When I was young.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago in a very nice house. My dad owned his own company and we were not rich but we were well-off.

When I was 14 and in my second year of high school I met Marv Kirchler who remains my friend 52 years later. We used to roam the south side in his father’s Dodge Coronet. This was just one of many dangerous acts I did as Marv took years to polish his driver safety skills. Marv is older than me by 2 or 3 years and had a drivers license long before I could even apply for one.

From time to time, Marv and I would walk at night from my house to the end of the block, to the corner of 71st and Jeffrey.  There was a tavern right on that corner. In preparation for going there, we would buy a big bottle of root beer, grab our drum sticks and off we went. Marv and I shared an interest in drumming.

The root beer would stay in a brown paper bag like a wino carries around his bottle of wine. Marv and I would stand outside the tavern and watch through the tall plate glass window the live jazz combos on stage. The drummer would be right in front of us, with a stand up bass player to his side. And a keyboard or guitar in front.We would take turns drumming along on the red brick exterior under the glare of the early Mercury vapor lights. Inside, the patrons and performers were almost all African-American.

Jazz drumming is such a simple/complex, beautiful art. The drum set was comprised of a snare, bass, and a tom tom, with a high hat,  2 cymbals and maybe a floor tom. Nothing like the drum sets in popular rock bands that had lots of accouterments.

Marv and I were joyfully mimicking the Black musical culture around us. We listened to the Monkees and the Temptations. Janis Joplin and Diana Ross. What a marvelous environment.

About my pal, Marv was born on the other side of the tracks from me. Blue collar family. His dad was gruff, with a gravely voice and a drum set he played when he was not working at a printing press. Marv’s mother was the salt of the fucking earth who never turned me away when I showed up on her doorstep, under-age and fleeing the brutality of my own upscale home.

Growing up on the south side had such benefits. Marv lived in a classic white area which harbored many families tainted by anti-Semitism and racism. But rough and tumble young Marvin was more likely to attack a long-haired hippie than a black boy.

We had a third pal, Kerry. We shared 3 characteristics. We were Jewish, middle-class and smart. Together we transitioned from typical high school kids to early members of the pot smoking milieu.

When high school ended, Kerry went to college, Marv became a political operative and I became a criminal. Kerry fell in love, dropped out and moved to California. Marvin won elections for people and I became a social worker.

52 years later, I have never heard my 2 friends utter words of hatred towards others because of their religion, race or sexual orientation. (I hated Palestinians for years but I already blogged about the incident and how that happened.) I attribute that too the cultural diversity we embraced as young lads.

When I was young and molding and modeling behavior, I was lucky enough to be exposed to a world which was smart, colorful, diverse, violent and then more diverse. I could walk a few blocks and visit friends who were Black, Irish, Polish, Italian, Middle Eastern and more. Some were wealthy, some poor. A short drive away was the University of Chicago, home to the children of world renowned physicists, psychiatrists and scientists of every type.

The pizza parlor, barber shop, movie theater, bowling alley, produce store, supermarket, the aforementioned tavern and hardware store were within a block or two of my home.

What would I be like if I had been raised in a more homogeneous world, lacking in diversity instead of a world filled with rich characters of every ilk. The commuter train at the end of our street would take me to the heart of downtown Chicago in 30 minutes.  Lake Michigan was an easy 2 mile walk. Bonus, when I was 18 years old my father gave me a job working on demolishing buildings/flop houses on Chicago’s Skid Row where resided the largest collection of men, marginalized by poverty, alcoholism and drug addiction ever assembled in the Midwestern United States.

My early world included swimming at the Jewish country club at 10, bar mitzvah at 13, standing on a street corner, imagining I was the second drummer in a jazz combo at 14, school dropout at 16 and facing 6-15 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections when I was 17.

 

Itchycoo Park  where, It’s all too beautiful.

I’d like to go there now with you
You can miss out school – Won’t that be cool
Why go to learn the words of fools?
What will we do there? – We’ll get high
What will we touch there? – We’ll touch the sky
But why the tears there? I’ll tell you why
It’s all too beautiful, It’s all too beautiful
It’s all too beautiful, It’s all too beautiful

And the Animals singing

“When I was young
It was more important
Pain more painful
Laughter much louder
Yeah, when I was young”

Jesus is the reason!

Jesus is the reason for the season! We talk about how many religious/ethnic celebrations occur this time of year. As if this is a holiday season for all. But in truth, it is not. It is Christmas time. This country would not come to a standstill for Hannukah or Kwanza etc. It comes to a halt to celebrate Christmas because Christians rule. They do!

I do not have an issue with Christians having their season(s). I understand that numerically they will control the political and social milieu of this country. I do appreciate that the Christians that created the constitution recognized and protected the rest of us from a theocracy (rule by religion). It makes my time here as a citizen much more acceptable because Jews have been run out of most countries we called home at one time. https://www.biblebelievers.org.au/expelled.htm

Makes it hard to get settled into your La-z-boy and smoke a cigar. In fact, I admit I have been vigilant and suspicious of the rise of anti-Semitism my whole life. I have been carrying a firearm a good part of my life in response to incidents which I experienced as early as grade school.

But back to Christmas. I enjoy the holiday season. I do not celebrate it but I enjoy it. People get happy, time off and gather together. That is nice. So, I believe Jesus is the reason for the season and that no other holiday could hold that sway over a national consciousness. Easter too. I recall getting Good Friday off in school although I did not know what Good Friday was. I remember the kids coming to school with ash on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday.  I even mimicked the gesture of “crossing” oneself  before undertaking a risky undertaking. I did so because I saw it so frequently amongst my peers and athletes on the field. ( I assume my parents would not have been keen to see that.) As you can probably tell, I lived and worked around a whole lot of Catholics. But I was the recipient of the love and assistance of ministers in the Lutheran and the Disciples of Christ churches. (Reverend Steve Swanson got me in the pews 2 years in a row for Midnight Mass. Reverend Loel Callahan turned me from a life of crime when my trajectory was prison bound.)

Dear Christians, I mean no harm when I say Happy Holiday. I was never trying to rob you of your holiday. I innocently was engaging in acting out gestures of holiday cheer in a neutral manner because I am not Christian. I did not boycott Christmas or spit on the Christmas tree. I did not bah humbug. It is simply not my holiday. I am not now nor have I ever been, a Christian. I do draw the line at a Christian government and I do so because I was taught from an early age that this was the foundation of our country. Freedom from and of religion. I was taught, in school, that I would have to allow all persons to worship as they see fit and in exchange I would be allowed to do the same. I was taught from a young age, and again in high school and college and then in law school, that their would be a separation of church and state and I could demand it, expect it, and enforce it. It was the “law of the Land”.

I am certainly no one to deny the birth, death or resurrection of Jesus because lord knows I know not. I believe that it is beautiful to think that this promise attributed to Jesus, shall forever be kept. “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  Jesus Christ
Today, my family donated food for families in need so that fewer may want at this time.  But I also recall that “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” Mother Teresa. Credit a Hindu swami with offering food for the soul with the following,  “Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” Paramahansa Yogananda

Please, please, please, have a wonderful Christmas. May you be showered with gifts, food and love. I genuinely want this year to be your best year.

 

 

Polarization, Narration, Frustration,

I started a post on Facebook about the polarization I am seeing between the political/ideological factions amongst my friends and acquaintances. The premise of my post is that the Right vs Left is so disparate and hateful now that there will never be a political reconciliation. Without reconciliation and a new narration there will ultimately be a disintegration of our society and country. We cannot remain the United States much longer. The language of hate I hear on the Right is too similar to the language of hate used against Jews.

Anti-Semitism is not something I just read about. It was a frequent event in my young days. It was not uncommon at all to be called a dirty Jew, a Kike (a contemptuous term used to refer to a person of Jewish religion or descent), Yid, Christ killer, Hebe, and more. I heard it on the South Side of Chicago, when I was in grade school. I heard it in New Hampshire where I was sent to boarding school. I heard it in automotive and motorcycle shops, clubhouses and more. 

I was assaulted by a Palestinian in my gym class when I was 14 y.o. He beat me unconscious. I harbored hate for years as a result. But eventually maturity set in and I came to recognize the threat had passed. The perpetrators of anti-Semitic assaults against me would have no further opportunity to harm me without facing significant opposition. I further recognized that my experience was not the sum total of the universe nor necessarily reflective of the non-Jewish world. I slowly altered my reaction to the world at large.

I read the following today. and it helped me fathom what I have gone through. “Humility allows you to make mistakes and to start over when you fail. It also frees you of the expectation that you should be rewarded for doing the right thing.

Many times I don’t know what the right thing to do is, so cultivating “don’t know mind” can prepare the ground for new possibilities to arise. When faced with a difficult situation, ask myself, “Do I know for sure what’s right?” If the answer is, “I don’t think so,” then reflect on my inner experience: “Is this a situation that I have some feeling about that seems to be true, and is it important for me to bring my truth to bear?”

– See more at: http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/do-right-thing?utm_source=hootsuite#sthash.VDX1ORax.dpuf

I showed up today with my “don’t know mind”. It feels very liberating. But is it futile in a world where most people are signed on to a narrative which engenders polarization? Is the frustration of being bombarded with hate speech and fear-mongering something I can continue to “don’t know” about?

I thought when I broke through the haze of hate infecting my mind, that I was well on my way to being liberated. But I ran smack into a wall of other people’s hate. It stopped me in my tracks. I am constantly resisting the urge to be the “knowing one”, the “right one”. I am working my way to accepting that even hate may be a social passage which must be allowed in order for us to move forward. Seems like a bad plan but when I start seeming, it is often disastrous.

Anyways, I think the point is that the narrative which is dominating the conversation in the world around me is very negative. It is polarizing, It is frustrating. Can I help shape the narrative? Earlier today, long after I started this blog post, I noted on Facebook, that I was inspired by other Facebook posts to be more charitable. That seemed to stimulate truly generous even loving feedback. So for the next couple of days I will try to not feed the beast and perpetuate the negativity. I will resist telling others about the flaw in their logic. Instead I will see if I can stay in a place of “don’t know” but “can do” actions which originate from a place of grace. The pastor at the memorial I attended today, said many inspirational things. He did a beautiful closing argument for the power of God and his readiness to embrace us all, no matter what we do or who we are.

Getting to know me, getting to know all about me.

If you befriended on me on Facebook as a result of having mutual interest, shared groups, but you do not know me personally, I have to disclose the following. I carry a firearm for personal protection. I am probably carrying a knife also. I will resort to violence in defense of self or family. I have never nor do I intend to ever hunt an animal. I do not judge hunters, I simply am not one.

I am very liberal about taxes and social welfare programs. I believe in being an active part of helping persons less fortunate than myself. I welcome immigrants just as my Russian immigrant family was welcomed.

I had personal violent experiences with Muslims when I was young which caused me to hate them. For years, I hunted trouble with Muslims. I did not serve overseas. I did not serve in the military. I have dozens of friends who have killed in countries far away. Some of my friends were US military in Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of my friends are private contractors and they too have killed in countries far away. I love my friends. I do not approve of some things they chose to do or felt forced to do, but I love them for who they are not what they have done.

But as I aged I decided to stop hating the Muslim. He is my brother. I forgave the Catholic school bullies who chased me and beat me regularly for being Jewish. I forgave Christ for whatever it was he taught that made others hate me. I learned to love. I love legal and illegal immigrants. I love those that have everything I ever hoped to have and those that have nothing. I pray for those who are being oppressed and I pray for their oppressors. So, with this glimpse in mind, you may wish to abstain from arguments about kicking anyone out of the US or demolishing welfare, or eliminating the minimum wage. You can not persuade me with fear or venom. I know you are tired my brothers of waiting for your way of life to be shattered by some Muslim extremist. I know you may fear illegal immigrants sucking the fiscal well-being right out of the marrow of our economy. I hear your bravado when you sound the alarm, blow the bugle…CHARGE!

Why you ask, am I not with the program? What is wrong with Ken that he cannot see the threat, the magnitude and depth and breath of the seriousness?

I have never spent one day in this country free of the fear that the anti-Semites will rise up angry and accelerate their attacks on Jewish institutions and persons. You want me to get excited now. Where the fuck were you when I spent years in grade school trying not to get caught by believers in Christ. Who green-lighted the murder of Jews in Spain, Russian, Germany, Austria et al. Who convinced country after country to throw out the dirty Jews?

It is the same attitude that empowers so many Americans to select the scapegoats amongst the American population. Jews are still very much at risk. There are extreme organizations plotting to destroy Jews in the US. Many are part of the same organizations or thinking that permits us to deviate from core American values and insist we purge Muslims and immigrants from our country.

Someone is convincing so many of you that our precious resources are being squandered teaching Mexican children to read and write. That same kind of thought convinces some of you that the Muslim effort to preserve their religious and cultural identity is a threat to our safety and our culture. Just like the dirty Jew and his yarmulke on his head and his tzittzit which the orthodox Jew wears under his shirt.

I believe it is possible in my lifetime that I may have to defend the life of someone who will face grave bodily harm for what they are not, or for what they are doing. (I do not mean those that commit acts of terror upon others.) I made the decision long ago to not be   force-marched to an oven to be incinerated in a Nazi type attempt to extinguish the culture of the Jews. Nor will I stand by if the day ever comes where this country starts to cattle drive others to internment or concentration camps.

If you are my friend and an American, then stand with me as we resist intolerance. Let us speak out against any oppression visited upon those who cannot properly defend themselves. Please don’t cherry pick which groups are worthy of our help. Let us be heard. Let my Christian friends lead in the spirit of Christ.

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

And may the day come when hate filled websites like this one below do not proliferate, do not find audience, but die like an aged and toothless beast who must starve for the winter has protected his prey from his old eyes. Please go to this website I have linked. Perhaps it will awaken you to the hate that thrives amongst us!!!!! (Don’t let the title fool you.)

http://www.realjewnews.com/?p=881

Might be time to gather the old gang and head up to Michigan

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/zachary-tennen-michigan-state-attacked-stapled_n_1836829.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec3_lnk1%26pLid%3D198802

I just hope that some elements of this story are just wrong, like no one at the party helped the victim and no one at the hospital contacted police. I do not suggest that the boys and I would respond to hate with hate. We have outgrown that behavior. I mean that we should fight staples with staples. Properly applied staples could result in difficulty with basic elimination of waste and nothing more. Seems a small thing to do for our beloved Klansmen out there.