Why Hate?

A friend recently asked me “why do people hate Jews?” It’s a good question. Why?

Those of us who are Jewish know what antisemitism is on a personal level. It has been around for thousands of years and we have learned to deal with what people ignorantly say to us. From the misinformed “Oh, you’re Jewish? Are you rich?” to the offensive “Why didn’t your people just fight off the Nazis?”, the stereotypes take over.

Those people who hate Jews believe, truly believe, that we are going to take their jobs, sabotage the government, and cheat them out of their rights. How are we going to do that? We’re not, and that’s the ridiculousness of the whole thing. I just read a piece by Yair Rosenberg of The Washington Post, trying to explain why Jews are in this position:

“Jews function for today’s white nationalists as they often have for anti-Semites
through the centuries: as the demons stirring an otherwise changing and
heterogeneous pot of lesser evils.”

This week has been very difficult. We are scared and angry. We are afraid our concerns will not be taken seriously and that the protection we need will not be available at our synagogues and community centers. As I told a friend, this is where the despair in my heart comes from.

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Where Is the Civility?

ci·vil·i·ty
səˈvilədē/
noun
1) Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.
synonyms: courtesy, courteousness, politeness, good manners, graciousness, consideration, respect, politesse, comity
2) Polite remarks used in formal conversation.
plural noun: civilities
synonyms: polite remark, politeness, courtesy; formality
– Definition from dictionary.com

I am starting with this definition because I want to talk about what civility is and why we seem to be losing it bit by bit in today’s society. It happens to be election day – probably the most contentious presidential election campaign in history, so you might think I am going to talk about the candidates, but that’s not it. Candidates for public office always make us look at them a little sideways. The mudslinging ads have been going on for many years. Before television, political cartoonists and newspaper reporters criticized and berated candidates and political figures.

This particular election has made me think about how mean strangers can be and how politeness seems to have taken a back seat to judgment. I am a media person and a bit of a social media voyeur, or “lurker,” if you will. My degree is in public relations and I studied sociology, and my hobby is photography. I like to go to a crowded setting, like a theme park, and use my zoom lens to get the perfect artistic shot of people in public – people laughing, playing, talking. It is a challenge to capture people at just the right moment to see their emotions. Along those lines, I also like to read comments online. What is the general public thinking? That parent who posted the most adorable video of a child singing? What do people think of it?

Invariably, there are people who comment who have the nastiest comments, even at the most charming and inoffensive things. That child singing? The majority of people say “how adorable” and they share the video. A group of people, however, will always say horrible, judgmental things: “What idiot puts their child on display for the world to see?” “She has a horrible voice. The parents are deluding their child into thinking she is a good singer.” “That song is stupid.” Blah, blah, blah. Whatever happened to the line that Thumper’s mom made him say? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I saw a video once of an 11-year-old girl who was invited to the Ellen Degeneres show. She had been learning hip hop dancing, and she was on the show with her instructor. She was really good and it looked like tons of fun, but the song that she was dancing to was by Nikki Minaj. The hateful criticism of the child’s parents, Ellen, the instructor, the musical genre, and even the child’s dancing ability was just appalling.

I could go on for a long time describing the comments I see, but my point is that this anonymity makes people say things that they might not say to people’s faces – or would they? This election cycle has made me question whether civility is not the norm anymore. Are people teaching the next generation how to be civil? I know I expect my children to be civil and I hope I am civil, and guess what? If I say something mean, I seek that person out and apologize. I talk it out with them. If it was a stranger and I cannot make amends, I make a promise to myself to be more civil next time.

We’re not perfect. But if this lack of manners and hatefulness continues into the next generation, we will never be able to fix the simple relationships with strangers. The philosophy of Pay It Forward should be the way we live. Say or do something nice and that person will say or do something nice. Maybe we can make the world a better place.

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Ships, and Ferries

IMG_9482

Yesterday we dropped our middle child off at college. She is so excited to start this chapter of her life, and we are excited for her. I am going to be cliché here and say that I don’t remember the time going by so fast; so fast, in fact, that I feel that we didn’t have enough time to take vacations with the kids before they didn’t want to go on vacation with us anymore and then before they moved to college.

For many years our vacations consisted of visiting my sisters out of state. It was a great deal – We got to go on a vacation and we got to stay with family. For free! My kids got to spend time with cousins, we saw the local sights, and we got to spoil our niece and nephews.

Somewhere along the way we started to acutely feel the passage of time, so we started to vacation in new places. We have had so much fun finding new places, and the kids have gotten to see a little bit of the US, Canada, and the Bahamas.

Take time to go places. Don’t like theme parks? Go hiking in the Florida Keys. Don’t like the outdoors? Go on a sports tour. Don’t like sports? How about choosing some museums? It always amazes me how much I learn when I go places and see the similarities and differences in the places I visit to where I live now. So, go to a new place. Expand your view of the world. You will love it.

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It Finally Bloomed!

Quite a few years ago a relative gave me a small plumeria plant. I planted it in a sunny place in my garden in my back yard and every year it had beautiful leaves but never bloomed. I never knew what color the flowers would be and I waited with great anticipation to find out. One year we had to have some maintenance work done in the back yard and the workers, to my complete horror, chopped down the plant. In case you don’t know, plumeria plants can be just stuck in the ground and they will root, so I moved the chopped down plant to a sunny place in my front yard. The lawn people damaged the plant, damn it, which up to this point had two branches. Now one branch was gone and the other was at a weird 45-degree angle. It has still gotten wonderful thick leaves every year since, but no flowers. Finally, a few weeks ago I noticed a different shoot coming through the middle of this one remaining branch. Then I noticed buds. Then today I went outside and it has its first flower! It’s yellow! It’s a good sign for 2016.

The first bloom on my plumeria plant

The first bloom on my plumeria plant

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What Color is October?

One of my favorite books when I was a child, maybe 10 years old, was called “Dream of the Dead” and was a story about a ghost and everlasting love. It is a kids’ book, and it is deliciously creepy. I love that kind of story. My favorite authors in high school were Stephen King and John Saul, both masters of creepy. So you won’t be surprised that one of my favorite holidays is Halloween. I love ghosts and jump scares and haunted houses and scary stories, and Halloween is a holiday that seems to have been made for me. As I have gotten older (and wiser) I have also taken an interest in the history of Halloween and the ways other cultures honor the dead, such as Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, which is November 2.

Enter the pink ribbon. Before I tell you what I think of “breast cancer awareness month,” I want to state for the record that I appreciate with all of my heart the advances that have come out of breast cancer research. I am a breast cancer survivor, and I know that I have been afforded the best treatments available because of breast cancer fundraising.

But here’s the thing: My favorite holiday has been overshadowed by pink. The excitement of going into the grocery store and seeing orange and black and a fall motif everywhere has been hijacked by breast cancer displays, to the point that there are companies and customers out there who see it as a festive time of year – We are “celebrating” breast cancer awareness. For those of us who are breast cancer patients, it is a month of mixed emotions. It is nice to see people get behind this cause that will hopefully help all of us, past, present, and future, who are affected by breast cancer. But on the other hand, some cringe at those who make breast cancer awareness into a party with pink boas and pink decorations. I was recently asked to do a promotion for a local breast cancer awareness campaign, and I showed up looking professional in black dress pants and an emerald green shirt, as I was told not to wear white or anything with too busy a pattern. The rep who met me said, “Oh, everyone else has been wearing pink, but I really like that you’re not.” Pink does not look good on me, ironically, so I can be a face of breast cancer without it.

Back to Halloween…every year I mourn what I used to love about October – orange, black, brown, and red. Even in Florida, where those colors are not naturally found in the trees, the decorations reflect fall. So, help out the breast cancer cause if that is what you choose to donate to, but don’t forget to decorate and dress up for Halloween!

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Counting Blessings

First, please read this Facebook post by a friend from college:

“Saw something beautiful at the Culture Club concert last night. A guy in his late 20’s/early 30’s was standing next me and in typical fashion had his smart phone high in the air recording the show (which usually annoys the heck out of me). We then realized he was Facetiming with someone. As I looked more closely I saw that the screen said “Mom.” Of course with Facetime you can see the other person in the screen and I could easily see that she had no hair and was going through some kind of Cancer treatment. At one point between songs I leaned over and said “that’s really sweet of you.” He then told me that his mom only had a few months to live and Culture Club was one of her favorite bands so he bought a ticket to the show so she could “be there.” I grabbed his shoulder, told him he was a good son and turned away so he didn’t have to watch me cry. There are still good people in the world.”

As a cancer patient myself (no active cancer now), I have thought about what my life would be like if I ever had a recurrence and was end stage. What would I do? Would I travel, hang out with family, read, watch movies, clean out all of the crap I have accumulated over the years? Probably all of these things. I have watched friends and family members of friends experience this horrible process, and it is always in the back of my mind.

We never know what is going on in someone’s life. I know it is overstated in today’s world to point out that we need to slow down and think about other people’s perspectives, but it is so true, especially after reading all of the hateful things people say on the internet. As I continue to count my many blessings, I will be thinking about this person my friend encountered at the concert and saying a prayer for him and his mom.

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What It Feels Like at Graduations

This blogger captures exactly what I have felt at graduations.

http://raisingteensblog.com/?p=1408

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