Is America going the way of Job?  First the Pandemic, then the Election, now RBG!

I have to leave this country.  Where?  Where can I go?  Any country I want to go to doesn’t want Americans.

Me: (in the moment): Calm down. We have a lot of grieving to do.  Your fears are diminishing her story.  Who she was? What she accomplished.  Her strength and tenacity as a woman, a wife, a mother, a lawyer, a jurist and ultimately a role model for men and women. If you stay in this minute,  I promise, ultimately it will show you  how best to live in a world that throws the best curve balls ever.

I GO DOWN TO THE SHORE

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall —
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice
Excuse me, I have work to do.

Mary Oliver

You know what?  This staying in the moment thing is really hard. If I stayed in the moment, felt the grief, felt the power of this petite woman’s life to change what had previously been thought impossible to change , yeah, right!!!  What is it about staying in the moment which I know is really the only way to live but, oh, my friends,  it is soooo difficult. 

I have spent a lifetime believing that to believe in God is to believe that all things are fair and there will be wonderful surprises.

The best surprises come out of not knowing!  I think there is a lesson in this.  

I have no idea what the fallout will be from this cataclysmic event. It doesn’t make any difference. Whatever happens we will always have RBG’s strength, tenacity and perseverance to keep up us in the light.

Love, Sally-Jane

There’s a Place For Us

My Dear Friends ~

We are in a desperate search for stories about positive human connections. Here is my nomination for one the best stories…

I just viewed a PBS documentary film:

Harbor From the Holocaust

Upwards of 20 thousand Jews that were saved from Hitlers holocaust by their ability to get a visa to Shanghai. 

All others countries had closed their doors to Jews. A quirk of timing allowed a Chinese diplomat in Vienna to issue thousands of Jews visas to Shanghai just before the Japanese invaded China. 

The story is beyond moving and oh, so relevant today considering our own  difficulties with immigration and assimilation.

Please don’t miss this documentary. We all need the hope and the caring and love of one another.

I promise it’ll make you feel good.

Love ~ Sally-Jane

P.S. My friends, here is further reading on the history of the Jewish diaspora to Shanghai – GERMAN AND AUSTRIAN JEWISH REFUGEES IN SHANGHAI from the Holocaust Encyclopedia.

How NOT to Choose a President

My Dear Friends and Family,

I had a recent unsettling experience… let me set the scene:

Two acquaintances on my porch for morning coffee and croissants. As we settle down and begin discussing the topic du jour… our various adventures in and around the pandemic and the election, eventually, in my own inimitable voice of authority, I bring up the wearing of masks.

“If only we had some Federal leadership that would create a national program for the wearing of masks and other safety issues that are necessary for our protection,” says I.


An Aside: 

Let’s face it, my friends, I am old enough – barely – to remember the Federal programs during World War II that were necessary to help us survive and help the war effort… ration books for food and gas, meatless days, paper and metal drives.

Oh, sure there were always people that didn’t join in that effort… and there were many Black Market organizations. But for the most part, most everyone came together as part of the civilian war effort.

People died in the war. People died in the pandemic.

End of the aside.


Expecting to have both guests nod heads in agreement, I was heartily disappointed. The female of the duo nodded. The male said, 

“I don’t think it’s fair to blame him. We are a country founded on States’ Rights and each state should have their own laws about how they want to handle the pandemic. I think, considering what he has to deal with, he is doing a very good job.”

Shock!  Dismay! Disbelief! 

I know a few people (and relatives, too) who think he is doing a good job.  However, I am not in close proximity with them. You might say we really have perfected long distance social distancing. This was the first time I was sitting near enough where I could see the whites of his eyes. I was struggling to be polite. But when he started quoting Fake News items I realized there could be no discussion.

I quickly looked at my watch, which I forgot to put on, and told them that I had forgotten I had an online class in a few minutes. You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that time had just run out… the party was over.

They left. I was angry. But worse than that I was shocked. This man is a cultured, educated, sophisticated upper middle class white human male. How did this happen? I racked my brain.

And it finally came to me…

After a self-organized reading program of black non-fiction writers like Isabel Wilkerson and Carol Anderson, I realized they were right all along!  The white majority is disappearing. I had just been witness to an example of this fact. This white upper middle class man in fear of losing his white majority is going to vote for the man who will guarantee that majority against all odds. As time goes on the white majority will be no more. I am not rabble-rousing. Check the statistics (I can’t believe someone who hates statistics as much as I do is saying this).  

And before I let go of this bone, in 1970 you could substitute the silent majority of the Nixon era with the white majority of this era. And never forget it was this silent majority that allowed the wannabe tyrant Joseph McCarthy to flourish.

So alright already… What is this white majority that is being written about and exemplified in books, movies, television, podcasts, editorials, and just plain life? Obviously, I am going to have difficulty explaining it because I am so apparently part of it. I am of the white/caucasian persuasion. Black, white, brown, orange, purple… we are all part of this human condition… with differences. As part of the human condition/nature, consciously or unconsciously, we each strive to be better than someone else. A human animal popularity contest, if you will.

I know as the seventh of eight children I do not remember a day when I didn’t strive to be better than anyone of my brothers or sisters. My parents actually promoted that competition, thinking the competition would push us to excel in our various gifts, which personally I am happy to say it did, but they used it also as a control of a sometimes uncontrollable large family.  And because of my race, I could move more easily in the world.  And here is the big word that explains how I could do it:  

ASSIMILATE – that’s what I could do. 

I was acceptable… up to a point… being a Jew kept me back many times in my life and I can still recognize a slur when it happens… even in jokes… but basically, if I chose to I didn’t have to say I was Jewish and then I would always be acceptable because I could assimilate into this amorphous white majority.  See how easily it works???

If you are black, this is not possible. A black person is always black. Except of course, black people who look white and then they have to decide whether to pass which is another word for assimilation. So how did the white majority control the black population? During the centuries of black slavery this was easy. Blacks were property, not people. There was no white majority because in fact whites controlled everything and therefore, obviously it did not need to be stated.

It was after the Civil War with emancipation, voting rights, human rights, and civil rights, when whites, most obviously in the South and more subtly in the North, felt the thunder and fear of change.  

A brief dream time of Reconstruction was systematically squashed by the new Jim Crow laws of the south, created and enacted by the vanquished losers of the Civil War and legislators of the treasonable former Confederacy.

Ghettos, incarceration, proliferation of drugs, low service jobs, sharecropping (another version of slavery), limited and segregated housing and education, unequal voting and civil rights… all the negative control factors used by the white majority to control black lives.

Whites fear that black lives not only matter but that they will race ahead, leaving white lives in their dust. They certainly have done it in the world of sports and popular music.

Obama’s two-time win (accomplished without the white majority) put the white majority into a tailspin and is the most probable cause for the continued bitter (and what I personally consider un-American) politics of Republic Congressman, Senators and Judges – A black president in the White House? Never again!

The white majority is and will disappear. That’s a fact! The mix of nationalities which, to me has always been the backbone of America’s strength will now add a new strength in the form of mixed colors… HOORAY!

And let us not forget, the President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders known as the Kerner Commission, headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to uncover the causes of urban riots and to recommend solutions. The report, which declared that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal,” and warned that unless drastic and costly remedies were undertaken at once, there would be a “continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”

There is a slate up for election on November 3rd that exemplifies a necessary and overdue recognition of this reality.

My reckoning is that this person who came to my porch for coffee and an abrupt departure doesn’t even realize he is part of that fearful white majority. I am sorry for him. But I am happy that his partner will cancel out his vote. I worry about others who don’t have anyone to cancel out their vote. So I ask us all to do what we can to give us back a country with some basic civility and caring to help us heal.

I leave you with a 1998 quote by writer Octavia Butler (1947 – 2006) that I discovered in a recent article in BrainPickings, Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders

“Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.

To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.

To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.

To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.

To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.

To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”

Love, Sally-Jane

We the People… (Except Black People…)

My Dear Friends and Family,

A friend recently sent me a link to this article by George Conway in the Washington Post. To say I had a strong reaction is an understatement! I couldn’t understand how reading a list of his bona fides insanity and ridiculousness could possibly be worth my time. Between the pandemic news of the day and the election news of the day, we are taking a battering.

After my reply to her that there was no payoff for me in reading it, I picked up and started reading Isabel’s Wilkerson’s latest book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

(You may recall my rave review of her book,The Warmth of  Other Suns in a previous blog.)

Well, my friends I had to interrupt my reading at Chapter 2 to write to you…

WE ALL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! It reveals the truth of how the monster made it this far and what we all did or didn’t do to contribute to our current painful reality. It is from this painful acknowledgement that the solution can be found.

And if I didn’t believe there was a solution to the absurd and terrifying situation we are in, then I’d go out without a mask, touch my face, never wash my hands, go to school in Georgia and buy a Harley so I can join the South Dakota Bike Rally. 

So while I finish this book, I hope you’ll start it. Then, let’s tawk! 

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S.

P.P.S. And finally, amidst all this confusion someone speaks how we can understand and come together…

A Stew Full of Thoughts

My Dear Friends,

THOUGHT 1: Yet another fallout of the Pandemic…

Every time I think I have a handle on how to handle the world I and fellow beings presently inhabit, I lose the handle.  Why can’t I keep a steady hand on the wheel of my life?  I know the rules of safety.  I try my best to follow them… Social distancing, masking, hand washing, sanitizing, travel limits.

I am kidding you and myself because, of course I know why I can’t keep it steady.  I am not in control.

I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. I know the feeling well because I have been there many times before.

I think I am being vigilant. But then, I watch others out of my control, threaten themselves and others with their choices.  It then becomes my responsibility to set limits and put out the no vacancy sign.  It is so alien to the nature of this here beast. 

My door has always been open.  In the world today that is not an option. I can make some adjustments. And for this I am so very grateful that I am able to set up for a meal in the garden or the porch with safe spacing, masks and whatever else is necessary for the safety of all. 

THOUGHT 2A review of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

I did not know the depth and the extent of the migration of Black Americans from the South to the North and to the West from 1915 – 1970.   For me, Ms. Wilkerson’s narrative is the foretelling of the ongoing struggle for Black equality we are experiencing at this time. She has chosen three protagonists from three different locations in three different decades of the migration.   Their detailed journey from the white racism of the South that followed them to the white racism of the North and West is shocking and a necessary and important tool in understanding how racism, subtle and not so subtle works. 

At the end of the book Ms. Wilkerson writes some notes about her methodology in putting this brilliant study together. She quotes from a 672 page report by a white-led Commission on the Chicago Riots of 1919 wherein the commission admonishes all.

THIS MUST CHANGE!

It is important for our white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that the institution of slavery wast introduced, expanded and maintained by the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.

Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance… Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are identical… There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; an understanding of the facts of the problem — a magnanimous understanding by both races — is the first step toward a solution.

Excerpt, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, page 543

The report came out in 1922. Last time I checked my calendar it was 2020.

THOUGHT 3:   IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST

There is no way that I am going to leave you without a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart.  Even though my go-to cheerleader, Carl Reiner, left for quieter climes. 

I am sure Carl and Snoopy were in complete agreement.

Here is a documentary he narrated when he was only 94:

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Happy July 4th. It’s way past time to put our money (and our votes) where our mouths are…

Video

Music, A Book & Thou

My Dear Friends,

This won’t take long. In this blog I share two videos. One is a professional production. The other is what happens during pandemisolockatine.

First is a song, Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma. Here is the introduction from Yo-Yo Ma’s Facebook Page:

There are so many stories made invisible: too-often-violent histories hidden beneath the surfaces of our cities, our institutions, our music. It’s our job to keep looking, to make them visible, to take action. Today is always a good day to learn. I’m honored to mark this 155th Juneteenth with a new song by the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens.  #blacklivesmatter #juneteenth #songsofchange

Lyrics to “Build a House” – Rhiannon Giddens featuring Yo-Yo Ma

You brought me here to build your house, build your house, build your house
You brought me here to build your house and grow your garden fine

I laid the brick and built your house, built your house, built your house
I laid the brick and built your house, raised the plants so high

And when you had the house and land, the house and land, the house and land
And when you had the house and land, then you told me “go.”

I found a place to build my house, build my house, build my house
I found a place to build my house since I couldn’t go back home

You said I couldn’t build a house, build a house, build a house
You said I couldn’t build a house, so you burned it down

So then I traveled far and wide, far and wide, far and wide
And then I traveled far and wide until I found a home

I learned your words and wrote a song, wrote a song, wrote a song
I learned your words and wrote a song to put my story down

But then you came and took my song, took my song, took my song
But then you came and took my song, playing it for your own

I took my bucket, lowered it down, lowered it down, lowered it down
I took my bucket, lowered it down, the well will never run dry.

You brought me here to build a house, build a house, build a house
You brought me here to build a house. I will not be moved.

No, I will not be moved. No, I will not be, I will not be, I will not be moved.


I am also reading a book that I think is important and that you might want to check out. It is titled, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. And don’t forget…

History Doesn’t Repeat Itself…

My Dear Friends,

In a recent coffee klatsch with my new very best friend, Voltaire, he reminded me, “Sally-Jane…

In light of this very wise and prescient statement, I am all too aware of how little we know of American History.  Of course, it didn’t help that history books until a recent time had a very one-sided version of what happened before, during and after the founding of these United States of America.

I am old enough to remember that my history books taught that many American Indian tribes were our enemies, but not how the enmity originated.

I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Jackson forcing them off their ancestral lands in the East onto the infamous march West… The Trail of Tears.

I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Johnson shredding Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation promises, aided and abetted by Confederate officers and soldiers into proclaiming Jim Crow as the law of the South and founding the KKK.

I could go on but I think I would rather present you with a cornucopia of gifted artists and writers who will, through document and performance, enlighten your way .

It has been spoken.  It has been written.  You cannot grow… You cannot know…

Where do I come from…?

How did I get here…?

Read on MacEveryone….  

Don’t ask me why I chose this book, She Would Be King: A Novel by Wayétu Moore. I knew nothing about it.  Maybe because I was celebrating my bookstore having finally  come out of its pandemic hibernation.  And the title was definitely quirky.  I chose a winner.  The author is black and beautiful and she writes like a dream.  In fact dreams have a lot to do with this magically and very realistic story.  I never understood what it meant to read a book of magic realism.  I’m not sure I do now but I am beginning to understand this category mixes the reality of the founding of Liberia in the 19th Century and the fantastical but oh, so real journey of the three main characters towards their destiny.  Their imprint is indelible in my psyche, my soul, but most of all, my spirit. 


In the PBS program, Twilight: Los Angeles, award-winning director Marc Levin weaves, Anna Deavere Smith’s powerful one-woman theater piece of the same name with news footage and interviews to create a portrait of rage, sorrow, loss, and battered hope surrounding the 1991 Rodney King beating, the violent aftermath of the 1992 verdict, and the lasting impact of the L.A. riots on America’s conscience.


I have a confession to make. I am usually not a podcast listener.  But I have an investigative reporter feeding me with brilliant podcasts.  She also happens to be my daughter.  

Here is what Dianne wrote to me about Jonathan Capehart’s podcast with Carol Anderson about her book White Rage:  The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide.

“Mom, Bottom line is all these policies that have kept black people down have kept all of us down in many ways.”

From the mouths of babes… she was one once… I have the pictures.

Love, Sally-Jane

P.S. The best way to combat all racial inequalities is to use your voting power!!

P.P.S. Keep your sense of humor and your distance…

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “The other America” 1967

My Dear Friends,

By accident or fate, take your pick, I YouTubed upon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at Stanford – “The other America” 1967 – a year before he was murdered.

This is part of the history we need to know.  

For me, it was as if he was alive and writing about the race relations of today, hopefully, not tomorrow.

Listen, my friends, just LISTEN.

Love, Sally-Jane

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee where he was shot on April 4, 1968.