Friday, April 29, 2016

Hey Bernie Fans, you say you want a revolution?

"It's time for liberal progressives to occupy government. We have the momentum and the power. Let's use it. Or we lose it." (Kimberly Johnson, blog in Huff Post Politics, April 27, 2016).

"Agree. I wish Bernie wouldn't just "downsize,"  let his people go, and keep running against the tide, but give his enthusiastic base a state-by-state plan to elect a new US Congress with a Democratic majority that will move the political process toward the changes he says he wants."  
This map from UVA Center for Politics used in Politico article cited below is a good start. The cream colored states are considered "swing" states for the Presidential election, much as in last couple of elections, but it is helpful to apply to Congressional elections too.Those are states where Bernie could harness the enthusiasm of his fan base to elect a Democratic majority in the US Congress on Nov.8, 2016. Other important states for grassroots action are Iowa, Arizona, Minn., Nevada, Florida, Texas, & Wisconsin, and support for candidates in any state targeted by the Koch Brothers & Tea Party obstructionists, such as Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada.
Hey Bernie fans, you say you want a revolution? Well you're in the right place at the right time. To bring about the changes you say you want, especially in the area of income and wealth distribution, to actually pass legislation and make laws regulating the big banks and big money in politics like the Koch brothers, sanctioned by the US Supreme Court, we need to strengthen the three branches of government: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary.  This is the only way systemic change will happen. If we're all Democrats in this together, believing America is the story of progress toward our ideals, not perfect but hopeful, then we have to stop whining like a Trumpster and work to make this happen.  We need a Democratic majority in the US Congress, a Democratic president, and a progressive and fair Supreme Court that looks and thinks like America in the 21st century.

On November 8, 2016, America will vote for a new president, for all House members, for Senators, and for governors, as well as in many state and local elections. Will we feel the Bern in the states where action is urgently needed? As Kimberly Johnson wrote in the Huff Post,  "If you're truly interested in a revolution, then you will keep the momentum going. You will stay in the game when a battle is lost because the goal is to win the war."

It seems to me that the bottom line for the Democrats and the Bernie enthusiasts is to work state-by-state on every contested election, against every candidate supported by the Koch Brothers, Trump supporters, and Tea Party obstructionists. The mantra should be "A Democratic Congress in 2016."

Obama's presidency, obstructed at every turn by a do-nothing Congress noted for having no alternative policies, no legislation, nothing concrete in the way of options, has shown us how hard it is to get any change whatsoever when an extreme right wing unwilling to compromise controls the House and Senate. The refusal to consider Obama's Supreme Court nomination, obstructionist in the extreme and unconstitutional to boot, is just the most recent tip of the iceberg.  Even John Boehner, former Speaker of the House, sees the rampant dishonesty and pure obstructionism of the Tea Party members, Ted Cruz foremost among them, who would rather shut down the goverment than find common ground. No doubt Obama had to give up the kitchen sink to get Obamacare, and though people rail against him for it, it was, really, the ONLY way he could get it. This is the state of our US Congress today.

Want a revolution? We need to start with this reality. Bernie could develop and lead a game plan for grassroots progressive action from now until November. Bernie's base and Dems working together could help get it done if they really want to increase the chances for positive reform after November 2016. 

I did a little online research just to start thinking about a plan. In the US Senate,  34 of the 100 seats are being contested this November. The winners will serve six-year terms from January 3, 2017 until January 3, 2023. All  "class 3" Senators are up for election; class 3 was last up for election in 2012, when Republicans won a net gain of six seats. Currently, Democrats are expected to have 10 seats up for election, and Republicans 24 seats. Special elections may also be held to fill vacancies. Republicans, having taken control of the Senate in the 2014 election, currently hold the Senate majority with 54 seats. This needs to change if change is what you want. 
In the House of Representatives, all 435 congressional district seats are up for election in each of the 50 states. The whole House up for grabs! Non-voting delegates from DC and the other five territories will also be elected. The winners of this election will serve in the 115th Congress, with seats apportioned among the states based on the 2010 US Census. Think of what a Democratic majority would mean for any change agenda! Tired of political gridlock, Tea Party extremists, and the do-nothing Congress? Get rid of them.
What candidates should a Bern plan be targeting? From what I can gather through a quick online search, here are the Senate Democrats up for re-election who need support: Richard Blumenthal (Conn. Bennet (CO), B.Boxer (CA) retiring ,Patrick Leahy (Vermont),Barbara Mikulski (MD) retiring, Patty Murray (Washington), HarryReid (NEV) retiring, Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Charles Schumer (New York), Ron Wyden (Oregon).

These are the Republican Senators up for re-election:Kelly Ayotte (NH), Roy Blunt (Missouri), John Boozman (Ark), Richard Burr (NCarolina),Dan Coats (Ind) retiring, Mike Crapo (Idaho), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), John Hoeven (N Dakota), Johnny Isakson (Georgia),Ron Johnson (Wis), Mark Kirk (Ill), James Lankford (Okl), Mike Lee (Utah),John McCain (AZ),Jerry Moran (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rand Paul (KY), Rob Portman (OH), Marco Rubio (Florida) retiring, Tim Scott (S Carolina),Richard Shelby (Ala),John Thune (S Dakota),Pat Toomey (Penn), and David Vitter (Louisiana).

Some of these folks are more politically astute than others. No problem. But get rid of the Tea Party and extremists candidates who diss America without any alternative policies. Clean House!

From what I can tell these are the states where there are contested elections for the House: AZ, CA, FL, NH, NV, IL, Iowa, Maine, Minn, NY, TX and WI.

These are the states where there are heavily contested elections for Senator: Nevada, with Harry Reid retiring, Florida, for Rubio's seat, Avotte in NH. There may be others. Sen. Roberts, Kansas, has to go for example.  I think it's really critical to have a Democratic majority in the Senate. Just look at what McConnell is doing to the democratic process by refusing to hold hearings on the President's Supreme Court nominee. Today I saw that Republican Senator Roberts of Kansas is stalling an Obama nominee for Army secretary, who happens to be gay. These guys are among the most anti-American trolls going, dissing America at every turn and undermining democratic principles. Get rid of them.

The Bernie research teams and state teams could get on this now, draw up a plan for action, keep the momentum going. How much stronger a progressive America would be if we had a Congress and a President who worked together. It would also mean a stronger, more modern Supreme Court. Bernie could help make it happen. It's probably the most important change of all.

Some sources: 
--Google "House and Senate Political Rankings at 2016." and "do nothing Congress." Wikipedia has basic information on the electoral process.
-- Why we need a new Congress to bring about the kinds of changes Bernie says he wants.
--http://www.opensecrets.ood/2016elections/fl/Senate-Seats-up-for-Election-in-2016.htmrg/races/  for interesting info on who's getting what financial support, and

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

50+ Years Later: A Joyous Reunion with Old College Friends

Lovely Dataw Island, Cathy's adopted home where she lived with her husband Tom and is an Island historian, preservationist and community leader, so Sarah and I had the best tours of the Island and surrounding Islands around Beaufort. We had an expert tour of the Sams PlantationTabby Ruins; boarded the Santa Elena tall ship that anchored in Port Royal, a reminder of the 16th-century Spanish history of the Islands; walked on the beach under a clear blue sky; visited the pretty town of Beaufort and the Point, a neighborhood of Antebellum mansions and grand Victorians; enjoyed a fantastic "Lowcountry Chamber Music Concert" with Cathy's friend Ann at the Art Center; shared wonderful lunches and dinners with the best conversations imaginable; savored a meal of fresh shrimp right off the boat at Dobson's, which looked like Forrest Gump's shrimp boat! What a special time, a walk down memory lane. 
What's it like seeing your college roommates and closest friends after 54 years? I was nervous about it, but it turns out I didn't need to be at all. It was wonderful, kind of like watching a home movie in fast forward, traveling over time from the innocence and curiosity of young girls at the beginning of life's journeys, to the vim and vigor of old ladies with lots of experiences under our belts and the humor to match.  We reminisced, shared memories, remembered some things differently or not at all, got updated and recharged, laughed a lot, and created new memories to warm our days.

After graduation from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass, where we spent four years together learning, experimenting, and exploring, Cathy and Sarah went off to New York City and I to Madison, Wisconsin. They kept in touch with each other and several mutual friends then and through the years, while I disappeared off the planet.  God knows why I seemed to never look back over a period of my life that was so important, why I neglected to stay in touch with friends who meant so much to me.  I confess to a terrible failing. I'm guilty of inconsiderate and selfish, unkind behavior. Thoughtless youth, yes, but really so incomprehensible. I got into my graduate student days to such an extent I left the past behind.  How could I? Still, Cathy and Sarah were kind and forgiving, and we were happy we finally came together after all these years. I'm reminded of a blessing for old age: "May the light of your soul give you wisdom to see this beautiful time of harvesting..."

And harvesting is what we did. From the seeds of our individual choices and our shared experiences we harvested the gems of our years.  We reminisced under towering and ancient Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss, felt the winds of time sweeping across Dataw Island and over the replica of the old cargo ship, Santa Elena, and enjoyed the culture and special beauty of the South Carolina lowcountry around Beaufort. We were all history majors at Wheaton, remembered our wonderful professors and the high caliber of our education, and we understood the complex history and heritage of the place we now shared. Cathy is active in preserving Dataw Island's history and a leader in her adopted home, so we had an expert and knowledgeable guide. We were on the same page politically, too, which made for some great and hilarious conversations.

It was a magical mystery tour on many levels adapted to the aging spirits of three old college friends. We were "red hat" ladies in purple, like in Jenny Joseph's famous poem, making up for "the sobriety of our youth," letting the inner sparks fly freely and with gay abandon.  There's an energy and freedom that comes with age, not to mention some experience and wisdom about life, and we three shared in them with great pleasure.  I tend to go light on "the wisdom" factor, and a bit more heavy on the "life's a daring adventure" side, and Sarah and Cathy do, too. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine I used to say, "It's amazing where life takes you, if you take life as it comes."  I still think so.  Life took Sarah, Cathy and I full circle to Dataw Island, SC, and we just let the winds of time fly over and around us, our red hats sailing off into beautiful sunsets and beyond an orange full moon into brilliantly starry nights.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Magical Ireland

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, the elegant and the humble.

I'm back from a magical mystery tour of Ireland.  What made this travel adventure all the more special was sharing it with my daughter Elissa. We're both wrapped in green now, and the luck of the Irish, so coming back to emerging Springtime in Sylvania seems like coming around and completing a sacred Celtic circle.

DUBLIN! Dublin music, dance, architecture, culture, from street life to Trinity College Library and Book of KellsElissa with the Sylvania Advantage, where she is the graphic designer; the president's house, St. Patrick's Cathedral, celtic cemetary; the Taylor pub (at least one on every corner), and Searson's restaurant. 
Elissa on a Dublin walk.
Our Gate 1 tour around the Emerald Isle, with informative, awesome and entertaining guide Doug, started in James Joyce's Dublin, where we took in statue-lined O'Connell Street, rows of Georgian houses with colorful doors, Phoenix Park, where the president resides, St. Patrick's Cathedral, dedicated to Ireland's patron saint, and then to Oscar Wilde's famed Trinity College and Library, which houses the magnificent 8th-century Book of Kells, an illuminated Gospel book in Latin, a lavishly decorated masterwork of western calligraphy. That evening we enjoyed an Irish feast with Irish whiskey, wine and beer, and Irish music and dancing, at an Irish pub, all enthralling and fun.

We got into the spirit of Ireland that day, even though Elissa and I preferred walking about central Dublin's streets to paying a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, which occupies several city blocks and bolsters the Irish economy! But before our first pint, as they say in Dublin, we did learn the Irish toast "Slainte" (pronounced Slahn-che), to your good health, which stood us in good stead to the end of our visit.

A bookstore displays books
on the 1916 Rising.
Galway street poster
We were in Dublin on Easter Sunday, 27 March, when the country commemorated the 100th anniversary of "The Rising" of 1916 and the massacre of its now-revered freedom fighters seeking Irish independence. England's brutal response increased support for Irish republicanism, leading to the rise of Sinn Fein and
Our itinerary
the Irish Republican Army (IRA).  It also laid the foundation of what the Irish call "the Troubles" of the late 1960s to 1998, a violent period of nationalist and sectarian revolt that resulted, at last, in peace and an independent Republic of Ireland. A part of Northern Ireland (in white in upper right on map) continues under British tutelage with its capital in Belfast, but a sense of cultural unity also persists among the Irish people.

Waterford, Kilkenny and nearby landscapes. An excellent 
local tour guide, Patrick, lead us around his hometown of Kilkenny. 
Killarney by Elissa. She loved the gluten-free fish & chips, and onion rings!
We also had a great Thai dinner. 
From Dublin our trusty bus driver Barry, who navigated the winding roads with ease, took us to Waterford, home of the famous glass makers; the Blarney Castle en route to Kilkenny; around the famed Ring of Kerry through Killarney National Park on the Island's southwestern tip, and also past the remote Michael Skellig, the dramatic location of the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Who can forget that scene of Rey hiking with determination up those rocky green slopes to meet Luke Skywalker and present him with the magical lightsaber that belonged to his father and grandfather. 

From County Kerry in the southwest we headed north to Bunratty Castle and an interesting "Folk Park" of 19th-century reconstructed or rebuilt Irish homes, then to the fabulous Cliffs of Moher with its Henry Potter feel, and onto beautiful, bustling Galway. 
Bunratty Castle and the Folk Park, an outdoor museum of 19th-century Irish homes. Our tour group  (there were 40 of us from all over the US ) had a nice guided tour of the castle.  We missed the popular 'medieval banquets,' but got a good sense of the place.  

Iconic Irish Images
Doug's Irish "gift of gab," so eloquent and so rich in humor and insight, entertained us all the way as we drove through one iconic landscape after another.  Near the town of Limerick on the River Shannon, Doug read us several limerick poems. Elissa, so creative and clever, such a dear, added a wonderful limerick of her own to the travel festivities, which Doug read with pleasure. I hope she posts it! We learned Irish history, about the language, about farming, about Irish gypsies. So many fabulous stories! We had a wonderful overview of a lovely country with bustling towns and modern cities, beautiful countryside and farms, and gentle landscapes dotted with ancient ruins and fences made of thick shrub or ancient stone. Our Ireland tour enveloped us in the warm, soft feel of Irish wool with a overlay of sparkling emerald green.
Galway, once a small fishing village, is now one of the fastest growing cities of Europe, according to our tour guide Doug. It's on the Shannon river, which is now full of rushing water at a very high level and turbulent.  Our hotel, Jurys Inn, was on the river and in walking distance to the heart of the city. Wish we could have stayed longer but we got a great feel for the city. 

Cliffs of Moher, a mystical landscape.  George Bernard Shaw called it "a part of our dream world."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Every Right Women Has Today Took Centuries of Struggle

Some of the few books available when I started 
teaching the University of Toledo's first women's 
history course.  Since then Women's Studies 
has flourished, and so has the scholarship. 
Most young women today, my kids' generation and their kids, the millennials, do not know women's history.  They do not know and frankly don't seem to care about what it took for them to enjoy the rights they have. They simply take these rights for granted.

Yet every right we have today, every one, was fought for tooth and nail, inch by inch, fiercely and over long periods of time.  It took centuries of struggle to get the right to speak in public, legal rights, the right to an education at all levels, the right to enter professions, the right to vote.

It's a shame this story remains hidden, because the history of women is rich and powerful, and knowing about it would help women grow as women and as citizens.  It would help them appreciate the brave shoulders on which they stand, open their eyes to a whole new way of seeing America and themselves.

 "There was a mountain of prejudice to climb," Lucy Stone put it in the early 1840s, when male privilege was at its height and women were "femme couvert," that is legally dead, in the eyes of the law. That's when women joined the Abolitionist movement againt slavery, first spoke out in public, and became victims of painful patriarchal attacks.  In fighting for the freedom of slaves they began to see they needed to fight for their own rights, beginning with the right to speak in public. "What's morally right for men to do, is morally right for women," Sarah and Angelina Grimke argued in the face of vicious attacks.

The abolitionist women then dared to take another step; they dared to question their status and they began to fight for their own legal and property rights, the right to their children in divorce, and the right to an education beyond elementary school.  The first women's rights convention, the historic and pioneering Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, embodied their grievances and laid out publicly for the first time the women's rights agenda for the ages.

It's a shame young women are unaware of their history, too, because there's still a way to go in achieving all the rights spelled out in Seneca Falls in 1848, starting with equal pay for equal work and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. There's a way to go in changing stereotypes and attitudes. There's a way to go in creating social structures and public policies that acknowledge the different life cycle experiences of men and women, and that support working women and mothers.

"A lot of women think the fight for women's equality is done.  It's not done," says Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, a brilliant woman whose vast experiences inform her views.

It's a view women leaders like Gloria Steinem and the women of our generation understand.  If only those younger than us did as well.  Then they would better understand the context in which today's political battles are unfolding. If only younger women understood their history, and cared, America would continue to evolve into the promises of our democratic ideals.

I think one of the best basic histories of the fight for women's rights and the vote is still Eleanor Flexner's Century of Struggle (Harvard University Press, first published in 1959, and with several editions since then). It was one of the few texts available when I began teaching women's history at the University of Toledo in 1975.  I wish every student would read it in high school or college, or at any point along their journey of self-discovery.  It's a great text for adult discussion groups too.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Jamala's Song

Jamala sings 1944 at Ukraine Eurovision Song Contest, and wins!
Yahoo image. 
Jamala's song, 1944, supposedly "contentious" because Putin's Russia doesn't like it, is a simple song about the loss of the Crimean Tatar's homeland.  It's about heartache and hope. It tells a real story, about Stalin's purge of the Tatars in 1944, expresses a real dream, hauntingly revived after the Russian takeover of Crimea in 2014. Jamala was chosen to represent Ukraine at the 2016 Eurovision music contest, which will be held in Stockholm in May.

I hope Jamala wins lots of prizes for putting the spotlight on Crimea and helping to keep it on the world's freedom agenda.  How many people know the significance of the year 1944 in Tatar history? Not many.  But Jamala remembers a family story of how her great-grandmother died enroute to southern Russia, and was then tossed off a wagon "like she was garbage," while Jamala's mother watched in horror, weak from starvation, helpless. You never forget those memories.  Every Tatar family has them.  At least half of  the Tatars who were forced to make this hazardous journey died. How many people know this story?

The New York Times reported that an etimated 120 million viewers are expected to watch this 59th annual Eurovision Song Contest.  I hope so.

Tragedy etched in Dzhemilev's face and in his heart.
For the same reason, I hope the Crimean Tatar freedom-fighter Mustafa Dzhemilev is nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. Like Jamala's family, he was among the more than 300,000 Tatars, just a young boy, deported from Crimea by Stalin's 1944 orders. When Stalin forced the Tatar people out, en masse, he sent in thousands of Russians to replace them and ensure Russian hegemony over the Tatar's indigenous homeland. This is the history of oppression, enforced Russification, and murder we must remember, like we remember the Holocaust.

Dzhemilev grew up in Uzbekistan and returned to his homeland in 1989 along with thousands of other Tatars, to rebuild their homes, their communities, their social and cultural institutions. It remains a heroic effort, now cut short.  I witnessed it when I visited Crimea as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2009-11. Beautiful people, brilliant, talented, hard-working, tolerant, international in outlook, rebuilding their historic community on a beautiful land.

Imagine their horror at Putin's takeover of Crimea in 2014, by stealth, violence, and a pumped-up propaganda campaign, a shocking reminder of 1944.  The pain is etched on the Tatars' faces.  A nightmare beyond words.

Seventy years after their enforced deportation, the Tatar are once again under an oppressive Russian rule on the land of their ancestors. Their homes; their governing body, the Majlis; the famed Kapinksy Library, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserved the Tatar language, literature and culture; Tatar media outlets; all destroyed or taken over by Russian occupiers.

Putin taking a bite out of Ukraine,
invading Crimea.
Human rights abuses are rampant. Thousands of Tartar have "disappeared," been jailed or killed. Over 3,000 have been forced to flee their homes. Mustafa Dzhemilev is banned from returning to Crimea, a rerun of the Stalinist era.

Putin has "swallowed the souls" of a peace-loving people. as Jamala sings.  I wonder how the ethnic Russian population, who supposedly welcomed Russian rule, feel about what's happening to the Tatar. They were friends and neighbors, living in harmony. How can they condone it? How can they accept it? How can they go along with what's happening to Crimea, being Stalinized, militarized, exploited, their communities in shambles, businesses gone, tourism gone. It's incomprehensible to me.

Meanwhile, although it seldom makes the news headlines, resistance to Putin's illegal takeover of Crimea continues.  A new Deoccupy Crimea movement is on a roll.  It will go on until the Crimean Tatar, the indigenous people, are masters of their homeland.  The world must not forget Crimea, must not abandon the Tatar, must stop Putin's criminal aggression.

"We can build a future, where people are free..."  This is the song of Jamala.  This is the dream of Mustafa Dzhemilev.

When strangers are coming...
They come to your house,
They kill you all
and say,
We’re not guilty
not guilty.
Where is your mind?
Humanity cries.
You think you are gods.
But everyone dies.
Don't swallow my soul.
Our souls
We could build a future
Where people are free
to live and love.
The happiest time.
Where is your heart?
Humanity rise.
You think you are gods
But everyone dies.
Don't swallow my soul.
Our soul.


Monday, February 15, 2016

DE-OCCUPY CRIMEA: End Russian Occupation, Restore Crimean Tatar Republic

Remember Crimea
A Crimean Tatar protest against Russian occupation of Crimea.
 The sign reads: "We are on our own land." 
A new organization, De-Occupy Crimea, has been formed to help end the illegal Russian occupation of Crimea and restore the "Crimean Tatar Autonomous Republic" within an independent Ukraine.  Sound like a dream? It won't be easy. It will take time. But given the history of the Crimean Tatar people, out of sheer force of will, they will one day be masters of their indigenous homeland. 

"We have the legal status of being the indigenous population of Crimea and we need to act on its behalf," the Majlis Congress declared in August 2015 in Ankara, and again at its congress in December 2015 in Kyiv.  "The right to self-determination belongs to the indigenous Crimean Tatar people."  (Paul A. Goble, "New Organization Formed,", 4 Dec. 2015.) 

Crimean Tatars, a peaceful and long-suffering people,
mourn the 2014 Russian takeover of their homeland. 
After heroic efforts to return to Crimea & rebuild their
homes and communities, they find theselves once again
under the genocidal thumb of Russia. 
De-Occupy Crimea has been registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Ukraine and plans to work with international organizations and the Ukrainian government to make its case.   It is calling on national and world leaders and the international community to recognize its claims as indigenous people.  It also seeks international recognition that "the actions of Russia in Crimea are a genocide, beginning from the moment of the inclusion of the peninsula in the Russian Empire in 1783 up to the present day."  Over that period "more than a million and a half Crimean Tatars were forced to leave their motherland," and half of those deported in 1944 by Stalin died as a result."

Concerned about the continued suffering of the Crimean people, the death and disappearance of hundreds of Tatar, the human rights abuses, and the seeming indifference of Ukrainian authorities "despite bold words," De-Occupy Crimea is dedicated to increasing efforts to make sure that "Crimea is not forgotten."
Crimean Tatars form De-Occupy Crimea 
As Eurasian specialist Paul Goble noted after the recent World Congress:
“The Crimean Tatars for the last 300 years have developed their own immunity to the kind of difficulties they face now because they survived both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.....They will survive Putin’s Russia, and help bring to an end the illegal Russian anschluss of their homeland." (, 12/2015)  

My Peace Corps friend Jud Dolphin, now serving in Skopje, Macedonia, reminded me, in an article he wrote for the Street newspaper he works with, of a wonderful quote by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: “Nothing worth doing is complete in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope.....Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love." 

TO WATCH FOR: A new documentary is coming out in March 2016 in Washington, DC: "A Struggle for Home: The Crimean Tatar," by filmmaker Christina Paschyn. Link: to learn more about this film and to see a trailer.

See also blog on Mustafa Dzhemilev, a long-time fighter for the rights of the Crimean Tatar:

Readings on the Crimean Tatars: Blog post from my PCV friend Barb Wieser.  A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Sometimes people ask me where they can read more about the history of Crimean Tatars and their struggles. I always first point them to the website of the American diaspora organization, International Committee for Crimea ( which is filled with informative, well researched articles. 

Unfortunately,  there are very few English language books about the Crimean Tatars, and with one exception, they are all academic books and not readily available or easily accessible for the average reader. However, if you do wish some in depth reading, here is a list of books that you can perhaps find in your library or order from the internet or your local bookstore.
The haunting cover of the French
edition of Lily Hyde's Dream Land.

1.       Dream Land: One girl’s struggle to find her true home by Lily Hyde (Walker Children’s Paperbacks, 2008)
This young adult novel—the only work of fiction that I know of in English that tells the story of the Crimean Tatar’s return to Crimea—seems to be well researched and does a good job of  showing actual events through the eyes of a young Crimean Tatar girl. 

2.       The Crimean Tatars by Alan W. Fisher (Hoover Institution Press, 1978)
This is the only comprehensive history book about the Crimean Tatars and includes much information about the time of the Crimean Khanate (14th-18th centuries). It was published before the Crimean Tatars began to return to Crimea so their current history is not included in the book. However, the fact that The Crimean Tatarsremains in print and is also now available in a kindle edition, attests to the continuing value of this work.

3.       The Tatars of Crimea: Return to the Homeland, edited by Edward A. Allworth (Duke University Press, revised edition, 1998)
This is an update of Allworth’s original book published in 1988. It is a collection of essays by different  scholars of the region—almost half of whom are Crimean Tatar—that discusses Crimean Tatar identity, politics of Crimea, life in exile, and return to their homeland. It also has a great deal of information about Ismail Gasprinskiy and his importance in Crimean Tatar history.

4.       The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation by Brian Glynn Williams (Brill Academic Publishers, 2001)
Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to read this volume because the library does not own a copy, but I wanted to list it as one of the very few books concerning the Crimean Tatar experience.

5.       Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return by Greta Lynn Fehling (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)
Beyond Memory is the most recent of the academic books written about the Crimean Tatars and I found it the most interesting, especially Uehling’s exploration of what kept alive the desire to return through the years of exile. It is filled with interviews by the author with Crimean Tatars directly involved in the national movement to return and the often violent protests that marked the Tatars’ return to Crimea.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jesus Christ Superstar: Still a Great Rock Opera

Jesus, Judas and the apostles on stage at the Maumee Theater

Jesus Christ Superstar, the 1970s rock opera, is now on stage at the Maumee Theater, and it's a wonderful production (by the 3B productions company). The actors, the voices, the simple set and contemporary costumes, the staging of the various ensembles that respond like Greek choruses to the unfolding drama, and the orchestra, with a great piano player, are all outstanding. The dissonence of the overture's score at the opening sets the tone, from the first act to the Gethesame and Cruxifiction scenes at the end. It's exciting.  

I left the theater singing the music. The tunes are still playing in my mind as I write.  I've always loved Andrew Lloyd Webber's music and Tim Rice's lyrics.  I don't remember the details of the 1970s production I saw I think in Ann Arbor, but this staging at the Maumee Theater has its own vibe. 

Mary Magdalene's Song

I don't know how to love him
What to do, how to move him
I've been changed, yes really 
changed. In these past few days
When I've seen myself
I seem like someone else

The relationship between Judas and Jesus rocks, in more ways than one, as each expresses his doubts and beliefs and worries, and a full range of human emotions.  In fact this secular version of the Jesus story, at least that's what I would call it, has a way of pulling you in and raising all kinds of questions. Is Jesus an ordinary man, like Judas, or a Messiah? This question remains to the tragic or triumphant end, however one interprets it.  More than anything else, I think this is the main point of the Webber and Rice opera that morphed from a concept album into a hit Broadway show. 

From time to time I'd lean over to ask my daughter if this or that was actually in the Bible. "In Matthrew, Mark, Luke or John?" I'd whisper. Mostly she said "Well no, it's not," or "No, it's different."   At one point she leaned over and whispered, "That's in."  Judas' suicide. Wow, I had forgotten that story.  "Why did you pick me to betray you," Judas asks in anquish, as the moaning and groaning of the dark ensemble closes in on him, stilling his voice.  

So many doubts.  This is the fascinating aspect of Webber's opera, teaming with dissonence and intentional anachronisms, from jubilant or writhing ensembles to screaming falsetto, the anquished cries of Judas and Jesus, the slapjack vaudeville scenes, and then to a finale that still leaves us full of questions.   

It's a long way from the 1970s to today, and in some ways seeing Jesus Christ Superstar in our contemporary context embodies the distance.   On the other hand, it still raises eternal questions about faith and doubt. It still resonates.