“Don’t be a shanda fur di goyim!” Many of us heard that admonition on a regular basis. According to Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post, “To be a shanda for the goyim is to confirm the most hurtful stereotypes, thereby doing damage twice: a Jew who dishonors Jews by not only doing something bad, but doing something that confirms the worst fears of others about Jews in general.” Who was the ultimate shanda, who brought upon us the most shame? The usual answer is Roy Cohn, but that is up for each person to decide.
The lesson was that we might be the first Jew that someone has ever met and that in that moment we would be representing more than ourselves, which is important, but an entire people, which is a lot of pressure. I have thought about this throughout my life. And I have wondered whether or not I was doing my best.
Aretha Franklin’s funeral was televised on Friday. I have XM in the car and heard some of the CNN broadcast as I was running errands that afternoon. The music, much of it Gospel, was amazing and heartfelt. Technically, this wasn’t a funeral. Reverend Jesse Jackson pointedly said that it wasn’t a party. It was a Celebration, a Homegoing.
Reverend Al Sharpton came to the podium as I turned onto Mayfield Road. He spoke for eleven minutes. Here is the link. I sat in a parking lot until he was finished. If he talked for twenty minutes, I would have stayed in my car that much longer. He was only a teenager he first met Aretha Franklin. He knew Aretha Franklin and he truly respected her.
At the very beginning of his eulogy, Reverend Sharpton said:
She never shamed us. She never disgraced us. She never made us make excuses for her. She represented the best in our community. And she fought for our community until the end.
I heard that, driving in my car, and thought about how alike we are. Especially minorities. I’m sure our friends in the Muslim community worry when there is a bombing, like Oklahoma City in 1995, that they will be the initial suspects. Our Italian friends must tire of the term Mafia bandied about to describe almost any group of criminals. I know that when I see a news report of a lawyer or financial planner’s criminal behavior I rush to read the article in hopes that the criminal won’t be named Goldberg or Cohen. I wouldn’t want him to be a shanda fur di goyim.
And there was Aretha Franklin, known by royalty and presidents. She didn’t just represent herself, her record label, her family, or even just Detroit. She represented an entire people. And she did it well. And she made them proud.
And we aren’t all that different. And perhaps all we can hope for is that we will one day be judged as adequate representatives.
My friend, Rabbi Shimon, has been walking an hour per day. The results are phenomenal. He has lost a lot of weight. He looks great. He has inspired me to return to a daily walking regimen.
I left my office and walked through the park and out to SOM Center. One full lap was about a mile and a quarter. Not enough. I started down the street and saw a policeman sitting in his car. He was parked beside a large construction dumpster, hidden from the view of cars traveling eastbound, enforcing the speed limit along our street. I decided not to turn around. I said “Hi” and waved as I approached, about ten yards from his car. I wanted to make sure that he saw me. I wanted to make sure I didn’t startle him. We exchanged pleasantries as I passed, not breaking stride, and I kept on walking.
I had another half hour to think about this. Why was I concerned? I’m a 60+ year old white businessman that looks like a 60+ year old white businessman (yes, I always look like someone who just escaped his office). Why should I worry about anything? And yet, I do. Please don’t mistake this as being anti-police. I am not. I understand that the police are here to protect and serve our community. I appreciate how wonderfully safe and secure we are in Mayfield Hts. and Mayfield Vlg. These are great places to live and work. But I still have a certain amount of apprehension around officers I don’t know.
I don’t wish to project my concerns onto anyone else. But, if I feel compelled to be a little careful, think about those people who don’t look like me. The US Justice Department instituted community outreach programs in 2010 to address this issue. The City of Cleveland has its own program. I am sure that these programs have had some success, but the challenge is daunting. And the setbacks and failures are very public. It takes a long time to change someone’s perceptions and to eliminate their fears.
I waved at another policeman as he drove by me. He waved back. It is a start. I walked for an hour and got in three miles. That, too, is a start.
Picture – A Safe Place To Walk
In a prescient comedy bit from over 50 years ago, Woody Allen noted that mechanical objects could communicate with each other. Worse, his household appliances hated him and were conspiring to do him harm. Here is the link to his performance. It is worth five minutes. I’ll wait for you to get back.
Funny, right? Scary too. I was shopping for a bed last weekend. I got twelve years from a Sleep Number bed. It is time for a new one. The salesman excitedly described all of the new bed’s features. He told me that it would be able to make adjustments WHILE I’m sleeping. I stopped him mid-pitch. “Are you telling me that the bed is connected to the Wi-Fi and that my sleep habits would be monitored?” Not catching my alarm, he happily confirmed this incredible invasion of what little privacy we might still have. I backed him down to an old fashioned model, one that I could adjust, if needed, before retiring for the night.
We appear to be tethered to our technology, not just cellphones, but Alexa, Google Home, and all of the Smart Devices that populate our lives. All of these devices talk to each other as their actions, and by extension ours, are stored in some huge computer server farm (the Cloud). Privacy? I often tell my clients that we are changing our clothes in front of the window with the drapes wide open. We have few secrets and little, if any, privacy.
I was introduced to Beam Dental at a seminar earlier this week. This is an innovative dental insurance plan that includes their own special Wi-Fi connected toothbrush. Your company can get a discount on your dental insurance premium if you and your employees brush enough. Their young sales rep was enthusiastic. I was aghast. I can’t imagine my brushing habits being one more data point in some huge file. But another agent, a young man in his thirties, was thrilled with the possibility of monitoring his 5 year old’s brushing habits and the convenience of having new brush heads delivered directly to his home.
So your toothbrush may soon be communicating with the rest of your home appliances or dating your next door neighbor’s television. Or, there is still the issue of Woody’s toaster…
Picture – David L Cunix – Best Man
The eight year old in your back seat has only one question. It is a two hour ride, including an hour on the turnpike, and you are only fifteen minutes from home, and he wants to know, “Are we there yet?” It takes all of your patience, self-control, and parental love to simply say, “Not yet.” You will be tested a dozen times before you deliver him to Grandma.
It is really hard, sitting in the back seat, to be patient. The child knows the final destination, but has no control of how he is getting there nor a real sense of the time or direction.
In 2010 the American public was popped into a back seat, buckled up, and taken on a journey. We were told that we were heading towards a great place, universally accessible affordable health care. WOW. We were pretty excited. And for eight years we have been asking, “Are we there yet?” There were two people in the front seats during the first six years of our trip. One kept saying, “Not yet” while the other constantly threatened to turn the car around and take us back home.
It is now the end of July 2018. We switched drivers eighteen months ago. The people in the front seats seem to spend their time arguing whether to go back home or just park the car, in the middle of the freeway, and take a break. And the American public? We’re still in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?”
Picture – Strapped in and ready to go
I could hear my humidor calling me from across the room. Thank G-d I can’t smoke in my office. I’d be up to five cigars a day. But I could hear it calling me, a short CAO Mx2, and I decided to heed the call. Just a half hour, just a short walk before the rain to clear my head.
I have noticed a trend in my posts of late. The Health Insurance Issues With Dave posts reflect anger, my agitation at having my clients and my industry under attack with no concern with the damage he might / is doing to health insurance, the way most Americans access and pay for health care. I revisited posts from late 2009 and early 2010 when there were Democrats in Congress who actually wanted to eliminate my occupation. No anger, just resolve. Now? Now I feel like we, all of us, are under siege. It can’t be just the difference between a D and an R after someone’s name in Washington.
And the last few posts on Again? Really? are about escaping, even if just for a few minutes, from the ongoing chaos. So the question is whether this is just me or are we, as a nation, embroiled in something different, something we haven’t seen in about 5 decades?
I was born in 1955 and my formative years were the 60’s. I feel a wave washing over us. But from here, a quiet office in Mayfield Village Ohio, that wave feels like the polluted waters of a dying sea. The 60’s were about change. There was a pervasive feeling of hope, peace and equality that were both positive and unrealistic. There was even an underlying self-awareness and sense of irony that helped keep many people (but not everyone) from taking themselves too seriously. Did my friends believe that they could change the world by growing their hair long hair and putting a peace patch on their jeans? Of course not. But we were all, in our own little ways, trying to make things better.
That is not the change we are seeing today. There are people in power who are trying to normalize Stormtroopers in khakis and the separation of parents from their children. It is as if we have forgotten how hated the Irish, the Italians, the Japanese, and yes, the Jews, were and how we had to fight for our place in this country. I find the politics of resentment, this desire to scapegoat others so odd when it is exhibited by those who would have been hated and/or bared from the US just a few generations ago.
Facebook is filled with fear. I can count on one FB friend (a longtime client) for a constant stream of posts from Donald Trump for President 2020, USA Patriots for Donald Trump, Trump For America and any number of Russian bots every time his guy has a bad day. The worse the news, the more direct the attacks on Democrats, the press, and especially, Black women such as Whoopi Goldberg and Maxine Waters. Today’s post is a particularly disgusting one featuring Congresswoman Waters. But this all screams fear. And to be honest, I’m not really crazy about this guy, and others like him, feeling cornered in their homes, fondling their guns, wondering how to defend themselves from liberals, gays, and the very real possibility that 1950’s America is never coming back. By the way, the fondling of the gun line is real. Not only does this guy glorify guns in countless posts, but I was in his home years ago as he was cleaning one of his guns. I never returned.
So where are we? There are those amongst us who view the current darkness, this moment of nativism and vitriol as a passing fad, one, like the shower outside my window, will pass without doing any lasting damage. I’m not so sure. So much hate. So much fear. So many guns. And, a man in Washington without any scruples who is willing to do anything to further his perception of what is in his own best interests. I think, especially after the last few weeks, that we have a right to be concerned.
It was a short cigar. It lasted just a bit over 30 minutes, just until the rain started to fall.
Picture – David L Cunix – The Gathering Storm
I hope to bring you peace. I hope to bring you joy. G-d knows we need this. I need this. I have already made three cherry pies this summer. One more trip like last week’s Helsinki debacle and I will be opening a bakery.
It is time to flip off the internal switch, the one that monitors the world and our place among the nations, and take a short break. Allow me to provide the soundtrack for this quick escape from reality.
Just as there are no bad covers of the Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter, there are any number of wonderful musical performances inspired by German poet Friedrich Schiller’s 1785 Ode to Joy. The first and most famous was the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Many have followed with a variety of musical instruments and styles. I have provided a few below.
I hope that one of them brings you a moment of respite. I hope that at least one of these brings you joy.
The public affairs announcer asked everyone to stand for the national anthem. I stepped away from the mustard dispenser and looked down to the field where a hand bell chorus began to perform. They were pretty good. Not perfect. Pretty good. I suspect that all of the musicians lived within 10 miles of this stadium. This is small town America, the perfect escape from Trump’s America.
We were at a Lake County Captains game. The Captains are a farm team for the Cleveland Indians. I had won four tickets at a Chamber of Commerce lunch and I was looking forward to baseball, a brat, and a couple of hours of relative peace.
The stadium delivered. The food was reasonably priced and very good. The service staff was uniformly helpful and friendly. Well over half of those in attendance were under 15, possibly under 10. There were little kids everywhere. Some were even watching the game.
Everything about the game was minor league. The players, the promotions between innings, and even the cheesy product tie-ins during play. When the Captains got a player in scoring position, Attorney Tim Misny exhorted the crowd from the scoreboard to “Make Them Pay”. This was family fun. No negativity. No profanity. No anger. No Trump.
By now some of you may be yelling at the computer screen that Lake County has traditionally voted Republican and that Donald Trump carried the area in 2016. All true. But this isn’t Trump Country. I spent four hours without hearing anyone complain about Mexicans or people from Latin America. There wasn’t any yelling or name-calling, or lying, or even unwarranted bragging. Not so long ago pundits on FOX News used to accuse Barack Obama of bring “Chicago-style Politics” to Washington. Donald Trump has infected the entire country with his special brand of coarseness. Small town America may be one of the few places where we can escape.
Facebook offers no solace. No post, no subject is safe from the Trumpian trolls. Much of Cleveland is obsessed with the future of LeBron James. When Los Angeles became a serious option, the trolls focused on Californian politics and sanctuary cities. And that epitomizes Trump’s America. While the rest of us are looking for a good point guard, the Trumpsters are looking for a fight.
There is no relief on television or in the news. Republicans and even Democrats who refused to sink to Trump’s level were deemed weak and feckless. Polite society was told to not listen so carefully. “Don’t take him literally.” While another segment of our population came out of hiding to applaud Trump for saying what everyone was thinking. But not everyone was thinking that good people donned khakis and polo shirts and marched through Charlotte chanting ‘Jew will not replace me”. Freed from shame or repercussions and aided by Russian bots, the trolls emerged online and on our TV screens. That forces us to choose from three types of TV news. There is the network that promotes Trump and is willing to change its positions on issues to accommodate him. There is the network that challenges him directly. And there is the network, which in an effort to achieve balance, forces itself to allow the truth to be subverted by the likes of Kellyanne Conway and former Congressman Jack Kingston.
It is all designed to be very loud and disorienting. We are supposed to be off-balance. We are trapped on Oceana and Trump is trying to decide whether we should be at war with Eastasia or Eurasia. Eastlake seemed like a world away.
The speaker at our Mayfield Area Chamber of Commerce lunch was an on-air personality at our local ESPN radio station. Nice guy. The surprise wasn’t that I won some tickets in a trivia contest. The surprise was that it was a Browns question. I was the only one who knew the name of the starting quarterback the last time the Browns won a game. Robert Griffin III.
“Where are the girls?” I hear Sally ask that question several times a day. Maybe it is because she is the daughter of Holocaust Survivors, maybe it is because she has had a series of negative premonitions about Donald Trump from the moment he declared his candidacy, or maybe it is just too much exposure to the news, I have no way of knowing. And, more importantly, I have no way to answer her question.
Picture – A White Dress
I negotiated a transfer to Cleveland in the fall of 1982. I had been a manager for Prudential in the Youngstown area and I wanted Phillip to have the opportunity to go to good Jewish schools. We moved to University Heights.
We moved into our house in November and the first thing I noticed was the absence of Christmas decorations. Many of the houses, including our next door neighbors’, didn’t have any lights, reindeer, or even a Santa. This was all new to me. We had been the only Jewish family in the neighborhood most my life.
Cedar Center was a couple of blocks from our new home. I had been coming up to Cedar Center since our family lived in Canton in the late 60’s to get our Kosher meat at Irving’s. My father’s favorite bagels came from Davis Bakery next door and Corky and Lenny’s was across the street. It was late November and I was walking through Cedar Center when I passed the Yellow Front store. There, in the front window, was a huge Hanukkah display. There were toys, Menorahs, and all kinds of decorations. I had never seen anything like it.
I went into the store and was amazed by the selection. And though Phillip was only three, I purchased a huge Hanukkah coloring book for him. I looked around and realized that this was a normal discount store, not a Jewish specific store, and that it had all of the usual small appliances and stuff. I even found the aisle, in the back of the store that had Christmas decorations and toys. I couldn’t leave the store until I had revisited the Hanukkah area. It just made me feel so good, so much at home.
We were walking in Beachwood Place a couple of days ago. I saw a woman smile and heard her gasp as she passed us on the second floor. I turned to see what had caught her eye. The picture above is a kiosk in the center of the mall. I don’t know that she needed a pair of sunglasses. I think she simply saw the sign, “Ramadan Sale”, and suddenly felt that she was finally at home.
There was a little over four minutes left in game 2 of the NBA Finals. The score was lopsided and Tyronn Lue, the Cavaliers coach, realized that the game was lost. With no hope of victory, Coach Lue emptied the bench. He chose to save his stars for another battle and another day.
I sometimes wonder if Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams are watching the country that they helped to create and still have an invisible hand in our current government. Did these giants look at the United States, circa 2016, and decide to empty the bench?
Would a country that still had hope, a country that still thought that it was the leader of the Free World, put men like Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, and John Bolton into the game? Did we simply throw in the towel and give up?
Coach Lue and the Cavaliers have lost the first two games of a best of seven series. They know that they still have the opportunity to win. Does the United States have the same opportunity to come back for a win?