Category Archives: Slice of Life

The Witch Hunt of Kate Smith

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are some true American heroes that, for one reason or another, don’t quite receive their just place in in the history books.

A few who come to mind are Thomas Paine, Susan B. Anthony and Woody Guthrie.

Another is Paul Robeson, a true Renaissance man if there ever was one.

As a black man born in 1898, he seemed to either break down barriers – or get around them – with an uncommon ease and grace for his time when mutual respect between races, and ethnic groups, barely existed.

One of the first blacks to attend Rutgers, he endured physical punishment from prospective teammates to earn a place on the football team.

Robeson was also on the debating team, honing skills that would serve him well with a lifetime of political activism that later got him blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Although he earned a law degree from Columbia, Robeson became a successful stage actor and singer, leaving behind a long discography while engaging in social activism.

Why do I bring up Robeson, other than because he should not be forgotten by time?

Because one of his recordings was a song titled “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”

The lyrics of this song, written by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, are beyond offensive and blatantly racist.

But Robeson still recorded the song, which would seem to be an off choice for someone of such steadfast conviction about who and what he was.

However, research reveals the song was meant as a satirical jab at racists (one of the writers, Brown, was Jewish and likely keenly aware of prejudice).

In that context, it is a poke right through the eyes of their white hoods of the many out-in-the-open Klan members of the time period.

The Marx Bros. also referenced the song in the movie “Duck Soup.”

And Kate Smith recorded it as well in 1931 (the same year as Robeson).

Although it was recorded as recently as 1970 by satirical song master Randy Newman, who once wrote and sang how “short people have no reason to live” to make a point, it seems that only Smith will be punished.

Since Smith has been dead for 33 years, there is no way to know if she was performing the song for reasons other than that of Robeson or Newman.

But unlike them, she has been posthumously singled out and put on trial like a Salem witch – without a chance to defend herself or her motives – as both the hometown Flyers and New York Yankees, a team so reluctant to sign black players that they reportedly passed on Willie Mays, have taken steps to make sure the singer of “God Bless America” is vanquished from history.

Truth be told, the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup in 1974 – and again in 1975 – was a highlight of my wayward youth. The whole Kate Smith thing – the playing of “God Bless America” and her showing up in person before Game 6 of the finals in 1974 to belt out the song – was a bit silly to me (and I was the ripe old age of nine).

The fact that the Flyers erected a statue of her was embarrassing, but taking it down – now – is beyond mortifying.

Left in the place of where the statue once stood, we have yet another downright blatant case of political correctness run amok.

In the final analysis, this is more about what is or isn’t fair when dealing with what I regard as the most valued possession any person has, that being their legacy.

Yes, Smith also sang “Pickaninny Heaven,” another song – one she dedicated to children in a black orphanage to “cheer them up” — with offensive lyrics (watermelons and such) that was yanked off YouTube (and yet we can still watch the alleged cinematic masterpiece, “Birth of a Nation,” whenever we want).

These ignominious events caused me to research Smith a bit more, and I found nothing – as in zero – that the woman held any racist views.

After World War II, in terms of social and political stances, she was a non-entity.

At worst, she was a product of her time. More than likely, as time passed, she was embarrassed by the poor song choices made for her to sing.

And, in her prime years, keeping pace with the hit parade was a grind. You had to keep cranking out song after song, or someone else would take the same song and have a hit with it instead.

Considering artists don’t have much say or control today, they certainly didn’t back then.

Smith’s parents scoffed at her career aspirations and wanted her to become a nurse, but she chose a career as a singer. It was make it or break it. If someone said “sing this, it will be a hit,” she sang it.

That’s not an excuse, and maybe she could have risen above it all, but there are more egregious acts that are overlooked.

Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford, for example, were vehement anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers who opposed our entry in World War II.

No statues of Lindbergh are being torn down, and plenty of people – myself included – drive Fords.

Walt Disney was purported to be a bigot, and yet people – of all creeds – pour into his resorts.

Andrew Jackson was responsible for heinous policies against Native Americans, and yet he remains on the $20 bill.

Many of the founding fathers – including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – owned slaves.

Their legacies remain untarnished.

But not that of Kate Smith.

Sounds like fodder for a song – one that a man with the character of Paul Robeson would have been proud to sing.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on April 28, 2019.

 

Too Much PC Not OK

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — This past Monday was the most manic of Mondays I’ve had in quite some time.

I emerged in such grumpy old man form that I may as well had been wearing a moldy cardigan sweater.

Set against the backdrop of the surreal Notre Dame Cathedral fire in Paris, there were two other dueling issues I wished would go away.

There was Tiger Woods winning the Master’s Open.

And there was Pete Buttigieg officially throwing his hat into the ring of a million Democrats in the quest for the presidency.

I have nothing against Woods or Buttigieg, and I have nothing against the need for political correctness –especially in the era of your president (not mine) setting such a low bar for civility.

But I can’t help but think, in both cases, that we may be dealing with political correctness run amok.

While I regard golf as a four-letter word, it was a big deal when Woods lived up to his advance hype and won his first major tournament in 1997. But all I learned in a career of journalism was lost with a headline from a Philadelphia paper that read “Tiger Wins One For Us All.”

Did everyone – i.e. “us all” — win that day?

And, in those pre-Internet days of steadfast rules, first names in headlines were for middle school papers with faculty advisors who napped through production.

After a stretch of dominance in his “sport,” Woods fell into oblivion with physical and personal issues.

And yet, he remained the biggest name in the game. News reports would start with “Tiger (not Woods) is 17 strokes behind in 45th place after the second day of the XYZ Invitational” without even a mention of who was winning.

Because of his name – his brand, if you will – he stayed on tour long enough to hit a ball in a hole a few less times than everyone else last weekend.

Sorry, not quite the “comeback of the century” it was made out to be, and I’m willing to stray from the PC script to say it.

Meanwhile, the situation with Buttigieg is less benign, as the need to vanquish your president (not mine) grows by the tweet.

And being PC is not OK if we want to KO the current claimant of the presidency in 2020.

“Mayor Pete,” already drawing hecklers about his sexual orientation, is not the right choice – at least not right now.

And something tells me he will be.

Just like something told me your president (not mine) was going to be the GOP nominee. We were at a Loretta Lynn concert (yes, she is still alive) in Lancaster, and she said her son, Earl (eye roll), wanted to make a political statement.

He bellowed the name of your president (not mine), at which point a surprising roar came from the throng.

Cult 45 was alive and well.

Something similar happened recently, when Bill Maher didn’t make it all the way through Buttigieg’s last name of 1,001 pronouncements when the crowd erupted in raucous cheer.

Even though his platform is a bit Hillaryesque, “Mayor Pete” already has rock star status.

In a foot-shooting drill, PC-minded Democrats are so quick to show how enlightened they are that that they are not considering that the chances of this realistically working with a thick-headed national electorate that can’t see past the idea of the spouse of the president being a man.

I get it with “Mayor Pete,” I do. He is the antithesis of your president (not mine). With no alleged “bone spurs,” he actually went to war. He’s well-educated, well-spoken and insightful.

After the Notre Dame fire, for example, he went on French TV and spoke French in the interview.

Big change from a current “president” who butchers the English language, huh?

But he is also 37 and is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana — a small town in a middling state.

MayorPete

How about moving on to the Indiana governor’s mansion and/or the US Senate before taking a serious run at the White House when we are more open-minded?

The fear here is that he will get chewed up and spit out in a general election, thus ruining his promising brand so severely that it may take Tiger Woods-type comeback to be viable again.

And the embarrassment of another loss on the left will be pretty severe.

Democrats need to build a farm system as in baseball, with the likes of “Mayor Pete” and AOC as blue-chip prospects rising up through the ranks.

Putting this mayor – gay or straight – in the presidential race now would equate to promoting someone from single-A to the big leagues.

You’d root for the kid – you know, just to be PC – but he’d be overwhelmed.

Nominating the first openly gay man for president in 2020 could backfire into winning the PC battle just to lose the war in the quest for the larger and more pressing issues (health care, gun control, education, environment, etc.).

We’re past the point of trying to prove a point, as we are at the point of no return.

Any day of the week.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on April 21, 2019

Music Is In The Blood

My Chem

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE –– Sometimes it seems that there are two types of people in this world, and I don’t mean those who believe windmills cause cancer and those who know better.

It’s those who get Bruce Springsteen and those who don’t.

And I did everything in my power to have my own flesh and blood “get it,” but my turn at the plate ended while working a full count — and fouling off a few pitches for the sake of drama — before striking out, big-time.

The result? Sofia, now 12 going 21, is too set in her music-loving ways to open her heart and mind – let alone her headphone-covered ears – to the Boss.

The best chance at indoctrination came in September of 2016, when we took her to her first Springsteen concert at Lincoln Financial Field.

It was a moment I had dreamed about, except that everything that could have gone wrong did (in spite of a killer set list).

What would be the 33rd time I saw Springsteen live, and the first for Sofia, was also the first I left one of his shows early (fortunately, all we missed was a rendition of “Shout” and “Jersey Girl” in the final encore).

We got out of the packed parking lot quickly, too, but I am still carrying a heavy burden of guilt that missing a traffic jam can’t erase.

The guilt is religious in nature, even though I’m not a religious person.

I have experienced spirituality, with Springsteen concerts topping the list.

I have many converts to the Cult of Springsteen on my resume – including the wife — with concerts being the quickest route to saving souls.

With the one that mattered most, that of my Sofia, I failed.

She entered the show in question ambivalent and left miserable.

Hot and miserable.

The myth known as global warming was in full force, sending Sofia and her mommy to the first aid area several times to cool down (I still insist that if Chris Christie wasn’t one section over, there may have been some breathable air for the rest of us).

It’s almost like she still has PTSD from the experience – I guess dehydration will do that to a kid – and she shrieks at the sound of almost any Springsteen song for more than one chord progression (for non-music peeps, that’s not long).

The mission of mercy was nothing new.

For her own good, Sofia has been dragged to see a lot of other vintage acts.

That list includes Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Natalie Merchant, America, Gordon Lightfoot, Loretta Lynn, The Eagles and Paul McCartney.

Other than McCartney (the Beatles are universal) – and maybe Mellencamp – she was not too impressed.

Then again, I was not impressed when forced against my will as a kid to sit through some shows that made me just about break out into hives.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Sofia may not be interested in Springsteen or Dylan live – or fully understand why I cried like a baby when Tom Petty died — but the bands she now lives and breathes are making her just as passionate about her own thing.

I can work with that.

Just the other day, when a split second of a Britney Spears song accidentally came on, she changed the car radio to the Springsteen-only station (E Street Radio) on Sirius Radio.

“Even this (the Springsteen song, which I believe was a live version of “Dancing In The Dark”) is better than that (the Spears song),” she said, before quickly grabbing a CD from her meticulously alphabetized CD wallet that looks more like a suitcase that a stewardess would insist be placed in the overhead compartment of an airplane.

So, there is hope.

A lot of it, actually.

It is noteworthy that Sofia even recognizes Britney Spears, whose peak popularity predated her 2007 birth, and that she also knew instantly it was Springsteen she changed the channel to in her haste to escape Spears.

The bigger victory is that my little girl is as passionate about music as I was at the same age.

The apple doesn’t fall from the tree, even if when it tries to be a peach.

The only difference is that she knows every word of every song by My Chemical Romance and Twenty One Pilots, which I have been drafted to taking her to see in Atlantic City this summer, the way I once knew every word of every song by The Doors or The Cars.

She knows the life stories of the band members and, just like her father who never really grew up, searches for deeper meanings of the songs in a way that will also drive into trying her hand at writing her own.

While she swears she has not yet left Taylor Swift and Sabrina Carpenter in the dust, it is evident Sofia has moved on to a more alternative genre the way I did to Classic Rock from AM radio at her age.

“The only truth is music,” said beat writer Jack Kerouac.

My baby – and she’ll always be my baby (even at 12 going on 21) – knows the truth.

And the truth – whether you get Bruce Springsteen or not (or not yet) – can set you free.

 

Eggs That Went Over Hard

Rambo

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Mischief Night? For all the nights I went out looking to make mischief, I was never a big fan of feeling obliged to do it by stringing toilet paper around a tree.

And once I got hit the head with an egg from a passing car while walking down a street, I was a flat-out abolitionist.

But there is something about April Fool’s Day that gets my blood circulating.

Just one day, and so many fools in waiting, is too enticing to ignore.

The best playground for me has been Facebook, and I have pulled some good ones.

A few years ago, for example, I posted that a song I co-wrote was going to be recorded by Pat Benatar (I was flattered that so many believed it, unequivocally, that it pained me to drop the truth bomb).

Ditto when I posted I was just hired as the New York Times as a blogger.

This year, while I got a few people in private messages, I kind of swung and missed.

My morning “Movie of the Day” post of Ghostbusters as an all-time favorite, over the likes of The Godfather or Rocky, didn’t really get much mileage.

But it did get me thinking,

Wasting the time and money on a horrible movie, usually on the advice of others touting it, has made a fool out of me quite a few times, leaving me with more egg on my face than on that Mischief Night.

This has happened more times that I’d like to admit, with the common thread generally being comedies that didn’t make me laugh (I know better than to expect much from reboots and action/adventure nonsense).

Here are some examples:

1) Caddyshack – Maybe I’m being too hard on this one, but it’s all about where you are coming from as a viewer. I went to overnight camp every summer, so “Meatballs” from the same era connected. I got it. It rang true. Maybe if I grew up around country clubs and worked as a caddy or whatever, some of this 1980 offering would have been the slightest bit funny. Since my only experience around golf courses was on miniature golf courses, I was miserable trying to get through this. Plus, in full disclosure that you will see again on this list, any humor that involves the quest to kill an animal falls flat in Gordonville. The only redeeming quality was the theme song – “I’m Alright” – by Kenny Loggins.

2) Animal House – I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m still waiting to see the humor at what everyone else seems to think was a comedy classic. I like to laugh as much as the next guy, and I’m not trying to come across as an elitist, but this 1978 offering was an insult to every brain cell in my head.

3) A Fish Called Wanda – I knew my future wife was the girl for me when we saw this in a crowded theatre in 1988 and both couldn’t wait until this alleged comedy – complete with more animal cruelty for cheap laughs – would end (even though everyone around us was forcing laughter because of peer pressure). They say the running time was 109 minutes, but it felt like 109 years.

4) Ghostbusters – Another one that everyone said I had to see, so I followed the 1984 throng and saw it. Only thing worse was the theme song by Ray Parker Jr. (and we are talking about one of the worst songs ever recorded, so it’s not saying much).

5) A Taxing Woman – One more 1988 alleged gem that failed to shine, and I hang this one on the critics, all of whom seemed to be in collusion to tout this Japanese film that was made in more unwatchable by irritating background music.

6) Any of the Rambo Sequels – And it’s sad because the first in the series, “First Blood,” was not bad (fond memories of sneaking into the movie on a Friday night with my boys). While that one even descended in more explosions and less dialogue as it went along, it still had more “script” to it than all 19 sequels combined.

7) The Babe – For some reason, somebody thought there needed to be another movie made about Babe Ruth in 1992 and that John Goodman would be the right person to play him. Wrong and wrong, and Goodman has admitted as much himself after this 1992 flop.

8) Rocky IV – To be fair, I worked in an electronics store in the mid-to-late 1980s that sold this things called VCRs. We only had three movies to play: “Top Gun,” one of the forgettable “Back to the Future” movies and this fourth in the “Rocky” series that has since redeemed itself with “Rocky Balboa” and the two “Creed” movies. However, “Rocky IV” was, pun intended, rock bottom. It was heartbreaking to think what it had turned into after such a wondrous original, not to mention nauseating to watch 62 times a week.

9) The Godfather Part III – With the original being my all-time favorite and the second ranking third, behind only “Rocky,” nothing – not even bad reviews – was going to keep me from seeing it on opening night on Christmas Eve in 1990. I actually didn’t hate it, like the other movies on this list, but it was the biggest disappointment of my movie-going lifetime.

10) Vanilla Sky – in 2001, Cameron Crowe was set to direct a dream team cast – Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Kurt Russell – but dreams often turn to nightmares. I still don’t know what it was about, and I really don’t care.

This Column first appeared in The Times Herald on April 7.

 

Nothing New to See Here

Dubyah

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — While the talking heads on the tube were all aghast at the news of ultra-rich people scamming to get their kids into “elite” schools, I’ll pulled my shoulders out of my sockets – again – with a shrug.

As long as Bruce Springsteen wasn’t implicated, which I highly doubted, I was good.

And really, the news was not news at all.

It certainly wasn’t breaking news, largely because this drill of our culture catering to lifestyles of the rich and famous has left us all broken.

The rich getting over, usually at the expense of the poor, is one of the world’s oldest professions – right up there with, well, the world’s oldest profession.

I’m reminded of a line in the movie “Platoon” where the Charlie Sheen character, Taylor, is admonished by a black soldier, King, that, “the poor are always getting (bleeped) over by the rich. Always have. Always will.”

Emphasis on always.

As in always.

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It’s a reason I don’t get into tongue-clucking mode when a kid from a poor or middle class background gets a 6-year, $11 trillion contract — with a $34.5 billion guaranteed signing bonus – to put a ball through a hoop or hit a ball with a wood club over a fence from some filthy rich owner trying to outbid other filthy rich owners.

Turnabout, in these rare instances, is fair play.

But these are rare instances.

For the most part, it is the other way around, and we should not be surprised by the latest scam.

Maybe the national networks saw it as a chance to talk about something other than All the President’s Men II, but it is really all connected.

While your president (not mine) signs bills to be unforgiving with the student loan debt that almost all of the rest of us needed to keep literal pace with the Joneses, let’s look at his disloyal highness as a prime example.

He got into Penn (after a stint at Fordham).

How did that happen?

It’s all a bit murky, but Penn clearly seems less than boastful about an alum in the White House than he is about being a Penn alum in the White House.

Though barely remembered by professors or fellow students, he somehow walked away on his bone spurs with an economics degree (transcript sealed).

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And his kids – the spawn of the bible-signing devil – all managed to gain entry into elite schools: Donald Jr. (Penn), Ivanka (Georgetown, Penn), Eric (Georgetown) and Tiffany (Penn, Georgetown).

Meanwhile, our first lady entered America on an Einstein visa (insert laugh track).

George W. Bush? Not quite the sharpest tool in anyone’s shed, and yet he went to Yale.

There are pictures of “Dubya” as a male cheerleader, so there is more evidence of involvement in student life that that of your president (not mine), but you still have to wonder how he landed there – given the fact that he is, well, him.

“Dubya” – despite a middling 77 average at Yale – moved on to Harvard Business School.

See, there was an open rule on the books that students were grandfathered into these place based on bloodlines – as in blood of the blue variety.

A rule? Yes, a rule. Talk about an exclusive country club where the poor kids earn their way in on tips from parking the cars.

George H.W. Bush went to Yale. So did his father before him, Prescott Bush.

Sensing a pattern here?

And it’s not limited to just Republicans.

The Kennedys all went to Harvard (Ted even got booted for cheating and then somehow reemerged after a military stint).

The difference, as opposed to the current “first” family, is that they were clearly edified enough by their Ivy League schooling to master critical and nuanced thinking skills.

There are zillions of more examples of how rich people made sure their offspring, deserving or not, were inserted into the race a few laps ahead of a field trying to run it honestly.

On its face, creating something better for the next generation — if only in enlightenment — is at the soul of what’s left of the American dream.

Anything beyond that, and we see how badly the system is broken.

This new twist on it, though fairly elaborate and so slimy that it makes you want to take a shower just from reading the sordid details, is nothing new.

Simply put, it involved a whole lot of cheating and bribing – all under the guise of money going to charity.

Sounds bad, and it is bad.

But is it any worse than when poor kids went to fight in Vietnam while the rich kids went to college (or their daddies paid to have them diagnosed with mystery ailments like bone spurs)?

Any worse than serving from 1968-74 in the Air Force and somehow never setting foot in Vietnam (i.e. “Dubyah”)?

Any worse than working people paying twice as much than the wealthy in taxes?

Any worse than traitor Paul Manafort, and his so-called “blameless life” of turning American dreams into Russian schemes, getting a lighter prison sentence than a poor person – especially of color — would for a lesser crime?

Yeah, this one had intrigue – with some celebrity names to make it tawdry – but let’s be real.

It is neither new nor news.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 17.

 

 

Greatest Stories Ever Sung

Harry Chapin Portrait

By GORDON GLANTZ

Despite our many differences, we all have stories to tell.

And story songs — of all genres — have captured my imagination more than short stories, novellas or even those told around a holiday table.

There is a special skill to reeling in and holding a listener with a literal narrative of a beginning, middle and end within a span of minutes.

On Facebook, I created a page – Greatest Stories Ever Sung (“likes” accepted and appreciated). I have long-range plans for a book of the same title.

Here is a Cliff’s Notes look at the Top 10, which is anything but etched in stone:

10) Love Child – Released in late 1968, when music was at an unmatched zenith, this song is told from the perspective of a young woman explaining to her boyfriend her reservations about having intimate relations because she didn’t want to give birth to a “love child” who will endure the same childhood trauma she did. One of the heavyweight writers contracted by Motown, R. Dean Taylor, later had a 1970 hit with a noteworthy story song (Indiana Wants Me).

9) Same Old Lang Syne – From late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, this wistful song is set against the backdrop of running into an old flame on Christmas Eve, making it a seasonal staple almost 40 years after its 1980 release. In this semi-true story (the real former flame came forward to confirm as fact, with some fiction, after Fogelberg’s death), they “laugh until they cry” and catch up on old times. As the narrator walks away, the scenic snow turns into rain, which is a poetic turn on the line earlier in the song about the woman’s husband who keeps her “warm and safe and dry.”

8) A Boy Named Sue – In the music word, the equivalence of being knighted was Johnny Cash covering one of your songs. In 1969, humorist Shel Silvestein was so honored when the man in black took this one to No. 2 on the charts (only to be blocked by “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones). It tells the story of a boy growing up hard and tough because of the ridicule for having a girl’s name given to him by a father he never met – until the final verse, during which he tells his father his plans for naming a son — “I think I’m gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue …”

7) Against The Wind – Bob Seger wrote several story songs, with the theme of comparing and contrasting the past to the present. While “Night Moves” and “Like A Rock” are brilliant turns on the theme, nothing tops the title track from his 1980 album of the same name. The lines “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” may as well translate to “to be or not to be” in Gordonville.

6) Fast Car – I heard this late one night in 1988 and was in the record store the next morning buying what was one of the more seminal debut albums of my time. Here, Chapman paints a brilliant portrait of hope against desperation with a wisdom that exceeded her age at the time (24).

5) Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton does not get enough credit as a songwriter, and has repeatedly said that this song (reaching No. 4 on the country charts in 1971) is her all-time favorite. Telling the story of a coat stitched for her by her mother that was mocked by other kids at school, she reveals the lasting value of the garment that others didn’t understand. The impact of this song? A children’s book, a television movie (and sequel) and recognition from the Library of Congress Recording registry.

4) Highway Patrolman – Bruce Springsteen wrote a batch of story songs in 1981 and recorded them at home as demos for the E Street Band to perform. Instead, he turned this collection into the intimate 1982 Nebraska album. Just about any song from it could make the Top 10 list, but this story of a state trooper torn between loyalty to a brother who “ain’t no good” and his job as a lawman is the best of the batch.

3) In Color – Penned and released by country singer Jamey Johnson in 2008, this one tells the story of a young adult man sitting with his grandfather, looking at black and white pictures from the grandfather’s major events — Great Depression, World War II and wedding day. The grandson is told that the grainy black and white pictures don’t do the memories justice because he “should have seen it in color.”

2) Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – The true story of a ship sinking is not the easiest of topics to turn into a song, let alone a successful one, but Gordon Lightfoot turned an article he read about the ship’s fate in a 1975 storm into a 1976 hit. Using a straightforward approach, Lightfoot sends the listener down with the ship in chilling detail.

1) Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin is sort of the Hans Christian Andersen of this sub-genre, writing many wonderful story songs (Taxi, I Wanna Learn a Love Song, etc.), but this is his ultimate masterpiece. I first heard it on Top 40 radio when it reached No. 1 in December of 1974. As a parent now, I know I have valued every second with Sofia as she has grown into a precocious pre-teen, and I partially credit Chapin and this gem for putting – and keeping — me in that mindset. The time flies, and whatever you put in – as Chapin’s narrator learns in this song – comes back to you.

Honorable Mention: Too many to mention.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 10, 2019.

Yeah, I Went There (With a Heavy Heart)

trump-hitler

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — When the “Soup Nazi” episode aired on “Seinfeld” in November of 1995, I was pretty much appalled that the same comedic genius who felt that cursing equated to cheating would go so low as to use a four-letter word – Nazi – so loosely.

A few years back, there were these clips of Adolph Hitler bellowing at people in German, but with English subtitles uttering non-related nonsense, that went viral.

When I expressed my concerns that it should not be a source of casual humor, I was told I should appreciate it because it was making him look foolish – maybe like Col. Klink in “Hogan’s Heroes” – but I wasn’t buying what they were selling.

Klink was fictional – and not overly funny to me, either – and Hitler was quite real.

Nazis, and Hitler, with or without Holocaust references, are just no laughing matter.

As a hard and fast rule, I never went there.

It was as close as I had ever come to a vow of silence.

With this regime in the White House, I have crossed a line I never thought imaginable.

Is it the same?

No, and nothing could possibly be the same.

Is your president (not mine) another Adolph Hitler (or even Benito Mussolini, despite similar pompous gestures during speeches)?

Nope.

But, in the similar but not the same realm, the similarities are too eerie to ignore.

So my vow of silence is broken.

I’m ready to make the comparison.

This is how dire our situation has become.

It was your president (not mine) dusting off the same coded language to tell mostly white Christians from the Heartland that they were the “real Americans” to gain traction in an unlikely rise to power.

You can go to Hitler’s speeches and, verbatim, find similar references to enemies of the state – including the press – and their nefarious attempts to keep Germany from returning to a vague past greatness.

Maybe your president (not mine), with the likes of Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, did it on purpose.

I tend to think he did, and that’s a decision that comes with consequences.

Maybe all his followers didn’t fully grasp the historical significance, let alone equivalence. Surely some didn’t. They just liked what they were hearing.

But some did, and they really didn’t care.

Scary.

And eerily similar to that dark past.

It wasn’t an accident that extremists were empowered enough by the campaign rhetoric to make Charlottesville happen, nor was it an accident he hemmed and hawed in the wake of it.

What your president (not mine) should have said was that his own daughter (Ivanka) converted to Judaism, meaning his grandchildren are Jewish. His other kids, at least at the time, were either married or engaged to Jewish partners.

Those white supremacists carried torches and chanted “Jews will not replace us” when, in his inner circle, they already had.

That thought could not be lost when Michael Cohen testified this week and reminded his inquisitors that he was the descendant of Holocaust survivors.

The coded MAGA language doesn’t directly target Jews anymore, as it did with Hitler, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t being used toward others.

That list would include immigrants (code for Hispanics) and potential terrorists (Muslims) while taking a lot of cheap shots at outgoing president Barack Obama, enough to remind his base they won’t have to deal with a black man in the White House anymore.

It seemed as clear that “Make America Great Again” meant “Make America White Again” as much as the “we want our country back” slogan of the Tea Partiers.

He didn’t have to say it, and didn’t even have to feel it in his heart, to know it was resonating.

Stirring up racists may be worse than actually being one yourself.

With the so-called mainstream media that is allegedly so against him providing an unfair amount of free coverage of campaign rallies, he was into Hitler’s playbook.

And tragedies have happened since, if only as consequences of his rise to power and then doubling down on it to appease his base.

Like it or not, it kept the Hitler parallel – one that I vowed I would never make – in play.

I’m being hyperbolic? Fine.

You go there, and I’ll stay here.

We can let others — Holocaust survivors who have had some strong things to say about your president (not mine) – decide on this.

They have witnessed what they never thought they would again in their lifetimes.

Yoka Verdoner, of California, is mortified by the separating of children from their parents at the border.

She said: “Nazis separated me from my parents as a child. The trauma lasts a lifetime. What’s happening in our backyard today is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings as children in Nazi Europe.”

The argument is that these children are “illegal.” It should be noted that mere pen strokes make it easy for a powerful government (Nazi Germany or the America that defeated it, ostensibly to keep the world free for democracy) to brand anyone “illegal” and then demonize — and dehumanize — them as a result.

“I have not compared them 100 percent to the Nazis, but we are on the way,” another survivor, Bernard Marks, who recently died at 89, told The Sacramento Bee. “What concerns me is we are breaking up families. We are turning justice upside down.”

Marks penned an Op-Ed for the Bee on the moral – and historical – equivalence.

His words should stand as a stark reminder: “As a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, I take this responsibility seriously. Today, as an America citizen, I feel compelled to raise my voice when I hear echoes of my childhood years in our current political rhetoric. The fear that immigrants (illegal and legal) in the United States must live with under the new administration’s approach is personal and familiar to me.”

And that should be enough for the rest of us without that first-hand experience to understand the similarities.

And break vows of silence.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on March 3.