24 September 2017

Donkey Ears, Dog Ears

By: Jon Katz

Donkey Ears, Dog Ears

Gus and Lulu have similar ears, they tilt and swirl like radar screens or windmills, they pick up every sound for miles. Gus likes sitting on the donkeys, he has the best view of the farm.

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Off To Brooklyn: To See The Right People

By: Jon Katz

To See The Right People

This morning, Maria is driving me to the train, I'm off to Brooklyn to see some people I love, my daughter Emma, my granddaughter Robin, my son in law Jay.

I'm bring a stuffed animal, some toys and my camera. It's an interesting day to visit, Emma is a Senior Editor at Sports Illustrated, involved in their coverage of President Trump's assault on the National Football League. Should be interesting.

I am eager to see Robin. She's walking a bit now, talking a bit now, she is different every time I see her. It's a one day trip, I'll be back early this evening.

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23 September 2017

The Gray Hen Preaches Radical Acceptance

By: Jon Katz

The Gray Hen And Me

Each day now, the Gray Hen does something new. She sits alone in the middle of the yard and waits for me to come and sit with her. When I take her photo and stand up, she is gone. I do not know where she goes, but it is not with the other hens. Chickens, like sheep, are not known for their individuality, they are always with one another.

These days, the Gray Hen is very much alone.

I wanted to be honest and clear about the Gray Hen. I admire chickens for their industriousness, but I do not love chickens. I love dogs, and I love donkeys, and sometimes I am fond of the sheep.

I do not name chickens, cry for them, or mourn them when they are gone. It is true that the Gray Hen and I have connected, I think she is teaching me valuable lessons on mortality, the common experience which even the ideologues of the left and the right will inevitably share.

To me, the lesson of the Gray Hen is what I call  Radical  Acceptance.

According to Psychology Today, Radical Acceptance, a philosophy advanced by psychologists in 1993, is about accepting life on life's terms and not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change. Radical Acceptance advocates saying yes to life, just as it is.

People often complain that life i snot fair or can't be true, as if refusing to accept the truth will keep it from being true, or that accepting reality means agreeing with it. People are already writing me saying they are in tears over the gray hen, and that is their choice. It is not my choice.

Acceptance is not about agreement. Suffering and pain is a part of life, no one wants to experience either. But no one can deny either. I love my dogs, they will all die, most likely well before me.I accept that, it is neither fair nor unfair, it is life.

Resisting the truth creates more misery, radical acceptance offers a path to less misery.

My granddaughter, for example, lives hundreds of miles away from me, and the truth is, we may love one another, but we are not likely to be an integral part of one another's life.  People often tell me that is not so, amazing things lie ahead of us.

I accept that it will be what it is, and not more, and what it is is good. It is not a drama or a tragedy for me, it is just an undeniable reality of both of our lives.  I made my choices in life and stand by them.

The people who assure me that we will be deeply involved with one another are well meaning, but to me, are fighting off what seems clearly the reality to me. Accepting that makes it easier for me to accept. It doesn't mean I don't care about it.

To me, the message of the Grey Hen is Radical Acceptance. I know she is going to die soon, and so, I think, does she. It is not a drama for her, or for me, there is not need to deny it or to wring my hands about it. She understands life better than many humans, I think, she does not rail against that which she cannot change. She is easy being alone, and seems ever more reflective.

The Gray Hen is calm, increasingly fearless, she seems to give off a spiritual air these days.

She has dignity, permits me to get close to her with my camera, even to touch her. She knows things I do not know.

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The Antifa In Me

By: Jon Katz

My An


The Antifa In Me: My bracelet.

My antifa bracelet came today, and I was happy to wear it.

I surprised myself when I bought it, I was doing some research online for a piece I was writing, and I came across an advertisement – or it came across me, as happens these days –  for an "antifa" bracelet that cost $20 and was made by a small group of artists and activists in Boston. It was on Etsy, of all places.

Did Google know something about me that I didn't really know?

I didn't think much about it, I just bought it, something inside of me just said I should have it, that the idea of it was inside of me.

During all the back and forth about Charlottesville, I was stunned, as so many were, at the sight of Nazi's (there are no neo-Nazi's to me, that is a media term) and white supremacists marching with their torches through an American city, hiding behind the dark and promising in their chants and songs to get rid of the Jews and African-Americans they see as having taken over their lives and their culture.

I suppose I should say that I am not much into violence, and believe strongly in the right of people to speak freely, as I have  been privileged enough to be able to do. I have never assaulted anyone or broken any windows.And I don't own any black hoodies or armored vests.

Antifa stands for "Militant anti-fascist" (it is pronounced ANtifa) and is most often described as a radical pan-leftist coalition of people who embrace the politics of social revolution as it applies to the rise of fascist movements whose spoken aim is kill people who are different from them.

Some people say the tactics of the Antifa and those of the Nazi's are similar and both share the blame for violence caused by them.

On the surface, this has little to do with me and my life on the farm as an author. But it seems it does have something to do with me, Google saw it before I did.

After Charlottesville, I did think a lot about my cousin Michael, he was old when I met him, he was a survivor of the genocides and horrors committed upon Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. There were lots of people like Michael around in those days, shell-shocked refugees all over the world.

Michael appeared to be a thoughtful, soft-spoken man, he never spoke of the war, as was the case with most people who actually fought in it.

He was a retired school teacher when I met him, but I knew from others that his wife, brother and sister, parents and three children, were all slaughtered by Nazis and white supremacists, at least a few of them burned to death as they tried to hide in a synagogue.

He was a remote figure to me, he wasn't very social, I rarely got to see him.

One day we were alone on the porch of a relative's house, we were there to celebrate a holiday.  He was suddenly aware of  me, and we talked and got curious about one another. I has been warned not to ask him about the war, but I couldn't help but ask him how he escaped – he joined a partisan resistance movement and fought in the hills around Budapest.

What stuck in my mind about Michael, not his original name, I'm sure, was when he turned to me and said "we should have done something. We should have seen it coming. We should have tried to stop them before they marched through the streets and flaunted their power and killed everyone I love."

He said he would never forgive himself for not having fought sooner to save his family. And then he turned to me and almost burned holes in my chest when he said softly, "don't ever let them do that to the people you love, don't ever look away."

It's a slippery slope for me. There have been many genocides and  holocausts in the world since World War II, some are being carried out today. No one people owns the idea of a holocaust or of genocide. There are very good people in the world and very bad people in the world, and when we can no longer tell the difference, we are in deep soul trouble.

I was aware of the matriarchal culture in which I was raised – Irish people and African-Americans speak of the same phenomena – and I once asked an aunt why the  Jewish families around us all were all dominated by strong women. "Because our worst nightmares about our children came true again and again and again," she said, "and when your worst nightmares come true, a mother cannot ever stop being afraid. We became strong because we had to be strong, no one could protect us."

The idea behind the antifas is to stop fascism before we get used to it and it becomes just some more background noise in the political and media din, another argument for cable news panelists. That, they believe, is how holocausts happen, one blind eye or shrug at a time.

My heart seems to be with them, they are not the equivalent of Nazi's to me.

Antifas have been around a long time, the media just discovered them after the started breaking things in Berkeley, Calif. Some are violent, most are not.

They are most often independent anti-racist groups that monitor the activities of Nazi's and white supremacists. They expose them to neighbors and employers, they support migrants and refugees and try to protect them, they try to prevent Nazi's from holding their white power events in public places.

I am not a member of any such group, and am certainly not telling anyone else to join, I am just explaining, as I often try to do, my own life, and how it is evolving. I have never mentioned antifas on my blog.

I like to think I would have run with the antifas back there in Hungary like my cousin Michael did, only he said it was too late when he decided to do it.

I am not about to cover my head in a black hood, or punch people in the streets. I think I am too old for that, and it is not really my nature or my idea of how a democracy works. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

I find myself being grateful to these mostly young kids who have such a clear sense of right and wrong and don't hide or equivocate or rationalize morality like the rest of us. They are not waiting for the world to agree with them, they have been aroused by our current political trauma.

I wish them well, they are not "bad dudes" to me.

If I can't run around the streets,  I do think of my uncle Michael and the many other Michaels in the world, then and now, what I can do is buy an antifa bracelet and wear it on my right wrist every day until nobody marches in our streets with torches promising to kill people who have done no wrong.

Life is really remarkable, at least for me. I just never know where I am going to go or how I got there.

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Winter Hat From The Wool Festival. The Shaman Look

By: Jon Katz

The Shaman Look

Maria and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Adirondack Wool and Fiber Festival today in Greenwich, N.Y. Each year I buy a winter wool hat and I almost gave up the search until I came across this very unusual hat with colored threads all along the top.

I can't say why, but I loved it, and so did Maria. She bought it for me. Everyone around me urged me to buy it, so we did, and I think it will make people in my town either smile or chase me down the street. You never know.

I looked in a mirror at the stall, and I said to Maria, "I like it, but it does look a little strange."

"We are strange," she said. True enough.

The more I look at it, the more it grows on me. And I have to say, it is unusual, I think the sheep will especially love it. I imagine it will make its first appearance in November, unless it really gets cold.

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