Thanksgiving 2021

This Thanksgiving there is much to be thankful for locally and globally.

Things to be thankful for locally for me: Two grandchildren who have turned 16, one who turned 21, one who is engaged to be married. A great relationship with my wife and family in general. Trips that were once impossible became possible – trips to Paris and Germany with dear friends, trip to Boston for history and sightseeing with younger granddaughter Madeline, trips to South Haven, Michigan and Salt Lake City, Utah with my sweetie Marion. Trips to visit my Mom for this Thanksgiving, trips to Germany to visit our family there. And a new baby in the family for the first time in 16 years: Emma Lotta, daughter of our godson and nephew Nils and his partner Anneke.  My sweetie Marion still loves me. 2021 is my fifth Thanksgiving since being diagnosed with cancer, so I am particularly thankful to be alive.

Things to be thankful for globally: Vaccines for COVID-19 have proved effective in the fight against this disease. There are some signs that the fever that has gripped public discourse in the USA may be near a breaking point. And some signs that the USA economy, after decades of being tipped in the favor of the very rich, may be tipping a bit back in favor of the workers. That’s a lot.

But it’s been a hard year as well.

My father passed away last spring after many years of decline due to Alzheimer’s. I am sad that he is gone, but relieved in a way that he is released from what Alzheimer’s did to him. Somewhere in the universe there is still present the energy of my father as the person who inspired me as a child. This past year one of the other people I most admire among all of the people I have known well during my lifetime passed away, as a result of his cancer. He did so at peace with himself and the universe. I am a much better person for having known him. While cancer cost him his mortal life, and me sadness, it is also true that our friendship was born out of our shared experience of cancer. Without cancer, we would never have become good friends. 

Hundreds of thousands of USA citizens and millions of people worldwide have died as a result of COVID-19. Some of the blame for the latter in the US goes to some of our political and media leaders. I mean of course leaders who claim to be Christian and yet have claimed that it is better to endanger your neighbors by not being vaccinated and not wearing masks than to inconvenience yourself somewhat so that others might live. The golden rule seems like such a simple thing in theory. Liberty means choice, but liberty does not come without responsibility. Sometimes liberty needs to mean the liberty to do the right thing as a citizen within a society. In the case of COVID-19 this comes down to the golden rule or Kant’s categorical imperative (take your pick) and being vaccinated. Nowhere in the Gospels is it recorded that Christ, in the Garden of Gethsemane, said “My body, my choice”.

This year while we have seen some justice delivered in the justice system, in many cases that grab national headlines there are significant questions as to whether or not justice has been served. In some prominent cases the answer “justice was not served” comes with easier and seemingly better explanations than the answer “justice was served.”

Still, I’m alive, and if you are reading this you are alive. Being alive means hope for the next year. I remain thankful and hopeful for a better year next year for all of us – with as much or more to be thankful for.

Read this

Sometimes the best thing one can do is point to a piece of writing and say “Read this.” A recent essay in The NY Times Book Review by Henry Louis Gates Jr. makes now one of those times. “The republic of letters needs open borders” at

Inspired by Senator Ted Cruz

I have long had a variety of feelings about Senator Ted Cruz, but I felt a new one recently: inspiration. 

Senator Ted Cruz recently defended the use of what he referred to as “the Nazi salute” by US citizens. This was during questioning of US Attorney General Merrick Garland. Senator Cruz said specifically “A parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because they thought the policies were oppressive!” (Video of this exchange between Senator Cruz and Attorney General Garland is online at

This salute is, as Attorney General Garland confirmed, protected speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. That doesn’t mean using it is right. It’s not right. Period. This salute is also not properly and accurately referred to as “the Nazi Salute.” 

So let’s set the context here. A parent seems to have given this salute in the direction of members of the School Board in Worthington, Ohio ( because people in attendance at the meeting were asked to wear masks. Something similar seems to have happened in Birmingham, Michigan (

I like a variety of salutes myself, including one that involves a single finger. But the use of this particular German salute and the defense thereof have seemingly taken place without the people involved having a clear appreciation of what is really being said and done.

Senator Cruz had it wrong when he called this salute a “Nazi salute.” The salute was typically given in concert with the phrase “Heil Hitler.” That is, in English, “Hail Hitler.” It was both enforced upon the German people to incorporate allegiance to Adolf Hilter as an everyday value within Germany and used by social climbers within the National Socialist party to demonstrate their allegiance to der Führer. This salute is properly referred to as the “Hilter Salute” or the “Heil Hitler Salute.”

To use the Heil Hitler salute in the context of political discussions within the US and among US citizens is demeaning. It demeans and lessens the seriousness with which we should maintain our memory of the Nationalist Socialist party of Germany and its leader Adolf Hitler. Millions of people were murdered by Hitler’s regime. Primarily Jewish people, but also the developmentally disabled, Roma and Senti peoples, and homosexuals. No American today lives up to the standards of evil embodied by the Nazi leadership. Even the so called American Neo-Nazis are third rate amateurs in comparison to the real thing. 

And we need to all ask ourselves this: Is a statement of allegiance to a Nazi leader – even a dead one – something any reasonable US citizen should ever do? This isn’t sarcasm or irony. The Heil Hitler salute is a statement of allegiance, just like the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag. Would any American Christian bow down to a goat’s head? If not, why show allegiance to one of the Devil’s most effective followers?

Furthermore, it is simply unfair and uncivil to equate any American with Nazi leadership, which is what people who gave this salute at school board meetings thought they were doing. There is a quote that is almost certainly incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain that goes “First God created idiots. That was practice. Then God created School Board members.” It’s easy to ridicule school board members in part because it is such a hard job to do well. But at the end of the day the vast majority of the people who run for and serve on School Boards do so out of a desire to help our society and help our children. It’s fine to disagree with them. But to equate them to mass murderers is beyond the pale.

Giving the “Heil Hitler” salute is indeed protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. But sometime freedom needs to mean the freedom to do the right thing. Refraining from us of Nazi symbolism in discourse among US citizens is one of those times.

As I said, I was inspired by Senator Cruz’s comments. Inspired to write this comment to put this matter in its proper context and to give true evil the fear and respect it is due. Senator Cruz should have known better than to say what he said. Now perhaps this commentary has helped you know a bit more than you did before, and certainly more than Senator Cruz seems to know. If you would like to read further on this topic I recommend the book “The Hitler Salute – on the meaning of a gesture” by Tilman Allert.