What's in a name? Being neither Capulet or Montague I responded to Ancestry.com's offer of a free peek into mine. They came up with this: "English: probably a variant of Yelland or Yellin. Americanized spelling of Norwegian Hjellen, from the definite singular form of Old Norse hjallr 'terrace', 'ledge' (see Hjelle). Jewish (Ashkenazic): variant spelling of Jelen."
So I am living on a ledge - no surprise - that is the fate of most freelance writers.
Since my paternal grandfather came to America from the East End of London in the late 1890's, I will go with the Ashkenazic Jewish variant of Jelen. One of the peculiarities of aging is that when young we try to escape our past - we want a clean slate to write our futures on - the past and all its old world burdens and miseries is something we want to put far behind us - but as we age the past becomes more and more intriguing to us as strangely, it moves closer. Without realizing it - the past becomes us. The old photos held down with little corner triangles in the worn out album with the black blotter pages take on a life of their own - we begin to recognize that these people - long dead - had lives of their own - needs, ambitions, hopes, fears - that they are a part of us.
In my recent late years I find myself more and more drawn to the past through writing family memoirs - the soon to be released 'Spotless' for one - while at the same time worrying deeply about the future for my sons and grand-daughters. It concerns me that my maternal grandparents took my two year old mother from Russia to escape the pogroms - and now, more than a century later, I fear the brutality of Trump and his followers can and will replicate such Cossack-like violence against minorities - they have made no secret of the dystopian world they have planned for all dissenters - and what they will do to our American laws and values is no secret - he has laid out his plans very clearly. If (spit three times) Trump should be elected what happens can be no surprise - his boast is our warning.
Modesty is never a trait that a would be tyrant displays. From Caligula to Trump the strong man/weak man boasts of their plans for dominating the future. Trump's words contain the seeds of burning cities and charred lives. But what offends me most deeply is the Trumpian hatred for immigration. As the grandson of a German immigrant Trump might have the decencyy to see immigrants for what the great majority of them are -- not threats but people seeking refuge. Decent people still recoil at how America turned away desperate Jewish refugees prior to WW2, sending them back to Europe and the Nazi death camps. A Trumpian world would excise the words of welcome on the base of the Statue of Liberty and place a new wall around her.
It is no comfort to me that Trump's pretty daughter has become an Orthodox Jew and follows all the rituals of the religion -- since the ethics, charity, tolerance, and mercy seem to have escaped the Trumpian idea of that or any religion. Having grand-kids I am blessed in so far as I must think ahead, involve myself in a future that I may not live to see, but that unknowable future is now as important to me as any time in my past or present life.
My young twin granddaughters share a wonderful heritage - some of their descendants arrived on the Mayflower, others came as steerage on a boat crammed with Jewish and Italian refugees in the 19th century. What both had in common was a longing for a better life - they did not come to destroy this country but to build it as they made their own lives better. I want all my grandchildren to enjoy the America that gave me freedom to realize a few of my dreams, and gave me the power to pick myself up when I failed so that I could start again. In a literal sense this has been the story of my life. Never has a kid fallen off so many bicycles - the history of my youth can be written in skinned knees - "Look Ma, no hands!" crash, splat, mercurochrome and bandaids were always at the ready, and just last week I took a truly nasty fall walking Sam, the dog, and luckily escaping with the familiar scab on my knee. What have scabs to do with Trump? Not much on the surface - but it reminded me that I survived some near disasters - and got back on the bike. I will do my damndest to do so again. Yes, I am obsessed by this election - and I hope that most of my friends are as well - because the defeat of a would be dictator is one magnificent obsession. And defeating a menacing tyrant is worth more than a few scabs and skinned knees.