Democracy is the kind of government that does not exist for generations or centuries without work. Time and again, history has shown us how easy it is for a country with a democratic government to secede into authoritarianism.
In Belarus, there is growing discontent with the current government. Current President Alexander Lukashenko claims that he won the most recent election fair and square, but many believe that it was rigged in his favor. Ignoring warning of violence from the army and the police, citizens have taken to the streets to protest the results of said election.
This is what democracy looks like. The average Jane or Joe gathering in large numbers to speak out against a government whom they no longer believe in.
These days, it is easy to become cynical. The negative headlines coming from the various news outlets seem to outnumber the positive ones. But there is still a glimmer of hope, represented by the people of Belarus coming together and demanding a legitimate democracy.
Most, if not all Americans can trace their lineage to at least one family member, who at one point in history, left their homeland for a new life in the United States.
This list of Americans includes Stephen Miller, who is an adviser to you know who. His family left Belarus in the early 20th century, escaping from poverty, violence and discrimination.
The irony and hypocrisy of Stephen Miller is that while he is a direct descendant of Jewish immigrants who left their homes for a better life in America a century ago, he is preventing new Americans from completing the same journey. Not only is he vehemently against immigrants who are undocumented, he is also vehemently against those who are documented and have followed the legal process to become citizens.
America is supposed to be like a salad bowl, where citizens of all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds can live and thrive together. If Mr. Miller and those who thought like him had their way, this particular salad bowl would be rather dull and colorless.
Mr. Miller is a shande to both the American Jewish community and to the overall country at large. I am sorry to call him both an American and a member of the Jewish people.
This weekend, I read David Laskin’s novel, The Family.
In short, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
Mr. Laskin narrates the tale of his mother’s family, starting with his great-great grand parents, Shimon Dov HaKohen and Beyle Shapiro, who lived in the shtetl of Rakov and the yeshiva center of Volozhin, which is now in Belarus.
Shimon Dov and Beyle have six children and numerous grandchildren, all choosing different paths in life. One branch of the family emigrated to the United States and became successful business owners. Another made Aaliyah to what was then Palestine and became pioneers of modern day Israel. The third stayed in Europe and became part of the martyred six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.
This book could have sounded like a history book or a boring documentary. But it doesn’t. Each member of Mr. Laskin’s family has their own voice and their own story to tell. The details are so vivid that one doesn’t have to be Jewish or have roots in Eastern Europe to be caught up in this world.
I couldn’t put it down, the book is nearly 400 pages long, but it doesn’t feel like it is 400 pages. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a good book.
“Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything. If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it.” Ray Bradbury