Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dark History Remembered

Finding this article was a pleasant surprise: "CNN thinks that socialism is cool. My grandparents from the USSR would disagree."

It's quite rare for a mainstream media outlet to highlight the horrors of Soviet communism. Because of its epic failure decades ago, the oppressive cruelty of communist totalitarianism has largely faded from modern memory. But my late husband's family had firsthand experience with its terrors, thankfully escaping with the clothes on their backs. Many of their close relatives were not so fortunate, being either rounded up and executed or shipped off to Siberia for long prison terms in hard labor camps. The stories around my in-laws' Sunday dinner table were not for the faint of heart.

After the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet Union disintegrated, family members came to visit my in-laws in New York. They were spellbound by our quality of life. One of Pete's visiting uncles brought a lawn chair to the neighborhood supermarket parking lot and sat for hours, just watching people steering grocery-laden carts out of the store. He was incredulous at the bounty of food and other goods so readily available to us. His fascination with our prosperity brought new meaning to the expression "land of plenty."

Today's left-leaning "cool crowd" in media, academia, and Hollywood seems to have no knowledge or understanding of the brutally cruel regime that was the Soviet Union. When dire warnings about our "authoritarian" president are sounded, I have to chuckle. How many towns has he rounded up and slaughtered, as Josef Stalin routinely did? How many people have been hauled off to labor camps in the dead of night, never to be heard from again? How many "enemies of the state" have been dragged off to prison for criticizing the U.S. president?

We are so fortunate in our country to be able to think, to write, and to speak in freedom. All of us should pause to be grateful for such a gift, and to think before we speak.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ten Thoughts on Parkland, Florida

  1. Grieving parents and students can say whatever they want to say. There are no rules.
  2. This country has a Constitution that allows gun ownership.
  3. We citizens can change the Constitution, but it's a long and complicated process.
  4. Gun control laws do exist. They need to be strengthened, expanded, and strictly enforced. 
  5. In the meantime, every school should have an armed guard on duty, all day long.
  6. The guard could be a retired military member or police officer, or a newly created and trained security position. The extra taxes are worth it.
  7. Also, arming qualified and trained teachers with guns makes sense.
  8. If there's a concern about mental health or violent tendencies, it should be reported--no matter what race, creed, or nationality is involved. Political correctness has no place here.
  9. To ensure better success of "see something, say something," there should be no penalty attached to a report that proves unfounded.
  10. Any FBI employee who had any knowledge of and authority to act upon the specific complaints called in prior to the Parkland massacre, but who did not act, should be fired. Immediately.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Winter's Dawn
Upon reaching my stage of life, one grows philosophical about the fact that time is very limited. There is a sense of gratitude for continuing good health, gainful employment, and the blessings of friends and family. A certain serenity settles in, keeping one centered in the now and welcoming of whatever days remain. At least, that has been my own comfortable path into maturity.

Then suddenly, I've learned that a long-ago friend has died and I've been plunged into a roiling sea of emotional memories. Events and occasions that haven’t crossed my mind in years, perhaps decades, have come crashing in powerful waves as I remember happy times long past.

Steve Kasold was a college classmate. During our senior year, Steve and Pete carpooled for a semester of student teaching, and our school friendship took firm root. Pete and I were already married; Steve was dating his future wife, Lorraine. Our social get-togethers began in my tiny, off-campus apartment in rural Pennsylvania. The year after graduation, Pete and I danced at Steve and Lorraine’s wedding. We visited each other’s homes often in New York, where we had all returned after college to begin our fledgling adult lives.

A few years later, Pete and I moved to California, and Steve and Lorraine moved to various states throughout the years. We kept in touch through letters, cards, (Steve wrote me a beautiful note after Pete died), and a couple of rare reunions on the East or West coast. Over the decades, the recollections of our good times together shifted quietly to the background of my mind; but they were not forgotten. My current tsunami of memories are as clear and vivid as though they had happened yesterday instead of more than forty years ago.

I'm remembering afternoons and evenings of cold beer and warm conversation, limitless laughter and shared jokes, thoughtful discussions and teasing banter. I recall support and encouragement, kindness and generosity, helpfulness and concern—all the stuff of true friendship, those precious qualities that endure beyond and outside of time.

Like the early winds of winter, the season of goodbyes has enfolded me with cold reality. None of us knows the future; I may be the next in our circle to follow Steve. But if I’m blessed with a long life, I know I will need to withstand more chilling gusts of sorrow as cherished friends pass on. I trust that, as Steve did, they will leave behind the bright glow of joyful memories, those warm remembrances that will help to melt even the most bitter snows of sadness.

Monday, February 05, 2018

A Story in Stone

My lands are where my dead lie buried. 

~ Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota chief

Let's take a break, shall we, from the frantic, partisan hyperventilation of Washington DC politicians and their media minions. There's so much else to see, do, enjoy, and experience in our country. Take, for example, Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.

I was there once, as a young woman, and it made an impression upon me as deep and permanent as the rock carvings that have now revealed the great chief's face in the mountainside. The sculpture is a monumental undertaking, begun in 1948 and continuing today until who knows when.

In 1977, there wasn't too much to see.
Nearly eighty years ago, Chief Henry Standing Bear, of Crazy Horse's Oglala Lakota tribe, commissioned Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to build the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too," Standing Bear informed Ziolkowski, who had worked on Mount Rushmore. Although the federal government offered grant money, Standing Bear chose not to accept any funds from the U.S.A. To this day, the memorial is non-profit and receives no state or federal funding.

Of course, this wouldn't be modern day America without controversy. Although the project was started at the specific request of an Oglala Lakota chief, ironically enough many Native American organizations today vigorously oppose the memorial, claiming it is a "pollution" upon the land. To me, these protests fall into the category of "no good deed goes unpunished."

I can remember the chills I felt from head to toe as I looked at the gleaming white model, then  beyond to the rough-hewn edges of the massive rocky peak towering above. The crews were working on that long-ago day, and the muffled thunder of explosions echoed down the mountainside. I thought of Michelangelo, who could look at a chunk of marble and visualize the figure within, awaiting the artist's hand to set it free. I also remember hoping that I would live to see the memorial finished, in all its majestic power.

If and when it is completed, Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest sculpture in the world. It will take decades more to finish; I won't live to see it completed. Even so, I would like to see it one more time. I want to stand again, encircled by the pure splendor of the Black Hills, in the shadow of the mountain that honors a great Native American leader as his image bursts proudly through the rock.

By 2017, Crazy Horse's face had emerged from the mountain.