Category Archives: History

Billy Joel Wear Stars Of David And Makes A Statement

The rally in Charlottesville nearly two weeks ago rattled all of us. If nothing else, it was a sad and scary reminder that hate and prejudice are still alive and well in America.

In the face of the all the hatred and prejudice that come to the light, it’s easy so say nothing and give into the fear. What is right and harder to do is to stand up to the hate.

Musician Billy Joel stood up to the hate. He wore a yellow star at his concert last night. Jews were forced to wear yellow stars during World War II, marking them for persecution and ultimately death.

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”-Albert Einstein

I think the one lesson that I personally take away from Charlottesville is that we have stand up and fight. We have to be vocal, we have to be loud and we have to drown out the voices of hate. If we don’t speak up and speak up loudly, hate has won once more and we not learned the lessons of the past.

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RIP Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis

A good comedian is more than the joke coming out of their mouth. A good comedian makes us laugh, brings people together, helps to create understandings and heal the wounds that hate and prejudice create.

Yesterday, we lost comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory. A few hours ago, Jerry Lewis passed away.

In the 1960’s, Dick Gregory was the face of black comedy in America. Breaking the color barrier, he used his platform to speak of the injustice that African-Americans faced. He use his celebrity to fight not just against prejudice and hatred that were part of daily life for African-Americans, but he also protested against the Vietnam War by going on a hunger strike.

He was 84.

Jerry Lewis is more than an actor/comedian/philanthropist. He is an icon. Pairing with Dean Martin in the 1950’s, Lewis was the goofball compared to Martin’s straight man. When they professionally parted ways, Lewis became a star in his own right. One of his most beloved movies (and my personal favorite) Jerry Lewis film is The Nutty Professor. While on the surface, it is slapstick comedy, there is a more subtle message about self-esteem, finding love and being brave enough to show the person who you love your real self.


He was 91.

RIP.

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To Remove Or Not To Remove, That Is The Question

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

The phrase above has in recent decades been used when referring to the Holocaust. But while it refers to a specific event in history, the phrase itself has the potential to be used for other events in history.

In the wake of the rally in Charlottesville last weekend, local governments and citizens alike have either called for the removal and/or destruction of monuments from the Confederate South or have had them removed completely.

It feels to me like a double-edged sword. We cannot white wash history and pretend that the horrors of slavery did not happen in America, but at the same time, if we do decide to remove them from the public arena, what are we teaching our children?

If American society has a cross to bear, it is the enslavement of African-Americans and the scar that still exists from that enslavement in our society generations after The Civil War. Racism still exists in America (as was dreadfully highlighted last weekend) and remains a blight on the ideals laid out by our Founding Fathers.

The only compromise I can think of is to not whitewash history and use the past (and the monuments dedicated those who were part of the Confederate South) as a teaching tool. We can only learn from history (and prevent it from happening again) is to learn from the mistakes of the generations who have come before us.

That being said, I would like to know the opinion of my readers. Should we remove the statues and be done with it or use it as teaching tool for this generation and future generations?

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What President Trump Should Have Said

A President, regardless of his or her party or beliefs is the moral authority and should be leading the nation, especially during a crisis.

President Trump has failed in both areas (no surprise there). His remarks after last weekend’s rally in Charlottesville proved that he is neither the moral authority nor is he far from qualified to lead the nation, especially during this crisis.

What President Trump should have said is in the video above. Thank you Arnold Schwarzenegger for standing up for what is right and speaking truth to power.

It’s not uncommon knowledge that Ivanka Trump converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner. It is also common knowledge Jared’s grandparents survived the Holocaust. Their children are being raised Jewish. I would think (and hope) that Trump’s reaction, not a President, but as a father and grandfather would be of outrage and anger.

I know this has been said many times since last weekend, but my grandfathers, like millions of their brothers in arms, fought against fascism in World War II. The sons of Jewish immigrants, they put their lives on the line to protect America and her values. The fact that Trump has subtly given the alt-right the go ahead to slither out of the rocks they came from speak to his incompetence and how ill prepared he is to lead this country.

P.S. Did anyone else do a happy dance when Steve Bannon was fired?

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RIP Elvis Presley

There are only a handful of artists who are known by the first name. Michael, Madonna, Bono.

But before Michael, Madonna and Bono there was the one and only Elvis Presley.

He died 40 years ago today of a heart attack. To invoke the name of Elvis Presley is to invoke a certain image. In his prime, Elvis represented a youthful rebellion that had not been seen before in American culture. Teenagers loved him and adults at best tolerated him and at worst tried to censor him.

While there was some controversy in hindsight (he was not actually the pioneer of rock and roll, he just started playing the music that the African-American community had been playing for years), he is still an icon who is still respected, adored and worshiped four decades after his passing.


RIP sir. Your physical presence maybe long gone, but your music will live forever.

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This Weekend’s Heavy Reminder From Charlottesville

This past weekend was heavy to say the least. The rally in Charlottesville reminded us of how precious our freedoms are and how easily they can be taken away from us.

The video below has been making the rounds on my social media for the last two days. Though it was made in 1943, it has not lost its potency or its message. It is a relevant in 2017 as it was in 1943.

Martin Niemoller was a Protestant Pastor who openly spoke up against the Nazi regime and survived 7 years in a concentration camp. He is best remembered for the following:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist./Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist./Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew./Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I think the valuable lesson we learned from this past weekend is that when we are stronger together. When we fight among ourselves and forget that the other person we are looking at is a human being, then we have lost the battle.

One of the most prophetic lessons of the Holocaust can be summed up in one quote:

“Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Despite the violence, I have seen a spark of hope. It was the people who came to protest against the White nationalists and the government leaders who spoke out against the hatred. Perhaps, after all of these years, after the needless killing of millions, we have finally learned from history and will not repeat the mistakes of the past.

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You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught

I’m not a huge fan of the classic musicals, but sometimes, one of them resonates so deeply that it is as relevant in 2017 as it was when it was initially introduced to audiences.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 musical, South Pacific is set on an unnamed island in the South Pacific during World War II. The underlying message of the narrative is basically that racism of any kind is wrong. The story focuses on the will they or won’t they relationship between two couples: an American nurse and a French expatriate plantation owner with mixed race children and a soldier and a native girl.

While the show has it’s lighter moments, one the best remembered songs (in my opinion at least), is “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”.

The rally in Charlottesville yesterday proved that America has a long way to go in achieving the ideals of the Founding Fathers.

It did not help, of course, that President Trump’s statement was vague and he did not outright condemn the hate filled marchers, but honestly who is surprised by that?

We were warned, btw by Hillary Clinton last year.

Heather Heyer lost her life to this hate.  I hope this is a wake up call for all Americans. The progress we have made as Americans in reaching the ideals set forth by the Founding Fathers represents the work of multiple generations. But for as much work as we have done, this weekend proves that we still have a long way to go.

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Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice Book Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the BDP (British Period Drama) genre, like most genres is mostly bereft of characters of color.

In 2013, the movie Belle finally broke the color barrier for the BPD genre.

Paula Byrne’s 2014 book, Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice, is not just about Belle, but the events that led her uncle, Lord Mansfield’s ruling on the Zong massacre.

I adore the movie Belle. It is much more than the standard BPD. It speaks to a modern audience about race issues, women’s issue and other human rights issues that are just as relevant today as they were in the 19th century. That is reason I read the book. The book and the movie, however are vastly different. The book reads like a college textbook and not like the entertaining movie that subtly speaks to the audience about issues that 300 years later are still being discussed.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Trump’s New Immigration Policy

America, despite its lofty ideals of freedom and diversity, can sometimes be described as “do as I say, not as I do”.

Our immigration policy history is not as welcoming as we might think. Added to the list of these policies is President Trump’s new immigration policy, if Congress agrees to codify it into law, will be one more blemish on the lofty ideals that we claim to be proud of.

Unless someone can say that they have Native American ancestry (and even their ancestors had to come from somewhere else), we are all immigrants. Most Americans can trace their family back to someone who chose to leave their family and their homeland for a new life in America. That is the first issue that I have with the proposed amendment to the immigration policy. The second is a reply to the b*llsh*t excuse that has been used for generations to prevent new immigrants from coming into the country: they will take our jobs. While some new immigrants may have a professional background and a degree, many others have to start from scratch. Find me an American citizen who wants to spend their days picking vegetables under a hot sun or washing dishes in a restaurant and earning minimum wage. That person is unlikely to be found.

I could go on, but I think Stephen Colbert’s response and satirical revision of Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus in response to the new proposed policy says it all.

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Once We Were Brothers Book Review

Power is a seductive thing. Once we have a taste of it, we always want more.

Ronald H. Balson published his debut novel, Once We Were Brothers in 2013. In present day Chicago, Elliot Rosenzweig is a paragon of virtue. A success businessman who has given back to his community, no one would think twice that Elliot is not who he claims to be. But Ben Solomon knows the truth. Ben knows that Elliot Rosenzweig is really Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc.

Ben ambushes Otto/Elliot at a fundraiser, hoping to out him as the adopted brother who had a hand in murdering the family and the community that he was raised in. Before World War II, Ben and Otto were brothers in spirit. When Otto’s parents stepped away from their parental duties, Ben’s parents stepped in and raised Otto as if he was their own. But with the invasion of Poland by the Nazis, Otto slowly turned his back on the Solomons and morphed into the butcher of Zamosc.

Ben is determined to see justice pursued. He turns to private investigator/lawyer duo of Liam Taggart and Catherine Lockhart. Can Liam and Catherine help Ben to reveal the truth or is Ben just an old man who is losing his mind?

One of Mr. Balson’s best qualities as a writer is that he knows how to keep the tension going, in addition to keeping the reader unsure as to the outcome of the story. There was points in the novel when I was sure that Ben was crazy, but then there were other points when I was sure that Elliot would be outed as Otto.

I absolutely recommend it.

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