Monday, April 16, 2007

Zeda, I never knew you

In Memoriam Benjamin Amsel, April 16, 1904

This poem was written in tribute to my paternal grandfather, my Zeda. In my family my mom’s parents were “grandma” and “grandpa” and my dad’s mom was “bubby”, which was the Yiddish or Ukrainian word. There was no “zeda” – he had died in 1966, two years before my birth. Today would have been Zeda’s 103rd birthday, had he survived the sweatshop conditions that destroyed his lungs, leading to his early death. My father, DesertPeace, posted a beautiful remembrance of his father, which is well worth reading, here. Below is a poem that I wrote, in memory of the zeda that I never had the honour of knowing.

Zeda, I never knew you

growing up with three grandparents
a child should feel lucky:
the opportunity to connect with the past through
those who were there,
to connect with those who understood the truths
that one couldn’t learn in school

to be loved by more than your parents,
to know the greatness of character that went in to
making up mom and dad …
making it easier to
respect, to honour what they say,
knowing the wisdom that gave it life

even so, now that the three have passed from this temporal world
one regret remains: only three were known to me

everything ever said about my Zeda – my “other” grandfather
is a memory … from someone else
having died before my birth
there is nothing that is known in my heart
save that there is an empty place
for where he would have been

there is no way that we cannot live in the past
though it may be tried … with varying degrees of success,
nor can we mourn the loss of that which we never knew
yet, had it been possible … to know the man
(still proudly called Zeda;)
is it possible to know how different my life could be?

by all accounts he was a man whose stature
far exceeded his height … one cannot appreciate the full
measure of a man by their mere appearance:
a simple man living to help his fellow man – regardless of their colour or creed,
losing his family in Medzilaborce was not an end to him,
it hardened his resolve – to live for the future and fight for change

he was a simple man who wanted simple things;
peace, justice and the fair treatment of workers …
a desire was to make the words “never again” resound throughout the world
with a meaning that was more than merely symbolic
a desire to see an end to the class distinctions
that strangled the poor

a man who had the courage to turn his back on religion,
but not, perhaps, his faith …
“I’ll never set foot inside a synagogue again as long as I live!”
after seeing the hypocrisy of the rich man’s son
jumping in front of him, buying his place
at the front of the congregation

he was a man with vision, who saw that the rich were trampling the poor
climbing the ladders of “success” on the backs of the weak
paving the streets of America with the gold mined from the sweatshops
tainted with the blood of their workers
unrelenting in their drive for more profits
not caring what happened to those who worked in the factories

he breathed in their poisoned air,
filled with the fibres from the garments he made,
filling his lungs for years on end until,
in the end,
he wasn’t able to breath at all and lost his final battle,
defeated by those whose profits come from the suffering of others

in the end, dear Zeda, it is true:
I may never have known you,
but in many ways, perhaps I did:
through all the stories, from Bubby and aunt Ruthie
from uncle Phil … and from your son …
the memories are there, as alive as any can be

there is a picture of a fisherman with a warm woollen hat
a picture that was seen often while growing up,
but it is not merely a memory of a man long dead:
it belongs to a man with a story, a history: a man who said,
“Do all the good you can, to all the people you can,
in every way you can, for as long as you can”

In Memoriam Benjamin Amsel, April 16, 1904

© 2007 by
Peter Amsel, aka aCrazyComposer

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thinking Blogger Award (Tagged by DesertPeace!)

This began when Renegade Eye tagged DesertPeace with The Thinking Blogger Award … which was then graciously conferred to this writer’s site. Thank you very much, DesertPeace, I shall endeavour to continue posting articles in the future that continue to capture your imagination and, of course, make you think.

The FOUR blogs that I have selected as my honourees (see note at end of list), in no particular order … (drum-roll please) … no, wait: I must first mention that there are two sites that have been awarded that I would have included on mine but shall not, for the obvious reason that this would quickly become a silly game of “mutual admiration” if that took place.

Previously Awarded and Worth Honouring Again Category PAWHAC): Benjamin Heine’s Blog: Ben Heine is, in my opinion, one of the most talented political cartoonists and all-around artists emerging in the field today. His blog is a wonderful reflection of this young man’s exceptionally creative mind where each new work of art is a gem to behold.

The second and final PAWHAC goes to the site that tagged me: DesertPeace: also known to some (and me … most of the time) as my father. While we have had our differences in our thirty-eight year relationship (beginning when I threw-up on him when I was a few months old and he was bouncing me above his head … not a smart thing to do after dinner, but he was warned). I can always count on his blog to provide me with something that I need to know, or should know, about the situation in Israel/Palestine. Venceremos!

Now, in no particular order, I have selected five blogs that I visit when I get the chance that have never fail to “make me think”…

Weird Cake: Treats from a Bipolar Mind: It is difficult for me, someone who proudly goes by the screen-name “CrazyComposer”, to not relate to the writings on “Weird Cake”. Quite often there is a feeling of “been there” and “got the T-shirt” whenever I read what AriadneK is going through. One of the most difficult things that we must remember when we are in this struggle for our minds is that we are really not alone; there are far more people going through similar battles at the same time, we just have to look around and we will find the help we need. This is a blog well worth visiting.

PeacePalestine: The name says it all, and rightly so: peace is not an answer to a question, it is an inescapable reality that to which there is only one alternative; the utter annihilation of humanity. As she writes at the end of her profile, “Only through Justice can there be peace.” This blog makes you think about the hard things going on in the world; it is a blog well worth visiting.

Jews sans frontieres: Mark Elf has created an anti-Zionist blog that serves to strike out against the lies being churned out by the propaganda machine run by AIPAC and their stooges in Washington. Elf takes on, without fear, the issue of Jews being against the pernicious virus of Zionism without the fear of being labelled anti-Semites by that ignorant segment of our society that has bought into the fictions perpetrated by “puppet-masters” (if you adhere to the conspiracy theories …) – the desperate attempts by some pro-Israeli Jews (and other misguided souls) seeking to protect their xenophobic views by advocating the “right” to kill innocent civilians in the name of security, civilians who have the audacity of seeking their homeland within the hallowed borders of the “state” of Israel; it is a blog well worth visiting.

My final award is a bit unconventional in the sense that this isn’t a blog in the truest sense of the word … so sue me. One of the few news programs that I watch with any regularity is “Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC. The show has a corresponding blog where you can find many of the interviews, clips and other excerpts from the nightly show. The most interesting feature, the feature the “makes you think” is entitled the “Olbermann Special Comment”. These comments are absolute gems and are well worth examining and spreading through the ether.

So that’s it, my contribution to this little bit of Net-madness … to those of you who weren’t nominated, sorry … you can’t win all the time. To the winners, congratulations and keep making us think!

Now obviously there are only four sites listed here (though I honestly didn’t realize that when I originally posted this) … mea culpa. At the moment I am unable to select a fifth honouree for the simple reason that there are several worthy contenders. As well, I am trying to complete a project that has prevented me from following many blogs of late with the regularity that I normally would have if my time were not so constrained. In other words, this shall not be the last time I visit this topic; the fifth “Inner Voice of the CrazyComposer Thinking Blogger Award” shall be awarded in due time.

Thank you for your patience, and for continuing to open your minds to the possibilities that insanity can, at times, produce ideas that reach beyond the mundane things contained within this thing we call “humanity”.

Below are the “rules” regarding the “tagging” and propagation of this award.

For those of you who have been tagged, should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are honouring (tagging): I am including here, as part of this post, along with the meme.

The participation rules are quite simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (there is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).