Donald Trump Couldn’t Polish the Chrome on My Mother’s Wheelchair, The Loser.



My mother was a beautiful Italian woman of great dignity, faith and courage. She was born during the Polio Epidemic of 1915-16, and paralyzed on one side of her body. She considered herself fortunate that it wasn’t worse. When she saw other “Polio children” in the Crippled Children’s Home where she spent several months–living their lives in Iron Lungs because they could not breathe–my mother was grateful that she only lost the use of one arm.

From her earliest days, my mother faced hateful discrimination because of her disability. Her father, an ignorant, arrogant, bull-headed Italian macho-man, told her she’d never get a job or get married because of her “limp” arm. As a “polio” child born in the Italian neighborhood of Greenwich Village, NYC public health restrictions kept her out of public swimming pools. When she was sent upstate New York to a New York Times “Fresh Air Fund” camp for disabled children, she noticed signs in front of private camps throughout the Catskills which read: “NO POLIO CHILDREN ALLOWED.”

My mother taught herself to swim in the waters off Coney Island, using her “one good arm”, and raised and diapered four children in the days when diapers were made of cloth, and all washing was done by hand. She never complained, nor cursed her disability, even when my father went off to World War II to fight Fascism and she was left alone, to care for three children, with her youngest still in diapers.

My mother never got a “small” stake of $1 million from her father, as Donald Trump did, nor did she ever delight in calling people names or insulting them. She was a devout Catholic until the moment of her death in 2007, and believed in the kind of all loving God that Pope Francis has preached about over the last few years. Money never mattered much to my mother; human dignity, kindness, caring and love were the sources of her wealth. Her life-long disability made her even more sensitive to all kinds of human frailties.

I thought of her this week watching the news coverage of Donald Trump mimicking disabled New York Times Reporter Serge Kovaleski. My mother, loving and forgiving as she was, would have been outraged.

“You miserable son-of-a-bitch,” I imagined her yelling at the television as Trump mocked Kovaleski. “You should be forced to spend time in a Crippled Children’s Home to see people struggling to live each day with a disability.”

My mother’s political hero was FDR because he showed the world how a person with a disability—Polio, specifically—could accomplish great things for others. When FDR helped launch the “March of Dimes” to raise vast sums of money for Polio research, my mother sent off her annual contribution of dimes with a religious fervor for decades.   With FDR fighting for a cure, surely one would be found, she told us. She was proven right in 1954, when Dr. Jonas Salk discovered the Polio Vaccine.

My mother isn’t alive today to call Donald Trump a miserable son-of-bitch, for making fun of the disabled. So, I will. This son of a courageous Polio survivor thinks you’re a miserable son-of-a-bitch, Trump, and a loser of the lowest order.

First you picked on Mexican immigrants and called them criminals and rapists—some of the same slurs that were thrown at the Chinese 135 years ago, Italians 100 years ago, and Cuban immigrants, 35 years ago. Next you attacked political refugees, escaping certain death and oppression, and advocated the anti-American and unconstitutional action of registering people on the basis of their faith–an action taken by Fascist regimes against the Jews during World War II.  Then you cheered on while some of your White Trash supporters beat up a black man for having the courage to stand up to your pernicious political views. And, finally, you mocked a man—a national treasure of a journalist—simply because he told the truth about another one of your huge lies.

My father fought Facists like you in World War II, Trump. My wife’s Uncle died fighting them in Italy. My mother fought bigots and brutes everyday of her life. It’s in the spirit of these battlers against bullies like you, that I’ll continue their fight, Donald, you miserable son-of-a-bitch. You couldn’t polish the chrome on my mother’s wheelchair, you loser.





The last time I saw Paris…





The last time I saw Paris was three years ago this Spring. It was the first time, too. I had been to France before, to Nice and Cannes, but Paris required a special trip, and undivided attention–like a demanding lover.

We rented a clean, compact apartment in the Marais District, with large casement windows that opened up to a sunny courtyard. I loved opening the windows to hear the day awaken: the sounds of grown ups clop-clopping their serious business shoes on the courtyard’s cobblestone as they went off to work; the shrieks and laughter of French children racing each other to school.

We shared the apartment with lifelong friends who understood my need to just be by myself, walk around the City and hang out in coffee shops whenever I wanted, watch people and simply inhale life. Paris was made for such things.

I could care less about seeing the Eiffel Tower, or Montmartre. The Bastille was now a flea market where cheap dresses were sold, and long lines of tourists slithered past the gargoyles of Notre Dame. I fell in love with the D’Orsay, watching an entire class of second grade students sitting still in front of a statue and sketching it, under the unerring eye of their talented teacher.   I lost my patience at the Louvre, where I found myself forced back to Brooklyn, screaming at a selfish clod taking a selfie while he sat in the lap of a 600 year-old reclining nude.

“Ne touche’ pas,” I shouted, before realizing that the art vandal understood neither English nor French. He did, however, understand Brooklynese, especially when punctuated by aggressive hand gestures.   My passionate protection of the art of generations should have been my warning: I was falling in love with Paris and I when I loved someone, my fierce loyalty kicked in if they were ever threatened.

We explored Shakespeare & Company bookshop, standing behind Sylvia Beach’s desk, looking out the window where she wrote as she looked out at Paris and imagined all sorts of lives being lived, loves being whispered, on the streets below. We stepped outside in front of the bookstore and watched a free puppet show, where the tug of each string seemed to be attached to the smiles of the humans stopping for some creative fun in the middle of their day.

The Seine beckoned, and we strolled across a bridge laced with padlocks, and down a stone stairwell, smoothed by time, weather and thousands upon thousands of shoes. We boarded a boat and rode the River until sunset, back and forth, traveling back in time to a moment which did not move, until the sun finally disappeared and the sky dipped into a darker and deeper purple. We walked all the way back to the Marais, intoxicated on the night air so thick with life.

Next morning, on my own, I bounded into a French bakery, bought a hot, crusty baguette, and devoured the entire loaf before camping out in a coffee shop which became my comfortable nest for the day. On the way back to the flat, I heard music coming from an old church around the corner. The doors were open. I walked in and stopped. In front of the altar, stood a few dozen boys and girls, no older than 12 or 13, each holding a sheet of music and sounding like angels with soprano voices, to piano accompaniment. Above them, climbing up to the tall stained glass windows, were hundreds of paper cranes of all sizes and colors. Peace cranes, I thought; Sadako’s paper cranes of peace, multiplying by the millions around the world after the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was Paris: a place of music and light, life and remembrance and hope, eternal hope. Somehow, eyes filled with tears, I found my way back to the apartment.

I was seduced by Paris’ open arms, a free and easy pace, which encouraged you to do everything, or nothing at all. It was a gentle kiss, a warm caress; a children’s song overflowing with life, and I can’t get it out of my mind.



Dear Starbucks: Your Cups Runneth Over with Red, White & Blue…and Green.



Dear Starbucks:

On behalf of all of us who believe that the United States is much, more more than a Christian nation, I want to extend my warmest gratitude to you for showing us some sensitivity, and standing up for the Red, White & Blue.

Your Red Holiday cups are a stroke of genius, because they were NOT a tribute to Jesus, or anything that could be remotely identified with Jesus—such as snowflakes, candy canes, reindeer, snowmen and, or course, Christmas trees. As a Jew, I appreciate this. I am guessing there are millions of American Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists , people who don’t eat candy canes, and yes—even many Christians—who feel the same way.

Every year, between Halloween and Christmas, we Jews are expected to go silently into the night, and smile politely while commerce and Christianity meld into one brand over every form of media and at most retail outlets. In fact, even Starbucks offers red and green-packaged ground coffee in “Merry Christmas” packaging.  When non-Jews toss us a bone of recognition around Hanukkah (like Starbucks’ own blue-packaged “Holiday” grinds)  we’re expected to feel grateful for the kindling of even the faintest light of acknowledgement—kind of like we’ve been forgiven once again for the death of Jesus, something we were never responsible for in the first place. Er….thanks, but no thanks. We’ll burn our own Menorah candles at both ends, thank you.

Ironically, the day there was such a brew-haha over your Red-suited Starbucks cups just happened to be the 77th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of the Broken Glass”, when Nazi’s and their sympathizers, smashed the storefront windows of Jewish merchants throughout Germany because they were…well, Jewish. It would not have surprised me at all to see some of the same Fundamentalist fanatics crazily critical of Starbuck’s Red menace, to have smashed the windows of Starbucks stores across the nation. That’s essentially what they tried to use social media to do. It’s so much neater that way, and they can’t get arrested for viral vandalism.

Apparently, what these Redcup-haters fail to recognize is that America is NOT a Christian nation, nor has it ever been since its’ inception. In fact, the country was founded, and the U.S. Constitution was adopted, to specially prevent having ANY state sanctioned religion.

As a free nation, we even fought two World Wars against such narrow-minded fanaticism and forced beliefs, and we’re fighting a war on worldwide terror for the same reasons. My father, a practicing Catholic, fought in one of those World Wars, and my wife’s uncle, an observant American Jew, died fighting for religious & cultural freedom against Fascist forces. Lost in the Deified design disagreement over a drink holder made of cardboard, was a Red, White & Blue program expanded by Starbucks for Veterans who have risked their lives to protect the freedom to practice the religion of our choice, or no religion at all.

According to the Washington Post, Starbucks not only used RedCup day to unveil its commitment to hire more veterans and military spouses, but also announced the expansion of its employee College Achievement Plan to cover the full tuition for a spouse or child of a veteran or active duty service member. Starbucks noted that it has hired some 5,500 Veterans & military spouses since 2013, more than halfway toward its goal of hiring 10,000 current or former service members or their spouses by 2018.

So, I salute you, Starbucks for your consideration of those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas, and respect the right of people who do. I also want to congratulate you for reinforcing the finest in human values, by generously giving back to our Veterans and their families, a small measure of how much they’ve given to all of us.

I’d say your Red, White & Blue spirit is enough to fill anyone’s cup—regardless of color, design or religious denomination.


Steve Villano

A Blood Stained “Song of Peace”



Twenty-three years ago, I had the honor of meeting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on an official State visit to Israel with New York State Governor Mario M. Cuomo, with whom I worked at the time.

Prime Minister Rabin, joined by his wife Leah, welcomed us into his office—a simple, straightforward office without ostentation, like the man himself. It was an office that looked like it belonged to a high school principal, rather than the leader of a powerful nation.

Mr. Rabin’s manner was as forthright and unassuming as his office. I sat next to the Prime Minister, by his left side. Governor Cuomo sat across from him and Mrs. Matilda Cuomo and Mrs. Rabin sat next to one another, to the right of the Prime Minister. The conversation was warm and cordial. Cuomo was well-liked and highly respected by Israeli Labor Party leaders Rabin and Shimon Peres.

We talked of Cuomo’s first—and only—trip to Israel: a pilgrimage made after the death two months earlier of Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz, the Governor’s long-time confidant and my friend, in whose memory we planted a tree on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem.   Rabbi Mowshowitz urged Cuomo to visit Israel for years. President Rabin, with the world to worry about, expressed fond remembrances of this simple, yet remarkable, Rabbi from Queens, N.Y.

In office just a few short months, Rabin talked of his plans for pursuing peace in Israel and throughout the Middle East. He looked at each of us squarely, as he spoke in his deep, monotone, mournful voice. I studied Rabin’s face carefully: a face chiseled with sadness, with eyes that had seen too much death and suffering. Later, I would learn that this good man, haunted by the thought that he was leading young Israeli soldiers to their slaughter, suffered a nervous breakdown during the 1967 War—the War which secured the Golan Heights and the West Bank for Israel, and represented Rabin’s greatest military victory.

I watched his face in September, 1992, and saw the sadness slip away each time he spoke of his hopes for bringing peace to the land of his birth. I can still hear his voice, that somber voice, warning us of the grave threats to peace posed by political extremists among both his own people and the Palestinians. Just the day before in a public park in Jerusalem, I witnessed some of the Right Wing Jewish extremists Rabin referenced. They tried to shout down Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, speaking at a public event, because Teddy believed that all faiths should be able to worship freely at their holy sites in that Holy City.

I can still feel Yitzak Rabin’s gaze into my eyes, the firm yet gentle look of a man who had known love and loss, weakness and strength, sorrow and joy, victory and defeat. I can still feel the sweet contradiction in the strength of his handshake and the softness of his voice when he wished each of us “Shalom.” It was the last word he spoke to us.

Three years later, at a public rally, he sang the words to the “Song of Peace.” He folded the paper on which the words to the song were written, and gently placed it in his jacket pocket. Minutes after that,  an assassin’s bullet ended his life. The folded paper containing the lyrics to the “Song of Peace,” were found covered with blood.

At Rabin’s funeral, his former speechwriter, Eitan Haber, read the “Song of Peace” from the blood-stained prayer page, found in Yitzak Rabin’s jacket pocket:

“ Let the sun rise, the morning shine,

The most righteous prayer will not bring us back.

Who is the one whose light has been extinguished,

And buried in the earth;

Bitter tears will not wake him; will not bring him back.

No song of praise or victory will avail us.

Therefore, sing only a prayer of peace.

Don’t whisper a prayer—

Sing aloud a Song of Peace.”