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Tearing down statues…..

Muriel2017

photo by Chandra Joy Kauffmann

They’re talking about taking down statues and/or changing names of schools in the U.S. as well as here in Canada. What are they thinking? We can’t obliterate history by removing these things,  unpleasant as our history may be — and it is. Nor can we use present-ism to judge decisions made long ago. What we do need is to use these reminders to better educate ourselves. It is the teaching of history that has to change.

Let’s face it, the only part of our population we haven’t managed to hurt since our European forefathers hit these shores are possibly white males, and I’m not even sure of that. If we must erase the existence of former leaders, politicians and generals, we’d probably have to eliminate them all.

Who was in charge in 1885 when Canada instituted the Chinese Head Tax? Who made it legal not to allow the Chinese to attend our universities? What about erasing our

Pierre Berton

Author Pierre Berton

well-known and respected Canadian author/historian Pierre Berton, who in his 1970 book “The National Dream”, neglected to even mention the 15,000 Chinese workers who labored (some died) under harsh conditions for very little pay on the project completed in 1881? That railroad was vital to the establishment of our country at the time John A. Macdonald was our Prime Minister.

Furthermore, how can we know what John A. Macdonald was thinking if he did, indeed, approve the use of residential schools? Could he know or foresee the imperfections of our religious institutions? In Australia, the ‘Stolen Generation’ (1910-1970) happened because it was feared the Aboriginals were dying out! The results there were devastating as well.

Sir Robert Borden p:m, 1914

Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden

When the SS Komagata Maru and it’s passengers were refused entry in 1914, some on-board were suspected of being connected to radicals,

Komagata Maru.jpg

SS Komagata Maru

however it seems clear racism was at the heart of the matter. Sir Robert Borden, knighted in 1915, was Canada’s prime minister. (He introduced women’s suffrage into federal elections — I applaud that effort.) Our country honored Borden by using his photo on our $100 bills right until 2016!

How about Immigration Minister Frederick Blair, who during the administration of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, famously declared:

Immigration Minister Frederick Blair

Immigration Minister Frederick Blair

Wm_Lyon_Mackenzie_King, 1942

Prime Minister Mackenzie King

“None is too many.” as a reason in 1939, for our country to turn away the M.S. St. Louis with 902 desperate German Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. They were sent back to certain death. Should we now denounce Mackenzie King too? (In the Quebec of my youth, there was a quota on the number of Jewish students the universities would accept.)

 

MS St Louis Jewish refugess desperate to flee Nazi

MS St. Louis

The U.S. also refused the MS St. Louis entry during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency (1933-1945). Should we put aside all of Roosevelt’s accomplishments because of this unfortunate incident? (Hitler, at the time, was delighted.) I’m convinced Roosevelt played a key role in saving us from Fascism after the war.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Enter a caption

I could go on and on and talk about the unfair suffering we caused our Japanese citizens during WW2 and the difficulties the Ukrainians endured in our country, and, and, but if I list every group we oppressed, this would be a book.

Indeed, what have we NOT done to wrong our aboriginals, who certainly have the right to complain about their mistreatment by our governments (note plural). Our native population is definitely entitled to REDRESS in capitals. However, destroying statues and renaming schools will accomplish little. We need to see to it that history is properly taught to our citizens so we know about the unvarnished past of our governments. Let’s focus instead on what is required to repair the results of all the mistakes of the past.

What do you think?

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Shall we dance?

susans-sculpture

daughter Susan’s wood wall sculpture she claims was inspired by my love of dancing

Joseph Molnar was a charming and debonaire, well traveled continental, who had lived in and traveled to many countries — and loved many women. Born and raised in Hungary, he studied in France and, besides Hungarian, spoke English, French and Spanish fluently, and perhaps others. My husband, a Parisian, first met Joseph on a train in France.

Religion was extremely important to Joseph. He loved and enjoyed them all. As a Catholic, he attended Catholic, Protestant and Jewish services — and did so regularly. They could be in French, Spanish, English, or Hebrew — it didn’t matter. The first time I met him, by then in his mid-sixties, which I thought ancient, was at such a service.

He sat me between himself and my husband-to-be, and said: ‘A rose between two thorns’. A line, perhaps, but a young woman doesn’t forget something like that.

ilona-massey-02

Hungarian actress Ilona Massey.

Joseph called himself a bachelor, but had lived with a woman in Mexico for 20 years. I argued that anyone who had done so could no longer call himself a bachelor. He’d laugh, but never talked about her or any of the women in his past. I learned by chance about one special love.

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Silver candlesticks, unpolished

In helping him move from one apartment to another, (to across the street from our home so we’d be closer) I came upon a lovely, very old pair of ornate, silver candlesticks. They were tucked away in a drawer and hadn’t been used or polished for years.

‘They’re too lovely to hide,’ I said, ‘I’ll polish them for you. They should be on your dining table where you can see them every day.’

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A little more detail

That’s when he told me he had had an affair with the actress Ilona Massey’s mother in Hungary and she had given them to him. Ilona Massey was such a beauty, I can only imagine how beautiful her mother was in her youth.

The following Mother’s day, Joseph came across the street with a greasy, brown paper bag under his arm in which he carried those precious candlesticks as a gift for me. I still treasure them. (I’ve been advised not to polish them any more– that it rubs off the artistic details.)

Joseph was the sole male member of several Hungarian, French, or Spanish ladies’ church groups. He would be sure to ask every member to dance with him at their dinner-dances.  No wonder they loved him.

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Dancing with Joseph

My husband had two left feet, but Joseph could dance to anything. We did the Csardas at Hungarian dinner dances, and the rumba, tango, Viennese Waltzes, or what-have-you at other times. The two of us became a team, and even won two competitions!  I look back to those evenings with much pleasure.

My children adored Joseph and he returned

joseph-and-rafi

Rafi with Joseph at Cinco De Mayo celebration

their love. He had been a furrier, and had scraps of animal furs he’d give to Susan when she’d run across the street to visit. She loved the fur and Joseph. Little Rafi enjoyed going out with Joseph by himself and would climb on his lap whenever the lap was available.

So, what happened to our dear friend? He was hit by a car as he ran to catch a bus across a busy Los Angeles Boulevard. It was holiday time and he was in a hurry to get to a church  party. He died before he could leave the hospital when he was about 71. We were devastated.

Shortly after his death, the children wanted to visit ‘Uncle Joseph’ at his grave site. We did so. If memory serves, I think Susan wondered where ‘Uncle Joseph’ was and what he was doing. Rafi, about four at the time, knew and with certainty stated: ‘Uncle Joseph is dancing in heaven.’

Rector Robin Slays Sparrow

I’m having a real ball going through my old correspondence file which son Rafi brought me from L.A. A lovely former neighbor who reads this blog once suggested I had a wicked sense of humour. She must be right. And, obviously its been lurking in me for years. I can’t believe some of the letters I’m finding. I certainly must have chuckled as I wrote the one in response to this article published in the L.A. Times on Aug. 11, 1979.

The English sparrow was imported to America in 1850/51.

The English sparrow was imported to America in 1850/51.

Like many mistaken such acts, the English sparrow was a huge error, and is now considered the “flying rat”.

“HUBBUB IN ENGLAND”

“Rector Keeps Eye on Sparrow — Has it Shot”

“LONDON — The victim was only a sparrow, felled by a gun in a simple country church. But four days later, the shot was being heard ‘round England.
On Tuesday, a chirpy sparrow got itself trapped in a church’s rafters and broke into song at the wrong time — a recital that classical guitarist Konrad Ragossnig was recording for a radio broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corp.
An offended Rev. Robin Clark, the rector, asked the congregation to leave, summoned someone with an air gun, and had the bird shot.
News of the happening at St. Helen’s Parish Church

St. Helen's Parish Church

St. Helen’s Parish Church

spread quickly through the central English village, Brant Broughton, population 500.
One young woman broke into tears. Some villagers lodged a protest with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The minister responded, “It was absolutely impossible. The artist just couldn’t continue. Everyone was sorry it happened, but in my experience birds trapped in the church die anyway.”
Nevertheless, by Wednesday, one national newspaper was headlining: “Elegy in a Country Church Roof.” parodying poet Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” and the front page of London’s Daily Telegraph declared: “Rev. Robin orders death of a sparrow.”
On Friday, the shock was still being felt. The Guardian published a letter signed Colin Cooper, which said: “Sir, one can only imagine the dilemma the promotors of the guitar recital would have been in if the bird they shot had been a nightingale instead of a humble sparrow. I can’t help feeling there would have been a temptation to reverse the procedure and direct the microphone toward the bird after first shooting the guitarist.”

St. Helen's Parish Church, built 13th century.

St. Helen’s Parish Church, built 13th century.

How could I resist????? Here’s the letter I sent to the good Reverend.

Dear Reverend Clark:

My sincere condolences on the death of your little sparrow.
What’s if — there is such a thing as reincarnation and, what’s if — that little sparrow was a former rector of St. Helen’s who came back to see how things were going at his Church, and what’s if — he’s good and angry at you now???
Surely, the noble rector would be in good standing upstairs. He may have pull and perhaps plan a vendetta against the man who did him in when he came back as a sparrow.
Should this be so, and should YOU come back as a sparrow, I suggest you stay away from St. Helen’s Parish Church. Especially since, as the L.A. Times quoted you as saying, “Birds trapped in the church die anyway.”
Best wishes to you — I would not suggest ever that you shoot the guitarist instead, but please refrain from shooting the birds.

Sincerely,

Note: Today, we are able to learn so much more through the Internet. I see that St. Helen’s is not at all a “simple country church” but a beautiful, extremely large and very old structure. Just couldn’t resist showing you some actual photos of it. Enjoy!

Interior, St. Helen's Parish Church

Interior, St. Helen’s Parish Church

Sunrise in Santa Fe

Muriel from BlogAmong the old files my son found and brought to me are some notes I wrote while visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dated January 23, 1988, they were written very early as the sun rose. My sister, whom I was traveling with, was still asleep. Always an early riser, I had crept out of our hotel room to walk on my own.
Here’s what I wrote then — in pencil.

“The air is almost frosty and very fresh. My ears and nose are cold. The wind rushes down from the mountains to caress my face while it teases my hair. The morning invigorates, stimulates — makes me glad to be alive. I love mornings!
The sun rubs its eyes and washes its face. I raise my arms to the heavens in welcome. It agrees to stay and join me on these quiet streets. How wonderful to greet the dawn. There is no one else to do so, so if I don’t, who will?

Chapel San Miguel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Chapel San Miguel, Santa Fe, New Mexico

This charming, creative town is mine — mine alone. The dawn, the sun, the deserted streets — they belong only to me. With a possessive eye I take in the old stucco buildings, the narrow, uneven, yet beautiful streets. Who would dare take them from me? I am filled with a feeling of power. The buildings, the colours, the streets, the mountains — mine, all mine!

The magical basillica, Santa Fe

The magical basillica, Santa Fe

I am woman, earth mother — strong and at one with the early morning which feeds me and gives me strength. I am busy — walking and communicating with this world of mine.

Sleep mortals. You cannot know the joy of this communion. From a hill, I look down on the sleepy, beautiful town below, my spirit soaring.

What’s this? A young man joins me on a sleepy street. He smiles. I know he knows. He knows and he understands. There is enough glory for us both. I smile back and we walk together, and even though we are strangers, we talk as if we were old friends.

Well, our souls are….. Besides, he knows where I can get an early cup of coffee.”

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico