Traveler’s Block

Traveler’s Block

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

Today I have nothing.

I have written about packing and not packing, carry on luggage, check in luggage, travel clothes, travel companions,  souvenirs, my bracelet collection, my Starbucks collection, my good luck charms, LA – where I live, Manhattan and Brooklyn where I am from, places I love, places I hate, my mother, my dog, people who have died, animals that have been killed, airports, airplanes, stewardesses, airport security, things I’ve learned from traveling and not traveling, hotel rooms and things Ive left behind in them, travel addiction, people who think they are black, superstitions, proverbs and quotes from around the world, movies, books, children’s books and songs that have inspired me to travel, food, restaurants, turkey burgers, acting like a tourist, not acting like a tourist, tourist traps, tourist attractions, holidays, traveling alone,eating alone, random photos, being a godmother, travel etiquette, third world countries, countries that have changed names, countries not to travel to, misspelled countries, auto-correct, photography, art, urban art, music, world affairs terrorists and should you blame your parents if you are one,  philosophy, spirituality, religion, prejudice, meditation, things to say and not say to a world traveler, places I haven’t been to, bucket lists, top ten everything, travel problems, imaginary places, movie locations, trip planning, weddings, World Cup, Olympics, first world problems, blogging, Nellie Bly, touching strangers, things i like, things I dislike, the 100th monkey, coffee, sunrises, how to avoid the paparazzi, travel tv shows and people in the world.

I don’t know why they call it writer’s block. I have idea block. I could start reblogging pieces, post other writers, post more instagram photos, read more books and think about writing. I could hope that this is only a temporary setback, go out and do something and then write about it – like move to Spain, go to a wedding in Africa or perhaps the new Broad Museum in LA.

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

 

Am I Prejudiced In America?

Am I Prejudiced In America?

“People who insist on dividing the world into ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ never contemplate that they may be someone else’s ‘Them’.” Ray Davis

Donald Sterling said he was not a racist after making racial slurs. This made me wonder how you decide if you are a racist. I took some online tests. According to the internet, I am not. But I already knew that.

The more serious question for me as a“tolerant” liberal is, am I prejudiced? And if so against who? There was a period in my life where I would only have pretty friends. Was I vain and shallow or prejudiced against ugly people?  My daughter told someone I would never have a fat dog. Does that make me a bigot where fat dogs are concerned?

In Germany, I loved the beer, sausages, pretzels, art and scenery. But I did find myself looking at groups of older Germans picturing them in Nazi uniforms saying Heil Hitler. Do I discriminate against old Germans?

Growing up in New York City, I was surrounded by different immigrant populations.  I heard many foreign languages daily.   In fact, my friend and I would often converse on the subway in a made up language and watch people try to figure out what we were speaking.  I have lived in LA and Miami so I am very comfortable around Spanish-speaking people. But how would I feel at Anderson Cooper’s family reunion (according to not reliable Wikipedia his ancestors have been here for a long time)?  Does that qualify as a prejudice against non recent immigrants or people who were here before the Civil War?

I think I would probably be fearful visiting a small town in the South or Middle America alone.  Would that make me intolerant toward Americans who don’t live in big cities?

I love intelligence, hate math, like creative types, dislike politicians and hate divorce. Does that make me biased against stupid people, people who leave their families, mathematicians, people with boring jobs and the government?

Many Americans have a bias against the elderly. Was I one of them? My mother once told me that people talked down to old people so I try to be aware of that.  I’m getting older. Now I look at them and think which one am I going to be? I’m definitely nicer now that it concerns me.

What about unconscious prejudice? Those are cultural lessons that we have learned over a lifetime. They can be passed on by mass media, parents, peers and other members of society.

Children as young as three can pick up prejudice without even knowing what it is. When my son was six he brought a New Kids On the Block lunchbox to school. Some of the older kids teased him and called him a faggot. He came home crying. I explained it as a very unkind word to my six-year-old. My three-year old daughter heard all of this. A few days later, an adult friend who she adored said he couldn’t come to her birthday party . She was upset and angry. She thought of the most unkind word she could think of, the one that made her brother cry and she called him a faggot. He happened to have been gay and though I tried to explain it, he never spoke to us again.

As a Caucasian person, I see racism in America as much better than when I was growing up. But the African-American , Latino, Gay, and Muslim communities say different things. So I listen, read and learn more. I try not to walk in their heads with my dirty feet as Leo Buscaglia would say. I keep traveling. The further out of my comfort zone I go, the more tolerant my world becomes. The tolerance along with education and understanding, is the beginning of acceptance.

Fly Safe,

JAZ