My non-family interests in life are pretty simple. I love music. I could talk to you about music and bore you with every minute detail and obscure bit of music trivia I know until you were ready to shoot yourself. I love talking music. I used to be almost as passionate about sports but that has waned over the last ten years or so. Even so, I’m still pretty passionate about Buffalo sports. At this point though, it’s almost more of a civic pride thing. I think I became such a die-hard Buffalo Sabres fan because, in the pre-internet era, watching and reading about them helped get me through our sometimes very long and very cold winters.
I’d love to write solely about music and sports and throw in some talk about Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and various Marvel movies, etc. But there is just so much going on in the world, and so much of it is disheartening. To only write about pop culture feels like sticking my head in the sand. Plus, I like to think of this blog as a reflection of my life at this time. It’s my own personal time capsule.
So, with that preamble out of the way, here’s what’s really grinding my gears. Of the many dangerous things Trump has said and done, none bother me more than his relationship to the so called, alt-right.
I come to this issue with the perspective of someone who is a devout non-believer in religion and god but who is also Jewish(in a cultural way only at this point). I grew up in a very non-religious Jewish home. My family only joined a temple when my parents decided that I should have a Bar-Mitzvah. I went to Hebrew school for five long years, most of it having already decided that religion was a load of crap. Still, I did learn quite a bit about racism and antisemitism there. I’ve experienced antisemitism personally at times but never really in a way that discouraged me or made me think less of humanity. But I’ve seen, first hand, the effects that extreme antisemitism has had. My mom is a Holocaust survivor. She fled here to the U.S. from France at the age of nineteen, having lost so many of her family members to the Nazis.
I’ve always paid particular attention to news stories in my lifetime having to do with far right hate groups such as the KKK, skinheads, holocaust deniers and the like. It’s fascinating really, in an obviously horrific and disturbing way. What Trump has managed to do is bring these groups out into the mainstream. The name, alt-right, in and of itself bothers me. It’s vague and ambiguous sounding. It also makes me think that the alt-country music folks should find a new name(I love alt-country music). So, how has Trump done this?
First of all, he won the Republican nomination, in part, with his talk of birtherism and by infamously calling Mexicans rapists. He used divisive, hate filled language right from the start, fostering an us versus them kind of nationalism. None of this is meant to deny that we have issues with immigration. There is, of course, a legitimate conversation to be had there. Let’s leave our prejudices at the door though, before we enter that conversation. His choice of language gave a mainstream voice to the alt-right. What’s worse, and this is absolutely unforgivable, Trump hired Steve Bannon to be his campaign manager. Bannon previously ran Breitbart, the online home for the fringe right, with frequent links to despicable articles. I won’t go into further detail about Breitbart or link them here but please do check them out yourself if you don’t believe me.
I will post a link here though to an article that David French just posted on Nation Review, which for those of you who are not familiar, is a very conservative website.
This is chilling. It’s also not an aberration.
Is this all Trump’s fault? No, of course not. But again, he has brought these ideas into the mainstream. He’s given voice to them. He has subtly “legitimised” these ideas. He has given a mainstream license to the alt-right and their despicable points of view.
It’s so important that we fight back against this hate. This is not the world we want for our children, is it? I’m not just talking about the election. I just mean life in general. We need to call this shit out. Drag it into the daylight and expose it for what it is. It’s hate.
I don’t want to end this blog entry on a down note so here’s a link to a fantastic article that my wonderful cousin brought to my attention. It’s long but it’s so worth the time. Seriously. If you only read one article today, let it be this one. Derek Black grew up in an “alt-right” home, believing in the importance of maintaining the “white race”. His father is a bigwig in the movement and he was too. He made the very smart choice to go to a liberal arts college, where he was exposed to many different people and cultures. He made friends with people in his dorm. People on campus eventually discovered who he was and the things he previously said and wrote. He was ostracised for a while. One of the friends he had made was Jewish and hosted a weekly get-together for their group of friends to celebrate the Sabbath. He made the decision to invite Derek. In doing so, he changed his life. Please read this.
This topic is deadly serious to me. I don’t want to link to some trite song saying “love is the answer” or whatever. Thankfully, there truly is a song for every occasion if you know where to look. This song always gives me chills. It hits close to home. It’s Dan Bern writing about losing his Jewish family in the Holocaust. Give it a listen.
I’d like to be a good American and write an elegy to the automobile
But no matter where it takes me I don’t really feel any different
I’ve had one foot in the black and white two dimensional ghosts of
Lithuania, and one foot in sunny California where the people are all friendly
as they drive their Mercedes to the mini-malls and take a lunch
or network with you or drive past and kill you for no reason
These are my ghosts: Uncle Emmanuel, Uncle Eli, Aunt Mia, and my
grandparents, Jenny and Tobias, none of whom I’ve ever met
I saw some letters once that they wrote to my dad in Palestine in
1940, not too long before they all got shot
My only bridge to them is my dad, he knew them and he knew me, but now he’s gone too
Sometimes I want to get next to them, sometimes I want to push them
all away, say you’re not my ghosts, I live in sunny California,
I drive a 1992 Red Chevrolet, I drive fast, and I drive as far
west as anyone can drive, eight thousand miles from Lithuania and
if I could escape by driving further then I would, but it doesn’t get me anyplace new
I guess if I was a true American, I could write an elegy to the
automobile, but when I jump in I can’t escape the way I feel
I sometimes want to dance on Hitler’s grave, and shout out,
“Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, Leonard Cohen, Philip Roth, Bob Dylan,
Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Abby Hoffman, Leonard Bernstein, Harry Houdini, Sandy Kofacs!”
And then I want to scream and sing as loud as I can,
to the chandeliers that sway dangerously overhead, proclaiming
Krystalnacht is over
I say that Krystalnacht is over! The only broken glass tonight
will be from wedding glasses shattered under boot heels
We’re not the ones who are in the museum, its you,
your curious mustache and your chamber of horrors
I’ve a friend my age whose parents met in Auschwitz on the day of
Liberation, she works for a big company now in San Francisco, and
just moved into a new house
I’ve a friend who lies in her hospital bed after fifteen
operations from a botched appendectomy. I go to her with a heart
heavy from the things on my mind, she cheers me up.
I saw my dad tell jokes, and teach me how to laugh, thirty years
after his parents, and brothers, sister were all shot, murdered in
the streets of Lithuania.
I see trees growing tall and the sun coming up, and the ocean
roaring home, and know I must go on I must go on! It would be
cowardly to stop, it would be an aberration to do anything else.
Amid something you tried to remember for days,
The fog suddenly lifted
The haze is gone from your mind,
And its no so much that your memory finally heeded
Just that you gave up,
Needing to need it
Hey, the fog has gone,
Hey, the fog has gone
Its time for you to come out,
There’s no longer a reason to die
And something is over, something else begins
The end of the century is coming
Like a blind woman relentlessly spinning
But before its sewed shut
You wanted to scream,
“Hold on just a minute, was this just a dream?
Or is there something to learn
Besides who got the gold,
And who’s been losing and winning?
But the century’s a man-made process,
An attempt to stick order on chaos
We’re born with ten fingers,
So we count up to ten,
But if everyone counted the cracks on the wall,
Yeah, we’d count up to three, and then it wouldn’t be
The end of the century at all
Hey, the fog has gone
Hey hey, the fog has gone
It showed signs early today
I knew when I woke in my bed
That something was going on
Throw up the window,
I want to scream out your name
Hey hey, the fog has gone
Hey hey, the fog has gone
C’mon, we’ll drive up the coast
Its a Tuesday and Thursday
I can’t remember, and I don’t care
We’ll drive to Seattle
Or else Oklahoma
Or else if we wanna
A boat to Hawaii
Or maybe Japan with the kings of karaoke
Come on out now girl, you’ve gotta come out!
Maybe the only thing jumping in the car and driving can get us is
an empty tank of gas
Yeah, but it sure beats sitting around here
Maybe we’ll be lucky, find our own private river valley,
or at least an all-night diner where they know how to poach and egg
Maybe we’ll meet some nice people along the way,
and anyway, you know
I’ll never leave you
You know I’ll never leave you