‘This Should Never Happen Again’

“I can hear the glass crunching on Kristallnacht in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vienna when I hear (Donald Trump’s plan).”

— Former Governor of Massachusetts William (Bill) Weld

More than three years ago I sat in a friend’s apartment in Krakow, Poland, after visits to various places in and outside the city where people by the thousands were pulled from their homes with brute force in the middle of the night, their belongings thrown onto the street, some of them who dared to resist thrown out of windows to their deaths, their modest storefront businesses destroyed, simply because of their ethnic or religious background. Human hate run amuck.

The dreadful period came to be known as “Kristallnacht”, in English, “Night of Broken Glass”, when windows were smashed and broken glass littered the streets and squares along with people’s possessions and family heirlooms. All for hate.

I was moved to tears as I walked through Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi concentration camps, where the history of what happened to European Jews is preserved. So moved that I returned to my friend’s flat and made a video impromptu.

In that vein, this is an impromptu writing. What has led me to write this? Last night I watched a live New York Times broadcast on Facebook, in which a young woman named Abril took questions from viewers as she told the story of how at 11 years old she came to the United States from Mexico with her parents, crossing the border illegally. She was a child. She had no say in the matter. Her parents made that decision. Today, Abril is still in the United States by executive order from the White House that has allowed 11 million undocumented migrants to remain in the Unites States. Many of them, like Abril, have gone to school, work, pay their taxes and have become productive members of society. But during the live broadcast, before Abril had even had a chance to utter a single word, the haters turned up in great numbers, spewing some of the most vile, hateful words I’ve not heard lobbed so freely in the United States in decades.

Abril remained calm and answered some tough questions, showing herself to be a poised young woman. Yet, the hate continued. Then my mind wandered back to Poland, and the people in the United States were sounding very much like the people of Nazi Germany. And the events that followed, “Kristallnacht”, began to ring like Donald Trump’s plan, “to build a wall”, keep Muslims out, “round-up” 11 million people like Abril in the United States, breaking apart families – some of those individuals who came to the United States illegally now have children who were born in the United States – driven by hate, not humanity.

I know it doesn’t matter what I say to Donald Trump supporters. It doesn’t matter what anybody says to a Trump supporter. Their love for him is undying, unshakeable. He can do and say anything and their love for him will remain unchanged. I know this now. This is to appeal to the rest of you who aren’t quite onboard as Trump fanboys or fangirls. To the rest of you fellow Americans who are not parrots and instead rightly question the actions and words of anyone seeking high office.

So I go back to my words from more than three years ago, the video, as someone concerned about history repeating, and in all places, the professed land of the free and home of the brave. Do we stop with Mexicans and Muslims? Who among us do we go after next? I think we’re better than that.

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A Bomb Shelter In China

Do you like Beijing?

That’s a question I get all the time.

My standard response is yes, I do.

That there is much to like – even love – about the city and perhaps in equal measure some things not to like.

Xiangshan Park – widely known as Fragrant Park Hills – is one of those treasuresΒ that make you want to shout your love for Beijing.

Located 17 miles or 28 kilometers northwest of the city center, Xiangshan is a huge forested park at the western hills. It covers almost 400 acres (160 hectares) and is full of history Within the park you will find the house where Mao Zedong once lived.

You will see pagodas and temples, imperial gardens and mountain peaks – chief among them Xianglu Peak (Incense Burner Peak) which you can climb on foot or by adrenalin-pumping chairlift.

The ride to the top of the peak takes 17 minutes and it’s quite a steep climb sitting on what is basically a bench with nothing more than a bar to keep you in. Nothing to stop you from lifting the metal bar. No seat belts or safety harnesses.
On the day I went unfortunately it was smoggy. I could not see the spectacular cityscape ahead.

But Xianglu – at 1,827 feet (577 meters) high, offers impressive views on clear days.

If you aren’t afraid of heights I recommend you take the chairlift up. If you aren’t pressed for time and are physically able, walk down. It will take at least an hour to reach the bottom, depending on your pace. But count on it taking two to three hours as you are bound to stop to see the sights and sounds of this immense park first built in 1186 during the Jin Dynasty, in power from 1115 to 1234.

There’s much to see on the way down, with a few surprises.

One of those surprises, totally unexpected, was stumbling upon a bunker used by Mao and his lieutenants. It’s not one of the things in the park that is publicized. They emphasize instead the gardens and the scenic beauty of the park, as well they should. But it was an added treat to see this bit of history carved out of the mountain. I went inside for a look.

Here’s the video.

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China: Hutong Cooking

It was a lovely day in April, so why not go get lost in the seemingly unending network of hutongs – the traditional Chinese neighborhoods – in Beijing, China. As I strolled through these labyrinths of narrow streets and alleys with their hidden courtyards surrounded by apartments, it was evident that food was central to life here. No need to travel far eat. On just about every street corner in this neighborhood, there was cooking on the streets, even at restaurants, the kitchens were essentially outside, enticing would-be diners.

Here, fried dough and steam buns stuffed with pork and spices. Like so many places around the world, China is all about food. Eating is central to everything families do, an activity that bonds people. “Family style” eating has been part of Chinese culture for centuries. Lots of dishes come out and everybody shares.

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