Letter to Senator Chris Murphy

Posted May 26, 2018 by V. Galligan
Categories: Uncategorized

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Senator Chris Murphy
136 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Murphy,

Put it all aside. Put the North Korean talks aside. Put Iran aside. Put the Mueller investigation aside. Put everything aside that’s not about the stolen children.

And not just the children stolen from refugees by the American government. But the more than 1,400 of those stolen children who have been lost by that same American government.

Find those children. Where are they? Who has them? Are they safe? Are they being abused? Will they ever see their mothers and fathers again?

Children that are as young as 2 years old . . . and younger. We’ve stolen them from their refugee parents. Literally. On the order of Donald Trump and his band of cruel and soulless henchmen.

Until we see that those children are safe and returned to their mothers and fathers, nothing else we do matters. We will have become as soulless as our president. We will have become co-conspirators in this heinous crime against humanity.

Who are we? What have we become as a people? We are losing our souls. We are going along with the evil perpetrated by the White House. We complain half-heartedly, but do nothing. We wring out hands, while children are pulled away — Nazi-style — from their parents.

We are becoming shadow people. People without substance, without moral standards beyond our own selfish interests, We’re all hot and bothered about sexual abuse by powerful figures in movieland and the media and politics. But where’s the outrage about children stolen from mothers and fathers running from danger?

Yes, stolen from their parents or guardians. Just taken away, just like that. Whisked off to god-knows-where. Imagine your own children pulled from your arms when they were four or six years old or 10 or 13. Would you be so blasé?

So you just let it go, let it continue happening? You focus on ‘The Big Issues” and forget the stolen children? They’re just the casualties of Trumpism? They’re the throwaways in our current toxic politics?

If that’s the case, then we are lost as a people. We are no better than all those people who tolerated Hitler, as he snuffed out the lives of countless Jewish children.

Shame on us.

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Two Ways of the World

Posted May 22, 2018 by V. Galligan
Categories: Uncategorized

A young black kid who lives around the corner on Compton Street often walks two dogs on their poo/pee detail. Yesterday, he had only one dog. I asked him why. He said his father gave away the second dog. Didn’t like that the dog barked.

The father told his young son that he gave the dog to a friend. I asked the boy if he knew his father’s friend. He said yes. “Maybe you can go visit the dog at the friend’s,” I said, hoping to take some of the hurt away.

The boy just looked me and didn’t say anything.

“Did you really like the dog?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Did the barking bother you?”

“No.”

“You miss him?”

“Yes.”

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “That stinks.”

I gave the boy some salmon treats for the dog he has left.

***************************

This morning, I had a doctor’s appointment. It was a follow-up visit. The visit went fine. Things looked ok. Blood pressure in the high normal, but still ok for someone who will turn 81 next month.

I’ll have my annual physical in late-October.

On the way out of the office, I chatted with the receptionist. She gave me the form for the blood test I’ll have before the October physical. Then we chatted about this and that.

Somehow the subject of voting came up.

She said she never votes. Not locally or nationally or any other way. Neither does her husband. She used to vote years ago but hasn’t voted for awhile. Her husband has never voted.

“Why not?” I asked.

She pointed upwards.

“He’s the only One who can change things for the better,” she said. “There’s no way we humans can make the world better. Only God can do that.”

“But we humans can sure make things a lot worse,” I said, “if we vote for the wrong person. Like the person who’s in the White House now.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “No matter who we vote for, it won’t be any good because we don’t have the power to make the world the way it should be. Only He” — and again she pointed upwards — “can make things right. Voting can’t do it.”

I asked if her way of thinking was attached to any particular religion.

“Jehovah’s Witness,” she said.

I said ok.

“I’ll see you in October.”

An Algerian By Way Of Canada

Posted May 16, 2018 by V. Galligan
Categories: Uncategorized

I’ve never done this before: ordered a book in Canada that won’t be published for another five months. And to order it on Amazon/Canada.

If it’s published in America at the same time, the American price will probably be cheaper. Canadian things always cost more in the U.S. than U.S. things. But then maybe Amazon/America won’t carry the book. They should carry it, but maybe they won’t.

The pre-order price cost me $48.93, which includes shipping and handling . . . from Canada. The book will have to show its passport at the border in order to get to me. That could be tricky because the book is by an Algerian who lives and writes in Paris and Oran, Algeria. And the book is translated. The border guards could be confused.

Of course, the guards could have been just as confused about Albert Camus, who was also Algerian and who also lived in Paris and wrote books that were translated into English. It’s not easy being a border guard.

The irony is that the book I just ordered is by the writer of the book that took a deeper fictional look inside Camus’s famous novel, The Stranger. The writer of the book I just ordered took Camus’s novel and turned it inside out with his own Algerian perspective. His book is just as simple and plainly elegant and just as profound and affecting as Camus’s.

As the French publication, Le Monde des Livres, said of this writer’s novel, “In the future, The Stranger and The Meursault Investigation will be read side by side.”

I agree that they should be read side by side. Whether they will be read at all depends on whether people will still be reading books in translation in the years ahead. Or any books. Or any books by Algerians. If it’s not streaming on Netflix, does it exist? If it’s not on Facebook, is it worth your time?

The name of the writer whose book I just ordered is Kamel Daoud. He is a wonderful writer and a clear thinker and a perceptive and sensitive journalist. And he says things in such a clear, simple way that you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. But you didn’t think of it yourself and you wouldn’t have if Daoud hadn’t pointed it out to you.

But here’s the problem. Daoud has published only one novel — the superb Meursault Investigation. The rest of the time he has been writing high quality journalistic essays in French and publishing them in French and Algerian publications. On occasion, he will publish a piece on the op-ed page of the New York Times, but such pieces appear few and far between.

And I miss him. I would like to read more. He makes me think. He tells me things I should know but don’t know. He gives me literary pleasure.

And then today, I discovered that in fact a collection of his essays — Chroniques — will be published in translation on October 16.

In my excitement, I could not wait, and so I quickly plunked down my credit card and pre-ordered the book from the only place I knew to order it from — Canada.

Amazon/America did not give me that option. It was probably too busy streaming episodes of “The Three Stooges.”

But now I have an additional incentive for remaining alive. Daoud’s collection will be coming my way in a little over five months. (It will take extra shipping time to bypass the border guard.)

It’s not easy drawing breath each day as an American, with Trump as president. We are faced with the choice of humiliation or despair. It is a dark, dispiriting time, and it may not end anytime soon. It’s not impossible that Trump could be re-elected. I have lost faith in the wit and wisdom of the American people.

However, an Algerian’s writing is now on my horizon and I will take comfort in that. He is coming from over the border, where it is still safe and sane. He will give me something intelligent to think about and a literary style to embrace.

He will tell me that survival is not always easy and not often pleasant. But endurance can, in itself, be ennobling and dignified.

He may also point out that once you turn 81, your choices are limited.

All The Lonely People

Posted May 14, 2018 by V. Galligan
Categories: Uncategorized

Many people are lonely — sad, isolated, feeling abandoned. Tens of thousands of people, millions of people worldwide. Tens of millions. Hundreds of millions. Who can count them all?

The British government published a report in January about the extent of loneliness in England.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said of the report that “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life. I want to confront this challenge,” she said, “and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

The head of the largest charity for the elderly in the UK said that loneliness can kill. “It’s proven to be worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” he said.

British government research has found, according to the New York Times, that about 200,000 older people in Britain had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.

But loneliness is not confined to the elderly. “Young or old,” said the report, “loneliness doesn’t discriminate.”

In response to the report, the prime minister has appointed a Minister for Loneliness.

In the United States, by contrast, loneliness is considered a god-given right and is protected by the Constitution, according to gun advocates.

Three Abandoned Sisters

Posted May 10, 2018 by V. Galligan
Categories: Uncategorized

The parents didn’t want them. Or at least one of the parents didn’t. Didn’t want the first one, nor the second one, nor the third one. Three baby girls born a year apart and each one abandoned on the outskirts of Berlin, Germany.

Just left outside. One of them was found in a bus stop.

It turns out that they’re sisters, these three babies. Their blood shows that they had the same mother and presumably the same father. The umbilical cord was cut roughly. With what, a bead knife, a jackknife? Who knows? But it was not under medical conditions.

And then each baby — a year apart — was abandoned, each one just left outside in the open for someone else to clean up and to give a home to. To give a life to. To give a future to. To give a name to.

The German police have given the babies names, according to the New York Times: Emma, Lilo, and Hanna.

Three sisters, without the benefit of a Chekhov play to absorb their abandonment.

Will there be a fourth abandonment next year by this pitiless couple? Or if the next baby is a male, will they keep that one?

Is this all about Male, yes; Female, no? Dump the little girls onto the street? Give the little boy baby the keys to the kingdom?

Is this about poverty or about ethnicity? About homelessness or religious preference? About panic or about sectarianism? Is this about the West versus the Middle East?

The Berlin police are looking for the adult couple but haven’t found them yet.
They wonder if the mother might be a victim herself.

“Maybe the mother,” they said, according to the Times, “is in some kind of dependent relationship in which she is also being mistreated.”

The anti-immigrant crowd will start pointing fingers.

Meanwhile, Emma, Lilo, and Hanna are “in foster care,” whatever that means. But at least they’re safe and being looked after.

But someday, they will be told their stories and at that time they might wonder why, when they were so small and so needy, they were simply thrown out with the trash.

And they just may wonder why, for some people, being born female is such a bad idea?

Scarlatti on Tape

Posted May 6, 2018 by V. Galligan
Categories: Uncategorized

I have been listening today to Domenico Scarlatti. To his keyboard sonatas, performed by various contemporary pianists. Contemporary to me, not to Scarlatti, who lived from 1685 to 1757.

The music, very bright and elegant and precise, is coming from cassette tapes I recorded 27 years ago on my now-deceased Marantz receiver over FM cable lines. I recorded onto excellent XLII Maxell cassette tapes.

The source of the music was WNYC FM in New York, in particular, the program known back then as “Sunday Best,” with the host Sara Fishko.

I love the music, the program, Sara, and her impeccable musical taste and her casual, intimate and very warm voice. The date of this program was October 27, 1991. It was a ‘birthday’ celebration of sorts, marking Scarlatti’s October 26th birthday 306 years earlier.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I recorded many of Sara’s classical music programs. I have more than 50 tapes’ worth of her programming, not just of ‘Sunday Best,” but also of her later program, “Midday Music.” I can listen to Sara and her music whenever I like, even though she long ago stopped hosting classical music. In fact, both WNYC AM and FM long ago stopped broadcasting classical music altogether, although the station does own the historic New York classical music station, WQXR.

The clarity of the cassette tapes is superb. The audio deterioration is minimal. It’s still like listening to a ’live’ broadcast.

I also have more than a hundred tapes of old Jonathan Schwartz classic American Songbook programs dating back to February 2000.

This music is still mine at the touch of a finger. I rescued it long ago and can still play it through good speakers. I still have a cassette deck inside my old SONY AM/FM, cassette CD player. I can plug better speakers into that old radio.

Unlike you, I have not turned my back on the richness of radio from long ago. It still lives in my life, as lively and fresh and vivid as it was 27 years ago.

You, of course, have pushed ahead into your contemporary plastic devices and ‘streaming’ distractions. You wouldn’t be caught dead listening to three hours of classical music on a cassette tape . . . of a program nearly three decades old.

And that’s the tragedy of it. All that great music on all those wonderful radio shows, which we luxuriated in so casually and spontaneously, is lost. You can’t find Sara Fishko’s “Sunday Best” program on any of your I-Tune digital streaming archives. It’s gone, kaput.

Except, not totally kaput. Not in the next room. Not in my carefully organized storage boxes. Not in the cassette player inside my SONY CFD-S39. The programs, the music, Sara, and her presentation of Domenico Scarlatti are still alive the way they were on October 27, 1991. They can come alive at any time, again and again. All it takes is one finger pressing one button.

And what should never have disappeared is rescued from oblivion.

But only for the ears that still want to listen.

And only for the culture that still wants to live.

For everyone else, it’s all just wall-to-wall Twitter and Facebook and the mass banality of the Disposal.

America’s Inhumanity

Posted May 1, 2018 by V. Galligan
Categories: Uncategorized

We’re tearing babies away from their mothers and fathers.

Yes.

It’s not the Nazis doing it. It’s not the Commies. It’s not the radical Islamists.

It’s us: the good ol’ Uncle Sam Americans. That’s how low we’ve fallen. That’s how heartless we’ve become.

We take babies and other young children away from men and women who are running for their lives from war and terror and threats of assassination. They show up at our border, seeking refuge. And we say No. Or we say Maybe. Or we say We’ll see. And then we take their children.

The parents cry. The young children cry as they‘re taken away. The children are put in U.S. immigration vehicles and driven to “shelters.” They may never see their parents again.

This is what we’ve become.

You can send your congratulations to President Donald Trump. Taking children away from their refugee parents is his idea. He thinks it will discourage people asking for refuge.

The New York Times reported on this moral abomination a week and a half ago on its front page. A few days later, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof published a column on the subject on the Times’ op-ed page. That same day, the Times published a letter to the editor by a psychoanalyst, who called this U.S. immigration practice “nothing short of horrifying.”

Kristof wrote: “I am the son of refugees myself, a beneficiary of Americas’ magnanimity, and today’s policies leave me ashamed. When immigration officials pry a crying young child away from a parent and send that child to foster care, that is not ‘immigration policy.’ That is ‘barbarism.’ “

Nowadays, this is how we Make America Great Again.

I share Kristof’s shame. I am angry at and deeply ashamed of my country for behaving this way. So far, more than 700 children have been taken from their refugee-seeking parents.

Just taken away from people who simply want to find safety and security with their children in the U.S.

This is how the original Times story begins: “On Feb. 20, a young woman named Mirian arrived at the Texas border carrying her 18-month-old son. They had fled their home in Honduras through a cloud of tear gas, she told border agents, and needed protection from the political violence there.

“She had hoped she and her son would find refuge together. Instead, the agents ordered her to place her son in the back seat of a government vehicle, she said later in a sworn declaration to a federal court. They both cried as the boy was driven away.”

Welcome to today’s America.

This sounds like something the Nazis did in the 1940’s to Jews and other minorities.

Is Trump bringing fascism to America, the way more and more people fear? His brutal immigration policies are strong evidence that he is. And for many Americans, that’s just fine. They’re in the mood for a little fascism.

The inhumanity of yanking children away from their parents is almost cartoonishly vicious. It seems almost too terrible to be true. But it is true.

So why aren’t we hearing about it every day? Where is the press on this? The New York Times has done its part, and I suspect the Washington Post has also jumped on the subject. But where is everyone else?

Why are there no daily news stories on the subject? Where are the in-depth daily feature stories? Where is ‘60 Minutes’? Where is my local newspaper? Where are the editorials? Where are the interviews with senators condemning this cruel barbarism?

Instead, we keep getting the Trump twitters and the stories about prostitutes peeing on Obama’s Moscow bed and Trump denying he slept with Stormy Daniels, and all the other flashy crap.

Meanwhile, babies and young children are languishing in immigration ‘shelters’ or foster homes, while their mothers and fathers, who have done nothing wrong, weep inconsolably.

If this is what America has become, then we are lost, and we deserve the world’s contempt.