Category Archives: History

Shame on You, Rand Paul

When the volunteers and first responders ran toward the still smoldering rubble that was the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001, they were not thinking of the compensation they would later be receiving from the government or the diseases that they would be dying from. They only though of finding survivors and recovering the remains of those who did not survive.

This year is the 18th anniversary of the attack. Approximately 90,000 Americans put their lives on hold to help with the rescue and recovery effort. Nearly half of these people, numbering around 40,000 have been diagnosed with cancers that could have only come from the toxic air that was expelled from the remains of the towers.

It should, therefore be a no-brainer that these men and women (and their families by extension) are financially compensated, especially given the expensive medical bills that come with cancer.

But Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) believes otherwise. He and fellow Republican Mike Lee (R-Utah) voted against the funding. Senator Paul’s reasons for not voting for the compensation fund is as follows:

“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in the country,” he said. “And therefore any new spending …  should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to, at the very least, have this debate.”

There is nothing to debate. More than our thanks or our verbal support, these men and women need our financial support. While they battle cancer, they should not be worrying about being able to pay their mortgage or put food on their tables. They should only be worrying about their health and their loved ones.

From my perspective, this is just another sign that the Republicans, as a party, have forgotten who hired them and who they are responsible to. I am not saying that the Democrats are perfect, but at least I know that they are doing the jobs that the average American voter hired them to do.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under History, New York City, Politics

Jane Austen: Ordinary in Her Time and Extraordinary in Our Time

Most of us are ordinary in our day to day lives. We go about our business until the day when we shuffle off this mortal coil.

During her lifetime, Jane Austen was an ordinary woman. But in our lifetimes, she is considered to be extraordinary. She is of the creators of the modern novel, a proto-feminist, a woman who was not afraid to speak her mind and an all around bad-ass.

Tomorrow is the 202th anniversary of her passing. She died at the young age of 41, with only four published books to her name and a modest success as a writer. Every time I read one of her books, I find myself asking what if she had lived a little longer or even into old age? What books and characters might she have introduced to the world?

Wherever she is, I hope that she is looking down on us and smiling, knowing that her name will live on for eternity.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Emma, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility

The Lost Girls of Paris Book Review

War and espionage has often been considered a man’s game. At best, women were seen as secretaries working in the home offices, assistants or nurses. There was little room for women to be in the field as soldiers or spies.

Pam Jenoff’s new novel, The Lost Girls of Paris is set during and directly after World War II. While traveling through New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, Grace Healy finds a suitcase containing the images of a dozen different women. On a whim, she takes the suitcase with her.

The owner of the suitcase is Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a ring of female spies during the war. Among the women she dispatched to Europe, twelve were sent as couriers and radio operators whose job was to aid the resistance. These women never returned home, whether or not they survived is a mystery.

Curiosity gets the best of Grace and she goes on a mission to find out who these women were and if they survived. Within the twelve women, Marie, a single mother captivates Grace. She is determined to find out if Marie lived or died for her country.

Based on the true stories of British women who served King and country, this book is a must read. It is riveting, heart stopping, heartbreaking and inspiring all in the same breath.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, New York City

Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment Book Review

Since the beginning of human history, men have used sex to gain power over women. But thanks the hard work of generations of women, the power imbalance is starting to even out.

In the new book, Reckoning: The Epic Battle Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment, by Linda Hirshman, explores how women have fought back against sexual harassment and have slowly began to win the war.

Ms. Hirshman starts her book in the 1970’s, when women began to talk to each other and organize against men who took advantage of their female subordinates. She then moves forward in time highlighting a number of accusations of rape and/or sexual harassment against prominent men and the women who were brave enough to go public with the accusations. The list includes the 1991 Clarence Thomas Hearings and the accusations by Anita Hill, the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton Scandal, and the multiple women claimed that Harvey Weinstein took advantage of them sexually.

Reckoning is a perfect title for this book. While telling the story of these brave and bold women, Ms. Hirshman inspires the reader to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. She also pulls no punches, calling out politicians on both sides of the aisle, women who stay silent and men who continue to perpetuate this heinous act.

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, National News, Politics

The Volunteer: One Man an Underground Army and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz Book Review

When facing injustice, it’s easy to step back and let someone else be the one on the soapbox. It’s harder (and possibly dangerous) to be the one on the soapbox.

In 1939, as the clouds of war could be seen in Europe, many were content to sit back or tried to escape before the borders closed. But Witold Pilecki chose another path.

His story is chronicled in the new book The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz. Written by Jack Fairweather, the book tells the story of how Pilecki, a gentleman farmer and cavalry officer, put himself in harms way so he could be sent to Auschwitz. His plan was to document the Nazi atrocities, share those atrocities with the world and to bring together prisoners who would destroy the camp from the inside out.

During his two and a half year imprisonment, Pilecki and his team sabotaged the Nazis whenever they could. He also started documenting the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jewry and tried to warn the Allies of the murders of millions of innocent people.

The book contains previously unknown and hidden diary entries, documented first hand accounts by survivors and declassified files that for decades were hidden from public view. Told in an almost cinematic format, the book tells the true story of one man’s personal mission to reveal the truth before it was too late.

I am not one to dictate what should be on anyone’s TBR (to be read) list, but I would highly recommend that this book is on your list. It is honestly one of the best books I have read in a long time. There moments in the book in which I held my breath, unsure if he would survive and/or escape. If nothing else, this book is a reminder that even in darkness, there is still a small sliver of light, even if it is not immediately visible.

This book also made me angry because the Allies had information about Auschwitz because of Pilecki and only gave lip service to the news. I kept asking myself how many millions might have been saved if they had acted on the information?

I absolutely recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty Book Review

When I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the late former First Lady Barbara Bush looked like a grandmother straight out of Hollywood central casting. Her white hair was cut short, she was known for her pearls and matronly clothing and she was the matriarch of a large family. But there is so much more to her than the image.

Susan Page’s new biography, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty, tells the story of Mrs. Bush from her perspective. Born in 1925 to a wealthy family whose roots went back to the founding of America, she was the third of four children. Equally belittled and ignored by her mother about her weight, the future First Lady never got over the comments she received as a child.

In her late teens, she married the future President George H.W. Bush. Married for seven decades, she brought six children into the world. Her oldest son, George W. Bush, followed in his father’s footsteps. Her oldest daughter, Robin, died of Leukemia at age three, leaving her mother with an emotional scar that never healed. Later as an adult, she battled depression and aided both her husband and son during their time in the White House.

Containing interviews with Mrs. Bush, President Bush, her family, political aides, press clippings, diary entries and other details, this books is the complete story of one of America’s most respected First Ladies.

One of the things that I was surprised about was how emotionally strong and outspoken Mrs. Bush was. Like many women of her generation, her adult life focused on her home and her family. But unlike the Donna Reed-like ideal of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Mrs. Bush was not the yes-woman to her husband nor was she the picture of motherly perfection. She was bold, she was outspoken and not above providing unsolicited advice. She may not have been a traditional feminist, but she is the definition of a strong, intelligent and capable woman.

This book is a must read, especially if one is a political junkie. It sheds light not just on the public side of Mrs. Bush, but also the private that only a few were privileged to see.

I recommend it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Mental Health, Politics

Thoughts On Independence Day

For most of the world, the 4th of July is just another day. But for the United States, is our Independence Day.

I am proud to be an American, in spite of our flaws. I am proud to live in a country in which my rights as an individual are respected. I am free to worship as I choose, to ask questions of my government and freely protest when I disagree with their actions. I am free to speak openly without fear of reprisal. This is the land of opportunity, a country in which someone who is born poor has the potential to die rich.

This is a land that opened her door and her arms to million of immigrants (including members of my own family) who were fleeing poverty, persecution and lack of freedom. This is a land in which generations of soldiers have fought and died for.

This is a land that after speaking of the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.We have and continue to right the wrongs of our past by protecting and opening doors to those who in past generations were denied because of who they were.

Happy Independence Day, wherever you are.

1 Comment

Filed under History, Misc, Thoughts On....

Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition Review

The title of the Duke of Devonshire and his family holding, Chatsworth House, is one of the most revered and awe inspiring aristocratic country houses in all of England.

The new exhibit, Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition, is a showcase of 500 years of contemporary art that the members of the Cavendish family have collected and owned for generations.

Containing multi-media, jewelry, paintings, sculpture, clothing, furniture and drawings, the exhibit shows the respect and appreciation that this family had and still has for art.

The exhibit is different among exhibits in New York City, but it is worth a visit. It appeals (at least from my perspective) to art lovers, to history lovers and someone who is looking for something new and different to see.

There is a nod to the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, which was partially filmed at Chatsworth.

I recommend it.

Treasures from Chatsworth: The Exhibition will be at Sothebys until September 18th. It is free and open to the public. Check the website for schedule and location.

2 Comments

Filed under History, Jane Austen, New York City, Pride and Prejudice

RIP Detective Luis Alvarez

When the Twin Towers fell on September 11th, 2001, those who were lucky enough the survive the falling of the towers ran from the towers with everything they had. While they ran from the smoldering ashes, the first responders ran toward the smoldering ashes. One of those first responders died today.

Detective Luis Alvarez passed away today at the young age of 53. He spent three months after 9/11 searching for survivors in the rubble. A few weeks ago, Detective Alvarez was among the first responders who testified with Jon Stewart to remind Congress of their responsibility to extend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

Detective Alvarez is a hero in every sense of the word. A hero is defined (at least in my book), as someone who acts in the interests of others. Putting everything else on hold (his health included), he was one of many who acted in the interest of the city and the survivors.

Z”l, may his memory forever be a blessing.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, New York City

Thoughts On the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

Major change for good comes when we stand up against hatred and prejudice.

This weekend, we remember the Stonewall riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York City and celebrate the remarkable achievements and opportunities that the LGBTQ community has had since then.

Coming out of the closet is often a painful years long process of learning to love yourself and finding the courage to tell the ones you love who you truly are. If you are lucky, your relationship with your loved ones will not change. But not everyone is so lucky.

This week, The Brian Lehrer Show discussed various aspects of the modern LGBTQ movement and how it was created by the Stonewall riots. Yesterday, one of the callers was a woman named Lisa. Lisa called in to tell the story of her son’s coming out and the reaction to the revelation of who he revealed himself to be. The call starts at 21:02.

I would hope that when one comes out, they are seen by their loved ones and their community as no different than before coming out. But the reality is that many members of the LGBTQ community are often ostracized and forced out of their families and communities because they do not fit into the traditional hetero-normative/binary labels.

Change, especially on the cultural and legislative levels, does not not happen in an instant. It takes years of work, fighting for acceptance and facing the demons of the past. But it does happen if you believe and continue to push for it. The members of the LGBTQ community have proved that and will continue to use that model to inspire all of us to push for a just and equal society.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Mental Health, New York City, Thoughts On....