I once had a job that changed my life.

I was 22 years old, a recent graduate with a dual degree in political science and the Russian language. It was 1978.

I was hired by Jewish Family Services of Boston as an interpreter. The agency worked to resettle Soviet Jews who were beginning new lives in the Boston area.

My job was to interview the new families, and to interpret between the immigrants and their social workers. I also took them to the doctor. I was an interpreter of Russian at Boston’s Beth Israel and Children’s Hospitals.

At the innocent age of 22, this Italian Catholic had the opportunity to learn all about the lives of Jews who had lived through World War II. I had the honor of interpreting their stories to social workers, doctors, psychiatrists, landlords, dentists, eye doctors and obstetricians. I interpreted at a birth, and at a cardiac catheterization. I learned so much about medicine.

More importantly, I learned what it is to live history. I learned what it meant to have survived the Holocaust.

I knew a woman who had lost part of her eyesight from untreated diabetes. I took her to the eye doctor. I can still see her, her gray hair curling and thick, her sky blue eyes staring up toward the ceiling. As we waited for her turn to see the doctor, she told me about living through the siege of Leningrad. She talked about eating her shoes as a child, about her father going out onto the ice of the frozen Neva River to bring home meat from the horses that had died trying to drag supplies across the river.

I can still see her.

There was a woman who was very hard to understand. She had a badly scarred face and a poorly repaired cleft lip. She was old, overweight, always angry. She was hard to like. One day she wanted to cook for me and her social worker, as all of these immigrants did to show their gratitude. She made us a pile of Ukrainian dumplings called pelmeni. As we ate, she told us her story.

When she was a young wife, the war broke out. Her husband went off to fight against the Nazis. She was left at home, pregnant and raising a two year old girl. Her village was attacked by the invading Nazi army. Every house in the Jewish town was set on fire. The young mother ran into the woods, her two year old in her arms and her 7 month fetus safely under her heart. As she turned to look back at her burning home, a bullet hit her in the face, tearing through her upper lip, her palate and the back of her throat. The bullet fell back into her mouth, having failed to kill her. She spit it into the grass and kept running.

I will never forget her face as she told the story of sleeping in the woods with her terrified daughter, or of walking through the forest to find safety in another little town.

I saw the tattooed numbers on the forearms of many people. They were grandparents now, leaving behind everything they had ever known so that their children and grandchildren could live in a country where nothing so horrific could ever happen. They brought their scars, their fears, their illnesses, their terror. They brought their determination to become good Americans.

They brought their faith in the American dream and in the populism of American society.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I remember.

And I vow to fight as hard as I possibly can against a repeat. I will fight with everything I have against labelling an entire religion as “terrorists”. I will fight as hard as I can against the demonization of an entire nationality and against the naming of “us” and “them.”  I will not sit by while a giant wall is built between this country and its neighbor. I won’t stay quiet as people in my community are rounded up and thrown out.


Never again.

It’s in our hands to make sure that when we say never again, that is what we truly mean.




Visiting the Shit Hole

Guess where I’m going next July?

I’m going to be celebrating my 40th wedding anniversary in Italy! Isn’t that wonderful?

Our two sons and their beloveds are coming, too! We’re going to see Rome, and the Amalfi Coast. We’re going to stay in Pompeii, and walk through the Cinque Terre and drink wine in sidewalk cafes wherever we can find them.

And, perhaps best of all, we are going to visit the little villages that hold our ancient roots. My father’s family came from a small town outside of Naples. They were farmers, providing mostly for their own families. They lived simple, difficult lives.

Back at the turn of the twentieth century, that part of Italy was facing hard times. Life there was….I don’t know…how shall I say it?

It was a shit hole.

And my mother’s family came from Augusta, Sicily. An even more impoverished part of Europe during those first couple of decades of the twentieth century.

Even more of a shit hole.

My family, my grandparents, left behind every single thing that they knew and loved. They gave up home, safety, family, love, language, music, friends. They dared to dream of a better life, and they boarded those overcrowded ships. They waved goodbye. They looked forward.

They left those shit holes, and they entered Ellis Island.

They weren’t quite brown, but they weren’t blue eyed blonds, either. They faced the discrimination of the lighter skinned, English speaking immigrants who had come before them.

But they stuck it out, and they made a great new life for their children. And their grandchildren, like me.

Their efforts gave rise to several doctors, some lawyers, business people, teachers, nurses, EMT’s, musicians, actors, therapists. They are my heroes.

So next summer, I will go to the places where they lived and grew and fell in love with a better idea. I will honor and bless the ground where they walked. I will give thanks for their courage.

And I will vow, right out loud, to do everything I can for the rest of my life, to make sure that no matter what kind of “shit hole” other humans are living in, I will welcome them into my country, my state, and my own home.


Angelina Fantasia and Carmine Merullo with their youngest son, my father.                                         My heroes, all of them.

Don’tch Wonder Who’s Concealing and Carrying?


Not long ago, I went to my local grocery store on a busy Saturday morning. There was a man there who was blocking the aisle. He looked angry. He looked scary. He was dressed in scruffy clothes, had scraggly gray hair and a day’s worth of stubble on his scowling face.

I stood there awkwardly for a minute, but I wanted to get buy him and be on my way. I told myself not to be so judgmental. I cleared my throat and said, “Excuse me….?”

He looked up and smiled, revealing beautiful blue eyes and a disarming dimple. We had a short, friendly chat about the virtues of low fat ice cream, and I finished my shopping feeling great about the interaction.

But ya know what?

If that same thing had happened after the passage of the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” that whole thing would have gone far differently. You know the bill I’m talking about, right?

The latest bit of NRA inspired insanity would allow anybody who can legally carry a concealed weapon in their home state can carry one in mine.

Which, of course, means that when strolling through my local store, I will have no idea if my fellow shoppers are armed.

So in the best case scenario on that recent shopping trip, I would have turned around and gone the other way. I wouldn’t have dared to talk to that scary looking old guy.

In the worst case scenario? I might have been carrying a concealed weapon myself. A loaded one. I might have felt threatened enough by his big bulky self blocking my way. I might have reacted with a jolt of fear, especially if the guy had his hand hear his pocket.

I might have feared for my life and I might have shot his face off.

Call me naiive, but I would very much like to continue meeting new people as I go through my days. I’d like to take my grandkids to the mall without worrying that the young guy with the shaking hands isn’t about to pull out his gun and start shooting us up.


Why the Media Reminds Me of My Puppy

I love my puppy Lennie. He is sweet, energetic, full of love. He is cute. He’s silly. My granddaughter even said to me this week, “You need a new Lennie. This one is crazy!”

I mean, the nutty little fool chases his own tail every time he gets excited! That’s pretty crazy.

My sweet little canine buddy is also…how shall I put this?….Um…

Welp. He’s as dumb as a rock.

How do I know this?

I know it because sometimes I want to get him down into the backyard so that I can close the gate and keep him away from the slider doors while I’m having company. When I need to move my happy, loopy, goofy little guy out of the way, I step out onto the deck and pretend to throw a ball into the yard. I yell, with great excitement, “Go get it, boy!!!!”

And my darling dopie head runs down the stairs and chases….nothing.

See why this dumb-de-dumb-dumb behavior makes me think of the media?

You don’t???

Well. Think about this. North Korea has tested the most dangerous weapon in the past 50 years. The Special Prosecutor is closing in on our President. The Secretary of State is about to be fired.

And what’s going on?

The President spends his time tweeting out pure unadulterated bullshit. He actually retweeted several posts from the British version of the KKK. Videos that are fake. Videos that are ugly. Videos that only the most ignorant knuckle draggers among us would watch. Videos that try to convince us that all Muslims are dangerous criminals.

And what happened?

The media raced down the steps after the big old fake bone. They’re covering it in detail, giving it all kind of legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve.

The media isn’t talking about the mega rocket aimed at our hearts. It isn’t talking about the horrendous tax “reform” package that will make the rich even richer.

Nope. The media, lead by CNN, is chasing its tail all around the muddy backyard. Barking at the idiocy of those stupid, ignorant, pointless videos.


This is why the media in our country, at this insane moment in time, reminds me of my beloved but not very bright little dog.

Scary, right?

Yes, Dammit, It IS a Gun Problem

I am speechless. I have no idea what to say, or how to respond.

Yesterday I was taking a quick check of Twitter when I read the breaking news about the latest mass shooting. More school children cowering as bullets fly overhead. More innocent victims cut down as they go through their daily lives.

I commented on Twitter, because I can’t stand it anymore.

Now, you have to know that I hardly ever tweet. Sometimes I respond, and I often retweet what others have said. But this time my anger, my sorrow, my rage made me send out my message.

Because, come ON! Of course it’s a damn gun problem!!!

All of the usual arguments against gun control are just so stupid. They simply make no sense.

I won’t even go into them all. I can’t.

I just can’t.

My heart hurts. My head hurts. My logical brain? It doesn’t hurt anymore because it melted.

Oh, the responses I got.

Holy hell.

What the absolute fluff is wrong with these people?

Let me be clear (to quote every politician in the past 50 years). The people who responded to me were articulate, smart, well informed and respectful. There was no name calling and no profanity. On their part or on mine.

But do you know what they believe??! Are you ready for this?

These American citizens, living in what most people would consider to be a relatively civilized country, these people scolded me for my belief that I am in danger because so many people around me are carrying concealed weapons.

These are a few of their responses to my insistence that the problem is a gun problem.

And also

Uh, huh. So….the answer isn’t to limit the number of deadly weapons. The answer is to arm the schools. And churches. And movie theaters. And malls.

What the hell?

Then there was this:

This is just about the saddest, most distressing image of the United States that I have ever seen. These people honestly believe that the police have no duty to protect us. They truly believe that their only defense from people with guns is to carry guns.

They are unable to grasp the fact that in EVERY OTHER developed country on earth, this is untrue. They believe that every young mother who takes her babies out to the park should be packin’ heat. Every teacher should be armed. Every grandmother like me should have a gun in my purse before I take the kids into the grocery store.

This is, of course, insane.

But the fact that these intelligent people believe it is just about the most depressing thing I’ve seen in years.

It is also just about the least patriotic thing I’ve seen in years. They distrust the government, the police, the fire department, the laws of the nation. They distrust and dislike the United States.

And they honestly believe that we living in the age of the OK Corral.

Isn’t that just awful?

I still think its a gun problem.



Oh, Thank Goodness We’re Protected!

Gosh, I feel so much safer now that we have a Commander In Chief who is determined to protect us from this scary, scary world.

I mean, sure, we still have to face the dangers brought about by escalating climate change. Floods, super storms, droughts….all of those threats are still out there. In spades.

And, yeah, I know that North Korea is promising to nuke us all into the stone age. I realize that the current administration hasn’t managed to ease or mitigate that particular threat in any way, shape or form. I know.

And I’m aware that Iran is heating up, Afghanistan is still a disaster and Syria is on the brink of total annihilation.

Of course, we also face constant cyber threats from inside and outside of the U.S. and the entire grid could go down at any minute.

But, still! We have a President who has promised to keep us safe from all those dangerous drug dealing rapists streaming over the border from Mexico. And golly, gee, he means what he says!

When I read about the recent detention of 10 year old Rosa Maria in Corpus Christi, all I could think was, “Wow! Now my family can rest easy!”

Our tax dollars are surely being put to good use when we are protected from the terrible risk posed by little girls with cerebral palsy. Little girls like Rosa Maria Hernandez whose parents deliberately broke American law when they brought her to the United States at the age of three months so she could get decent medical care for her disability.

It just makes me so proud, as an American citizen, to know that my government is willing to send armed, uniformed officers to make sure that a disabled little girl won’t do any terrorism while she’s recovering from major surgery.

I just feel so…!

Oh, sure, I know that my chances of being murdered by a pissed off neighbor with a concealed weapon are about 10 million times greater than my odds of being hurt by Rosa Maria. But, gosh, America, don’t we have some standards to live by?

If every devoted, impoverished Mexican family tries to move across the border to keep their babies alive, doesn’t that mean that the very foundation of our democracy is at risk?

RosaMaria, I hope you understand the kind of existential threat you pose to the most powerful nation on earth with your disrespect for authority.

I know that I will sleep better tonight knowing that one more scared, hurting, lonely, confused child is safely in detention.

Don’t you all feel so much safer?





Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Or maybe a better title for this post would be “Mental Anguish in the Time of Trump.”

I love politics. I have been following political news since before the days of Watergate. I’ve always found it fascinating to follow the actions and words of our national leaders. Even when I have vehemently disagreed with a President or Congress, I’ve enjoyed the arguments, the discussions, the matching of wits with those who disagree.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

Now, like so many other Americans, I am overwhelmed with what is happening to my country. I’m anxious, even afraid, for the first time in a very long time. But that’s not all.

I was talking all of this over with my husband, the other day. And I realized that what feels unbearable to me right now is the uncomfortable combination of rage and helplessness that hits me in the face every single day.


I am feeling true rage about our President and those fools in Congress. Tearing away every kind of protection that our government has put in place for us. Regulations designed to keep our air and water at least marginally safe? Gone under this administration. I’m old enough to remember when our rivers were on fire and our harbors were so toxic that falling meant an immediate trip to the Emergency Room.

I’m enraged that Donald Trump is sending us back there.

Angry doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about Trump’s one sided assault on our insurance system. Congress couldn’t find a way to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, so Trump is taking a machete to it. It doesn’t matter how many people will lose coverage. It doesn’t matter how many people die.

Trump wants it to happen, so he’s making it happen.

And the list goes on, of course. Impending nuclear war with North Korea threatens the whole world, but Trump just keeps on tweeting. The United States will ignore its allies, pull out of legal treaties, go to war with anyone who annoys the man in the Oval. The NRA will keep its stranglehold on our government and more and more innocent people will die.

And then there are the lies. One after the other, day after day after day. Trump lies, lies, lies and lies some more. EVERYONE knows it. The entire media knows about it, but when they call him out, he screams, “Fake! Fake!” and repeats whatever lie it was.

That’s what brings me to the feeling of helplessness.

I am used to contacting my Congressional Reps. I contact them by mail, by email, by phone, when I think that there is an issue that needs their attention.

But what am I supposed to do now? My Congress people agree with me! They know that Trump is dangerous, unhinged, dishonest, amoral. They’re as scared as I am.

Should I march in the streets, the way I did at the Women’s March in DC and the anti-Nazi march in Boston?

It feels good when we do it, that’s for sure.

But NOTHING seems to change.

When you are living in a country that has suddenly been turned on its head, what do you do? When you find yourself going through your daily life under a President who make up his own facts, threatens the press, mocks his colleagues, admires the worst among us and lies with a completely straight face….Well. What are you supposed to do to ease that sense of fear and rage?

I feel completely helpless.

We are dealing with a completely surreal situation here. Our President wakes up every morning and tells us things that are simply untrue. He’s contradicted by those who know the truth. He repeats his made up facts. And he repeats them again.

Up has become down. The sky is pink. Trump’s agenda is, according to him, “ahead of schedule.” No President in history has been as successful as he is. No President was smarter. Or a better negotiator.

Facts no longer matter. The truth has become as malleable as hot taffy.

What are we to do?

I no longer believe that I can do a single thing to make things better or safer for my family. Now my goal is to find a way to maintain my own mental health as I sit back and watch our leaders fail to cope with the fact that we have elected a madman and he is taking us on a path of destruction.

Rage and helplessness.

Not a good mix. Not a great way to move through middle age.

What do we do? How are you holding onto your fragile sanity in an age of total insanity?



“I pledge allegience….”

What on earth are we doing when we ask little children to recite the words in our “Pledge of allegiance”?

What are we doing?

Have you ever listened in when very young kids are trying to repeat these words? I have. I was a teacher for almost 30 years.

“I predger legiance to the flag on the United States of American.”

“And to the republic of Richard Sands…”

“One nation, underground….”

What are we doing?

We are asking children to join a club they don’t understand. We are asking them to promise loyalty forever to a piece of cloth. At least, that’s what it seems like for them.

Really, honestly, when we adults stand up and place our hands on our hearts, and say these words, we are pledging our loyalty to “The republic for which” that flag stands. We are promising that we will do our best to protect and defend the “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

So what if we see a republic in which there is no “indivisible” group of people who receive “liberty and justice” equally? What should we do?

Because we live in the United States of America, we have the right to protest. We have the duty, as Americans, to do our best to demand that there is equality in the liberty and justice that is applied to all.

Even kids who came here from the Dominican Republic at the tender age of 6 months and who now live, work, learn, contribute as “Dreamers”. We have a duty to point it out if we think those people are not experiencing liberty and justice that is equal to ours.

If we see that our Black friends live in a kind of fear that we will never know, if we see that young black men are afraid to drive to work after dark or fear for their lives if their taillight goes out, then we have a duty to complain.

The fact that some rich, famous American athletes like Colin Kaepernick have chosen to stay on one knee during the reciting of the “Promise to be eternally loyal to our country”is proof that this country is worthy of our allegiance.

When I was a teacher, I was mandated by law to have my class recite the Pledge of Allegiance at least once per month. So I spent a considerable amount of time teaching my innocent ten year old charges the seriousness of standing, placing a hand over our hearts, and solemnly repeating those words. I made sure that every single one of them understood what it is that they were saying.

I had an assignment where they were asked to put the pledge into their own words.

Most importantly of all, I told them, those wide eyed young children, that they would never, ever be obligated to stand and say those words. I impressed upon them the fact that making a pledge must be voluntary.

“If your government insists that you have to stand up and swear your loyalty,” I told each child, “then you are not living in a free and open society. If you are ordered to swear loyalty, you are living in a dictatorship.”

And I thought about the people I knew who lived under Joseph Stalin. I thought about the children in front of me whose parents and grandparents fled from dictatorships in Iran, in North Korea, in China.

The only NFL player that I have ever admired in my entire life is Colin Kaepernick. I salute him and all of those who are joining in taking a knee because they want the United States of America to be worthy of their pledge of allegiance.



All Worn Out

I am done. Worn out. Run down. Squeezed dry.

I am just absolutely sick of all the Americans who are determined to pounce on every reason to gripe, point fingers and complain about each other.

A hurricane came roaring into an American city. It blew over homes, businesses, churches, schools, animal shelters, restaurants and used car lots. It poured more water onto one spot than we’ve ever seen.

Human beings are dying out there. They are dying in their flooded houses, huddled on their bureaus on the third floor. Old people are shivering in the cold water. Babies are crying and scared.

This is a true, honest-to-God disaster.

And I can’t help them! I can’t rush in from the safety of my New England home to rescue terrified families. I can’t bring medicine to sick people, or take home drowning puppies, or jump in my kayak to deliver clean water.

It breaks my heart to watch and be unable to help, other than writing a check.

In light of all that, may I please make a request?

Dear conservative friends and family,

For the love of God, Barack Obama was NOT president during Hurricane Katrina. Stop with all that “Where was Obama during Katrina?” crap. Just stop.

This is not Hillary’s fault. It isn’t Obama’s fault, or Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s fault. The DNC didn’t cause this and you can’t pin it on Bill Maher or Rachel Maddow or antifa.

It was a hurricane. It was nature. It happened.

Now people, our fellow American citizens, our fellow humans are desperately tying to survive.

So. Just. Stop.

Dear liberal friends and family,

I do not care, not one bit, what kind of shoes Melania wore to Houston. I don’t care that Trump sounded incredibly self-serving at his press conference down there. Hullo. Have you ever heard him NOT sound self-serving? His narcissism is NOT the point today.

Texas needs help, and Congress can provide it. So can we please move on and forget that after Hurricane Sandy a bunch of Texas political hacks refused to vote in favor of a relief package for New Jersey? Now is not the time to play “I can be as big an asshole as you can.” Americans need help. End of story.

Also, I know that some people out there will try to post images that feed a particular racial narrative (the looting black men, the white rescuers, etc). But does it really help any of us to be on hyper alert searching ahead of time for those posts?

There are a million other images out there that show the young black men saving elderly white ladies, and black officers holding onto white children.

All I can say is that I have been more or less glued to the news for the past week. I have heard story after story of plain old regular folks coming out to save others.

Today I was listening to NPR, and I heard an interview with a young man who had come from his safe Texas town to another flooded out community. He came with his boat and his cousin in tow. The young man had one of those thick-as-molasses Texas accents that in normal times makes me think “redneck.”

I’ll be painfully honest, in normal times, I would have immediately pegged him for an ignorant southern hick. I would have assumed he was a big Trump supporter and that he was probably a racist.

All that because of the way he says, “Yes, Sir, I heard they was needin’ boats out bah the freeway.”

But I listened to his words as he was answering the reporter. He said that he’d come down with his boat because he has a license to navigate it. He cousin came because he’d served two tours in Iraq as a medic, and he was able to help anyone with medical concerns.

And with a little laugh this humble young man said, “I figured we was at least kind of qualified to help.”

When the reporter asked him why he would risk his life for complete strangers, he was clearly taken aback. He said, “Well, Sir, if it was your Momma or your Grandaddy in the wattah, wouldn’t you wan’t someone to come ‘n hep?”

So please, dear friends. Give it a damn rest. Stop the finger pointing, the name calling, the anxious and angry posturing. I’m pretty sure that when the water goes down, all the bullshit will start back up and I’ll be more than ready to jump back on the “Trump is insane” bandwagon.

But for now, can we just please do our best to stay positive, and let everyone heal up a bit?



Oh, But I’m Afraid.

I’m sixty one years old. I’m white. I am happily middle class. I speak English as my first language. I was raised as a Christian. I’m heterosexual.

I have every kind of privilege there is, other than being a man.

There is going to be a big right wing rally in Boston tomorrow. It says it’s about “free speech”, but the speakers are Nazis, white supremacists, racists.

There is going to be a big counter rally nearby, as well as a march to the spot where the alt-right is gathering.

What do I do?

I am so conflicted.

Here is a bit of my thinking.

Don’t go:

• I live an hour and half from Boston

• I’m a 61 year old Grandmother

• There are younger, more fit people who could go.

• It might be violent. I don’t want to get hurt.

• There are people who depend on me! My children, my grandchildren. They need me to be healthy and whole.

Do go:

• For my entire life, I’ve wondered why more German people didn’t stand up to the Nazis. I assured myself, time and time again, that if I had been there, I would have done something to stop them.

• I’m as safe as anyone can be. White haired, white skinned, pudgy; I make a ridiculous target for anyone who wants to look like a tough guy.

• My grandparents gave up everything they knew…home, language, family, livelihood….so that they could raise their family here in the United States. They came for inclusion, acceptance, safety, prosperity.

•My father and his brothers, first generation Americans, went to war to fight the Nazis. They fought in Germany and even in the homeland of Italy. THEY would certainly march here if they were still alive.

• I was a teacher. I made it my life’s work to support and encourage and nurture children. At no point did I EVER say “but not the black kids” or “not the Jewish kids” or “not the Muslims.” As a teacher, as a nurturer, it is my obligation to stop bullies. Adult bullies, armed to the teeth and ready to murder anyone who isn’t one of their sick group, those are the bullies that I have to Stop. Right. Now. However I can.

• There are people who depend on me. My children, my grandchildren. They need me to be a model of courage in the face of evil.

So I’ll be joining my brave husband, and two of our progressive, courageous friends tomorrow. We will go to Boston. We will do what we can to be really safe and secure.

But we WILL stand up for our Black/gay/Jewish/Muslim/Asian/Latino/trans/disabled/fill-in-the-blank neighbors and fellow citizens.

Honestly, we don’t actually have that much of a choice.