Eleanor and Gilbert Kraus are very likely two of the greatest unsung heroes in American history – at least, in Jewish history. I watched a documentary about their courageous acts (in 1939), which amounted to nothing less than a full-throated display of magnanimity and altruism. Here is their story. I will also include a selection of quotations about magnanimity by noted Holocaust survivors, human rights activists, altruism researchers, and stalwart exemplars of virtue and honor such as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Viktor Frankl.Read More
June 25th, 2020
May 19th, 2020
I’m not the “most Jewish” person around, that’s for sure. One thing I do have, though, is that I connect my Jewishness up with empathy for what African-Americans have gone through and still experience. We Jews ought to have special insight into America’s long history of racial, ethnic, and class discrimination because of our unique history. My wife came up to me tonight, flaming mad, about another example of the mistreatment of, discrimination toward, and prejudice directed at black people in America. It was heartening to see her make an astute connection, and the point of this blog is to elucidate that thesis for you.Read More
May 16th, 2020
Author Steve Almond writes: “Although born into affluence, Trump developed a worldview indifferent, or perhaps hostile, to noblesse oblige—the notion, exemplified by the Kennedys—that nobility extends beyond lineage and requires constant compassion for the less fortunate. From early on, Trump favored a social dominance orientation, which describes the sort of person hung up on creating a hierarchy so he can be at the top of it. ‘Narcissistic Darwinism’ might also apply.” Here are a few thoughts on this idea that one with plentiful material comforts is best when they concern themselves with and help the less fortunate:Read More
May 2nd, 2020
George C. Wallace, the multi-term governor of Alabama, ran for president of the United States repeatedly. He was shot and he was the victim of skullduggery by the Democrats to keep him off the ticket. He never did quite get traction enough to win, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t supported by 15-20% of the populace. He was virtually indefatigable, and quite transparent. Though, apparently, he wasn’t a white supremacist through-and-through, like politicians David Duke, or Patrick Buchanan. He was an opportunist; a changeling.
Henry A. Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt’s three-term vice-president, scientist, man of peace, and economic progressive, can quite clearly be compared and contrasted to the notorious racist and political opportunist, George C. Wallace. Neither man is much-spoken-of nowadays, but both can teach the careful observer about the rise of Donald Trump and his noxious brand of showmanship mixed with populism and white grievance. In a time of racial divisions, economic stress, and lies-vs-truth, to compare Henry and George Wallace is no mere academic pursuit.
April 26th, 2020
Remember that old Mel Brooks line, “It’s good to be the king!”? Ya, well as we can see from the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on rich and poor, he ain’t lyin’.Read More
April 17th, 2020
America was cruising along in the early part of the year, Trump touting the amazingly low unemployment and extremely high Dow Jones Industrial Average. Companies were making profits, and things were moving in that generally-optimistic direction. Infrastructure was being neglected, health insurance was a damnable mess, and Americans were probably more divided that any time since the tumultuous 1960s. Then, a bat’s DNA and some other animal’s DNA combined in a pernicious and horrifying way in some God-forsaken food market in Wuhan, China. All hell broke loose.
Instead of landing in a well-constructed and life-saving social safety net, millions of Americans are out of work, depressed, socially strained, and terribly pessimistic.
This blog features some markers of where we are, economically, in this, the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.
April 11th, 2020
African Americans are an integral part of the United States of America. 95% were brought against their will from Africa (or born to recently-arrived African slaves). They have had to struggle to find even a basic fair treatment from the majority-white populace, and it is incomplete. As a case in point, more black Americans are dying from the coronavirus, proportionally, than whites. Some of this might be able to be attributed to the larger number of premorbid conditions that tend to plague African Americans to a greater degree than other races, but even that leads to the recognition that there must be much about the American experience for black people that is significantly worse than for whites. Asian Americans have pretty decent outcomes in American society, and so it’s hard to tease apart the legacy of slavery from cultural mores and personal choices that are salubrious and prudent. At bottom, though, what is not in dispute is that the African American experience in America has been rough, and that has something to do with racism. I won’t chase every tangent that this introductory paragraph logically leads to — for example, the fact that African Americans are less economically advanced than whites. I will simply sample some politically progressive quotes from African Americans. Who better but these Americans themselves to share their experience?Read More
April 9th, 2020
I often will sit at my computer, kind of bored and idle and unstimulated. I suppose some of that is not only the life of a writer, but as a mostly-unsuccessful blogger, it’s pretty much the bottom of the barrel of the writing profession. So whereas a writer such as Hemingway or Woolf or Nietzsche, whom you could imagine sitting at the typewriter (or chewing mindlessly on their quill), might experience writer’s block (or a manic work-spree), at least they have the highest-caliber brains and publishers awaiting a quality product. Now, with 1,000,000 books published in any given year, and folks being mostly resistant to being marketed to, the number of writers who probably sit and suffer day in and day out must be legion. But, today, I fell into a rich vein of political, philosophical, and written gold, and I want to share it here. The medium: quotes. The subject: America’s characteristic, predictable, and mixed response to the biggest crisis in a century: the coronavirus pandemic. It is stretching each of us, and our social fabric, and our institutions, to the limit. Here are some trenchant thoughts by three sources that all cohere nicely.Read More
March 21st, 2020
As of this writing, the economy—as well as society in many other ways— is melting down. The coronavirus is the pandemic we have long-feared. We are unfortunately seeing the chickens come home to roost in regard to things such as infrastructure neglect, economic insecurity, wealth disparities not seen since 1928, and a government that has been pared down by decades of misinformation campaigns, tax cuts, misplaced priorities, and demagogues in blue suits. It is a very hard time for America. In this blog, I go through a little historical perspective and then call for a major change in the very fabric of American society: a new New Deal for the new millennium.Read More
March 10th, 2020
The New York Times columnist David Leonhardt worked his way into my respect naturally. Somehow, the NYT started sending me his opinion pieces maybe three or four times a week, and my first thought was, “Who’s the new guy?” A page that has featured Charles Blow, Thomas L. Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Nicholas D. Kristof, Paul Krugman, and Bob Herbert creates a high bar in my mind. But, over time, Leonhardt has grown to be one of my favorite and most-quoted writers. In one piece, he gives voice to a core is a political philosphy precept of mine: social cohesion depends on political progress. Another way to phrase this idea would be: social welfare vs. individual supremacy vis-a-vis political progressivism.Read More