Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After

Well, guys, here we go. The election is over and we have done the unthinkable: we have elected Donald Trump. 
I have to say this. Hillary sealed her own fate by sheer hubris. She just assumed herself to be the candidate, and the people clearly did not agree. She thought, since she had lost the last one, this one was hers, that she would be a shoo-in, that the presidency was her right and her legacy. She expected a coronation. None of that was true. The country had moved on. We didn't want her, and voted in droves to say otherwise. Debbie Wasserman Shultz and the DNC gang decided those of us who didn't want Hillary were a bunch of kooks not to be considered, and they bulldozed through the primaries, doing what they had to do to throw the vote to Hillary. If anyone doubted they threw the primaries, reading their  emails showed that was exactly what they did. Some of us held our noses and voted for her; a great many more, apparently, didn't. 
We didn't believe the 30 years of Republican lies about her, and we didn't think her being a woman was a handicap to doing the job. We simply didn't think she was the best candidate. All through the primaries, polls showed that Trump could beat her, but could not even come close to beating Bernie. The pollsters are still saying "Bernie was never going to win." Wrong. Without the manipulations of the DNC, he would have won. They kept saying "but she has the popular vote." She didn't, actually, because they did not count the votes cast in the caucuses, where Bernie won by landslides. Both primaries and caucuses counted the same in choosing a candidate, but the DNC would have you believe the caucuses didn't count. Caucuses are simply a different way of doing the same thing: choosing a candidate. 
The media went all out to make Bernie look like an idiot, a loser, a wild-eyed radical, a fool, but he was none of those things. He had real vision, real promise and offered a chance at something different. Hillary offered more of the same center right politics. We wanted a turn to the left. We wanted to return the Democratic party to it's previous compassion and commitment to social justice. We wanted serious change in economics. The enthusiasm to vote for her was not there, because she was not at all what we hoped for. Her day had passed, and she and the DNC could not see it. They kept pushing her as the only viable candidate. 
The results are the election of a fascist who has a 200 word vocabulary, a massive, grandiose and easily bruised ego and no ability to use self-control. People who do not have much in the way of critical thinking skills simply saw "different" but did not scrutinize what kind of "different." They don't see around corners to visualize the consequences of their short-sightedness. They believed what he said without ever taking a look at how that actually compared to his past actions. We all have our work cut out for us now, to see that we don't have a resurgence of 1938, to see that people's lives are not destroyed in the keeping of campaign promises, to see that children are not frightened or harmed. 
Fortunately for us, few presidents have bothered to keep campaign promises. Maybe the gravity of the job will change the rhetoric and the behavior. meanwhile, bullying is on the rise in schools and the alt right has been empowered. The idea that if you tell a lie over and over again it becomes the truth has prevailed in ways I never thought possible. Be forewarned. 
It's up to us to keep the faith.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

My amazing Ancestry

My father always said, "never forget who you are." I have laughed about that for years, because we are not special people. He came from farmers and laborers. None of us have made much of a splash in history that I knew of. He did not know what I have found -- he thought because of our name (Lovier) that we were descended from the Dukes of Normandy but he didn't know for sure. Boy, was he ever right -- and then some. Our ancestors turned out to be a lot more spectacular than he could ever have imagined.

I dug deep, researching the ancestry. Not just four hundred years back to Samuel Fuller, who came over on the Mayflower, or to the ones who colonized the country and fought in the Revolutionary war, but as far back in the mists of time as I can travel, to places where it all blurs into mythology. I took it back to the ultimate western myth -- Adam and Eve. I had found a Jewish great-grandmother, the great-great grandmother of King Ferdinand of Spain, in the family tree. Ferdinand was ironically anti-semitic, and responsible for the Spanish Inquisition. Interesting twist, there. Especially since I am a Jew by choice, I decided to go back as far as I could on that line. When it showed that King Solomon and King David were my great-grandfathers, I was incredulous, but the great-grandparents that stopped me in my tracks were Ruth and Boaz. Discovering that brought tears to my eyes. I have always felt close to Ruth. Are they even real? I feel they are, though I don't think we can prove it. There is solid evidence that David was real, though his reality was in question until fairly recently. Most of the historical figures in the bible before that are thought by scholars to be fictional or created from composites of historical figures. There is no real evidence of their actual existence.

I have felt the psalm By the Waters of Babylon in the depths of my soul since early childhood when I first heard it, and now I know why. My direct ancestors, the leaders of the diaspora, the exilarchs, were the ones singing it.  There is no doubt at all that they were real. So is Hillel, my 67th great grandfather.

The mythical beginnings go back on several other lines as well.  Fornjot the Giant of Norse myth came up as a grandfather -- he whose sons were named Wind and Snow and Ice. Did he exist or is he just a story? Where in the line of descent did the myth become reality? The Viking grandfathers who came after were real enough to be anchored in history. Then there is the Celtic line that goes back to the founders of the Tuatha de Dannan, to Dan and to Arianrhod and Llew... of course, that is not real, though Celtic spirituality calls to me as strongly as the Jewish, and my Welsh ancestors were real enough to be written about in Britannica. And there is my great grandmother, the Britannic heroine Queen Boudica, who is almost mythical. How awesome to have the warrior queen as a great-grandmother!

I count as grandfathers David, Solomon, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, Kings and queens of France, Hungary, Poland, Spain, England, Lithuania, Judah, Portugal, Germany, Norway -- what a panoply of magnificent ancestors! I am stunned by the scope of it. The Hundred YearsWar was fought between my great-grandfathers over who should rule France. Several historic wars were between one of my great-grandfathers and another over some territory or slight or power grab. Some of them did each other in. In some cases, I found great-grandfathers who were brothers, connected through two different paths.  Kings Henry III and John of England were two of those.

And there are the saints: Arnold, patron of Beer; Gertrude, patron of Cats; St. Louis IX of France, St. Elizabeth of Hungary,  St. Elizabeth of Portugal, all patrons of the Third order of St. Francis, of which I was a member for 34 years, and all of them my great-grandparents. There are a dozen or more saints in my direct line. That, apparently didn't rub off on me.

One of the great grandmothers, Anna Jageillonka (pictured above), a Holy Roman Empress, has several portraits of herself with large, elaborate hats, and in this one she is holding a small dog. My cousin said we have inherited the dog thing but fortunately, not the hats. That one looks like it has a spider hanging from the edge of the brim.

What do all these mind-blowing discoveries mean to me? That I am connected to history, and to all people. We all have inherent nobility. As a family of humans on earth today, we are all connected to each other, and to our history. It also means that the diverse spiritualities I have been drawn to are the ones that my varied ancestors followed. I can look at their portraits and see my contemporary family. I am rooted in those bloodlines and they contribute to my beliefs as well as the way I look or think. It goes very deep. That same cousin I mentioned earlier went on a trip to Spain and visited the tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella. She said she felt like she was visiting family. Indeed she was, though she didn't know it at the time. She was visiting our great-grandparents.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Empty Houses

We live on a short double ended cul de sac. There are three small houses across the street and all of them are more or less vacant. The people in the first one have sold it to a developer and bought another one in a small town in the country where they now spend most of their time, though they remain in possession of it until fall. They are friends and we will miss them. They also take our garbage and recycle bins to the street on collection day, which is kind and wonderful. I bake brownies or cookies for them sometimes, and they bring us delicious blueberries from their new garden in the country. We exchanged pet sitting while we were still physically able to do it, but we are no longer up to the job and haven't gone anywhere in a long time.

The middle house has been vacant for six months or more -- the owners also bought another house in the country, packed up and moved, abandoning the home where they raised their family and lived most of their lives. It stands empty and sad. We trust it, too, will be sold to the developers. At first, they visited it every day. Now, having adjusted to their new house, they simply leave the old one to the elements.

The third house is owned by musicians who are mostly on the road and use it as a crash pad when they're in town. When they're there, a lively german short-haired pointer plays soccer in the yard. When they are not, nothing moves.

For better or worse, they are vacant houses. Looking out on them is a forlorn view, at night the dark windows staring blankly out with no signs of life. It's really sad. We have lived in this house for 16 years. Our next door neighbors have a pact with us that we won't sell out to the developers and will stay where we are. We have watched their two daughters grow up and become beautiful young women. I can almost not tell the oldest from her mother now. On the other side of them, more musicians come and go.

We watch out for each others' welfare. That is slipping away as the developers come in. I dread the fall when the bulldozers and the construction crews will block our narrow street and raise the dust and noise levels to unbearable. I dread the loss of the cosy post war cottages and the coming of the tall skinnies that are already eyesores all over town, built two on a lot that used to hold one home.

Our city is growing at such a rate that the roads are choked with traffic, the markets too full of shoppers, the frequent and wonderful events too crowded to go to. Business is booming. The place  is unrecognizable. Maybe selling out and moving to the country is not such a bad idea.

Monday, June 13, 2016


People on social media are posting admonitions to "love everybody." 
I'm having a really hard time loving everybody right now. I don't think it's always a useful thing to do. I can't love people who teach others to hate and kill me. Sorry. just not doing it. That includes preachers and others who want to impose their fanciful religious beliefs on everybody. I'm not loving them. I'm not even liking them. I am going to war against them instead. 
I'm not loving people who say "pray for Orlando" then do nothing to change the political climate that allowed such a thing to happen. Sorry. It's a cop out. If you really care, you will DO something. My mother's old admonition "Don't faint, do something!" is in play here. So is her famous "pray in one hand and shit in the other and see which one gets full first." You will see that automatic weapons are outlawed. You will change the gun culture. You will stand up against the preachers and haters who perpetrate this stuff and are complicit in every death because of their teachings. 
I do believe prayer sometimes works, especially for healing, but not for changing minds or political beliefs. That takes action. 
One of the worst things about Orlando was that the people who were killed were full of hope and joy at the time. They felt safe where they were and were celebrating the freedom to be their whole selves in that environment, not having to hide a piece of themselves to avoid offending someone or endangering their lives. They were celebrating Pride. They were completely vulnerable, and were destroyed for something they could not help -- for who they were born -- by someone who was ignorant and had been taught that God hated them. In that moment of vulnerability, they were violently attacked and murdered. A line from a prayer comes to mind -- "shield the joyous..." There is something even more particularly evil about the timing of this attack. 
God doesn't hate them. Homophobic bigots do. People who are afraid of their own feelings, that they might also be one of "those people." You just have to ask, why is this such a big issue to these people that they spend a large part of their time preaching hate and trying to harm LGBT people. It's pathological. Normal people don't obsess on other people's lives or behavior. It's not at all unusual for one of those preachers of hate to end up getting caught with a rent boy, nor is it surprising when that happens. Maybe the shooter was struggling with this within himself. 
What kind of society creates an atmosphere where someone would be so frightened of something within himself that he would commit mass murder? One that requires a lot of work to repair. Let's get started.