After Ellis Island

 

Prologue: Immigrants have been a major emphasis during Donald Trump’s first years in office. A series of administration travel bans have been halted by Federal Judges.  The president continues to promise to build “The Wall” to stop immigration from Mexico and Central American countries. Trump sees immigrants as a threat to the nation, especially Muslims and Hispanics. What a contrast with President John F. Kennedy who wrote , “A Nation of Immigrants”.

One of the most interesting immigrant experience that my husband and I have taken part in was when we visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City some years ago. It was a travel back in time to the years when immigrants were welcomed into our country from nations all over the globe.

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Where did the immigrants go, once they passed the stern uniformed inspectors, the daunting tests and disembarked onto the dock in New York Harbor? How did they live — this generation that Oscar Handlin described so brilliantly in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Uprooted ?  What was the quality of their lives?

The immigrants were risk takers, leaving generations of ancestors behind them to venture over thousands of miles of ocean into a completely new life. Of the 12 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island, 8 million left the area with destinations pinned to their lapels. They climbed aboard trains and traveled to distant places across the country on the huge network of railroads. However, by 1900, most of the newcomers settled in four industrial states: New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Illinois. In New York City, they lived in ethnic enclaves on the Lower East Side. For the surge of eastern and southern European immigrants, the crowded tenements were a vast change from the villages they left behind in Belarus, Ukraine, Poland or Italy.

 

Today, at 90 Orchard Street on the corner of Broome Street in New York City, you can visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and enter the world of your ancestors who came and settled there. It is a fascinating and very personal experience to move with the tour guide through the building that was one of the actual tenements where immigrants lived. To walk into a cramped, dark three room apartment of 300 square feet and hear the history of the family who ate, slept and often worked there.

In 1920, Lazarus Salamon, A Hungarian immigrant wrote, “I feel like I had two lives. You plant something in the ground. It has its roots, and then, you transplant it where it stays permanently. That’s what happened to me.”

In a strange city, with streets jam-packed with pushcarts and trolley cars, the immigrants had to learn fast. Where to find work? Where to go to the butcher? Where to send the children to school? There was little time for contemplation or leisure. Each day brought new challenges and problems to solve. New questions to be answered. New hardships.  And of course, a new language to learn. The children who went to school learned the fastest and became interpreters for their parents.

“It was very, very different and very peculiar. We looked around and didn’t know what it was all about. A different world with different people. And it’s hard to adjust.” Helen Wolraich, a Polish immigrant, 1920.

At the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, three different tours bring the past to life. “Piecing It Together: Immigrants in the Garment Industry” takes you to two apartments, the Levine family in l897 who ran a garment shop in their home and the Rogarshevskys who are in mourning for their father, Abraham, who worked as a presser in a factory before succumbing to tuberculosis in l918. Almost every generation of immigrants to the Lower East Side had some connection to the garment industry.

A second tour, “Getting By: Immigrants Weather The Great Depressions of l873 and 1929” centers on the homes of the German-Jewish Gumpertz family (l870’s) and the Sicilian-Catholic Baldizzi family (1930’s). How they found work during hard times is vividly told as you stand and absorb their furnishings and treasured possessions brought from the old country. A tape by one of the descendants tells the personal story of each family. And the pictures, the faces looking out over the years are very powerful.

“My mother brought her candles, the ones you use on Friday nights. She brought her Bibles. She brought the things that were near and dear to us which were not very important to anybody but us. To us, they brought back memories.” Sam Auspitz, a Czechloslovakian immigrant, 1920.

A third tour is to the  “Confino family Apartment”, the recreated 1916 home of a Sephardic family from Kastoria. A costumed guide acting as Victoria Confino welcomes you and invites you to touch items, try on period clothing and dance to music played on a wind-up victrola. The museum describes this tour as “ perfect for families”. Children are welcomed on all the tours which run approximately one hour. There is also a walking tour, “The Streets Where We Lived.”

“Most dear to me are the shoes my mother wore when she first set foot on the soil of America. You must see those shoes to appreciate the courage my parents had and the sacrifices they made giving up family and security to try for a better life, but not knowing what lay ahead. We came to this country as many others did. POOR!  My mother’s shoes tell the whole story.”

Birgitta Hedman Fichter, a Swedish immigrant in 1924.

Visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Take your children. It’s a very human experience. And it tells an inspiring story of “ The Uprooted” and the new life  they made here in America — for us.  Museum hours are Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For information  and reservations for all tours, phone 1-212-431-0233. Fax 212-431-0402.  Website: www.tenement.org

 

…………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

Trump Pulls Troops From Syria and Deserts The Kurds

Prologue: Monday, October 7, 2019 began a wild week seen in headlines from The New York Times:

October 8, 2019, “Backtracking on Syria, President Mixes Signals, Inciting G.O.P. fury.”

October 10, 2019: “Turkey Attacks U.S. Ally in Syria”

October 14, 2019: “Syrian Forces Rush Into U.S. Void”

History:  United States policy under Presidents Obama and Bush has been to destroy ISIS in the Middle East.  The Kurds have been allies of U. S. troops in the region for years in this ongoing struggle.  When Trump was elected, he did not support this policy.  He had said he would stop “endless wars” which cost millions and vowed to pull our troops from Syria.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis strongly disagreed with this and resigned his position.

Trump Moves to Leave Syria:  On Sunday, October 6 in a White House Statement, Trump said it was time “ for us to get out” and let others “figure the situation out”.  On Monday, October 7, he met with senior military leaders  at the White  House  while Republicans in Congress angrily attacked his decision. They had supported U.S. troops fighting Isis as had most Democrats.  Senator Lindsay Graham,  Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, finally took a stand against Trump on this issue.  He said, “It was the most screwed up decision I’ve  ever seen in all my years in Congress.”

Our Allies overseas spoke out strongly against our withdrawal from the battle against Isis. They warned  that Turkey would be ready to move into the region and destroy the Kurds , considered their enemy.  The Kurds actually had 800 ISIS fighters and their families in a prison camp.

Trump heard them and said he would restrain Turkey. Here is his exact statement written on Twitter: “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate,  If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy the economy of Turkey. (I’ve done before.”)

On October 9, he wrote a letter to   President Erdogan of Turkey which ended with “ Don’t be a tough guy.  Don’t be a fool. “   At the bottom was a note, “ I’ll call you later. “

Turkish troops enter Syria on Wednesday, October 9.

They launched an air and  ground attack against a Syrian Kurdish militia that had been fighting ISIS.  Trump called the assault  “a Bad Idea”.  He had talked by telephone with the Turkish president on Sunday, agreeing to move American troops out despite opposition from the State Department and his own military leaders.

Tuesday, October 15: NYT Headline: “Syrian Forces Rush Into  U.S. Void”     President al-Assad of Syria, considered a war criminal by the U.S. moved in to protect the Kurdish Militia.  Middle East analysts say that United States Troops leaving will also benefit Russia and Iran.

Thursday, October 17:”New York Times: ‘ President Digs in on Syria Pullout As House Revolts”

Richard Engel,  MSNBC in Syria, reported on TV that the Kurds were leaving their homes and walking away from the Turkish attacks along the Northern border.   President Erdogan of Turkey was talking about “ethnic cleansing”  of the Kurds a long time enemy.

In The United States,  president Trump was attending a rally where he said “The Kurds are no angels”… without explaining  why he used that label.  They had lost over ten thousand troops fighting   ISIS to support U.S. troops. It appears Trump had been told an unsupported story that the Kurds killed Christians!

At the White House, the next day, he said, “ That has nothing to do with us.  What does that have to do with us if they’re fighting over Syria’s land?”    When pressed by reporters, he said, “I campaigned on a platform   of “ending endless wars”.   “let them fight their own wars. They’ve been fighting for a thousand years.”

In Congress, The House of Representatives took action with a bipartisan vote rebuking Trump for his approval of Turkey attacking the Kurds in Syria.  129 Republicans joined the Democrats.  This was a significant number; only 60 did not sign.

In the Senate,  Mitch McConnell, Majority leader opened his weekly news conference, by “expressing his gratitude to the Kurds”.  He added, “I’m sorry we are where we are.”  Senator Lindsey Graham wrote on Twitter, “I hope President Trump is right in his belief that Turkey’s invasion of Syria is of no concern to us,  abandoning  the Kurds won’t came back to haunt us, ISIS will reemerge and Iran will fill the vacuum created by this decision. “

Trump decides to send Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo to Turkey to talk with Erdogan.   The result of their meeting is a Cease Fire Declaration of five days.

October 16, 2019 White  House Meeting between President Trump, Speaker of the House Pelosi,  Minority Leader Schumer and leading Congressional Democratic and Republican members.

The meeting took place in The Cabinet Room at a very long table.  Military leaders sat on the President’s right, including the Head of Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Other officials sat on his left.  Directly across from Trump was Nancy Pelosi.  The picture that accompanied this story in The New York Times shows Pelosi standing and pointing at Trump who looks very displeased.  The three generals are all looking down and have their hands tightly clasped; they appear to be ashamed of what they are hearing from the president about the furor over Syria.

When the picture was enlarged on TV during the day , it was clear that Trump looked very unhappy .  One reporter commented, “Years from now, when that photo is shown it will be clear who is in charge of that meeting.”

Trump opened the meeting by saying to the Congressional members, “They said you wanted this meeting.  I didn’t want this meeting.”  Then he began a speech about   a “nasty” letter he had sent to President Erdogan of Turkey.  He directed Kevin Mc Carthy, Minority leader to pass out copies to everyone at the table.  It began “ Let’s work out a good deal”  and ending with “Don’t be a tough guy.  Don’t be a fool.”

A short time later, Pelosi told the president that The House had passed a bipartisan resolution with overwhelming Republican support that condemned his agreement to a Turkish assault against the Kurds who had been crucial American allies in the fight against ISIS.

She was followed by Schumer who appealed to Trump as a fellow New Yorker who had lived through 9/11.  He spoke of terrorism and  ISIS and cited “Someone no less than General Mattis has said that ISIS had been enhanced .” At the mention of Mattis, who had quit last year as Defense Secretary over Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria,  the president began denigrating the retired four-star general’s approach to combating terrorism in the Middle East. Mr. Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general,” he said.  “He wasn’t tough enough.  I captured ISIS.  Mattis said it would take two years.  I captured them in one month.”

The ensuing back and forth between Pelosi, who had stood and pointed her finger at Trump as she spoke, went down hill rapidly from there. She was sitting when  Democratic officials described  “a fever pitch”.  Pelosi told the president that Russia  always wanting a foothold in the Middle East has stepped in to fill the void left by American troops in Syria.  At this point, she told Trump,  “All roads with him led to Putin.”

Then Trump said,  I care more about defeating terrorism than  you do.  I hate ISIS more than you do.”   Pelosi replied , “You don’t know that.”

Finally, the president said to the speaker, “You’re just a politician.”   She replied,  “Sometimes, I wish you were.” Schumer interjected,  telling Trump that name-calling was not necessary. “Is that a bad name, Chuck? Then he looked at Pelosi and said, “You’re not a politician.  You’re a third grade politician. “

At that insult, Pelosi prepared to leave . Steny Hoyer said it was time to go and added,  “This is not  useful” as they reached the door.    Trump responded, “Good Bye.  We’ll see you at the polls.”

The White House official account of the meeting was that “The president was measured, factual and decisive while Speaker Pelosi’s decision to walk out was baffling but not surprising.”

The speaker described the president’s behavior as “a meltdown”.

Epilogue:   The final outcome of the United States betrayal of the Kurds is that the territory that was their homeland   will be split in two.  The Northern half  will become a part of Turkey and the Southern half becomes a part of Syria.

……………………………………………. .Joyce S. Anderson

Impeachment Inquiry Against President Donald J. Trump

Prologue: There is a “listening room” in The White  House where presidents make their phone calls.  The day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified publicly under oath at a televised news conference on May 30, 2019,  President Donald Trump made a call to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Trump had rejoiced and boasted when Attorney General Barr had given his four page biased interpretation of The Mueller Report and said, “No collusion!”  Barr had neglected to cite the ten specific examples of “Obstruction of Justice” that were in the 400 page report.

When Trump made the call, he had already put a hold on money that Congress had approved for Ukraine.  The funds were desperately needed to buy Javelin missiles as defense against Russian tanks.  Russia had already annexed Crimea on their southern border.  During the phone call,  Trump asked Zelensky “for a favor, ” He asked him to help his personal lawyer, and the Attorney General who would be coming to visit Ukraine. Their purpose was to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter to find illegal activities they had taken part in.  It was a clear ‘quid pro quo’ against his main political rival in the 2020 presidential race.

By the time the thirty minute phone call was over,  White  House aides were alarmed by what they had heard after Trump had congratulated Zelensky on his election. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had also been in the room.  A decision was made to “lock down” records of the call , a process that has occurred since Trump was elected in 2016.   This removed the call to a separate electronic system reserved for classified information.

Enter The Whistle Blower:  A C.I.A official who had once worked in the White House learned of what had occurred with the phone call.  He (or she) wrote a complaint that was declassified and given to The House Intelligence Committee.  “The White House officials who gave me this information were deeply disturbed by what happened in the phone call.  They told me there was already a discussion going with White House lawyers because in the likelihood, in the officials retelling , that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain. “

Friday, September 27, 2019, The New York Times : COMPLAINT ASSERTS A WHITE HOUSE COVER-UP

President Trump was in New York at The United Nations when the whistle-blower story broke.  He spoke at the  U. S. Mission to The United Nations.  Trump immediately wanted to know who provided information to the whistle-blower, saying whoever did so was “close to a spy” .And “in the old days” spies were dealt with differently. ( When his response was shown later on TV , it was interpreted  as “ they were “executed.” )  He also condemned the news media as “crooked” for reporting on the complaint.

For the record: The Whistle Blower Protection Act was passed by Congress in 1989 .  It protects whistle blowers who report activities that violate laws, rules and regulations in government as well as business and industry.

By October 3rd,  the president on the White  House Lawn called on China to join Ukraine to “investigate Joseph Biden and his son Hunter for illegal activities”.  He called them “crooked” earning millions  in China.  His similar comments about them in Ukraine have been debunked on television by reporters who followed up on the charges .  When  Joe Biden spoke to a crowd the same day, he said, “I’m not going anywhere!  I never made a dime in China.  And I resent him attacking my family!  The crowd responded with loud cheers.  The president has also targeted Adam Schiff, Chair of The House Intelligence Committee since he received the complaint from the whistle-blower.  An avalanche of tweets accused Schiff of being a “traitor”.

 On Wednesday, September 25, 2019, The New York Times  had run a full page headline: “PELOSI WILL OPEN FORMAL IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY, ACCUSING PRESIDENT OF ‘BETRAYAL OF THE NATION”.  A growing number of Democratic members of The House of Representatives had been urging her to make this decision.  Leading House committees were already holding hearings:  Judiciary, Intelligence, Oversight and Ways & Means.   As Speaker of The House, she had waited until a majority of the members were behind Impeachment.   There was also strong support from leading Democrats running for President in the 20/20 Election.

Framing Articles of Impeachment: The current uproar over Trump asking Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden and his son is the last in a series of presidential abuses of power.  Historians have cautioned that articles of impeachment should include harmful actions he has taken since he became president rather than focus only on this latest scandal.

The three charges against President Richard Nixon would be appropriate for Donald J. Trump:  Abuse of Power,  Obstruction of Justice and Contempt of Congress.  His current actions could be first among many Abuses of Power. Next, The Mueller Report details ten clear examples of Obstruction of Justice.  Last, Contempt of Congress would stress Trump’s instructions to everyone in the Executive branch to ignore subpoenas from the different Congressional committees.

Donald Trump has never displayed knowledge of The Constitution of The United States. ( He thought there were 12 Articles. ) He has never realized that The Founders placed The Legislature first as Article I, rather than The Executive branch of government because they fought King George during the Revolution to create this nation.  They feared another despot at the helm.  They created the system of checks and balances to make sure the Executive did not become another despot.  Congress controls the “power of the purse” among other important powers.

Donald Trump in his remarks on October 3 made clear that he will do and say whatever he wants to remain in office and win the election in 2020.  He appeared to be daring the Democrats, “Impeach me! “  The House of Representatives where they hold the majority may do just that.

It is hoped that the Republican Senators who will decide Donald Trump’s fate in a trial will think about the founders of this nation as well as their seat in D.C. when they vote.  The future of this nation as the leader of the free world is at stake.

………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson