Friday, June 29, 2018

Mazel Tov!

All I needed was a boat.

My niece had her bat mitzvah last weekend in New York City.  Of course we were there.  It’s family.  You go to these things.  They’re a lot of fun and you get to see people you haven’t seen in a while – what’s not to love? 

The trick, of course, is getting there.

Some of that was distance, but most of it was scheduling.  It’s summer and while there was a time when that meant lazy days and endless free time, for me that time was 1983.  These days it’s just another season of work and projects, only the weather is more uncomfortable than usual.  We had a very defined slot into which we could put this event.

Nobody could leave until after the graduation party, for one thing.  For another, we had to be back by the following Sunday evening so Fran could get packed up for her flight back to Belgium.  And for a third, I couldn’t leave until after my summer class started.  So we worked it out that Kim, Tabitha, Lauren, Fran, and Lauren’s friend Aleksia would leave the day after the graduation party and head to Philadelphia to meet up with my mom and explore that part of the world for a few days, and then we’d all meet up in New York for the bat mitzvah.


Kim and the girls arrived at my mom’s that Sunday. 

They had a grand time, from what I heard.  They went to Reading Terminal Market and had cheesesteaks (among other things).  They also walked around Center City, by Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell and any number of other things, past the Chinatown Gate, and generally enjoyed themselves.

It was a hot, hot day, which of course meant water ice. 

There was a lovely Italian meal at the restaurant near my mom’s place, where for some reason everyone got a post-it with their own personal fruit drawn on it.  Even the waiter. 

And they visited Eastern State Penitentiary, an old prison now turned into a great museum and run by a friend!  They didn’t get a chance to see him, but still – the museum was fascinating and you should go there. 

There was also a lovely day down at the Jersey shore with Steve and Rolane, who were nice enough to volunteer their home down there even though they just got back from a trip of their own.  And of course there was a side-trip to Junior’s Donuts, because no trip to the Jersey shore is complete without one. 

From there they traveled up to New York on Thursday, where they met up with Keith, Lori, Josh and Sara, and spent the day doing New York things, notably riding on the subway, walking around Times Square, and also eating at Gray’s Papaya, which is apparently required for all New Yorkers and visitors.  

I went out to meet them on Friday, on one of those odysseys that are so common these days.  I woke up at an hour that I used to routinely go to bed at when I was in college and headed down to the airport by bus as the sun slowly rose in what I regard as entirely the wrong part of the sky for the sun to be in.  I got on the plane without incident – something that actually surprised me in this paranoid age of Security Theater, as a single man on a one-way ticket with no baggage – and flew into LaGuardia, then took another bus to the subway and the subway into Manhattan.  You should take public transportation in New York City – that’s how you see the actual city.  Plus, it’s lovely antidote to the Homogenized and Standardized that so dominates this country these days.  I think everyone should be required to live in New York for six months, just to remind them that there are millions of Real Americans Who Do Not Look, Think, Act, Or Speak Like Them.  Our politics would be very different if more of my fellow Americans could beat that simple fact through their skulls, I think.  The bus ride was maybe 20 minutes long, and I heard five different languages during that time.  That’s America.

The subway let me off at 57th Street, and at that point I walked the half mile or so to the hotel, stopping about halfway to grab a soft pretzel from a street vendor because it was lunchtime and I was starving and they were right there after all.  I put mustard on that pretzel, the way God and Nature intended, and it was good.

Wheels, wings, rails, feet.

All I needed was a boat.

I checked into the hotel – one of those lovely New York hotels that is gorgeous and features rooms the size of a midwestern closet, though with a wallpaper in the hallway that was eerily reminiscent of something Stanley Kubrick would have in the background – and then met up with a few family members in the coffee shop on the corner for conversation and snacks.  It was a lovely time. 

Meanwhile, as I was making my way to the hotel Kim and the girls were continuing to be tourists, on the theory that neither Fran nor Aleksia had ever been to New York before and they have these great tourist sites for a reason after all.  You might as well go.  They headed off to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  You need a boat to get there, and if I had gotten to New York earlier I could have completed my transportation set.  But they had a grand time, by all indications. 

I remember going to the Statue of Liberty when I was in 7th grade on a field trip.  It was nice, even if mostly what I remember is a lot of cramped stairs.  I’ve never been to Ellis Island, though I’d like to go sometime.  Lauren kept sending me pictures of possible ancestors’ names on the wall, which I thoroughly appreciated.

We all got together for a lovely dinner in the restaurant underneath the hotel, after which I must have collapsed in a heap on the bed because it had been a long if entertaining day.

After a more interesting morning than expected, during which I learned precisely how easy it is to jimmy open the hotel security latch if you have the proper tool for it (vide supra, re: “Security Theater”) and had a bagel breakfast for all in the hotel lobby, we all headed up to the bat mitzvah.  Like most things in New York, it was within walking distance – that’s one of the joys of a big city, everything’s close – and we ambled our way up there in our own separate times.

It is a strange realization that your kids are now mature enough to be let loose in New York City with instructions and times for a meeting place later on.  Parenting FTW, I suppose, but no less strange for that. 

You weren’t really allowed to take pictures during the ceremony, which I already knew.  What I didn’t know was that this particular synagogue had a rather expansive definition of “ceremony,” one that included all of the milling-about time beforehand, so eventually a nicely-dressed woman came over to me and clued me in and I didn’t get to take all of the pictures I wanted to take, but I did get some. 

The ceremony itself was lovely.

Most of it was sung, for one thing, and there was a kind of a klezmer feel to it which was nice.  And the officiants did a nice job of walking the visitors through the various bits that those more familiar with the order of things would just have known.  It was a long service – they went through the usual Sabbath service as well as the bat mitzvah (or the b’not mitzvah, which is the plural form, since Sara and her friend Mia decided to do this together) – but it flowed on by.  Sara did a nice job with her speaking parts, and Keith and Lori even found roles for various family members.  Kim and I were put on the “put the cover back on the Torah” detail, along with a couple of people from Mia’s family, and we managed to get it done even without a rehearsal.  This is good, because apparently if you drop the Torah it means several weeks of fasting and we had a reception to go to afterward.

“Lunch is on,” I whispered to Keith as I walked past him back to my seat.

And so it was.  We walked over to a restaurant called The Sugar Factory, which is apparently known for using goldfish bowls and dry ice to make giant steaming sodas, and settled in for a lovely reception. 

We talked.  We ate.  We tried a few of the items at the bar – drinks roughly as extravagant as the sodas only you shouldn’t be driving home afterward (try the American Honey – it’s really, really good).  There was a photo booth where you could take serious photos and not so serious ones.  It was a grand time.   

There was also a Serious Dessert for the guest of honor, as was only right and proper. 

A few of us ended up back at Keith and Lori’s afterward for yet more food and conversation, because that’s just the best way to spend a day.  By that point the hard part was over, the nerves had been stilled, and everyone could just relax. 

These are initiation rites, welcoming the initiant into the community as an adult.  We don’t have enough of those anymore, really, and it’s good to see the ones we have continuing.  As a historian, I just love the idea of passing down customs, practices, and objects from one generation to another, especially when they’re more than just things – they’re part of a larger culture and a family history.

Of course this left us with some time afterward, so after much puzzling the Wisconsin crew decided that we’d go to a movie.  Incredibles 2 was playing nearby, so we wandered around the city in our separate ways for a while until showtime, met Sara at the theater, and were Entertained for a while. 

We were even more entertained afterward when the escalator down to the street level decided to eat Lauren’s shoelace and Kim had to press the emergency stop button so we could get it back.  No harm done, and there was a general celebration that ended yet again at yet another Gray’s Papaya because New York that’s why.

We drove home the next day – a long and thankfully uneventful drive made longer by the slowest KFC on earth.  But we made it, and everything was fine.

Congratulations, Sara!  Mazel tov! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


It’s kind of odd how quiet things can get when a quiet person isn’t around.

Through a long and frankly implausible process that even now I do not fully understand, we acquired a foreign exchange student in December.  She needed a place to stay.  We had a place for her.  Tabitha and Lauren already knew who she was, even if they didn’t know her very well.  She was already attending Local Businessman High, so that was easy.  I guess it all just lined up.

And now Fran has gone back to Belgium.

We ran her pretty hard these last few weeks – you might as well get your money’s worth out of a stay in a foreign country, after all, and the US can be pretty foreign.  I came home from work a week ago Thursday and asked her how her day was.  “Kind of quiet,” she said.  “Well,” I told her, “I hope you enjoyed it.  That’s the last one you’ll have until you get back to Europe.”  And it pretty much was.

We had a graduation party for her and Tabitha the following day, one I have already written about.  The next day she, Kim, Tabitha, Lauren, and Lauren’s friend Aleksia headed east on a journey that will have its own blog post soon, a trip that I joined already in progress because I had to stay and teach my summer class.  We got back Sunday night, and Monday evening we were in Madison dropping her off for the long trip back.

Who plans those, by the way?  From the moment we left last night to the moment her flight departed was 21 hours.  I suppose with that many travelers to juggle that’s just how it has to be, but still.  That’s a harsh way to end a good year.

And it was a good year.  It really was.

She’s family now,  of course.  There's always a place here for her, when she wants to come back.  We’re going to go visit her in Belgium as well, and we’ll get to meet her family there – say what you will about the many and pressing flaws of Facebook, but it does do a pretty good job of what it was actually designed to do, which is to foster communication between widely separated people, and we’ve managed to get to know her parents a bit over the last few months as well.  We’re really looking forward to spending time with all of them.

But for right now it’s mostly quiet.

Safe travels, Fran.  We miss you already.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Continued Stray Thoughts on the Current Political Climate: Child Abuse Edition

Sometimes you just have to take time out of your life to document the unmitigated evil that your supposed leaders are openly engaged in, as well as the sheer depravity of the people who think this is okay.  Normally I try to collect a wide variety of things for these posts, but when the government of the United States actively abuses children to the applause of far too many so-called Americans, well, you just have to focus on the issue at hand.  So welcome to this Special Edition of Continued Stray Thoughts.  Lawsey, what a fucked up time we live in.


1. So, magically, after insisting for days now that his hands were tied and there was nothing whatsoever he could do about it, der Sturmtrumper picked up a pen and did something about the child abuse he had authorized and was so vociferously defending.  Isn’t that amazing?  Isn’t that strange?  Imagine – it’s as if he could have done that all along!  I wonder why he didn’t!

2. Well, other than the fact that these are brown-skinned Spanish-speaking children and when you’re a white supremacist whose election campaign was endorsed by every major neo-Nazi and racist group in America, well, you have to dance with them what brung ya, I guess.  Seriously, why are people surprised by this?  Why is this even an issue?  This is an administration predicated on racism, built on gratuitous cruelty, and focused on riling up its idiot base with whatever atrocity comes to mind next.  Of course they’re going to abuse children.  What’s the down side for them?

3. And on that note we bring you Arizona GOP Representative David Stringer, who told the Yavapai County Republican Men’s Forum (did you know such a thing existed?  It does!) that immigration was an “existential threat” to the United States because “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” and this will result in a country that isn’t, um, mostly white.  Folks, they’re not even pretending not to be racist assholes anymore.  Do you wonder why they’re abusing brown-skinned children?

5. Also this.

6. The United Nations – an organization that the United States created – has demanded that der Sturmtrumper’s minions halt the immoral practice of ripping children from their families because it is a violation of international law (which the United States, in part, also created).  “The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,” said UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani.  “The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”  She added, “There is nothing normal about detaining children.  The US should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense.”  Not that the modern GOP sees anything wrong with immorality, illegal actions, or harming children.

7. “Does anyone remember Fox’s obsession with ‘FEMA concentration camps’ a few years back? Turns out they don’t have much trouble with the real thing, just the fact that they imagined Obama was doing it.”  (observed by my friend Jack)

8. “One thing I know for sure: no one on the right side of history has ever had to nitpick what the definition of ‘cage’ is.”  (Stephen Colbert)

Folks, they’re concentration camps where we keep children in cages.  If you begin to quibble about definitions, you’ve already lost.


10.  You think?

11. Someone complained that the Bible is not the basis of the US government and therefore we shouldn’t be using it to determine the worth of a federal policy.  This is 100% true and completely irrelevant.

First, yes it’s true.  The US is not a “Christian nation” in any sense.  It was not founded on Christianity, the Bible, the “Judeo-Christian heritage” (whatever the hell that is), or any particular sect’s doctrine.  The Founding Fathers were very clear on this, and even codified it into federal law in 1796, when the people who wrote the Constitution were still around to check.  Nobody – NOBODY – objected to this statement of the obvious.  So remember, when people tell you that this is some kind of Christian nation, they are either lying, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. 

But here’s the thing.  When the bastards control the institutions of government, evil becomes legal.  There is nothing in the law that overtly says the US government cannot abuse children the way der Sturmtrumper’s junta is doing.  At this point, you have to fall back on morality and argue that the law should be changed or interpreted to avoid evil.  Furthermore, the fuckers doing this are using the Bible to try to justify it, and throwing that back in their faces cuts them off at the knees (to mix my bodily metaphors).  So yeah, I have no problem with using their own religious views to destroy their shoddy and evil position.

12. On that note, it is instructive to note that the United Methodist Church is now considering bring canonical charges against Our Confederate Attorney General – a member of that denomination in a congregation in Alabama – for violating church doctrine.  According to the UMC’s web site, more than 600 clergy and lay members are bringing charges against him for “child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and ‘dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines’ of the United Methodist Church,” all of which are chargeable offenses under Paragraph 2702.3 of UMC doctrine.  This could ultimately lead to Our Confederate Attorney General being expelled from the church.  Keep that in mind next time he decides to cite Scripture to defend his indefensible policies.

13. I don’t think this is what Jesus meant.

14. Just a reminder, this is not a serious crime.  I’ve seen morons comparing these children to rapists, and that says a lot more about their fantasy life than it does about the children they’re abusing.

15. Meanwhile a bipartisan group of 75 former US Attorneys has published an open letter to Our Confederate Attorney General condemning this child abuse.  “Like the majority of Americans,” the letter says, “we have been horrified by the images and stories of children torn from their families along our nation’s Southwest Border.  And like a majority of Americans, we are appalled that your Zero Tolerance policy has resulted in the unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children.  But as former United States Attorneys, we also emphasize that the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served. … The law does not require the systematic separation of families under these circumstances. … Until now, no Republican or Democratic administration, nor any prior Attorney General, has endangered children in order to deter illegal entry.”


17. Former Border Patrol officer Jenn Budd, who served from 1995 to 2001, has called on her former colleagues to refuse to obey these orders.  “It’s unlawful to take children away from their parents like this.  It’s unheard of,” she said.  “Trump is basically holding children hostage for his wall, and he doesn’t care who it affects.  There’s going to be kids that end up committing suicide, whether in custody or afterward, because of the trauma we’re putting them through.  This is going to be as shameful as the internment camps we had for the Japanese.  There’s no excuse for these agents to not literally lay down their guns and badges and say this is unlawful.  Somebody has to stand up, has to say something.”

18. Two thirds of the US is opposed to this policy, which, while a reassuring majority, does unfortunately suggest that one third is perfectly okay with it.  In particular, a majority of Republicans see no problem with child abuse.  This is a damning indictment of the Republican Party, and of American culture in general.

19. Did you know that the tent cities der Sturmtrumper wants to jail these kids in will cost more than just letting the children stay with their parents?  That’s the GOP – spending more to achieve less.

20. Do you think der Sturmtrumper and his minions, lackeys, cronies, enablers and sycophants can ever keep their stories straight on this?  Not even Anthony Scaramucci thinks so, and when the Mooch thinks your PR is shoddy you really ought to reexamine your life.

21. I swear upon all that is holy that the next time some asshole tries to defend child abuse on the grounds that it will save taxpayers money I will go nuclear.

Seriously?  It’s a financial issue with these people?  Human depravity never ceases to amaze me in its multitudinous forms.

22. A friend of mine told me that they were just so angry all the time about this, and my response was, effectively, “Good.”  There are times in life when rage is exactly the appropriate thing to feel, and when my government is abusing children that’s definitely one of them.  Fuck those people.  Bring them to justice and bring them to justice good and hard.

23. Do you want to know just what kind of subhuman asshole is running this country?  Corey Lewandowski, der Sturmtrumper’s former campaign manager, was told about one 10-year-old girl with Down Syndrome being torn from her mother and his response was to make fun of the child.  This is your GOP, folks.

24. Steve Schmidt, a Republican consultant who was responsible for any number of GOP victories over the last several decades, has had enough.  “29 years and nine months ago I registered to vote and became a member of The Republican Party which was founded in 1854 to oppose slavery and stand for the dignity of human life.  Today I renounce my membership in the Republican Party.  It is fully the party of Trump.  It is corrupt, indecent and immoral.  With the exception of a few Governors like Baker, Hogan and Kasich it is filled with feckless cowards who disgrace and dishonor the legacies of the party’s greatest leaders.  This child separation policy is connected to the worst abuses of humanity in our history.  It is connected by the same evil that separated families during slavery and dislocated tribes and broke up Native American families.  It is immoral and must be repudiated.  Our country is in trouble.  Our politics are badly broken. … I have spent much of my life working in GOP politics.  I have always believed that both parties were two of the most important institutions to the advancement of human freedom and dignity in the history of the world.  Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and values.”

25. And if you want to see a threat to a free nation, note that the editorial cartoonist of the Pittsburgh Press-Gazette was fired for this cartoon.  Apparently the truth hurts.  So of course I do feel an obligation to spread the cartoon widely, or at least as widely as this blog goes.

26. For fuck sake, even Michael Cohen has publicly declared that this policy sucks.  “As the son of a Polish holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy is heart wrenching.  While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips.”

27. But that’s what they are!  Der Sturmtrumper specifically said he was holding them hostage for his stupid, ineffective, arrogant wall.  Isn’t that special?

28. And now, finally, der Sturmtrumper seems to have backed down.  And the operative word here is “seems.”

His decree (which misspelled the word “separation,” but hey) supposedly allows children to be detained indefinitely with their families.  Except a) that violates a 1997 court decree preventing children from being detained or imprisoned for more than 20 days in these circumstances, which means this is all a set-up for challenging the courts while he continues to separate families under a different label, and b) the children who have already been torn from their parents won’t be returned until he’s damned good and ready to return them, which for all we know will be 2019.

This is a ploy, and nobody should fall for it.

Watch your back, America.  The immoral are here in force and intent on taking this country for their own. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Suffer the Children

There is a special place in Hell for people who abuse children.

Right next to it is another for those who support the practice. 

Those places are going to be full to bursting in the very near future because of the twisted, depraved, and immoral policies imposed on immigrant children by der Sturmtrumper and his minions, lackeys, enablers, and sycophants. 

Child abuse is now the official policy of the US government, and there are far too many so-called Americans who approve of it. 

We are ripping children from their parents and storing them in cages, with no plans to reunite these families.  There are refugee families who are showing up at the American border only to have US officials take their children away to be “bathed” and then never returned to them – a startlingly Nazi move, but one consistent with an administration that increasingly acts as the second coming of the Third Reich. 

As a historian I do not say that lightly.

This is an outrage.  This is a crime against humanity.  This is gratuitous cruelty, unrefined and unforgivable.  This is what happens when the worst elements of a society are put in charge.

Every single person involved in the creation or implementation of this policy and every single person who dares to defend it has declared to the world that they are assholes of the highest order who need to be brought to justice at the first opportunity.  Every single one of them.  If you are one of those people, you are sick and should get help immediately.  At the very least you should be quarantined away from civilized human beings.

There is no excuse for this.  There is no justification for this.  And it is all on der Sturmtrumper and his supporters.  You own this, you fuckers. 

Yes, I know that der Sturmtrumper has loudly and vehemently insisted that his hands are tied, that this is because of some vague and unspecified law supposedly passed by Democrats at some indeterminate point in the past, that he’d like to change it, but the simple fact is that he is lying.  He lies about everything, up to and including the weather, so why this should be different is an open question.

There is no law that requires this.  There never has been.  No civilized country would ever have such a law, which is perhaps why der Sturmtrumper hasn’t figured out that we don’t have one.  This is the result of an executive policy vomited forth by der Sturmtrumper’s administration in May 2018.  This policy did not exist under Obama or any of his predecessors of either party – Cecilia Munoz, Obama’s domestic policy director, noted flatly that “The Obama administration did not do that, no.  We did not separate children from their parents.  This is a new decision, a policy decision put in place by the Attorney General, [which] puts us in league with the most brutal regimes in the world’s history.”

This is der Sturmtrumper’s policy and he could end it any time he wanted to do so.  But he does not want to end it, because gratuitous cruelty is the only thing that he understands. 

Let’s get some things straight, for those working with fewer than six functioning brain cells:

There has been no crime committed.  It is not a crime to ask for asylum.  In point of fact, the United States is obligated under both American and international law to accept asylum seekers.  We are traumatizing children for no legitimate reason.

Even if you decide that these are illegal immigrants rather than legitimate asylum seekers (a bizarre stretch of the facts, but one that is popular among the Stupid who try to defend this evil practice), that’s not a felony – it’s a misdemeanor on par with a traffic ticket.  To traumatize a child over a trivial offense is both evil and a clear violation of the 8th Amendment to the Constitution, which does apply to non-citizens in US custody so if you’re planning to bark up that tree you can just shove that nonsense right back up your lower intestine where it came from.

Der Sturmtrumper could end this with a simple phone call, as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) noted publicly, but he has no plans to do so because he is using these children as a bargaining chip.  His child abuse is designed as a deterrent, to keep other refugees from coming here – a flatly illegal act under American law.  He is also traumatizing children and destroying families in order to blackmail Congress into paying for his stupid wall on the Mexican border (you know, the one Mexico was supposed to pay for?).  Don’t believe me?  Maybe you’ll believe der Sturmtrumper, who declared these things openly and proudly, to the applause of his supporters. 

That’s his position – give me what I want and the children can go free.  Put another way, he’s taking hostages in order to force others to give into his political demands. 

That makes him a terrorist.

We know how to deal with terrorists in this country. 

On the plus side, this criminal outrage has united a surprisingly diverse group of people, many of whom had previously supported the criminal in the White House.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops – a group with whom I generally find very little common ground – was quite clear on the subject.  At the opening session of their biannual meeting on June 13, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo read a statement calling the GOP policy “immoral,” to the raucous applause of the bishops in attendance.  Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson AZ later called for “canonical penalties” for any Catholic involved in this evil.

I look forward to the excommunication of these sinners until they repent and begin to undo the damage they have done.

Meanwhile, Our Confederate Attorney General’s own church, the United Methodist Church, has rejected his use of Romans 13 to justify der Sturmtrumper’s child abuse policy in strenuous terms.  “To argue that these policies are consistent with Christian teaching is unsound, a flawed interpretation, and a shocking violation of the spirit of the Gospel,” they said in an official statement issued on June 15.  After pointing out a couple of the many Bible verses that command the faithful to “extend hospitality to strangers” (such as Romans 12:9-11) the statement notes that “the Christ we follow would have no part in ripping children from their mothers’ arms or shunning those fleeing violence.  It is unimaginable that faith leaders even have to say that these policies are antithetical to the teachings of Christ.  … Those who use the Bible to justify these horrific policies, should also read the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who use oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10:1-3).

“The Trump Administration implemented these policies,” the statement notes.  “They have the power to stop these horrific actions.”

For fuck sake, even the Southern Baptist Convention, Franklin Graham, and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez (who delivered a prayer at der Sturmtrumper’s inauguration) have described this policy as “horrible,” “terrible,” and “disgraceful.” 

“There’s definitely a groundswell of opposition from virtually every corner of the Christian community,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  “People are able to understand immediately the drive of parents to protect their child and to understand the horror of splitting up vulnerable children from their parents.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush – who, in keeping with American tradition going back centuries has been very quiet regarding the actions of her and her husband’s successors – finally had enough of it and laid into der Sturmtrumper in a published editorial.  “I live in a border state.  I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international borders, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel.  It is immoral.  And it breaks my heart,” she wrote.  “Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso.  These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in US history.”

Retired General Michael Hayden, who worked as the Director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, shared a photo of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi concentration camp and pointedly noted that “Other governments have separated mothers and children.”

In an article from May 2018 published in the New Yorker, Masha Gessen pointed out a simple fact.  “Hostage-taking is an instrument of terror.  Capturing family members, especially children, is a tried-and-true instrument of totalitarian terror.”

This is what the United States has become under der Sturmtrumper.

This is not acceptable.

This will not stand.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Party On

As requested, there was a bouncy house.

One of the nice traditions that surround high school graduations is that there is generally some kind of party to celebrate them, one where the grownups can sit and talk and do all of the stuff that grownups do that never really seem interesting when one is of graduating age, while those of graduating age can congregate in a different part of the house and do the things that they find interesting, or at least most of them since even at my current age I can remember a great many activities that I found interesting when I was 18 that I’d rather not have people doing in the middle of a party at my house these days.

Also, everyone gets to eat, which is always a good thing.

When we were planning this event we asked Tabitha and Fran what they wanted, and the bouncy house was one of the first things mentioned (along with grilled pineapple).  And we thought, well, why not?  It turns out that there is a guy who will rent them locally – he even delivers, sets up, takes down, and hauls away, which is a bargain at any price, really – and the neighbor let us use his side lawn to set it up so we’d have room for all of the tables and food and assorted party things in the back.  It was surprisingly easy, even if it did deflate whenever the dishwasher turned on and tripped the circuit.  Eventually we persuaded the dishwasher not to turn back on.

There was also grilled pineapple, because why not.

We had a few other traditions to abide by as well, such as the fact that it was far too hot (my own high school graduation party took place during one of those heat waves that buckle the pavement and melt the cat) and the fact that the party became a way to legitimize a number of household projects that have been in the works for a while now, such as taking out the front fence and having Adam come in and replace the back stairs with the new patio.  I also put together a wide array of old photos of the graduates so you can see them growing up – Fran’s parents sent us some from Belgium so we could have both graduates represented! – another tradition surrounding these parties and one that I rather enjoyed.

We were doing it right, oh yes we were.

Of course we were woken up that morning by fierce and unrelenting storms and I spent a good chunk of the morning trying to work out how we could do this all in the living room (short answer: we can’t) and let me tell you how glad I was when the rain stopped and the day turned out to be sunny and nice, especially if you managed to duck inside for the air conditioning at reasonable intervals.

We spent the morning and early afternoon preparing for the party – setting up tables and chairs, cooking various foods, decorating the place, and so on.  Lauren put together a playlist that would cover the entire 7 hours that we had allotted for this open house, and we set up a little wireless speaker that could handle it – she did a nice job, too.  We did take a short break for a Father’s Day pizza lunch, since for long and involved reasons that couldn’t happen on the actual Father’s Day, and that was a lovely thing as well.

Eventually the guests arrived, and as noted the grownups (and the younger kids) mostly congregated in one place – outside, where the tables for eating and talking were – while the teenagers congregated elsewhere, either by the bouncy house or inside where the Cards Against Humanity was. 

The rabbits were a big hit.

Eventually things settled down and the last of the party seemed to revolve around the possibility of henna tattoos, which didn’t quite work out as advertised but were nevertheless entertaining.

And then we all went to bed.

It is a lovely thing to share achievements with family and friends, to gather together around food and conversation and bouncy houses and celebrate.  Congratulations to Tabitha and Fran.