A Little Problem of Genocide

So, last week was so full of special events that I still have two to mention. First, Ramadan began the evening of April 23. The 9th month of the Islamic calendar, it marks the month in which the Prophet Muhammad received the Koran from Allah. It is marked by fasting and communal prayer, and ends with a great feast and rejoicing. The other day to be noted is Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year was April 21. It is a day set aside to recall the murder of 6,000,000 Jews by the Nazi regime during the Second World War. There are many things about this that are incomprehensible and horrifying. One wonders what kind of a person could find it acceptable to execute an entire class of people, and how they could be in a position to bring this disaster about? How could they organize such a mass murder? And of course, how could God let it happen? Mike says that his grandfather, Carl Cowl, who left Lithuania in 1905 with his mother and siblings (his father was already in America), completely lost his belief in God when he learned of the Holocaust. Yom Hashoah serves the important purposes of not only of remembering the dead, but also of reminding society of the potential for genocide to be carried out, and not only against Jews.

The term “genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin, an attorney, a Jew from Poland who fled the Nazis and came to America in 1941. He was horrified as a boy when he learned of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by the Turks during and after World War I. He introduced the term in 1944, and it was adopted by the International Military Tribunal  set up to try war criminals in Nuremberg. In 1946 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution making genocide a crime punishable under international law.

Interestingly, the term has been somewhat difficult to define, or to get various groups to agree on a definition. In 1948 the United Nations defined genocide as any one or more acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Acts included in the definition, in addition to murder, are measures intended to prevent births (forced sterilization) or forcibly removing the group’s children. Genocide is differentiated from another crime against humanity, “ethnic  cleansing,” which forcibly removes a group from a geographic area. Often both crimes are committed simultaneously. The international law went into effect in 1951, but was not ratified by the United States Senate until 1988, when President Ronald Reagan signed it into law. A quick check on the internet, with Mike’s assistance, revealed a list of 53 instances of genocide over the last 1000 years, 35 of them occurring in the 20th century. I’m sure some people will quibble about whether this or that incident was really genocide, but two things are obvious: 1) genocide is a common occurrence; and 2) the 20th century was brutal. Of the 53 incidents of genocide found the low estimate for the number of people murdered is 23,300,000. The high estimate is 58,300,000. It is impossible to wrap one’s head around numbers like this. Nor is our world free of genocide as we write. It is going on right now in Mynamar against the Rohingyas, and Darfur is another example. Of course, some (the murderers and their allies) will deny that it is happening at all, and others would argue that what is occurring in Darfur is not genocide, but rather, “just” ethnic cleansing.

So, again, how can this happen? In 1996 Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch, presented a paper suggesting that genocide develops in 8 stages. The presentation was made to the United States Department of State not long after the Rwandan Genocide.

Stage 1 – Classification – “People are divided into ‘us and them’.”

Stage 2 – Symbolization – “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups.” An example would be the Nazis forcing Jews to wear yellow Stars of David on their clothing.

Stage 3 – Dehumanization – “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases.” Such language referring to Jews can be found in Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” and earlier in the writing of composer Richard Wagner and others.

Stage 4 – Organization – “Genocide is always organized…Special army units or militias are often trained and armed.”

Stage 5 – Polarization – “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda.”

Stage 6 – Preparation – “Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity.”

Stage 7 – Extermination – “It is ‘extermination’ to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human.”

Stage 8 – Denial – “The perpetrators deny that they committed any crimes.” Holocaust denial is a real phenomenon, and is illegal in many countries.

Stanton also listed preventive measures that could be taken at each stage to try to prevent the process from moving forward. Regrettably, all too often the measures are either not taken, not taken in time, or prove ineffective.

M. Hassan Kakar has written: “For genocide to happen, there must be certain preconditions.  Foremost among them is a national culture that does not place a high value on human life. A totalitarian society, with its assumed superior ideology, is also a precondition for genocidal acts. In addition, members of the dominant society must perceive their potential victims as less than fully human: as ‘pagans,’ ‘savages,’ ‘uncouth barbarians,’ ‘unbelievers,’ ‘effete degenerates,’ ‘ritual outlaws,’ ‘racial inferiors,’ ‘class antagonists,’ ‘counterrevolutionaries,’ and so on. In themselves, these conditions are not enough for the perpetrators to commit genocide. To do that – that is, to commit genocide – the perpetrators need a strong, centralized authority and bureaucratic organization as well as pathological individuals and criminals. Also required is a campaign of vilification and dehumanization of the victims by the perpetrators, who are usually new states or new regimes attempting to impose conformity to a new ideology and its model of society.”

Sober reflection and consideration reveals that some of these stages and conditions exist in our American society right now. Our defenses include a free press, unbiased judiciary, organizations that are devoted to exposing and speaking out against hate groups, laws that forbid hate speech and the display of hate symbols, speaking out against hate by the clergy of all denominations, and legal protection from violence for those speaking out against hate mongering. It is vital also that as individuals we speak out against bigotry and disrespect for people of differing backgrounds and beliefs.The threat is real, and thankfully, thus far our legal and social institutions are working.

And on a lighter note (literally), I suppose, unless you really think about it, is the sudden rash of people presenting to emergency rooms after ingesting bleach following a statement during one of the president’s briefings in which he speculated on the possibility of ingesting a sanitizing substance in order to prevent or cure COVID-19 infection. It is shocking that any public official could say something so stupid, that anyone would agree that it is a good idea, that anyone would act on the suggestion, and that he would express no regret or culpability for the outcome of his remark. Mike says that his followers are so blindly loyal that the ones that live through their bleach adventure will probably vote for him again. I think that an over-arching principle involved in what I have talked about today is that people believe what they want to believe. Another principle is that complacency is our great enemy, the whole point of having a Yom Hashoah.

So, it is beautiful again today here in Happy Meadows, another day of breezes, sunshine, people walking their dogs, and kids riding their bikes in the streets. I hope it is beautiful where you are as well. Let’s all keep praying for better things for our society in general, and for all of us individuals in particular, whether of the 2-legged or 4-legged variety. Until next time, stay safe, be well, and love your neighbor. Au revoir!

The New Normal

So, yesterday marked our attempt here in Georgia, in some small way, to return to normal. This is not to say that normal behavior for Mike would be to get a tattoo or go bowling, because he is unlikely ever to do either. But now he could, that is, if he could push past the hordes from Tennessee and Alabama that must be rushing our Georgia bowling alleys and tattoo parlors as I write this.  (Thanks for the gag, Judy.) I think it has yet to settle into the general awareness of people here that what used to be normal may never be seen again. Steve Hummer in today’s AJC wrote that “normal(ly) left town over a month ago.” I don’t think we will ever see everything go back to “normal,” some things in ways we cannot yet imagine. But here are some examples: Many businesses that closed will never reopen. Many people are learning that they can get along nicely with a lot less. Businesses of all types are discovering that operating on line has its advantages, and will continue to do so in some significant ways after the danger has passed. Many people that were or are still alive are or will be dead. No disrespect intended, but once we have succeeded in controlling this epidemic the death toll will be the equivalent of a whole lot of planes falling from the sky. And don’t expect control any time soon. The coronavirus is highly contagious, so much so that probably 90% of people exposed will get infected. As long as the virus is out there, and as long as there are substantial numbers of susceptible people out there, we will continue to see plenty of infections. Universal vaccination is the only realistic answer to this problem, and this won’t happen for a couple of years in all likelihood. So, the new normal is new, and here, for sure. What we need to learn from this disastrous circumstance is that we need to be much better prepared for epidemics of novel respiratory viruses, because this isn’t the last one we will see.

I may have mentioned this before, but in some ways Mike is rather strange. You know what an earworm is…..a song or phrase that won’t get out of your head. Mike woke up a few days ago with “Megawati Sukarnoputri” running through his head. He thinks it started in a dream. Why this happened is, like all the Great Questions, unanswerable.  Thankfully, the storm has passed, and there is room in Mike’s head for other things again. Megawati Sukarnoputri, in case you don’t know (or, for that matter, even if you do know) is the oldest daughter of Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia. She became active in politics herself, and served as the 5th president of Indonesia from 2001-2004. Her full name is Diah Permata Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri. Now that would have been as earworm! More like an ear anaconda. The name Sukarnoputri is a patronymic meaning daughter of Sukarno. Indonesians don’t have surnames, per se. Mike told Judy that he had an earworm but didn’t tell her what it was for fear that it would be contagious, as they often are.

And speaking of contagious, to continue with our theme, let’s talk about leprosy. The  Torah portion read in synagogues this week is the section in Leviticus that deals with leprosy. There is extensive discussion of what to look for, and what priestly rituals need to be executed in order to deal with it. Clearly they realized that it is a contagious disease. Fortunately, we now know more about the cause and treatment of leprosy than was known at the time of the writing of Leviticus. Also known as Hansen’s Disease, leprosy is caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. This is an extremely slowly growing and poorly transmissible infection, sort of the opposite of COVID-19. It involves the skin and peripheral nerves. Typically patients develop either flat hypopigmented patches, or nodules. There can be extensive destruction of the nose. Involvement of the peripheral nerves leads to loss of sensation of the fingers and toes. In advanced disease the digits can become deformed and even disappear. In Biblical times leprosy was suggested to be the result of a moral failure on the part of the afflicted individual. There are two Biblical instances in which someone was stricken with leprosy through a moral failure. The first was when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush. Moses told God that he couldn’t do what God asked because the Hebrews wouldn’t listen to him. His response indicated his lack of belief in God’s power. God struck his hand with leprosy, and then relieved him of it immediately, as a sign of His power, just to show Moses that He wasn’t  messing around. The other instance was when Moses’ sister, Miriam, was critical of Moses because he had married a Cushite woman. Cush according to the Book of Genesis was a son of Ham, and grandson of Noah. He was also the father of Nimrod. The people of Cush are thought to have lived in Ethiopia and the Sudan, and were dark-skinned. (Moses was not the only man in the Bible to dig black chicks. King Solomon had quite an affair with the Queen of Sheba. Mike carried on this noble tradition when he married Penny, Michelle’s mother. He says it is the most biblical thing he has done in his lifetime.) So, God struck Miriam with leprosy, and then relented after Moses asked him to. One proof that leprosy is not due to a moral failure is the fact that armadillos are susceptible to it, especially in the southern United States. You don’t have to believe me. You can look it up.

I could go on and on, as you know, but I think I will leave it there for now. Other than the reality of our new normal, things are well in Happy Meadows. I hope the same is true for you, wherever you are. Don’t get careless, be well, always love your neighbor, and don’t forget to give your cat a big kiss. Bye, bye!

Earth Day and Gaylord Nelson

So, it is another beautiful day in Happy Meadows. That is, it was beautiful yesterday when I started to write this. However, it is now today, a dark and stormy day. I hope you are all well and somewhat, at least, enjoying your new life in the midst of a crisis. Unfortunately, for many it is hardly enjoyable. This would include the sick, the elderly, the newly unemployed, the financially strapped, the homeless, the hungry, the overworked healthcare workers, public safety workers, public servants who have to make hard decisions, and those for whom life is not enjoyable even in more normal times. Many people, though, are enjoying an opportunity to slow down, spend more time with their families, breathe cleaner air,  and spend less money.

With so many people staying home, many consequences you would never have thought of have occurred. On Monday the price of oil went negative. That meant that if you had a tanker of oil headed for port, looking for a buyer, you would have to pay someone to take the oil off of your hands. Like that would ever happen. But the demand has plummeted. Air travel is down over 90%. Other businesses have lost their customer base. There was an article in the paper yesterday morning about a pet walking and sitting service whose business has dried up because people are staying home. There were 3 pictures of the owner of the business in the paper, a lot of coverage for this kind of story. I checked, and there were only 2 pictures of the governor of Georgia in the paper (unless you want to count Mike Luckovich’s cartoon, which depicts the governor in a reprise of that stupid campaign photo where he was pointing a shotgun at some kid. I think it was his son.) If you count the cartoon he ties the pet service owner.

And speaking of the governor, he has stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest here in Georgia this week, and is getting a lot of ink in the national press. How did he do this, you ask? He had ordered a “shelter in place” for the state early this month, which seems to have been working to slow the increase in deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic. We don’t really know how wide-spread the virus is because of the very limited number of tests that have been done. As of 2 days ago somewhat over 82,000 people had been tested in a state of 10 million people. That is less than 1% of the population. We have had a little over 21,000 positive cases and so far 846 people have died. Scientists agree that the only safe way to open things back up towards normal will depend on having the capacity to do wide-spread testing and aggressive contact tracing for people who test positive for the virus. We are not close to being able to do that. We also need to be able to test to see how many people in the population have antibodies to the virus that would make them immune from recontracting and spreading the infection.

The state is in a very serious financial mess because of the shut-down in business. Tax receipts are way down, and we are going to experience a significant shortfall in revenue. The state is required by its constitution to have a balanced budget, and the budget has to be passed by June 30. Georgia is running short for this fiscal year, and the legislature isn’t even in session because of the epidemic. Without a huge infusion of cash from the federal government Georgia is in big trouble. So, I would agree that the governor has a major headache to deal with, and I’m glad it is his problem and not Mike’s.  The challenge is to try to save both lives and livelihoods.

Surprisingly and seemingly prematurely though, on Monday the governor announced that he is relaxing the shut-down order and allowing some businesses to reopen. For some reason, he found it necessary to make himself look ridiculous in the process. How did he do this? He did this by specifying barber shops, massage therapists, bowling alleys, and tattoo parlors as among the first businesses to reopen.What was he thinking, and doesn’t he have people to advise him on policy decisions? He took a page from the Florida governor’s book. Ron DeSantis has declared professional wrestling to be an “essential service” in Florida. Mike says that on Friday he is going bowling, and on the way home stop for a haircut and a tattoo. Maybe he will get a tattoo of the governor holding a shotgun pointed at some kid emblazoned on his chest. And next week the restaurants will be allowed to reopen. I think people will be very cautious about getting back into circulation. Most business owners are very responsible, and will operate first out of safety considerations. Probably, the governor is depending on this. Shockingly, the president last night criticized the governor for his action. This after expressing urgency to open things up, and telling the governors the decisions are up to them. Some people say the president’s public health team encouraged him to try to slow things down. Mike suspects he just took an opportunity to bust the governor in the chops, still resenting him for not appointing his own choice, Doug Collins, to the senate. In any case, we are getting mixed messages from our leaders. Not helpful.

And, the haters are coming out of the woodwork. Conspiracy theorists are blaming the Jews. Mike saw a post on line structured as an official post from both the CDC and the WHO. It was headed “What to do if you get COVID-19.” Among the suggestions were to visit your local mosque, visit your local synagogue, spend time in diverse neighborhoods, and spend the day on public transport. In other words, spread the disease to as many “undesirables” as possible. SAD!!!

So, yesterday was the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the idea of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, a progressive liberal and ardent conservationist. He was born and raised in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. How could anyone from a place called Clear Lake not be an environmentalist? He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, and served 2 terms as governor of Wisconsin. He revived the Democratic Party there just at the time that Senator Joseph McCarthy was dragging the Republicans down with his anti-communist witch hunt. He initiated a strong environmental program in Wisconsin with a great deal of public support. Elected to the senate, he carried the same energy and enthusiasm for the environment into his legislative efforts while meeting with a great deal of resistance from industry. So, he turned to the people and proposed April 22, 1970, as a day of protest about the state of the environment. The rest, as they say, is history. Congress went ahead with significant reforms in a series of environmental preservation laws including the Clean Water Act, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the Clean Air Act. He did not limit his energy to saving the environment, and was an early and vocal opponent of the Viet Nam War, as well as a supporter of President Johnson’s War on Poverty, and of civil rights legislation. Gaylord Nelson was one of Mike’s heroes. Here is a statement of Nelson’s philosophy: “Environment is all of America and its problems. It is the rats in the ghetto. It is a hungry child in a land of affluence. It is housing not worthy of the name; neighborhoods not fit to inhabit.” In 1995 Senator Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. No one has deserved it more.

So, that is all for today from Happy Meadows. We send all of you our love, and hope you stay safe and healthy, stay positive, and don’t let anything get you down. Don’t forget to do your part to make the world a better place, in small if not in large ways. There is and always will be a lot that needs to be done.  Bye, bye!


No Jokes Today

So, in my last post I was talking about the price of Mike’s chemo medicine (17540 times more than gold per ounce), and about how broken our healthcare system is. I also said something about people not seeking medical services because of inadequate or no insurance. Another aspect of the brokenness of our system is surprise billing. This generally occurs when people go to a hospital. Typically they will go to a hospital which is within their insurance network. Also typically, their doctor who they are working with is also an in-network physician. The problem for the patient arises when, after they are home and recuperating, they suffer a setback when they get a bill for several hundred to several thousand dollars from a doctor they never heard of. Then they discover that the emergency room doctor, or radiologist, or the anesthesiologist, or some other service provider assigned to their case by the hospital was out of network. How does this happen? I’m not completely sure about this, but I do know that doctoring is in the process of being taken over by big business. Insurance has always been big business, and hospital systems through consolidation have become big business, including the taking over of medical groups that affiliate with them. Now large investor groups have bought up emergency medicine, radiology, anesthesiology, and other kinds of medical practice groups. These entities contract with hospitals to provide services for their patients, in exchange for whatever considerations agreeable to both parties.  Parties that are not involved in these agreements are the patients. At this time there is no requirement that the groups affiliated with the hospitals take the same insurance plans that the hospitals do, and the losers in such an arrangement are the patients and their families who are hurt financially through this unfair arrangement. This problem has been one of the few that the president as well as both houses of congress last year agreed to fix. That it didn’t happen was the result of a massive expensive lobbying effort mounted by the big moneyed investor groups. Remember those TV ads last year that showed emergency workers bringing a patient to the hospital only to find the lights were out? Mike wondered at the time who was running those ads and what their motive was. Now we know. Another attempt was made this year by attaching the bill to the CARES act. It was agreed to by all parties but at the last minute dropped from the bill, again because of intensive lobbying by the big money investors. The argument was that it wasn’t directly related to the COVID-19 problem, even though it obviously is for the many thousands of COVID-19 patients who get carried to emergency rooms, wind up in ICU, and then get slammed by bills from out of network providers.  It is a disgrace that the wealthiest nation in the world can’t find the gumption to fix its terribly broken health care system. Mike thinks it should be the number one issue that people vote on, and for a great many people it will be.

So, it has been a little over 2 years since Mike’s friend Warren passed away. Warren would have been 76  two days ago. Even though Mike is quarantined, he thought the cemetery would be a safe place to visit and maintain plenty of distance from other people. Judy agreed. The cemetery is close to where we live, and that afternoon we drove over there. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and we were the only ones there. Mike brought a stone to put on Warren’s gravestone. This is a custom of Jewish people, and goes back to when Abraham buried Sarah in the cave at Machpelah. Warren wasn’t Jewish, but Mike thought it was a nice gesture, and I agree. Mike also said kaddish for Warren. (See “The Kaddish,” April 1, 2018.) While he was at it, he said kaddish for his late wife, Penny, who passed away just over 28 years ago. And, he thought he might as well include many other loved ones including, his parents, his brother, Judy’s parents, all of their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as many close friends. May all of their memories be blessed.

Mike wanted me to say something about how wonderful  people have been during our crisis. A great many people have stepped up to help others in ways great and small, and there is no end of need. The loss of employment has hit people hard. The fallout of this has many ramifications, one of which is the decrease in support that our houses of worship have received. Most churches depend on weekly offerings at services, and now services are held on line where the best they can do is pass a virtual plate. Synagogues don’t pass a plate, but people send in their pledges on a monthly or quarterly basis, usually. I’m not sure how other religions handle it. Our houses and communities of worship do great charitable work in the surrounding community, and have stepped up during the present crisis. Even though they are not holding services, they still have expenses. Mike wanted me to remind you to please try to keep your commitments to your houses of worship if you are able. Some  will even be in a position to increase their commitment, at least temporarily; and if so, please do. If you are financially distressed, give of your time. It will be much appreciated, and make you feel better. There is always something you can do that will help someone in need. If you are not affiliated with a religious organization you can always join one, or give of your time, energy, and possibly money to the not for profit agency of your choice. Thank you.

We went for a walk today between rain showers. Big Fluff wasn’t outside but the rest of the posse was. Underfoot was under a shrub, and we also saw Big Orange, Cali, and Ruff, all chillin’ like villains. I never saw so many people out walking their dogs, carrying their little colorful poop bags. One lady had her dog wearing a harness from which a purple poop bag dangled down. And the street is full of kids riding their bikes. So, life goes on. We will make it here in Happy Meadows, and I’m sure you all will too, wherever you are. And you will learn first hand that what hasn’t killed you will make you stronger. So, no jokes today. Maybe next time. And until next time stay safe, be well, make yourself useful, and don’t forget to pray for world peace. And until then, remember that we love you all. So long from Happy Meadows!

More Precious Than Gold

So, hello again from Happy Meadows, where the weather has been glorious, although some surrounding regions had terrible storms this week. We once again saw the power of nature as tornadoes raged through the South destroying property and killing people in the random way that they do. I hope all of you were spared  from a tragedy. The other scourge of springtime here in Happy Meadows is pollen, especially pine pollen. Everybody is sneezing, blowing their noses, and wiping their red eyes. The yellow pine pollen gets all over everything, and sometimes forms clouds as I have referred to previously. Fortunately, the pine pollen season has just about passed, and black cats like me are losing our ghostly green glow.

Mike was released from his captivity on Monday, briefly, doing the only thing that he gets to do away from home (except for walking in Happy Meadows.) He went to a doctor’s office. Actually, it was the Urgent Care center, but that is the same thing, basically. He had a stye on his right upper eyelid, and his eye was swollen shut. He was hoping the doctor there would drain it, but he thought that was a job for an ophthalmologist, so he prescribed antibiotics. Mike had called his ophthalmologist, but the office is closed, even for emergencies. Fortunately, the antibiotics are working, and he is already much better. We took a picture, but I will spare you.

So, Mike’s new chemo medicine came by UPS on Tuesday. It is a capsule that he takes once per week for 3 weeks, and then is off for 1 week. Mike took note that the cost was about the same as the chemo medicine he is already taking daily for 21 days, then off for 7 days, and start again. So the new medicine per capsule is 7 times as expensive. And per milligram it is even more expensive. Mike wondered what the cost per ounce of the new medicine is, since gold is priced per ounce. Mike is no mathematician, so this could be wrong, but he calculated the price of the medicine at $34,625,331.04 per ounce. Compare this to the current price of gold at about $1,735 per ounce. The medication costs about 17540 times more than gold. With his insurance he only has to pay 5% of the cost, and fortunately, doesn’t have to buy it in ounce quantities. He is grateful to be getting the world-class care that he receives at Emory, and that he has good insurance. But this exposes how messed up the health care system is in our country. And the pricing of pharmaceuticals is only a small part of the problem. Let’s hope the politicians have the courage to fix things to make health care affordable for everyone. Good grief!

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed numerous weaknesses in our healthcare system. I will give you one example. Many people have either poor insurance or no insurance. So, a visit to a medical establishment is frequently an expensive undertaking reserved for emergency situations. People who start in with a dry cough and fever are staying home hoping it won’t get worse. But the COVID-19 patients are now known to deteriorate rapidly, and can go from what seems like a cold to severe pneumonia in a day. Then they either die at home or get to a hospital in critical condition. Had they gone to seek medical care a day or 2 earlier, they could have gotten care which would have possibly been stablizing at a less critical level, and been life-saving. I hope all of you are staying safe. I also hope you survive financially. This is a scary time. And speaking of scary, how about the lions and tigers in the New York City zoos that are infected with COVID-19? If domestic cats can become infected, which so far doesn’t seem to be the case, containment of the pandemic will suffer a huge setback. Let’s all hope and pray for good health and blessings.

So, I hope you all had a good Easter, or Passover, or whatever you do or don’t celebrate. I have a lot of hope that things will improve, and I’m sure Mike does too. Until next time be well, be safe, love your neighbor, and pray for world peace. So long from Happy Meadows!


The Blood Libel

So, from time to time I hear Mike talk about anti-semitism. I have a natural empathy for people who suffer discrimination for racial, ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, or other reasons relating to their being “different” from another group of people. My empathy might be the result of being a black cat. I have written about this before (Nevermore, February 5, 2017.) I seem to write frequently about prejudice against and persecution of minorities (Veni, vidi, Vici, March 26, 2017; The Crossword Puzzle, September 3, 2017; Itching, Dr. King, and the Holy Land, January 15, 2018; The Mark of Cain, February 25, 2018; He Was a Chazer, June 25, 2018; A Big Tsimmis, October 12, 2019; We’re in the Same Boat Brother, March 21, 2020.) So I guess it must be important to me.

I bring it up now because tonight is the first night of Passover. This, of course, is the holiday which the Jewish people celebrate to honor their liberation from slavery in Egypt over 3000 years ago. I bring it up now because one of the most pernicious of all anti-Jewish lies is the blood libel. The blood libel has its origins in the British Isles around 1000 years ago. The fundamental myth, although it has variations and embellishments, is that every year the Jews murder a Christian child, drain its blood, and use the blood in the making of the Passover matzos. On the face of it, the myth is crazy, and not believable to a rational person. Nevertheless, it has had its proponents in high places, even to the veneration of murdered children, reputed victims of this scheme, to the status of sainthood by both the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches. There have been over 150 recorded instances of public trials, torture, and execution of thousands of Jews after Christian children were either found or alleged to be found murdered, and local Jews were accused. Often these incidents triggered rampages against the local Jewish communities by the Christian peasants, usually spurred on by the local authorities or clergy.

Allegations of Jews practicing human sacrifice go back even further. Josephus, the Jewish historian who recorded the period of time in which the Romans destroyed the Second Temple, rebutted an accusation that was made by the Greco-Egyptian author, Apion, that Jews sacrificed Greek captives on the altar in their Temple. It is true that human sacrifice was commonly practiced by pagan cults in the Middle East both before and after the arrival of the Jewish people in Palestine. It is for this very reason, one can reasonably assume, that the Hebrew Bible highlights the story of Abraham following God’s directive to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, only to be stopped by an angel at the last minute. Abraham is then told  that human sacrifice is never acceptable to God. The same story can be found in the Koran, except that in this version of the story it is Abraham’s son, Ishmael, who is not sacrificed. The idea that Jews would consume human blood as part of a religious ritual reflects a total lack of understanding of the Jewish religion. In order to believe such a lie a person would have to be incredibly ignorant. Of course there are always people in authority who will tell lies in order to manipulate others to serve their own ends. This goes on in politics and religion to this day, and probably always will. In fact, the blood libel was alive and well in the 20th century, instances occurring in Russia, Iran, Ukraine, Nazi Germany, England, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. In the 21st century there have been numerous blood libel accusations, mostly coming from Islamic sources. As long as people hate, they will believe what they want to believe to justify their intolerance. I hope people of good will  continue to be prayerful about such things, and speak out against such wrongs. I know the cats will.

So, Mike resumes chemo today. He will be on some of the same medicines, and one new medicine. Let’s hope he tolerates it as well as before. He is back on chemo to try to maintain the good response he has had so far to his cancer treatment. Send him some good energy, y’all. Thanks.

Mike had an article entitled “Surviving Sober Living During a Pandemic” published on line at intherooms.com. Here is the link to it: https://www.intherooms.com/home/iloverecovery/all/surviving-sober-living-during-a-pandemic/

From all of us in Happy Meadows to all of you, we hope all is well at your homes, and that you all stay safe and healthy. Don’t forget to pray for world peace. Bye, bye.


So, it is another day in Happy Meadows. The coronavirus continues to blow through Georgia at a much faster rate than anyone knows about because of the paucity of available testing. Mike has said that a million people or more in Georgia will be infected without stringent isolation measures being taken. This could result in tens of thousands of seriously ill people, and many thousands of deaths. It is a dreadful situation. The isolation at home is affecting a great many people who are not used to not being out and about. There is a Yiddish word, shpilkes, that translates as “pins.” Having shpilkes is the same thing as being “on pins and needles.” Mike wrote an article directed toward people who are currently housed in sober living situations. He said I could post it here, because many of the suggestions apply to anyone who is uncustomarily confined and is having shpilkes as a result. I found out that we can post this at intherooms.com, and it will be up in a few days. I will post the link when it is up.

So, as I said, some of it is specific to recovery, and some is applicable to anyone. As they say in Al-Anon, “Take what you need and leave the rest.” I hear that all the puzzles in the stores have gone the way of toilet paper………sold out. Do try to figure out something to occupy your time. Bake a cake. Take your dog for a walk (remember social distancing while you are out there.) Play with your cat. Start that blog you have always been meaning to write. Learn a new language. We all need to make the best of things, and to be as nice as we can be to those around us. All of us in Happy Meadows wish you well. Be safe, be healthy, and keep that prayer energy going. Until the next time, so long from Happy Meadows.