Last night was the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. I saw a Washington Post article yesterday that talked about the “dark side of Hanukkah” but, just as Thanksgiving has a darker side, can’t we just focus on the positive for a minute?
When I was a kid, I learned about the holiday in school and immediately wanted to convert to Judaism. I mean, Christmas is one day. Hanukkah lasts eight nights! Eight nights of presents! What kid wouldn’t want that? I have since learned that it is hard to convert and I don’t have that kind of energy. A neighbor converted and she had to do a lot. Plus, I used to love bacon and still love shellfish. That’s kind of superficial but I am lazy and not at all religious. I used to go to s secular Buddhist temple in DC.
One thing I have noticed is how committed so many Jewish people are to helping others, preventing genocide and other mass atrocities and oppression. Jewish World Watch is very active in this space working to raise awareness of the plight of the Uyghurs and the Rohingya, among other projects. I think a lot of people only view how Muslims and Jews interact through the prism of Israel and the Arabs in the Middle East but it is more complicated than that. On World Holocaust Day, Jewish leaders in the UK took to the streets to protest China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. Wherever I look, it seems there are Jewish leaders speaking out for people who are being pressed or worse.
Maybe I am being simplistic but I heard a Jewish leader in New York City talk about how Hanukkah should be for everyone. That we should all be the light for each other. After so much darkness from the pandemic and all the hate that has reemerged in the world, can’t we use it now?
That’s my friend, James Thompson. I met him when I was living in Gainesville, Florida. Yesterday, I learned that he killed himself earlier in the week. Just before I read about this tragedy, Harvey Ward posted on Facebook about men and suicide. This is unbelievably sad. I wish I could have done something. It felt so random to read of his passing.
“He was a very, very kind man. There are very few things that happened progressively in Alachua County that didn’t at least have his fingerprints, often behind the scenes,” Tattersall said. “It was always great to talk with him. We would start talking about something small, like the school board and the unions, for maybe 20 minutes and then talk another two hours about art, life, children, friends. It was also like that with him.”
It’s hard to think that James was suffering. I am comforted by the fact that he was surrounded by people who did care about him. That might seem strange, given how things turned out but it goes to show how little we know about what’s happening with the people around us. I can be in a crowd of people and feel totally alone.
I also understand, more than I would like, the thought process he may have been experiencing. I have struggled with depression and anxiety and have had thought that I am not going to explain now. I just hope if anyone reading this ever feels they aren’t worth much (as I have felt) or that they need help, I am always here.
This has actually been a tough week for me. Not so much emotionally but physically. I went in for an upper endoscopy (EGD) on Monday and while the procedure itself went fine, it takes about ten to 15 minutes, the experience was harrowing. It felt random the way I experienced this test, which I had had before.
The problem, as it always is, was getting the IV in. I always tell the nurses that I am a “hard stick.” Do they listen or believe me? Of course not! They were all, “we do this every day, all day.” It seemed a nurse got one in but it didn’t work. It took an anesthesiologist about 45 minutes and an ultrasound machine to get the job done and I am back to looking like a domestic violence victim or heroin addict.
I am not looking for sympathy here when I write this, it helps me to get this out of my system, but I experienced something I never have before. Lying on the stretcher, with the medical people trying to get an IV in, I felt more scared and vulnerable than I ever had before. One nurse kept poking and prodding and saying, “If that doesn’t work, I’ll go here!”
No, no you won’t. They tried my foot (hurts a lot). They tried my hands (never happening again). The doctor who finally got the IV told me to never let the nursing staff try and to just ask for an ultrasound.
I am lucky. I have good insurance and access to decent care but that was scary.
I had a city adventure on Tuesday
Fresh off my EGD on Monday, I went into the city on Tuesday
But there’s good news! I have lots of comedy shows coming up!
Tomorrow (August 17), I will celebrate another year ’round the sun. Accordingly, I am asking people, in lieu of a gift or card or anything else, to donate to a cause that I not only feel strongly about but one I work on every day.
As you may know, I work with No Business with Genocide. We work on a number of causes. We seek to raise awareness of the problem of genocide, which is as much a problem today as ever. One way we do this is by working with cities, states and localities to pass resolutions against genocide. Through our work, Gainesville, Florida passed such a resolution earlier this year.
We have also been working to free Hotel Rwanda hero & humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina. We have worked to raise awareness of his plight through traditional and social media; collected 12,000 petitions to President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and the Rwandan Embassy in the US; got nearly 3,000 people to write their Congressional representatives on his behalf and organized a fundraiser for his legal defense.
Our main goal remains getting companies and governments to divest from nations that perpetrate genocide and other crimes against humanity. Working with a coalition, we were able to get Chevron to cut some of its payments to the brutal Myanmar military (there’s still work to be done here), Kirin Beer to cut its ties to the junta and we remain committed to getting Harry Winston (Swatch) to stop buying Burmese rubies.
For the Uyghurs, we are part of the #forcedlaborfashion coalition that is putting pressure on companies such as Nike to stop using cotton processed by slave labor.
We have a lot of work to do. We need your help. I need your help.
My birthday is tomorrow. If you can donate to this, I am asking you to. If you cannot, I am asking you to share it with your networks.
(No Business with Genocide is a part of the International Campaign for the Rohingya)
No, not really. Dinner around here is usually salmon, sweet potatoes and veggies but I do consume a lot of coffee.
People always ask, “What’s new?” I always want to respond, “Not much!” but that isn’t true right now. So, what’s doin’ in Stony Brook?
First, I heard that Samantha Bee did a segment in Rwanda with a focus on conservation and how they did with refugees. I wrote about that for Medium. The Human Rights Foundation had this to say:
On Monday, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) sent a letter to television host and executive producer, Samantha Bee, expressing concerns over how Rwanda’s dictatorial regime will likely exploit her show’s segment, “Rwandans and the UNHCR Are Treating Refugees with Empathy,” to whitewash its long history of grave atrocities against refugees and refugee camps, following the country’s 1994 genocide, as well as its ongoing deadly campaign of espionage, extrajudicial executions, renditions, and intimidation against Rwandan dissident refugees living abroad.
The Human Rights Foundation.
I used to really like Samantha Bee. She was great on The Daily Show. She did a segment about someone I wrote for and I was offended that she lumped the website I wrote for in with a bunch of satire sites (I do write satire but try to keep a firewall between satire and general opinion). I haven’t watched her show recently. I do think it is incredibly irresponsible to do a piece on Rwanda about how they deal with refugees without looking at all the people who have been displaced (or worse) by President Paul Kagame.
From critic to being complicit
The view Bee gave of Rwanda was not even close to accurate and the segment will be used by the government as propaganda. Nice job, Sam! You went from being a critic to being complicit.
In other coffee needing news, I have several shows coming up that will be great.
Friday, August 6 @ 8 pm (doors open at 6). Governor’s Comedy Club — the Lil Room. Levittown, NY.
Saturday, August 14 @ 5:30 pm. Greenwich Village Comedy Club. NYC (this is my favorite venue!).
Friday, August 27 @ 9 pm. Clyde’s (used to be Barton’s Place). Miller Place, NY.
Can you help keep me employed?
Ok. I am asking. I work for several non-profits. We work to get companies to not make money from or give money to governments that commit genocide and other crimes against humanity, we are also working to support the people of Myanmar in their struggles post the coup in February and to stop the genocide against the Rohingya. We are also working to free Paul Rusesabagina (Hotel Rwanda).This is important work but we need your help. If you can, please donate here.
If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about genocide a whole lot. In fact, when the Pew Research Center looked into it, the general, American knowledge of the Holocaust is depressing.
According to the survey of almost 11,000 Americans, 69% said the Holocaust happened between 1930 and 1950. One in 10 people thought it took place between 1910 and 1930, and 2% answered between 1890 and 1910. One in 100 people thought it was later than second world war, answering 1950-1970; and 18% did not know or gave no answer.
After World War II, there were lots of calls of, “Never Again.” The problem is the world didn’t really mean it. Bosnia. Rwanda. Darfur. All happened after World War II. Today, Genocide Watch has alerts for 20 different countries.
Moreover, companies today are still making money from genocide and other mass atrocities. Just about every company that makes athletic clothing uses cotton from the Xinjiang region of China. This is where more than one million Uyghurs have been placed in concentration camps. Let me repeat that. Today, in 2021, more than a million people are in concentration camps in China.
Head south from China and you will find yourself in Myanmar. Not only has the Muslim, Rohingya minority been persecuted for years but in February, the military arrested the recently, democratically elected government and took over the nation. Since then, military forces have killed 914 people. Meanwhile, companies like Chevron and Harry Winston (owned by Swatch) continue to do business with the military, enriching it and allowing it to continue its crimes against humanity.
What can I do about genocide?
No Business with Genocide (NBWG) is a nonprofit based in Washington, DC. It puts pressure on companies to stop funding or profiting from genocide. Its work led to Kirin Beer cutting all ties with the Myanmar military. It lobbies national, state, and local governments to pass resolutions condemning genocide and pledging not to use taxpayer dollars to fund it. Just last month, Gainesville, Florida passed such a resolution. This is also a way to educate people about the problem and to get a dialogue going.
Today, I am asking for your help.
NBWG is running a summer fundraising drive. Donations are tax-deductible. Your support will allow the organization to keep doing its important work.