Posts in Susan’s Musings

One Gift Is Worth a Thousand Words

December 3rd, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 9 comments

There is so much about which to write. The great loss sustained by America as Dr. Walter E. Williams died this week, the ongoing election drama, and COVID-19 among much else.

Instead, I am bringing back this piece from 2009. In the final analysis, while the fortunes of countries and individuals wax and wane, often with devastating consequences, some things remain constant.

From an early age, I was aware that a dresser drawer in my grandparents’ apartment housed a box with my name on it. Inside was a tablecloth, hand-embroidered with pictures and, in Hebrew, the words, “In honor of the Sabbath and Holidays.” Just as she had once done for my mother and aunt, my grandmother spent hours stitching this special cloth for me. I don’t know if she did the work when I was an infant, toddler or child. I do know that during those years when I was busy looking at a different drawer, the one which my grandparents stocked with Archie and Superman comic books, my grandmother was envisioning my being grown-up and setting a festive table for my family.

Though she was no longer alive by the time I got married, I brought my grandmother’s priceless wedding present into my marriage. In the years since, I reverently lay out the tablecloth for holidays and for special occasions such as when a newborn is spending his or her first Sabbath in the family. Each time I unfold the tablecloth from its original box, slightly battered from various moves, I am transported back to a time when my grandparents’ love enveloped me. I am a better wife, mother and Jew when the cloth is on the table, and its presence spurs me to act in ways worthy of my grandmother’s devotion.

Many years ago, in the hope of passing that chain of affection down to another generation, I embarked on a quest to hand craft a Sabbath tablecloth for my firstborn daughter, who was lovingly named after my grandmother. A slight glitch developed as our family grew and I realized that I only had limited time to work on the cloth, usually was when I was in the hospital for a day after childbirth or on vacation. Both those times were in short supply.

Of course, I wanted such a treasure for each successive daughter as well. I knew I was in trouble when around the time of my eldest daughter’s twelfth birthday I finished her gift and realized that if I took twelve years to embroider something for my other girls, my youngest would be an octogenarian by the time her gift was completed.

After boxing up the first tablecloth I immediately started on the next one and managed to have it done in time to serve as an engagement gift for my second daughter. But our six daughters are relatively close in age and I was in real trouble. Fortunately, as the children grew and needed less hands-on attention, I had more opportunities to grab time for needlework, even if it was only ten minutes before falling asleep.

Our third daughter requested a wall hanging depicting a panoramic view of Jerusalem rather than a tablecloth. I readily agreed, relieved at the smaller size though the intricacy and complexity of the work was greater. I didn’t make it in time for her engagement or wedding, but it graced the wall of her new home during her first year of marriage. Before I completed that needlework, daughter #4 threw us a curveball and got engaged. I hadn’t even begun to contemplate her gift! Last week, I finally finished her challah cover (the covering for the Sabbath bread), once again smaller than a tablecloth but incredibly detailed and elaborate. She and her husband should be able to open the package before their second wedding anniversary.

As I’m quite sure was true of my grandmother’s efforts, much more than time and effort have gone into these gifts. The hundreds of hours spent on each one, as well as on the bag I needle-pointed for our son’s bar mitzvah to hold the articles he uses in prayer, and on the gifts I have yet to begin for my youngest two girls, are meant as a way for me to encourage and care for my children when I can’t be with them in person. Each piece of handiwork speaks to my conviction that they will be true to their faith and families.  Each stitch carries a prayer, each thread an overflowing pool of love.

Update: I wrote this a few years ago. Since that time, I have completed a tablecloth (as requested) for daughter #5, a challah cover for daughter #6, and a challah cover representing my first attempt at quilting for our #1 daughter-in-law. All made with love.

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The Press Secretary vs. The Homemaker

November 27th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 21 comments

Will you join me in a  thought experiment? Imagine that I proudly identify as an artist. (I did say that this was a thought experiment and so it does require imagination.) If at the end of my days, my art lives on, carrying my values into the future, I will consider myself as having lived a worthwhile life. I consider my art to be so important that I spend time on it even when I am not paid for my work. Perhaps there will be tangible rewards down the road, but there is no guarantee of that. I create art because it is my passion. I also share my art with my city and nation, convinced as I am that the presence of uplifting art leads to a happier and more prosperous populace.

However, being an artist doesn’t consume me. There are other areas of my personality that vie for my time. I am also trained and employed as a lawyer. I certainly have material benefits from that job. Not only I am well paid, but I have good health benefits and a retirement account. There are also non-material benefits. I get to meet interesting people and stretch my talents and abilities by overcoming difficult challenges. I enjoy the intellectual atmosphere of the office. As with my art, I feel that my work is valuable and leads to a healthier and safer life for those in my community and city. Nonetheless, in the final analysis, I am proudest of being an artist.

There is one more part to our thought experiment. The government applauds my art and wishes to help me be successful in that arena. They value artists and agree that the city is a better place when artists feel supported and validated. To do so, the government will spend tax money to provide me with art assistants, whom I can direct to carry out my artistic vision. In this way, they predict, I will be less torn about leaving my art studio and spending more time in my legal office. In addition, they will require all businesses, including my employer, to give artists paid time off to work on our craft. What a wonderful perk of my job!

These assistants and the time off will be paid by increasing taxes on everyone (including my fellow artists).  Regulating businesses to pay for my time off will, of course, add a cost to business, but they have the option to raise the cost of all goods (including art supplies). The important thing is that I should feel comfortable working for a company that values my art.

Wait?  That doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? If the government deems that art is truly important, then why instigate policies that will raise prices and force artists to work longer hours in other occupations, leaving them less time to create art? Will an art assistant truly be able to fulfill my personal artistic vision? What if I want to do my own art? Wouldn’t it be better to form an environment with lower taxes and less regulation so that I can choose to work less at my non-artistic job? Then it would be my choice to give up the positives of my law career and focus on my art or to spend less time on art but keep my legal career alive.

Replace artist with mother and lawyer with press secretary and you will understand why I was confused by a small part of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ memoir. Overall, I enjoyed the book recounting her years as President Trump’s press secretary. In that role, she was strong, articulate, and classy. Despite being treated despicably by many in the press, she stayed on target, didn’t cower and remained a southern lady.

Speaking for Myself: Faith, Freedom and the Fight of Our Lives Inside the Trump White House is a wonderful reminder of many of the successes of the Trump presidency as well as an inside look at the author’s childhood as the daughter of the Governor of Arkansas and her experiences serving in various political campaigns. All in all, it was an enjoyable and illuminating read.

There was only one place, a few sentences in all, that baffled me. That is the subject of my thought experiment. Since I respect the author and our views converge on so many issues, I truly would like to understand her thinking.

More than once, Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks about the conflict between being a loving mother and also having such a high-tension, high profile job—one that often necessitated last-minute changes of plan as well as travel. One chapter in particular, focuses on that dilemma. She speaks of her personal challenge worrying that she was either short-changing her job or short-changing her children. I understand that and, as a United States citizen, I am grateful for how she served our country, recognizing the sacrifices she and her family made. I also understand when she says that her most important title is ‘mother.’ What I don’t understand is her conclusion:

“…I was so proud of the Trump administration for leading the fight to double the child tax credit and champion paid family leave. Four years ago Republicans were hardly talking about paid family leave at all, but thanks to the leadership of Ivanka Trump, also a working mom of three, there was now broad bipartisan support for it. “

I am not a fan of that bipartisan support. I think that government-directed paid family leave is a terrible mistake that will lead to fewer options for women while damaging the economy and family life. As in my example, if we truly value motherhood, then policies such as lower taxation and less regulation, allowing companies to keep costs down, seem to be the way to go. If couples could once again live on one salary, then they can choose for themselves who and how much to devote to a paid career. Mrs. Sanders seems to have a husband who valued her position with the president and, together, they made the decision that she should accept a grueling government position. Together, I presume, they then made the decision that she should step back in order to be more available to their family. Why should the government make that choice for us using economic incentives to promote one vision?

At the same time as I read Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ account, my daughter shared a book published in 1924 with me. The Homemaker, by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, is a surprising book for its time. (Totally off-topic: If you have not read her book, Understood Betsy, as a read-aloud with your 8-11-year-olds, do that immediately.) While the book has been described as a “feminist novel,” it is actually a ‘protection of children’ novel—those very little people whose needs are often ignored when the importance of women in the workforce is promoted.

The protagonists of the book are Lester and Eva Knapp, both of whom are miserable and causing great misery to their children. In order to get married to Eva, Lester took the first job available. Years later, he despises his work, and is, not surprisingly, quite bad at it. Life is a burden. Meanwhile, the ambitious and business-minded Eva immerses herself in a hated life of cleaning, cooking, and child-rearing. She does those with technical competence and frighteningly resentful vigor. The three children suffer emotionally as one would expect, and the entire family has physical ailments directly connected to stress and unhappiness.

When an accident confines Lester to bed, Eva goes out to work. The family soon discovers that Lester is a loving homemaker and father while Eva thrives at her job. Everyone is happier and their economic situation is vastly improved. At the end of the book, a crisis unfolds as there is a chance for Lester to recuperate and both adults worry that the expectations of society will force him back to the workforce and her back to the home.

However, the primary theme through the book is society’s neglect of the importance of a loving, dedicated figure in children’s lives, one who delights in their growth and makes a true home for the family. Lester and Eva need to make the best choice for their individual family, but caring for that family means that someone has to be devoting his or her intelligence, time, creativity, and talents to the children.

For a few decades now, we have been telling people with disastrous results that raising children is a boring, unfulfilling, and tedious job. We hold up the mirage that if only it didn’t cost so much, parents could find that magical being who will love their child as much as they do and guide them exactly as they would. Then they could do the rewarding and important work of earning money. The person raising their children will be earning money as well. That is, after all, what really matters! Or is it? Mrs. Sanders didn’t accept her job because of the salary and she didn’t quit her job because she couldn’t afford help. She accepted the press secretary position for well thought out reasons and she left because she made a well thought out decision that her family needed more of her presence.

Insisting that companies have a certain proportion of women in their workforce reduces opportunities for men, taking the choice away from husbands and wives as to which one of them will work out of the home. If my husband can’t get a position, while the company is begging me to come to work so that they can show how “woke” they are, then we are less free to run our own lives. If the government provides paid leave so that I won’t step away from my career, they are declaring that the career is more important than my family. They want me to think that having a family won’t interfere with my work, but work is what they are truly holding up as the highest value. If we look to Europe as a role model, we see that there is a serious danger of below replacement population growth. There is generous family leave time—and there are fewer and fewer children. When family and children are not valued, people do not establish families and have children. America is already seeing the result of attitudes that remove the concept of marriage and children as a blessing and vital part of life. As I see it, family leave will be one more nail in the coffin.

Few women or men get similar professional or business opportunities to those that Ivanka Trump or Sarah Huckabee Sanders did. Many, many women work because of economic need rather than for fulfillment. Given a choice, they would rather have more children and take care of them. Perhaps they would homeschool or volunteer in their children’s schools and in their communities, activities that tended to coincide with healthier neighborhoods. Policies that increase the cost of living or constrict the economic choices of husbands and wives, such as paid family leave or quotas for female workers, diminish these options. I know that forcing women into the workforce is a dream of the Left, presented as allowing women to reach their full potential and contribute to society. What I do not understand is why women who recognize the importance of motherhood are pushing conservatives to jump on the bandwagon. The government never works with a light touch; it tends to function with an increasingly heavy fist that leads to all sorts of unintended consequences.

I may not work in pastels or oil paint, but for years I was privileged to use my creativity and intellect, my passion and talents, in raising my children in partnership with my husband. Other women made different choices. I would like for my daughters to have the same options that we did.

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The Traditional Biden Voter

November 19th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

I expend an outsized amount of mental effort trying to understand the half of America that voted for the Biden/Harris team. I realize that those people don’t all fit into any one category, just as all the people who voted for Trump/Pence, can’t be described as having one monolithic mindset.  I understand the young who have been tragically misled to believe that socialism is a viable political option. I get those who make decisions without deep thought but simply listen to popular personalities or follow what those around them do or have done for generations. Even as they see no change or improvement when they re-elect the same types of people whose empty promises have yet to materialize, they continue to vote exactly as they always have. I even recognize the cognitive dissonance of those, often older voters, who cannot move past their decades-long conviction that Republicans are affluent, racist, anti-Semites. Some people, certainly, are one-issue voters who look only at one topic, say abortion, and ignore everything else.

The subgroup that interests me, however, are those people who I would classify as politically involved, intelligent, patriotic, and traditional-leaning.  They are appalled at rioting and looting, believe in free speech and freedom of religion, and proudly fly American flags outside their homes. Yet, they and I came to different conclusions about which of two extremely different paths the country should follow for the next four years.

Or perhaps, we didn’t. Maybe they are putting faith in Joe Biden to lead with the steel of Patton and the wisdom of Solomon. They trust him to stand up and save the Democrat Party from Leftism. They were horrified at President Trump’s manner and speech (based on the President’s admittedly unorthodox method of speaking and a great deal of deceitful reporting), but they were equally dismayed by the anti-Semitic, anti-religious Leftist tilt of the Gang of Four, the viciousness and blatant lying during the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, and the waste of taxpayer money on the Russian collusion hoax and the  groundless impeachment. Their visceral dislike of President Trump ran up against their memories of a more nuanced time when Ronald Reagan could work with Tip O’Neill or Bill Clinton could enact welfare reform with Newt Gingrich. They truly blame President Trump for the chasm dividing America. This pushed them to believe that a Biden presidency would return things to a state of more fraternal collegiality. After all, there were bad spots in the past like the appalling treatment inflicted on Judge Bork or on Justice-elect Clarence Thomas and things seemed to stabilize for a bit after that.

I do not know if the thoughts I am imagining these voters having are accurate. I do know that, should the election go forward as predicted by the media (not the topic of this writing), I see only two choices. Perhaps, my support for President Trump was not as crucial as I thought it was and these voters are correct that a Biden presidency will prove centrist and calming. Or, as I suspect, a Biden presidency will succumb to Leftist anti-American voices and betray these voters. If I was wrong, I would actually be quite relieved. I would love to see this country thrive and see Leftist violence and hatred stifled.

If, however, my fears are correct, then these individuals will bear the privilege and responsibility of loudly and forcefully speaking up. They will be the ones who will have to let the Democrat Party know that they will never be deceived again. And, I sleep at night only because I do believe that, whatever propelled them to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, they are at heart, good and noble people with a deep love for this country.

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Don’t Be Shocked

November 12th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

Whatever the outcome of this election, about half of all Americans will believe that it is not honest and accurate. After I wrote last week’s Musing, Anne commented, “Not liking the results of the election is not credible evidence [of fraud].”

I responded, “You are absolutely correct that not liking the results doesn’t equal fraud. However, just as in any relationship, when you sweep problems under the carpet over many years, you erode trust. There have been “irregularities” for decades that have been ignored. These go back to non-partisan problems, such as the need for identifying every voter but the Democrats yelled “racism” anytime they were brought up and the GOP cowered. Also, there was little political capital to be gained by fixing these problems. This resembles how repairing infrastructure doesn’t win credit for local government while handing out tax money for new programs does. Then, everyone sounds shocked when the bridge collapses or the water is polluted. It’s not a shock–it was ignored when it was easier to fix. […]You can’t allow mistakes/fraud/carelessness for years and then expect people to accept that everything is on the up and up, especially after four years of hatred.”

The integrity of our elections is not the only area where those with an agenda push forward deliberately while most Americans have their eyes elsewhere. It happened with education over the past sixty years, resulting in many highly ignorant and anti-American university graduates. And it is happening in health care now.

You can easily see two simultaneous trends: While veteran doctors are being frustrated, demoralized, and insulted, incoming medical students are being vetted for Leftist leanings. What do I mean?

If you pay close attention, you might notice that doctors have routinely been demoted to being called “health care providers.” This is a not-so-subtle attempt to denigrate the years of study and hard work they put in to achieve their degrees. The old Soviet Union had more doctors and health care facilities per capita than did the United States. They also had worse quality health care with worse results. I don’t think that was unrelated to the fact that being a doctor was not a terribly lucrative or respected position.

Yet, we are moving in that direction by increasingly treating many of our doctors like commodities. Their administrative bosses want to wring the most amount of work out of them with the least amount of respect for their education, instincts, and devotion. Doctor burnout is real and increasing. Here are two articles that are a small sampling of, literally, hundreds that you can find: Doctors Are Fleeing the Medical Field and Here’s Why and Burnout by a Thousand Cuts. When health care deteriorates over the coming years, it should not be a shock.

Meanwhile, the test that aspiring doctors need to take to gain entrance to medical school is changing. Would you prefer to know that your doctor has a firm grasp of biology, chemistry, anatomy, and other hard sciences or that they are able to correctly name all the growing varieties of gender? There are only so many test questions that can be asked.

The focus of medical school is changing as well. This year, the incoming Class of 2024 at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine composed their own class oath. It included these words:

“I will champion diversity in both medicine and society, and promote an inclusive environment by respecting the perspectives of others and relentlessly seeking to identify and eliminate my personal biases.

‘I will be an ally to those of low socioeconomic status, the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ community, womxn/women, differently-abled individuals, and other underserved groups in order to dismantle the systemic racism and prejudice that medical professionals and society have perpetuated…

‘I will restore trust between the health care community and the population in which I serve by holding myself and others accountable, and by combating misinformation in order to improve health literacy.”

The doctors I prefer actually treat all patients with respect. I also want my doctors to take pride in belonging to a field that has had many outstanding individuals who have toiled, labored, and sacrificed to serve their fellow human beings. I detest the arrogance that sanctimoniously says, “Those before us were terrible but we noble and wonderful students are different.”

What happens once you are out of medical school, practicing as a nurse or a doctor and you are slated to take part in a procedure that you see as unethical? For decades now, abortion has raised this issue. Now, we must throw in gender-change surgery. What if you think this is a breach of your promise to help heal? What if you think this has less to do with medicine and more to do with Leftist indoctrination? Welcome to being labeled a bigot and possibly losing your job.

No one paying attention should be surprised that Americans are increasingly losing faith in our elections. When people like John Fund, who in 2012 wrote the book, Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, were warning for decades that this was going to happen, it simply wasn’t of urgent concern for most of us. No one should be surprised that so many college students see free speech as a threat or that they support socialism. How many years will it be before we will be shocked, simply shocked, to discover that caring and competent doctors and nurses are increasingly difficult to find?

Now that I’ve grumbled, you might not believe it but I really am a Happy Warrior.
Are you?


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Stop Being an Ostrich

November 5th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 43 comments

Are you stressed? That’s a silly question. The results of this election matter a great deal to our lives and to the future of this country and the world. While I have faith that God is leading us on an ultimately glorious path, in the short-term that path can be uncomfortable, scary, and dangerous for us as individuals and families.

However, aside from praying, the conclusion of this episode is out of the hands of most of us. Whatever happens, the following remains true: elections reflect the culture. If we allow the culture to influence us, our families, and friends, we have no reason to expect elections to produce better results.

A pre-election article in the Wall Street Journal asked a number of people how they were going to handle the tension of Election Day. It quoted one pastor from Arkansas who expected to share the evening with his 12 and 14-year-old daughters. As a side comment, he mentioned that they, “[had] been radicalized by TikTok.” While he didn’t reveal his own voting preferences, “radicalized” is not generally a positive word. I assume that he and his daughters do not agree on politics.

His family is not an anomaly. I know many families where the parents hold strongly traditional and conservative views and who are aghast at their children’s contradictory ideas. (There are families that slant the other way as well, but I want to stick with this more common direction.) I also know families, and my husband and I rejoice that ours falls into this category, where the children, while having their own individual personalities and preferences, express the same morality and values as their parents.

Is this blind luck? I don’t think so. Parents can certainly do everything right and tragically watch their children go down a misguided road. However, while we cannot guarantee that our children follow in our steps, we can certainly do things to make that more probable. Perhaps the pastor in the above story is not shrugging his shoulders resignedly as my mind pictures, but if I was him, my reaction to the realization that my children were being radicalized would lead me to take radical steps. His daughters are 12 and 14, for goodness sake. Pull them out of school, do whatever you have to, and start spending multiple hours together, no electronics allowed!

If you picture my internal voice rising as I wrote those last sentences you would be correct. I have too many friends who sent their children to school, creating their schedules around their kids’ education, sports, friends, and hobbies and then sacrificed to pay enormous sums to send their children to college, only to be gobsmacked at the adults their children became. I want to be clear. Many of these young adults are lovely, caring, and hard-working. But they do not share the deepest values of their parents. Their teachers and friends shaped their thinking; their homes did not. These parents surrendered too much family autonomy.

I see many mothers deciding to stay home with their babies and I agree that, if possible, that is desirable. Too many of those moms, and fathers also,  assume that once their children are in school, their parenting role is secondary. That is false. It is absolutely imperative to understand that if your children are in government schools (or, as my husband calls them, GICs, government indoctrination camps), that is what will shape their values.  This is true even if they attend many Jewish or Christian schools as well. I have spoken to graduates of Christian colleges who tell me that their parents would be shocked to hear how some of their professors speak. I know the same is true in Jewish schools.

Here are my not-so-modestly-offered suggestions:

  1. Get your head out of the sand. You need to know what your children are learning, what they are reading, who they are hanging out with, what they are thinking, and what the latest is on social media. If you can’t find the time to do that between carpool and supervising homework and attending their soccer games and making sure they go to the dentist and everything else, then you need to change your schedule and theirs. They need concentrated and planned time with you more than they need Tae-Kwon-Do.
  2. You need to be able to think through and articulate your views and what matters to you and to choose reading and viewing material for the family. Much of what we want to teach our children like being kind and giving charity, never gets discussed on a more sophisticated level as they grow up. We neglect to explain how kindness can actually be cruel and that the government cannot be charitable. We leave our children thinking that what was appropriate when they were five is the whole picture.
  3. If you are considering helping your child go to college in any way whatsoever, think very seriously about that decision. If you go ahead, do not restrict your role to doling out dollars. Consider yourself as one of your child’s professors with full authority to assign reading material and hold seminars where you discuss what was read. A history major today may never have heard of the Federalist Papers, an economics major may not know of Adam Smith. You need to educate yourself and educate your child. Values, beliefs, and our understanding of the world do not sit on a chromosome; they will not be automatically inherited.
  4. Sharing your deepest beliefs with your child should be as much fun as sharing skiing or camping. All of the above suggestions are predicated on putting in the time, effort, and wisdom to create a relationship with your child. Love and connection aren’t enough, but if they are not present the rest is futile.

If God forbid, the air and water outside your home were polluted, you would do whatever is necessary to protect your children so that they could grow up healthy. The ideas surrounding today’s culture are badly polluted. Protect your children and when they reflect their deepest held values in the voting booth, you won’t be surprised.

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Pre-election Roundup

October 29th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 10 comments

By the time I post my next Musing, Election Day will be behind us. Whether or not the results are conclusive is another question. Whatever the tally shows, about half the country will believe that this was not a fair and just election. That is a serious problem.

But the election and the anti-Trump bias of the media has obscured or downplayed some great news. Even before dealing with her first Supreme Court case, Amy Coney Barrett is a gift to the nation. Her steadfastness in her religious beliefs, her example as a gracious, brilliant woman who values family and has enough love to bring more children into her home, and the contrast of her professionalism with the petty, mud-wrestling of Democrat Senators are true bright spots in this difficult time.

Undoubtedly, the unprecedented relationships that the president’s pragmatic approach has brought about in the Middle East would be hailed as miraculous had anyone other than President Trump been leading this country. The same would have been true for the surge in economic hope for Americans before COVID hit. To quote an old adage, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

I’d like to add a more personal positive note. Over the past few months, using an app, I have met a large group of women facing a specific challenge. The practical advice is helpful but even more so is the mutual support, friendship and warmth. Not one whiff of politics has marred this group. In today’s age, that is truly a blessing.

If I may add one plea:  Our friend, the great American historian David Barton, once shared with us the shocking statistics of how many people do not exercise the privilege of voting. He was speaking of those with strong enough views that they donate to or are members of organizations that promote values in which we believe. Yet, they don’t vote! Some are cynical about politics, many live in states where they feel their vote doesn’t matter, others are trying to stay off jury rolls. Whatever the reason, if you know such a person, please pick him or her up and take them with you to the polling place. As a saying in ancient Jewish wisdom states: Silence is acquiescence.

Stay strong and of good cheer!

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Do You Believe the Election is Really Trump vs. Biden?

October 22nd, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 28 comments

My morning interaction with my newspaper consists of many groans, occasional smiles and avoidance tactics. Since I am the only active player in this relationship, all three of these responses come from me.

Working backward, avoidance takes the form of turning to the crossword puzzle and not even looking at the rest of the paper. When I do venture further, the smiles come from a particularly well-written piece, from reading a point of view or information that enhances my understanding of the world, or from being reminded that wonderful people populate this country and world. Such a reminder came this week in a story of two neighbors whose yard signs support opposing presidential candidates, but who also have a second sign that says, “We (heart) them,” and shows an arrow pointing to their friend’s home.

Honestly, these days the groans are my most plentiful response. A Wall Street Journal editorial that included these words, “Joe Biden has an obligation to answer questions about his son’s influence-peddling and his own financial dealings—notably regarding China,” elicited a huge groan.

I don’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist. For the record, I believe that U.S. astronauts landed on the moon and I don’t think that Elvis Presley’s death was faked. However, I am increasingly cynical when it comes to the government and know that powerful interests continually do mendacious things of which we average citizens are completely unaware.

Should Joe Biden win the election (honestly or dishonestly) I do not give his chances of a four-year term of office more than 50%. I think I am being overly generous by suggesting odds that high. Whether he will “choose” to resign or whether he will be forced to resign by his own party, is irrelevant. The point is that it will be relatively easy to attack his mental capacity and/or bring forth serious allegations of abuse of power. He will be in office only on the sufferance of the Left. Their goal is to place in the Oval Office a redistributive Leftist willing to trash America’s founding values. She is waiting on the sidelines.

Of course, I could be wrong, but I groan at that editorial I mentioned above because I think it misses the point. Socialism thrives on a system whose rigorous rules and regulations cast such a wide net that every citizen, without exception, can easily be criminalized, even by falling foul of retroactive legislation. Every person is a potential criminal or easily threatened with or subject to blackmail. Anyone, no matter who, is in danger of being targeted. In addition, society’s rules change so rapidly that what was acceptable yesterday is unacceptable today—as we frequently see happening now. Things that the media is ignoring about Joe Biden today, can be front-page news tomorrow. I fear that Joe Biden’s very weaknesses that are being ignored today are what make him desirable to those scrambling for power.

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The Not Restful Rest Stop

October 15th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

My husband and I recently found ourselves at one of those rest stations that dot highways on the East coast. What I saw disturbed me. Let me preface my statements by saying that I am not about to, nor do I want to, turn this into a debate on the advantages or disadvantages of face masks.

What I do want to note is the danger of turning Americans into terrified mindless robots. I sat in the parking lot for a good fifteen minutes. During that time a fair number of people left their cars and entered the building in which the food and bathrooms are located. Masks were required to enter that building. I completely understand that people put on masks as they came closer to the doorways and kept their masks on as they exited. So far, so good.

What troubled me was seeing people putting on the masks as they were leaving their cars and keeping them on until they were back inside their vehicles. Frequently, once they were ten feet or so away from the building, they were not within 60 feet of another person.

Why were they masked when they were not in the vicinity of another human being? Why do I frequently even see people driving alone in their cars with masks firmly in place? Some, perhaps, have become accustomed to wearing masks for hours on end and they barely feel them anymore. I have trouble believing that is true for most people.

Heeding the warnings that masks potentially protect others from you suggests that there are others around you to protect. Wearing the mask in the footsteps of those who placed a string of garlic heads around their necks to ward off vampires is not a healthy sign for the Republic. There is nothing magical or mystical about a mask. If there is science behind the proscription, then it is not meant to mimic avoiding walking under a ladder or refusing to sit in the thirteenth row.

If you are wearing a mask when it has no possible advantage only because of fear of social censure, that is an even worse sign for our civilization. Following the crowd because you fear the crowd has led to many of society’s sins. Americans used to delight in movies and plays such as Twelve Angry Men or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Rugged individualism did not mean being anti-social but rather being a person who was committed to thinking for himself and sticking to one’s principles. Crowd-think was a scary scenario, not the desired outcome.

This was not a restful rest stop.

Crowd-think in a previous age? How about the times of Nimrod?
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A Disastrous Debate

October 1st, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 47 comments

I completely understand the desire to relegate memories of the first 2020 presidential debate to oblivion, but for those of you who will bear with me, I need the cathartic experience of writing about it. I also think it is important to do so to distance myself from those who think that President Trump showed himself to be forceful and in command. He did not. Both Chris Wallace and Vice-president Biden presented themselves poorly as well but, in my opinion, the president was the worst of an embarrassing bunch.

From the outset, let me say that I will be voting for the current president. I am voting for and supporting, as I have for the past five years, policies rather than choosing a person who will be my family’s guide to character and morals. I look at what President Trump has done rather than at what or how he speaks. I support almost all of his record. I further believe that no other Republican who was running in 2016 could have stood up against the Clinton and media machines. We needed, and we voted in the primaries, for a bulldozer, a maverick, a Hulk Hogan. President Trump’s actions have fulfilled my expectations and I am grateful for what he has done during his term of office.

Having said that, he blew an opportunity at the debate. I have heard the president in State of the Union speeches and at other times speak articulately, clearly and strongly. On each of those occasions, he countered the image of the media and the Left. During this debate, he matched the parody that they constantly and unfairly portray him to be. His worst self was on show.

Did the president not prepare for the debate at all? Did he get terrible advice from those around him or did he reject good advice? I don’t know. I would like to address just one question that the moderator asked him and that could have been answered in a majestic Trumpian way that would have magnified one of his best assets, that of being in touch with real Americans.

The question was whether he would denounce white supremacists. He should have known that question was coming and he could have turned it to his advantage rather than fumble the opportunity as he did. I assume that no one in the campaign is reading my words. I write my suggested answer in case it might provide a balm to anyone’s soul that, like mine, was battered by that ridiculous evening. Here is how I think the president could have answered that question:

Chris, I’m glad you asked that question so I can explain how it is based on a lie. The media doesn’t talk about this, but to this date over 400,000 citizens have walked away from the Democrat Party. The movement they joined, called #Walkaway was founded by one man who hated me for what he was told I said about the Charlotte event. A friend convinced him to uncover the true story and this young man realized that CNN and other media were lying to and manipulating him. He posted a video explaining why he was walking away from the Democrat Party. It has caused a revolution and over 400,000 people, largely young, black and white, many from groups stereotyped as automatically Democrat, have written or videoed their similar stories. They are choosing truth over propaganda, unity over divisiveness, love of country and God over hatred.They know that your premise about what I said is incorrect.

However, you ask whetherI oppose white supremacy? If you mean what the term meant in the traditional sense, I absolutely do. If, you mean it as many in my opponent’s party has changed it to mean, that every individual with a white skin is automatically a racist and white supremacist, then I don’t. When Mr. Biden said that you are not a real black if you don’t vote for him, I found that offensive. I object to anyone, of any color, denouncing others based solely on the color of their skin. I have canceled Federal programs that, in the spirit of Communist re-education camps, forced good, loving people to stand up and say they are racist only because of the color of their skin. I still believe in Martin Luther King’s words that we should be judged by our character and not by the color of our skin. I am sorry that my opponent does not.

Under two minutes and, in my humble opinion, a response to the question that could have won, rather than lost, votes.

I’m stepping off my soap-box. We Jews have just finished celebrating Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, both of which emphasize that God already knows what will be in the coming year. However, these holy days also emphasize that we human beings need to put forward our best efforts to earn the blessings that God wants to shower on us. I pray, as I am sure many of you do, that President Trump’s flaws do not obscure his strengths and amazing achievements, condemning us to the greater flaws of those who are partnering with people and groups who wish to destroy a magnificent country.  Their methods include violence and bullying as well as opposing and marginalizing people who wish to remain faithful to traditional religious and patriotic values. Compared to that, I don’t find a  bombastic Donald Trump to be the most frightening peril I need to fear.

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Ruth and Marty: Is Their Love Story Your Love Story?

September 24th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 19 comments

I am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legal legacy. I do want to tell you what I think about a number of articles such as the one that appeared in Vogue entitled May Every Woman Find Her Marty Ginsburg. By all accounts, Justice Ginsburg’s marriage reads as a solid love story, a partnership with an intelligent, accomplished man who delighted in her professional success as she delighted in his.

My question is whether encouraging every woman to aim for such a collaboration is wise. Students, especially girls, in Jewish religious schools are taught the story of Akiba and Rachel. Here is a (very) shortened summary. Akiba was an uneducated shepherd working for a wealthy man who had a beautiful daughter, Rachel. At the age of forty, Akiba’s soul sparked a desire to find God through studying the Torah, leading him initially to sit next to small children as they learned the aleph-bet. Rachel recognized his potential and joined her destiny to his, marrying him despite her father’s repudiation of the couple, leaving them in desperate poverty. Over many, many years, Rachel lived not only with the barest necessities but even without her husband as she sent him off to learn with the greatest teachers, far away from her.

Decades later, Akiba, now the highly respected Rabbi Akiba and teacher of thousands of students, returned home. As they entered the town, a peasant woman rushed to greet him only to be rudely blocked by those flocking to greet the esteemed rabbi. Rabbi Akiba turned to the crowd and said, “Let her through. All my accomplishments and all your learning are only because of her.”

Romantic visions fill the minds of Jewish high school girls hearing this story and they too picture marriages of sacrifice and suffering where they help to transform their young husbands into this generation’s giant in Torah scholarship. Wise parents and teachers ask them a simple question: “What makes you think that you can be Rachel and that your husband can be Akiba?” The story of Rabbi Akiba and Rachel is famous not because they are representative run of the mill prototypes but precisely because they are exceptional. Inspiring? Yes.  Easy to emulate? No.

Visionaries in the 1970s painted a rosy picture of a society filled with thriving and optimistic men and women, happily relating as equals in the workplace and at home with fulfilling careers, enduring marriages and well-adjusted children. That has not come to pass.

Something went wrong.

Instead of a world filled with light, sunshine and joy as we frolic in a feminist utopia, we keep hearing about how unhappy and dissatisfied both women and men are. Children—when there are children—are increasingly emotionally fragile. Marriages are fewer and less stable. Most of us aren’t living the lives of our dreams. We may not even know what those dreams are anymore.

Let’s be completely honest. How many women and men can say that they are Ruth and Marty Ginsburg?

If I may, I’d like to share one more story. In the book, House Calls to Eternity, Rabbi Yaakov and Hadassah Wehl write about the rabbi’s physician mother, a woman clearly blessed by God with unusual talent, intuition and ability. Dr. Wehl, who qualified as a physician while a young woman in Germany in the 1920s, overcame numerous hurdles to become a pediatrician and to qualify as such a second time after arriving in  America as a refugee. She and her husband decided that the couple should focus on her doing so, rather than on his establishing a new profession.

Dr. Wehl said, “I insisted that my young son, who was one and a half years old, should not be sent to a baby-sitter. He was to be cared for by my husband.”

Aha! A working mom and a stay-at-home father back in 1939! Dr. Wehl’s husband completely supported her work as the following quotes from the book attest:

[In the early years] “Sometimes my husband and I would stay up to twelve or one o’clock at night recording the blood counts.”

[Years later, after their son was grown] “Omi (grandma) went to check on a baby in the hospital at twelve-thirty at night. The mother, dumbstruck at seeing Dr. Wehl at that hour, couldn’t understand why she was there and finally remarked,

“Dr. Wehl, all alone at this hour of the night, isn’t it dangerous?”

Omi answered, “I am not alone, my husband is sitting outside in the car waiting for me.”

Opi (grandpa) was ninety-two-years old at the time.”

Let’s be honest. Most of us, men and women alike, do not have callings like that, where we happily devote ourselves to our professions day and night, never thinking of retirement, working not for money but because our souls allow us no alternative.  Dr. Wehl would have gone out in the snow in the middle of the night even had she won the lottery and never needed to work for financial reasons again. How many of us can honestly say that about our jobs, professions and careers? How many of us have been blessed with a unique gift that the world needs such as Dr. Wehl’s ?

From their son’s book, it seems that the Wehls were blessed with only one child.  The Ginsburgs leave behind two children. I know nothing more about them. I hope that they are happy, well-adjusted and have loving memories of their parents. But, in the adulation of career, how many women today are rejecting motherhood or limiting it, unaware that decades from now the only lasting impact they might have made would be through the next generation? Most of these women are not going to sit on the Supreme Court. They may well savor the zest of a professional challenge when they are young, but will that excitement and the accompanying experiences and ‘stuff’ for which a good salary provides have been a worthwhile trade-off for marriage and children? For many women, the answer is a resounding No!

Few men have the fire, passion, desire, talent and persistence to act boldly on the world’s stage. As I have written before, most of those who do, fulfill their potential only due to their wives’ support. While it is politically incorrect, I suspect that even fewer women have such dreams, though certainly some, like Justice Ginsburg, do. Just as thousands of boys each year handicap their lives by ignoring education as they fantasize at being a sports superstar, let’s acknowledge that we are selling a myth if we present Marty and Ruth Ginsburg’s distinctive relationship and accomplishments as an easily attainable goal that is or should be universally desired.

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