Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Letters from Europe – Covid-19 Response

Filed under: Politics — Rick at 12:13 am on Wednesday, August 12, 2020

You may not remember me since I have not posted here since December 2013. My name is Rick Munden. My wife Mary and I left the US in June 2010 to buy a sail boat in the Netherlands and explore Europe. We have been doing that for the past ten years during which time we have visited 25 countries spending six or more consecutive months in six of them.

We had already been in Lisbon, Portugal for eight months when the covid-19 pandemic broke out. I think it would be instructive for American readers to learn what that looked like from the perspective of someone in Portugal and to compare and contrast the American and Portuguese approaches to the crisis and their results. It should be noted that Portugal is a very small country with a population of about 10.5 million.

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On Prejudice in America 2019…by Robert M. Katzman

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

Overall, my family, too, can be told go back to where we came from, except when you read where we came from, well, we’ll need a lot of planes flying in different places.

As far skin color, gee, well…, um, some white like doves, some as dark as the bark of an old oak, some ruddy red like a deep sunset, some olive colored, like me, I suppose, which frankly my very very “white” Norwegian/Danish wife thought was very attractive. Or she kissed that olive skin often enough over 42 years. I don’t think Joy ever saw color.

While she was alive, if someone made some stupid prejudiced remark about her grandchildren, or yours, that hidden Viking axe was never too far away from her to erupt into rage. If my Joyce were alive, she’d make a hellova president. Even dead, she’s way better than the sewer of hate we’re immersed in now.

Silence isn’t golden. That’s why all your brave and tough grandparents, came to America in he first place. Would they admire their grandchildren today?

My original post starts here:

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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.

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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. Working with handtools builds muscles, focuses attention and keeps aging people stronger.

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

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Someone is Always Deciding What America is “Ready” For…by Robert M. Katzman

by Robert M. Katzman ©March 21, 2019

A nice person I know, Jewish like me, posted a reflection that America may not be ready to elect a gay person to be president. 


The basic idea expressed was that South Bend, Indiana’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s time was not “now” no matter how qualified he may be. I am not neutral and admire him, so I wrote this:


(I know others may not agree with me, but speaking up is why people came here in the first place. You are legally entitled NOT to agree with me in America or anyone else, but in a civilized way)

This country wasn’t “ready” for the revolution in 1776, either, and a third of the colonists were against it. Many fled to Canada. I know that long before that date, the Native Americans weren’t ready for the English.

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How a Lithuanian Jewish Kid, at 14 , Joined “Da Chicagah Machine”…by Robert M. Katzman

How a Lithuanian Jewish Kid, at 14, Joined “Da Chicagah Machine”

by Robert M. Katzman © January 13, 2019

Chicago is a museum of unassimilated words, accents and physical expressions. North Side Jewish accent, rich kids, was very different from the West Side, the immigrants and the South Side, home of the white collar, the working-class Jews. The Chosen People had different voices, even in the American Promised Land. 

Dees guys, dis stuff, dem bricks and dos cops came from the Germans who came here earlier. 

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