Tag Archives: mitch grosky

In The Garden of Beasts and America’s Role in Confronting Evil in the World

I just finished Erik Larson’s 2011 “In the Garden of Beasts” an extraordinary work of “narrative nonfiction”— a meticulously researched nonfiction novel—the accurately reported history of the rise to power in Germany of Hitler and the Nazi party.  For those who ask, “How could Hitler and his followers have attained such absolute power, committed such atrocities (even in the early and mid 1930’s), and led Germany and Europe (and eventually the United States, as well) into World War II—how could the World have allowed this to happen” this book provide clear but intricate answers.

 

It begins in 1933 when William Dodd, a college professor is appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as our first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  As he settles into his ambassadorship in Berlin with his wife and adult daughter and son, he begins to see the persecution of Germany’s Jews and assaults on even those Jews who had bravely fought for Germany in the previous World War.  He sees attacks on the press and censorship of those who dared to express criticism directed against Hitler and the Nazi regime.  He sees laws created to restrict the activities and movement of Jews, to remove Jews from their jobs and to seize their property.   He sees the arrest of dissidents and the assignment to concentration camps of those who protest the government’s policies, of communists, of Jews.  We see Dodd’s increasing alarm about Germany’s rearming and militarization—breaking the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I.  As I try to ask myself why did the United States and President Roosevelt (a President for whom I generally offer fulsome praise for his progressive social programs)—why did they, why did WE not intervene to stop Hitler’s ascension to power, his horrific atrocities?  Why did we allow or choose to ignore the horror, the terror, the blood which was clearly on his hands and which was a part of his master plan for the Third Reich, for Europe, and the world entire?

 

From my understanding of the book, it seems that the answers to those absolutely essential questions are both numerous and varied, but can be distilled into these basic conclusions

 

  1. Our government was reconciled to trying to maintain a positive relationship with Germany and to not upset its leaders with blatant criticism.

 

  1. The United States government was hoping to recoup the war debt and reparations that Germany owed to the United States’ European allies and to our country itself.

 

  1. There was a strong mood of isolationism in the United States, a feeling that we should not get involved in the affairs of state in other countries.

 

  1. There was a tendency to ignore preliminary restrictions and acts of oppression or violence in 1932-1934 refusing to realize that these insults to civilized behavior would lead to even more extreme actions of violence and inhumanity in the years to follow.

 

  1. There was a subtle and at times not-so-subtle anti-Semitic tendency among some in American society and government who while appreciating the contributions of Jews to the fields of medicine, law, business, and government, also felt that there were too many Jews who were rising to positions of prominence in those areas. This allowed some Americans to in some ways empathize with what some in Germany referred to as their “Jewish problem” even as those same Americans may have disapproved of the specific actions the Germans were taking against Jews.

 

  1. In addition, since the U.S. was in the middle of an economic crisis that began with Black Friday in 1929 and continued through the 1930’s with the Great Depression some Americans also empathized with the poor economic situation in Germany, and seemed be willing to allow Germany to take steps to shore up its economy—even if it meant scapegoating Jews and other groups.

 

  1. There were members of the U.S. Government who were concerned that if President Roosevelt issued a strong statement about Germany’s unfair and horrifying treatment of Jews, then that might open up an “acrimonious discussion” with the German government in which they might ask the President to explain why Black Americans still did not have voting rights, or why lynchings of Black Americans were not prevented or severely punished, or why anti-Semitic feelings in the U..S seemed to be growing and were not “checked,”

 

  1. There was a feeling among some that intervention would make things even worse for the victims of the Nazi regime–that the German people would eventually see Hitler and his henchmen for what they truly were and would remove the “fuhrer” and the Nazi party from power on their own.

 

  1. There was an aura of incredulity, a disbelief that these outrageous acts—these crimes against humanity—could actually occur in such a civilized country as Germany—the home of Goethe and Brecht, the land of Bach, Beethoven, Handel, and Brahms.

 

For all these reasons, and perhaps for other reasons that I have not yet divined, the United States (as well as a number of European countries) either ignored what was happening, protested too mildly, or chose not to involve themselves fully until it was too late and Hitler had obtained absolute power and until Hitler, Goring, Himmler, Goebbels, and Bormann were well underway in their attempts to perpetrate the “final solution” and to bring about a master Aryan race that would rule Europe and eventually the world.

 

And so, you may ask, is this merely a book review—a critique of a fascinating work of history that reads as a novel—which mixes the raw facts of Hitler’s rise to power with the equally factual story of an ambassador’s family, the unending series of diplomatic events and parties, and the numerous romantic dalliances of their adult daughter?  Absolutely not; my intentions are so much more than that.

 

During the entire course of reading this book, I became alarmed about the parallels that I see in modern American and world society.  We are all, of course, fully familiar with the following two quotations that are two of the most often quoted lines in modern times.  The first by Philosopher George Santayana:  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” And the second, by  Author and Statesman Edmund Burke:  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  Poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox seems to echo these same sentiments in her oft quoted line (often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln) “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”  For these reasons, I feel that it is incumbent upon me and upon all those who are committed to a caring, civilized society to speak out.

 

My first concern is the attacks that I see nearly every day on the press and the media as a whole.  These attacks were as much a part of Nazi Germany as they have been at the heart of any totalitarian regime in modern times. The attempts of the current administration to label all print, television, radio, and internet criticism as fake news is deplorable.  Reports that are fastidiously researched and confirmed from multiple sources by major news organizations like the Washington Post and CNN News are routinely dismissed as hit jobs or fake news.  Is there, in fact, such a thing as “fake news”?  Yes, it is that which often appears on the internet from unreliable facebook or other sites which can easily be proven false by a 5-10 minute google search and the realization that a particular questionable item is not reported by any reliable news source—not the Associated Press, not Reuter’s News Service, not the NY Times, not the Washington Post, not any of the major TV news stations (ABC, NBC, CBS), not CNN.  The role of the press—especially in a society such as our which provides for freedom of the press as one of the major tenets of our democracy is not merely to serve as a device which trumpets the daily news, not merely to serve as a chronicler of all it observes, but also as a watchdog for government—to report on government, ethics excesses, and abuses of power.  It cannot fulfill that function in the necessary manner if it is constantly under attack by this administration both when such attacks come from the White House or from the President overseas at the G20 Summit.

 

My second area of concern is in our Government’s attitude toward and actions with regard to autocratic world leaders like Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, and North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un.

 

In 2014, Putin and Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine and annexed it. Also in 2014, Putin and Russia were blamed for shooting down a Malaysian jet, killing all 298 civilians on board.   In 2016, Putin and Russia worked to destabilize the U.S. by meddling in our elections.  The President this week twice “pressed” Putin on the matter but then apparently accepted his denials.  He did not lay out the significant proof from every one of our intelligence agencies who investigated the hacking.  He apparently did not say that “Here is the evidence; here are the consequences for your actions; and here are the consequences if you dare to interfere in our elections in the future.”  In fact, he said on camera that it was “an honor” to meet President Putin—this depot who had imprisoned and put to death journalists and dissidents who criticized his policies.  In fact, just today it was announced that the “U.S. and Russia would launch a bilateral working group that included a focus on cyber-security.”  This would be like the proverbial naiveté of asking the fox to guard the henhouse. The former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO, Jim Townsend noted, “If the Russians want to coordinate with us on cyber-security it’s likely an operation to do intelligence gathering.”  Florida Senator Marco Rubio (a Republican) said today that “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a “Chemical Weapons Unit.”  The major question we need to answer is “How much should we be cooperating with President Putin, and how much—on the other hand—should we be opposing him”?

 

Another dictator whose actions need our attention is Bashir al-Assad.  In April of this year, Assad was responsible for an action which received the condemnation of the entire world as over 80 people were killed and hundreds seriously impacted in a chemical weapons attack in Northwestern Syria.  Less than a month ago, the U.S. learned that Syria’s Assad may be preparing a new chemical weapons attack that would result in “mass murder” of civilians.  Are we doing enough to protect not only Syria’s own people from this tyrant, but also to protect the rest of the world from him?

 

Finally, just this month, our nation and the world was confronted with the successful launch of North Korea’s first intercontinental ballistic missile—powerful enough to reach the Alaska in the United States, and possibly even the western coast of the U.S.A.—California, Oregon, Washington.  How long will it be until  Kim Jong-un develops a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can be attached to an ICBM that can reach our nation?  Will we wait on the sidelines for that to happen?  Will increased sanctions sufficiently deter this rogue nation and its supreme leader?  Can anything short of force—can anything short of war curb Kim Jong-un’s bellicose rhetoric and hostile actions?

 

These are the questions that continue to plague not only me, but also our country’s leaders.  Will we learn from the past, or continue to repeat the mistakes that permitted Hitler and Nazi Germany to create a regime of blood and violence that resulted in a world war in which  50 to 80 million people were killed, in which 6 million Jews were murdered, in which 6 million Poles, gypsies, communists, homosexuals, and disabled persons were murdered?  Will we allow evil to triumph, while good people stand by and do nothing — or simply do not do ENOUGH?  These are the questions of our times, and Larson’s superb book “In the Garden of Beasts” is a lesson in the results of allowing evil to exist, to grow, and to impact the world in ways that still stagger the imagination even as they assault all our notions of decency and humanity.

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The Hillary Clinton I Know, and the Kind, Caring Woman Some Refuse to See . . .

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Admittedly, I’ve never actually met Hillary Clinton, though I have watched a few dozen of her speeches over the years and  actually attended one in person.  I have probably read another two dozen articles or books about her life and work.  I have followed her career and admired her work and her commitment to people –particularly to children and women–ever since her husband was running for President back in 1991.  I was 25 years younger then–a relatively youthful man of 40–and I saw and continue to see a strong, determined, brilliant woman whose words and acts truly reveal both a true compassion for others as well as a burning passion for making people’s lives better!  Over all these  years, this is a woman whom I feel I really know –and respect and admire.

I don’t look at Hillary with blinders on; I am fully aware of all the attacks that regularly and routinely have come from nearly everyone on the right, far too many on the left, and from many average middle-of-the-road Americans.  In many cases, I could debate each of those arguments, and successfully refute many of the points that are routinely and incorrectly made, but that is not my point here.  My purpose in this blog post, is to show you the Hillary Clinton I have always known.  When my friends (and occasionally relatives) ask me why I support Hillary, when they routinely excoriate her for Benghazi or her email servers or for any number of other offenses, I get frustrated that they simply refuse to acknowledge all the good that she has done for others.  They refuse to accept that her life’s work has been focused on helping the poor, helping the sick, helping those who live in the shadows of our society, helping those who experience prejudice and discrimination, those who–even in 2016–are not treated always equally within the home or within our nation.

I am hopeful that people of all political points of view will take seven minutes of their lives watch the fascinating video to which I LINK below.  It shows just 8 to 10 brief stories out of literally thousand of times when Hillary has listened to the problems of average Americans and has done her best to help.  It shows why I and millions and millions of other Americans strongly support Hillary Clinton for  President of the United States.

Hillary Clinton’s Commitment to Women and Children

 

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Michelle Obama’s Powerful Speech on Women

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First Lady Michelle Obama (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

 

I just watched, once again on MSNBC,  Michelle Obama’s incredibly powerful speech in New Hampshire about women and about the comments and actions of Donald Trump against women. The speech was magnificent — AND historic.   It was a speech for the ages–much like Hillary Clinton’s famous speech about Women’s rights being Human rights.

The First Lady’s speech was more than an emotional diatribe against Donald Trump and his views of and actions against women. It was a profound denunciation of the attitudes that some men, some societies, even some women have held against women in our society and our world–against their rights, against their character, against their roles in society (some chosen and some forced), against their very beings. It was a powerful condemnation of the way that so many women are treated by men–especially men in powerful positions.

She stood up for women and spoke directly to them–with a shared knowledge and experience. She spoke not only of women, but also of men who were outraged at the sexism and misogyny and discrimination they have seen throughout this campaign and throughout their lives. She stood up for the daughters and sons in America and across the world. And I was proud–so proud of her–as First Lady, as a woman, as a leader. In one extraordinary speech, she said so much about women–what they live with, what they have to overcome, what they indeed HAVE overcome, what they can achieve and what they HAVE achieved.

The speech should be played and replayed, over and over, for appropriate audiences–young men and women, and those older, as well. And let us hope and pray–and aspire to a day sometime in the very near future, when we will not need to re-play this speech because women will have achieved full equality–in the boardroom, in the home, and in society–and, most importantly, in the way they are spoken about and TREATED by all people–men and women–each and every day.

NOTE:  To view the entire speech by First Lady Michelle Obama (courtesy of Vox), please click on the following link:  Michelle Obama’s Speech

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A Call for HONESTY in Presidential Politics on Facebook

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Don’t Believe Everything You Read: Phony Memes, Photoshopped Photos, and False Tweets

A FACEBOOK POLITICAL POST THAT MAKES SENSE —

NO MATTER WHICH CANDIDATE YOU ARE SUPPORTING!

Did Hillary Clinton REALLY say, “The average Democrat voter is just plain stupid”? Did Bernie Sanders really say, “My object in life is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism”? Did Donald Trump once call Republicans “the dumbest group of voters in the country”? Did Ted Cruz really hug Fidel Castro? Is that photo of Marco Rubio shaking hands with President Obama while signing a trade deal real”? Did Hillary Clinton really shake hands with Bin Laden, like that picture I saw on the internet? Did Ted Cruz really say, “When gays stayed hidden we had no mass murders”? Did Obama really order that the words “Under God” be removed from the “Pledge of Allegiance”?

The answer to ALL of the above questions is NO — absolutely NOT!

All of the above quotations were placed on actual facebook memes which were shared thousands and thousands of times, and if you check each one out on a fact-checking site like Snopes.com or politifact.com, you will find that they are all FALSE, all FAKE.

Can I please ask for YOUR help? Can you help me to get rid of phony memes on facebook? I am getting so tired of seeing people post absolutely FALSE and PHONY political memes on facebook, as well as phony photoshopped photos of political candidates. No matter WHO you support, this is absolutely WRONG! Please, before you share some political poster–especially one with a candidate saying something that sounds absolutely outrageous, please CHECK IT OUT FIRST!!! You can simply google the quote by asking something like this: “Did (Candidate’s Name) actually say, “……..”? Usually, that search will show you a Snopes article (Snopes is a neutral and respected fact-checker) demonstrating to you that the quotation is FALSE (though on rare occasions, it may show that it is true).

This primaries and the national Presidential election in November is absolutely crucial toward our county’s future–and perhaps the world’s future, as well. Nearly ALL of us believe that–no matter what candidate we support. What I am asking is for us all to rely just as much as we can on FACTS in supporting our candidates. If you attack the positions of another candidate, please use carefully checked FACTS in doing so. Even if you feel you must attack the character of another candidate, please do so in a civil way, and use FACTS.

And just because you found it on someone’s Republican website, or Democratic website, or Tea Party website, DOESN’T mean it is TRUE. Try to check it out with the most reputable source that you can—not some left-leaning OR right-leaning website. Look for sources (like Politifact or Snopes or maybe CNN which are generally given credit for trying to maintain neutrality). I know some of you may disagree with those sources I mentioned, but just try to be sure it is generally respected as a neutral site for reporting FACTS. And if you find a friend or family member–or even a stranger–sharing something that seems outrageous, please check it out. If it proves to be false, don’t ignore it, please point out that it is false, and include the link that PROVES it is false.

Many of the memes, posters, and photos that are shown in the collage above were shared MILLIONS of times, and believed by the people who shared them AND who viewed them. We all have a responsibility to be sure to vote, and to make up our minds–to make our choice–based on FACTS. The choice for our country is far too important to believe falsehoods, half-truths, and outright lies.

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A Fond Farewell to Leonard Nimoy: A Friend from My Childhood

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Rest in Peace, Leonard Nimoy! Few things make me feel as old as the passing of an actor who was so much a part of my childhood–my teen years and beyond! We have lost an extremely talented, very good man.

Spock’s famous quotes go well beyond his iconic “Live long and prosper” and his raised eyebrowed “Fascinating . . .” You might recall his “Change is the essential process of all existence” or “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one” or “Insufficient facts always invite danger” or “Without followers, evil cannot spread.”

Yes, I certainly am fully cognizant that in just the past year alone, a number of people have passed away who have likely had a far greater impact on our world; yet with Leonard Nimoy’s passing, a part of my childhood goes with him, and I am confident that many share that feeling.

From William Shatner: “”I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love” and from George Takei ”

The word extraordinary is often overused, but I think it’s really appropriate for Leonard. He was an extraordinarily talented man, but he was also a very decent human being. His talent embraced directing as well as acting and photography. He was a very sensitive man. And we feel his passing very much. He had been ill for a long, long time, and we miss him very much.”

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In his role as Spock, Leonard Nimoy once said, “You have been, and always shall be, my friend.” I turn this very phrase back on this larger-than-life yet all-too-human man whom I viewed only on a television and movie screen. May your kind and gentle spirit not only speed to the heavens, but may it also imbue each one of us every day!

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The 2014 Boston Marathon –Remembering Sean Collier, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Krystle Campbell

As the 2014 Boston Marathon begins in Hopkinton, Our Four Heroes Watch From Above.

As the 2014 Boston Marathon begins in Hopkinton, Our Four Heroes Watch From Above.

In Tribute . . . As I watch the Boston Marathon, I like to think that somehow, somewhere, and in some way, the spirits of Officer Sean Collier, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Krystle Campbell are looking down on the start of the race–knowing that they are remembered lovingly by family, friends, runners, and “Bostonians” from every state and country, and proud that we all carry on–standing strong together–determined to defeat hatred and violence and equally committed to build a better world for all! God bless each of these brave souls and their families and also all those who were injured in the bombing. We will always remember and honor you!

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In Memory of President John F. Kennedy

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I was there–in Texas–no, not in Dallas, but in Austin, the next stop on President Kennedy’s trip through Texas. I was 12 years old then, and I not only deeply respected John Fitzgerald Kennedy as our nation’s President, but I truly believed that I loved him, as well, as a young, vibrant leader who would lead us into both the outer reaches of space as well as into a new prosperity in America. In my young, idealistic innocent mind and heart, he would almost singlehandedly lead us into a more kind, more just nation and world. The poverty of which I was just becoming aware would be no more. The prejudice and racism which I saw when I stared at the separate water fountains and restrooms at the pro wrestling (rasslin’) matches I attended monthly would dissipate and then vanish altogether–vestiges of another time and place as the new age of Camelot convinced so many of us that there really was a shining city and fleeting wisps of glory to come.

I was in seventh grade then—in junior high, and we were so excited, so absolutely thrilled to be getting out of school early to go to the parade in downtown Austin–the parade in which our President would smile that broad smile of his and offer us all a friendly, energetic wave–the parade which was–tragically–never to be. My brother Geoff–one year my junior (and my best friend, as well)–was the first to sense that something was amiss. As Austin was the capital city of Texas, Geoff was privileged to have Governor John Connally’s son in his sixth grade class, and when young Mark Connally was called suddenly and urgently from class, there was a sense that something was definitely wrong.

Hearing the news, I was stunned—we ALL were stunned and shocked and grief-stricken–beyond my ability to describe it. Dismissed early, we all went home to watch the tragedy unfold on the national news—black and white TV–but burned into our consciousness–believe me–in living color.

I remember the depth of emotion I felt in the days to come–the overwhelming sadness and despair–as we watched the assassin himself killed and then the funeral procession for the President, the salute by John-John, and then shared sad, bitter tears in the realization that not only was President Kennedy gone, but that somehow, things would never be the same again.

As a twelve-year-old who loved to write, my grief flowed from an aching heart just as surely and continuously as the ink in the cartridge pens we used in that day. I wrote the following words:

THE DEATH OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY
by Mitchell R. Grosky

Our leader has departed–
His heart, his soul gone too.
His memory will long remain
in everything we do.

Our lives, our dreams were shattered
on this outrageous day.
Our eyes are filled with tears;
Our President’s passed away.

He tried so hard for freedom–
for rights for one and all.
He tried to keep us happy;
How could this great man fall?

He tried to make our country
greater than ever before.
He tried to do all this.
Yet hatred sealed the door.

It was a beautiful morning–
More beautiful than ever before.
No one knew or had any idea
of what Fate held in store.

Suddenly three shots rang out,
and hit him in the head.
A short time afterwards,
our President was dead.

It must have been a madman
to do a thing like this!
His aim was sharp and careful;
His bullet did not miss.

An unforgivable act
was carried out this day.
The world is deep in sorrow;
our President’s passed away.

I remember the poem word for word, as my beloved mother had me repeat it verbatim so many times over the years for our relatives and her friends. As a retired English teacher, I look back at it with mixed feelings–the forced rhyme and curious, childlike wording all too evident to someone who spent his life focusing on the power and beauty of the written word.

Yet, as I recite the words once more–as I–and all of us–acknowledge the passing of 50 years since our President’s death, my eyes once again fill with the tears of a future that was never to be–of a President who though imperfect in many ways–still made us believe in ourselves and in a better America and a better world.

I think that I was raised to believe that we all must do our parts to make the world a better place, but–looking back–maybe it was this particular time in my life–this oh-so-sad time–that forced me to finally look in the mirror and to face a solemn truth. Perhaps that was the time that I first saw and accepted that it was OUR job–MY job and that of my three brothers and one sister–and all my friends who were growing all-too-quickly toward adulthood…..that it was our job to do something good and kind and decent–maybe even noble with our lives. The world should be a better place because one has lived–that’s the way one person said it.

That was the lesson I learned from one of the saddest days in my life–that we can–and we MUST–make a difference.

Don’t let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.

Whether Camelot was real,
or just was an illusion,
I can tell you that it was real
in the mind of this 12-year-old boy.
And so…
So many years later,
I thank President Kennedy for leaving that lesson–
that message to me
and to so many others throughout the world.

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