Autobiographies from the Dead – Ephraim the Jew  

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  They chose me to be the medium for their voices to be conveyed to you.  I do not know why or how I was chosen.  I do nothing but repeat in 12 pt. font the stories that they tell me.  There are many more dead who want to be heard, but for now I have only agreed to share eight of their tales.  Each of the dead will give you a brief vision of their lives but much more importantly to them, they will give you a vision of their deaths.

Ephraim the Jew

jewish shadowMy name is Ephraim. I was born to a Jewish mother and a Jewish father in Germany.  My parents and great grandparents were all born in Germany.  We were not rich but we made a living over the years in various trades.  My family was all hard workers and I was taught the value of hard work and an education at an early age.  We were proud to be Germans.  My father had served with distinction in WW I and my great grandfather had served in the earlier Franco Prussian war.  We had many musicians and writers in our family and were proud that we could contribute to the rich German cultural heritage of our homeland.

HumiliationOne day, some young men started throwing stones at my father and me as we came home from work.  We arrived home with bruises and cuts but no broken bones.  My mother said that things were getting worse for Jews in Germany and that she had heard of many such incidents from other friends.  My father said she was being an old woman and should not worry so much.  This was just the result of a bunch of hoodlums and the government would soon arrest such bullies so that the streets would be safe again.

Weeks and months went by.  More assaults!  More bullying!  Everywhere we turned it seemed that people hated us.  The government passed Pro-German Laws to protect “Pure” Germans.  Somehow this seemed to mean that we Jews were now the enemies.  We were no longer Germans.  Our businesses were taken away from us.  Our jobs were taken away from us.  Then they took our freedom away from us.

trainsThey took us in trains to these large detention centers.  Smoke and flames were visible from numerous chimneys when we arrived.  Some people whispered that these were Jews who had been cremated.  It was too horrible to conceive.  It could not be true.  We were whipped, kicked and herded off the rail cars.  An angry looking German soldier in a black uniform with skulls and lightning bolts directed each person either to the right or to the left when we fled the cars.  Women and young children went one direction.  Men and young boys went the other direction.  My mother and sister went to the right.  They waved and said good bye.  “We will see you soon.”  “We must go to the showers first.”  We never saw them again.

The-last-Jew-in-Vinnitsa-1941My dad and I were assigned to work details.  Food was meager and work was hard.  We labored with very little rations from before sunrise to well after sunset.  My father died a year later.  He was nothing but skin and bones.  He said: “I am sorry.”  Another year later and I could not get up and go to work.  The guards came for me one day and said, “You are garbage and you are no longer useful.”  Two other Jews were forced to pick me up.  They carried me to a large pit.  I noticed many other bodies in the pit.  They threw me in the pit with the other bodies.  A holocaust-bodies-mass-graveguard shot me three times.  “Like shooting fish in a barrel he said.”  I was shot once in the head and twice in the chest.  He laughed as I twitched and as the blood oozed out of my veins.  I was surprised that it did not hurt as much as I thought it would.  I could feel my soul leaving my body.

Finally, I was looking down at my distorted figure and it was no longer twitching.  Even the blood had stopped oozing out.  The guard who shot me had lit a cigarette and was enjoying a quick smoke before returning to another work detail.  I watched for a while as other men and boys were carried to the pit and murdered.  I could no longer bear to look.  I decided to go find God and talk to him.  I was confused and angry but I thought that perhaps a talk with God might straighten things out.  My spirit left this hell on earth.

I am dead looking for godmany years now and I am still searching for God.  I want to know what we did to deserve such a fate.  We worked hard.  We paid our taxes.  We treated our fellow Germans with respect.  We worshipped on the Sabbath.  We upheld all of the commandments.  We were good people.  We were good Germans.  Why did they hate us so?  What did we do to cause this suffering?  Was this some kind of a test?

I think God is hiding from me.  He is nowhere to be found.  I have wandered now for years and still I find no God.  I know he exists.  I believe in God but I think he is avoiding me.  I think he may be ashamed for letting this happen.  I swear my soul will never rest until I find God and ask him this question:  “Why?”  But what if he doesn’t know the answer?

Time for Questions:

What is an Anti-Semite? Why do people still hate Jews? What did any Jews ever do to deserve such a fate?  Are you an Anti-Semite?  What can you do to help fight Anti-Semitism?  Do you try? Why not?

Life is just beginning.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  ― Elie Wiesel

Who the Hell is Haroon Moghul?

Haroon MoghulNow I am going to confess that I do not know Mr. Moghul.  I have never talked to Mr. Moghul.  I have never emailed Mr. Moghul.  I have never even seen Mr. Moghul until this morning when I found some comments he made on line about the shooting last week in Texas at the cartoon contest for caricatures of Muhammed.   Here are the comments that Mr. Moghul made:

I am Muslim, and after attacks like these, folks always ask, “Do you condemn terrorism?” Or they throw up their hands and say, “Where are the Muslims!” Well, to be blunt: Not at the event. In fact, every major mosque in the Garland, Texas, area not only shrugged off the anti-Islam event happening in their backyard, but also declined to exercise their equal right to peacefully protest it. It appears from early reports that the suspects were not currently involved with a mosque. This is because American Muslims — our mosques and our leadership — reject radicalism out of hand. — (Don’t be fooled by Pamela Geller By Haroon Moghul)

pamelagellerPamela Geller as you may or may not know is the radical anti-Islamist from the East Coast who sponsored the “Free Speech” shindig in Texas.  What could be more American than a free speech contest?  Who could be more American than someone wanting to uphold our First Amendment rights?  Where else in the world would you find a contest proving to the world that Americans are willing to denigrate the beliefs of a large religious following except in Texas?   And I am not talking about the beliefs of Baptists either.

Of course the followers of Ms. Geller immediately launched a reply to Mr. Moghul some of which is as follows:

The clearest indication that Haroon Moghul is a jihad terror-enabling charlatan is the fact that after jihadis attempt to commit mass murder at a free speech event, he doesn’t write a piece defending free speech and explaining why Muslims must accept it, or a piece condemning the Islamic jihadis and explaining why Islam’s death penalty for blasphemy must not be carried out in the modern age, or a piece calling for reform of the teachings and doctrines that Islamic jihadis use to justify violence and supremacism. ­­–  (Don’t be fooled by Haroon Moghul by Robert Spencer)

ExtremistsWho do I believe? Whose logic do I choose: The Jihadist Moghul or the Pro-American anti-Islamist Pam Geller?  This is a tough choice.  My background does not help.  I grew up as a Roman Catholic in an Italian neighborhood in New York.   Jews were evil because they killed Christ.  Protestants were misguided because they rejected the Pope and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Muslims were bad because they killed a lot of Christians during the Holy Wars and because they thought Muhammed was a better prophet then Jesus.  Hindus were weird because they had too many gods and Buddhists did not believe in God so they could not even be counted as a real religion.  I grew up with a father who was a WW II decorated combat veteran and who hated communists.  The French were not much better than communists to my dad since De Gaulle kicked us out of France shortly after the war was over.  Thus, my religious world was divided into good and bad.  Good= Roman Catholic.  Bad= All other religions or quasi-religions including kooky sects with make believe TV ministers.

ExtremistsSo now we are in this “War on Terror” started by the evil Jihadists.  A war that Europe and America had no responsibility for since all we wanted from the Arabs=Jihadists=Bad, was their oil and a place to send the Jews after the war so that we could expunge our guilt from having let so many of them die in Hitler’s ovens.  Ironic that so much of the Right Wing in America which proclaims to be against Islam also loves the Nazi swastika and anything connected with Heir Adolph.  This is a conundrum.  Nevertheless, I fear the Arabs, or Jihadists putting a bomb on the next plane I take or worse attacking my village in Frederic Wisconsin.  Despite the prevalence of 2nd Amendment rights people up here we might not have adequate munitions to ward off a full scale Islamist attack.  And besides that, we have enough laws already without my having to learn Sharia law.

Thus, I found myself wondering how great the possibility of another 911 was.  How much did I have to fortify my home?  How many rifles, pistols and RPG’s did I need to protect my turf from the evil Arabs?   There were other voices telling me that my fears were misguided.  Indeed, some were saying that I had more to worry about from the Pamela Gellers of the world than from the Ayatollahs.   The Southern Poverty Law center in their recent report on terrorism and hate groups cited the following study in their report in which they seconded the conclusion:

A survey last year of state and local law enforcement officers listed sovereign citizen terrorists, ahead of foreign Islamists, and domestic militia groups as the top domestic terror threat.  The survey was part of a study produced by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. [CNN, 2/20/15]

Freedom of speechAs you know, a study of history is often the best way to understand the current problems we face. As the great philosopher Santayana said “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  I therefore decided to undertake some historical research into the present animosity that we seem to have toward Arabs and Muslims in this country.  I wanted to see if Mr. Moghul was right or if Ms. Geller was right.  Is it simply a matter of “Free Speech” which those evil Arabs do not understand or is there a larger issue at play here.

Islamist ExtremistsOn the matter of “Free Speech”, it has been noted by some that all speech is not really free.  Some examples of proscribed free speech would include the classic “yelling fire in a crowded theater” but also such examples as burning a cross in your Black neighbor’s yard, telling your attractive co-worker how nice her boobs were, calling 911 on a joke or telling the Judge to go “F” herself.  Nevertheless, it is remarkable that Pam Geller has the guts to stick it to those evil Arabs by ridiculing their holy patriarch.  Somewhat ironic, since the religious right has never been a big supporter of free speech particularly when it comes to anti-war protests or criticizing Christianity.

“Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.” —  In Solidarity with a Free Press: More Blasphemous Cartoons, by Glenn Greenwald

Fear-Ignorance1A source of my information was a book by Edward W. Said published in 1981 titled “Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World.”  This book was published nineteen years before 911 and eight years before the first Gulf war.  At this point in American history, most of us did not even know any evil Arabs and there was no War on Terror since it would be 8 years or so before the War on Godless Communists would end with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  We had plenty of other evil people to deal with and did not have to have any evil Arabs.  Most of us had never even had any falafel, hummus or baklava.

So I presumed that what Mr. Said said about the evil Arabs in 1981 might be a somewhat unbiased and as yet uncontaminated view of how Americans viewed Arabs way back over thirty years ago.  Here is what Mr. Said had to say about America’s view of Arabs in 1981:

The modern Western media, says Said, does not want people to know that in Islam both men and women are equal; that Islam is tough on crime and the causes of crime; that Islam is a religion of knowledge par excellence; that Islam is a religion of strong ethical principles and a firm moral code; that socially Islam stands for equality and brotherhood; that politically Islam stands for unity and humane governance; that economically Islam stands for justice and fairness; and that Islam is at once a profoundly spiritual and a very practical religion. Said claims in his book that untruth and falsehood about Islam and the Muslim world are consistently propagated in the media, in the name of objectivity, liberalism, freedom, democracy and progress.This summary is from Wikipedia.

I was startled and amazed by his conclusions.  The evil Arab portrayed in the press in 1981 is the same Evil Arab=Muslim=Jihadist portrayed in the American press today.  Fox News (Sic) commentator Lt. Col Ralph Peter has made the following comments about Islam:

“We do not have an Islamophobia problem in the United States; we have an Islamophilia problem – which places Islam above all criticism. And until we hold Islam to the same standards as every other religion, ethically and behaviorally, terrorism wins.”

Salon Magazine commenting recently about the role of Fox News in promoting Anti-Arab sentiment in America had this to say about the treatment of Arabs and Islam:

“The Islamophobia industry also goes to great lengths to sell its message to the public. The difference, though, is that in many cases the very networks that spread their product are themselves participants in the ruse to whip up public fear of Muslims. This is not a relationship of buyer and seller, where various characters that peddle panic purchase slots on major television networks to plug their merchandise. Rather, it is a relationship of mutual benefit, where ideologies and political proclivities converge to advance the same agenda.

Fox News, the American television station that brands itself as “fair and balanced,” is the epitome of this relationship.  It has been, for the better part of the last decade, at the heart of the public scare-mongering about Islam, and has become the home for a slew of right-wing activists who regularly inhabit its airwaves to distort the truth to push stereotypes about Muslims.” —  www.salon.com  

The comment in Salon was made in 2012 nearly thirty years after Said noted that there was a major effort in the US News to distort the teaching and canons of Islam.  Of course there will be those who note the following:

  • Islamic beheadings
  • Stoning of women guilty of adultery
  • Islamic persecutions of Christians in Arab countries
  • Islamic persecutions of Jews and other minorities

When these problems and atrocities are faithfully reported and repeated ad nausea in the news, it has the effect of distorting and even hiding the threats from other terrorists particularly Right-Wing and religious fanatics.  We see or hear of one Muslim related terror attack such as the Charlie Hebdo killings and we hear of news related items to this event for over two weeks.  In the meantime, other atrocities not related to Islam go unreported and virtually ignored.  Nevertheless,

A Homeland Security report produced in coordination with the FBI in 2014 counts 24 violent sovereign citizen-related attacks across the U.S. since 2010.  The government says these are extremists who believe that they can ignore laws and that their individual rights are under attack in routine daily instances such as a traffic stop or being required to obey a court order. DHS Intelligence Report

So let us return to the Patriot or Evil Jihadist (depending on your perspective) Mr. Moghul.  Here was a man who would apparently agree with Mr. Said.  Muslims are not evil people nor are all Muslims good people.  That’s right.  There are “Bad” Muslims. There are also many evil Christians but no one disparages all Christianity even though few people seem to actually practice the teachings of Jesus Christ.

goingtohellIn my home town, the religious right has managed to put up a billboard with the Ten Commandments on it.  I fail to see how this billboard promotes Christianity.  Christ gave us the Eight Beatitudes not the Ten Commandments.  The Ten Commandments are Old Testament.  The Eight Beatitudes are Christian through and through. I have asked many people why they did not put the Beatitudes up and why they put the Ten Commandments up.  I had much rather see Christians follow the Eight Beatitudes today and say they are for Compassion and Love.  Instead, I see too many so-called Christians who are for Hate and Intolerance.  Where did Jesus ever call for Hate or Intolerance?

“At the exhibition ‘Caricatura VI – The Comic Art – analog, digital, international’ in Kassel in Germany, a cartoon created by cartoonist Mario Lars has been removed after protests that it hurt people’s religious feelings.  The drawing depicts Jesus suffering on the cross and a speech bubble, which apparently contains words from God, who says: “Ey… you… I fucked your mother.” The caricature was displayed not only in the exhibition itself, but was also reproduced on a large advertising poster outside the building of Caricatura Gallery.  Barbara Heinrich, the city dean of the Evangelical Church in Kassel, said the caricature crossed a line of what is acceptable.” — Arts Freedom, August 29, 2012.

extremism-cartoonjpg-ff44d0d8e227b4c0I may not like your religion.  I may not like your Gods or your prophets.  But as long as your religion respects the rights of others, I will respect your religion.   I do not see the vast majority of Muslims as a threat to my way of life.  I see Muslim extremists as dangerous and misguided but I view them the same as I view Christian extremists.  Both categories include narrow minded zealots who pose a threat to other people because of their failure to deal with adversity through kindness and love.

Thus, I say that those who profess to be Christians and follow the word of Jesus have no precedent to denigrate, humiliate or ridicule the teachings of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or any other religion that they do not agree with.  Jesus would not have ridiculed or persecuted anyone.  Can you imagine Jesus holding a contest to see who could create the best caricature of a prophet named Muhammed?

Time for Questions:

Are you a Christian?  Do you understand and support the rights of other religions to practice their faiths?  Do you stand up to bullies and zealots who would ridicule and malign other religions?   What will it take for America to become a country that truly is a melting pot and tolerates racial and religious diversity?

Life is just beginning.

“Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.”  ― Voltaire

“Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged”  ― Rumi

But can we really learn to love again?

“Just Give Me A Reason”  Pink with Nate Ruess
Sad-Broken-Heart-Wallpapers-4I love the possibility that Pink raises in her song that a love which has gone cold can somehow be reignited.  But can we really learn to love again?  How many of us have had a love affair go south.  A love that we thought was like no other.  A love that would last forever!  A love that caused all reason to go out the window and for which we would have sold our souls to the very devil himself.  A love that friends and families said was meant to be and that would still be burning bright in the firmament when all the stars in the sky had long since dimmed.  A match made in heaven itself that would never be seen again.  No reason, no logic, no facts, no data, no statistics, no arguments, no evidence could convince us that we would not be with this person until the very end of time.  But then something happened!

I’m sorry I don’t understand
Where all of this is coming from
I thought that we were fine
(Oh, we had everything)
Your head is running wild again
My dear we still have everythin’
And it’s all in your mind
(Yeah, but this is happenin’)

Suddenly, the impossible becomes possible.  The unthinkable becomes thinkable.  Your worst fears become reality.  Nightmares become day dreams.  You are cheating on the other person.  The other person is cheating on you.  You are drifting apart.  You don’t connect like you used to.  You find yourself wishing you were with someone else. You are hurt.  You are lonely.  You feel abused. You feel neglected.  They don’t care about you anymore.  Things are different but you don’t know why.

You used to lie so close to me, oh, oh
There’s nothing more than empty sheets
Between our love, our love
Oh, our love, our love

But can we really learn to love again?  You don’t know.  They don’t know.  The impossible is now probable.  You have lost faith in the dream.  “Grow old along with me” has changed to “I can’t go on any longer like this.”  Caring has changed to neglect. Closeness has been replaced with distance.  Love has been replaced with apathy. Everything seems hopeless.  What could have happened to us?

Just give me a reason
Just a little bit’s enough
Just a second we’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again
I never stopped
You’re still written in the scars on my heart
You’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again

But can we really learn to love again?  Where do we start?  We forgot what we meant to each other.  We forgot how to care for each other.  We forgot how much we once loved each other.  How do we remember?  Where do we find what we once knew?  broken-heart-pictures-quotes

Life conspires to help us forget.  I told you that I loved you a million times.  Each time I meant it more than the countless times before.  But one day, I stopped saying it.  Something was happening but I did not know what.  Nothing had prepared me for the day that I forgot that I once loved you.  Now, my once and forever love is not even a distant memory.  Where do I find the love that I lost?  Can I find it in your arms or in the arms of someone new?

Somehow it seems easier to look elsewhere for our lost and forgotten love.  Divorce is fast and easy.  I lost something that now I cannot find.  Easier to move on and start over again.  Legions of counselors, psychologists, therapists and ministers could not put our love back together again.  I simply want to escape the pain and the loneliness.  I did not mean for this to happen.  We seemed to be so happy together yesterday and then today, it was all over.  Dreams shattered like a boat in a storm on a rocky shoal.  It all happened so fast, I was overwhelmed.  I am devastated.

Oh, tear ducts and rust
I’ll fix it for us
We’re collecting dust
But our love’s enough
You’re holding it in
You’re pouring a drink
No nothing is as bad as it seems
We’ll come clean

broken-heart-love-quotes-text-1719275-1280x800But can we really learn to love again?  I wish that it were really possible but I don’t know where to start.  How can we go back when I don’t remember what to go back to?  What is the cause?  How do I solve a problem when I don’t know what the problem is?  Like the boat on the shoals, I feel like I am being battered on all sides.  I can’t go back and I can’t go forward.  I want to escape and I don’t know where or who to escape to.  Somewhere there must be a happy ending.

Oh, we can learn to love again
Oh, we can learn to love again
Oh, oh, that we’re not broken just bent
And we can learn to love again

But can we really learn to love again?

Time for Questions:

Why do we fall out of love?  Was it really love in the first place?  Can we bring back the feelings we once had for someone? Why or why not?  Are you willing to do the work it takes to rekindle an old flame?  Can it really be rekindled?  Is it all about wanting to or is it all about desire?  Do you know anyone who has “learned to love again?”  What did they do?  Could you do this?  Why not?

Life is just beginning.

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