Posts in Susan’s Musings

The Non-Musing Musing

November 16th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

Here are some of the things I considered writing about this week:

  • Venezuela and Zimbabwe
  • Why no one (not even women or the Democrat Party) is a winner in the Roy Moore matter
  • What Mitch McConnell did right—and what he did wrong
  • How quickly murder rampage stopped being front-page news

Here is why I am not writing about any of those things:

Even though I love writing, in the continual juggling act called life, cooking and baking won out this week over my Musings. Our grandson, Eliyahu, becomes a bar-mitzva this Shabbat. Despite the frequent misunderstanding that a Jewish boy turning thirteen is all about throwing a grand party, it actually is the age when the yoke of religious obligation descends on a pair of developing shoulders. The boy can shrug off the yoke, be crushed by it, or as we pray will be true in Eliyahu’s case, the yoke serves as a soul-building weight.

Since out-of-town friends and family will be coming to hear Eliyahu read from the Torah in synagogue as an initiation to being a responsible member of the community, my husband and I are hosting a dessert buffet after Shabbat to give everyone an additional chance to come together. 

The evening will give my husband and me the opportunity to toast our daughter and son-in-law who do an incredible job nurturing each of their children’s individual personalities. In Eliyahu’s case, this includes music and performing. We hope that he will express his talent for, and pleasure in, music by playing cello for our guests. 

I don’t expect Eliyahu to particularly appreciate having home-made cookies rather than bakery ones. I’m sure the guests would enjoy store-bought apple cider as much as my slowly simmered concoction (though our house wouldn’t have smelled as amazingly yesterday). But as each year seems to fly by more rapidly than the one before it, I decided to stop and cherish this special occasion. Professionally made food might be just as tasty and would be presented more beautifully. The extra ingredient of love, however, is one that only I can provide.  I love writing my weekly Susan’s Musings, but I love celebrating with family even more.

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Womanly Virtue???

November 9th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 61 comments


Have you ever heard people (usually female) say that if only women ran the world there would be fewer wars and less aggression? That argument never resonated with me, but an emerging trend is revealing serious flaws in the concept.

The trend is towards the commission of violent crime by women. On Halloween, a woman in an upscale neighborhood of Baltimore was randomly attacked by a pack of 10-15 juveniles. I use the word pack deliberately, as the behavior resembled feral animals more than humans. The newspaper report reads,

“I had a red down-like vest on, so they grabbed the back of my vest and then held me, and then out in front of them came six young women with wood pieces that were like maybe an inch thick and about three feet long…” 

“They started hitting me with the wood, in the knees, a lot in my face…”

A number of other citizens were similarly attacked on the same evening.

Earlier in the year, in Chicago, two males and two females, aged 18-24, were charged with hate crimes after viciously torturing a mentally disabled teen. Once again, the attackers completely submerged their humanity.

Women have always been capable of physical viciousness. Accounts exist of Indian women doing unimaginable things to captives. There were female Kapos in Nazi concentration camps and individual mothers have tragically abused children. But are we seeing an increase in callous behavior among groups of supposedly mentally sane females at a time when there is no communal or governmental structure providing the patina of approval? I fear we are.

There are a few commonly advanced reasons for the general deterioration of civilized behavior. Among them are the increasing number of children being raised in single-parent (usually female) homes; the explosion  of anger promoted by technology that allows anonymity and discourages real discourse and relationships; the dismal failure of a government school system with politicians seemingly focused on everything except providing decent education;  and a public disdain for religion and traditional values.

I would like to make one more suggestion. This thought is coming from my mind and heart. I know that many will refute it and, indeed find it offensive. I have seen no studies to support it nor have I conducted interviews to test my thesis. Yet, it may very well be valid and I do think it is worth putting on the table.

Since the “Murphy Brown” days, we have seen that wealthy, upper-class, and well-connected woman can indeed manage lives as single mothers. The children may lack fathers, but their mothers can afford to purchase the backup support they need and to provide for their children’s needs. However, as the idea of single-parenthood was promoted, women without the same financial and cultural advantages mimicked the behavior even though they were completely incapable of mimicking the positive outcomes. (And no, I am not saying that no non-wealthy mother can successfully raise a family. That is patently untrue. I am speaking in broad terms on a societal, not an individual, level.) Government misguidedly set policies in place to further discourage the concept of reserving parenthood for married couples.

In a similar way, I would like to advance the idea that abortion has had a different effect on the elites who advocate for it and the general populace who falls victim to that elitist vision. People may pontificate that abortion is a minor medical procedure with no emotional element, but in the real world ending a potential life does not equate with removing a benign fibroid.

Not only is the “clump of cells” you are destroying capable of developing a heartbeat, lungs, liver and fingernails, assuming it hasn’t already acquired those features, it is capable of developing a personality. In the future, for many women cooing over a winsome infant or delighting in a toddler’s lisp must bring a reminder of what might have been. In addition, that fetus is a miniature version of you. Destroying something that carries your own chromosomes and genes might very well have a conscious or subconscious psychological effect.

Emotionally secure girls, with access to physical and psychological support may process an abortion without being shattered. Perhaps they can put the memory in a box, separate from the rest of their lives. What about girls who don’t live in similarly healthy environments? Even if some aren’t affected by having an abortion, can we posit that almost no one is?

Is it possible, that by training young women to view abortion as benign, we are creating a group of women who are learning to close themselves off to their emotions? Are we creating hardened, masculine girls? When I was in junior high school, we were assigned a project having to do with the Holocaust. I don’t even remember what a few of my friends and I worked on, but, in a memory that brings me shame, I know that we reached a point of cracking “Holocaust jokes”. I think that we simply weren’t able to handle the research we did, the constant reading about unimaginable atrocities. Yes, children our age and younger underwent those atrocities, but we blessedly were spared them. It might have been better for us not to read so many graphic details until we were more mature. Is it so absurd to think that a generation immersed in an abortion culture learns to deaden their feelings?

I have no information on the specific girls involved in the recent heinous crimes. Their personal stories are somewhat irrelevant. The culture around them disrespects human life.

Can this be a factor in the scary and disturbing increase of violent behavior of young girls? I don’t know, but neither do I think that it should be automatically dismissed.

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Self-made Men?

November 2nd, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 31 comments

The November 14th issue of Forbes magazine includes the 35th edition of the annual feature, “The 400 Richest People in America.” I don’t know if the scorecard I noticed this year is new or just one that I never paid attention to previously, but as part of each billionaire’s biography there is a “self-made” rating.

Each individual is given a score on a scale of 1-10 as to whether his or her wealth was inherited or self-made. Although I looked, I couldn’t find a reference guide anywhere that defined what earned one a score of 4, let’s say, versus 5, leaving me to guess for myself. The top four entries, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg are all rated as 8s, while 10s are doled out sparingly. Not surprisingly, some descendants of great entrepreneurs rank as 1s and 2s.

These rankings irked me. While I abhor the notion of “white privilege,” “male privilege” or any other kind of privilege terminology employed as a form of extolling and perpetuating victimhood, these rankings seemed to ignore reality.

Perhaps the ranking is completely financially based. If you inherited a company or money with which to begin your career, your ranking depends on how much you increased the amount. To use small numbers, if you started with nothing and now have $10, you rank a 10. If you started with $10 and now have $12 or even $8, your rank will be low.

However, that completely materialistic way of looking at things makes no sense to me. Furthermore, it makes little sense in the real world.

Let’s look at one man (and the list is overwhelmingly male) who scored a 10—presumably the crème de la crème of ‘self-made-ness’. According to the magazine’s bio of Jan Koum, co-founder of What’sApp, as a sixteen-year-old the Ukrainian immigrated to America with his mother. Yet the bio lists one factor in his success that the algorithm creators clearly didn’t see as something that mitigates the idea of self-made. “His mom brought pens and Soviet-issued notebooks in her suitcase to avoid paying for school supplies for Koum…”

Doesn’t that seem as crucial to you as it does to me? My suspicion is that she wasn’t “avoiding” paying for school supplies as much as worried that she wouldn’t be able to afford them. As such, she used the minimal luggage space she had for crucial items—those things that would allow her son to buckle down and learn.  I’m not minimizing the difficulties Mr. Koum overcame including being an immigrant from a non-English speaking country. I would rank as another difficulty his being abandoned by his father, who, some further research shows, chose to stay in the Ukraine. Yet, surely, having a mother (and presumably the grandmother with whom Mr. Koum also immigrated) who cared about education and were willing to work hard belies the notion of self-made.

Who in the Forbes pantheon decided what gave or removed self-made credits? One could ask all sorts of questions. In today’s world is not attending college a benefit or a liability? How about not having a father in one’s life?  Should people like Mr. Koum lose self-made points for coming from a culture and family that extols achievement rather than one that encourages victimization?

I’m all in favor of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps, but suggesting that anyone is self-made rings false. Aside from any Divine gifts including intelligence, the support and proper values of family, mentors and community needs to be appreciated. Inheriting great wealth, which certainly supplies a financial launching pad, obviously precludes thinking of oneself as self-made. Yet the overwhelming majority of people who honestly attain great wealth without inheriting a penny also received priceless gifts that let them soar.

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Fake News is Old News

October 26th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 14 comments

My husband and I have spent about thirty hours in the car over the past week. He was the keynote or guest speaker at a synagogue, a church and a business group and we both preferred driving to flying. During that time we barely listened to news. Instead we took advantage of the fantastic gift of downloading audio books from our local library.  Even when we are home, I find myself spending more time on the crossword puzzle in my morning paper rather than reading the news.

While we never kept radio news going constantly in the background and our lack of a TV set in our home meant that watching the evening news wasn’t part of our daily routine, I realize that I am avoiding news in a way that I didn’t used to do. I am tuning out.

Part of this is a function of excessive input. There is simply a constant barrage of information in our 24/7 society (o.k., for me 24/6 since Shabbat is blessedly a day off). Too much information available makes it less appealing. Furthermore, since news outlets can and do post constantly, their level of reliability has substantially dropped. At the same time, the tone of reporting has become more shrill, hysterical and partisan. If I want read fiction, I can find much better literature than reporters are delivering.


Is the Victim Always Blameless?

October 19th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

Just because something has become an oft-repeated slogan doesn’t mean that it is correct. Adolescents (of all ages) in the Sixties shouted, “Better Red than Dead,” in righteous ignorance that for millions of people living under it, Communism was a death sentence. Hillary Clinton chose not to reprise the chant of her generation, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” during her ill-fated presidential campaign. One assumes that even if she once wanted people to believe that motto, she had since changed her mind.

Just because the accusation, “You’re blaming the victim,” is wielded as a truncheon meant to quash discussion doesn’t mean that the concept should not be challenged. Let’s move away from the emotional issue of sexual abuse or harassment and question this idea in a different arena.


No Tears for Hugh

October 11th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 17 comments

While it is getting more difficult to find areas that unite people on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I think that neither liberal-leaning feminists nor conservative, traditionally minded women are shedding tears for Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.  Before I proceed to destroy that Kumbaya moment, let’s take a minute to enjoy it.

Time’s up!

It is easy to focus scorn on the founder of movements you don’t like. I’m not a fan of Playboy magazine, Playboy Clubs or the Playboy philosophy that encouraged sexual liberation. However, the Hefner empire wasn’t built because the government forced men to purchase its products or forced women to participate in its businesses.  Men chose to buy magazines and become key-holders at the clubs; women chose to pose for the magazine and auditioned to work at the clubs. Many married women chose to either look the other way or chuckle when their husbands subscribed to Playboy and visited the clubs, sometimes even accompanying them. Lack of participation from either men or women could have derailed Hefner’s vision.


Vegas Afterthoughts

October 4th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 64 comments

This week’s carnage in Vegas was shocking and horrifying. I put aside my previously written Musing because it seemed wrong to write about anything other than what had happened. But, I didn’t think I had anything unique to say that would be of value to most of the people who read what I write. Then, I was browsing one of the liberal-leaning sites I like to visit and saw that the equally shocked and horrified women there mostly saw what happened in Las Vegas as a reason to double down on calls for gun control. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and leave a comment on that forum. Here is what I wrote:

It is never comfortable expressing a view in a forum in which yours is a minority opinion. Let me lay it on the table: I am an NRA member and have been for years. I am also a mother of seven and grandmother of many more. I consider myself, and think others would consider me, a loving, kind and giving person.

I did not grow up in a home with guns or where guns were discussed. In the Jewish enclave in which I grew up no one hunted. Guns belonged in cowboy movies and on signs and billboards found around the large city where I lived that said, “Use a gun, go to jail.” Those signs had no relevance to anyone I knew.


You Should See the Other Guy

September 28th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 38 comments

We are now in the midst of the Ten Days of Repentance, that started with Rosh HaShanah (Head of the Year) and ends with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It’s a time for introspection, for evaluating one’s actions over the past year and committing to improvement should God bless us with more time.

I always find it disconcerting to discover that the character flaws that I examined last year—and the year before that and the year before that—are often the same ones I revisit this year.  Occasionally one gets to pat oneself  on the back for having made some change but, being human, there is always more to do.

I don’t know if this is my own personal failing or if other people grapple with this as well, but I sometimes find myself aiming for humble soul-searching at the same time as a script plays in my mind along the lines of, “Well, o.k., so I showed a lack of (fill in the blank) when I did (fill in the blank), but compared to (fill in the blank) I don’t think I’m doing that badly.” After all, in a world filled with some really bad people, I consider myself one of the good guys. In a world filled with lots of complacent people, at least I can say that I try.


An Honest Man

September 13th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 16 comments

Sometimes, what I start out thinking I am going to write about and what I end up saying are entirely different. Last week was a case in point. I intended to write about the book I had just read, Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography, but from an entirely different perspective than I ended up doing.

As I read, I was captivated by the honesty of Will Durant. Over the course of a long life, he often found his ideas tested by reality and he showed immense strength of character and depths of wisdom in a willingness to question some of his strongest convictions.

Relatively early in his career, his socialist leanings absorbed a harsh blow when he and his wife, Ariel, travelled to Russia during its Stalinist era. What they saw was far from the worker’s paradise in which they believed. Over the years, Mr. Durant developed an understanding of human nature that sought to merge his affection for the ideals of socialism with the reality of what actually motivates people to work hard.


The Men Behind Great Women

September 7th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 25 comments

Back in March, I read a fascinating book about Clementine Churchill that led me to write a Musing about the aphorism, “Behind every great man stands a great woman.”  I have just finished another completely absorbing book that leads me to ask a different question. How many women achieved public greatness because of their husbands?

The book I just finished, Will and Ariel Durant: A Dual Autobiography, was written in 1977, a few years before the famous historians, philosophers and authors died within weeks of each other. Brought to the United States from Russia as a toddler, Ethel (later renamed Ariel by her husband) grew up in a Jewish immigrant family that struggled economically, socially and religiously. Left much to her own devices, as a young teen she removed herself from public school joining a radical school named for an anarchist. Meanwhile, Will Durant, born to a fervently Catholic, stable family, made his own way to the school as a teacher after abandoning religious training in seminary and embracing atheism.


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