Apologizing For Trump All Over The World

Apologizing for Trump All Over The World

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Søren Kierkegaard

As Americans traveling in Europe we do apologize often for our behavior. But we may have outdone ourselves with Trump. Trump represents the America that the world hates. He embodies the worst anti-American stereotypes: vulgar, violent, cash-obsessed, racist.  I recently returned from Europe and the Middle East and found myself on the Trump Apology Tour. They are just baffled by how we have this Republican candidate.’To be a potential leader of a nation of immigrants and be anti-immigration and xenophobic plays into other countries fears.

The world seemed to like Obama. Traveling in 2008 was fun when it came to politics.  Since the rise of Trump, you can’t really travel out of the US without a barrage of  political questions.

In South Africa, I was often asked who do you think is worse Zuma or Trump? We’ve never competed with corrupt, dictator types before for unpopularity.  “Why is Trump so popular with Americans?” asked the man at border control in Jordan. Are they allowed to ask that while holding your passport? As usual, I immediately have to distance myself from the Donald. ”No Idea. It’s terrifying.” He smiled and stamped my passport. 

America is no stranger to embarrassing exports but we may have outdone ourselves with Donald Trump. They feel that what started as a bad joke might become a reality. Europeans are definitely feeling that now they have a reason to act superior.”What do you think of Trump?’ they ask. What I think is that Trump destroys everything I do as a traveler to make an impact on how people see Americans.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Advertisements

Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

Pray For Paris, Pray For The World

“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.” Tim O Brian

The justification for terrorist killings is that there are no civilians. The people in a country pay taxes and fund anti terrorism. According to the terrorists, we are all at war. Terrorism is an abstract noun. It is hard to be at war with an abstract noun.

Terrorism happens when one group faces a much more powerful group where they have no chance of winning. Instead they attack other targets in the hopes that will put pressure on the governments. They attack the powerless. They create fear and chaos. They go after people on planes returning from a holiday, people in restaurants, watching a concert, at work or at a soccer match  –  all different ages, races, nationalities and in all different cities. The terrorists convince themselves that their targets are less than human. They use religion, history, past offenses, current offenses and always the bottom line is the pursuit of a more important goal than human life. Is it easier to kill when you don’t call it murder?

The truth is that killing innocent people is always wrong. There is no argument and no excuse that can ever make it right. Terrorism is not part of faith.

We need to stop supporting the countries who fund terrorism. We need to stop our own  secret torturing, killing and cover ups. They don’t seem to be doing any good and give reason to the creation of more terrorists. We do need to defend ourselves.

Turning away refugees, xenophobia and fear of immigration is not an answer either. Didn’t we once return the persecuted back to Germany and Europe? Did we learn anything from closing our borders or putting the Japanese in camps  during World War II? We need to find a way to deal with the threats while honoring our ethical and moral obligations.

There was a surreal feeling in watching the footage of the events in Paris. It wasn’t a movie. People were dying who were just going about the business of life. The blood was not fake. The pregnant woman hanging on the wall saying she couldn’t hold on anymore was not acting. The guy hopping down the street was really shot in the leg.

I have always been fearful. I have the kind of brain that could put together hundreds of worst case scenarios on the way to anywhere. I mourn with the people of France. But fears in hand, I’m still going to Paris in the Spring. I realize that it is important to be aware, but to give in to the fears that random acts of violence create, is to let the terrorists win. #Dontbeterrorized.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Anti – Semitism in Europe – Again?

Anti – Semitism in Europe – Again?

“At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?” And the answer: “Where was man?” William Styron

We are all born into some story, with its particular background scenery, that affects our emotional, social and spiritual growth.

My story was anti-Semitism. My grandparents were part of the well documented immigration of eastern European and Russian Jews at the end of the nineteenth century to America. Restrictions and barriers were placed on Jews that made it impossible to have a normal self-sustaining life in their countries.   In Russia and Poland, pogroms (physical attacks on the Jews and their villages) happened on a regular basis.

Both my parents were born here and had experienced anti-Semitism growing up. My father was a high-ranking officer in the army (not a job Jews could have at that time) and had fought in two wars. He experienced extreme prejudice during his twenty years in the army. My mother grew up on a farm where they were the only Jewish family in their town. She also had a lot of experience with bigotry and discrimination.

When they had children, they moved into the most Jewish neighborhood they could find so their children wouldn’t have the same experiences. Many holocaust survivors moved there as well. I grew up hearing all the stories.

I  was able to read at a very young age and for some reason read the story of Anne Frank when I was nine years old. I looked at the picture of Anne. She had brown hair and brown eyes. I thought that she looked like me and she was Jewish also.  I decided in my nine year old wisdom  that they  could come for me too. I quickly became friends with the only Christian I knew, Frankie, the son of the superintendent of our building. His family could hide me if it happened again.

Children don’t understand prejudice. The world is black and white to them. If someone is mean than you don’t like them. But for someone to not like you and want to kill you because you are Jewish, or Black, Gay or Muslim – that is a hard concept for kids. It has to be taught. As in – if your parents hate them or are afraid of them, then they must be bad. Being hated because I was born into a Jewish family that wasn’t even religious was hard for me as a child to comprehend.

I grew up on the beach and saw a lot of people with numbers on their arms. All the old people who I knew had heavy European accents. For a brief period I thought they counted the older people and when you became old you got an accent. Many of my friends were the children of holocaust survivors. Their lives were shrouded in mystery and darkness.

The holocaust changed so many lives by simply observing just how horrible certain humans can treat each other. It didn’t just scar the survivors but anyone who came in contact with their stories. I grew up in a frightened community. I have always felt how tenuous the world was and that things could end at any moment just as it had for Anne Frank.

As I got older, I became obsessed with reading everything I could about the holocaust. I saw every film and documentary. Someone asked me once “What job I was going to get as the leading authority on the holocaust?’ But I needed answers. How did it happen? Why did people hate us so much? How do people hate for no reason and of course – the nature of evil.

I learned that evil can happen when it is beyond the realm of civilized human consciousness – like planning to kill all the Jews in Europe by gassing and burning them in ovens, flying a plane into the World Trade Center, murdering all the intellectuals or killing  or kidnapping children for going to school.

I am watching that evil again. I recently  saw a map on CNN listing the number of Jews living in each country in Europe. Was that the same map that Hitler looked at? The last time I saw a map listing the number of Jews in each country in Europe it was in a holocaust book showing the number of dead Jews from each country.

So there are no lessons to be learned from the past. The people committing atrocities don’t think of themselves as evil. They commit these acts in the name of righteousness or religion. As someone who loves stories, I wanted restoration and redemption in my story. But instead the monsters of my childhood turn out to be human beings in the present.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Things I’ve Learned In Venice

“ If you read a lot, nothing is as good as you’ve imagined it.  Venice is! – Venice is better. “             Fran Liebowitz

Things I’ve Learned in Venice

Venetians hate Napoleon because he stole from them the very treasures that Venice had previously stolen from Constantinople. The French hate that the Venetians have two museums (Palazzo Grassi and the Dogana) devoted to French modern art.

The pigeons in Venice have special protection because of their popularity with the tourists. No self respecting Venetian over the age of two would pay any attention to a pigeon.

There are two Venices – the actual one and the reflection in the water. Which is real and which is the illusion?

Directions in Venice may involve going” through a sestiere, past the scuola, down the fondamenta or the riva to the rama to the rio tera, to the calle, rughetta or salizzada and under the soltoportego”.( good to travel with map people)

Peggy Guggenheim has a room in her museum devoted to her daughter’s art. (don’t we all?)

An important Venetian holiday is held on the third week in July. It is the Feast of the Redentore commemorating the end of the plague that killed fifty thousand people including Titian. The fireworks display is so extensive and significant that the re-election of the mayor is contingent on their quality ( sort of like us picking a governor based on his movies) I have to add that they were the most incredible fireworks of our lives –I  hope that mayor got re-elected.

If you find  yourself in Venice on a vaporetto going out into the open sea, don’t worry, it will come back into the city……. eventually.

Vaporettos (water buses) in Venice are on the honor system. Many stops do not have kiosks to buy tickets which makes it hard to be honorable.

St. Mark, (patron saint of Venice) had his body “rescued” from his grave in Alexandria. Venetian fishermen covered the relic in pork to repulse the Muslim inspectors. There are mosaics that tell this story in the Basilica. If it was today, it would be covered in pork belly-something I see on every menu.

There is always reconstruction and renovation going on in Venice. The city slogan is “com’era dovera “  ( as it was and where it was)

The Biennale  ( Worldwide Art  Exhibition) in Venice is filled with the same pretentious art people one finds anywhere else. The difference is that in the summer,  they bring their kids. You can hear in several different languages, what was that? When are we leaving?

The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) connects the Doges palace to the Prigioni  (prisons). The name comes from the fact that the prisoners used to sigh as they saw Venice from the tiny windows on their way to the prison. “I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs; a palace and a prison on each hand.”   Lord Byron

There is always a small choice of musical concerts in Venice. They all play Vivaldi.

Napoleon called St Marks Square ‘the finest drawing room in Europe.’  In the summer it is filled with tourists, pigeons, musicians and waiters. Try to see it late at night or early in the morning .

Volare is a song I never expected to be woken up to in the morning or hear 100 times a day.

The Rialto Bridge was built in just three years between 1588-91. It replaced the wooden bridge built in the twelfth century. The architect was Antonio Da Ponte. He beat out Michelangelo and Palladio for the contract. His name means Anthony of the Bridge . I cant help thinking he went into the competition with an edge.

Venice has no sewer system. Household waste flows into the canals and is washed out into the sea twice a day with the tides.(in case you were thinking of tasting the water or swimming )

There are many mask shops in Venice but only a few are traditional mask makers. Remember if its cheap, its fake.  La Bottega Dei Mascareri is a traditional mask making studio near the Rialto Bridge.

They say the best way to explore Venice is to get lost among the endless narrow streets and bridges. I don’t think that is the best way to explore Venice with my daughter. But no matter how good at directions you think you are, you will get lost in Venice.

Bauer Il Palazzo Hotel is one of Leonardo Di Caprio’s favorite hotels. (and mine also!)

Don’t touch the produce in Venice. In fact it is considered offensive to touch  fruits and vegetables in the markets  all over Italy.

The Bellini was invented by Guiseppi Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar. It is fresh white peach juice mixed with Prosecco. (sparkling wine). Its pink color reminded him of the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by Giovanni Bellini.  It is named for the artist.

Gondolas are operated by highly skilled oarsmen.  Only 3 gondolier licenses are issued annually after extensive training and a written exam. There are only 400 licensed Gondolieri operating in Venice today and 350 gondolas. (I wonder if anyone else had to take it three times)

Almost everyone in Venice belonged to a scuola in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. They were  like fraternities formed around occupations or immigrant groups .The scuole were self governing and helped their members integrate into society or with their problems. They became important artistic patrons. The themes were usually the lives and miracles of the Saints. Caravaggio was a favorite painter of the scuole.  It is worth it to go and see the art in some of the scuole around Venice..

Venetian food is simple, fresh and delicious. There are no food jokes here. Seafood, small birds, liver,  fresh fruits and vegetables and local grains are the staples.  Some traditional dishes are risi e bisi (risotto with peas) eaten by  the Doge on St Marks Day, pasta e fagioli ( pasta with beans a hearty peasant dish), dried cod, cuttlefish cooked in squid ink and sardines with onions. They are not known for pizza,  but eating pizza in Italy is always a good thing.

Ciao, Fly Safe,

JAZ