Posts in Susan’s Musings

The Cañada College Core Curriculum: Bullying?

April 28th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

Most of you, like me, have read how conservative speakers are being harassed and shut down on numerous college campuses. Sometimes violence is involved, such as at Berkeley, while other times “only” intimidation and disruption take place.

Not surprisingly, when a society rewards bad behavior, we get more of it. Since the protesters have not been arrested and/or expelled following these events, suppression of conservative speech is increasing.

My husband and I got our personal taste of this at  Cañada College in San Mateo, CA, this past Tuesday night. He was invited by students to give a speech about the morality of business and we soon found that the following notice, revealing the facility of language and depth of discourse one expects from college students, was circulating on campus.

The students who had invited us assured us that security measures were being taken and that a large turnout was expected, though they were expecting some protestors.

We arrived and while my husband was taken to a back room, I circulated among arriving students and community members.  As people entered the auditorium a few girls stood quietly by the stairs leading to the venue, holding signs of protest. I thought that was a perfectly civilized way to express opposition, no matter how misguided.

 

 

One of the girls actually had a number of different sign with quotes from my husband and I was impressed with the effort she had made rather than using generic material. We got into an interesting conversation when I began to question what exactly she found offensive about the specific quotes she was parading. For example, one of the quotes spoke of women being born with a limited number of eggs while men’s sperm doesn’t share that limitation. I asked if she felt the biological fact was incorrect, which she didn’t, though she thought that suggesting that this might make women and men act differently was wrong. Let’s face it. This is a young student —seventeen? nineteen?—with limited life experience who has, sadly, fallen for the lies being fed to our youth. She hasn’t, as my husband and I have, sat with thirty-five year old women in tears asking why no one told them when they were younger that they might desperately yearn to have a baby one day. She was open to a discussion of her various signs and I actually felt sorry for her. How can you expect a student to defend her ideas when she has been taught what to think rather than how to think while being shielded from different views ?

Still, if this was the extent of the protests, there would be no problem. The speech began and while a few seated young girls (this was a different group than the ones who had been outside) held up signs, including vulgar ones, everything was going along fine. That changed when about half an hour into the speech these girls stood up and began repetitively chanting about eight or so words. I don’t remember the slogan, but it had something to do with Fascism. Their actions suggested that they favor that philosophy though I think their words suggested otherwise. With the rampant historical ignorance among college students, it’s likely they have no idea what Fascism is, since forcible suppression of opposition is one of its mainstays.

As these three girls continued to stand and shout, my husband asked one of them what she wanted. She ‘asked’ a question about health care and he said that he would be happy to answer it within his talk so could they please sit down and stop disrupting so he could continue. That clearly wasn’t part of their agenda so they continues standing and repetitively shrieking their mantra. At this point a few more girls came in the other side of the auditorium and joined in the screeching. Security stood to the side with folded arms. End of speech.

The rest of the audience was understandably annoyed at being held hostage. There was an attempt to outshout the protesters and a number of people approached the girls pleading with them to leave. Meanwhile, security stood to the side with folded arms. When the event organizers questioned why they didn’t do anything, the response was that they were there so that if things turned violent they could shut the event down. Eventually, after quite a few people had given up and left in frustration, some almost in tears, the organizers circulated word that participants should stealthily leave and take circuitous routes to get to a different room where my husband would give his speech. That is what happened.

Cañada College, like most institutions of learning, has a student code of conduct. Here are two excerpts:

“Students enrolled at Cañada College are expected to conduct themselves as responsible citizens and in a manner compatible with the functioning of an educational institution.”

“Any student [not behaving according to the code] may be subject to disciplinary action, including suspension and/or expulsion.”

To give the bullying students credit, they did not wear masks as violent protesters at Berkeley have done. Masks both increases the intimidation factor and represents cowardice, just as they historically did for the Ku Klux Klan. The professors and other students at Tuesday’s event have identified the irresponsible citizens who acted in a manner incompatible with the functioning of an educational institution. Many of these fellow students were in shock that people whom they considered friends could behave so reprehensibly. I believe that complaints are being filed, though I admit that I would be shocked to hear that serious disciplinary action is taken. The protests here have been empowered by other, larger and better known, colleges that have chosen to side with suppression of free speech and thuggish behavior.

I know how my husband and I felt Tuesday night. I can only imagine how it feels to be a conservative student on campus, being intimidated, insulted and silenced daily. These brave students, many of whom affiliate with YAF (Young America’s Foundation), the organization that helped arrange for my husband’s speech, need and fully deserve our support.

If you have something you wish to politely say to the college’s administration, here is some contact information.

Barbara Bucton (Executive Assistant to President)
buctonb@smccd.edu
(650) 306-3239

Deborah Joy (Executive Assistant)Office of the Vice President, Student Services
joyd@smccd.edu
(650) 306-3318

 

Faith in America: A CBS Propaganda Documentary

April 20th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

I just finished watching a well done piece of propaganda, produced by CBS News. As I write these words it is Easter Sunday which, this year, falls in the middle of the Passover holiday.  It seemed appropriate to click on a video entitled “Faith in America: a History,” which I was sure would be a celebration of America’s tolerance and religious diversity. Traditionally, this is a time of year when secular networks tap into the holiday season by showing movies like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur. A documentary on America’s various religious communities seemed to fit that tradition.

Of course, in a historical narrative it would be only honest and fair to mention the sad times when discrimination peppered our history. These would legitimately include, among other examples, early anti-Quakerism, the antagonism the Mormon Church faced, anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. However, I assumed that the thrust of the show would express pride and gratitude for our amazing country.

In all fairness, the site that linked me to the video didn’t include the subtitle, A history of Catholic, Jewish and Muslim intolerance in America, which, despite some grammatical awkwardness, might have warned me of the show’s slant.  But I never saw the subtitle.

By the end of the documentary I was shocked breathless. Here is my summary of what I saw: Evil Republicans, especially Donald Trump and anyone who supports him, are channeling anti Catholic biases of earlier years in America along with Nazi sentiments in Europe to promote baseless, superstitious fear of and harm to Muslims.  End of story.

I must sadly acknowledge that the show was extremely well done. As a homeschooling mother I wanted to watch it with my children, get their feedback and then watch a second time, pausing every few minutes to point out or send them searching for rebuttals to the half-truths, false associations, misleading language and blatant disregard for history that made up the bulk of this shameful anti-American propaganda. While not on the level of a Leni Riefenstahl documentary, it was most impressive. (Did you see how I manipulated you there? Leni Riefenstahl was Hitler’s favorite director. Her 1930s movie Triumph of the Will was an effective, ground-changing work that helped Hitler solidify power. By making an analogy to Ms. Riefenstahl, I encouraged you to compare the CBS documentary to her work, leading you to associate the CBS film I’m discussing with a Nazi production, ergo CBS is like Hitler. That is one of the types of manipulative propaganda for which you should be alert should you choose to watch the CBS film.)

I would strongly encourage anyone who saw this piece to take the time to factually refute it and consciously address the tools of disinformation it employs. Too often, we have an underlying gut feeling that something is wrong but don’t bother to intellectually enumerate the problems. CBS is relying on Americans’ notorious lack of historical knowledge coupled with ignorance of current world affairs to encourage viewers to adopt a highly subjective and partisan attitude.

My homeschooling students are grown and I trust that I taught them well enough that they can dissect this program themselves should they choose to see it. My days of running history seminars for children are over for now. However, in closing, I’d like to offer one story from my childhood that in a very personal way exemplifies religion in America to me.

As Easter always falls on or near Passover, this time of the year in Catholic parts of Europe was often a period of fear and bloodshed in the Jewish community. Catholic services too frequently ended with mob violence against the Jewish community, resulting in horrendous pogroms.

In contrast, I grew up in a mixed Italian-Catholic and Jewish community in New York. In days when mothers didn’t view themselves as their children’s social directors, neighborhood children grouped into de facto play groups. My two best friends growing up each lived down the block. I attended a religious Jewish school; Beth, whose family belonged to the Conservative movement of Judaism went to public school; and JoAnn and her siblings were stalwarts of the local Catholic school.

One year, on Passover, Beth’s grandfather, who also lived on our block, died. The funeral took place on the holiday and JoAnn’s mother offered to watch one toddler grandson at her house during the ceremony. My parents thought I was too young to go to the funeral but old enough to stay home alone while they attended. About an hour after they left, JoAnn came running over to say that her mother needed me to come and bring food with me. Her mother’s young charge was crying and she wanted to give him something to eat. In grief and shock at the sudden loss of her father (the burial was less than 24 hours after the death) Beth’s aunt had not sent any food with her son.Yet JoAnn’s mother knew how careful we were with kosher food on Passover and didn’t want to offer the very young child anything, not even a fruit, that might show any disrespect for our religion. To me, that, rather than the agenda-driven, political cudgel CBS produced, represents faith in America.

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Sneak sale preview!

 Dear Rabbi and Susan: 101 Real-life Ask the Rabbi Questions is
going on sale next week.

I’m initiating the sale early to give Musings readers a head start on getting the book.
It’s a great conversation starter around the dining room table as well as a fun read.

Harmful Hysteria

April 6th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 57 comments

I wasn’t planning to write about the Mike Pence non-story concerning his commitment to his wife because that is exactly how I saw it—as a non-story. To protect his marriage, he doesn’t dine alone with women other than his wife and, unless he is with his wife, Karen, he doesn’t attend parties where alcohol is served.  This very basic personal marital agreement was treated by feminist and liberal outlets with the same hysteria they would have accorded to the revelation that the Vice-president was actually Jack the Ripper.  Since hysteria on steroids has become the hourly response of many since November’s election, I decided to ignore the story.

I changed my mind and wrote the following because I remembered an encounter I had with a bright, conservative-leaning, religious young woman back in 2007. She explained why she was going to vote for Barack Obama and I was so taken aback that I was unable to respond. Later, I realized that her youth was leading her to believe campaign statements that sounded wonderful, without having the tools to judge them against history or reality.  Along with that recollection, I became aware that Karen and Mike Pence’s commitment had become a target of comedy shows. Laughter harnesses tremendous power that, if used negatively, is hard to combat and silence didn’t seem an option for me any longer.

Most of those mocking Mike Pence as someone who is liable to attack any woman across the dinner table if Karen isn’t there to serve as a brake, have an agenda.  That is the most charitable explanation for their idiotic statements. However, there actually could be people hearing them, especially young women, who are so inexperienced and naive in the way that the world really works that those statements sound plausible. They may not even be so young. In her book, Committed, author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) relates that she was well into her thirties before she realized that infidelity does not ‘just happen.’ Neither does it happen only to people of low character or to those swept away by uncontrollable forces. It was a revelation to her that one can actually set in place boundaries in a marriage that protect you from the seemingly harmless, tiny steps that lead on a path that can end in marriage betrayal.

Setting those boundaries in place is exactly what Mike and Karen Pence have done. While the particulars may differ, in concept they are in sync with ancient Jewish wisdom. Marriage, it says, is so valuable to both individuals and society that it must be protected just as you would protect a valuable, irreplaceable piece of art. Should you, let’s say, own such a masterpiece, you wouldn’t set up a system chiefly to deal with the aftermath of a theft. You would set up all sorts of protections in advance to make theft, or even damage to the piece, difficult in the first place. The fact that you don’t disable the system when a six-year-old girl comes to view the piece doesn’t mean that you suspect her of being a felon in disguise. The system stays in place regardless of who comes near.

I would ask anyone who even felt a shred of indignation or scorn at Vice-president Pence’s principles or who saw a funny lampooning of his marriage to read the following two accounts.

  1. Rabbi Aryeh Levin (1885 – 1969), was known as “the tzadik (righteous one) of Jerusalem,” for his tireless efforts to care for the poor, imprisoned and sick. Stories abound reflecting his caring, Godly nature. Yet, one of the most circulated stories of his life relates not to his public works, but instead, to his marriage. At a doctor’s appointment for pains his elderly wife was suffering, he explained their presence in the doctor’s office with the words, “Doctor, our foot is hurting us.”
  2. In 1990, Robert McQuilkin retired from the presidency of Columbia Bible College and Graduate School in order to stay at his wife’s side while she dealt with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. In 2005, my husband and I, along with over 6,000 other married couples, watched a video where he talked about his resignation, including these words:

The decision was made, in a way, 42 years ago when I promised to care for Muriel “in sickness and in health…till death do us part.” So, as I told the students and faculty, as a man of my word, integrity has something to do with it. But so does fairness. She has cared for me fully and sacrificially all these years; if I cared for her for the next 40 years I would not be out of debt. Duty, however, can be grim and stoic. But there is more; I love Muriel. She is a delight to me–her childlike dependence and confidence in me, her warm love, occasional flashes of that wit I used to relish so, her happy spirit and tough resilience in the face of her continuing distressing frustration. I do not have to care for her, I get to! It is a high honor to care for so wonderful a person.

If there was any woman in the crowd who didn’t choke up, I didn’t see her. I did see many women murmuring a silent prayer asking for a marriage as blessed as that one. Fewer men had tears rolling down their cheeks, but I saw quite a bit of nose blowing.

I absolutely believe that marriages such as those can and do still exist. What’s more, I believe that most women know that they crave such marriages.  At the same time, I think that today’s cultural milieu make these marriages less likely and harder to achieve. Late night comedy shows, partisan politics and foolishness about gender and sexuality masquerading as cutting-edge wisdom that is paraded not only in universities but also aimed at young children, imperil the chances of such enduring devotion and love. We can’t simply ignore or dismiss those things unless we are willing to fall under their spell as well as bequeathing them to our children. And so, I write.

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Too Much Choice?

March 30th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 34 comments

A favorite children’s book in our house was, Who Put the Pepper in the Pot? It describes how, as a pot of soup simmered on the stove, each passing family member added a pinch of pepper. Not surprisingly, by the time dinner was served, the soup was inedible.

A pinch of pepper adds zest to food; too much can ruin it. We can say the same about life choices. It’s wonderful to have choices in life; it is part of being alive.  However, it does seem that each year brings more and more options to young people. Most of these are choices which they have neither the experience nor the maturity to understand.

For many years now, among these choices are how much emphasis to place on a career or profession, whether to get married, and whether to have children (and whether to link the two latter activities). Universities, of course, have their own biases, which tend to minimize marriage and family or suggest that those will be available at any time of one’s choosing.

This week marks my mother’s seventeenth yahrzeit, the Jewish word for the anniversary of a death. During my childhood years, my mother, like most of my friends’ mothers, was “just a mom.” She was always there when I got home from school, she made a supper with a protein, carb and vegetable every night and made sure I had what I needed for school. In pre-computer days, this included a drawer full of magazine articles collected through the years, with pictures from around the world and biographies of interesting people. Since we didn’t have a car it also included taking me on regular bus trips to the library until I was old enough to go independently.

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Leaning Left

March 23rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

One of my granddaughters recently completed a homeschool assignment requiring her to tell a fairy tale from the point of view of one of the minor characters. She did a wonderful job relating Jack and the Beanstalk from Jack’s mother’s perspective. I think she may have a future in journalism.

I regularly scan a variety of newspapers and magazines. As part of that process, I view many news articles and opinion pieces from sources that pride themselves as being mainstream. Overwhelmingly, they tell news events from a Democrat and liberal perspective. Even the Wall Street Journal, whose opinion page skews right, presents the news as seen through liberal eyes.

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Behind Every Great Man…

March 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 50 comments

Quick! Is this a complimentary statement or an insult? “Behind every great man stands a great woman.” I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about this phrase. How exactly do I feel about it?

While I haven’t tried this experiment, I conjecture that if you asked college students what they think of those words, most would dismiss it as a relic of patriarchy. After all, it reeks of a time when women weren’t expected to be great themselves but only support staff. A variation of the saying is , “Behind every successful man there is a woman,” but this only emphasizes the potential problem even more. (For the purpose of this conversation, I am going to focus on wives rather than mothers, not because I underestimate maternal influence but because that’s a different discussion.)

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The Great Purim Baking Caper

March 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 135 comments

Today, I originally planned to write about immigration, which I would categorize as a political topic. But then, I started baking the Purim cookie known as hamantashen and things went so wrong that I thought I should share that experience with you.  I would categorize that topic as a family/personal Musing. While I much appreciate the regular feedback I get on my Musings, very, very, very few readers actually write comments on our website. I have no way of knowing if more people grimace in disappointment when the topic is political or social or whether a greater number shake their heads when I get personal, muttering, “I don’t really need to hear that.” So, until thousands more of you comment letting me know where your interests lie, I will continue to write about whatever is plucking at my mind and heartstrings.

I just spent four hours making cookies that are not as beautifully shaped (pictures below) and possibly not even as tasty as ones I could buy for $2.99 a dozen. If you don’t understand this, you are probably not female and cannot be (on this issue at least) what Anne of Green Gables would call a kindred spirit.

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Bomb Threats Revisited

March 2nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

When I was in high school, a relatively uncommon but not unknown phenomenon were bomb threats called in to my Jewish school. We dutifully evacuated the building while the police searched the premises. I remember feeling more delight at a break in routine than concern. Had the student body been polled I think more of us would have guessed that the threat originated with a fellow student trying to avoid an algebra exam rather than with a terrorist. 

Fast forward to the past few weeks where Jewish schools and community centers have been targeted with warning phone calls. Things look rather different from an adult perspective. I doubt they are signaling a serious physical threat. Terrorists of the past two decades such as those who orchestrated 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing or Fort Hood have not politely telephoned warnings of their intentions allowing lives to be saved.

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Three Cheers for Generation Z

February 23rd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Can a video make you want to cry and cheer at the same time? Well, that was my reaction to this amazing video created by sixteen-year-old Autumn in reaction to a foolish and, dare I say, downright evil, article that ran in Teen Vogue magazine trivializing abortion. 

In her video, Autumn discusses the idea of female empowerment, dismissing the claim that ridding yourself of the bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh is empowering. Even if, to some degree or other, you accept abortion, each one is a tragedy not a triumph.

You won’t be shocked to hear that I do not read Teen Vogue. Nevertheless, Autumn’s video led me to take a look at its webpage. Here is their tag line: “The rebellious, outspoken, empowering magazine that you need right now.” A quick look at the titles suggested that their definition of rebellious is  walking in lock-step with academia, entertainment and most of the media. Outspoken, I grant them. Nevertheless, my biggest question had to do with the word empowering. 

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On Rabbis and Immigration (Guest Musing)

February 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 33 comments

I am delighted to share my Musing platform with Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt. You will soon hear more about Rabbi Rosenblatt who we are delighted to welcome as director of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC). He shares our passion for and commitment to an America firmly based on Judeo-Christian values. Like us, he is deeply troubled when Judaism is misrepresented as modern liberalism. He was moved to compose the following piece.

On Monday, February 6, some 200 rabbis and rabbinical students protested outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.   19 of them blocked traffic and were arrested for disorderly conduct.  The group was protesting President Trump’s executive order placing a 90-day hold on immigration from seven countries which lack adequate security programs to vet the peaceful nature of visa holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Teru’ah, the left-wing rabbinical group that organized the protest, said it was meant to show that many Jews oppose the ban.

“We remember our history, and we remember that the border of this country closed to us in 1924, with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.  We know that some of the language that’s being used now to stop the Muslims from coming is the same language that was used to stop Jewish refugees from coming“, she said. 

As the great-grandson of a rabbi who immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of religious persecution, these words caught my attention.

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