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Oskar Groning: The Comfortable Life of the Morally Guilty April 23, 2015

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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Meet Oskar Groning SSUnterscharführer.  Perhaps the last of the participants in the Final Solution devised by the Nazis to rid the Reich (the 1,000 Year Reich) of Jews, Gays, Infirm, Romany, Disabled and a laundry list complete with designations and badges that were essentially tickets to death.  Just a bookkeeper – he committed no crimes but he was fully trained to do so and he was armed.  And he watched.  As he collected from the walking dead their belongings – money, jewelry, anything of value and recorded it neatly in a ledger so that the Reich would be able to balance its assets as it completed its war to own the planet.

You can read Oskar’s boring early history at Wiki and see that he was bright and destined for better things than being a foot soldier.  He believed in the fight and wanted to join the ranks of the elite who could strut and swagger in their SS uniforms complete with insignias, lightening bolts and boots and britches.  Clean and turned out as a highly placed man in a position of authority and doing meaningful and important work.  What could be more meaningful than being a bookkeeper in a busy death camp, stealing from innocent people about to be gassed and burnt to ashes?  Who needs to shoot prisoners to destroy them?  And how such a mundane assignment relieves the burden of guilt.  His description of his own job, in his own words, makes it sound so routine and clerical one might almost believe that’s all it was.  But it wasn’t and he knew that.  Not for humane or guilty reasons,  He knew what he was doing and why.  He did it because he was a Nazi and a true believer.  And his recounting of the circumstances of his work left me literally sick to my stomach.

I have read all my life –  and since I was very young, as early as JHS, countless of books on the Nazis.  Not an obsession but an attempt over and over to understand why my tribe and 5 million others were so dangerous and lethal to the Nazis they would expend money and energy to make the world free of them.  I should also mention that I read everything on every subject that interested me and this was by no means limited to Nazis but it was of great interest and I simply couldn’t establish any reason for the acts and atrocities that justified or even explained them to e. or made it just a war thing.  The plan was the central leitmotiv for the SS and it did, in many ways, cost Hitler the war.  His loyal foot soldiers starved and froze while Adolf kept the ovens burning and the aktions moving briskly along.

Reading about Nazis is not light reading.  But missing from the entire body of work were the observations of those who worked on their side.  Denials were invented and documents burned to erase this massive murder plot; war trials were held and the convicted hung or locked up for life but there was another them in those events – those poor SS men were only following orders.  Orders they signed up to follow.  And judging from their job enthusiasm; the orders were followed to the letter and with gusto.  But in the main our knowledge comes from the survivors or the liberators.  The survivors who escaped death but not the memories of their devastating ordeal.  The stories are many things – and each story is part of an homage to human spirit and strength and reading them brings grief and redemption because we know such bravery and honor exists among our species.

So meet Oskar Groning who sat on the other side of the desk.  Who willingly did his job and lived to tell about  it.  Too little too late because despite his accurate and honest descriptions of this savagery, he  said it became routine and he stayed at it for at least two years.  When he was sent to the UK as a laborer and subsequently released he went back to a good and comfortable life and thrived to the grand old age of 93.  Should he get a pass for his self-claimed moral guilt and having “to live with his memories”.  Has he “suffered enough?”  I don’t think so. Nor do I believe he suffered at all.  Read his own words and you decide – I am sure there will be reams of quotes and millions of comments but for me, finally hearing it reported from a live  SSUnterscharführer; in the tongue of The Fatherland; an uniformed officer who saw it happening and kept writing down the numbers.  Three hundred thousand souls vs. 70 years of a clean and comfortable life they never had.  Keep this quote in mind before you excuse him.  There is no excuse.

…a baby crying. The child was lying on the ramp, wrapped in rags. A mother had left it behind, perhaps because she knew that women with infants were sent to the gas chambers immediately. I saw another SS soldier grab the baby by the legs. The crying had bothered him. He smashed the baby’s head against the iron side of a truck until it was silent.[4]

After witnessing this, Gröning went to his boss and told him that he was not able to work at Auschwitz any more, stating that if the extermination of the Jews is necessary, “then at least it should be done within a certain framework”.[3]:138 The superior officer denied Gröning’s request.[3]:138  The framework had already been built.

Crappy Earth Day 2015 April 22, 2015

Posted by voolavex in Social Issues.
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I skipped March. It was in like lamb and out like a lamb and I did not hear the Baaa. I woke up very angry. Earth Day. Wow. I remember the first one – now we talk more and still fuck up. Everyday should be earth day on earth. Every single day. And we know it but we are small minded, greedy and wasteful and there is a tipping point. We are teetering. When it first became a day of “Saving the Planet” I was very excited because my generation tried hard. We did more than talk – but talk is cheap. We are a cheap species. We have created more and more waste and crap and bad stuff and we are not even imagining an end to it.. What will stop eventually is us. And I doubt it will be a single thing that happens – I simply think we will tip and stay tipped. That was one thing I was angry about. I also am going to try not to rag on the GOP handlers about greed and hating the less moneyed folks; the 1% who are using the planet like they own it. I suspect they do in large parts. They do not want to give up a penny of their money and this is a given. If the other 99% of us starve, rot, shoot, stab and cheat each other – they do not give a good goddam. They are playing the Jesus Card because it is there. They are the folks who have enabled the rest of Religion Card players to sit down at the game. My tribe – will find itself becoming crypto-Jews (think Inquisition) because they are too embroiled in money politics to see what is happening. Muslims of real faith should practice real love for their almighty. Everyone should be free to believe or not and the rule of civility is about ten things and the rest is commentary. The balance of power and money for the Muslims is so skewed I can almost see why they are angry and commit murder. Almost. And their 1% can fix it but they won’t. This country is a shame, a snare and a delusion. We are NOT going to leave the planet and colonize Mars. We are going to dissolve in our own filth, waste and murder. There will be no Lord to help and there will be no Rapture. It is looking pretty bleak. And guess what – even those in “power” will be powerless. All their money will be useless and that is a tragic irony because all that money could fix many problems and still create revenue streams for them. If you have no customers, you will make no money. Enabling the 99% is the cost of business. Growing the consumers is what grows the business. I will continue to sinle out GOP members who piss me off. I am angry and not even started – but this is how I feel right now on Earth Day 2015. Comments are welcome. Stream of consciousness is about all I can say for my screed. Feel free to screed too.

For the Bereaved of Borough Park July 14, 2011

Posted by voolavex in chasids, despicable, Jews, Politics & Religion, Social Issues.
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I have been lazy and busy for the last few month – wasting perhaps valuable and pithy thoughts on FB.  But today my heart is broken and I am in mourning for a little boy I do not know.  His name is Leiby Kletzky and he would have been 9 years old next week.  Now he is dead.  Like most of this country I paid some attention to the trial of Casey Anthony – an ordeal almost 6 years old and one that resulted in an acquittal based on lack of a case.  The DA in Orlando screwed up.    Whatever we learn now about this matter will always be fraught with doubts but Casey Anthony is protected by double jeopardy so she may be a pariah – but she will go on her way.  I don’t much care to be very honest.

Today I got an email from a list I am on called Hatzolah – a volunteer Jewish ER service and this one caught my eye.  It told of a little boy walking home from day camp in borough Park Brooklyn who was kidnapped, murdered and dismembered by a member of the same neighborhood.  This happened yesterday – not three years ago.  Leiby was a little Orthodox Jewish lad with glasses, a yarmulke and sidelocks  and sneakers coming back from day camp.  A little boy.   The family’s only son. His mother was on her way to meet him but he got lost and a man with a similar look drove by and we imagine Leiby asked for directions.  Leiby got into the car.  We will never  know what he said but tonight he will be mourned and buried.

The man presumed innocent until proven guilty Levi Aron is a quiet, religious loner who lived in his parent’s home.  He was not married and he worked full time. He only known crime was pishing in public.  I suspect most men have done this.   One can only assume that there were very dark parts in his head and where his soul might have once been.  He has supposedly admitted to what he did to Leiby.  What he did was so heinous and ugly you can read the tabloids to get the details.  A parent should never know such things can happen to children.  Such things should never happen.

While I write this I am waiting for the real press to tell  us about Leiby and his short but beloved life.  The sisters who must have adored him, the mother who treasured him; the father who planned in his heart for the 13th birthday on which he would become a man.  I am waiting for the outrage and the anger and the fury that accompanied the death of Caylee Anthony.  A child no more or less precious than this little boy.  I am waiting for the outcry, the keeners, the wailers, the sign carriers who will demonstrate for Leiby and I know I will be even sadder because none of that will happen.  And I would ask you who have loved any child to make sure it does.  Because it matters just as much.

Obama, Health Care Reform and the Non-47 Million August 23, 2009

Posted by voolavex in Politics.
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Obama is my president.  He was my choice as a candidate and I am happy he is in the White House.  I am sick of the minute by minute negative commentary on his progress in 8 months as the president.  But what is even more alarming is the dedicated and vocal GOP opposition that appears to think telling lies is far more important  than the running of this country and the welfare of all  its citizens.  Suddenly we find ourselves rolled over by the calculated lies and misinformation being spewed by the GOP and their right of normal adherents.  During the horrifying eight years of George W. Bush and his evil twin Dick Cheney, no one made a peep.  Democrats tried but they were denied voice by Homeland Security rules; rendition, being a traitor, selling out this country, doubting (doubting was as bad as traiting) and daring to accuse the GOP of exactly what it was doing and what could and has been proven.  The incumbents of that era grew very fat and happy.  They became drunk with the sense of entitlement and power they could wield like a club and like it or not we put up with it.  Now that they are not in charge, they have returned to what they do best – obfuscation of truth.  Their champions are Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter and Glenn Beck.  Pop culture demagogues of questionable character who present as absolute truth , lies they want to spread.  Their platform – the over the top strict construction of the Constitution and out of context “intelligence” that isn’t anything but crap.
 
Does it irk people that Mr. Obama (and family) are the very thing they fear?  Not just his racial background, but his education, attitude and willingness to hash out policy by going directly to the people.    Is he doing a great job – not every time – but he isn’t being allowed much latitude in his actions.  Hysterical citizens at Town Hall meetings ready to riot over “death panels” is not quite my idea of civilized  exchanges of opinion and ideas.  This country is bankrupt.  Financially and morally.  The Objectivists dragged that unsound “ism” right straight to Wall Street and suddenly Wall Street has a “road closed” sign.  Too many laws were broken and hidden and no one gave out tickets until it was far too late. 
 
Health care reform?  Oh no you can’t.  A suddenly vociferous section of the population doesn’t care if 47 million of their fellow citizens stay healthy or die.  They are bloodsucking leeches who want YOU to pay for their insurance.  Pay for it yourself – they say.  I would bet they would stop that screed in about two seconds if they lost theirs.  They fail to see that the 47 million paid for many things they didn’t like – war for example.  Gay people paid for things they weren’t even allowed to have.  Black people have been paying since the first boat hit Virginia.  Suddenly the sanctimonious right is on the warpath.  And they are working overtime to undermine and derail the current administration with lies and half truths and it’s time the rest of us spoke up and did something before they get another term in the White House.  If you think it can’t happen – Al Gore will tell you it does.
 
Let Barack Obama and his cabinet do their jobs– get out of your comfort zone and if you have to stoop to the GOP level – then get close to the ground and do it.  Their media personalities quit office, pop pills and sell snake oil.  One of our media spokesmen is a senator now.  A wise Latina sits on the bench with a busload of self-righteous hypocrites.  Buenvenidos Justice Sotomayor.  Their moguls steal bonuses from their stockholders.  Two of our CEO’s have won the Nobel Peace Prize. 
 
I don’t have to walk you through this minefield.  Don’t get smug or complacent because we won the election.  The GOP is still snarling at the door of the Oval Office.
When you hear a rumor go to Factcheck.org or Snopes.  When something sounds made up – make sure it is or isn’t before you spread it and other people get sick.  There are Republicans who are decent and smart and responsible – but they are very, very well-mannered and subdued.  They are being drowned out by their wing nut political partners.  They need to be louder but we need to be louder still.

In That Single Act June 8, 2008

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In the end the tears refused to come.  The wind blew west across the hill facing the freeway and the home of Mickey Mouse and the Disney Studios.  The cars raced along the 210 and on Forest Lawn Drive and not one tear escaped my eyes.   I stood with my husband at a grave site in Mt. Sinai Cemetery, beneath a canopy and saw one very small, plain pine box waiting to be put in its forever bed.   A fine linen shroud embracing my friend in death.  A Star of David atop the coffin.  I prayed, alone and aloud,  the rites for the dead.  She and I – bound forever in that single act. Eishet Chayil.  A woman of valor.  Her price – to me – beyond rubies and beyond the diminished months of life she tried so hard to leave.  In the final moments though, she found the courage and the strength to take one last breath and leave us wishing, too little, too late, for things to have been better.  In the end she decided she had had enough and then left us wondering: where had she been and where did she go?  Her time had finally come.  Grief and faith tell us that she is in a better place but all we really know is that she is in a different place.  She is not with us any longer.   I long to believe her pain and sadness is over and that she remembers us just as we remember her.   I long to believe that my version of the place her soul sought out is what she would have wanted.  I long to have done a thousand things differently for her.  I never saw her cry and perhaps that’s why my tears won’t come just yet.   They will come when it’s time.

Eight Belles’ Death Knell May 5, 2008

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My mother rode horses when she was girl in high school and so did I.  Mine, however,  was a very brief foray into the equestrian world.  Clearly not for me.  From the first day the idea of putting in and then pulling something in an animal’s mouth to make it obey made me very uneasy.  I was 14 and had no idea about very much – but this just didn’t seem right.  Years later we had a Shetland pony, Cashew, when my siblings were kids.  He threw people.  I never said a word (I was an adult by then) but I secretly admired and respected him for his unwillingness to become a broken fool.  My brother now owns a racehorse that lives a quiet life in a safe home with lots of freedom to be just a horse.  He rescued her.  I love him for that.

 

It is hard to reconcile a horse running fine and free with being broken and bridled for the needs of men.  It is even more disturbing when it serves no purpose other than spectator sport and its life partner greed.  I don’t think horses like it.  I don’t imagine they believe – as some would like to us think- that they are doing something majestic when they Run for the Roses or go to Royal Ascot.  I think – given a choice – they would rather run free and allow their foals to do the same.  I resent the conjecture of owners, trainers and racing fans that horses “like”  being driven to run on command and are forced – daily – to train for something that is so obviously not good for their health. I think this in the same way I don’t think Greyhounds “like”  chasing Swifty.  But it is easier to rescue a Greyhound than a horse and the stakes in dog racing are clearly less high end . 

There is something both fascinating and repugnant about horse races.  From the touts at the fence to the Royal Box at Ascot – the sport attracts extremes from the corner to the crown.  Yet it all boils down to the same issue – cruelty to animals who cannot protest or advocate for themselves.  When Eight Belles laid down to die on the turf at Churchill Downs she illustrated – in all its tragic proportions just how cruel racing is.  Her huge, tired body – raced to death on those beautiful, delicate legs – died for money and glory – not for herself but for the people who stole her life.

 

It is quite one thing for humans to ask their bodies to run and jump and perform to the extremes required by sport – they have the ability to stop when they decide to stop.  Animals do not have that choice.   Eight Belles stopped too and because did, there was no win yesterday.  There was only an ugly, unnecessary, public death of a beautiful creature.  We can be grateful perhaps that she was euthanized – had it been another time she would have been shot to put her out of her misery.  So the answer to the question; “they shoot horses, don’t they?” is yes, but it starts before they are born.

Eight Belles’ death should make us all stop and think about The Sport of Kings for what it really is.  Just an upscale blood sport that ennobles no one.   

 

NB – Sorry for the on and off run-on graphs.  This is a WordPress problem and they are trying to fix it. 

And Die in Despair April 14, 2008

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No one wants to die.  Even mentioning it creates magical thinking for many and therefore could make it happen unintentionally.  Best not to even think of it.  In fact,  best to think it out of existence because no one really knows what happens when you die.  Who would volunteer for a trip with no brochures, no return ticket and no tourism minister?  It is either so damn great that there is a confidentiality clause as soon as you sign in or it’s such a hideous nightmare that no one wants to invite anyone else there.  You are on your own.

You’d think.

Being born is a huge deal – the operative words are:  “push, come on, push, it’s coming, push, here it comes” and slick as a Willy out comes the new person – greeted by family and friends and ready to take on the world.  Women love to talk about labor – how long they suffered or how fast it went or how bad it felt or how well they did.  It’s just a subject that never seems to get old. For mothers.   And to make it even better – when you are in labor – assuming you are due – the medical community eggs you on;  puts extra stuff in your IV  to speed up the process and if need be, cuts you open.  Or both.   Getting born is a time sensitive enterprise.  And it can’t happen fast enough.

But try to die.  Not suicide or murder – just regular, “time’s up, time to die”.  You cannot die when it’s time.  The process of passing away is so complicated, dragged out and hideous, that unless you go in your sleep without a sound – your own personal end of life is going to be harder than hell.  Imagine if you can, a person who is going to die from various causes thwarted every step of the way by everyone.  Doctors, nurses, relatives, friends, even strangers impede the process like a relay race. If you think back to having a child (if you are woman or a man who participated in the event)  here is the analogy:  every time you got ready to actually expel the baby, someone stepped in and made you stop.  And they could do this as often as they wanted. And you have to play along.

Someone I cherish deeply is in exactly this place right now;  stored in a constant care, old folk’s home.  She is dying but she cannot die.  She is lost inside herself and cannot communicate.  She cannot eat on her own nor can she eat solid food.  These are some of the things she will never do again: She will never taste a ham sandwich, clam chowder, pizza, chocolate ice cream or a Pink’s hot dog again.  She is not able to take care of her most basic needs. She will never flush another toilet.  She will never laugh again at the Golden Girls; she will never be a golden girl. She arrived at this place in her life from the ravages of diabetes and she is not going to get better.  She has reached the end stage of life.  When she does speak, she cries for help or says “no more” or simply “no”.   The people who care for her are extremely good to her. But the entire situation is a mine field of unspoken wishes, permission forms for medications that cannot restore her to health and a sad, circle of hope and hopelessness that  grow like a field of yellow weeds – beautiful yet useless.  This year she had flu shots and pneumonia shots.  Both these afflictions could kill her so we couldn’t risk that.  Last week a dentist came in to see about x-rays, crowns or dentures.  To raise her self-esteem?  No reason was actually offered because there was no good reason for any of it.  But we must seem to be hopeful and pro-active.  She is not on a respirator, but I know it will be suggested at some point – the inability to breathe without help is a part of dying.  We dare not even mention this.  There is a kindness and compassion that exudes from the staff where she stays.  Religiosity factors in, but more than that, it is a part and parcel of those who care for her and her family, who love her.  Even those of us who are   exempt for the idea of miracles. The others weigh the sadness of her death with the even greater sadness of her diminshed life now. As I see her and watch her leave us by small increments I ask myself – would I want this for myself and the answer is no. Major faiths decree that life is given by God and only he is allowed to take it.  Wars have been fought for dogma such as this.  People have died defending this faith against those who don’t.  None of it makes much sense. 

Dying is a lonely event.  We may not hasten it for reasons that have vexed mankind for eons.  We may not argue that the right to a dignified death is equal to the right of a dignified life.  We speak in euphemisms and ifs and maybes because any other terms are suspect.  Secretly some of us pray for the dying to die.  Openly we deny the very thought.  The criminal who is hastened to a pre-destined death may even have a reason for gratitude.  It may seem wrong, but it’s quick and final. The innocent merely get a life sentence without possibility of a decent death. And in all the time of mankind this question has existed and has never been resolved.    If we live in hope – must we die in despair?

So this is for the person I cherish and love.  Not an answer but an acknowledgement that when I think of her, this is what I think.  And it is a promise to her as well, that when she finally dies,  I will remember all the days we shared, the secrets we whispered and I will be as grateful for these memories,  as finally, I will be for her death.

Missing Elliott February 15, 2008

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cat1.jpgcat1.jpgLast month on January 19th, our oldest cat, Elliott, passed away.  He was  just 18 years old and he exercised his prerogative to die.    He taught me that dying is a hard business.  And as much as I would love to believe he was fighting to stay with us – I know he had no concept of that.  He was merely taking his time and it was hard for him.  Old age and kidney failure were the cause of death – but until his last days he walked around, basked in the sun, drank water and broth, ate a little and slept a lot.  He weighed 4.5 lbs; down from his usual 15.  We hoped he would just go into that dark, good night at home, but try as he did, that good night remained dusk and finally it required our friend, our vet to help him over.  That part, though a difficult decision, was a final act of love and mercy.  He was in a coma and shutting down – but even so, his tiny, exhausted heart beat until the very end – in spite of a small sedative to ease him and a small dose of mercy that let him go. 

He had been mostly mellow in life – but death proved to outwit his laid back style and his stubborn streak emerged –  he was just not quite ready to go.  He spent his last night in my arms – surrounded by his sister and brothers and I hope he was comfortable – I held him like there was no tomorrow – knowing of course there wasn’t a very long one for him. His life-long, noisy, aggressive purr gave over to simply breathing and there we were, my face and his fur dampened by my  sloppy tears; Elliott wrapped in the same, safe arms that had first held him in 1990.   Requisat in Pacem Orange Cat.  You gave us happiness without end.  You convinced your new dad that orange cats were the best and you shepherded a house full of newcomers who could never have been as happy without you.  You had a pink, pig nose with its own special wrinkle that appeared when you groomed, an awful smelly breath (and many visits to the dentist), endless stripes and a face that insisted that  anyone who passed by, really, really needed to say hello – to which you quacked “meow” in return.  You did not scratch or growl.  Your endless patience when kittens sat on you and refused to move was epic.  You were the star of our building and the light of our lives.  As a little lad,  you spent many mornings upstairs with my godson, Oliver,  playing Ghostbusters; meowing loudly at his door to be let in, heading straight for the bedroom.  I liked to imagine you thought you were Dr. Egon Spengler.  You never stopped making us smile.  At one point, bags of catnip had to be taped to the ceiling – so amazing were your early skills at climbing and opening boxes.  Because you had been born around dogs you drank water like a Great Dane.  Your new dad called you Blocko because you decided between us was the right spot to sleep.  That was a short 16 years ago . Your long life, with few mishaps, led us into a sense of a forever that we have learned, simply doesn’t exist. But you left us far too soon Elliott.  And we still weep.  And we miss you.