anti-Semitism, racism

You People Use So Much Garlic!

Coexist bumper sticker.

I invited an acquaintance over for supper, and as she walked through the door, she wrinkled her nose and remarked, “You people use so much garlic.”

I was at a loss as to how I should respond, so I said nothing. However, the recent massacre of eleven Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh sharply brought my friend’s words back to me. I now believe that these not-so-subtle disdainful comments that separate people should not go unanswered. But what should I have said?

“You people,” divides us. Remember when Ross Perot unsuccessfully used those words during his bid for president in 1992?

Anti-Semitic bumper sticker on a car owned and driven by Paul Schmieder of Queens, NY.

As a Jew or member of any minority, we must not let divisive words be used without consequence. On November 4, 2018, the online version of The Forward revealed that the State of New York invalidated an anti-Semitic vanity license plate with the initials GTKRWN.

I had no idea what that acronym stood for, and it horrified me when I found out: Gas The Kikes, Race War Now. Thanks to Jay Firestone, who infiltrated an alt-right community and wrote about it in Commune magazine, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of Queens contacted the Motor Vehicles Commissioner, Theresa Egan, and requested that the plate be cancelled. The words were a form of hate speech that incites violence, and the agency took appropriate action.

In the past, I have tried to be pro-active when my family felt the sting of anti-Semitic actions or words. I regret that I made no moves when a neighbor boy once told my son that he should have been burned in the ovens, too. I knew the boy’s family was openly anti-Semitic, and I felt inadequate to the task of confronting them. I felt so guilty that later, when a minister’s son accused my daughter of killing Christ, I took action.

I called upon the family and told the father what had happened and how this had upset my child. Sternly, the minister called in his son. “Stevie, didn’t I always tell you that we killed him, too?”

Even though the results were underwhelming, at least I tried. Then when my younger daughter’s two fourth grade classmates opined, “We wish Hitler had killed you. You should have burned in the gas chamber,” I reported the incident to the teacher who subsequently contacted the parents. What happened after that escapes my memory. Nonetheless, in this situation, I knew that I personally could do nothing other than turn to a higher school authority, and in retrospect, that was a good move.

No one should make back-handed criticisms of another’s ethnicity. I’m more convinced of this than ever before, so back to my original question: What should I have said to the acquaintance who said that my people used so much garlic?

I welcome your suggestions.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is on heightened alert to not ignore racial, religious, or ethnic slurs against anyone.

Coexist bumper sticker.

Visit my website, The Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture: https://flpcgallery.org

able/disabled, aging, disabilities, health, independence, mobility

IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE

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Recently, a friend with an unexpected life threatening physical condition complained that she might have to be on blood thinners for the rest of her life. Reflexively, I commented, “It could always be worse,” thinking insulin injections, chemo, radiation.

That same week another acquaintance mentioned that she had been just diagnosed with A-Fib and was now on blood thinners which she ruefully confessed might have to be taken for the rest of her life. Again, I responded, “It could always be worse,” thinking about those same alternatives given to my first friend.

Later, I wondered why I had made such automatic assertions. It could always be worse was something I even told myself when I had to perform unpleasant procedures, e.g., struggle while strapping on a back brace; wrap my left leg daily; pop in my hearing aids; deal with chronic and increasing back pain. Yet the “It could always be worse,” phrase helps me put my own physical state into perspective. And I recognized that the phrase was tied to Judaism.

Although I am Jewish, my parents were non-synagogue attendees and always spoke only English.  Because I was a sickly child, I missed a lot of public school days so I never even attempted religious school. Despite this, I obviously had absorbed Jewish attitudes and culture.

When I Googled the expression, sure enough I found a children’s book by Margot Zemach called, It Could Always Be Worse, based on an old Yiddish folktale.

As retold by Zemach, accompanied by her lively illustrations, a poor man lived with his wife, mother, and six children crammed into a small hut. With the husband and wife constantly quarrelling and the noisy children fighting and screaming, chaos reigned.

Overcome with frustration, the husband sought advice from a rabbi who counseled that he should bring his chickens, rooster, and goose to live inside with them. Obligingly, the man did, but it only made the household more frenzied. He returned to the rabbi, who then instructed to now bring his goat and later his cow inside the shack.

Their abode became even more unbearable, so the desperate man returned to the rabbi who told him to let all the animals back outside. That night, the family had a wonderful night’s sleep and, the message was clear: At least you don’t have to sleep with your livestock, and that is always worse.

To my regular blog readers: Several months have elapsed since my last posting, and I apologize. I have been sidetracked with chronic pain and reduced mobility that also decreased my ability to write. Although, I am trying a wide variety of treatments, so far I have been unsuccessful. Despite feeling sorry for myself, I must take my own advice and remind myself, “It Could Always Be Worse.”

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Norine Dresser is a folklorist, who, like most people, unconsciously absorbed ethnic attitudes from her family.

 

 

aging, compulsions, Los Angeles Times

Pardon My Lack of Modesty

 

Award for my blogs, “Norine’s New Life@80.”
Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser Photo Collection, 2018.

 

I took delight in entering a contest at age 86. Why? If I won, a celebrity host was not going to show up at my door with fanfare and a check. There would be no coverage in the Las Cruces Sun-News. I only received a paper award (that I promptly framed).

So why did I do it? Because I could. The idea amused me.

Shortly after arriving in New Mexico in 2012, I joined the Las Cruces Women’s Press Club. The other members were friendly and fascinating in what they had accomplished. Writing an eight-year column in the Los Angeles Times gave me the credentials for membership.

Someone once asked when I first realized that I was a writer. It was between the ages of ten and twelve when  I had two uncles serving in the military during WWII. I felt compelled to let them know what was happening at home. The bigger thrill was receiving their letters in return. My uncle Max, who was stationed in India, promised that when he returned to Los Angeles, he would bring me a monkey.

With high expectations at the end of the war, I watched as hundreds of soldiers poured out of Union Station. I figured Uncle Max would be easy to spot with that monkey on his shoulder. Alas! There was no monkey, and I was so disappointed. It took many years before I forgave him — and maybe I never did?

I loved reporting and in high school took journalism, where I won a Reporter of the Year trophy then advanced to becoming Associate Editor of the school newspaper, The Blue Tide. As much as I was enamored with journalism, I never considered pursuing that as a career. In retrospect, it’s probably because college girls’ ambitions in 1949 were mostly limited to becoming teachers or nurses, the latter simply out of the question for me.

To this day, I love writing. As we used to preach in the Cal State University Los Angeles English Department, “Writing is a dialogue with one’s self.” Sometimes I write something and when it appears on my screen, I think, Wow! That’s so true. It was buried inside of me all this time.

Despite being the author of many books and scholarly articles, the award from the New Mexico Press Women stoked my desire to write more. And even on days, when this 86 year-old aching body finally drags itself to the computer, pain lifts as I explore the day’s topic. Best of all, if need be, I can write from my bed and still find pleasure.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who still gets excited about a new blog theme.

Visit her Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture: https://flpcgallery.org

able/disabled, cats, disabilities, Dogs, health, loneliness, loss, pets, Uncategorized

TIDINGS OF COMFORT AND JOY

The first thing I did when I got home from the hospital was to lie down and cuddle my girl. She seemed to enjoy it, too. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

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Many of you know that I have been incapacitated since mid-February. At first, the doc thought that my problems were respiratory– bronchitis and perhaps pneumonia, so he sent me to the ER.

My daughter met me there, and after I was finally admitted and assigned to a room, we noticed a couple walking two large therapy dogs down the hall. We invited them in. One animal was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and the other an Akita. It lifted my spirits just to have these animals near me. Nuzzling the furry ruff of the Akita and wrapping my arms around its neck brought me great pleasure. Of course, I know that when we pet an animal, our blood pressure goes down. Aside from the science, when embracing another living creature, it makes us realize that all’s right in the world, or more precisely, I was going to be all right. And eventually I was after surgery for unexpected two compression fractures of the spine and a one week stay in a rehabilitation facility.

Therapy dogs at Las Cruces Memorial Hospital. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

 

Decades ago, I wrote a paper called “The Horse Bar Mitzvah,” that became a chapter in a veterinary medicine textbook.* I presented examples and analyses of the relationships between humans and animals in different settings: horse bar mitzvah; cat mitzvah; dog wedding; festivals honoring the human/animal bond, for example, Blessings of the Animals. In addition, I researched the role of service animals: therapy horses, war dogs, rescue dog, therapy dogs.

Since publication (2000), dogs have increasingly played a vital role in our culture, e.g., at airports, sniffing out the taboo garlic and sausages, as well as drugs. And since 9/11, new roles have developed especially at airports, with the focus on explosives and terrorism.

Human/animal relationships keep evolving. Comfort dogs is a new title given to animals that  show up at scenes of disasters. I was moved seeing televised dogs disembarking from a van within 48 hours at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida. Who could not be cheered by seeing these eager animals there to be stroked and embraced by traumatized children and staff?

 

Doesn’t your heart melt at the sight of these comfort dogs brought to the school by a Lutheran Church Charity helping to dispatch K9 Comfort Boots and Paws on the ground?

 

New duties for dogs progress. Yale University has developed a program utilizing rescue dogs in New York low-income public schools. The dogs become reading buddies and foster social development. At my local university (NMSU), dogs are brought in at exam time to lower the distress students feel during this time of high anxiety. Courthouse Dogs allow specially trained service dogs to accompany children during testimony in a courtroom.

Since my return home from the hospitals, my cat, Sweetie Beattie, is never more than inches away from me. At first, I employed a caregiver to help me with pain issues during the night. Whenever, she came into the bedroom to take care of me, Sweetie Beattie lay at the foot of my bed skeptically eyeing all the caregiver’s movements. Or else she sat on the dresser warily watching the activities. During that time, I called her the Night Nurse for she acted as if she were supervising – definitely looking out for my interest.

The Night Nurse, aka, Sweetie Beattie supervising my activities. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.

As aloof as she may ordinarily be, Sweetie seems to sense that I need more of her attention now. Even as I am here at the keyboard, she is on top of my desk backed up against my computer, and with my extended pinky I can stroke the fur on her back. Can that compete with steroids and antibiotics? No, but she is a fantastic supplement.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is mad about her Sweetie Beattie.

 

*Companion Animals and Us:Exploring the Relationships Between People and Pets. Eds: Podberscek and Serpell. Cambridge University Press, UK., 2000.

Visit my online museum: Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture, https://flpcgallery.org

Cultural differences, folklore, music, radio

What’s Happening? ¿Que´Tal?

Norine recording programs for KTAL-LP, Las Cruces Community Radio. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser Photo Collection, 2017.

 

Since October, 2017, I have been producing a program, “Your Multicultural Minute,” that airs on KTAL-LP radio station, here in Las Cruces, NM, 101.5 on the FM dial. My two-minute shows come on three times a week, twice a day. The programs present anecdotes about how we miscommunicate based on cultural differences.

Two minutes isn’t very long and actually, the narrative lasts only one minute with a half-minute intro featuring my son, Mark Dresser’s playing an original tune, and a half-minute closing with my final words over his fading tune.

I have had a great time creating these programs. I think you will appreciate listening, too. For the moment, the station has been only live streaming with archiving to take place at a later time. For this reason, I am giving you an opportunity to hear several of the programs that have already aired. So far, I have produced 30 shows that automatically air Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:58 a.m. and 2:57 p.m. Below find links so that you may enjoy them, too (she says modestly).

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who never tires of learning about cultural differences that cause miscommunication. If you have an example you would like to share, please contact her at norinedresser@yahoo.com

Check out her Gallery of Folklore and Popular Culture: http://flpcgallery.org