Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bashing Pope Francis, Mongering Hatred against Catholics and Catholicism. The Gatestone Institute and Susan Warner.

I've noticed in my Facebook feed that memes bashing Pope Francis are among the most frequent items. I often see three memes hating on Pope Francis in my first ten minutes of browsing Facebook in the morning. 

Mind -- I'm not talking about intelligent, informed, factually accurate posts that produce headlines that speak the truth in rational language and that articulately debate this or that Vatican position. 

I'm talking about pre-cooked memes with photos designed to make the pope look sinister and headlines tuned to exploit any latent anti-Catholic prejudice in the viewer. 

I'm talking about people who don't read Vatican documents, and yet spout off opinions about material that they have not read and refuse to read. Posters don't inform themselves about actual events. And posters spout off, 


Typing in all caps because a lot of less informed internet posters do type in all caps, thinking that typing in all caps magically transforms lies into truth. 

I had to unfriend someone I had liked because he posted one anti-pope meme after another. The last one by him I saw included the rather lowbrow headline, "The Pope Is a Dope."

I mentioned this publicly. And so this morning I received an anti-pope article in my inbox, rather than on my Facebook page. Clever! 

The Gatestone Institute published "The Scorpion, the Frog, and the Pope," by Susan Warner. In one of her opening paragraphs, Warner writes, 

"The history of the Catholic Church is a two-thousand year old story of anti-Judaism, conspicuous by frequent massacres, murders, forced conversions, torture, pogroms, expulsions, demonization and other unspeakable acts of violence and offense."

This is, of course, hate mongering propaganda, not respectable and representational history. Of course nominal Catholics, even some genuine Catholics, and people who aren't Catholic at all have done very bad things, in specific locations, at specific times, in response to specific local conditions. Good Catholics are ashamed of these crimes, that go against our teaching, and we repent of them and make amends. At the time that these crimes were committed, there were Catholics who stood against them. 

What Warner does not mention is that popes, other church leaders, and lay Catholics often stood up for Jews, taught tolerance of Jews, had Jews as friends, and came between Jews and other sinful, aggressive, Catholics and others who were attacking Jews. 

No Polish reader needs me to remind him or her of Catholics Jan Karski, Maximilian Kolbe, Irene Sendler, Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma, and Witold Pilecki, but these heroes are not alone. There are many more. 

We Catholics are deeply ashamed of, and deeply regret, the attacks on Jews that happened during the First Crusade. How many Catholics know that good Catholics attempted to protect the Jews under attack, including the Archbishop of Cologne? One could mention many such examples.

One really needs to read a responsible history of the Catholic Church to understand hate mongers like Warner -- but how many people will do that? Too few. 

In the meantime, to see just how twisted and inflammatory Warner's opening paragraph is, let's edit it a bit. 

"The History of Judaism is a four-thousand year old story of anti-Goyism, conspicuous by Jews, when they were in the majority, persecuting early Christians unto death, praying for their utter destruction -- the  Birkat ha-Minim -- and teaching that Mary was a whore, that Jesus' father was a Roman soldier, and that Jesus is boiling in excrement in Hell. Jews have demonized Christians." 

Unfortunately the isolated facts in the above paragraph are true, but no responsible person would begin an article meant to be read by the general public with that paragraph. It focuses on isolated, ugly facts, and leaves out the millions of Jews who have been tolerant of Christians, friends to Christians, helpful to Christians, etc. 

It leaves out the foundational Jewish teachings that teach respect for difference. It leaves out the majority of good people today who want to live together in peace. 

I don't know what's behind the hatred for Pope Francis, but I am deeply troubled by it, and I'm concerned about how far it will go, and in what direction. 

You can read Susan Warner's anti Catholic hate mongering at the Gatestone Institute here

Some less offensive Pope Francis memes:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On Ynet Calling Poland "The World's Largest Jewish Cemetery"

Otto sent this in. It is his response to Ynet calling Poland "the world's largest Jewish cemetery." 

I find it difficult to understand why you and other writers seem to confuse Poland the victim of Nazi Germany invasion and occupation with the Poland as some active member of the Axis. 

Camps set up by the Germans were done so because it was convenient and not some sign of Polish complicity. 

One never reads this type of slander against the French in the same way even though the Vichy government, for example, was an active and willing participant. 

Poland was on the receiving end of victimization, Poles died in the same death camps fighting for decency and freedom. With their lives. 

When you call it "the world's largest Jewish cemetery", while graphic and statistically true since so many murder victims, it reinforces the silly notion that Poland was a willing participant in the reign of evil under Nazi Germany. 

Have you ever thought up a catch phrase for France in the same why? Not likely. But the insult to Poland goes unchecked over and over again. Unfair, untrue, and just plain insulting. The first victim in war is the truth, so I hope we can make sure to not repeat any mistakes of the past. Words are powerful things and can send big lies when used carelessly.

Otto's father was a Nazi soldier. Otto wrote Ripples of Sin

Monday, June 22, 2015

Yet Another Jewish Person Surprised by a Trip to "The World's Largest Jewish Cemetery" a.k.a. Poland

Yet another Jewish person is surprised by a trip to "the world's largest Jewish cemetery," a.k.a. Poland. 

"A trip to Poland is usually a journey to the Holocaust, to the world’s largest Jewish cemetery and scene of unimaginable catastrophe...The Holocaust is everywhere in this beautiful, lusciously green country. It permeates the ground and the air"

Does anybody at any editorial office at any Jewish publication know that it is offensive to refer to an entire country as "the world's largest Jewish cemetery"? 

When will this cohort of authors allow Poland to be a country again? 

Yes of course we acknowledge the Holocaust and every other historical catastrophe but it is wrong to deny an entire nation any other identity. 

"A Journey of Love and Darkness" by Dr. Ruchama Weiss can be read at ynet here

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bieganski Lives in the Comments Section of the Jerusalem Post. Cue the "Scary Polish Peasants."

"Scary Polish peasants" from Shoah ... no ... wait 

THESE are the "scary Polish peasants from Shoah" source
Same old same old. Nothing new. You've read it all in Bieganski

The Jerusalem Post said something nice about Poland, and posters in the comments section called Poles antisemitic murderers. 

"The Resurgence of Jewish Life in Poland" by Greer Fay Cashman reports that "There's a miracle going on in Poland; Jewish life is thriving, and it’s easier, safer and better to be Jewish every day in Poland than anywhere else in Europe,” Jonathan Ornstein, the director of the Jewish Community Center of Krakow, told participants in a conference marking the 25th anniversary of the renewal of diplomatic relations between Poland and Israel."

The article is followed by comments like this one, 

"Mr. Andrzej Bernstein is representing the rather thankless side of trying to defend Polish culture at the time of the Nazis.

But at least in one area there is hope: Most Europeans are eschewing religion and leaving their churches in droves. Since almost all Polish anti-Semitism comes from the Polish Catholic church, there is hope.

We have hope that more Polish people become agnostic and atheists, like their other European colleagues, and will also drop anti-Semitism at the same time. That said, there remains vicious anti-Israeli action among Europeans, on the "basis" of the "Israeli occupation" of alleged Palestinian lands.

It is difficult to see how Jews have any way of avoiding hatred. It either comes from the European churches...or from anti-Israel hatred. Either way, they cannot win. It's not a matter of wearing sack-cloth and feeling sorry for ourselves. It is what it is. Jew hatred is the most persistent cultural virus in history, and renews itself with each generation.

Jews must therefore remain armed. Armed Jews is the TRUE legacy of the Holocaust. The rest of the World will just have to accept that it is increasingly difficult to kill Jews. They now fight back."

And this "I am sure its safer than Syria or Yemen, but that is not saying much Greer

When the good Polish people who stole those homes and farms from the Jews who were shipped off to death camps, and stole all of our art and possessions , come to us and apologize with tears in their eyes, and give back the stolen goods, then maybe will will talk."

and this "Please give it a break. I could never live in a place where my relatives were shot and thrown into mass graves in the ground, or taken by train to a death camp- how can one trust his enemies, (neighbors) remembering that after the war, Jews who returned to their homes were met with murderous Poles who had taken over their property and killed them rather than face them. 

I remember seeing the movie documentary Shoah,  and the cold stares and expressive hand motions of the local Polish people as Jews were being carted off to labor camps, death camps and crematoriums- they would use the hand movement of the neck being slit open as the trains passed. NICE?"

And this, "my husband's family are listed as the dead murdered by the poles who sent the Jews on their merry way"

Read it -- again -- here.

Oh, Polonia, when will you wake up and do the necessary? As described here

Michael Koralewski Wins I-Phone Photography Award with Warsaw Photo


Sunday, June 14, 2015

What the Rachel Dolezal Scandal Teaches Us

This essay appears at American Thinker

There are at least six distinct lessons to be learned from the Rachel Dolezal scandal.

The internet was on fire on Friday, June 12, 2015. News broke that 37-year-old Rachel Dolezal is not black. She had presented herself as black, and that presentation played a role in her positions as president of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington, chair of Spokane's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission, professor in the Africana Studies Program at Eastern Washington University, former education director of the Human Rights Education Institute, and licensed diversity trainer and consultant for human rights education and inclusivity in regional schools. Dolezal's skin is café-au-lait-colored; this shade is perhaps the product of self-tanning or other ruses. She claimed to be the daughter of dark-skinned black man, and the mother of two dark-skinned black boys. Dolezal is neither. Rachel Dolezal's parents went public with photos. In fact she is naturally peaches-and-cream complexioned, blonde-haired, and green-eyed. The two boys she tried to pass off as her sons are her adopted brothers. She was born in Montana, and not in a teepee, as she claimed. She did not have to use bows and arrows to hunt her own food. She had never been in South Africa, though she claimed she was raised there. Her parents did not discipline her with "baboon whips" similar to those used during slavery days. They did not, as she claimed, punish her for being dark-skinned.

In November, 2013, after seeing "Twelve Years a Slave," Dolezal posted an internet message saying, "When Patsy makes the dolls with the braided arms…it brought back memories of when I was a little girl and made the same [corn] husk dolls in the garden, only I braided their hair instead of the arms." On November 9, 2013, Dolezal posted a list of instructions for African Americans going to see "Twelve Years a Slave." "It will take a hold on you…avoid making plans for frivolous social obligations afterward…not the best film to take a white partner on a first date to…sit in the top, back row" to avoid hostility from white audience members. Dolezal tells viewers to be prepared for white people "snickering at awkward moments" and to "get pissed off at them."

"Twelve Years a Slave" was not the only prompt to Dolezal's racial memories. After Eric Garner died, she stated, awkwardly, "The strangling of Eric Garner's case reminds us of our cultural memory of the strangling through the nooses."

Dolezal had claimed herself to be the victim of numerous hate crimes. These claims stretched back at least to 2008. She said she found a noose hanging outside her home, that someone had left a "vulgar and threatening" phone message alleging that she favored dark-skinned students, that a swastika had been applied to a building where she worked, and that she received a twenty-page hate letter. Police found no evidence to support Dolezal's claims. When Dolezal was finally asked if she had placed the threatening letter in the mailbox herself, she replied, "As a mother of two black sons, I would never terrorize my children and I don't know any mother, personally who would trump up or fabricate anything that severe that would affect her kids." In March, 2015, after one allegation of a hate crime, Dolezal linked arms with African Americans and a white priest, and marched through Spokane singing "We Shall Overcome."

Rachel Dolezal is not one, isolated eccentric. She is symptomatic of much larger problems. We can learn at least six lessons from the Dolezal case.

1.) There is such a thing as black privilege. Dolezal got hired at competitive jobs and received competitive funds. Her claim to be black helped her in this. She didn't make a fortune, but she made a living. It is an open secret that claims of African American identity help job seekers and funding applicants in higher education, the non-profit sector, and some areas of government. African American college applicants receive a bonus of hundreds of points on their SAT scores. Asian Americans are penalized on their SAT scores.

It may be true that African Americans on the street or in department stores are more often suspected of crimes when they are, in fact, innocent. But this is also true – in many academic, government, and non-profit settings, those in power lower their standards for truth when they believe their interlocutor is black. Dolezal's repeated fabricated stories of hate crimes evidence this. That mail was found in her mailbox that had not been handled by the postal service was a giveaway that she was inventing stories. Dolezal was extended a measure of trust, concern, and respect that a white person would not have received under similar circumstances.

Normal and rational limits on compassion are relaxed by those extending black privilege. Dolezal is on record as three times insisting that she suffered in the present because of slavery: when she went to see "Twelve Years a Slave," when her parents beat her, and when Eric Garner died. If a white person were to say, "I feel so sad because of the death of troops in Afghanistan because my great grandfather died in World War II," a polite person might scratch his or her head; a less polite person might demand, "Please explain how your ancestor's death affects you today." No one said that to Dolezal. That social allowance is evidence of how her narrative is privileged by others. Dolezal's suffering matters more, needs to be treated with more compassion and more seriousness, than others' suffering.

Dolezal acquired a more important, less tangible benefit from black identity. I am a teacher. Young people often say to me, "I wish I had a background like black people do … I wish I could feel proud of my country … I wish I felt that I was part of some bigger thing."

My students sound to me as if they are starving for history, meaning, and pride. They also often say to me that they feel overwhelming depression and cynicism as a result of what they are learning in school. They learn that people they had thought of as heroes were actually very bad men. Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owner, they learn. They may not learn that he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and that that is one of the most noteworthy documents in the entire history of the world. My students do not know that the ideals of the Founding Fathers, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, made the enormous and heroic sacrifice of the Civil War, and the liberation of the slaves, inevitable. My students often simply do not know that their country and their ancestors, actual or national, did some good things.

My students do know about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. They know that many African Americans have done heroic things. They know that one must take the Civil Rights struggle seriously.

My students do know that racism is bad. The word "racist," in fact, has become a universal term of condemnation. If something is bad, it is racist. If something is racist, it is bad. When I assign a low grade to a student, I am sometimes accused of "racism" – by Caucasian students. One Ukrainian student accused me of racism against Ukrainians. I am Polish-Slovak; we are closely related ethnicities.

It is significant that Rachel Dolezal is an artist. Viewing Dolezal's online gallery, one quickly gathers a few facts: Dolezal is a talented artist, but her talent is comparable to the talent displayed by many others. She hasn't yet developed the substance or style that might cause her to break through. Dolezal draws heavily on African Americans and Africa. One work depicts twigs placed in a tree in order to mimic the patterns of Ghanaian kente cloth. Had she not entitled the work "Kente," the viewer would see merely twigs in a tree. Victimization is a theme for Dolezal. One work, "Pariah," depicts a sad-looking African American on a subway, with a black panther gazing in the window. Perhaps one is meant to understand that racists see African Americans as wild animals, and, thus, pariahs, or outcasts. A sculpture depicts an African man in Hell. It is safe to conclude that viewers who value the suffering that African Americans have endured imbue Dolezal's art with a power and significance it would not have had she chosen white subjects for the exact same images. A white man in Hell might not garner the same response from these viewers.

2.) There is no privilege for white trash. I am fascinated by the Rachel Dolezal story because she is Czechoslovak, as am I. My mother was born in Czechoslovakia. I never learned about my Polish or Slovak ancestors in school. What I did learn, through popular culture, was that many regard all Eastern Europeans as dumb – thus the dumb Polak joke. When researching my book "Bieganski: the Brute Polak Stereotype," I asked people this question: "You need brain surgery. You have a choice between Dr. Smith and Dr. Kowalski. Which doctor do you choose?" Peoples' eyes would open wide and their mouths would gape open. They suddenly realized that they didn't want anyone named "Kowalski" taking a scalpel to their gray matter. They suddenly realized that they are prejudiced.

My poor, white students lack the cachet that rich whites securely possess. Their parents work crappy jobs. They are browbeaten by the concept of "white privilege." They attend classes part-time, sporadically, hoping against hope that that will get them a job as a nurse, rather than as a nurse's aide, the work they do now. They feel hollow and they feel ashamed. Numbers confirm their disenfranchisement. According to Thomas J. Espenshade's "No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life," poor whites are underrepresented on elite college campuses. In the wider culture, poor whites are anything-goes targets. Terms like "white trash," "trailer trash," "redneck" and "hillbilly" are entirely acceptable terms of abuse. In my own state, contemptuous professionals sometimes refer to residents of Sussex County, a mostly white and rural county, as "Scussex," a combination of "scum" and "Sussex." The idea is that only white trash live there.

I wonder if Dolezal has ever heard of "The Good Soldier Svejk," a brilliant Czech novel, or Janosik, a heroic Slovak outlaw, or the Czech and Slovak freedom fighters who assassinated Holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. I wonder if Dolezal has ever heard of Lidice, the Czech village the Nazis wiped off the face of the earth in retaliation. I wonder if Dolezal has ever heard of the Prague Spring or read Willa Cather's "My Antoinia." In short, I don't know if Dolezal has any idea that members of her own ethnic group have accomplished so very much that she had no need to appropriate another ethnicity to feel the struggle, to remember the pain, to experience transcendent pride.

I cannot help but reflect on the challenges that Dolezal would face as an artist had she created works of comparable level of technical skill that depicted her Czechoslovak ancestry. Would a sad Czech child sitting on a tram have drawn the same approval as the image of a sad black child on a subway? The black child, the viewer assumes, has inherited a mighty history of struggle and heroism. Would a viewer look at a sad Czech child and relate his sadness to Lidice, to Red Army rapes, or to the Battle of White Mountain? The audience would assume that the Czech child is just another recipient of white privilege. Some are allowed to be wounded by their ancestors' suffering. Others are not.

3.) Power conceptions of black identity are more ritualized, dogmatic performance than they are objective fact.

Dolezal is obviously not of African descent. That so many accepted her absurd claim to have a dark-skinned father and two dark-skinned sons informs you what those who accepted these claims are willing to certify as black identity. They were not looking for real ancestry in Africa. They were looking for a dogma, a ritualized performance, a narrative so beyond question it has become religious scripture. What is a black person? A black person is someone who receives death threats from white supremacists. A black person is someone who makes art based on kente cloth. A black person is someone who wears cornrows or dreadlocks. A black person is someone who marches down the street, arms locked with others, singing "We Shall Overcome." A black person is someone who claims actual memories of slavery, which, of course, ended one hundred fifty years ago. A black person is someone who has built her entire professional life around the concepts of black difference and black victimhood, and around pervasive, threatening white people – people so threatening one cannot go to the movies without taking precautions against them. If one does all these things, one is black.

4.) The official concept of what a black person is has become a prison that redefines many black people as something other than black people.

Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Mia Love, Deneen Borelli, Allen West, Larry Elder, internet stars like Michelle A. Conry, a.k.a. "Honestly Speaking," Kisa Jackson, Battlecat Pullum, and, indeed, Booker T. Washington himself were and are all black. These prominent authors, soldiers, and youtube stars do not exist in the "Africana Studies" world once inhabited by Rachel Dolezal. Students taking an "Afrocentric" college course will not read one word of Shelby Steele. That's because the-above listed, authentically black people talk about personal responsibility.

It is more important for a "black" person to adhere strictly to dogma as to what constitutes blackness – as did white Rachel Dolezal – than it is for that person actually to have African ancestry and to be a descendent of slaves.

5.) Real black people are not helped, and are probably harmed, by the attitudes and systems of rewards that helped Dolezal.

I live in Paterson, NJ. Every day I walk past housing projects that are, as far as I can tell, inhabited only by African Americans. There is garbage in the streets and few jobs. Many of my young, male neighbors spend their leisure time congregating on street corners, smoking marijuana, and talking with friends. Their worlds are limited.

Fifty years ago, welfare and other programs promised to change all that. Since that time, numbers have gone against the underclass. There are more children born out of wedlock. There are more African Americans out of jobs. What went wrong?

Counterintuitively, many argue that the welfare mindset hurt, not helped, African Americans.

Rachel Dolezal was able to capitalize on the race grievance industry. Most of the black underclass never does capitalize on that same system of rewards. Unlike Rachel Dolezal, they do not get scholarships, they do not make art about black people suffering, and they do not get elected to non-profit and government positions.

6.) Rachel Dolezal is not alone.

Supporters of the NAACP will no doubt insist that Rachel Dolezal was a freak occurrence, a one-off. In fact there are thousands of Rachel Dolezals out there. When hiring committees satisfy themselves that skin color alone guarantees diversity, they hire for skin color. They hire for the photograph that appears on the university homepage. They may as well be hiring spray-on tans. I have met so many professors and others whose connection to the American black underclass was only as deep as the color of the epidermis. When you hire for skin color, you don't hire for life experience, or compassion, or innovation, or work ethic.

Years ago, I had an African American student who was being chased by gang members. He feared for his life. The office of my congressman, Bill Pascrell, was very helpful, and immediately so. Pascrell is white. I went to a black man in a visible and powerful position. He was middle class, and born in England. He declined to meet with my student. I have had many such experiences, where the sensitivity and concern that a person is supposed to show because he or she is the "right" race or gender or orientation is utterly absent, and the person of the "wrong" race is the one who comes through. Numbers show that affirmative action helps middle class and foreign-born and first-generation black immigrant family members get into college more than it helps the American-born black underclass. I suspect the same is true for hiring. What does a middle class English man have in common with a poor kid from Newark? If it's only skin color, the compassion and dedication won't be there.

After the brouhaha over Rachel Dolezal dies down, the issues implicated in her hiring and pubic disgrace will continue. Linking arms and singing "We Shall Overcome" is a feel-good photo-op. What is needed are jobs and solid families. The color of the person who can change that for the American black underclass is immaterial.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Aquarius on NBC: Polish Jokes?

John Guzlowski writes in that the eighth episode of the NBC show "Aquarius" includes Polish jokes. "About a Polish cop needing to talk less and bath more," John reports. If anyone has any more details please report them. Thank you. 

Sara Paretsky

The text, below, is from Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. Thanks to Otto for sending this in. 

It's the birthday of crime novelist Sara Paretsky (books by this author), born in Ames, Iowa (1947) and raised in rural Kansas. As a kid, she loved reading books about "girls doing active things - biographies of women like the astronomer Maria Mitchell, or Harriet Tubman or Marie Curie." When she was 10, her unhappily married parents gave her a book about Joan of Arc. "They wanted me to see what happened to girls who were too intense and took the world around them too seriously." Though her highly educated parents borrowed money to send her brothers to college, they refused to do the same for her. She was expected to cook for the family, clean the rambling but run-down house, and care for her younger siblings. When she was 19, Paretsky left Kansas for Chicago, where she still lives, 10 minutes' walk from Lake Michigan.

Paretsky is the creator of V.I. Warshawski, a female detective who is smart and good with a gun and also likes nice clothes and cappuccino and enjoys her sex life. Paretsky came up with the character as a rebuttal to the femme fatale character that she first noticed in Raymond Chandler's work. She said, "In six out of seven of his novels, the woman presented herself sexually, and it galvanized me into thinking, surely there are better ways of representing women, who are more believable and had to solve their own problems?" So she created a character who is partly modeled after Paretsky's own alcoholic mother. It took eight years for her to work up the nerve to put the character on the page; since then, V.I. Warshawski has featured in 17 novels, including Bitter Medicine (1987), Burn Marks (1990), Blacklist (2003), and Critical Mass (2013). The 18th Warshawski novel, Brush Back, is due out this summer (2015).

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Suitcase Charlie: Noir Crime Thriller by John Guzlowski

Suitcase Charlie and Me

by John Guzlowski

I started writing my novel Suitcase Charlie about sixty years ago when I was 7 years old, just a kid.

At that time, I was living in a working-class neighborhood on the near northwest side of Chicago, an area sometimes called Humboldt Park, sometimes called the Polish Triangle. A lot of my neighbors were Holocaust survivors, World War II refugees, and Displaced Persons. There were hardware-store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists, Polish cavalry officers who still mourned for their dead comrades, and women who had walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russian Gulag. They were our moms and dads. Some of us kids had been born here in the States, but most of us had come over to America in the late 40s and early 50s on US troop ships when the US started letting us refugees in.

As kids, we knew a lot about fear. We heard about it from our parents. They had seen their mothers and fathers shot, their brothers and sisters put on trains and sent to concentration camps, their childhood friends left behind crying on the side of a road. Most of our parents didn’t tell us about this stuff directly. How could they?

But we felt their fear anyway.

We overheard their stories late at night when they thought we were watching TV in a far off room or sleeping in bed, and that’s when they’d gather around the kitchen table and start remembering the past and all the things that made them fearful. My mom would tell about what happened to her mom and her sister and her sister’s baby when the German’s came to her house in the woods, the rapes and murders.

You could hear the fear in my mom’s voice. She feared everything, the sky in the morning, a drink of water, a sparrow singing in a dream, me whistling some stupid little Mickey Mouse Club tune I picked up on TV. Sometimes when I was a kid, if I started to whistle, she would ask me to stop because she was afraid that that kind of simple act of joy would bring the devil into the house. Really.

My dad was the same way. If he walked into a room where my sister and I were watching some TV show about World War II – even something as innocuous as the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes – and there were some German soldiers on the screen, his hands would clench up into fists, his face would redden in anger, and he would tell us to turn the show off, immediately. Normally the sweetest guy in the world, his fear would turn him toward anger, and he would start telling us about the terrible things the Germans did, the women he saw bayoneted, the friends he saw castrated and beaten to death, the men he saw frozen to death during a simple roll call.

This was what it was like at home for most of my friends and me. To escape our parents’ fear, however, we didn’t have to do much. We just had to go outside and be around other kids. We could forget the war and our parents’ fear with them. We’d laugh, play tag and hide-and-go-seek, climb on fences, play softball in the nearby park, go to the corner story for an ice cream cone or a chocolate soda. You name it. This was in the mid 50s at the height of the baby boom, and there were millions of us kids outside living large and – as my dad liked to say – running around like wild goats!

In the streets with our friends, we didn’t know a thing about fear, didn’t have to think about it.

That is until Suitcase Charlie showed up one day.

It happened in the fall of 1955, October, a Sunday afternoon.

Three young Chicago boys, 13-year old John Schuessler, his 11-year old brother Anton, and their 14-year old friend Bobby Peterson, went to Downtown Chicago, the area called the Loop, to see a matinee of a Disney nature documentary called The African Lion. Today, the parents of the boys probably would take them to the Loop, but back then it was a different story. Their parents knew where they were going, and the mother of the Schuessler boys in fact had picked out the film they would see and given the brothers the money to pay for the tickets. At the time, it wasn’t that unusual for kids to be doing this kind of roaming around on their own. We were “free-range” kids before the term was even invented. Every one of my friends was a latch key kid. Our parents figured that we could pretty much stay out of trouble no matter where we went. We’d take buses to museums, beaches, movies, swimming pools, amusement parks without any kind of parental guidance. There were times we’d even just walk a mile to a movie to save the 10 cents on the bus ride. We’d seldom do this alone, however. Kids had brother and sisters and pals, so we’d do what the Schuessler brothers and their friend Bobby Peterson did.  

We’d get on a bus, go downtown, see a movie and hangout down there afterward. There was plenty to do, and most of it didn’t cost a penny: there were free museums, enormous department stories filled with toy departments where you could play for hours with all the toys your parents could never afford to buy you, libraries filled with books and civil war artifacts (real ones), a Greyhound bus depot packed with arcade-style games, a dazzling lake front full of yachts and sailboats, comic book stores, dime stores where barkers would try to sell you impossible non-stick pans and sponges that would clean anything, and skyscrapers like the Prudential Building where you could ride non-stop, lickety-split elevators from the first floor to the 41st floor for free. And if you got tired of all that, you could always stop and look at the wild people in the streets! It was easy for a bunch of parent-free kids to spend an afternoon down in the Loop just goofing off and checking stuff out.

Just like the Schuessler Brothers and their friend Bobby Peterson did.

But the brothers and Bobby never made it home from the Loop that Sunday in October of 1955.

Two days later, their dead bodies were found in a shallow ditch just east of the Des Plaines River. The boys were bound up and naked. Their eyes were closed shut with adhesive tape. Bobby Peterson had been beaten, and the bodies of all three had been thrown out of a vehicle. The coroner pronounced the cause of death to be “asphyxiation by suffocation.”

The city was thrown into a panic.

For the first time, we kids felt the kind of fear outside the house we had seen inside the house. It shook us up. Where before we hung out on the street corners and played games till late in the evening, now we came home when the first street lights came on. We also started spending more time at home or at the homes of our friends, and we stopped doing as many things on our own out on the street: fewer trips to the supermarket or the corner store or the two local movie theaters, The Crystal and The Vision. The street wasn’t the safe place it once had been. Everything changed.

And now we were conscious of threat, of danger, of the type of terrible thing that could happen almost immediately to shake us and our world up.

We started watching for the killer of the Schuessler Brothers and Bobby Peterson. We didn’t know his name or what he looked like, nobody did, but we gave him a name and we had a sense of what he might look like. We called him Charlie, and we were sure he hauled around a suitcase, one that he carried dead children in. Just about every evening, as it started getting dark, some kid would look down the street toward the shadows at the end of the block, toward where the park was, and see something in those shadows. The kid would point then and ask in a whisper, “Suitcase Charlie?”

We’d follow his gaze and a minute later we’d be heading for home.

Fast as we could.

The novel is available as a Kindle or paperback from Amazon. Just click here: CLICK.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Video Representation of World War Two Casualties

A video representation of the casualties of World War Two can be seen here.

"Two Polish Airline Pilots" Jerry Seinfeld and George Wallace

Nick Goska sent this in. It's a video of Jerry Seinfeld and George Wallace driving in a car. At the 9.20 point, Jerry Seinfeld tells a Polak joke about two Polish airline pilots. And -- that's all I've got. I don't know if there was any backlash to this. I don't know when it aired. 

You can watch the video here

"The Jokes About Polish Stupidity Were Worse Than Anything Said In Public About Blacks" - Prof. Jerry Hough

Pulaski Day Parade by Andre Spatz Source
Recently political science professor Jerry Hough of Duke, which is classified as a "near Ivy League" university, was at the center of a nationwide controversy. In May, 2015, Prof. Hough left a comment in the comments section of a New York Times article about the Baltimore riots.

Prof. Hough compared the differing achievement levels, struggles, and strategies of various ethnic groups in America. He mentioned Polish-Americans and Michael William "Mike" Krzyzewski, aka Coach K, who coaches basketball at Duke.

I wrote to Prof. Hough. He wrote back and he shared with me the two communications, below, that he had written to respond to people who had criticized him. In both he mentions Polish-Americans. With permission, I post both here. I have bolded the portions that refer to Polish-Americans.

Dear Jonathan (of AP):

…I absolutely do not think it racist to ask why black performance on the average is not as good as Asian on balance, when the Asians started with the prejudices against the "yellow races" shown in the concentration camps for the Japanese. They were "colored" and segregated in the South like the more familiar colored. Why did they overcome? Why did King liberate them more than he did the blacks? That is how I ended the comment.

The jokes about polish stupidity were worse than anything said in public about blacks. How did Coach K and others respond to them. (I really would like you to quote something on my great, great admiration for K in addition to his coaching ability. It is also in the letter I add to the end). I do not think the answer is genetics, but must be cultural. After so many decades, I do not think it is white racism which the Asians also were subject to. The time has come to improve the situation.

I graduated from college in 1955 and my cause was always black integration. As a child, I often was taken back to Asheville. I saw the segregation that ended only in 1965. That is what we should be apologizing about to every southern black over 60 who remembers it, not meaningless self-righteous apologies for slavery 150 years ago…

Duke should be apologizing about the maids sitting in the back of the bus from East to West campus and having segregated toilets and fountains. It admitted blacks only in 1962 or 1963 and then because JFK made moon rocket contracts dependent on it. UNC had to integrate because of Brown v. Board of Education because it was public, but private universities did not have to until the 1964 Civil Rights Bill.

My purpose is to help achieve the battle of King's battle to overcome and create a melting pot America. I think that the diversity which the President and Duke promote reflects Malcolm X's vision, and it is a major reason the blacks have done worse than Asians. I think the coalitional policy of the Democratic party as it has swung to the right of Richard Nixon on economic issues is the underlying reason. Elizabeth Warren was (and is) a Nixon Republican on domestic and foreign policy. She is now the extreme left wing of the Democrats. That I have and am writing books about…

Sincerely, Jerry

Letter to a critic who said she might not send her daughter to Duke because I was so awful.:

…I have been at Duke for 40 years and was a disciple of Martin Luther King in the 1950s. I am very disappointed in the lack of progress that I have seen. So I think would Dr. King. 60 years since Montgomery is a long time to say, as you do, that the current black experience is the result of them not being voluntary immigrants. That was over 200 years ago. The implication of what you say is that since the Hispanics are voluntary immigrants, and the illegals especially daring ones at that, the blacks will never be able to compete with then in the long run. I am not so pessimistic if blacks will reject the attitude expressed in the NY Times editorial.

I remember the 1940s and 1950s. The Japanese concentration camps for American-Japanese showed the deepest of prejudice. One was not far from where I lived in the California desert. The Chinese were brought as contract labor. They too faced deep prejudice. Eleanor Roosevelt was among those who publicly called them the yellow races. The Japanese who were imprisoned did not come out saying that they could not rise because of the prejudice and the scars of the camps. They and the Chinese rose. I think the reason was not genetic.

I think that lack of freedom of speech on this issue is one reason for the problem. Dr. King was talking for a melting pot America not a diverse one narrowly defined. I voted for Obama because of what he said about red America and black America in 2004. I hoped that he would say he was a melting pot American, half white and half black, and would reach out to the red voters (the lower and middle income whites). He did not, and I am not surprised that polls say race relations are worse than for a long time.

They are many ways to achieve acceptance. I think they should be debated. The Supreme Court has 6 Catholics, 3 Jews, and 0 Protestants. That is the opposite of diversity, given the enormous hostility of white Catholics, Jews, and Protestants towards each other in the past. Blacks should ask how that hostility dissipated so much that today we don't even notice the lack of diversity on the Court.

Race in the early 20th century was defined by culture. Poles and Italians were called races, and there was a lot of mutual hostility between them Poles were subject to the most humiliating of jokes about their stupidity. Go to the archives at the time Pope John Paul II was elected and read such jokes about him in the Duke Chronicle. Coach K was at Duke at that time. He didn't say that the jokes about Polish stupidity (or stereotypes about Polish drunkenness) prevented him from rising. Instead he showed his incredible intelligence and discipline in the biggest of the big leagues, and he has been an historic force in destroying the prejudices against Poles in this country

Recent Polish Jokes on the Web

Stumbled across the images, below, at a website I'd never visited before. Had googled "Polish joke." 

If you want to check out the website it's here.

Memory and Neighborhood: Poles and Poland in Jewish-American Fiction after World War Two by Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pedich

Frequent blog commentator Jan Peczkis wrote to tell me that he had recently reviewed a new book that makes extensive mention of Bieganski. The new book is entitled Memory and Neighborhood: Poles and Poland in Jewish American Fiction after World War Two by Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pedich. You can read Jan Peczkis' review at this link here.