Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American Book Review

America’s history is made up of immigrants. But as obvious as this truth is, there are still many who will deny this reality.

Wajahat Ali is a writer and the son of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan. His memoir, Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, was published at the beginning of the year. Growing up as an average American kid, he lived in two worlds: the suburbia that was his childhood and the Pakistani culture that his parents knew. Coming of age during the 9/11 era, he inadvertently became the face and the voice of his faith. Eventually finding his way as a writer, a husband, and a father, Ali has a unique insight as to what it is to live in the United States with its promises and contradictions.

I loved this book. His writing is funny, sarcastic, heartbreaking, and real. What I related to was how universal his experience is. Though my own family has been in this country for more than a century, I’m sure that my forebears would relate to Ali’s story. The names may change, the places may change, and the language may change, but the sentiments remain the same.

Do I recommend it?

Absolutely.

Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American is available wherever books are sold.

What Will it Take For This Country to Come Together? Another Pearl Harbor?

The United States has always been a land of division. But even with that differences, we have found something to make bridge those divides.

Today is the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Like 9/11 sixty years later, it was a moment in time in which all Americans, regardless of labels or identity, were one.

These days, the cracks are the deepest it has been in generations. We are on the verge, if things go a certain way, of being the former United States of America. Between that and Covid-19, this nation may go down in history as the modern democratic experiment that failed. We know what we need to do to kick this virus to the curb and return to normalcy. We need to get vaccinated, wear our masks, wash our hands, and social distance when necessary.

It’s not rocket science. But there are some in this country who are either too proud, too foolish, or too stupid to realize this. If and when America goes down Hindenburg style, the blame will be on those who were unwilling to take the most simple of steps to prevent our downfall.

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Billy Joel Concert Review

There are some artists that are so iconic that even if one is not a fan, they know the music.

On Friday night, Billy Joel returned to Madison Square Garden and his residency/monthly concert. Stepping onto the stage after a near two-year absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a feeling of giddiness that permeated the sold-out arena.

Playing both well-known hits and songs that only the dedicated fanbase would know, Joel delved into his musical past while honoring the places he came from. The audience, which was made up of both longtime fans and casual listeners who have known his music for most, if not all of their lives, responded with an energy that can only be described as electric. For his part, Joel played and sang with the energy of a performer many years his junior. Spending most of the concert at the keys, he stood for the last few songs, performing beloved hits such as “Uptown Girl” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire“.

The highlight of the evening was “New York State of Mind” and “Piano Man“. Revealing that the fireman’s helmet sitting on the piano belonged to Neil Skow, a firefighter who was on the ground during 9/11, a cheer rose from the crowd. It was as if it represented, both physically and literally, the strength that has gotten many of us through the past 20 months. Taking out the harmonica to play his best-known song, the first few notes elicited a reaction from fans that was pure joy.

It was a night to remember for all involved and from my perspective, one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

Thoughts on Yom Kippur 2021

If there is one thing we all take for granted, it is life itself. Then we are reminded how quickly we can go.

Tomorrow night is the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Jews around the world will fast for 25 hours and pray that our creator writes us in the book of life for another year.

Between the more than 600,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19 and the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this past weekend, the reminder that life is precious has been more than obvious.

One of the most important prayers is called U’Netaneh Tokef. One of the passages in the prayer is as follows:

On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.

Yesterday, death came close to home. To say that I am grieving and shocked is an understatement. A friend passed away. I haven’t seen her since before the pandemic and have only spoken to her once since last Spring. Now I wish I had stayed in touch. We need to tell the ones we love how we feel when they are here, not when they are gone.

Z”L my friend. RIP.

To everyone fasting, have an easy fast and may you be written into the book of life for another year.

Worth Movie Review

What is a human life worth? Is it the emotions we create in others? Is it the experiences that define our lives? Or is it in a check that is given to our loved ones when we are gone?

The new Netflix movie, Worth, follows the story of real life lawyer Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) as he tries to help the victims of 9/11. He has been assigned to help the survivors and the families of the nearly 3000 people who died that day. His job is to lead the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, but it will not be easy. With the help of associate Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), he and his team must determine what each person was worth.

Challenging Kenneth are two surviving spouses. Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci) lost his wife when the Twin Towers fell. A community organizer, he is continually nipping at the team’s feet, pushing them to think with their heart and not with their calculators. Karen Donato (Laura Benanti) is torn between her needs and what she is hearing from her brother-in-law.

Kenneth knows that the task he has ahead of him will be grueling, in every sense of the word. Money can never replace the ones we love. Whatever happens, he knows that he must succeed, even with the difficulties that lay before him.

This movie is riveting and powerful. Based on a true story, it is a reminder that the souls who died that day were not just names on a spreadsheet. They were human beings whose loss represent a black hole that can never be filled. It also a reminder that there is still hope in this world. Kenneth starts the film as the typical cynical bureaucrat who is just doing his job. By the end of the film, he understands the grief and heartache of those who he is trying to help.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Worth is available for streaming on Netflix.

Leaving Afghanistan: Damned if we do, Damned if we Don’t

I would hope that when someone enters the halls of power, their immediate wish is that if there is a conflict, it can be resolved via peaceful means. But when all other options run out, the only response is war.

After nearly twenty years, the United States military is leaving Afghanistan. We went there just after 9/11 to avenge the loss of nearly 3000 innocent souls and stop those who would do it again. A generation later, the United States is leaving the country, creating the opportunity for the Taliban to regain control of the country.

I listened to President Biden‘s speech earlier today and I don’t envy the choice he has to make.

If we stay, we can be accused of overusing our influence and sending additional American troops to die in another foreign war. If we go, we know the result. Though Biden tried to claim that this is different than the Fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war, the similarities are too hard to ignore.

The fact is that whoever was President, it would have been messy, complicated, and a convenient political attack on both sides of the aisle. Biden is facing a challenge that so far, meets if not surpasses Covid. He claims that he had no choice but to continue you know who’s plan, but I don’t quite believe that.

I also don’t quite believe that the Taliban will respect democracy and women’s rights. Given their history, it is only a matter of time before they return the country to their vision of what it should be.

Only time will tell what the consequences of this decision will be. Either way, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

The Brian Lehrer Show Remembers Those Lost to Covid

The late Elie Wiesel once said the following about the millions murdered in The Holocaust.

“If we forget, the dead will be killed a second time,” Wiesel says, “and then they are today’s victims.”

In New York City alone, approximately 25,000 people have been killed by Covid-19. Today’s episode of The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC paid tribute to some of those who are no longer with us due to the virus. Similar to the names read every September 11th, 400+ listeners read from a list of over 1000 souls who only exist in the memories of those who knew and loved them.

Behind every name was a human being. They had lives, families, and futures that were taken from them. Saying their names aloud cannot bring them back. What it allows us to do is mourn and remember them for who they were, not for the statistic they have become.

In the language of my faith, may the memories of everyone killed by Covid-19 be a blessing. Though they are gone physically, they will live in our hearts forever.

New Randy Rainbow Video: RUDOLPH THE LEAKY LAWYER – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

From the outside looking in, the law profession is a noble one. But then I see the commercials for law firms on television and I have to wonder if they are as legit as they promise to be.

One could say the same for former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Once upon a time, he was respected lawyer and politician. These days, the man is a punchline waiting to be written.

Randy Rainbow released his latest video today. Entitled RUDOLPH THE LEAKY LAWYER – A Randy Rainbow Song Parody, the song is based on the beloved Christmas song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

He could have gone down in history as the NYC Mayor who cleaned up Times Square and led us through the darkness of 9/11. But instead, he will be remembered as a bloviated fool who nearly destroyed the American democracy to protect the fragile ego of you know who.

Thank you, Randy, I needed to laugh.

Karma is a Delightful Bitch Part II: Rudy Giuliani Has Covid-19

Once upon a time, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was considered to be a hero. During his time in office, cleaned up Times Square and led the city during the darkest days right after 9/11.

These days, he is a joke.

For the last few years, he has been been the legal stooge of you know who. As of this afternoon, it was announced that he has Covid-19.

Karma, once more is a delightful bitch. While she and Covid-19 strike indiscriminately, this time, her aim is right where it needs to be. I would wish a speedy recovery, but given his recent actions, I wouldn’t waste my breath.

P.S. This week’s SNL skit was on the money.

It’s 19 Years Since 9/11

Time goes faster than we think it goes.

Today is the 19th anniversary of 9/11. I can’t believe that it is 19 years.

There is a whole generation of kids who were very young or not yet born when the towers fell. Looking back, the years leading up to September 11th, 2001 feels like a pleasant dream in which we were violently waken up from.

Though it is nearly a full generation, the pain and the grief feel as fresh as if it was September 12th, 2001. My heart still breaks for those who died that day and their surviving loved ones. Time can do many things, including heal old wounds. But it can never erase the memory of what happened that day.

May the memories of those were killed that day and those first responders who have died in the years since forever be a blessing to us all.

Z”l.

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