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Walking in the Rain

 

We who have touched war have a duty to bring the truth about war to those who have had no direct experience of it…Working for peace in  the future is to work for peace in the present moment.

 

-Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

 

 

"Walking in the April rain is a luxury our friends in Ukraine will miss this year," I wrote on my Facebook page this week. I had taken photos on my morning walk: a budding tree, a moss-covered rock, a cottontail, daffodils in bloom. And then I thought of Peter Zalmayev broadcasting from his bunker in Kyiv and wrote the caption.

 

As usual, there were "likes" on the photos, and nil to none on the idea expressed in words, except for one:   "I  can't take it. So true. ," my friend Suzy Borget replied. Altruism fatigue has set in. First the pandemic, then the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, and now this terrifying, awful war, not to mention bad news in the paper every day about extreme climate events, Covid surges, and all else.

 

Do we know too much? Or not enough?  In America, we are insulated from wars spilling over our borders. Not so the Europeans. And, as a nation, we have low attention spans and an inadequate knowledge base of certain key subjects: geopolitics, non-Euro-centric world history, political science, international law, the Geneva Conventions.

 

Last night, I went for a coffee with my husband to our favorite café in town and it was so crowded we almost turned away. There was a party going on in the back room and a long line for service. There'd been another storm and flooding, and the waters were finally receding. Had we all surfaced from the safety of our homes to celebrate? I wondered about the conversation between the revelers. What was everyone talking about? Normal things, most probably: food and family, maybe some upcoming travel, a recent series on Netflix, the controversy about a fourth vaccination. Are we spoiled? Insouciant by nature? Careless or carefree? Are we allowed to relax? Must we feel guilty if we relax?  Are these rhetorical questions?

 

I returned home to find an email from Chris Rzonca, a colleague at NYU. His wife is Polish and they have an apartment in Warsaw now home to a Ukrainian family. Everyone Chris knows in Poland is hosting a Ukrainian family, everyone he knows has stepped up to help. He's running a GoFundMe for the family he and his wife are hosting. These are more than gestures and/or donations; these are heart-stopping commitments. Consider the migrants on the EU borders, and our borders. How have they been received? What is our moral and ethical responsibility? Are these questions rhetorical?

 

I don't really know what I am writing about today because I feel unsettled. What if Putin uses chemical and biological warfare as he did in Syria? He's already created havoc at Chernobyl, his own soldiers—cannon fodder—taking  respite in a radioactive forest. One atrocity on top of another.  My husband, whose maternal family is from Kyiv—when  it was still Kiev—has studied both Russian history and the Russian language. "I hope the diplomats are considering every option to stop the bloodshed even if it means some concessions," he said to me this morning for the first time. "Surely they know what Putin is capable of."  Think Grozny and the calculated speech Putin gave in fluent German to the German Parliament when the wall came down. He'd been a KGB officer in Dresden.

 

Are the Ukrainians prepared for concessions to stop the bloodshed? They are fierce patriotic fighters, and have taken on the global war, for themselves and for us: democracy and freedom vs. autocracy and despotism. Will the sacrifice be too great, too dire for the survival of the Ukrainian people? 

 

These are terrible questions to ask and I am  tempted to delete this post and start again, but there is something here I want to convey, which is this:  How and when this dreadful war will end is not in our control, so I prevail upon my readers to continue to lobby, write, give voice to, donate, collect medical supplies, and pay attention to those who have been killed and displaced —most especially the children—and  their future. If Ukrainian or Afghani refugees arrive in our cities and towns, let us commit to do anything and everything to help them settle and build new lives. My parents were refugees. I know of what I speak.

 

It's Passover-Easter week here on the well protected North American Continent and throughout the Judeo-Christian world. If so inclined, please say a prayer, or just meditate for peace. I'm a skeptic, as you all know, but I'm willing to try anything, even if it's an act of desperation.

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 90

 

God Talk

 

 

And Lo, for the Earth was empty of Form, and void. And Darkness was all over the Face of the Deep. And We said: "Look at that fucker Dance."

 

― David Foster Wallace, "Infinite Jest"

 

 

 

No one, no person, no magical or religious entity conceived by man or descended from Heaven, takes us aside and tells us what is coming, not definitively or specifically, David Foster Wallace wrote. A plague? Did we see that coming? Have we deserved to be so smitten these past two years? What are the gods trying to tell us? I don't know, do you, dear reader? I live in doubt. I am perplexed.

 

No matter how many times I listen to the repetition and analysis of the scriptures on the evangelical radio stations in the mountains of upstate New York, I cannot fathom a loving god/God/or gods and find all belief "systems" and organized religion alienating. More so now than ever as we behold atrocities all over Planet Earth. Let us have a few moments of rest as I abstain from enumerating these atrocities, yet again. And what a luxury that is, to abstain and rest. For the record, I am not reporting from a bunker.

 

I grew up in a household of one believer and one agnostic/atheist. When my mother was in her 90's, near the end of her life, when she was nearly blind and deaf, she asked to see a Rabbi or a Priest or Imam—it didn't matter so long as it was a man and an ordained "professional," and when the Rabbi came, all she wanted to discuss was the fate of the State of Israel and the persecution of the Palestinian People, and Obama, and she asked the Rabbi  to read the headlines of the newspaper that day as I, her writer daughter, insisted on reading her poetry instead, and she found poetry boring. "If only I could pray," she had said to me often. "If only I believed. If only I enjoyed poetry."

 

"Let's listen to the opera," I suggested as I was usually visiting on a Saturday afternoon when the Metropolitan Opera was broadcasting on WQXR. Out came the libretto, much more engaging than the scriptures, we both agreed.

 

These days, my favorite radio station as I am driving is "Sounds of Life," because the preachers are articulate, dramatic and forthright, and the music has rhythm and bounce. I came upon it by accident, which I am sure is intentional; the music drew me there and I stayed. Even stranger for a non-believer, I enjoy the aesthetic grandeur of cathedrals, the peaceful silence of graveyards, and the blessings of believers when they grace me with their blessings. And I believe in angels, spirits in human form who arrive without fanfare into our lives to console, humor and befriend.

 

The other day, my allergist asked if I'd had a breakthrough Covid and when I said, "yes," and he asked me how I did with it and I said, "okay," he blessed me. He said that God—capital G for this one—is looking after me, absolutely and positively looking after me, and my husband, who also has had "mild" Covid. I should never doubt, he repeated several times, that God is looking after us, I should put my doubt aside. If only, I said to him, as I gathered my belongings and thanked him for his blessing. If only.

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Saying Goodbye to Our Mothers

My bona fide, the UK edition.

Cover photo from Afghanistan © James Nachtwey

"Let my photographs bear witness."

by permission

 

 

You who are living, live the best life you can.

Don't count on the earth to preserve memory.

 

--Ai Qing

 

Home is not where you were born; home is where all your attempts to escape cease.

 

--Naguib Mahfouz

 

 

Reporters are interviewing refugees, mostly women holding their young children, who have escaped over the borders from Ukraine to Poland, Hungary and Romania. Responsible reporters and photographers try their best not to be pandering, salaciously entertaining, or exploitatively graphic. But the tears flow, the anger surfaces, the television ratings effloresce. I prefer to get my news from print, internet, radio and podcast. It's easier to digest in small doses. I often listen in the car, yesterday to a BBC World News Service podcast as I was driving to the swimming pool. The reporter was interviewing a young woman who had left her elderly mother behind. Thinking of my own refugee mother leaving her mother behind, I began to cry, then swam a few extra laps, had a scalding hot shower, dressed slowly,  put on some make-up, drove home. Finally, it was lunchtime and I could eat my lunch in the safety of my apartment overlooking the peaceful, majestic Minnewaska Ridge. Most evenings, the sunsets are glorious, undisturbed by tracer fire.

 

Activist friends—Black, Palestinian, others—have criticized me recently for my singular and focused attention on Ukraine, as though it were an extension of the opportunistic news cycle and nothing more. Or, they have said, "It's because they are European that the world cares. Have we forgotten the Afghan refugees already?" Or, they have called me hypocritical for ignoring and abandoning other occupations, other war crimes, other atrocities. I try to remain calm, diplomatic, compassionate and informed. Many of these aggrieved people are my friends; I love them, they hail from all over the world. But when there is pain, argument and defensiveness don't work. Best to step away and let the waters find their level.

 

Conflict resolution and mediation training has taught me never to compare atrocities; they are all bad. Bad. That word doesn't say very much. Egregious maybe? As a writer, I try to find the best words, to stay connected to what I write, emotionally as well as intellectually. The war in Ukraine did hit me especially hard, I admit, but not because of my refugee parents. After all, "my" people, North African and European Jews, have been refugees for millennia. I've written about them and so many others, but all I can manage right now, this week, is Ukraine. And I know someone in Kyiv, Peter Zalmayev, who is broadcasting live from the beleaguered, still standing city. So, I am paying undivided attention to Peter's dispatches from Kyiv. In this way, I am supporting him as best I can from afar and contemplating the implications of Putin's KGB "playbook," for what remains of civil society, not only in Ukraine, but on Planet Earth.

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Broadcasting Under Siege

 

Each of our lives is a Shakespearean drama raised to the thousandth degree.

 

― Anna Akhmatova (born in Odessa, 1889, died in Moscow, 1966)

 

I usually hear from Peter Zalmayev on FB messenger in the morning. He sends a link to an interview he's done either on Canadian Broadcasting, CNN International, BBC, even WBAI this week, so that I and all his friends, acquaintances and colleagues, can share it, thus creating a chain of information with a global reach. I am sure that other recipients of these messages, which assure us he is still alive and working—body guards at his shoulder—reply  as I do with a thumbs up, or words such as "received and will share," or "thinking of you." Peter has disclosed that his family is safe, and that he has dual American-Ukrainian citizenship, but that like so many other brave Ukrainians, he decided to return to use his expertise and perfect English to help fight the Ukrainian counter-propaganda war; Zelensky's address to Congress was part of that war.

 

Just imagine the logistics of broadcasting in the midst of missile barrages, the struggle to keep Wifi going, the constant worry about friends and family.

 

I first met Peter when I was living in Washington Heights in Manhattan; he lived in my building. I had started a Tenants Association and he wanted to know more about it. I was about to open a meeting in the lobby when he walked in, a commanding presence. Tall, handsome and self-assured, I can't remember if he stayed or left that night, but he was immediately engaged and interested in the process we had started to hold a landlord to account.

 

At the time, he was finishing up his studies at Columbia University; I left the city before he did, and though he returned to Kyiv and I moved to upstate New York, we became FB friends and stayed connected in the casual way one does on FB. Then I read on his page that he'd become the Director of the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, "dedicated to the promotion of democracy and human rights in post-Communist transitional societies of Eastern and Central Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia," according to the Wiki entry.

 

Here's their webstie: http://eurasiademocracy.org/about-us-2/

 

 

I hope (and would pray if I could) that Peter Zalmayev, President Zelensky, and everyone else broadcasting and/or in the Ukrainian government will be able to continue the life-affirming work of building and sustaining the Ukrainian democracy in the months and years ahead.

 

#Слава Україні #Slava Ukraini

 

 

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 89

 

I Told You So

 

 

I tried to straighten him out, but there is only so much you can do for a person who thinks Auschwitz is a brand of beer.

 

                                                              -David Sedaris

 

 

"So what did the vaccine do for you?" a woman in the health store asked me after I told her I'd had a mild case of Covid in January with a lingering neuralgic effect that is already "resolving," as my doctor says. I didn't miss a day of exercise—walking on my own when I was still positive—I didn't end up in the hospital, and, best of all—though  I am in the "vulnerable" age group—I  am not dead.

 

"I'm still alive ," I said in answer to her question, more succinctly and more forcefully than I intended. Her righteousness bothered me.

 

We were standing in the alternative remedy aisle. This woman is a rep for one of the products. She's sixty, has an eighty-four year old mother, and neither have been vaxxed.

 

"Oh, you haven't been waxed, how interesting," I said. The malaprop just slipped out. I don't think she noticed. The conversation was absurd, a labyrinth of "theories," and sales pitches for her products to prevent dread disease and stay youthful, etc. "And, by the way," she told me when I confessed my age this birthday week, "You look terrific."

 

"That's because I work hard at it," I told her. "And because I've been vaxxed and  I am not dead. Just a reminder, the global death toll from the pandemic just hit six million." 

 

Of course, we were standing there chatting unmasked, as the mask mandates in NY State have been lifted. My doc told me she thought it was premature, but I've decided to risk it—for my mental health--at least until we are asked to pivot to restrictive protocol again. I'm hoping that will be awhile, or maybe never.

 

Am I past caring about vaccines and safety protocols now that we are in a happy hiatus? No, I'm not.

 

"I'm sorry to hear you didn't at least get your mother vaxxed and glad you have both survived." I said. "And thanks a heap for making it so much harder for the rest of us. PS I won't be buying any of your products, so don't try to sell me anything. Goodbye."   

 

#anti-vaxxers #get vaxxed #getboostered 

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When We Leave The Dead Behind

 

In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.

-Herodotus

 

If we don't end war, war will end us.

-H. G. Wells

 

 

Dedicated to all the journalists on the ground in Ukraine, and those who have been censored, imprisoned, murdered, or forced into hiding in Russia.  

 

No landscapes of mountains today, dear reader. Spoiler alert: I'm writing about the war in Ukraine, yet again. Click off, delete if you must, or read on. Join me with courage and fortitude. The world is geopolitically in turmoil:

 

His clothes were shredded and reeked from natural and chemical odors from the missile that had hit his group home. He had followed the crowd on foot, walking more than fifteen hours, to the Hungarian border, and because he has Tourette's, he wanted to be alone. The doctor in the mobile clinic accommodated his wish. The man was confused, distraught; the doctor remained calm. The BBC reporter, who has lived in Hungary for a decade, knew the doctor; it was his family's doctor. The doctor said that he quelled his own anxiety by working in his mobile clinic. Without hesitation, he drove to the Ukrainian border, interrupting his cosmopolitan life in Budapest without regret. Unlike the refugees from a modernized, western-facing Ukraine, he will be able to return to that life quickly.

 

This is not a film script; it is an account of one escape among many escapes, one doctor among many doctors. Many refugees will not make it. They choose the wrong escape route; they get shot or die of starvation in the crush on the roadside. Many medical workers will also be at risk as the heavy fighting and bombardment continues. Humanitarian assistance writ large cannot be sent in until there is a ceasefire, thus frenetic diplomatic action to achieve a cease fire and lower the risk to the civilian population.

 

The stories about Russia's atrocities in Ukraine are reminiscent of Chechnya and Stalin's reign of terror. Shock and awe tactics, gulags. Putin and his cohorts have been infected by ancient imperial ambitions. It is as though the Nazi reign of terror crushed by the Allies in WW II, has become undead, the disease of hatred and genocide mutated and strengthened.

 

Are there enough words to describe what is happening? As writers, broadcasters, journalists, can we find the right words to describe what is happening?

 

What, besides donations, can we do to help?

 

I spoke to my doctor-cousin Roger in Michigan this morning. Within minutes we had agreed that watching endless loops of news was not enough for us; our Holocaust history activates. What can we do to help? There are Ukrainian communities in both of our towns. Let's find out what we can do to help them as they struggle to locate their families, for example. Let's do this, or something else,  in the name of our relatives who fled war, or were captured and killed in the Nazi death camps, or shot and thrown into pits. Let us think of them, let us honor them, as we continue to work for the rule of law locally, nationally and internationally.

 

#standwithukraine #standwithallrefugees #humanitarianassistance

 

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What War Reporters Do

 

 

It's 3:28 a.m. The hotel's quiet. I open the window. The rain has stopped. The lights in the city are still on. I'm going to get some sleep.

 

-Sabrina Tavernise, for The New York Times Daily in Kyiv, 2/24/2022

 

 

It's difficult to get to sleep when war drums are pounding. We can't even say it's a welcome distraction from other news, such as the pandemic. It isn't. In the safety of my upstate home, I thought of my husband's Ukranian-Russian family and a journalist friend who re-settled in Kyiv after finishing his studies in America. I wrote a couple of FB texts:  "Thinking of you, hope you, your family and colleagues are safe."

 

1:36 a.m. a reply came in from the journalist : a thumbs up. It was repeated a while later, then stopped.  

 

When she can't get to sleep, her adrenalin pumping, Sabrina Tavernise takes notes, with time stamps, Like every well-trained reporter, she creates a  documentary record, a testimony, and thinks of herself as a witness to an historical event. 

 

This morning, there are videos on every news site, interrupted by inane advertising, yet another television war.

 

The documentation grows and solidifies: The Russian bear is loosed upon the world. The Ukrainian spring is over.

 

#peaceinUkraine #workforpeace #Ukrainianspring #honorwarreporters 

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The Night of the Howling Wind

"Origins," copyright Mary Louise Long, 2022. Mary Louise continually inspires me to rediscover the origins of our creative,human impulses. https://marylouiselong.com/    

 

 

One day soon, FB will only be a platform for: 1.beautiful photos 2. advertising 3. Wordlers.

 

-Carol Bergman on Facebook 2/17/2022

 

 

I had yet another robotic experience with a bank this week, got tangled in a labyrinth, and could not get in touch with a person who was not reading from a script, asking me about my day, or thanking me for my business. I was angry and disconsolate, not to mention that my "problem" had not been solved. I refused to do the survey. Why all these surveys? I then posted a provocative statement on Facebook, which reminded me that I have not ruminated about social media, declarations of love and war on social media, or the degradation of social media, in a while, so this post is both directly and obliquely related to yesterday's robotic de-humanizing experience with the bank, if that makes any sense. Does it?

 

I wrote about Facebook when it first began in 2004, soon after I got my MA in Media Studies from The New School where I had read McLuhan, among others. I applauded the platform as useful, enjoyable, an amplification of global discourse, a safe space to be playful and/or serious, all this long before the abuses of the platform by bad actors and the Congressional hearings about social media irresponsibility and regulation v The First Amendment, a difficult subject. I had found an old college friend who was a FB friend of a FB cousin, and was warmed by the reconnection. Stories such as these were commonplace, and still are, thankfully. Even the acronym FB is now solidly integrated into our daily digital and real-time conversations. We now understand that social media platforms can be humanizing or de-humanizing, used or abused, vectors of hate or love, a platform to bully or celebrate. It is our responsibility—what Graham Greene called the human factor—that evolves the medium, or devolves the medium.

 

During Covid isolation, our dependency on social media platforms has deepened. These are portals into a larger world from which, for so many months, we have been banished. But when I click onto Facebook these days, I feel queasy. I have noted for a while now that an interesting landscape and snapshots of happy families on vacation will get more "likes" than a serious statement, for example, or a post about Afghan women. Videos have become addictive—dogs and animals for me—and even the tart satire of Randy Rainbow and Trevor Noah has faded away from my feeds. Maybe I don't have enough friends, or the "wrong" friends, is that it? Or has this platform diluted so significantly that it will soon morph into a game show, a physical phenomenon known as entropy. Are we, as humans, also suffering from entropy? Are we so exhausted by—everything—that we can no longer sustain a serious conversation, or feel compassion and act on it?  Is this a fall-out reaction from the pandemic, or would it have happened anyway?

 

As I mentioned Wordle in my FB post, a reminder here that it is owned by the NY Times, a venerable and formidable institution I revere; it now has 7,000 journalists and a strict code of conduct. But what is Wordle beyond an enjoyable word game, exactly? Connective tissue? Scrabble on wheels, or a cash cow? Does it do any harm? Obviously not, or probably not? Is it addictive? Is it meant to deliver the user to an advertiser, change an algorithm? I'm not sure. My main complaint is its effect: my Wordle FB friends have stopped posting other comments. They seem obsessed.

 

This morning I woke to a howling wind and rain spattering hard on the windows. Wires went down again and there was a post from the New Paltz police that their telephone service was disrupted. I knew they would find a way to protect this small town regardless, as they did during the recent ice storm. I asked Alexa to play some piano jazz—yes, I have a robot in my apartment collecting data—and over a hearty breakfast, I read George Packer's disturbing article in The Atlantic, "We Are All Realists Now." I thought of the humanitarian workers I'd met and worked with when I compiled Another Day in Paradise. I am still occasionally in touch with four of them, all of whom continue with humanitarian work; they have not retired or lost their idealism. What explains their tenacity, their refusal to become disenchanted, discouraged, or robotic? Why are they the exception and not the rule? What if all of us shut down our phone and computers, stepped outside the door, and walked into the howling wind, regardless of the danger, or the interruption to our privileged digital lives?

 

#socialmedia #wordle #humanitarianinitiatives 

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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 88

To Mask or Not to Mask—That is My Question

 

 

I'll come out and say it: All of this is truly exhausting, and it very much sucks.

 

        -Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic,

                          2/10/20
 


Happy Valentine's Day. I have a gift for you: total confusion. I have spent nearly three blissful mask-free days in upstate New York, attended an in-person book club in front of a cozy fire, dressed and undressed mask free at a locker room at the gym, had a long conversation, albeit distanced, with the lifeguard, the first in months and months and months, and returned to a sensational Mexican restaurant in town that stayed alive doing take-out, for which we are grateful. To treat ourselves to delicious food during the worst of the restrictions, well, it was solace. Today, I ventured onto the SUNY campus where masks are still mandated in all indoor spaces. Oddly, all the students strolling outside on an unseasonably warm day were still wearing their masks. I felt unprotected, perhaps a bit careless. Maybe the lifting of restrictions is premature?  What if next week, say, someone arrives at JFK from somewhere or other, and this unsuspecting traveler, who tested negative before boarding the plane, is incubating a new variant which no one, not even the most canny scientists, have detected or sequenced, and what if that innocent traveler attends a celebration somewhere or other, super-spreads this new variant, and we all get very sick? All those days and weeks and months of vigilance, the boosters, the masks, the protocols,  all for naught. Why throw it all away prematurely? Is it premature? Is the decision to relax mask mandate political, Blue Governors versus Red Governors? As per my Valentine's Day gift: total confusion.
 
Some pundit said this week that our brains are not wired to navigate conflicting messages that may not may not endanger us. We shut down, space out, run in circles like rats in a cage, then slide onto the track that feels most comfortable to us. Like everyone else, I have some friends and family that gather and travel, some friends and family that do not, and won't for a long time. What we do is often not consistent with the dangers or the science, we rationalize and justify the risks we take, or become overly cautious, or opt out of a decision and say, "what the heck." For me, relinquishing a mask feels both freeing and scary, depending on the day and the circumstance. The pandemic will segue into an endemic illness eventually, I say to myself. In the meantime, best to stay calm and carry on.

 

 

#maskmandates #getvaccinated #staysafe 
 
 
 
 

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Strawberries in Winter

 

Strawberries in Winter       

 

 

Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings, too.       

 

-Heinrich Heine

 

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. 

 

-Ray Bradbury

 

Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth.     

         

-Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate in Literature, 1986

 

 

Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, was published in 1953 at the height of the McCarthy hearings. Writers such as the preeminent Arthur Miller had to testify in front of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Were they communists? Had they ever been communists? Could they name other communists? Miller refused to name names and was cited for contempt. His passport was impounded, then returned when the Supreme Court reversed that ruling. He headed to Brussels for the opening of his play The Crucible about the Salem Witch Trials, the foundation story of America's continuing persecuting and censorial spirit, an autocratic—often  racist—impulse; it will not quit.

 

Actors, producers, writers, and directors working for television and Hollywood in the 1950s had to sign loyalty oaths in order to work. In the midst of writing a short biography for Chelsea House Press about Sidney Poitier, I came across references to the possibility that he had done so. I was shocked, but I understood. If he hadn't signed would we have the memory of his important body of work? What a difficult time it was.  We have progressed, undoubtedly, but the forces of reaction remain strong. Indeed, the persecuting spirit ricochets back to the landing of the Mayflower, the takeover of stolen land, and the pretense that enslavement was necessary to work that land. These false narratives are part of the American story and they must be faced. Book burnings will not erase the truth of the past, or anything else that is threatening to the status quo, received opinion, or what some educators and politicians consider threatening or subversive.

 

Last night a writer friend called to tell me she has canceled a trip to Tennessee for a conference because a local school district banned the Holocaust graphic novel, Maus. A local pastor then staged a a live-streamed book burning event. Harry Potter and the Twilight novels, considered "demonic" went up in flames as the crowd cheered, echoes of the KKK, public lynchings, and the May 10, 1933 Nazi book burnings. "With a Jewish last name, I'm not going to risk it," my friend told me. She's staying home.

 

I'm searching for strawberries in winter. Rich, sweet, succulent fruit. Please tell me there is some available, that there is hope for this democracy, that we are not drifting irrevocably towards the celebration of fascist ideas. Is this one book burning a foreshadowing of worse to come, or has the worst already arrived in the January 6th attempted coup? Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, the cheerleader of the May 10, 1933 book burning, used the code word "debris" to describe the works of Jewish and other German intellectuals. The word "debris" soon morphed/escalated to "cockaroaches." The Jews and other "degenerates"  were then murdered en masse.

 

I am a long time member of PEN America, which is one reason I am writing this post today. For years, this organization, along with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others, advocated and monitored human rights abuses, including censorship and the persecution of writers, in failed states and authoritarian regimes. Much as I am concerned about the shut down of a free press in Hong Kong and the persecution and prosecution of writers all over the world, I am paying much more attention these days to what is going on in school districts and state courthouses in America. I urge my readers to do the same; the mid-term elections are not far away.

 

 

PEN AMERICA:   https://pen.org/    

 

THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS:   https://cpj.org/  

 

 

#censorship #bookburning #bookbanning #protectourwriters #educateourchildren

 

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