Roy Moore vs. Goodness and Mercy

Last night I saw a clip on television that just about broke my heart.

An elderly man was holding up a sign that read:  “Judge Roy Moore called my daughter Patti Sue Mathis a pervert because she was gay.”

In the clip, Nathan Mathis, from Wicksburg, Alabama, clearly tormented and holding back tears said that he used to be anti-gay. “I said bad things to my daughter myself, which I regret, but I can’t take back what happened to my daughter,” he said. “Stuff like saying my daughter is a pervert, I’m sure that bothered her.”

This heart wrenching video says it all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BY_2doFSqI

I quickly went online to try to find out more about this repentant man and his deceased daughter.

I found the letter below that Nathan Mathis sent to the Dothan Eagle, a local newspaper in Dothan, Alabama, back in 2012.

With election time just around the corner, and watching and reading the news, “gay bashing” has begun again.

I once told gay jokes and bashed gays, but a real true life story might make people think just as that true life story makes me think.

On Oct. 11, 1972, Sue and I were blessed to have a baby girl, which we named Patti Sue Mathis. Patti was a wonderful child – happy, treated other children as she should, regardless of wealth or color, very athletic, tomboyish (I always had to pitch batting practice to her after Dixie Youth practice), very beautiful and smart. Patti may hold the scoring title at Wicksburg in basketball for girls. I’m not sure, but her points-per-game average was high. She was selected as the most valuable player at Enterprise State Junior College in softball.

When Patti was a senior at Wicksburg High, I found out she was gay from a young friend she had told. I confronted Patti and I said some things to her that still eat on me to this day. I told her I was sorry that I said those mean things to her.

Patti moved out, but came back home approximately four months later and sat down and cried and said, “Daddy, I don’t want to be gay. Will you please get me some help?” I told her that I sure would and I called UAB hospital and made an appointment.

Patti had been raised by going to church at Christian Home Church of Christ, and she was there almost every time the door was open. Patti knew the story of Sodom, for oftentimes gay bashing was preached from the pulpit. Looking back now, I wonder how Patti must have felt, or if she even knew she was gay then. I never asked her.

 We went with Patti to UAB and all types of blood work and tests were done on her that day. Finally, on over in the afternoon, the doctor called Patti, Sue and me into his office and he told Patti, “Young lady, you can’t help the way you are. There is nothing we can do for you.” I said to myself, “Man, this doctor is crazy.”

We visited other doctors and psychiatrists and Patti was told the same thing: “You can’t help the way you are.”

On March 22, 1995, Patti took her own life because she didn’t want to be gay anymore. She was tired of being ridiculed and made fun of. She was tired of seeing how a lot of people treat gay people. I found Patti that day.

Sometime after Patti died, I attended church and a visiting preacher was preaching. About 10 minutes into the sermon, he bashed gays the rest of the way. As soon as the invitation song was given, I went out the door with one of the worst headaches I had ever had. I was ashamed of myself for sitting there and not defending Patti. I have not been much since.

I have a hard time believing that God would allow Patti to be born as she was and if the doctors and psychiatrists were correct that “she could not help the way she was,” that Patti was going to bust hell wide open. I asked a local doctor recently if the medical profession had found a cure for being gay and he said, “No.” He changed the subject after that.

I have no quarrel with any letter writers or readers on this subject. Believe what you want to. I only know that if you ever have a child or grandchild who is gay, you’ll think differently.

Whatever happened to “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Does that exclude gays?

May God have mercy on us all. I only know I miss my daughter Patti very much and I am grateful for having her as my daughter.

Nathan Mathis

Wicksburg

Do what’s right Alabama.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23

Ask Billy Bush

On Monday, “Access Hollywood” host Natalie Morales had this to say about Trump’s recent delusional attempt to deny the authenticity of the now infamous tape: “Let us make this perfectly clear. The tape is very real. Remember his excuse at the time was ‘locker-room talk.’ He said every one of those words.”

On Tuesday, Republican Senator of Arizona Jeff Flake said it best when asked about Trump’s attempt to reinvent history: “You didn’t win the popular vote, there weren’t more people at your inauguration than ever, that was your voice on that tape.”

When the “Access Hollywood” tape, that had Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women’s genitals surfaced, I sadly assumed he would get away with saying it—as well as doing it.

Most powerful men do.

And I was right.

Trump quickly came out and blamed it on locker room talk.

He blamed it on a locker, and sadly, a ton of people fell for it.

Even his wife Melania backed him up.

She told Anderson Cooper at the time that her husband’s lewd comments about sexually assaulting women were just “boy talk.”

As I sat there listening to her tripe with my mouth hanging open, she continued saying how he was “egged on” to say “dirty and bad stuff” by Billy Bush, the “Access Hollywood” host at the time.

She blamed it on Billy, and sadly, a ton of people fell for it.

Melania actually referred to her husband and Billy Bush as “two teenage boys.”

Donald Trump was 59 at the time, not exactly a whippersnapper.

Then, more than a dozen women came out and accused Trump of all sorts of unseemly acts.

But I still knew it wasn’t going to make a damn bit of difference.

And it didn’t.

While Trump became President, Billy Bush became a pariah.

Billy didn’t assault women, he didn’t grab at their genitals, and he didn’t force himself on them.

He chuckled, acted foolishly by playing along, and sucked up to Trump.

And for that Billy’s world imploded.

He lost his job a week after the tape came out and his wife of almost two decades left him this past September.

On Monday, the poor guy landed in a hospital after being hit in the head with a golf ball.

This has been a tough few months for Billy.

I say the guy should get a break. I say after Billy recuperates from his golf ball injury he should be interviewed.

Ask Billy Bush.

If there’s anyone out there who wishes the tape was fake, it’s the guy who lost his job and probably his wife because of it.

And who knows, maybe if he takes to the air waves, all the people who fell for Donald and Melania’s lame excuses will finally forgive Billy…

…for the simple sin of not having the strength of character to change the subject.

Someone I Loved

Today was just another day,

until last year when it wasn’t.

The devastating news took the wind out of me,

like someone punched me in the stomach.

Someone I loved was dead.

Mowed down by a hit and run driver.

But this wasn’t just someone.

This was a Queen.

Even her three sisters called her that.

Before she was gone.

When they thought they had time.

We all thought we had time.

But we didn’t.

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving

We all know the Thanksgiving drill: The turkey feast, dysfunctional family drama, and getting through the mundane recitations around the table about why we’re thankful. A day full of imperfections, complications, and fat pants.

Two weeks before Turkey Day the young, insecure “Terry” comes out, as I pour over recipes.

What can I cook up to make everybody happy? I design elaborate tablescapes, grocery shop, pre-plan, plan and re-plan the big shebang.

On the day of, I’m a one woman band, and I’m okay with that. I spend most of my holiday in the kitchen, which is fine with me. My way of saying I love you.

Dicing, slicing, mincing chopping, grinding, smashing, peeling, shredding.

All the while dancing, singing and sometimes crying to the songs on my iPod.

Sautéing, basting, and baking.  Always with precision, duty, perfection. And always result oriented—the need to please.

The need to love. The need to be loved.

As I prepare the turkey I fondly remember the time when I was about nine that my French grandmother Mammy whipped our turkey out of the sink and started singing and dancing with it in our shabby Huron Street kitchen. I bolted out of my chair and joined in, our hands entwined with the turkey legs, water dripping on both of us.

Alouette, gentille alouette. Alouette, je te plumerai. 

I didn’t know it then, I couldn’t know it then, that I was in the middle of a diamond moment—a moment in time that I would remember every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life.

This Thanksgiving, most of our family is unavailable, so my daughter Ariel suggested we do Sushgiving on Friday— a little sushi and a lot of thanks.

I agreed, but I was also determined to prepare a Thanksgiving feast—even if it was just for my husband and me.

More than any other recent Thanksgiving, I desperately needed a day of gratitude, with some turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes thrown in for good measure.

It’s been 31 years since my grandmother died and I have lived more than half my life without her. Mammy’s long gone, but her love of Thanksgiving will never die.

So I was determined to shop and cook for days, and then get up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving and prepare a humongous feast—even if it was just for two of us.

Because I am Mammy’s granddaughter.

Last night, with the television blaring to keep me company, I prepared Mammy’s fruit and Jell-O mold and sadly recalled my lost family.

And then I thought about all the families that would sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year having survived hurricanes, wildfires and mass shootings.

How many families would sit around a table, with their loved ones missing?

Empty chairs.

As I measured and stirred, I silently asked God how someone could find the inner strength and courage to give thanks after losing everything.

God answered me. Sort of.

At the exact moment I asked God how, a mother and sister of a woman killed in the Las Vegas shooting tearfully said this on television:  “Be together. Just stay close with your family. You have to find the light. You have to find the beauty. It’s out there. Darkness is so strong, but light is stronger.”

Last Thanksgiving one of my beautiful granddaughters dropped a ginormous blob of Mammy’s cherry Jell-O mold on my white linen dining chair.

I gazed down and cringed at the probable permanent stain it would leave.

My granddaughter attempted to scoop up the jiggly mess with her tiny fingers while unknowingly sealed it into the delicate linen fabric even more.

That chair was toast.

She looked up at me and with a beaming smile squished the goop into my hand.

I gazed into her bright eyes and caught a glimpse of her future: preparing her own Thanksgiving dinner—cooking, singing, dancing.

I saw in her angelic face, all the Thanksgivings coming her way.

Chairs full of family.

With my hand full of red goo, missing my grandmother on the inside, but smiling on the outside, I gave my granddaughter a crushing bear hug and a whole-hearted thanks.

#MeToo

I’ve been losing a ton of sleep over the Harvey Weinstein thing for a couple of weeks now.

Here’s the internal struggle.

Do I have the courage to take what’s in my tormented head and put it onto paper?

Or not.

Putting this blog post together has been the most heart wrenching and challenging thing I’ve ever done.

And I’m not exaggerating.

Back and forth and forth and back. What should I say? How far should I go?

There were “things” I furiously typed out, but then fear took hold, and a flurry of backspaces wiped it all out.

I put the post aside for a while, tried to work, make like I was okay.

Even though I wasn’t.

And then tried to write about it again.

Save, delete, save, delete. Backspace. Take a break.

I kept parking and rough-drafting my words. And then saving them under the title “Me Too.”

I figured, take it slow. Give myself some breathing room.

But this “Me Too” business was causing me some major panic and anxiety.

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been flooded with heart-rending and tragic messages from women using the hashtag #MeToo to acknowledge that they have been a victim.

It runs the gamut: Unwanted physical contact, lewd come-ons, cat calls, leers, nasty comments, inappropriate flirting, sexual harassment, molestation, abuse, assault, rape.

A plethora of unseemliness.

Reading through thousands of messages has shaken me to the core.

I’m terrified to admit it, but sadly, I’m a Me Too.

There I said it.

Now many of you, who know me well, might not be surprised by the “Me Too.”

But probably surprised by how “it” happened.

Some of my family members will be taken by complete surprise.

And yet other family members have been calling me a liar for years.

And then there’s my inner circle. My peeps.

They know too well about my “life-changing stuff.”

But unless you’ve been “in it” you can’t know how it can scar and damage who you are.

For a lifetime.

To be honest, as hard as this post has been to write, I’ve been writing it for most of my life.

Reams of words in all forms and formats written over decades.

Tucked carefully away, waiting for the right time to reveal.

So, with all this “Me Too” sharing, I figured maybe now is my time to fess up.

On the one hand, I thought I could finally share.

But then, I doubt myself.

I just don’t know what to do.

I’m so torn.

If I don’t speak up now, then when will I?

If I do speak out what will people think of me?

But here it is.

A harrowing, heartbreaking, unforgivable and unforgettable series of childhood “events” ruined my chances at any sort of Ozzie & Harriett life.

My “Me Too’s” are deeply and profoundly humiliating and searingly painful.

And don’t worry, I’m not going to get into the gory details here.

But I will say that early on I was taught the hard way, that it is indeed a dangerous world.

A world in which I was always on the lookout for weirdos: On the street, at work, on trains, subways, buses, airplanes. Creepy construction guys, bar guys, CEO guys, and doctor guys.

Too close, too touchy feely, too familiar. Too everything.

Too damn much.

So many of us have learned the hard way that unsafe is everywhere.

Hollywood, publishing, modeling, banking, advertising, radio & television, real estate, government, beauty pageants…

Restaurants, movies, airplanes, boardrooms, schools, churches, day care centers, sports, and even home…

The lists of possibilities are endless because the abuse is everywhere.

“You know you want it.”

The careful mental calculations I drum up on a daily basis is exhausting.

Parking my car, or walking down an empty street, or down an empty hotel corridor, or getting into an elevator, or choosing a seat at the bar. And then the non-stop obsessive eyeballing of my drink.

Oh and then there’s taking a cab. Or an Uber.

Or letting workers into my home.

All of it has been an exhausting and heartbreakingly draining process.

And the paranoia and possible bad choices are endless.

A psychologist once told me that children who have been physically or sexually abused often end up sabotaging their lives.

They are their own worst enemy because as children their little brains were overloaded with fear and stress hormones. So they tend to live out their lives in fight or flight mode.

Fight it out or flight it out.

And I keep reading about men who need to stand up for what’s right.

And I agree.

Except “Me Too” is not just about women.

It includes a lot of men.

Too many men.

More men than we will ever know.

I wonder how many men out there are brave enough to use the hashtag #MenToo.

That’s all I can bear to say about “Me Too” for right now.

One day I hope to scream my “stuff” from the rooftops.

But not today.

Republicans Want to Lower Caps for 401(k)’s

The Republicans are back at it again. The ruthless party that keeps on screwing with everybody—except their uber-rich donors and cronies. Oh and of course, themselves.

This time they’re trying to slam the door on those of us who have been responsibly saving for our retirement through our 401(k)’s.

How? House Republicans are shamefully considering capping the annual amount hard working Americans can set aside for their future to as low as $2,400 for 401(k) accounts!

A paltry $2,400? What a bunch of crooks.

Now many of you Republicans out there will find some lame excuse for this greedy plan. You always do.

But there is no denying that the Republicans are actively and seriously discussing a proposal to sharply reduce the annual amount workers can set aside and save in tax-deferred retirement accounts.

Today, workers can put up to $18,000 a year in a 401(k) account without paying taxes upfront. If you’re over 50, the cap is increased to $24,000.

But if the Republicans get their way, our ability to save for our retirement will be taken away from us.

Now the Republicans are trying to control how much money we can save for our futures?

WHY?

DUH. Republicans need it to offset the revenue loss from having to reduce business tax rates.

You know, take whatever you can from us hardworking slobs so you can give it to your wealthy donors who are breathing down your slimy necks for you to SHOW THEM THE MONEY—or else.

Paul Ryan’s so-called path to prosperity for all looks more like Paul Ryan’s path to middle class poverty.

Reducing American’s contribution limits is a diabolically clever accounting maneuver, no?

By lowering the cap for 401(k)’s, Republicans can collect tax revenue on all that money that Americans could otherwise be saving tax-deferred, NOW, instead of later.

WOW. Is there no limit to the lengths that Republicans will go to line the pockets of their rich friends—and themselves?

Oh, and one more maddening tidbit of information: The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that tax exclusions for individual retirement contributions will cost the federal government $115 billion in 2018 alone!

Republicans are frothing at the mouth for that money.

Cha-Ching. Cha-Ching.

I don’t know how you feel, but 2018 elections can’t come quickly enough for me.

 

The Hurricane Club

I hope you never become a member of our quickly expanding club.

But as someone all too familiar with the hurricane/flooding/seepage drill, I have some tips for the newcomers to our unfortunate alliance.

We flooded out in Hurricane Irene and then got hit again, less than one year later, during Hurricane Sandy.

The first thing you’ll need to do is throw away your furniture, all your soggy remains of irreplaceable keepsake memories, your precious photo albums, rugs, clothing, shoes, computer monitors, appliances, pretty much everything.

Then, remove all affected drywall, which for us always meant “to the studs.” Look it up.

Carefully lug and pile the thousands of pounds of the putrid, sodden remnants of your belongings into a mountain shape to avoid your used-to-be valuables from spilling onto the street.

And most importantly, immediately eviscerate the quickly growing black mold that will undoubtedly pop up and spread out. It’s nasty and hard as hell to get rid of. If you can afford an expert to take on the removal task, I recommend that you do so. Any attempt to DIY can be dangerous. If the black mold doesn’t mess up your breathing, the bleach and other chemicals you will need to use to annihilate it will surely wreak havoc on your lungs.

Oh, and keep a close watch out for termites. I learned the hard way that they love wet wood, duh.

When Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, it frighteningly and ferociously plummeted our house. As the water swiftly raged down my usually quiet street, it  carried metal generators, garbage cans,  huge pieces of wood and tree branches, and nearly covered the parked cars. My husband and I were alone and regretting our decision to remain in the house.

As the water lapped onto our lawn in waves, it inched closer and closer to our front door.

We were in a panic, and grabbed towels and sheets from our linen closet, and stuffed them against our front and garage doors. The linens didn’t work out so well.

The water seeped into our garage but mercifully stopped at our front door.

That was the nightmare happening in the front of the house.

In the back of the house, right off our kitchen, I was monitoring the movement of the 70 foot Oak tree in my neighbor’s back yard.  The wind was howling through the tree’s 100-foot canopy, causing it to whip back and forth in the wind, like a weed.  And there was no doubt that it was precariously thrashing and bending in the direction of our house.

Water was gushing onto our property in the front of the house, and a ginormous tree was readying itself to come crashing down on us in the back.  I was feeling panicky, but I wanted to appear in control of the situation.  It was my stupid idea to stay put.

Then our electricity went out so we could no longer see the torrent of water in the front of the house. I guess that was a good thing.

But it wasn’t dark enough in the back of the house to camouflage that damn solid Oak tree literally pulled from its roots, and looming in our direction.

I strongly suggested to my husband that we go up to our bedroom, which was the highest room in the house, to escape the treacherous storm surge.  He adamantly disagreed and suggested we go down into the basement. He was fairly confident that if the tree came down, it would in all probability crash into our bedroom.

I reluctantly agreed with his analysis.

But the basement?  The water was heaving itself onto our front lawn in wave after wave, and he wanted to move in the downward direction?

It was a surreal conversation.

Do we take our chances in the basement and hope that the water wouldn’t crash through the windows and drown us? Or do we move to higher ground and chance getting gored by Oak tree branches?

As we argued in the hallway about whether we should go up or down, there was a massive crash in the back of our house, which sent a shock wave through the entire structure.

After a long bear hug, my husband looked at me and weirdly casually said: “Well let’s see if the tree is in our house.”

As we crept up our stairs, we saw bright crackling and spits of flame through the kitchen window. That not so grand old Oak lay a mere three feet from our house, which was a miraculous thing.  The 70-foot behemoth with its 100-foot canopy had smashed onto our property, taking fences, trees, electrical lines, our deck, and everything else in its path with it.

It also took off a small piece of our jutting roof, but the rest of our house and our lives had thankfully been spared.

I recall grabbing my husband in terror as he calmly looked out at the crackling wires on the tree and then quietly announced: “We can go up to the bedroom now.”

The next few days were nightmarish. But as a member of the Hurricane Club, we had been down this devastating road before. So we began the arduous task of cleaning up.

Except one week later, we had an early season snowstorm which dumped more than a foot of snow on us.

Fortunately, the coastal flooding from the storm was minor, but it brought any hope of recovery to a screeching halt.

Immediately following Hurricane Sandy, gas stations were out of gasoline, there were slim pickings at the only walkable grocery store, whole boulevards had been washed away, and rebuilding seemed like an impossible task.

For close to three weeks we endured no heat, no electricity, and only ice cold water for showers. Thankfully our toilets were working.  But our cell phones were dead, so it was difficult to communicate with the outside world.

We were in survival mode. And it was freezing cold in our house. Our paltry supply of food and drinks were packed into coolers we found in our soggy garage, now strewn about on our destroyed deck.

And then of course there was that damned tree, a reminder of the work ahead of us.

 

But survive we did.

As we walked through our neighborhood, the devastation was heartbreaking. Amidst the snow drifts, downed trees cut off many of the streets, houses were demolished, rotting dead fish were oddly strewn about, and workers who had come from all over the country to assist in the recovery and rebuilding were assessing the damage.

Reminders of Hurricane Sandy are still everywhere. Five years later, many victims are still recovering and rebuilding.

With the arrival of Harvey and Irma, the Hurricane Club will sadly be expanding its membership.

Irma, who has already ripped through the Caribbean, now has her sights on Florida.

As someone who survived Sandy, I would strongly advise anyone in Irma’s path to get the hell out of dodge.

And then courageously prepare for the new normal.

Memento Park in Budapest Hungary

Political rage over statues is old news.

Approximately two hundred thousand Hungarians gathered in Budapest on October 23, 1956 to demonstrate against Communism and in sympathy for the Poles who had just gained political reform. One of the sixteen demands the Hungarians broadcast over the radio was the dismantling of Stalin’s statue.

And dismantle it they did.

The 82-foot high monument of Stalin was ripped down and smashed on that day by enraged anti-Soviet crowds, leaving only his boots, in which they planted a Hungarian flag.

The statue of Stalin was demolished, leaving only his head in the middle of downtown Budapest.

Twelve days later, on November 4, Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed the national uprising. Thousands were killed and wounded and nearly a quarter-million Hungarians fled the country.

What happened to Stalin’s boots I don’t know.

But a replica of those boots is on display in Memento Park, a remote open-air museum, high up in the hills of Budapest.

Also known as Memorial Park and Statue Park, this is also where 42 Soviet statues and monuments, removed from Budapest, immediately following the fall of communism, have ended their days.

After World War II, many colossal statues glorifying communist heroes and ideals were erected across Budapest by the occupying Soviet forces.

Immediately following the political changes in 1989, the future of the statues created and displayed during the communist regime caused heated debates. Many Hungarians reacted with hatred and wanted all statues, monuments, and symbols of the dictatorship destroyed.

It was László Szörényi, a literary historian who first mentioned the idea of a Statue Park in a 1989 article. The leaders of the new, democratic political system agreed with Mr. Szörényi.

In December 1991 the Assembly of Budapest came to a decision that districts should choose which statues they wanted to be preserved, and rather than demolishing them, they would be taken down and collectively placed in a park.

Since it was a sensitive and complex project, the Assembly announced an architectural design competition, which Hungarian architect Ákos Eleőd won.

Memento Park celebrated its grand opening on June 29, 1993, which was also the second anniversary of the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Hungarian territory.

Mr. Eleőd had this to say about Memento Park: “This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship.”

Several years ago, after a long day of touring in and around Budapest, my husband came up with the brilliant idea to “run” over to Memento Park and view the communist-era statues moved there.

It was 4 pm in the afternoon and the last thing I wanted to do after untold hours of touring was to take a 90-minute bus ride to see a bunch of commie statues.  Plus, the park closed at 6 pm which meant that we would have about 30 minutes to see the whole Soviet shebang.

The bar in the lobby of our hotel was calling my name.

Communist-era statues exiled to some unknown suburb hours away—or a very dry, very dirty martini?

It seemed like a no-brainer to me, so I told my husband “no thanks.”

As an aside, my at-home husband is a couch potato. He loves to hang around the house, play online chess, watch documentaries about Einstein, and lazily mosey on and around our deck and patio.

My vacay-husband never stops for one second; a whirlwind of running here, there, and everywhere, to see everything, anything, and nothing.

The bottom line for me is that vacationing with my husband is grueling, exhausting and mostly torturous.

So not surprisingly, he completely ignored my “no thanks,” grabbed my hand and off we literally ran to catch the last bus going to a graveyard of banished statues in the middle of nowhere.

My martini would obviously have to wait.

As the bus climbed the hills toward Memento Park, it was dusk, and slightly creepy.  The highway was deserted, and there were ginormous electric towers everywhere.

As I curiously glanced out at the doom and gloom sky, mostly obstructed by the towering power lines, I noticed a looming dark, colossal and menacing man, seemingly running in the distance.

I got goose bumps all over my body as we inched closer and closer toward the mammoth statues and monuments.

The gigantic monoliths of communist dictators and fictional role models from the era of repression rose menacingly above a massive concrete wall.

We had gone from modern-day Budapest into the past, traveling on a dreary and empty road toward a dark fortress. I was lost in thought imagining myself in an oppressive regime who had gained control over an entire country by creating a cult around looming tyrant personalities.

It was almost 5:30 pm when the bus pulled up to the entrance. We only had 30 minutes to walk around, so we tried to make the best use of our time.

And since we were the last bus to arrive, there were only a handful of visitors making the park all the eerier.

At the entrance stood two intimidating and imposing statues; one of Lenin on the left and the other of Marx on the right.

Two single story timber structures house the internal exhibition space, their design intended to replicate internment camp buildings.

Mounted on a soaring stone base was a replica of the massive boots of Josef Stalin, representative of all that was left of the towering statue when it was famously pulled down in the 1956 uprising.  Though the revolution had been brutally crushed by Communist forces, the replica of the boots remained a reminder of the thousands who died in the Hungarian uprising.

The exhibited items ranged from giant statues of workers, heroes and party leaders to plaques commemorating various communist events.

Standing next to these massive monuments was unnerving and I immediately felt the terror of their primary purpose. They were meant to intimidate and tower above everybody.

And despite the fact that they were now merely a collection of stone, metal, and bronze from a bleak past, and far away from their original locations, they still held enormous power over my psyche.

The statues and monuments were imposing, but the design neither made a mockery of them nor honored them. And yet I still felt fear.

There was one character conspicuously absent. There were no surviving statues of Stalin. I was told by one of the staffers that they had all been devoured by the mobs before they could be saved.

Viewing the enormous statues was an eye-opener for me. And I was actually able to visualize history through those symbols—standing in their former prominent places throughout Budapest—and I was glad that they had been removed.

Though magnificent works of art, the symbolism of those towering monuments would have been a constant reminder to people of how great and powerful the Soviet system was in Hungary, a dark part of their past that they did not want to remember or celebrate.

And seeing them all together in Memento Park made it hard to believe that it had been less than 20 years ago that Hungary was part of the Soviet bloc.

Approximately 40,000 people visit Memento Park yearly. The park is the property of the Hungarian State but is operated as a private venture supported by revenue from ticket prices and earnings from the souvenir shop.

Those sky-high statues and monuments removed from their original locations years earlier pained me and offered a glimpse into the propaganda and official narratives that dominated Hungarian public life for the better part of half a century.

Thanks to the decision to remove and save the statues and monuments, they have been forever preserved and accessible for viewing, albeit in a very different context.

In their current resting place, the statues and monuments placed by the Communists in and around Budapest now serve as a reminder of the oppression felt by the people of Budapest and Hungary during the regime.

István Schneller, the Chief Architect of Budapest from 1994-2006 had this to say about the monuments:

“These statues are a part of the history of Hungary. Dictatorships chip away at, and plaster over their past in order to get rid of all memories of previous ages. Democracy is the only regime that is prepared to accept that our past with all the dead ends is still ours; we should get to know it, analyse it and think about it.”

Call Yesterday What It Was: Domestic Nazi Terrorism

In Charlottesville Virginia yesterday, many white supremacists/Nazis chanted “You will not replace us, Jew will not replace us.”

A clever play on words. You rhymes with Jew, right?

No. There was nothing clever about those hateful words spewing out of hateful people.

You = Jew.

Yesterday, Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist/Nazi, and domestic terrorist vowed this: “You think that we’re going to back down from this kind of behavior to you and your provincial town? We are going to make Charlottesville the center of the universe.”

On July 12, 2015, Trump had this to say to the Phoenix people: “Don’t worry, we’ll take our country back.”

So it should have come as no surprise when yesterday, on August 12, 2017, the Nazi, David Duke said this: “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump and take our country back.”

“Jew will not replace us.”

“Take our country back.”

What do these hateful words mean exactly?

Well, I know full well what “Jew will not replace us” means.

But take our country back from whom?

To anyone out there who thinks yesterday’s Nazi fiasco was okay, I am inviting you to man and woman up and say what’s on your mind.

For a girl will someday be a woman. And a boy will someday be a man.

Speak up. I’m a big girl/Jew. I can take it.

WHO DO YOU WANT TO TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK FROM?

Get a backbone and spell it out for me.

Say it plain and simple.

Do you hate Jews? Blacks? Gays? Mexicans? Muslims? Everybody and anybody who’s not like you?

Don’t say it behind my back. Say it to my face.

Be straightforward.

And please don’t tell me you know a few Jews who are good people, or that you have a Jewish friend.

BE CAREFUL
Be careful of your thoughts,
for your thoughts become your words.

Be careful of your words,
for your words become your action.

Be careful of your action,
for your action become your habits.

Be careful of your habits,
for your become your character.

Be careful of your character,
for your character becomes your destiny.
~ Author Unknown

Freedom of Speech via Blood and Bones

Trump, Jeff Sessions, and the rest of his administration are trying hard to undermine and erode our press freedoms. I say good luck with that.

As American citizens, the appalling and worrisome efforts by our president to suppress our free press and freedom of speech should be our “red line.”

And I have unquestionable faith that if ever our press freedoms are in real jeopardy, most of us will do whatever it takes to protect our right to speak freely and the written word.

I must say though, that I am unnerved and alarmed not to be able to write “all” of us.

It is my belief and faith in “most” of my fellow citizens that Trump and his political lackeys underestimate the power of the written word.

Below is a heartbreaking but hopeful story about freedom of information, and the unsinkable power of the written word.

Syrian human rights activist Mansour Omari was arrested in his Damascus office in February 2012.

His crime? Fighting for freedom of speech.

For his offense, Mr. Omari spent close to a year in a series of wretched prisons.

Nine of those months were spent in a fetid underground jail overseen by Maher al-Assad, the brother of the brutal dictatorial Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The why and how Mr. Omari was released still remains unclear, but while he was detained he never gave up on the written word and the power of information.

On Tuesday, August 8, Mr. Omari carefully and tenderly laid out five scraps of worn material that had secretly traveled with him in the collar and cuffs of his shirt, to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s preservation center.

Those five scraps contained the names of 82 prisoners in the faith and hope of informing their families of their whereabouts as well as to document the atrocities against them.

The fading names on the five scraps, which included the prisoners’ names and location, were scratched on small bits of fabric cut from the backs of their shirts.

The invaluable information written on those five measly strips was produced by using broken chicken bones from their paltry food rations as pens, and a mixture of blood from their rotting gums and flakes of rust from their iron prison bars as ink.

The written word in blood and bones.

The scraps of priceless information were carefully and secretly sewn into Omari’s shirt, as ruthless Syrian government guards fastidiously watched over them.

Omari eventually smuggled those bloody scraps out of his deplorable underground prison, past brutal Syrian government forces, and safely across oceans.

Nothing was going to stop Mr. Omari from immortalizing the names of his fellow prisoners.

Let Mr. Omari serve as a courageous and heroic symbol of the power of the written word and the lengths someone will go to disseminate information and stand up for truth and justice.