Posts in Susan’s Musings

Eleanor’s Eleven Keys to a More Fulfilling Life

February 21st, 2019 Posted by Reading Recommendations, Susan's Musings 20 comments

Have you noticed how many books have a number in the title, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People?  Or how many articles are enticingly entitled “The Top 5 Reasons We Fall Out of Love”?  We human beings love lists. Who wouldn’t be smitten with the idea that if I only do these seven or ten or fifteen things, my life will be better, my marriage will be stronger and my career will flourish? Of course, it is easier to read the ideas than to put in the hard work of executing them. And, of course, no list—even the most marvelous one—hits every area every time.

I recently read a book from decades ago, with a subtitle that still resonates today. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, one of America’s most admired women, wrote You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life only a few years before her death (decades after her husband’s presidency). The advice she gives holds up rather well, though I think she would be shocked to discover that by today’s standards she might very well be considered a hard-core conservative rather than an icon of the Democrat Party.

As so often happens when reading a book from a previous era (the book was published in 1960), one is reminded that assumptions we make and things we take for granted aren’t necessarily writ in stone. In last week’s Your Mother’s Guidance column, Rebecca Masinter wrote about a Scriptural lesson on the importance of each individual feeling needed. Mrs. Roosevelt wrote on the same topic, in a way that I think sounds surprising to the modern ear.

Mrs. Roosevelt writes,

“One reason why we sometimes find less delinquency proportionately among the poor (my emphasis) is that the children have a greater sense of being needed in the family. They have a sense of belonging, of shared responsibility, of being an essential—and necessary—part of a component whole.”

In our day, we are strongly propagandized that crime is an inevitable consequence of poverty. Yet, it seems that this is not a given.

I find it fascinating that the Public Works Administration was a keystone of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the lack of available work during the Depression. The concept reflects the truth that money earned uplifts workers, but money given too freely corrodes the recipients. Yet, its policy grandchildren of today are a proliferation of public assistance programs that actually discourage working. Programs since the 1960s have had the  unintended consequence (or some will argue, the very much intended consequence) of penalizing those who marry and work while struggling financially. Children not only don’t feel needed in order to help the family survive, but these programs undermine the idea of family itself. Reliance on government programs rather than family members treats husbands and fathers as unnecessary. The birth of children, in and of itself rather than the efforts and help of those children, triggers the flow of so-called government money.

Our children used to joke that homeschooling was another name for child labor as their many hours at home gave them plenty of time to wash dishes, put away groceries, cook and clean. The line between schooling and home was difficult to delineate as we doubled fractions in recipes, compared prices per ounce in the market and recited poems while sweeping. There was plenty of time for everything. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that our children are amazed that their father and I actually function without them since they have grown up and established homes of their own. I think that Eleanor Roosevelt would have understood.

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Insensitive or Unforgivable?

February 14th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 58 comments

Starting in 1965 and continuing through 1971, Hogan’s Heroes was a popular TV comedy. Actor Bob Crane played Colonel Hogan, the highest ranking American prisoner of war interned in a German POW camp. Unlike the actual Nazis, the Germans in the show were invariably rather benign and clumsy oafs, continually being outwitted by their prisoners.

If Nazis and captured American military men don’t sound terribly funny to you, I agree. As a child, I was enough offended by the show that when an adult in my orbit enjoyed it, it seriously reduced my respect for that individual.

Now, decades later, I am rethinking my views. Increasingly, accusations are being hurled at people for actions they took decades earlier. Imagine if there had been a TV show that portrayed a Southern plantation in the 1850s where the Black slaves actually ran the show because the White masters were incompetent? Would one of the show’s actors or anyone accused of liking the show be electable today? I doubt it.

I still think that Hogan’s Heroes was juvenile and in poor taste. But, maturity has provided me with the ability to see that disagreeing with me is not automatically contemptible. One of the stars of the show was a man named Robert Clary. As a Jewish teenager, he spent a few nightmarish years in Nazi concentration camps. After his release from Buchenwald, he discovered that his parents and many other family members had been murdered in Auschwitz. Robert Clary did not think that the Nazis were amusing clowns.

Werner Klemperer, who played the German Colonel Wilhelm Klink in the show also had a Jewish father.  If his family had not left Germany in 1935, he too would have met Nazi standards for extermination.

John (originally Johann) Banner, who played the bumbling German Master Sergeant, Schultz, was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. They emigrated in 1938 to the United States, avoiding the fate of many of their family members who were murdered. Mr. Banner served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and told TV Guide, “Schultz is not a Nazi. I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in any generation.”

These are only three of Hogan’s Heroes actors whose lives intersected with the Holocaust and World War II. If you are shaking your head not understanding how they could participate in a comedy about the era, so am I. Despite reading their explanations for appearing in the show, I still don’t get it. I also don’t get how anyone found the show anything other than offensive.

However, I have no choice but to recognize that decent people disagreed with me. Pretending that those who watched the show were all anti-Semites is foolish. Jews and ex-GIs were not only among the actors but also among the audience. It is sophomoric and dangerous to suggest that it was o.k. for Jews and ex-GIs to appear in the show or find it funny but that anyone who had anything to do with the show who is not in one of those categories is a hateful human being.

I doubt that a show like Hogan’s Heroes would run on national TV today. Neither would a movie that featured blackface get made today. But, as much as I would like to see Democrat VA Governor Ralph Northam out of office, I fear that the forces urging him to resign care less about all Americans respecting each other as they do about political calculation; and it is a calculation that promotes hatred, resentment and victimhood. (It looks now like the press has decided to allow Governor Northam to tough it out—my point still stands.)

Here is a paradox. Until a few years ago, anti-Semitism and racism were declining. One of the factors in both their revivals has been that they have been turned into cudgels. Accusing someone of either “ism” became a weapon with which to destroy careers and lives. Because of the “isms” is has become impossible to have honest conversations about issues that affect and harm America and her citizens.

Today, the press and the expanding far-Left influence are out for blood rather than trying to create a nation of individuals who can live peaceably together.  By insisting that people identify by their nationality, bloodlines and genes (unless it has to do with specific approved gender issues, of course) we set ourselves up for loathing the other. We are all losers when we shut down free speech even of the juvenile, insensitive and offensive type. We imperil our society when we turn every single American into someone whose less than finest hours dangle over him or her like the sword of Damocles. 

Hogan’s Heroes isn’t going to be revived today, but we now have elected officials in Congress who speak positively about real-life, not fictional, people who want to wipe out the Jewish people. Today, we are judging people by their gender, racial and ethnic groups more than we did a few decades ago.

Is this progress?

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Winter White; Congressional Blight

February 7th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 65 comments

I have a book on my shelves titled, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. Anyone under the age of thirty could be forgiven for thinking that it is a contemporary political tome. It isn’t. Published in 1942, it is the story of two young women taking a European tour after finishing college in America in the 1920s.

My daughters grew up doing Rainbow Brite® puzzles and drawing pictures of nature’s colorful phenomenon. The rainbow’s vibrant appearance made it a popular theme for children’s parties and decorations. Today, the rainbow is a political statement.

I have a number of white articles of clothing in my closet. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the dominant color in the synagogue is white as Jews illustrate the idea of our sins turning as white as snow after we repent. I am drawing the line here. I am not surrendering the color white to today’s political resistance to the President.

The Democrat ladies of Congress made a clear statement at President Trump’s State of the Union Speech. It may not have been the one they were hoping to make. They looked arrogant and self-centered. Their attitude showed a lack of caring about minorities, and indeed all Americans, who are back at work in a growing economy. They were indifferent to young girls enslaved by human traffickers. They showed contempt for human life in its earliest moments. Their only celebration was of themselves.

These women do not represent me nor do they represent millions of other American women. However, do not underestimate the peril they present. In August 2016, I explained why I was supporting Donald Trump even though good and caring friends were not voting for him because they were uncertain about his stance on abortion. (https://rabbidaniellapin.com/what-trumps-abortion/)

The past two-and-a-half years have made clear what would have happened on this issue had Hillary Clinton been elected. The Democrat Party has transitioned from being the party of abortion to being the party of infanticide and euthanasia. It is  the party that fights free speech and opposes private property. It is a movement that denigrates traditional values and religion. Those of us who recognize the dangers of their ideas becoming more widespread have to focus completely on the patient in the emergency room—America—and stand up bravely, wisely and with steel-like resolve. We need to stop seeking perfection in our representatives (just as we do in ourselves) and get out our vote. At the same time, let’s go ahead and wear white— complemented by a bright red MAGA hat.

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Not an Army of One

February 1st, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 26 comments

For a few years, the United States Army’s recruiting slogan was, “An Army of One.” Unlike the slogan, “Be All You Can Be,” or other ones that were used for over twenty years, “An Army of One” was introduced in 2001 and retired only a handful of years later in 2006.

My husband and I were privileged to spend this week with senior officers and their spouses. We both had the honor of speaking at the Army’s 2019 Religious Leaders Symposium which gathered chaplains stationed around the world for sessions designed to equip them to better help their troops.

It became clear to us why, “An Army of One,” failed. Although it was probably designed to encourage young people to recognize how serving in the Army would benefit them and allow them to maximize their individual potential, it missed the boat. One of the strongest gifts of army life is that you are not alone; you are part of a community and family.

The military community is formed with one’s fellow troops as you bond while fulfilling a common mission under stressful conditions. Speaking to the chaplains’ wives (there are female chaplains but no husbands attended my session) I saw another reason that this slogan didn’t ring true. Like you, I have often wanted to express my gratitude to members of the military when I pass them in airports. They are most recognizable, of course, if they are in uniform. Yet, every chaplain I met this week, didn’t sign up as an individual. While not issued a uniform, his wife and family are full partners in his service.

The women I met were strong, courageous and resourceful. Like any good soldier, they recognize the importance of the mission and subordinate their personal desires and needs to that mission. Like other military wives, the task of raising children falls disproportionately on them. They continue to build their homes despite continual packing up and moving around the United States and the world as their husbands are assigned to new bases. They manage their emotions as their husbands are deployed to active war zones, the women’s imaginations supplying information their husbands cannot share with them. These women form a sisterhood that celebrates joyous occasions and mourns tragedies together. As chaplains’ wives, they must be role models and pillars of support for others on the base, often under crushing circumstances. They too are part of the military family. An army of one? Not in the slightest.

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When Did Maturity Become a Bad Word?

January 24th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

The teenage boys from Covington Catholic High School did not set out to become famous. Sometimes history forces us into positions we did not seek. We have no way of knowing if in time they will fade into oblivion or become leaders. Will they emerge from this experience with new strength of character or will they wilt from this trial? Will they continue to uphold the morals and values of their families or will they succumb to the lure of easy acceptance for those who kowtow to popular culture’s sacred icons? We cannot predict their futures any more than we can predict our own children’s or even our own.

What we can know is that they are growing up in a world that no longer values the idea of maturity. The word itself has become a buzzword for old age with all its negative connotations rather than a desired step of growth. For younger people, it has been replaced by ‘adulting,’ a word that implies tentative, halting steps to being responsible for oneself rather than a solidifying of one’s character and moral backbone.   

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Bossy Women – Like Me?

January 17th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 61 comments

I have been watching a lot of one particular daily TV show lately. I actually recommend this show to you, though I am not an objective observer. The show is Ancient Jewish Wisdom, hosted by my husband and me. While I think the content is fascinating, I was trying to track one specific feature.  Do I interrupt my husband too much?

Two—not one, but two—recent letters accusing me of exactly that precipitated my reviewing past shows. Both letters were from women and to be fair, we have received many more than two letters from men and women telling us how much they enjoy the on-air interaction between us. However—please pay attention here—to my recollection, we have never received a letter saying that my husband interrupts me.

Let me state right away, that we have taped close to 400 Ancient Wisdom Shows. That adds up to about 200 hours of talking. My perusal of a few shows reveals that as professional as we try to be, each of us sometimes interrupts the other. On balance, I’m sure I definitely break in to my husband’s words more frequently than he does to mine, but there is a simple explanation for that. (And it’s not what you think!)

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Heartbreak – an Unintended Consequence

January 10th, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 28 comments

When I was nine or ten, my friend’s mother delivered a stillborn child. I remember the shock and the discomfort of not being sure what to say. Over the next decade, as the risks of smoking during pregnancy received a lot of attention, I wondered what this woman, who often had a cigarette in hand, felt as she read those articles.

On a larger scale, part of growing up is accepting the idea that adults, rather than being all-knowing, make mistakes and have to live with the consequences. Since adults are parents, leaders, politicians and teachers, the victims of those mistakes are often the next generation. That is a harsh reality of life that inevitably affects all human beings in their personal lives. At its best it leads us to mature reflection on the importance of our actions and ideas. When, however, we rush instead to embrace revolutionary societal change, the tragic results can overwhelm us.

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How Did I Miss That?

January 2nd, 2019 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

Some time, in the last few weeks, a major earthquake hit Alaska. It wasn’t out in the hinterlands, but close to Anchorage, and it wasn’t a tremor but rather registered 7.0 on the Richter scale. For those of you who have never lived in an earthquake-prone area, that is huge.

I randomly found out about it over a month later while catching up on a blog by a woman who lives in that region. How could this be? How could I be so out of touch with a major event that took place in my own country?

When I was growing up, my parents watched the nightly news on TV as well as getting a daily paper. As I recall, they could choose between three or four news shows over the course of an evening, but whether they chose the show with Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley, they would pretty much hear the same information that they would then read about in depth in the next day’s paper.

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Merry Christmas (No Reply Necessary)

December 28th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 30 comments

“Have a joyous Christmas.”

“Thank you and Happy Chanuka. Well, I guess that’s over now but I hope it was happy, I mean…”

I’ve had a few awkward conversations such as this one over the past few days. In my daily life I regularly interact with Christians. From the woman who leads the exercise class I attend to the checker at the local supermarket wearing a reindeer pin, many around me are celebrating a special, religious occasion.

They often know that I am not. For some reason that leaves them tongue-tied when I offer timely greetings. If you think about it, that makes little sense. When the coffee barista knows that it is my birthday because I am using my “free happy birthday” card, she wishes me good tidings on that day. I feel no compunction to say back, “and a happy birthday to you too.” That would be rather ridiculous.

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Fasts and Feasts

December 20th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 20 comments

This past Tuesday was a fast day in the Jewish calendar, a fact that probably never came across your radar screen. Truthfully, even most Jews were unaware of it, as only the relatively small percentage of Jews who observe their faith as their ancestors did make note of the day. 

While there are two major fast days during the year (Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av) on which food and drink are prohibited for 25 hours, there are also four other fast days on which eating and drinking are prohibited only from just before sunrise until soon after sunset.  While certain special prayers are added on these days, we otherwise function as normal; going to work for instance.

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