Posts in Susan’s Musings

Please Tell Me It’s Satire

February 9th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

A few times this past week while reading my daily paper I found myself checking whether I was actually following the Onion, a news satire organization. Each page had one or more articles that made me think, “This can’t be real.” Listening to the radio compounded the problem.

There was the opinion piece explaining to men that they should double down on mentoring women despite the fact that they might be falsely accused of sexual harassment. After all, mentoring women is such an important ideal that they should willingly risk their reputation, family and livelihood to do so.

To my astonishment, another article spoke of cities considering instituting rent-control policies. In the two cities in which I have lived that had strong rent-control policies in place, wealthy people paid ludicrously small sums to stay put while less wealthy areas turned into boarded up slums since landlords couldn’t survive on the low rents they were forced to charge. Rent control was far from a rousing success.

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That Which is Born

February 1st, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 27 comments

My husband and I celebrated two joyous events early this week. On Sunday, we were guests at a ninetieth birthday brunch and a day later we welcomed a young lady whose age we are now counting in days rather than years.

Rosie, may she live and be well, and my mother, may she rest in peace, began a friendship when they were five-year-old neighbors. When Rosie’s oldest sister married my mother’s uncle the ties grew stronger. On Sunday, her five children honored her at a birthday brunch where she was lovingly feted by over sixty children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends. A day later, our newest granddaughter made her appearance.

The juxtaposition of the events got me to thinking. There is a saying in ancient Jewish wisdom, “Who is wise? He who sees what is born.” Note that it doesn’t say, “He who sees the future.” We aren’t being told that one needs prophecy to be wise; one needs to be able to see that which is likely to happen if we expand our vision beyond the present.

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Through No Fault of Their Own

January 25th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

Sometimes, phrases get repeated often enough that they become widely accepted. This doesn’t mean that they are true. I’m not talking about deliberate untruths as in Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ statement, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” I am talking about words we think of as truisms, ones that are often faulty, but which we casually accept as reality.

For example, I remember a friend responding with, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” when hard-to-believe rumors surfaced of scandalous behavior by a local religious leader. We all know too well today of the danger in ignoring horrible behavior that must be addressed.  However, inverting America’s legal principle into “Guilty until proven innocent”  places titanic power in the hands of the hate-filled, the overzealous, careless, or even just the  mistaken. One venomous tweet today can destroy a perfectly innocent life. Automatically believing that, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” substitutes one injustice for another.

With the discussion of DACA front and center, one repeatedly hears that the Dreamers (a politically brilliant term that obscures the issue) came to the United States illegally through, “…no fault of their own.” We aren’t really talking about fault; we mean that the illegal action of entering or remaining in the country was not actively theirs. Their parents made a choice that placed them in that position.

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Cringe and Applaud: The Reality of President Trump

January 18th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 66 comments

I received an email asking why I have been uncritical about President Trump’s character and words. His rough and vulgar way of talking is in direct contrast to my emphasis on refined speech. I wouldn’t tolerate his brash boastfulness in my circle of friends and to top it all off, my correspondent notes that the President’s history of adultery runs counter to my values.

My correspondent is correct in all her facts. I wrote about my struggles in coming to terms with supporting Donald Trump during the primaries and I wrote about why I chose to support him in the election.  Once he was elected I have stayed silent about his “outrages” for a number of reasons.

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O Magazine’s 2010 Deplorable Moment

January 12th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

By all accounts, Oprah Winfrey gave an impressive speech at the Golden Globes. It has been a heavy work week for me and I haven’t managed to listen to it myself, but since she is an articulate and personable woman who has made a career out of connecting with millions of people (largely female), her triumph is unsurprising. With her name being mentioned in just about every news report this week, I was reminded that I have written a few times about her in my Musings.

In 2010, I posted a letter to the editor I had written to her magazine. Upon re-reading, I think the problem on which I focused only grew as seen when Hillary Clinton labeled a huge swathe of the population as “deplorable.”  Here is a reprint of that Musing.

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#NotMeToo

January 4th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

“Boss, I can’t wash dishes,” Bob said.

My husband and I, along with our three children under the age of three and a half, three congregants from the synagogue my husband and I served, and my husband’s employee, Bob, (who always addressed my husband as “boss”)  were setting up the watch schedule for our sailing trip from Marina del Rey, California to Waikiki, Hawaii. Each person was being assigned to four-hour shifts for keeping watch and steering, along with a basic chore rotation.

But Bob occupied a unique role. The requirements of our Shabbat observance meant that the Jews on board could not steer or adjust sails from sunset Friday night until the stars came out on Saturday night. This left Bob in full charge of the boat for 25 hours each week. For this reason, he was not on watch on Friday or Sunday, but other than the weekends, we had assigned him as part of the regular task rotation that included galley clean up.

“What do you mean, you can’t wash dishes?” my husband asked. Bob had an incredible work ethic and we had never known him to shy away from any job.

“When you wash dishes, Boss, you’re taking a turn helping out. When I wash dishes, I’m a dishwasher.” 

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Suspect the Marshmallow Test?

December 28th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 28 comments

What happens when something doesn’t pass your “gut instinct” test? You read an article, learn about a study or hear something presented as fact, yet it just doesn’t align with your previous knowledge or, perhaps, with your emotions. The two easy choices are to accept the new idea as more up-to-date and correct or to reject it as wrong. The harder choice is to delve deeper and explore the issue.

We constantly face this challenge concerning issues that matter. We can also list dozens of times that ‘experts’ were (intentionally or unintentionally) wrong, be they scientists or theologians, politicians or pundits, iconoclasts or a writer under the imprimatur of a venerated organization. Certainly, the expectation that an article in The New York Times or a statement by a lauded leader deserves an assumption of truth is now laughable rather than plausible.

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Modern Love Outrage

December 21st, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

Over twenty years ago, James Finn Garner wrote Politically Correct Bedtime Stories: Modern Tales for Our Life and Times. Meant as a satire, it takes well-known stories like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and “rehabilitates” them for modern sensibilities. Obviously, a prince rescuing a woman is a knave, not a knight, and story lines are secondary to ideological diatribes.

In Stalinist Russia, the idea of sanitizing stories was not amusing. People found themselves banished to the Gulag or worse for writing something the wrong way. Of course, the correct way one year could become a criminal offense the next year.

Even now in China, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, anyone writing certain true accounts on social media that the government finds offensive finds himself imprisoned and beaten. Naturally, most published material China meets the socialist government’s rules.

With this in mind, I found myself pondering the December 15, Modern Love column in the New York Times. It is a story of a woman with an auto-immune disease whose boyfriend married her in order to bring her under the umbrella of his medical insurance. Written several years after the fact, she acknowledges that without that medical crisis they likely would not have married. She now recognizes her marriage as a gift.

On the surface, it is exactly what the Modern Love column likes to portray; a personal, human-interest story. However, I was struck while reading it by numerous instances of concepts and sentences that should result in a flurry of outraged letters to the editor demanding that the author be sent to a re-education camp. Here are two examples.

  • In the couple’s haste to be married, they needed to gather the necessary documentation and cut through City Hall bureaucracy before the office closed. Speaking of her friend, the bride comments, “Luckily, Rachel, who knows how to flirt, worked her magic on the clerk, and he pushed through our paperwork.”

What an outrage! Rachel clearly needs to be condemned for anti-Feminist behavior. Current ideology claims that women are pure, virtuous creatures who would never use their wiles or bodies to encourage a man to pay attention to them. If a woman flirts it is only because of fear that she will lose her job, not because she is an aggressor in the situation.

My harsher criticism is for Rachel’s sexual harassment behavior. What if twenty years from now, the poor, hapless clerk cannot live a healthy life when he realizes that he was taken advantage of by a woman who manipulated him? The obviously intimidated clerk should have lodged an immediate complaint.

  •   At the end of the article, the author writes, “After my immediate health crisis passed, I was able to look back and appreciate how much Chris had stepped up to take care of me. His passive side disappeared the moment he proposed. I had never seen him take charge like that. (It was sexy!)”

I’m sorry, but clearly this Chris is a danger to society. Politically correct ideology insists that men must be wimps. Next thing we know, this fellow will be thumping his chest and shouting, “Woman, get me a beer.” Perhaps while she was ill, the protagonist of the story wasn’t able to take care of herself, but intimating that his take-charge attitude was sexy is simply pre-historic. Instead of gratitude for his actions, she should end the article by making very clear that if the situation was reversed and he was ill, she would have stepped into exactly the same leadership role (which is quite possible). In either case, it should have nothing to do with being perceived as sexy.

Frankly, the entire notion of a column entitled Modern Love is offensive. It makes those who do not have love in their life feel unwelcome and like second-class citizens. In a proper socialist paper, there should be only carefully censored news and propaganda. There should be no whiff of humor or emotion. Like college campuses today, every word should be vetted for its ability to offend, leaving little room for anything of interest, let alone true.

Over twenty years ago, Mr. Garner’s re-written stories were seen as satire. Today, their equivalents are in classrooms throughout the world. Is there any reason to think that articles like the Modern Love one I just read, where a woman can write of her personal situation and emotions, will be allowed twenty years down the road if society continues on its current path?   

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Comfort Reading

December 14th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 54 comments

I went to the library yesterday to get some comfort reading. You probably know about comfort food. After 9/11, even fancy restaurants began serving  mashed potatoes, chocolate pudding and other common staples of childhood. As people were reeling from the ominous events that shook the world, eating simple old-fashioned favorites emotionally connected them with a safer time and place. Don’t most of us have a food or drink that we associate with feelings of security and protection?

Comfort reading is similar to comfort eating though it has the advantage of being calorie-free. I went searching for, and found, books that I had previously read, ensuring that there would be no unpleasant surprises. They weren’t necessarily my favorite books, simply decently written and rather undramatic ones; books with only happy events. Or at least the problems that do occur are minor, reparable and not stress-inducing to me as a reader. Books like Mrs. Mike or Little Women, as wonderful as they are, don’t fall into this category. Quite frankly, (spoiler alert) one or more beloved character dies in each one. Since getting older seems to correspond with my becoming more of a blubbery mess as I read those scenes, those books clearly won’t serve my purpose.

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A Time for Cynicism and a Time for Wonder?

December 7th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 28 comments

One can be too cynical. Obviously, one can also be too trusting. Sometimes people do the right thing, not because it is right, but as a strategic move on their life chess board. Perhaps, they are doing this right thing for ignoble or self-promotional reasons rather than as a brave and idealistic stand.  Nevertheless, right is right and whenever right is done regardless of the motivation, it is good and worth celebrating.  Needless to say, it is even more praiseworthy when done as an act of courage and nobility.

Several very right things have been done recently. For the moment, I want  to accept them at face value and pray that no matter the back story, they yield blessing.

New York Democrat, Rep. Kathleen Rice, walked out of a Democrat caucus meeting telling reporters, “I don’t have time for meetings that aren’t real.” By articulating that, she was actually announcing that, “The Emperor has no clothes.”  She condemned the way that Congress winks at the sexual harassment of its own members. She ripped off a mask that will be difficult to don again. She deserves our thanks.

President Donald Trump acted upon a campaign promise and acknowledged the truth, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  Politicians and presidents on both sides for decades have been promising to do the same thing knowing that their words were meaningless.  President Trump set a new standard for politicians sticking to their words. He deserves our thanks. 

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