I have a list of 32 post ideas....and I plan to keep it growing.
When it comes to lists, I usually use Random.org to pick which thing comes next in my life.
I decided for this post, I'd continue with my Random.org tradition. But I limited it to the things I added while watching The Safe Haven documentary. Those were numbers 23-32 on the list.
Eight of those ideas came directly from watching the documentary.
Two of the things came in the same time period (days) of watching the documentary. But I was inspired to add them while reading Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo. It was actually stuff that Oluo didn't spend a lot of time on in the book. But she mentioned it, and I thought...I'd like to learn more about that.
Today Random.org picked out number 28 for me. And 28 is Eleanor Roosevelt.
She was mentioned twice in Safe Haven as someone who advocated for the Jews and other European refugees. I was glad to hear that.
I look forward to learning more about her.
I'm not sure where to start.
* * *
I was wondering if I should start with a general biography.
But she's a super famous person, and I'm sure there are many biographies available.
Though...with that, I'm thinking about people reading this post.
I might need to know some background info...for myself.
All I know about Eleanor Roosevelt...besides that she was a First Lady and married to FDR, is that (I think?) she was well-liked. I mean I think she's sort of seen as a heroine-icon.
* * *
I'm wondering if Eleanor Roosevelt is one of those people who is seen as beloved by some...such as Jewish people. But she has a dark side that makes her not so lovely to others. For example, maybe she was racist towards Black people. Or maybe she was unsympathetic to Native Americans.
* * *
I'm going to start and maybe stay with Oswego.
I Googled Eleanor Roosevelt and Fort Ontario.
One of the results is from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Oh. It's a photo.
It's Eleanor Roosevelt visiting Fort Ontario. The museum specifies that the Hendels were there. Eisik Hendel is specifically named and pointed out in the photo. I'm guessing maybe the Hendel family donated the photo to the museum.
There's some information about the Hendels on the page. They were from Yugoslavia. After their release from Fort Ontario, they moved to New York City.
I wonder if they still have family living there.
Now I'm wondering...was there a Hendel kid at the Jewish preschool I worked at. Could they be related?
I started falling down a rabbit hole, but I'm stopping myself.
I Googled the Hendel family and found an article.
So....instead of totally neglecting Eleanor Roosevelt, I'm just going to add the Hendel family to my list of post ideas.
* * *
Another Google result...the first one actually...is a diary/journal entry from Eleanor Roosevelt herself. That's VERY cool.
Oh! The website is the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project.
And it's not a diary/journal that I found. It's a syndicated column she wrote.
She wrote a column six days a week from 1935-1961; then after that, she went down to three days a week.
At first, she was pretty controlled. It sounds like she performed the role of Good Little Wife. Then, as the website describes:
As Roosevelt grew more comfortable with the "My Day" format, she took greater risks with it. By 1938, she had moved away from the trivial and mundane and begun to concentrate more on her responsibilities as citizen and political symbol.
* * *
The date Google led me to was September 22, 1944.
But I backspaced to the day before and saw she talks about the war there.
There's probably a lot of other related entries.
Hopefully, this website can be my main resource.
It seems very valuable.
* * *
Roosevelt talks about flowers at the end of the September 21 column.
I love that, because I've been getting into gardening lately.
What she talks about mostly, in the column, though is about whether or not to celebrate when the news arrives that Germany has been defeated. A person writing to her felt that there should not be a wild celebration, because the war would still be going on in the Pacific.
I think I agree with the gentleman, for my heart would not feel free and joyous. I would be glad, however, that we had reached a milestone for which we had waited so long. Perhaps our bells might ring out. We might say a word of silent prayer and gratitude, and everyone of us might do an extra bit of work to signify our determination to bring the final close of the war as near as possible.
That makes sense.
I'd be okay with celebrating, though. As long as it wasn't with wild ignorant optimism.
I might be a let's-party-tonight-and-cry-tomorrow kind of person.
Yay! Your biopsy came back negative. Let's celebrate. But let's also be aware that while that biopsy was negative, a new cancer might be quietly growing.
Which...really...is why we need to celebrate tonight.
But I'm thinking of personal celebrations or celebrations with family and friends.
The context of this column is probably more about whether or not there should a government sponsored extravaganza.
I'd say no on that.
* * *
Roosevelt mentions the loss of American boys who are fighting. And that's the main reason, we shouldn't celebrate.
She doesn't mention the mass amounts of deaths that have occurred in the Holocaust...or deaths of military personnel of other countries.
There's a little bit of nationalism there.
* * *
Moving onto September 22.
Roosevelt talks about her trip to Oswego.
It starts on Tuesday night (the 19th). She and someone named Mrs. Henry Morgenthau spent the night in Syracuse....which is near Oswego.
Joseph Smart called for them, and they went to the refugee shelter.
I guess called for them means he picked them up?
I remember Smart mentioned in the documentary. Was he the one in charge of the shelter? I'm wondering if he was the one who had worked in the Japanese concentration camps and had felt guilty about it.
I just checked. He's the director. AND he's also already on my list of post ideas.
* * *
Roosevelt was not satisfied with the treatment of Oswego refugees.
She needs to rise from the dead and make a stink about what is happening these days to refugees.
Roosevelt says: Forty-five cents a day per person is what is allowed for food. Regular iron cots and springs with cotton mattresses, army blankets, an occasional bare table and a few stiff chairs—this is the furniture of what must be considered a temporary home. Restrictions are plentiful, and there is much work to be done around the place; but at least the menace of death is not ever-present.
I didn't realize they had to pay for their food.
I guess they got an allowance?
Hopefully, they weren't supposed to have money from Europe.
Roosevelt says: Volunteers come out to teach English; but since most of the people in the shelter are professional people and frequently have many talents, they, too, have much to offer to the community. After lunch, for instance, an opera singer from Yugoslavia sang for us, and I have rarely enjoyed anything more.
That's a nice mutual benefits kind of situation.
I think it also brings up a very important point.
Sometimes the best giving is receiving.
People need to feel needed and appreciated....especially if they have a talent they're proud of.
In families, unconditional love is important.
No one should feel they must perform or create in order to be loved.
On the other hand, if we have creative talents or other abilities that are ignored by our family, that doesn't feel good either.
For me, it makes me feel very...
Not invisible...but unseen.
I imagine the opera singer felt VERY seen.
And I hope she read Eleanor Roosevelt's column. I hope she saw her singing mentioned.
* * *
Roosevelt says: I was much touched by the flowers which were given me, and especially by some of the gifts, for these, in the absence of money, represented work.
I love that.
Although it makes me feel kind of guilty. Because for the last year or so, I've been giving my nephews gift cards for their birthdays. That takes no thought and no work.
BUT...I kind of feel sometimes money might be more useful and appreciated.
It does make me feel, though...that I don't know my nephews well enough.
* * *
I'm not a good gift giver, and I'm also not a good gift receiver.
I don't think I'm that awful at knowing people, though.
I just can't always manage to get a good (affordable) gift that matches what I know of them.
* * *
I think the best gift exchange would be where no one buys anything,
We just write out what we'd WANT to give people. Fantasy gifts.
I think that would take work, AND it would be thoughtful.
* * *
Roosevelt describes one of the refugee rooms (homes).
Brightly colored pictures from magazines and papers had been cut out and pasted elsewhere on the walls, and colorful covers had been made for their beds. The effort put into it speaks volumes for what these people have undergone, and for the character which has brought them through.
I think that's a good example of making the best of a situation.
There's a big pushback against toxic positivity lately. And I think that's a really good thing.
On the other hand, I feel maybe we are sometimes going in the direction of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
I say "we" because I'm guilty of going too far. For example, I may have reposted things on my Instagram stories or Retweeted things that go too far.
No one in a difficult situation (disaster, disease, injury, war, abuse, disability, etc) should be pressured to be strong or cheerful. They shouldn't be expected to be stoic. They shouldn't be expected to pull through on their own.
But if we push this message too much, I fear we may start to villainize people who do want to and are able to be stoic.
We knew a woman with breast cancer. (She's still alive, thankfully. But I don't really know her anymore).
I can't remember exactly what happened. But it was something like she baked all this stuff to give to the medical staff on the day of her surgery.
I don't want anyone to feel like they need to do this if they're about to get cancer surgery. I want people to feel okay just sitting in their bed crying or staring off into space.
But if someone DOES want to make cookies, I don't want to feel they need to hide this fact. I don't want someone to feel shame for being too positive or too productive during difficult times.
I also wouldn't want someone to make the worse of a situation, feeling otherwise they will be perceived as not having suffered enough and are undeserving of sympathy.
* * *
I am having self-doubts about these posts.
Am I actually learning about the subjects?
Or am I just using snippets of what I encounter as an excuse to go on a rant/tangent...or as an excuse to play research games with charts, Google Maps, etc.
* * *
I think fans of Eleanor Roosevelt are going to be annoyed and/or offended.
If you're one of those, I'd advise you to close this tab. Things are very likely to get worse here than better.
* * *
I think the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt is pissed at me.
I'd apologize. But you're not supposed to apologize if you have no plans to change your behavior.
* * *
I've left September 22 and am now looking at the days after that.
On September 23, Roosevelt sounds less nationalistic than the earlier day and more of a world citizen. She says:
As each new country is liberated, the military occupation must be supplemented by the governments of the liberated lands and by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration set up by the 44 United Nations. With winter coming on, there will be a great need for warm clothing in all these countries; and so this collection has been instituted in the hope of sending 15,000,000 pounds of clothing to be distributed wherever the need is greatest.
I'm not saying this is the first evidence we've had that Roosevelt isn't nationalistic. She cares about refugees who are not yet American...and at the time of her visit, the refugees weren't meant to be come American citizens.
I'm just saying that in the September 21 column, her words made it sound like she was focused on OUR military's suffering and not thinking about all the other militaries, citizens, etc.
* * *
The September 25 column is interesting.
It talks about a potential yet averted conflict involving the refugees and Oswego residents.
It reminds me very much of stuff we experience today.
What happened is there was a cigarette shortage in town.
Worried that, the townspeople would blame the refugees...the newspaper provided fact-checking.
The fact was: there was a cigarette shortage almost everywhere.
I'm not sure if they did the fact-checking before the rumor started....like preventative medicine. Or did they publish the fact-checking after the rumor started to grow.
I'm imagining that maybe, in those days, people accepted fact-checking.
I think many Republicans these days see fact-checking as liberal lies.
* * *
Wasn't there a rumor that migrants were causing the formula shortages?
* * *
I'm going to read an editorial in USA TODAY about the formula shortage.
Rex Huppke provides various quotes from Republicans including Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Abbott Tweets: While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in a panic, the Biden Administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border.
Yeah. That sounds very pro-life of Greg Abbott.
Nationalism is so ugly.
It really is.
If it weren't for nationalism, how many Jews (and other "undesirables") would have been saved?
First of all, a ton would have been saved if there was no German Nationalism.
But a fair bit would have been saved if there weren't ugly shithead nationalists in the United States.
If it weren't for nationalists in America, I'm betting Roosevelt would have allowed more than 982 refugees. Instead there may have been 10,000 or 100,000. Maybe even more.
* * *
Huppke provides various examples of Republicans pretending they're the party that cares the most about babies. But then facts prove otherwise.
For example: Elise Stefanik says, There is a reason why the Republican Party is the party of parents.
Huppke then points out that seven out of ten of the states with the worst infant mortality rates have Republican Governors. The same goes for the states with the most families experiencing hunger.
Huppke ends his editorial by saying: Dang it. All these facts have a decidedly liberal slant to them.
I think a comedian...maybe Stephen Colbert...said something like reality has a liberal bias.
Okay. Yeah. Lord Wiki confirms it was Colbert. He said it in 2006 at the White House Correspondence Dinner.
* * *
Getting back to Eleanor Roosevelt's September 25 column.
She talks about people spreading rumors about The President's health. She says, I hope everyone realizes that the people who spread these rumors are not really concerned about the President's health. They are working to create an impression which they think will serve their interests.
I feel my family is very guilty of this. Myself included. We sometimes share news stories with a facade of compassion, but we're mostly trying to get a point across. I mean I don't think any of us are completely devoid of concern or compassion. But the main point of sharing is to point fingers at the harm the other side has caused.
Her conclusion says, It is said that gossip is the vice of women. Yet I have lived nearly sixty years, during which I have spent a good part of my time with men, and I have not found that they are any less quick to repeat things about which they know little and which they have not verified.
I'm glad she called that out.
* * *
I imagine my family members completely denying that they disguise partisan politics behind exaggerated compassion.
They can deny all they want.
I don't have to believe their denials.
* * *
I stopped skimming through the end of September 1944 and have now plugged in "Jewish" into the My Day column search option.
I want to try to get back on track.
Although I'm not going to beat myself up for getting off the track, because my purpose in writing these posts is not just to learn about the Holocaust but also to connect it all to the present shitshow.
* * *
So far, I've looked at a 1936 and 1939 post in which Jewish is mentioned as part of an organization name.
For example: The National Council of Jewish Women.
Maybe "Jew" is a better term.
I should also look for "Holocaust".
Though I don't think they called it "The Holocaust" while it was happening.
I'll try for various terms.....
* * *
The posts are not in order, but I've been trying to read them in order.
That's a bit challenging, though.
So....let's pretend we are jumping around in a Tardis.
Or we're in season five of Lost.
Our jumps won't be too big, fortunately. Though the search results are not in order of date within a category; the fact that there are categories helps.
There's White House Years (1935-1941)
White House World War II Years (1942-1945)
United Nations Years (1946-1952). Here we can probably find out whether Roosevelt was more Team Jewish or Team Arab/Muslim.
Post UN Years (1953-1962). Same as above regarding Israel/Palestine.
Right now I'm in the White House Years...skipping the entries that are just naming a Jewish organization.
* * *
I'm looking at January 2, 1944.
Roosevelt talks about books she is reading. She says, Then, to jump to something entirely different, there is a new Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, which should be extremely interesting to anyone wanting authoritative information on the Jewish people and their religion.
That's very cool.
So far, she seems like my kind of woman...wanting to read and learn.
* * *
Jumping back to September 2, 1939.
Roosevelt says that in the morning, she and the President got the news that Germany had invaded Poland.
Roosevelt says the night before, she received a letter from a German friend who she had roomed with in school in England.
Roosevelt wrote: In this letter she said that when hate was rampant in the world, it was easy to believe harm of any nation, that she knew all the nations believed things that were not true about Germany, did not understand her position, and therefore hated her. She begged that we try to see Germany's point of view and not to judge her harshly.
I wonder if this friend continued to support Hitler.
Did she ever get off the Hitler train?
I feel a kinship here with Roosevelt. She rants about this person supporting Hitler.
Can one help but question his integrity? His knowledge of history seems somewhat sketchy too, for, after all, Poland possessed Danzig many years prior to the time that it ever belonged to Germany. And how can you say that you do not intend to make war on women and children and then send planes to bomb cities?
That reminds me of how us left-wing biased people talk about Trump.
Here, though, Roosevelt is a bit too generous for me. She says: No, I feel no bitterness against the German people. I am deeply sorry for them, as I am for the people of all other European nations facing this horrible crisis. But for the man who has taken this responsibility upon his shoulders I can feel little pity. It is hard to see how he can sleep at night and think of the people in many nations whom he may send to their deaths.
I feel sorry for the people who weren't on the Hitler train.
Roosevelt seemed to think all of Europe was being held hostage by one evil man.
It doesn't work like that. Not there and not here in the United States.
* * *
I thought this would be a one post project.
But I think it will have to be another trilogy.
* * *
Now I'm looking at October 25, 1941.
Roosevelt says: I have been reading some accounts of the removal of the Jewish people from Germany to Poland and Russia. Somehow, being suddenly told that within an hour you must leave your home never to return, is very difficult for us here to visualize. It is a leave-taking which savors somewhat of death.
I'm not sure what she means by savors. Looking at it in context, I'm guessing she means it's similar to death?
I wonder how many Jewish people knew that they'd be leaving their homes forever. Did any of them have false hope of returning at that point?
In this column, Roosevelt also says: These mass removals, where people are treated like animals and not like human beings, are so horrible to contemplate, that one can only hope that at a certain point feelings become numb and suffering ceases to be acute.
I can understand having that sort of hope. But I don't think it happens.
Because she does say "certain point".
I have sometimes imagined that in circumstances where there are many deaths and a lot of trauma, people become somewhat numb.
I'm thinking more of The Walking Dead than the Holocaust. But I think it applies to all mass tragedy/trauma. The first deaths probably bring stronger emotions and reactions. The subsequent ones less so.
But even when we have subtle emotions and calm reactions...that doesn't mean we are less psychologically damaged.
People become very damaged...so much so that, from what I remember reading, their genetic make up changes.
* * *
I'm going to reread. BBC has an article about the trauma-genes phenomena.
It's pretty fascinating stuff. The name of it is epigenetics. There have been studies on humans...somewhat inconclusive and moderately convincing. And there are studies on mice which seem pretty conclusive and also pretty convincing (my opinion).
The bad new is that it seems trauma can not only fuck up our own lives but also the lives of our descendants (and not just from learned behaviors).
The good news is the study/studies also show that therapy can probably fix the psychological damage and prevent it from remaining in the family tree.
Well....I think folks should keep all this in mind when they whine that people or groups should hurry up and get over what has happened to them.
Thinking of how we've had centuries of systemic racism against Black people.
Even if racism completely disappears tomorrow, the effects of all the trauma are not going to just vanish.
* * *
Getting back to Eleanor Roosevelt and the Jews.
I've now switched my search term from Jewish to Jew. I'm not going to search for the Holocaust until I get to the 1942-1945 years. Because I don't think anyone was using the term Holocaust early on.
They might not have been even using it before 1945.
* * *
Here's something interesting.
On January 16, 1940, Roosevelt wrote:
What an odd thing it is to find, according to the newspapers, that a group of people who say they belong to the: "The Christian Front," whatever that organization may be, were planning to overthrow our government by force, the elimination of the Jews and the installing of a dictator! A "Christian Front" might reasonably be supposed to indicate that the members are followers of Christ, and he was a Jew. He never used force to overthrow evil.
I don't think I've heard of this.
I'm going to add that to my list of future posts. It sounds pretty interesting, and I see Lord Wiki has an entry on it.
Though in case it takes me a long to get to that post....I had to read a little bit about it to satisfy my curiosity.
The drama took place between 1938-1940 and was headed by a radio priest named Charles Coughlin. It took place mostly in New York City, and most of its members were Irish-American.
* * *
I don't think Eleanor Roosevelt meant it in this way. But I think, it sort of looks like, Roosevelt was implying that Jews ARE evil. But that you can't use force to overthrow them.
If I hadn't already read other stuff she had written about Jews and other subjects, I might question what she said. I mean I'd be questioning whether she was an antisemitic person.
I'm the type of person who is hypersensitive to little things like that.
I'm the type of person who says or thinks...What did you mean by THAT?
* * *
On June 28, 1940, Roosevelt writes:
The years of depression have made us less sure of ourselves, oversuspicious and overcautious perhaps. Take, for example, our attitude toward the acceptance of any foreign political refugees. The first to suffer from oppression abroad were the German-Jewish people, but many other nationalities have followed in their wake.
These people love liberty and value it, and have had experiences which may be of value to us in recognizing the propaganda methods used by totalitarian dictators. We must, of course, use caution, but we need not be cautious to the point of going back entirely on our traditional hospitality to political refugees.
These words would do well by people today.
And the last sentences in her column made me immediately think of The Walking Dead.
Human life is precious, human intelligence of a fine order is rare enough to make us want to preserve it. I sometimes wonder if we could not safeguard ourselves and at the same time show some of our old time generosity towards human beings who today are in great misery and danger.
The Walking Dead provides a fairly balanced analogy about immigration and other situations where there's a struggle to choose between compassion and self/group preservation.
A lack of openness would have prevented us from getting favorite characters like Michonne.
Too much openness and trust and we'd get more Terminus situations.
* * *
I'm going to stop here and continue this with a sequel post.