Wednesday, September 2, 2015


NOTE: In light of last month's post, I had intended to write on something else, and had already written this one, but was waiting for the appropriate time to post it. But some intervening things occurred, so I pulled out the "duty" post. More on this development at the end.

In the course of our daily lives, I think most of us try to learn something new, or pick up an oddity here and there, but to have something come to light that has been so blatantly disregarded and ignored, and by my own country, the United States just seems, well, outlandish. Such is the case of the “Teardrop Monument” that was given to the U. S. in 2006, on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, by President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people in acknowledgment of the terror and sorrow the United States and the world suffered on that day in 2001. I should note here that twenty-six Russians also died on that day, in the WTC.

The statue is 100 feet high, and you can see Manhattan in the background; this was by design of the sculptor, as it is the first thing you see upon entering into the harbor, before the Statue of Liberty, even.

Why am I writing about this now? Because it was never acknowledged; never reported in the press. I never knew the monument existed until today, nearly nine years after it was installed and dedicated and I am appalled that we, as a country, never expressed our appreciation towards the Russians, our wrote about it in our press. We never said anything publicly to them, nor did we reach out to them in our time of sorrow, and say, “yes, we are one in this”, but then, we're great at doing that. Lest we appear weak, or stoop down to what? Our inferiors? There is nothing inferior about the Russians and I do not understand why it was never announced in the press, or the ceremony aired on t.v. But, I do understand the mindset of our politicians.

Around the base of the statue is every name of a person who died on 9/11.

We have become the world's bullies. We have become small-minded and we no longer give credit where credit is due. This is nothing that is part of any one administration, but over time has become part of the entire institution of foreign policy. Take Ukraine. I do know that there are U. S. soldiers on the ground there now, in an "advisory capacity", but to what purpose, who can say. This sets a hugely dangerous precedent, because once you have feet on terra firma, it's not too far from shedding blood on one side or the other; it's de facto. Either unintentionally, accidentally, or by provocation, someone gets hurt, and then, we get drawn in. That is pretty much how we got pulled into Viet Nam, Tonkin Gulf (an entire fabrication, later admitted by Robert MacNamara and General William Westmoreland) not withstanding.

Yes, there was a lot of territory-gobbling going on over the centuries, and there are historically sound reasons for every case. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a threat to Russia when the Tsars took the territory in the years between 1654 and 1917. Lenin annexed Western Ukraine after it lost during the Ukraine-Soviet Civil War. Stalin annexed that part of Ukraine that was lost in World War II and Khruschev annexed the Crimea because Turkey was an ally and part of NATO, although it was considered an "administrative gesture".

This map speaks for itself; most of the Ukrainian-only speakers are in the west; the Russian-only are in the east. But that doesn't tell the whole story, Between each region, there are very nebulously drawn lines, where for generations, people have gone back and forth. What they hate and despise one day, will be loved dearly the next. One of the most astonishing things to me is this: in any conflict that is regional, or in the case of a Civil War, you have the greatest number of atrocities. Is it perhaps because the combatants are so much like one another? It's one of the reasons the Scots can't get their own house in order.

The problem with Ukraine is this: one minute, one batch of Ukrainians are pro-Russian. Next week, they're burning Putin effigies in their front yards. This is more of a territorial dispute, or tribal and cannot be “overseen” by outsiders. In Mariupol, right now, for instance, one patch of folks are being shelled, but they literally have no clue if it's the pro- or anti- Russian or Ukrainian forces. After centuries of to-ing and fro-ing and inter-marrying, they don't even know. We DO. NOT. BELONG. THERE. PERIOD.

The stepping stones and memorials carved lovingly by sculptor Zulpar Tsereteli in the walkway that surrounds the monument.

The other thing is this: Russia is a proud, tough country; etched in blood and determination. They did not survive and win World War II, just because we cobbled up Lend-Lease and gave them a phony garden-hose in the form of uniforms and what-nots. They had the guts and the balls to survive by doing things like, swimming the Donets River, with two people and one rifle to land in Stalingrad and fight what seemingly was a  lost cause, and at the end of it, what had been a charming city of 500,000, was nothing more that a pile of rubble and ash, with 1,500 starving civilians, and 900,000 German soldiers who surrendered, under the command of their General, Heinz Guderian. It was the turning point of a vicious, vicious war, and the Russians still fought on offensively for another two and a half years.

In Stalingrad alone, the fight went on in buildings, on floors of buildings, from room to room, to try and determine the winner. Stalin dug in, and with his Red Army and their certainty that they could not lose THIS battle, or the war would be lost, they fought on through the deadly winter. It was hardly worth mentioning that there was no “city” left, it was a battle to the death between two foes and the blood flowed. The Russians took full advantage of psychological warfare in using snipers and death came from nowhere to the German, when it was least expected; smoking a cigaret or taking a leak. The Wehrmacht ground itself against an iron foe that would not budge and the German Army finally relented; exhausted, spent, humiliated and would never again advance in the East.

The body count for both military and civilians and death camp victims has been estimated as high as 55,000,000, while American casualties run about 458,000, so, when the Russians come to give us a statue acknowledging our pain, don't you think they know a little something about it?

I know there's an old-style Menshevik lurking around somewhere in me. I do so love these old Soviet-style prints from the war. They were churned out by the thousands in the USSR in the Great Patriotic War as it's called in Russia, but this particular one comes from a Russian game I play, and no, it's not Tanki, Jeremy. :D

It was around the day of, or maybe the day after 9/11, I was watching the reactions from other people around the world, and they talked to this elderly man in Krasnya Ploshad, or Red Square and he was crying. There were flowers everywhere; it seemed the entire floor of Red Square must be covered in them, as people came to show their respects. The man was talking and crying. He had fought against Hitler and he couldn't believe that the evil had not been vanquished. I was so moved by him and by his outpouring of grief for what had been an old foe. Surely, we had patched up those differences. I remembered the time I had seen a wing of the RAF sit down to dinner with a wing of the German Luftwaffe they'd flown against; my father called me to tell me about it and thought it was wonderful. If they could let bygones be bygones, so should we, I thought.

Rather like the Viet Nam War Memorial, Zulpar Tsereteli, placed a plaque at the foot of his monument with the name of every person who died on 9/11. 

Yet, the recent events in Ukraine and the discovery of this lovely Monument given to us in a a spirit of love and empathy, has gone completely unnoticed or remarked on by the American public. The sculptor, Zulpar Tsereteli designed it and chose the spot in Bayonne, NJ, where several of the victims' families lived and where it can be viewed with Manhattan in the background. The man also paid for it with money from his own pocket and donations from Russian people. Ironically, the first thing people will see now, when entering the United States by sea, is this “Teardrop Monument” and then the Statue of Liberty. Although the placement is intentional and understandable, I still fail to understand, why we never acknowledged this beautiful gift; an expression of shared grief.

Loss of any kind is hard; the Russians have had it inflicted on them and, to be fair, under the regime of Stalin, they dealt with the internal struggles of purges and red-baiting, but they were human. I remember reading an auto-biography by some Soviet scientist who survived Stalin's purges, and one of his quotes stuck with me; “We used to bitch about the s.o.b., but we were kinda sad when he died.” I thought, “spoken like a real trouper!” Andre Gromyko and Eduard Shverdnadze, among several others managed to survive Stalin and write their memoirs. Whether or not they meant them to be, there is some hilarity in their words.

People are people. Everywhere. We must never forget that. When we demonize a group of people, or just generalize them, we make them less than human, thus they are less deserving of our kindness, generosity, or thanks when they make a gesture so humane. What must they think of us? Years ago on a visit there, one suitcase contained nothing but small items to hand out to people I met. Small make-up cases for women, soap and cologne for men. The simplest gestures and the merest attempt to even try and communicate in Russian brought delight, which is not the case in other countries that I've traveled in. I ended up leaving the suitcase behind; the Cold War was still on, and there was really not much I could bring home. Years later, I've ended up with Matryushka nesting dolls, old USSR flags, and icons galore, from friends who never forgot.

I was not going to write about this, but some things come up, and I had this stored away, for a rainy day, so I decided to go ahead and post it. After the passing of Jim, I may have mentioned that he had at one time been incarcerated. I have been on the committee of the FAC here in Florida, trying to help ex-felons re-adjust to coming back out into society. Through them, I was asked to help situate a wonderful young lady who has paid her dues and is coming back out into the world. This left me with less time than I would have liked to prepare for #IWSG, but that is okay. This will do. I will be writing of my new roommate, Lexi and her adventures. A couple of things about her; she's much more musically talented than I am and she has a family that loves her very much! I expect she will do well out here and she's paid her debt to society. Hell, we all make mistakes and we all deserve a second chance!

As for writing; I'm getting some done. I'm trying to put my book together, "Homeless Chronicles in Tampa" that explains how I went from having a home out in the country to managing to lose two houses and end up in a homeless shelter. The symphony season started today and we tore through "Scheherazade" like we'd all played it a million times. It stands to reason that we haven't, but it's a huge favorite with kids growing up, I guess. It was certainly one of my favorites! Stay tuned!
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