29 December, 2019

Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later. He Had One Question - Was she the reason he was alive today?


The first time he spoke to her, in 1943, by the Auschwitz crematory, David Wisnia realized that Helen Spitzer was no regular inmate. Zippi, as she was known, was clean, always neat. She wore a jacket and smelled good. They were introduced by a fellow inmate, at her request.
Her presence was unusual in itself: a woman outside the women’s quarters, speaking with a male prisoner. Before Mr. Wisnia knew it, they were alone, all the prisoners around them gone. This wasn’t a coincidence, he later realized. They made a plan to meet again in a week.
On their set date, Mr. Wisnia went as planned to meet at the barracks between crematories 4 and 5. He climbed on top of a makeshift ladder made up of packages of prisoners’ clothing. Ms. Spitzer had arranged it, a space amid hundreds of piles, just large enough to fit the two of them. Mr. Wisnia was 17 years old; she was 25.
“I had no knowledge of what, when, where,” Mr. Wisnia recently reminisced at age 93. “She taught me everything.”

28 December, 2019

eastonxd on depression

When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.

Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home. Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.

Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.

Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.

Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.

On Self-Respect: Joan Didion’s 1961 Essay from the Pages of Vogue

To protest that some fairly improbable people, some people who could not possibly respect themselves, seem to sleep easily enough is to miss the point entirely, as surely as those people miss it who think that self-respect has necessarily to do with not having safety pins in one's underwear. There is a common superstition that "self-respect" is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation. 

Grieving the Death of a Child in ‘Once More We Saw Stars’

Eventually, they return home: “Nothing in here knows about Greta’s death — not her red horsey with its empty smile, the toy bin beneath the living room chair. … We bring the news with us into each room, like smallpox.”
At Greta’s funeral, Stacy decides unexpectedly to speak. Greene writes: “Her face is pale, but her eyes are blazing. Everything and everyone she has ever been in her life — daughter, sister, colleague, wife, mother — is visible to me. She is overwhelmingly beautiful in this moment.” Stacy talks about her daughter’s loving relationship with her mother: “‘She wanted nothing more than to spend time with her Grandma Suz. She had the best day,’ she finishes, her eyes filling and her voice breaking. She sits down, spent from effort.”
Greene too finds himself spent, also enraged, at having to repeatedly explain his family’s plight. “Greta was the victim of an accident. … I have to learn to state this grievously unacceptable information over and over again. … I am the reminder of the most unwelcome message in human history: Children — yours, mine — they don’t necessarily live.” 

'Heavy' Brilliantly Renders The Struggle To Become Fully Realized

I have dog-eared too many pages to close my copy of Kiese Laymon's Heavy: An American Memoir. I found something noteworthy on almost every page.

 Heavy recounts growing up in a ferociously intellectual household — the only child of a single mother — as a black boy who struggles with weight. It is about the jagged, uneven road to becoming a writer and a man; it is a chronicle of daily confrontations with the twin assaults of American racism and America's weight-obsessed culture. Heavy is a compelling record of American violence and family violence, and the wide, rutted embrace of family love.

In clear, animated prose, Laymon writes in the second person, addressing himself to his mother. This fierce woman is a prominent political scientist who completed her Ph.D. and postgraduate work as Laymon was coming up in Jackson, Mississippi, and in Maryland. To raise him to excellence, she beats him regularly. She has a violent relationship with a man whom Kiese loathes and goes out of his way to avoid. She keeps a running critique of her son's weight.

25 December, 2019

The Places Where the Recession Never Ended

Goldberg: Do people in Idaho and people in New York City have more in common than they think? Or are we really becoming two countries?
Westover: We have a shared history and shared interests as Americans, that’s true, but it’s also true that Democrats and Republicans increasingly live and work in different places. We have different experiences. As a general rule, I think we focus far too much on Donald Trump. We act like he’s the problem, but he’s not. He’s just a symptom—a sign of poor political hygiene.
Goldberg: Poor political hygiene?
Westover: Social media has flooded our consciousness with caricatures of each other. Human beings are reduced to data, and data nearly always underrepresent reality. The result is this great flattening of human life and human complexity. We think that because we know someone is pro-choice or pro-life, or that they drive a truck or a Prius, we know everything we need to know about them. Human detail gets lost in the algorithm. Thus humanity gives way to ideology.
Goldberg: So good political hygiene includes a respect for human complexity?
Westover: Our political system requires us to have a basic level of respect for each other, of empathy for each other. That loss of empathy is what I call a breaking of charity.
Goldberg: What does that mean?
Westover: It’s a term that’s associated with the Salem witch trials, and it refers to the moment when two members of a tribe disfellowship each other, and become two tribes. That, I think, is the biggest threat to our country, more than any single issue or politician. It’s the fact that the left and the right, the elite and the non-elite, the urban and the rural—however you want to slice it up—they no longer see themselves reflected in the other person. They no longer interpret each other as having charitable intent.

04 December, 2019

How This Con Man’s Wild Testimony Sent Dozens to Jail, and 4 to Death Row

With the help of his public defender, Skalnik filed a motion with the trial court in which he claimed a history of extensive prosecutorial misconduct. In the motion, he asserted that prosecutors had coached him on how to testify in numerous cases so as to give jurors the false impression that he “had actually heard all these ‘confessions,’ and had no agreement with the state for a reward for his testimony.” Prosecutors “knew of the potential questionability of said confessions,” the motion charged. Skalnik provided the names of 11 prosecutors whom he accused of misconduct but provided few specifics. He claimed to have given information or testimony in more than 50 cases and suggested that much of that evidence was tainted.
Just as the men whom Skalnik leveled outrageous claims against over the years had faced accusations that were maddeningly difficult to disprove, prosecutors found themselves on the defensive, scrambling to discredit what Skalnik claimed was the honest truth. In formal responses submitted to the court, the state attorney’s office categorically denied his assertions, dismissing them as “falsehoods, ranging in degree from gross exaggeration to preposterous fabrication” — a richly paradoxical about-face for an office that had asked scores of jurors to take him at his word. Trying to preserve the integrity of the cases Skalnik had participated in, prosecutors simultaneously argued that his earlier testimony as a state witness “was credible, was often independently substantiated and withstood extensive cross-examination.”

It’s a Terrible Day in the Neighborhood, and That’s O.K.

Playing the piano as a child, Rogers wrote, taught him to express the whole range of his feelings. He recounts banging on the low keys when he got mad, and I imagine him exploring the minor keys when he felt sad. In multiple episodes, Rogers showed viewers how to tell their feelings through the piano. When he had famous musicians like Yo-Yo Ma or Wynton Marsalis on the program, Rogers would ask whether they played differently when they were sad or angry. They always reported that yes, they did, and that playing their darker emotions helped.
“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was purportedly a show for children. But I think Rogers also meant it for adults. We’d be better off if we’d stop negating children’s dark emotions with stifling commands like “Don’t cry,” “Calm down,” “Be quiet.” If we are convinced by Rogers’ and Aristotle’s claim that feelings are not wrong and that “what’s mentionable is manageable,” we should begin mentioning our own sad, lonely and disappointed feelings. In doing so, we would show children — and our grown-up selves — how to appropriately manage them.

03 December, 2019

"Peace, like war, is waged" - A personal remembrance of Walker L. Knight

Walker’s 1969 book, The Struggle for Integrity, is the reason my wife and I moved to Atlanta after finishing seminary in New York City. We had no jobs waiting; we just wanted to be part of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, whose pastoral leadership (clergy and lay) refused to move to the suburbs when the neighborhood de-gentrified. It was a risk-your-assets moment, resulting in substantial membership loss. The refusal to comply with Jim Crow almost killed the church. But then came Epiphany’s visionary renewal. Clarity is often reserved for those with their backs against the wall.

Over the ensuing years, Walker’s insightful voice helped lead the congregation through a longer series of dramatic decisions about its ever-deepening grasp of its mission as a countersign to larger cultural values. But not without renewed conflicts.

Walker knew that faith is often clarified not in the absence of conflict but within and through it. In a long prose poem printed in the December 1972 issue of Home Missions Magazine, which he edited, Walker dwelled at length on the risk of Advent and the fact that peacemaking entailed an active, even provocative engagement—whose practice is not for the faint of heart.

“Peace plans its strategy and encircles the enemy. / Peace marshals its forces and storms the gates. / Peace gathers its weapons and pierces the defense. / Peace, like war, is waged. / But Christ has turned it all around: / the weapons of peace are love, joy, goodness, longsuffering; / the arms of peace are justice, truth, patience, prayer; / the strategy of peace brings safety, welfare, happiness; / the forces of peace are the sons and daughters of God.”

Seven years later, then-US President Jimmy Carter quoted some of those lines in his speech marking the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which he worked so hard to accomplish.

02 December, 2019

Doctors and techies are clashing at digital health companies, and one start-up exec is seeking a fix

One San Francisco-based physician recalled the excitement he felt when he first showed up to work in 2018 at a diagnostic testing start-up. The company seemed to be growing quickly and was backed by tens of millions of dollars in venture capital.

But during his first month on the job, he saw behavior that would surely raise questions if regulators were aware of it. The company used doctors from a staffing agency to prescribe tests to patients. Those doctors appeared to be liberally issuing prescriptions, without doing thorough reviews, out of concern that the agency would lose its contract with the company if it was perceived to be limiting business.

After bringing up the issue with management, the “CEO flipped out,” the physician said, and accused him of not being a team player. He was subsequently put on a performance improvement plan.

“I stayed away from the regulatory issues after that,” and then left the company a year later, the physician said.

01 December, 2019

Remembering Walker Knight

He coined the phrase, “Peace, like war, is waged.”
He challenged Baptists and others to live out the gospel of justice and inclusion — when it challenged their cultural norms.
He founded an independent publication (at great personal cost) in which such truth could be written, even if not celebrated — which I’m now privileged to serve as editor.
He shared his inspiring life story in Zion to Atlanta: Memoirs, published by Nurturing Faith.
He was small in size, but huge in integrity and influence.
Devoted husband to his late wife, Nell, and a caring father.
Mentor to many.
Longtime, rock-solid member of Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., the community of faith that helped launch his publishing venture.
Walker Leigh Knight, publisher emeritus of Nurturing Faith Journal, died this morning at age 95.
He was beloved. He will be well remembered and deeply honored — today and in the days ahead.