Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

On Prejudice in America 2019…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 6:34 pm on Sunday, July 21, 2019

On Prejudice, in America 2019
By Robert M. Katzman © July 21, 2019

Sometimes, like a sky that seems confused
About whether it’s bad weather or sunny, or mixed
Other things aren’t always so clear, either

Other times
There is a level of beauty 
Beyond words
Which suggests that bad times 
Are transitory,
And like great storms 
Will blow away.

Sometimes, a person, any person
Can look up and think
That maybe their world might end
That the sky might fall

And some of my uncles 
Who died in in World War One 
And my tiny Polish Grandmother 
Who wrapped bandages 
For the Red Cross 
Before she could speak English 
Took her a long time to 
Learn to speak English 

Like now in America 
I think about my grandparents
From Eastern Europe 
Who managed to emigrate here 
Just before the door was shut 
On Jewish immigration 

Then I think about my father and uncle 
Who fought for America in Asia 
In World War Two 
Even though both could speak Yiddish 
A strange foreign language, 
No one seemed to think they 
Weren’t “American” enough, 
Especially when my father Israel 
Was wounded
In a Japanese air raid

Then I think that
My own grandchildren, today, 
Are more “foreign” than ever, 
Collectively part: 
Native American, Philippine, Basque
Danish, Norwegian, Jewish 
English, French, Irish 
And two are miraculously descended 
From two Holocaust survivors. 

I wonder what is 
An “American” anyway 
And why is this so confusing? 
Doesn’t it mean the one country 
A person declares is theirs 
Over all others? 
Who is in charge of deciding this? 
Are some people somehow
“More American” than others? 

I’m pretty smart, 
Speak the local 
Wisconsin language
Fairly well 
And think this whole subject 
Is insane

The United States “ethnicity” 
Is the Declaration of Independence 
and 
The Constitution,
A sort of mixed marriage
If that’s what any person 
From anywhere, 
Is willing to except 
And maybe die for some day
There is nothing else 
They have to prove to me

Because after all
Who the hell am I 
To judge anyone? 
Scary times that needn’t be 
I believe 
Especially for children 
Who haven’t a clue 
What’s going on 
With their parents

But eventually, 
Like the sun peeking through 
What seems to be a 
Temporarily terrifying sky 
That this particular time 
When my country is acting 
Irrationally like it is now 
Like when the Chinese and 
Southern Europeans
Were prevented from coming here 
Or the McCarthy Era 
When a communist was 
Whomever one man 
Decided was one 

Or when the Japanese here 
Were locked up
Or when the Native Americans 
Were slaughtered for their land
Or the Germans here 
Were persecuted in World War One
Or the Catholics before the Revolution 
Or when the Irish here
Were treated like dirt 
Called Monkeys
After the potato famine 
Or Italians and Sicilians 
A century ago, 
Or Black and Brown people 
Continuously 

That one day, one day soon, 
All of this will blow over 
Like a bad storm 
And that beautiful Red, White and Blue flag
–Wait! Does that maybe suggest mixed blood??–
Will resume meaning 
Everything 
It’s supposed to mean 
For everyone in this country 

I am only one voice
But in this country 
One voice is supposed to matter
Every voice 
When the current storm passes 
Maybe it will be light enough 
To see that flag better 
And remember what it represents 

Thanks for reading this reflection of mine
Freedom of the Press 
Remember? 
I do

(Read on …)

Hiroshi Hamasaki, and What He Meant to Me in 1969…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman © August 2005

(Sometimes I get hired to read my stories in public in front of groups of people–a way of becoming known as a writer worth reading–and then hopefully selling some of my books. But I will never read this story in public. Never this one. Read it, it is very brief, and you will understand what happened 50 years ago this month. If Hiroshi were still among us today, I am imagining the terror he might be reliving…again).

Hiroshi Hamasaki, or “Frank”, as he told non-Japanese people to call him, came to my wooden newsstand in Hyde Park for the first time in fall, 1966. He was self-conscious about people stumbling over his unconventional actual name and long ago selected a name that would make strangers feel more at ease with him.

           At the more established, larger newsstand down the street from me, the irritable  news vender who owned it, a World War II veteran, had made an unfortunately vile reference to Frank’s ancestry, even though Frank’s family had lived in the United States for generations.

(Read on …)

The Rustic Queen on the Carousel…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman ©️ June 27, 2019

Matt Jerke, the technical assistant on the 2nd floor of the Racine Public Library, has been incredibly helpful in trying to bring me into the 21st Century. I am a work in progress. Very slow progress. Thank you, Matt

(1 of 20)
Some beautiful sunlit morning
While I wait for Cinderella to arrive
My grand-daughter might say to me:
“Grampa, what did you learn in your life?”
And I look through the colors of the glass
Fade backwards thru time
Drifting  
Wondering how to answer someone so young
And pointing to the pretty window
I’d say to her,
“Well sometimes things were wonderful…

(Read on …)

Movies Worth Seeing…by Robert M. Katzman (Secret Movie Maven!)

by Robert M. Katzman (Secret Movie Maven)©️ Memorial Day, May 2019

I have been obsessed with the fantasy world of movies since I was a child who couldn’t escape a dangerous home. An alternative cinematic Universe seemed a safe harbor, if only for a brief time.

Sports were never an alternative. Hit a ball, catch a ball, get crushed while holding a ball, avoid being hit by a speeding ball–what is it with balls and aggression? 

Oh, wait. Not a good question.

While a lot of people revered Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig, I was a long time admirer of Roger Ebert, and even got to know him for a long while. He was the only person in my one year on Amazon who bought my first book.

I’ve made a list of a number of movies, various genres, but all involving human interaction of movies worth seeing more than once or twice. I won’t list the casts or directors because younger people won’t recognize the names, but also because an existing group of famed movie stars appearing together in a film can amount to nothing without a great script and director.

There are a number of Westerns, but they tend to tell detailed moments of intense relationships in isolated areas of America where mutual dependence is essential. The fact they are “Westerns” is not essential to the overall story.

There are qualities of friendship, empathy, grit, courage and determination that sew these varied films into a celluloid quilt, but a person’s perception of pleasure is partly base on what rescued them from pain, I believe. Emotion doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

(Read on …)

Learning To Work With Your Hands…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman © May 20, 2019

Learning to work with your hands changes your worldview and increases your ability to take care of yourself and be more independent. It also helps make a person more compassionate to other people’s physical limitations, because so many are one injury away from unemployment.

To me, judging another’s worth by what they do for a living is a sin. But then, running a wooden newspaper stand as a teenager to allow me to pay for high school with privileged classmates will create feelings like that in a person. Seven of my 160 classmates ended up working for me, at one time, or another. 

(Read on …)

I Planted Four Trees Today…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Children,Life & Death,Marriage and Family,Trees,Wildflower Diaries: Joy's Garden,Wisconsin stories — Bob at 5:33 pm on Tuesday, May 14, 2019

May 14, 2019

I planted 4 trees today. 

I drove far away to a lovely rural nursery and the prices were tiny compared to near me.

Amber, Lisa and Kaitlan helped me with the transaction and with loading my old van.

The van needed to be jump-started because I haven’t used it all winter.

My driving forever cured the van’s sad battery.

My old body is inconceivably tired.

So tired I can’t tell how tired I am.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how tired am I?

42

(Read on …)
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