I apologize to all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives during wartime for this great country fighting what is just and right. I apologize to the brave soldiers who were traumatized and bore witness to the worst of mankind during the liberation of the concentration camps—grown men who cried during interviews, even 50 years later. Those are images they could never erase from their minds and haunted them the rest of their lives. I apologize to all the Jews who lost their lives in concentration camps during the Holocaust as well as being gunned down and buried in mass graves by the Nazis. I apologize to all the innocent African Americans who have been lynched at the hands of the KKK in the name of “White Nationalism.” I apologize to all of us who have been the victims of racism and anti-Semitism in the name of White Nationalists, the KKK, and other Alt-right fringe groups. I apologize on behalf of this great country of the United States for the insensitive, hurtful, unprecedented, and frankly dangerous stance taken by the President by not calling out these hate groups for what they are—hate filled anti-Semites and racists. I apologize to the brave people in Charlottesville who came out to protest the blatant Nazi, White Supremacy agenda who have been lumped together along with the “good people” “peacefully protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee” when we can see Nazi flags, swastikas, and Confederate flags waving proudly. I apologize for statements such as, “Don’t let Jews take our jobs” and calling out the President for allowing his daughter to be “taken” by Jared Kushner, who is Jewish. I apologize to the young woman who was mowed down and killed by a Neo-Nazi follower, who probably believes that she was just collateral damage. I am saddened that this sort of language does not seem to bother the President whose own daughter is now Jewish, as well as his grandchildren. I am frightened by the vehemence of these insane beliefs held by these previously fringe groups, that are now proliferating throughout the United States because of the lack of condemnation and frankly defense of these White Nationalist groups and the KKK. I am shocked, but not surprised at the belief that these sick cowardly groups feel they have a friend in the President. I am horrified that the formerly grand wizard of the KKK, David Duke, praised and thanked the President. I am disgusted at the spineless lack of strong response and condemnation, and any real action from the Congress. Words are meaningless unless followed by action. The good citizens of this country need to unite against hate groups and not let them become part of the mainstream fabric of this Country. Join me in the condemnation of hate groups before our beautiful, free, country becomes a fascist state. Open your eyes and see history for what it is; see what took hold in Nazi Germany, and how it started out in small ways. See how during the 1930s anti-Semitism began to take a foothold, with many people burying their heads in the sand and refusing to believe what was happening, all the while people were quietly losing their businesses, being denied basic rights, condemned without cause, culminating in the death of millions. Open your eyes everyone, no matter what your religion or race, and take a stand for what is right and just in this world because this affects us all.
A while back, I was at my hairdresser’s and I was complaining about the way drivers in Augusta take 15 minutes to make a turn into a driveway. We were laughing and then I said, I was going to write an article entitled, “Fifty Things I Hate about the South.” That was an exaggeration, and I do not hate the South. But, as a transplanted Northerner, it has sometimes been challenging fitting in.
How did a nice Jewish girl from the NY/NJ area end up (not a good choice of words) in Augusta, GA you might ask? Well, through a series of fateful events I moved here. I had been working at the WTC, and a year after the 9/11 attacks, I was laid off along with hundreds of others. After wracking my brains about how I would survive, it came to me; I’ll move down South. So, I up and sold my Townhouse and bought one here.
I was familiar with the area since I had been visiting my friend’s family for 8 years on vacation. But visiting and actually living here was a totally different story. With all the uncertainty in my life, the initial reason I moved here was financial; let’s face it, it is cheaper to live in Augusta. Since moving here, I have taken risks and reinvented myself many times over but it has still been a rocky ride at times. In the beginning, I wondered if I made a mistake because I missed my family terribly and some of the differences were very stark to me. As a liberal Northerner, it is sometimes hard to swallow some of the political leanings of this area. I missed the day-trips to Camelback, PA to go skiing too. I cannot escape the question of “where do you come from” (as if I’m an alien from another planet) due to my New York accent. I also cannot fathom why, when asked my name at Starbucks, my coffee comes with the name “Maryland” on the cup. Even when I tell people my name, they still say, “Maryland?” I get junk mail addressed to “Maryland Botta.” Maybe I should change my name to Washington, DC. The names down here are different too. I discovered that Melvis is an actual name, which took me by surprise because that was a made up name my brother and I used for my cousin Melvin and his wife Phyllis. You also don’t find the variety of ethnic restaurants here that you find up North, and I miss that sometimes. The first time I was asked what Church I belonged to, I was taken aback; that would be considered rude up North, and nobody’s business. But in the South, it is commonplace and acceptable. Living in Augusta often means that everybody knows everybody (a la Peyton Place)—you always run into people you know, or people that know who you know; that’s life in a small town. But when all is said and done, despite all these differences, the South has grown on me, even when I wasn’t even aware of it. Here’s the thing—for years every time someone would ask me if I like it in Augusta, I would say, “Eh, it’s OK.” I could not make up my mind, but one day, while driving down the street on a really lovely spring day, it suddenly occurred to me that Augusta has become my home. I have made some friendships, and have established a life of sorts here. I have come to appreciate the South, even though it is not perfection (but no place is). So, the next time someone asks me if I like it down South, I will say, “Yes, I do and I think I’ll stay.”
It is Sunday, and I am at West Town Community Church acquiring some much needed serenity when as usual and predictably, I hear my muted phone vibrate. I hear that there has been a voice message, and without even looking at the phone a sense of weariness and hopelessness descends upon me, blotting out any peacefulness I might feel. I breathe a quiet sigh, since I am now in a meeting about a VBS trip to Jamaica, and silently check the phone number, hoping that somehow it is not my tormentor. But, it is and I barely hear the remainder of the meeting because I am totally distracted. I greet other church attendees smiling and answering, “I’m good today” when asked how I am, all the while knowing that if I actually said how I really feel, their eyes would glaze over and they would politely drift away to speak to someone more cheerful. I am invited to lunch downtown and decline because I am so sick, tired, and troubled that I just cannot focus. I remind myself that we are keeping him alive and at least he is not living in the street, sleeping in a box, and robbing houses to survive. I remind myself that he is much better off now than 3 years ago, but is he really? When does “assisting” equal “enabling?” We have created a “monster” regarding his incessant requests for money. If he put just one once of the tenacity he exhibits in calling over and over and over for money into getting the right treatment and medication, and just doing the right thing, he might actually stand a chance of having something more than a day to day existence. He has absolutely no self-knowledge or insight into the possibility that his line of thinking is totally skewed. I have come to the realization that he will never be OK and that no amount of money will ever be enough because we are just putting a Bandaid on a gaping wound. He will continue to slowing leak blood, even when we think that we have “solved” the problem. He plays “mind games” by asking for a small amount one day, and after you send it he suddenly says that he is about to be evicted, as if he didn’t know this the day before. After screaming myself horse in the car, I arrive at my second home to send him the money that I don’t have to spare in my account. Then he doesn’t call back. No matter what I say to him, he has selective hearing and gives me lip service, saying he understands that he cannot call every few days for money. Yet, two or three days go by and that infamous 609 area code comes up. When I don’t answer the phone, he mounts a concerted campaign, bombarding me with phone call after call, playing the “guilt” card. I cannot continue living like this—being held in emotional captivity by my tormentor. There are days that I want to just let him be evicted and live in the street again. I am tormented by my tormentor because I both love and hate him simultaneously. I love him intensely yet I HATE what he does to my peace and serenity and can’t help resent him. I live in either love, hate, or guilt, never in tranquility because I know that there will never be an end to this until one of us dies.