Beware of False Patriotism

There has been a fascist streak running through this country since the 1700’s.

A friend of mine recently directed me to an offering in the PBS Short Film Festival entitled A Night at the Garden. From the title, you’d expect it to be bucolic. Images in my head include the sounds of crickets, fireflies flashing amongst the trees, a babbling brook, cows lowing in the distance. Peaceful.

Yeah. This video is not that. Not even close.

The video itself is only 6 minutes long. The rest of it is credits. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch it. It is terrifying. It’s actual footage of the 1939 Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It’s an important film to watch, because history has been repeating itself of late, and since we have more access to misinformation, more of us are vulnerable to this type of false patriotism.

According to Wikipedia, 20,000 people attended that Fascist rally, and when you see the footage, the pomp and circumstance will give you the chills. People marching in lock step, American flags interspersed with Nazi flags. A gigantic image of George Washington, as if he were a god. People giving the Nazi salute to the American flag. Patriotism at its most terrifying.

And wait until you get to the part where the protester runs up on stage and is beaten up by about 20 to 30 Ordnungsdienst, the militia that was organized by the German American Bund to protect them at the rally. They throw the protester to the ground, kick him, and punch him. All this while the speaker looks on and smiles. If the local police hadn’t dragged the poor protester off stage, he may very well have been killed. Instead, they fined him 25 dollars for disorderly conduct (which is the equivalent of $505.66 in today’s money). That must have been a bitter pill to swallow given the conduct of the Nazis that the world would come to know.

At the time of this rally, the Nazis were operating 6 concentration camps. But Americans only stopped ignoring the constant drumbeat of news regarding these camps by around 1944 and by then there were almost too many to count. It’s not that we didn’t know. We just didn’t want to believe or think about it. But when Johnny came marching home with horror stories, there was no more room for denial.

But let’s go back to that Nazi rally on American soil in 1939. This time let’s avert our gaze from the stage. (Yes, please!) Let’s look at the 20,000 Americans in the audience.

One has to wonder how many people in attendance had already joined the German American Bund. This was, after all, pure propaganda, and it would serve that organization well to pack the Garden so people would think that this hatred was the prevailing attitude. Fortunately, Wikipedia tells us that there were 100,000 protesters outside, including WWI veterans wrapped in the American flag.

And this little tidbit from Wikipedia really had me intrigued: “One of the most mystifying disturbances came from a blaring speaker set up in a second-floor room of a rooming house at the southern corner of Forty-ninth Street and Eight Avenue. Shortly before 8 o’clock it began blaring out a denunciation of Nazis and urging “Be American, Stay at Home.” Upon investigation, the room was found untenanted: the voice of these ‘denunciations’ came from a record, timed to go off at 7:55 pm.”

I would dearly love to hear the story behind that.

Mayor LaGuardia hoped that by allowing the rally at the Garden, the disturbing spectacle would convince people that this group was one to be avoided. But he also knew that things were bound to get ugly, so he dispatched 1,700 uniformed officers outside, and 600 undercover officers inside.

There is really no way to know the makeup of the audience. The GAB’s membership rolls were already dwindling. (Hence the need for the rally.) One has to assume that a certain percentage were already members, and that a certain percentage had fallen for the disinformation campaign, and/or were anti-semites who were looking for like-minded friends.

It’s also important to remember that this was 1939, and people had been suffering the effects of the Great Depression for a decade. That’s a lot of disaffected countrymen who were longing to “Make America Great Again.” As we know at present, people are willing to swallow anything if they think it will bring them some relief.

But the attendees that I worry about the most are the very small percentage who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. The posters for this event called it a “Pro-American Rally.” It mentions “True Americanism.” World War II wouldn’t begin in Europe until September, which is a little over 6 months after this rally. And America wouldn’t join the war until December 1941.

But this must have been a really scary time, and one where a lot of people might feel instinctively more patriotic, because they were so afraid. They probably would think that going and rooting for America was a good idea. The poster did not contain Swastikas. The only telltale sign was that all the letters s in the poster are designed like those worn by the German SS. I suspect that those trying to ignore the existence of concentration camps were not likely to look at pictures of those terrorists long enough to focus on the font on their uniforms.

And yet, for those in denial, it would take a special level of moral blindness and an utter lack of independent judgment to walk past 100,000 protesters to go to this rally and still be shocked at what one was walking into. Still, I’d like to think (for our sakes, if not for theirs) that there were a certain number of clueless donkeys who attended that rally and looked on in horror. What must it feel like to suddenly be completely surrounded by people who you are convinced are warped, twisted and crazed? You certainly wouldn’t want to speak up. Here you’d be, expecting to root, root, root for your country, only to discover that this was no baseball game. Under those circumstances, watching someone beaten on stage must have been terrifying.

But please don’t think that this infamous Nazi rally was the only one that ever occurred in America. Far from it. These rallies occurred all over the country. In fact, here in Seattle several rallies were held, albeit with protesters outside. I encourage you to read this fascinating series of articles in Crosscut. The series of six articles is about the forgotten history of the Nazis in the Northwest, and it will make you blink more than once.

Among the things discussed in this series is the fact that one of the local diplomats from Nazi Germany, Baron Manfred von Killinger, was a known Nazi stormtrooper. It was later discovered that he was posted in the San Francisco office to invigorate the already existing spy network in the United States. Later, he killed himself after being charged with implementing the Final Solution in Romania.

It seems that Seattle was lousy with Nazis before the war. In fact, in 1937 there was a Nazi rally at the Masonic Temple, and the Mayor of Seattle was in attendance, and it is alleged that he gave the Nazi salute. I first learned of this disturbing event while I was sitting in that very theater, now called the Egyptian. It was in 2018, and I was there to see Rick Steves do a talk and a prescreening of his upcoming documentary entitled, The Story of Fascism in Europe. This film is not your usual Rick Steves upbeat travelogue. It’s a fascinating documentary that I highly recommend. I blogged about it here.

Crosscut also wrote about Steves’ talk at the Egyptian, and went into more detail about Seattle’s Nazi sympathizers in this article, which was written two years after the series of articles mentioned above. It talked about the Nazi rallies in town, and also that even back then, the NRA was heavily involved with the far right, and would help arm these groups, just as they do to this very day.

It goes on to describe another creepy Seattle/Nazi connection in the form of William Dudley Pelley, a presidential candidate in 1936 who called himself “American Hitler”. He was also the founder of the Silver Shirts, and their headquarters were in Redmond, Washington for a time, right across the lake from Seattle. (Interestingly, Redmond is now home to the Microsoft headquarters.) The Silver Shirts also got a lot of their arms from the NRA and they planned to overthrow the American government. Thank goodness their man was never elected.

According to this article, there has been a fascist streak running through this country since the 1700’s. McCarthyism, with its witch hunt of communists, was fascism pure and simple. But as Rick Steves says, “Fascism is incremental. It’s a slow chipping away of your rights, until one day you look up and you have none.”

Our strongest flirtation with fascism to date was when Trump was elected president in 2016. This article, and thousands of others on the web, make a great case for his unapologetically fascist tendencies. Any time you hear someone shouting about fake news, ask yourself what they are trying to keep you from knowing. It’s a safe bet that these chaos-mongers are fascists. Never let anyone replace your access to professional reporting that is well-investigated and backed up with facts, with their pretty words based on nothing but opinion and rumor.

And, again, beware of false patriotism. We step over its shadows everywhere we go. Sitting in that seat at the Egyptian where known Nazis had sat and saluted both the Nazi and American flags made me want to leap up and run to the nearest shower. I’m sure Germans today feel that way all the time. Or maybe they’ve reconciled themselves with their dark past. I’m sure there are a wide range of attitudes, just as there are in this country.

But if someone is patriotic in the extreme, let your BS antennas go up. I have been saying this for years: A true patriot is one who can look at the country with an unjaundiced eye and criticize it when it needs to be criticized. That person truly wants the best for the country, and would never fall for these rallies that serve up food for thought that has no real nutritional value.

Don’t take the easy way out. Question authority. Exercise the critical thinking skills that so many are trying to prevent us from being taught in schools. These skills, although hard-won, will serve you well. No doubt about it: Nazi flags still fly in America. We need to be ever-vigilant of fascism and resist it at every turn.

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A Fresh Perspective on the Statue of Liberty

Recently, on NPR, I heard an amazing interview with Tyler Stovall, the author of White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea. This title is definitely at the top of my ever-lengthening To-Be-Read List. It sounds like a very eye-opening book.

Just the interview opened my eyes on one topic: The Statue of Liberty. I’m paraphrasing here, because I was driving as I listened, and was unable to take notes. But it stuck with me because it’s a perspective I’ve never heard before.

I have always loved the Statue of Liberty. All my immigrant grandparents came here through New York City, and I think that imagining their excitement as they saw that statue welcoming them to their new home is what fueled my desire to travel at an early age. I really felt proud that this statue was given to us by France, and that it was a symbol of our celebration of immigration and freedom.

After all, Emma Lazarus’ poem, engraved at the statue’s base, includes the words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

God bless America, right?

Hmmm.

Stovall points out that this statue was placed in New York Harbor for a very good reason. That was the hub of White, European immigration. You see no such statue at Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. That’s where the majority of Asian immigrants first landed (when they were allowed to come, that is). You see no such statue on the Mexican Border, where most Latinx people enter this country.

We are all about giving us your tired and your poor, as long as they look White. We’re all about your huddled masses, as long as they’re Christian. We refuse that wretched refuse if it doesn’t pass muster in terms of eye slant or hair texture.

Another thing Stovall pointed out is that that statue is in New York City, which was a major slave hub. According to this article, NYC received its first slaves in the 1600’s. It had an official slave market starting in 1711. By 1730, 42 percent of the residents owned slaves. That’s a higher percentage than any other place in America except Charleston, SC.

New York continued to dominate the slave trade even decades after the abolition of slavery. So it’s rather ironic that there’s this huge Statue of Liberty placed there, of all places, and the only thing that seems to remind us of the heinous slave trade in the area is a little plaque that was placed at the site of the Slave Market, and that only went up in 2015.

Perspective. And more evidence of the need for Critical Race Theory. Just sayin’.

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The Leatherman

When I was little and living in Connecticut, I’d hear stories about vagabonds who lived in caves thereabouts. Vagabonds always fascinated me. Didn’t they get lonely? How did they survive the winters? Were they dangerous? I bet they had a lot of stories to tell. I certainly could relate to wanting a whole lot of “leave me alone”. I used to fantasize about running away and living in a cave. I might have tried it if I hadn’t found being cold and wet so unappealing. So who was I to judge?

The caves in question were always called “Leatherman Caves” but I had no idea why. And then I recently heard this 4 minute story on National Public Radio. NPR definitely gives me a lot of ideas for blog posts.  

The Leatherman was a guy who walked clockwise in a 365-mile circle between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers, from 1857 to 1889. The route took him through 49 towns in New York and Connecticut, and people could practically set their watch by the man. If he had a tendency to show up on your porch for food at 10 am, he would do so, like clockwork, every 5 weeks.

People knew him so well that 10 towns in Connecticut passed ordinances exempting him from the “tramp law” in 1879. Well, they knew him, sort of. No one knew his name. No one ever had any significant conversation with him. He mostly grunted or spoke in monosyllables. It was clear that his first language was French, not English, but was he from France or was he French Canadian? No one knows.

He was called the Leatherman because he wore a 60 pound suit, complete with hat, scarf, and shoes, that he had made from old boot tops and leather cord. He wore this outfit all year round. (I bet that smelled great. Not.)

No one knows how he got his money. He always had some. Sometimes he would buy his food at local shops.

When he died in 1889, a French prayer book was found on him. Apparently he could read. It was also said that he’d refuse to eat meat on Fridays, leading some to think he was Roman Catholic. He died of cancer of the mouth. He loved his tobacco.

He was buried in Ossining, New York in the Sparta Cemetery. His grave was located so close to a highway, and so many tourists liked to visit it, that in 2011 his grave was moved to a safer location in the cemetery.

But the fascinating thing about the exhumation is what they found, which was basically nothing. Just a few coffin nails. Had he rotted away over the years? Quite possibly. Or were they digging in the wrong place? Equally possible.

The lack of body was a huge disappointment, because modern scientists were going to run his DNA to see if they could at least suss out where he came from. The plans for that exhumation were so controversial that it gave rise to a fascinating website called leavetheleathermanalone.com. Check it out! There’s much more to learn about him.

Whether that exhumation was a violation of a very private man’s privacy or not, the Leatherman had the last laugh. Now his relocated grave contains some of the original grave’s dirt, plus those coffin nails. One way or another, he has moved on, and will forever be a mystery.

I think he’d be amused or astounded to discover that he made it into popular culture. There’s a 10k race in Pound Ridge, New York every year called Leatherman’s Loop. And the band Pearl Jam recorded a song about him. You can listen to it here.

I probably walked in Leatherman’s footsteps many times without even knowing it as a child. It would be fascinating to trace his route and then follow it. He frequented a lot of towns that I lived in back then. I like thinking that I’ve stood in the same place as this fascinating character more than once. I wonder if he would have talked to me.

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The Hess Triangle

I love stories about nonconformists.

I love stories about noconformists. They make life interesting. Unlike anarchists, they do obey the law, often to their detriment, but they are usually still able to get their point across.

Such a man was David Hess, who owned a 5-story apartment building in the West Village in Lower Manhattan. From 1913 to 1916, New York City was exercising imminent domain to extend Seventh Avenue for eleven more blocks. Even though Hess fought the demolition of his building, it was eventually razed.

But the Hess family learned that the surveyors had screwed up and left a tiny triangle of land that by rights still belonged to them. They took it to court and won. The city actually had the nerve to ask them to donate the triangle to them as it was encroaching on the public sidewalk.

The family not only refused, but they installed the tilework pictured below. It says “property of the Hess Estate which has never been dedicated for public purposes”. It’s a little nose thumbing at the municipality, and that mosaic is still to be found in the sidewalk to this very day.

The Hess family eventually sold the triangle to a cigar shop to the tune of $1,000. It has been sold several times since then, but it still is private property, and taxes are dutifully paid. If you would like to see the Hess Triangle, go to the corner of Christopher and Seventh Avenue, and the triangle is right in front of the cigar shop’s door. It’s nearly impossible not to trespass on this property when you enter or exit the store.

Sources for this post:

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-tiny-spite-triangle-that-marks-a-century-old-grudge-against-new-york-city?utm_source=pocket-newtab

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/hess-triangle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hess_triangle

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Mid-Month Marvels: LINC

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’m calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

After my little project to get books to needy children, a friend (Hi, Sam!) told me about LINC, or LiteracyINC, which is an organization in New York City which does the same thing on a much, much larger scale. I decided to look into this program. What I see on their website is very impressive.

As they so aptly describe it, “LINC provides a scaffolding of support that increases both children’s and parents’ access to literacy-building opportunities, raises expectations, generates an understanding of grade-level literacy skills, and provides simple reading strategies to support parents in helping their children, regardless of their own ability to read or speak English.”

These are concepts near and dear to my heart. And I’m even more impressed by the many different programs they operate. They hold workshops for parents to teach them “literacy strategies to use at home and to make literacy a part of a family’s daily routine.” They have another workshop to prepare parents to be classroom volunteers.

They also have several school programs. In one, they pair older students with K-2nd grade students. They become reading buddies. That is awesome. They also build strong parent/teacher collaborations. In addition, they go into senior centers and link them with second grade students. That’s called the Great Grandreader Program. What’s not to love?

LINC also holds street fairs and celebrations at local libraries and they hold book drives. They partner with local and corporate businesses, PTAs, NGOs and community centers.

Truly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this wonderful organization does. You’ll find much more on their website. I hope you’ll join me in supporting them! When our children become successful readers, we all thrive.

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Minik and Ahnighito

A tragic story that should be more well-known.

I have mixed emotions about museums. I absolutely adore them, and I think they are unparalleled as places of enlightenment. But on the other hand, let’s face it, in many cases a lot of the things contained therein were either stolen or obtained under shady circumstances. So I feel guilty for my love.

For example, I once had the opportunity to visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and oh, what a treat that was. But while gazing in awe at the largest of all the meteorites housed therein, I had no idea how sad the story was behind it. If I had known, I may have looked at it quite differently. My awe would still have been there, but it would have been mixed with sorrow.

According to an article entitled “Minik and the Meteor”, The meteorite in question, called the Cape York meteorite, was part of a 4.5 billion year old asteroid, weighing 200 tons, that struck the earth about 10,000 years ago. It landed in what is now Greenland. Fast forward to the 1800’s, and explorers in the area found out that the local inuit were making iron tools, and that iron was coming from some mysterious distant “mountain”.

It took explorers nearly another 100 years to actually get the inuit to reveal this mountain’s location, and they probably only did so because with so many explorers showing up and trading with them, the rare source of iron wasn’t quite as valuable to them as it once was. (Little did they know, those visits would eventually all but dry up, so they should have held on to this important resource.)

So when Robert Peary launched his 1894 expedition, in an effort to reach the North Pole, little did he know that his focus would shift. In exchange for a gun, an inuit man led him right to the source. It took 11 days.

Without asking any kind of permission, Peary took two of the smaller meteorites on that expedition. He returned in 1896 to obtain the largest one, which was 11 feet across. It was dragged onto Peary’s ship and christened Anighito, the middle name of Peary’s daughter. It weighed 36.5 tons.

He was also asked by the museum to obtain something else: One living inuit for “study”. Peary decided to bring back six. The more the merrier. In addition, he brought back a bunch of bones of their ancestors , also obtained without permission, and removed under great protest.

He talked these poor people into coming with him by promising them “nice warm houses in the sunshine land, and guns and knives and needles and many other things.” They also expected to be brought back after a year. One of the Inuit in question was a little boy named Minik, who accompanied his father.

According to later interviews with Minik, Peary was nice enough when they were still in Greenland, making many promises and reassurances. But the minute they were on board, they were packed in the hold like dogs and virtually ignored.

After arriving in New York, they were quartered in a damp cellar in the bowels of the museum. Within weeks they were all sick. Four of the six, including Minik’s father, were dead within 4 months. That left Minik and one adult male alive. That man promptly returned to Greenland, leaving Minik alone.

The dead Inuit were dissected by medical students, and their cleaned bones were stored in the museum, as part of their collection. Minik was adopted by an employee of the museum, and raised in a loving family in the Bronx, but he always felt like a freak. His whole life, he tried and failed to get his father’s remains back.

In 1909, a very bitter and defeated Minik returned to Greenland at about the age of 18. He had forgotten the language. He didn’t know how to hunt. He learned quickly, but he missed city life. He returned to New York in 1916. He tried one last time to retrieve his father’s bones. Once again, the museum wasn’t having it.

He then moved to New Hampshire, became a lumberjack, and lived on a farm with a friend. And then, as the final insult, he died in 1918 in the Spanish Flu epidemic. He was only about 28 years old.

Minik’s father was finally laid to rest in Greenland in a church cemetery in 1993. Minik still rests in New Hampshire. Aside from headstones, there are no monuments to either of these ill-used and tragic men, unless you count the meteorite itself, which museum visitors can happily visit without ever knowing its whole story.

Minik with his adopted family.

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The 100th Anniversary of the Wall Street Bombing

The deadliest terror attack on American soil up to that point.

At 12:01 pm on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded in the financial district of Manhattan in New York City. 30 people died instantly with 8 more deaths to follow. 143 additional people were injured. It was the deadliest terror attack on American soil up to that point.

According to Wikipedia, this crime was never solved, but it is suspected that it was carried out by Italian anarchists. It had to do with postwar social unrest, labor struggles, and anti-capitalist agitation. (Sound familiar?)

The bomb rolled up on a horse drawn carriage, times being what they were. It consisted of 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of shrapnel. Given that there was a timer, you’d think the terrorist would have had the decency to save the horse, but no. The driver escaped, though. Of course.

The explosion mostly took out young, lower level employees; messengers, clerks and the like. That hardly seems fair. But of course none of this was fair.

It also caused 2 million dollars in property damage, which would be worth nearly 26 million today. It was no accident that this happened at lunch hour at the busiest intersection of Wall Street. You can still see remnants of the damage to this day.

Needless to say, trading on the New York Stock Exchange was suspended immediately. James Saul, aged 17, took a car and spent a good deal of time transporting 30 people to hospital. I bet he turned out to be an amazing person. Unfortunately, that information seems to be lost to history.

So anxious were they to get back to business as usual that they cleaned the area up that night, destroying a lot of evidence. But flyers were found that said, “ Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters.” It is now assumed that the political prisoners referred to were Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists who were erroneously arrested (and later electrocuted) for murdering two people.

So there you have it. A bit of history to enjoy while eating your corn flakes this morning. You’re welcome.

Not a good day to be on Wall Street.

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Before Central Park

All that’s left is a plaque and a few archeological dig sites.

It’s hard to imagine, but the area around Central Park in New York City used to be very rural. It was sparsely populated, with enough trees that the residents could gather their own firewood. They also obtained fish from the river.

One settlement, called Pigtown, had to relocate up there because their pigs were stinky enough to cause the residents in town (which was all below 14th street at the time) to complain. There were also a few bone-boiling plants around the area that is now home to Tavern on the Green, as well as a Hessian encampment from the revolutionary war, and an old fortification from the War of 1812 that still stands.

But by far the largest settlement, all but forgotten until recently, was Seneca Village. This was not some transient squatters camp full of criminals, or some shantytown full of illegal bars, as the media in the 1850’s would have you believe. This place fell victim to the propaganda perpetuated by those who really, really wanted that park.

No, this was a middle class, mostly African American community of long-established homes. The settlement had been founded in 1825, and most of the residents had lived there that entire time. There were 3 churches. There were schools. Of the 91 African American males with enough property to be allowed to vote in New York State at the time, 10 of them lived in Seneca Village. According to the 1855 census, this village had 264 residents.

Make no mistake: these people did not want to leave their village to make way for Central Park. They were forced out, along with about 1400 other people in the area. The park was originally set for a different site, but that location was owned by rich white people, and their lawsuits caused the city to look elsewhere.

The residents of Seneca Village also had lawsuits, but they lacked influence. Some of these residents stayed on until the bitter end, and were removed rather violently in 1857. Many of them weren’t adequately compensated when eminent domain made way for the park. The village was razed, leaving almost no trace that people once lived and loved and made a home there.

What must it have been like to watch your village, the place where you worshipped and shopped and helped your neighbor, get destroyed? How heartbreaking to realize just how powerless you are. How outrageous to have your legacy ripped from you, only to have it so quickly forgotten by the wider world.

Now, all that remains of Seneca Village is a plaque and a few archeological dig sites. Even the descendants of these people have been lost to time. I find this all rather sad.

Things fall apart. The center does not hold.

Seneca Village

Bad Business

Imagine if, purely by accident, you stumbled upon a way to have at least 50,000 people gaze lovingly at your business at any given time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I know if I drew that much attention to my blog, even once, I’d think I had died and gone to heaven. That’s the kind of PR gold that most fortune 500 companies would pay millions, as in Superbowl advertising money, to obtain.

But somehow, the Animal Adventure Park, a petting zoo in Harpursville, New York, halfway between Syracuse and Scranton, managed to achieve this miracle without even really trying. All they did was put up a live camera in the stall of April, their pregnant giraffe. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into. They thought a few locals might be interested, and some regular visitors to the park might want to take a peek as well. They never expected the world would be beating a path to their door.

As April’s anticipated due date came and went with no baby appearing, all eyes began to anxiously await the new arrival. They got to know the vet, the owner, and the handlers by name. They created Facebook groups. Plush toys and posters began flying out of their gift shop. They created a text alert system, where paid subscribers could obtain updates and exclusive photos.

When the calf was finally born on April 15th, 1.2 million people were watching the live feed. I was one of them, and I have to admit I had an ugly, joyful cry. They are now having a contest where you can pay to vote for a name for the new baby boy. So far, so good.

But publicity has its downsides. Fielding all those interviews and e-mails has made it nearly impossible for the park to focus on business as usual. At one point, April was limping, and their servers crashed from all the e-mails they received from concerned viewers. People even called 911. And everybody’s a critic. Are they being fed enough? Too much? Why don’t they go outside more often?

So, on the day of this writing, the Animal Adventure Park decided to pull the live camera, just as they had planned to do all along, prior to all this kerfuffle. They thought 5 days of seeing the baby was plenty. Thanks for watching. Now please go away.

I cried when that camera went down. April has been streaming on my laptop at least 8 hours a day for weeks now. As I wrote this blog, I had her off to the side, keeping me company. She has become part of my life. And I’m in love with that baby boy. I know I’m not alone. Schools have used April to teach about Giraffe conservation. Senior centers have noticed that their Alzheimer’s patients may have trouble remembering other things, but they are anxious to check on April every day. We have become a family.

The park staff say that you’ll be able to see them occasionally on yard cameras, and they’ll have sporadic updates and photos, and maybe turn the camera on every once in a while, but it won’t be the same. And what they’re doing makes no sense at all.

I hate to say this, but April is a cash cow. And all this attention could be parlayed into a unique opportunity to educate people about giraffes and their endangerment. It would be a great avenue for fundraising for the park. That little zoo in that little town could become Giraffe central. They could be the go-to people for giraffe information. Yes, it creates more work. So hire a Public Relations person. The live cam would raise funds for that easily.

Throwing away a chance like this seems foolish. It’s such a waste. I will never understand this thought process.

April, I’ll miss you. Having you snatched away from all of us is no way to celebrate Earth Day.

giraffes

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The Kitty Genovese Effect

If you took a psychology class in high school or college, then the name Kitty Genovese probably rings a bell. She was the woman from Queens, New York, who, legend has it, was stabbed to death in 1964 in front of 38 witnesses, and not one of them did a thing. It’s a tragic story, and a shocking one, that lead many researchers to study the concept of diffusion of responsibility.

I had a really interesting conversation with a friend about this recently (waving at Caly). She mentioned that if you’re going to be attacked, it’s better to have it happen in front of one person, rather than a crowd, because an individual is more likely to do something. I think that’s sad, but true. The larger the crowd, the more likely you are to think someone else will take charge, and the less guilty you will feel when everyone else around you is being equally inactive.

But, I theorized, in this modern world, the more people you have around, the more likely it will be that someone will video the attack on their iPhone. Because nowadays that’s what one does, isn’t it? So, yes, you’ll still probably die a painful, bloody death, but at least there’s a chance that your killer will be caught “on tape”, so to speak. That’s progress of a sort, isn’t it? Kind of?

But, before writing this article, I went to that font of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, and read the article on Kitty Genovese, and it was quite fascinating. First of all, it’s not as if there were 38 people standing in a circle, watching the entire crime from start to finish while twiddling their thumbs. It turns out that the number of witnesses was inaccurately reported, and of those who saw something, they only saw a snippet of the interaction. Many thought it was just a lover’s quarrel. Most didn’t realize that a stabbing had taken place. Others, behind closed doors and several floors away, saw nothing and weren’t quite sure what they heard. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, after all. And Kitty was stabbed in the lungs early on in the attack, so it’s very likely that her “screams” weren’t very loud at all, unfortunately.

Also, at least two people called the police, and one woman rushed out and cradled Kitty in her arms as she lay dying, despite the fact that no one could be sure that the murderer had left the area. And then there’s the fact that it was 1964. More people would be apt to turn their backs on what they considered to be domestic abuse than would in modern times. In theory.

So maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.

Another interesting angle to this story that I don’t remember reading in my psychology textbooks is that the killer, Winston Moseley, was, indeed, captured, prosecuted and convicted. He was given the death penalty originally, but it was reduced to a life sentence eventually. And this was one really bad man. He actually went on a hunt that night to kill a woman, any woman, and Kitty just happened to be the first one who crossed his path.

Moseley also confessed to killing and raping two other women, committing an untold number of burglaries, and later he managed to escape custody. During that time he held 4 people hostage in two different houses, and raped one of them. He also participated in the famous Attica Prison Riot. Needless to say, this guy was a total nut job, and prison was where he needed to be. But I was pretty surprised to discover that he only died in prison just recently, on March 28, 2016, at the age of 81. He was unrepentant to his dying day.

I think the worst tragedy, here, is that Kitty Genovese was only given 28 years on this earth, and her horrible death is practically preserved in amber, inaccurately reported in textbooks all over the world. I’m sure she would have preferred to be remembered for other things, such as her reportedly sunny disposition.

If you ever find yourself visiting Lakeview Cemetery in New Canaan, Connecticut, please visit her grave and pay your respects.

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