communication, language, music, politicians, politics, social media, Trump

Sometimes people need a citation from the language police…

The featured photo is a screenshot of a t-shirt available on Amazon. I might have to buy one of those…

Good morning, y’all. I feel better this morning than I did yesterday, although I’m currently in the middle of stimulating the economy by making a few major purchases. Yesterday, as I mentioned in my travel blog, I bought a new washer and dryer. And today, we’re going to go to AAFES and, perhaps, come home with a new TV for the bedroom. I already explained what happened with our old washer, and as long as I’m upgrading the washer, I figure I might as well upgrade the dryer, too. The old one works, but it sucks.

As for the TV… the one we have is ten years old. We bought it at a Target in Texas. It was working fine until a few days ago, when the volume bar suddenly went kerfluey. First, it randomly went up to 100, then down to zero. The volume itself wasn’t affected, since I use Apple TV for controlling that, but now there’s a permanent volume bar graphic on the screen that won’t go away. It’s very annoying.

Then, when I try to use the remote to change the settings, it barely responds. We’ve replaced the batteries twice with no improvement, so it seems to be the actual remote that’s the issue, not dying batteries. We paid about $300 for the TV in 2013, so I think we’ll just look and see if we can find another of about the same size, with a similar platform– one in the middle, so it fits on my dresser. We have sloped walls in the bedroom, which makes fitting things like TVs challenging. A lot of TVs have “feet” on either side, which doesn’t work if you have to angle the television. One side’s “feet” will hang off the side of the dresser. And we don’t want to mount it on the wall.

Bill is also planning to brew beer. Yesterday, he ground some barley with a mill someone gave him when we lived in Stuttgart. Our Sunday looks like it could be busy, albeit mundane. I also have big plans to get some more mascara for my rare in person adventures. 😉

Now… on to today’s topic.

Some readers might know that in 2020, when COVID was upending everyone’s lives, I started learning how to play guitar. I joined Fender Play, which is an app that teaches basic guitar skills. I also joined their Facebook group, where instructors answer questions and other new and old guitar players hang out and trade tips, show off new gear, and tell guitar jokes. I don’t participate in the group very much now, nor do I use Fender Play anymore. Now, I mostly go to Chordify and try to play songs that intrigue me.

The Fender Facebook group is usually friendly and encouraging, although sometimes people get political or otherwise offensive. The mods are usually pretty good at shutting down negative stuff quickly. But I did run across an interesting exchange yesterday that continued this morning. It gave me pause.

Some of my friends know, at times I can be a bit of of a spelling/grammar snob. I can’t help it. I do get annoyed by misspellings and grammar errors. However, I’ve mostly learned not to be too vocal about my annoyance, since people tend to frown on it. There are exceptions, of course. Like, for instance, a few years ago, I got irritated in the Duggar Family News group because so many people were claiming to be experts on HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). However, they kept spelling it HIPPA– which makes some sense, since HIPAA is pronounced like “hippo”, only with an “a” at the end.

When I posted the correct acronym (not specifically calling anyone out), someone tagged me and told me I was WRONG… when, in fact, THEY were wrong. All it took to discover the proper spelling was a very quick Googling– not even two minutes. I DO think this is important, by the way. Especially since it takes so little to get it right. Not looking up something before you insist you’re correct is just plain laziness. On the other hand, as I look at all the dust in my house, I guess I can’t speak for too long about that.

So anyway, I ran across this discussion in the Fender Play Facebook group. A guy had run across a pretty blue Squier guitar. Squier is a low priced guitar manufacturer, but this fellow had found a guitar in an unusual color. He wanted to know if the color added to the value of the instrument. And he had the temerity to spell the brand name “Squire”. Someone called him out.

Pretty color, except I don’t like the white.
I agree. Take a moment to spell the brand name correctly. It’s not earth shattering, but it does show respect for the product.

Now… I don’t blame the OP for being annoyed about the correction. The person who called him out did seem a little “pissy”… or “zickig” (bitchy), as they say in Germany. However, I sympathize with being annoyed by misspellings. Some of us just are.

Aside from that, the fact that he discounts her comment by referencing the method of getting children to show how and where they’ve been abused is pretty gross, too. It demonstrates a certain lack of empathy for others. Using a doll to help children report abuse is a serious thing, as is child abuse of all kinds… particularly the kind that typically gets reported through the use of special dolls.

Anyway… the guy didn’t buy the above guitar. Instead, he bought the one below. Apparently, it wasn’t enough to just share the photo of the new gear, he felt compelled to call out the spelling “Nazis”. Note the edit. He got called out again.

I also agree that Nazis are in a very different class than people who are uptight about spelling and grammar.

Unfortunately, just as people have co-opted names like Karen, Becky, Susan, Dick, John, and Peter to mean something gross or derogatory, the term “Nazi” has come to mean people who are extreme about certain things. But if you think about it, it really is a pretty awful misuse of the word. I suspect people use the word “Nazi” without knowing too much about the history of what happened during the Holocaust and the sheer horror of it. It was 80 years ago, and a lot of those who were around then are now long dead. But the descendants of the survivors are still here… and it is hurtful to them to think about how their family members, loved ones, and friends were systematically murdered just for being who they were.

I can understand people wanting to be able to toss around whatever language they want to without being questioned or harassed. Extreme political correctness can be very annoying. At the same time, I can also understand why the casual use of the term “Nazi” is hurtful. It minimizes something truly awful… and something, which really, if you consider it for longer than a moment, didn’t happen that long ago. And it’s something that can happen again, if we aren’t careful.

A few years ago, I inadvertently upset a former Facebook friend and Trump supporter because I likened Trump to Hitler. She was offended because she wrongly assumed I was comparing Trump’s actions to what Hitler actually did before he died. I wasn’t doing that at all. I was comparing Trump’s rise to the way Hitler rose, and the way he spins up crowds, mainly for the same reasons. Like Hitler, Trump targets a certain demographic– people who are disenfranchised and, deep down, scared. Trump’s tough talk of conquering and being “first” makes those people feel powerful and emboldened. And you can see what happens when people fall too deeply under Trump’s spell. A few people have ended up dead. Some are now in prison. And some will probably either die or go to prison as Trump’s legal fate is determined.

From seven years ago, but I think the point is made.
The same experiment done with Brits…

I fear that if Trump isn’t stopped, we could end up with another situation like the Holocaust. Maybe it wouldn’t be carried out in the same gruesome way, but the end result could be the same. Many innocent people could be persecuted, injured, or killed, simply for being who they are. Remember… the Nazi movement started off small and eventually progressed to what it was. Just because Trump hasn’t killed masses of people yet, that doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t… or that one of his successors won’t. Trump himself might be too old, at this point, but he’s emboldened a lot of people who could follow his lead, if we don’t stop him from seizing control of our democracy.

My former friend was deeply offended, and accused me of being disrespectful to Jews by comparing Trump to Hitler. Actually, I think by issuing a warning about Trump, I’m being very respectful to Hitler’s victims, who weren’t just Jews. I don’t want to see another Holocaust, or other genocidal event. It’s kind of like the early detection of cancer. You have to be vigilant and watch for the signs, otherwise, the disease process will progress until it’s too late, and there’s a significant loss of health or even one’s life… or perhaps your country as you know it.

Conservatives consider it “hateful” to compare Trump to Hitler. But I don’t think they’re considering where the comparison comes from. If you see someone spinning up a crowd, using the same language and speaking style as a fascist dictator, the comparisons are inevitable. And they aren’t hateful if they’re based in truth. Trump isn’t a literal murderer… yet, or that I know of… but he’s definitely demonstrated an unhinged and insatiable thirst for power, influence, and money. I fear that he’ll stop at nothing to get back in power, now that he’s had a taste of being the President of the United States. And if he gets back into power, there’s nothing to stop him from trying to change everything to suit his fantastic whims. This is the same man who, when he was told “No” during the January 6 insurrection, allegedly said, “I am the fucking President. Take me up to the Capitol, NOW!” Remember Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony.

Crazy stuff… a reminder, lest we forget.

So yes… language matters. Sensitivity to others matters. We should kindly and gently encourage empathy toward others, even if it is kind of annoying. And, for God’s sake, learn to spell. It’s so easy to do, especially in the Internet age. It just takes a moment to consult your favorite search engine.

Anyway… I didn’t mean to go so far off the rails with this post. I just hope it inspires some thought. I like a good swear word as much as anyone does, but minimizing and discounting other people’s discomfort is “not a good look”, as Trump would say. Using language to deliberately hurt or demoralize other people isn’t cool. I do agree, however, that people should handle language objections with sensitivity and kindness, rather than hostility and derision.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site. I don’t own the above t-shirt, but wanted to provide a link for those who might want one, not that I’m expecting that anyone will.

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Armenia, history, holidays

It’s Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day…

The featured photo was taken on April 24, 1997, when I was still a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia. From October 1996 until August 1997, I lived just across the street from Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide Memorial, in Yerevan, Armenia.

I think today’s post will be somewhat short. I’m getting a late start today, and there are still some things I’d like to do that don’t involve blogging. I did want to take a few minutes, though, to recognize Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. This is a holiday that occurs in the Republic of Armenia every April 24th, as thousands of Armenians travel to the capital city of Yerevan and make their way up a hillside to pay their respects to people who died in the Armenian Genocide.

A look at what’s going on in Yerevan today. This is a lot bigger than it was when I was living there.

As regular readers know, I was a member of the third group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Armenia. I was assigned the to capital city of Yerevan. It’s my understanding that Volunteers are no longer placed in Yerevan, because it’s gotten to be so modern and “nice” (and no doubt, more expensive). In my days as a Volunteer, Yerevan was “up and coming”, and I got to see it change a lot in just two years. When we arrived in 1995, Yerevan was pretty rough, but by the time we left, businesses were coming in and expanding. The powers that be had already decided that no more Volunteers would serve there, but would instead be sent out to the regions.

If I had to do it over again, I think I would have preferred an assignment outside of the capital city. However, I did end up having a “real” Peace Corps experience, and Armenia is one of those places where a huge portion of the population lives near the capital. So, there’s a lot of action there…

I taught at a school that, when I was a Volunteer, offered all ten “forms”. One of my former students, from a tenth form class during my second year, now works at Peace Corps/Armenia. I think the school where I taught now only handles kids in the early years of their educations. I also think the system has changed since I was a Volunteer, from 1995-97.

My school was named after a poet named Ruben Sevak, who was one of a million Armenians killed in the Genocide in 1915. Back in 1995, Sevak’s daughter, who was then in her 80s and living in France, came to visit the school. I got to meet her. I wrote more about Ruben Sevak here. He was a fascinating man who died much too young. And it was all because of hatred and a basic lack of respect by people for other people, same as any horrendous human rights violation is. Hitler was reportedly inspired by the Armenian Genocide when he came up with his “Final Solution”.

Isn’t it interesting that I now live in Germany, where there are reminders everywhere about the horrors of the past? Except this time, I live in the place where the perpetrators mostly came from, rather than the place where the victims lived. I’ve learned a lot from living in both places, and I’m very grateful that I’ve the opportunities that I’ve had to see and be influenced by both places. I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have these experiences, since I know that most Americans don’t get to travel abroad, let alone live abroad several times, courtesy of the U.S. government.

Anyway… today, I will try especially hard to take a moment to ponder the biggest lessons that came from the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. It really disturbs me to see that same trend happening in the United States now. I’ve noticed a lot of negativity in the United States, especially in the era of Trump and the completely bastardized version of the Republican Party that we have now. I just hope it doesn’t come down to the horrors of the past repeating themselves, although given the gun violence problems we have now, maybe things are already heading in that direction.

Well, that’s about it for today’s post. Gotta take Noyzi for a walk and have some lunch… and then, maybe plow through more of my latest book, so I can post a new review. Catch you all later.

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family, funny stories, LDS, Twitter

Turns out I have both knotty and nutty family ties…

I woke up at 5:41 am this morning, after having had a vivid dream about a southern town somewhere near where I came of age. I don’t remember much about the dream now. Sometimes, I wish I had Bill’s discipline, when it comes to recording dreams. He writes his down and sends them to his Jungian analyst. They talk about Bill’s dreams every week during their video chats.

I have vivid dreams, too, but I don’t remember most of them for long. Maybe I’m genetically less inclined to remember my rapid eye movements. It’s possible that this is a family trait.

Several years ago, I submitted samples to 23andMe and Ancestry.com. I started with 23andMe, because it seemed to be the more health focused of the two. It also had no ties to Mormonism. Some people may not know this, but the LDS church is big into genealogy. It’s so that members can “baptise” their dead family members who were around before Mormonism was. That way, those dead people can choose to be LDS in the afterlife.

Living members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints go to temples and do proxy baptisms for dead members of their families. Some also do “temple work” for dead celebrities, too, although they’re not supposed to do baptisms for people who aren’t relatives.

I know that, historically, descendants of Holocaust victims got pretty angry with the Mormons for “dead dunking” their family members murdered during World War II. Frankly, I find that practice pretty offensive, especially for people who died in the Holocaust because they were Jewish. These were people who literally died horrible, gruesome deaths for their beliefs. It’s beyond tacky to do a proxy baptism to allow dead Jewish people to be Mormons, as if they were wrong all along.

Faithful church members who do proxy baptisms for non-related people will simply shrug off the thought that they’re being offensive. They say that if the church isn’t true, it doesn’t matter if they “dead dunk” Holocaust victims. The ceremony is meaningless.

If you’ve been following this blog, you may already know why I don’t like Mormonism. These days, I’m somewhat less vitriolic toward the church than I once was. I still don’t like the church’s doctrine because I think it’s harmful to some people. My husband’s ex wife used it as a “reason” to alienate Bill from his daughters. She got everyone to join the church. Then, when Bill realized he didn’t believe in Mormonism, she told his daughters that he wasn’t worthy to be their father. He wouldn’t be going to the Celestial Kingdom because, when he ultimately resigned his membership, he turned his back on the “one true church”. Never mind that she’s not going there, either.

Ex has now apparently given up on Mormonism. It doesn’t suit her purposes anymore. However, Bill’s daughters are still believers. Younger daughter is particularly faithful. I also know that the church, which Ex had once tried to weaponize, was very helpful in helping younger daughter escape her mother’s clutches. I’m grateful to church members for that… and I know there are good people in the church. Nowadays, I try to be less negative about the LDS church, even though I still don’t like the doctrine. In fairness, though, I’m not a very religious person, anyway.

Ancestry.com has no legal ties to Mormonism, but it was founded by church members who, no doubt, tithe. I know that church members can be very persistent in tracking down inactive members. I don’t like to support organizations that make pests of themselves, especially religious organizations. After some time, I changed my mind about Ancestry.com. It probably happened when Bill started talking to younger daughter again, and she proved that she isn’t completely brainwashed.

23andMe recently made me .2 percent less Brit… 😉

After I changed my mind about Ancestry.com, I finally did a DNA test with them. The results were very interesting. DNA wise, my results were very similar to what 23andMe found. Both tests have my DNA down as extremely British and Irish. There’s a slight discrepancy on some of the other DNA predictions. 23andMe has me down as having a little Finnish and Spanish ancestry. Ancestry has me with Norwegian, Swedish, and Welsh. However, on both tests, my DNA has me as well over 90% British and Irish. Ancestry.com breaks it down even further, indicating that my DNA is (at this writing) 56% Scottish. No wonder I feel so at home there!

My people were homebodies, I guess…

One of the other advantages to Ancestry.com is that there’s a ton of genealogical data there. Recently, a lot more data has become available for my own family origins. I’ve been updating my family tree accordingly, finding little historical twigs from people who came from Switzerland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, and France. Earlier test results on the DNA tests had indicated that I had some origins in those countries, too. The results change as more DNA is added to the databases. For example, at one time, 23andMe indicated that I had Swiss DNA. Then it changed, and the Swiss connection went away. But based on my family tree on Ancestry.com, I do actually have some Swiss family members.

Neither test shows that I have much French DNA, but I’ve found French people in my family tree. Ditto for Germany… I actually know for sure that I have some German relatives. However, when it comes to my DNA, the connection isn’t as clear. Maybe that’s why I’m so short! I think it’s helpful to remember that the DNA analysis traces all the way back… not just within the past few hundred years.

So far, all branches of my family tree go back to about 1500 or so, which may be when people started keeping records. But the DNA goes back much further than that. It’s pretty mind boggling, if you think about it for too long. Bearing that in mind, it makes sense that my DNA would be overwhelmingly British and Irish, even though I can spot random other Europeans in my family tree. That French and Swiss DNA would be a tiny contribution, compared to the huge number of Brits who went into making me. 😉

And now, you may be wondering… what does all of this have to do with my post’s title? Well, now I’ll explain.

As I wrote further up post, I’ve recently been adding new people to my family tree. Some of it has been truly fascinating. I’ve mentioned many times that I was born and raised in Virginia. Indeed, the vast majority of my relatives were also born and raised in Virginia, starting from the 1600s, or so. My family was in Virginia from the very beginning of its existence.

I can see how they migrated from Scotland, England, and Ireland to Virginia, working their way down from Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, and settling in the Shenandoah Valley or further south, near the North Carolina border. Both sides of my dad’s side of the family are mostly from Rockbridge County. My mom’s dad came from Grayson County. Her mother came from Amherst. However, I did have at least one relative from way back who was born in Gloucester County, which is where I grew up.

All of these discoveries were fascinating to me. But then I stumbled across one that really gave me pause… Behold!

You will notice the name Fraser…

I was updating my tree yesterday, when I noticed that my great grandmother’s ancestry connects her to the Fraser family. The Frasers are a prominent Scottish clan. I know this, in part, because a few years ago, Bill and I were on a Hebridean whisky cruise, and there we met a very obnoxious fellow American. Her last name was Fraser. She wore the Fraser tartan at the two gala dinners. When I met this woman, I didn’t know much about my ancestry. I just knew that I liked the Scots. 😉 Anyway, the American Fraser woman on our cruise was very proud of her heritage and never ceased to let us know about it.

A few years later, I started to pay more attention to my husband’s ex wife’s online antics. Over the past year or so, she’s been claiming that she’s related to a certain aristocratic Scottish family. Now, I have no way of knowing if Ex is really related to this family or if this is another one of her fantasies… I do know she was adopted. I don’t know if she’s claiming ties based on her DNA or her adoptive family. But this is what she’s been posting lately…

Hmm…given that, I now have hope that my stories will make it to print. The method you enjoy…works! Please, just keep doing it; you create lives, no small feat! Remember me, though; it would be a delight to collaborate. I’m a Fraser du Lovat, by the way, & that’s fun!!

The above quote comes from a post I wrote May 16, 2022. Ex was trying to engage the actors on Outlander. I don’t watch the show myself. I just know it’s a Scottish historical romance. Ex is so swept up in it that she’s claiming to be related to a well known Highland Scottish clan, Fraser du Lovat, which has origins in Inverness. I don’t know much at all about the Frasers du Lovat, or any other Scottish clan, for that matter. I never claimed to be of particularly noble breeding myself. But, if I’m to believe Ancestry.com, I’ve also got ties to the Fraser clan… although my ancestor is Sir Alexander Fraser, 8th Earl of Philorth, which is a Lowland clan.

Apparently, I have a Fraser as a grandfather on my dad’s side…

I know from cruising on Hebridean Princess, that Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland run right into each other. We visited the Glengoyne Distillery, just north of Glasgow. The guide told us that the distillery is located on the Highland Line. Consequently, Glengoyne’s stills are in the Highlands, while the maturing casks of whisky are across the road in the Lowlands. It’s considered a Highland whisky, even though the Lowlands are literally just yards away.

I wonder if Ex would react like Blanche if she found out that we could be extremely distant relatives… Maybe she might even quit bragging about her Fraser connection.

Again, I don’t know how accurate Ancestry.com’s family tree suggestions are. I also don’t have any reason whatsoever to believe Ex’s own claims about her ancestry. She has a long history of stretching the truth. She also has a very active fantasy life. BUT… I can’t help but be amused that I apparently have ties to the same big Scottish clan that she’s so proud of… which clearly seems to make her feel “special”. She feels so special that she tweets Sam Heughan on Twitter and claims to be descended from the Fraser du Lovat clan. And I… the hated homewrecking whore (which I’m actually REALLY not)… am apparently related to the Frasers of Philorth. 😉

Of course, all of that was very long ago… and I have other family ties that are interesting for other, and frankly better, reasons. I wish I could look at the whole tree at one time. But now it’s gotten very big and unwieldy. My ancestors were very prolific babymakers. It’s a bit mind boggling to realize that when I die, so will my particular branch of the tree. Oh well. It’s probably fitting that my branch got pruned… I also blame that on Ex.

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nostalgia, politics, travel

Repost: Remembering Samantha Smith… pen pal to world leaders

Here’s another repost from June 2018, a post inspired by my childhood in the 1980s. This one is about the late Samantha Smith, who made history by writing to Yuri Andropov and getting invited to visit the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Samantha was nine days younger than me, but sadly, she died in a plane crash in 1985. Little did I know, when Samantha was alive, that I, too, would one day go to what was once the Soviet Union. The 80s were an interesting time to be a kid.

I was born on June 20, 1972.  Nine days later, Samantha Smith was born.  Samantha Smith would change the world during her 13 years of life.  I’m about to turn 46 (and now I’m 49) and I’m still wondering what my purpose is. 

A few weeks ago, I suddenly remembered Samantha Smith, who was ten years old when she wrote a moving letter to former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov.  She was concerned about the threat of nuclear war.  In the early 1980s, everyone was talking about nukes and the so-called “red button”.  Like so many of her peers, Samantha was scared.  But she had guts and initiative.  So, in November 1982, she wrote:

Dear Mr. Andropov,

My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.

Sincerely,

Samantha Smith  

This was not Samantha’s first letter to a world leader.  In fact, she’d even written to another leader when she was five– Queen Elizabeth II– to express her admiration.  Samantha’s letter was printed in the Soviet paper, Pravda, but she did not receive a reply from Andropov right away.  Undaunted, Samantha wrote another letter, this time to the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States. 

Mr. Andropov was very moved by Samantha’s letter.  He wrote back to her in April 1983, affirmed that the Soviet Union did not want to wage a nuclear war, and invited her to visit the Soviet Union at a time when Americans were not often allowed to go there. 

Dear Samantha,

I received your letter, which is like many others that have reached me recently from your country and from other countries around the world.

It seems to me – I can tell by your letter – that you are a courageous and honest girl, resembling Becky, the friend of Tom Sawyer in the famous book of your compatriot Mark Twain. This book is well known and loved in our country by all boys and girls.

You write that you are anxious about whether there will be a nuclear war between our two countries. And you ask are we doing anything so that war will not break out.

Your question is the most important of those that every thinking man can pose. I will reply to you seriously and honestly.

Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.

Soviet people well know what a terrible thing war is. Forty-two years ago, Nazi Germany, which strove for supremacy over the whole world, attacked our country, burned and destroyed many thousands of our towns and villages, killed millions of Soviet men, women and children.

In that war, which ended with our victory, we were in alliance with the United States: together we fought for the liberation of many people from the Nazi invaders. I hope that you know about this from your history lessons in school. And today we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth — with those far away and those near by. And certainly with such a great country as the United States of America.

In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons — terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never — never — will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on Earth.

It seems to me that this is a sufficient answer to your second question: ‘Why do you want to wage war against the whole world or at least the United States?’ We want nothing of the kind. No one in our country–neither workers, peasants, writers nor doctors, neither grown-ups nor children, nor members of the government–want either a big or ‘little’ war.

We want peace — there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.

I invite you, if your parents will let you, to come to our country, the best time being this summer. You will find out about our country, meet with your contemporaries, visit an international children’s camp – Artek – on the sea. And see for yourself: in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples.

Thank you for your letter. I wish you all the best in your young life.

Y. Andropov

In the summer of 1983, Samantha visited Russia, where she caused quite a sensation.  She spent two weeks in Moscow as Mr. Andropov’s guest and had the opportunity to visit Artek, which was a big Soviet pioneer camp.  During the Soviet era, young children were involved in the Young Pioneers, which was a massive youth organization.  She also went to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where she was presented with many gifts.  Smith and her parents were amazed by how friendly the people were.

So many years later, I was watching Samantha Smith on old YouTube videos.  There are many comments from Russians who remembered and admired her.  She truly was a heroine to many Russians and Americans alike, although there were some skeptics out there who felt she was being used as a Soviet propaganda pawn.

When Samantha and her parents came home to Maine, they were treated to a warm welcome involving a red carpet and limousine.  Samantha was interviewed by many famous people, including Ted Koppel and Johnny Carson.  In 1985, she even tried her hand at acting when she was cast as a regular in a TV show called Lime Street

Samantha Smith interviewed by Johnny Carson.
Samantha Smith being interviewed on The Today Show, after she had become a media sensation.

Tragically, on August 25, 1985, Samantha Smith and her father, Arthur, died in a plane crash.  They were returning home on Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808 after having filmed a segment for Lime Street.  The pilot was attempting to land the plane when it hit some trees 4007 feet shy of the runway. The airplane crashed, killing the six passengers and two crew members aboard.  Although some in the Soviet Union thought she might have been a victim of foul play, an investigation revealed that the pilots were inexperienced and the rainy weather conditions contributed to the difficulty in landing the plane.

News story about Samantha Smith’s death.

Samantha Smith’s visit inspired goodwill all over the world, especially in the United States and Russia.  In fact, in 1986, a Soviet child named Katya Lycheva even spent time in the United States.  A 1987 storyline on The Golden Girls was even inspired by Samantha’s story, although it was ditzy Rose Nylund who wrote the letter, not a ten year old girl.

Rose’s “Letter to Gorbachev”… 

I wonder what would have become of Samantha Smith had she been able to grow up.  I wonder what she would think of our current political situation.  I think of what it was like for me, 23 years ago, moving to what was once a Soviet country and finding out that the people over there are much like we are.  She could have had a wonderful career, spreading world peace and goodwill.  Some people are never meant to grow old, yet still manage to change the world.  

When I was watching videos on YouTube last night, I also thought of Ryan White, who was another one of my contemporaries.  He contracted AIDS after having been given a tainted blood infusion to treat his hemophilia.  Ryan White was kicked out of school and harassed by his peers for having AIDS.  In those days, a lot of small minded people thought of it as a disease God sent to punish gay people.  It didn’t help that Ryan was from a small town in Indiana, where there were many ignorant people who thought he was gay simply because he had what was then considered a “gay” disease.

White went on to influence the world, even making friends with Elton John and Michael Jackson, both of whom were at his funeral when he died in April 1990.  I vividly remember watching Lukas Haas play White in a TV movie about his life.  White was himself in the film with a minor role.  So was Sarah Jessica Parker.

While we’ve come a long way in the fight against AIDS since Ryan White’s day, we’re still really struggling with world peace.  I just started reading another book about the Holocaust.  It’s a story about a Jewish Dutch woman who watched as her country was overtaken by Nazis.  I have to confess, reading her comments about what happened before Hitler completely took over gave me chills.  So much of it is familiar today.  Maybe it’s not quite as extreme now as it was in the 40s… or maybe it just doesn’t seem as extreme to me as it might to someone with brown skin, living in America’s Heartland.  The one thing that gives me hope is that the world eventually came to its senses somewhat, after World War II.  I hope it doesn’t come to war to make the powers that be in the United States regain their senses…  

Well, those are my deep thoughts for today.  The 1980s were fascinating.  I’m glad I was around to see them. 

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Germany, history, videos, YouTube

A fascinating video I saw by total chance yesterday…

Today has gotten off to an extremely annoying start. In my travel blog last weekend, I wrote about how I was trying to book our vacation for next week. USAA immediately declined my credit card, which led to my having to call them. Likewise, PenFed allowed me to make two hotel bookings, but then blocked my card when I tried to make a third booking. I will be calling them later today, which doesn’t make me happy, because USAA blocked my debit card this morning when I tried to use it to buy sweaters.

USAA used to send text messages to my phone whenever there were questionable purchases made. Now, they don’t do that, because they don’t want to pay for international texts. So they just decline and restrict the card, causing me to have to call them. It wastes time and costs me money, plus it’s just a huge inconvenience. The real kicker is, an hour after I called USAA, I got an automated phone call from USAA to confirm the charges weren’t fraudulent. Of course, they didn’t go through, and now I am not wanting to use the card because I don’t want to cause another block.

Anyway… none of that has anything to do with today’s post. I just needed to get it out of my system. Today’s post is actually about something much more incredible and life changing.

Yesterday, I was watching a brief YouTube video about a Holocaust survivor. It was a very short video, and I was in the middle of something when it ended, so I didn’t immediately turn off the autoplay. I’m glad I didn’t turn it off, for that is how I became acquainted with Eva Clarke and her amazing story of how she was born in a concentration camp the day before Adolf Hitler committed suicide, and just two days after the Germans ran out of gas in the gas chambers at Mauthausen.

This video is about an hour long, but it is SO worth the time. It was taped at the University of California San Diego in 2018.

Eva Clarke is half Czech, half German. Her parents were both Jewish. Her father had moved to Prague to escape the Nazis. He thought that was far enough away from Germany to escape persecution during the Hitler era. It wasn’t, and unfortunately, he was a Holocaust victim. However, he did meet Eva’s mother, Anka, there, and they married, before they were sent to live in a ghetto and were later sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

Eva’s mother, Anka, was an incredible woman with a tremendous will to survive, as well as great pride for who she was. Against incredible odds, and with many strokes of good luck, she managed to survive the Holocaust and lived to the ripe old age of 95. That fact, in and of itself, is astonishing… but Eva is also a tremendous speaker and storyteller. She is very engaging. I wish I could have had teachers like her. Maybe I would have ended up better prepared for life.

I showed this video to Bill last night. Just as I had when I watched it the first time, I ended up in tears because I was so moved by how Eva and her mom managed to survive and thrive, even though Hitler had wanted to destroy them and anyone else he hated. Also, Eva mentions that the American Army were their saviors, as they were the ones to liberate Mauthausen. Since Bill is an Army veteran, it does my heart good to hear good things about the Army… and reminders of a time when U.S. Soldiers and other servicemembers were truly thought of as heroes.

Bill also got a bit teary listening to Eva’s story. He hadn’t meant to learn more about the Holocaust last night, but he did tell me that he didn’t regret hearing Eva talk about how she came to be. Nine days after Eva’s birth, World War II ended. And now, she is a lovely, elegant, eloquent speaker, who is telling the world about why we can’t ever let someone like Hitler come back into power.

This is why I am so vociferous about Donald Trump and his ilk. While I realize that Trump hasn’t started a genocide, some of his ideas and techniques are very much like Hitler’s. He emboldens people to be divisive and racist, and he craves money, fame, and power. I worry that he will influence otherwise good people to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of racism and we could, one day, have another genocide as horrifying as the Holocaust is. And this is not to say that genocide on a smaller scale isn’t already happening. It is.

Anyway, if you have time and are interested, I highly recommend watching the above video. And if you find any other videos by Eva Clarke, I would recommend those, too. I will probably watch another video by Eva… maybe it would calm me down a bit and remind me that my problems are truly first world problems. At least for now.

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