“I Sing. You Enjoy.”

I didn’t expect much.

I’m not much into Christmas decorations or holiday lights, and haven’t been for many, many years.

As the youngest of four kids growing up on Long Island, N.Y., the chore of laboriously lighting the house for the holidays and then taking them back down in early January, often fell to me, since no one else in the family had the time, nor interest, to do it.

Each year was a challenge to come up with some kind of different decoration other than the same old dreary, random string-of-lights on trees or outline of a portion of our split-level house. In my junior year of college — the year of the shootings of students at Kent State — I came home from school determined to make the lights send a message to our politically conservative neighborhood.

With the Vietnam War raging, and two years after I lost my childhood friend, Henry York in the Tet Offensive, and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., were assassinated, I thought it was time to turn our Christmas lights into a form of political protest. So I carefully strung the lights up in the form of a giant peace sign on the front of our house, making it clear where we stood on the War, in our heavily Republican town.

When my mother’s brother Eddie — an early MAGA-ite clinging to the cave dwellings of prejudice — arrived for Christmas Eve dinner — he burst into our house shouting about why we were displaying a “Communist Sign,” out front. Never one to be bullied, my mother — a Catholic Workers’ kind of Catholic — thrust her chin out to her physically much bigger brother, and told him a “Peace” sign was completely in the spirit of Christmas, and that would be that.

That was the last time I decorated my parents house for Christmas, and I was glad to be done with the onerous — and what I considered to be a pointless task — since, to me, commercial Christmas had lost its meaning. When I converted to Judaism some years later, I was relieved that holiday decorating was no longer part of my annual duties, although it took me a while to let go of it, especially the Christmas tree. Old, emotional habits die hard.

So this year, when we scheduled a family trip to an over-the-top decorated family farm in Sonoma, California, named “Dillonland,” I was expecting to be disappointed. However, since I was with my son and granddaughters, I knew I could endure anything.

“Dillonland” was a dizzying hodgepodge of lights and vinyl blow-ups of movie characters, and when we entered the property and greeted the Dillons, I joked that all they needed was to pipe in the music of Bob Dylan to set the right mood. My joke fizzled like an exploded light bulb. So, I decided to just observe the delight of our youngest granddaughter, Age 8.

She didn’t disappoint, running from one display to the next; borrowing my I-phone camera to snap photos of one bizarre, blitz of lights after the other. Watching her made the entire experience into fun.

But, the most unexpected joy came in the hour-long ride home, when I sat in the back seat on one side of this effervescent eight-year old, and my son, her father, sat on the other. She began to softly sing a song she learned in Spanish for her holiday concert, entitled “Doy Gracias Por Muchas Cosas,” or, “Things I’m Thankful for,” by Hap Palmer. While she sang in her light, lilting voice, she gently massaged her father’s head, to relieve a migraine he had earlier.

Since I love to sing along with her, and make things sillier, I asked if she could teach me the song, since I was on a 222 day streak of learning Spanish on Duolingo.

“No Grampy,” she said firmly. “I sing; You enjoy.”

And, so I did.

She sung the entire song in the impeccably natural Spanish accent that bilingual young children have, and as she chanted the opening line — Doy gracias por muchas cosas — we were all silenced by the innocence and beauty of the eight-year old’s voice, including her grandmother who was driving the car, and is blessed with a sweet, lyrical voice of her own.

In soft, clear tones, our girl, known as G, followed the song’s instructions to “let me tell you what they are,” these things for which she was thankful — muchas cosas:

The English version of this beautiful song can be found here:

but it does not compare to the gentle, loving Spanish lullaby which young G sang for all of us:

Doy gracias por el mundo, (the earth)

Doy gracias por el mar (the sea);

Doy gracias por mis amigos (my friends),

Doy gracias por ser como soy (to be me).

Doy gracias por el sol (the sun),

Doy gracias por cada arbol (each tree);

Doy gracias por mi casa (my home),

Doy gracias por ser como soy (to be me).

Doy gracias por mi comida (my food),

Doy gracias por mi libre (to be free);

Doy gracias por las estellas (the stars),

Doy gracias por ser como soy (to be me).

So, I just sat back and enjoyed, while Ms. G, sang softly, and gently massaged away all of our pain, her angelic voice transporting each one of us to a place of beauty, light and joy, during the darkest of times.

Hitler’s Apprentice: Donald Trump

(The cover of 14th Sentry Edition of Mein Kampf, published by the Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Mass; originally in 1943, with copyright renewal in 1971. Translated by Ralph Manheim. All quotes of Hitler’s writings, are taken verbatim from this edition, with pages indicated.)

Donald Trump is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the publication of Adolf Hitler’s “ Mein Kampf” a year early, by plagiarizing Hitler’s hate-filled screeds, written by the deranged sociopath and mass murderer, while the Nazi leader served time in Landsberg Am Lech Fortress Prison in Germany, for attempting to overthrow the government of Germany. Trump’s repeated uses of Hitler’s phrases “poisoning the blood” and “vermin,” are directly from the propaganda playbook of the most evil enemy the United States has ever faced, responsible for slaughtering six million Jews, and encouraging violent acts against millions more, from 1933-1945, through Europe and around the world.

Hitler’s quotes are directly from Mein Kampf, while the juxtaposed Trump quotes are from speeches, interviews and articles from June, 2015 through this past weekend of December 16, 2023.

From Page 327, Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler: 

“ In heedlessly ignoring the question of the preservation of the racial foundations of our nation, the old Reich disregarded the sole right which gives life in this world.  People which (sic) bastardize themselves, or let themselves be bastardized, sin against the will of eternal Providence, and when their ruin is encompassed by a stronger enemy, it is not an injustice done to them, but only a restoration of justice.  If a people no longer want to respect the Nature-given qualities of its being which root is in its blood, it has no further right to complain over the loss of its’ earthly existence….A new spiritual rebirth can come, AS LONG AS THE BLOOD IS PRESERVED PURE.”

September 27, 2023, Donald Trump in a video interview posted on the conservative website National Pulse:

“Nobody has any idea where these people are coming from, and we know they come from prisons. We know they come from mental institutions and insane asylums. We know they’re terrorists. Nobody has ever seen anything like we’re witnessing right now. It is a very sad thing for our country. It’s poisoning the blood of our country. It’s so bad, and people are coming in with disease. People are coming in with every possible thing that you could have .

From page 289, Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, on “Blood Poisoning:

  “All great cultures from the past perished only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning.” 

December 16, 2023, Whittemore Center Arena, Durham, New Hampshire, Donald Trump on “Blood Poisoning.”

“They let — I think the real number is 15, 16 million people into our country. When they do that, we got a lot of work to do. They’re poisoning the blood of our country,” That’s what they’ve done. They poison mental institutions and prisons all over the world, not just in South America, not just to three or four countries that we think about, but all over the world. They’re coming into our country from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.”

From page 286, Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, on mixed-race “defilement of the blood.”

“Historical experience offers countless proofs of this.  It shows with terrifying clarity that in every mingling of Aryan blood with that of lower peoples the result was the end of the cultured people.  North America, whose population consists in by far the largest part of Germanic elements who mixed but little with the lower colored peoples, shows a different humanity and culture from Central and South America, where the predominantly Latin immigrants often mixed with the aborigines of a large scale.  By this one example, we can clearly and distinctly recognize the effect of racial mixture.  The Germanic inhabitant of the American continent, who has remained racially pure and unmixed, rose to be master of the continent; he will remain the master as long as he does not fall a victim to the defilement of the blood.”

November 12, 2023, Veterans Day Speech, Claremont, NH, Donald Trump on “vermin:”

We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections.”

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, on dehumanizing Jews:

  •    “ All who are not of good race in this world are chaff.” (pg. 296);
  •      “If the Jews were alone in this world, they would stifle in filth and offal.” (pg. 302)
  •      “He (the Jew) is and remains the typical parasite, a sponge who like a noxious bacillus, keeps spreading as soon as a favorable medium invites him.” (pg. 305)
  •      “ He (The Jew) is the “scourge of God.  In the course of a few centuries they have come to know him , and now they feel that the mere fact of his (the Jew’s ) existence is as bad as the plague.”  They are “eternal blood suckers.” (pg. 310)
  • “The Jew poisons the blood of others, but preserves his own.” (pg. 316)

June 16, 2015, Announcement of Candidacy Speech for President, Donald Trump:

When Mexico sends its’ people, they’re not sending their best; they’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing their problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists…And, its coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and from the Middle East…”

From page 562, “Mein Kampf,” Adolf Hitler on “Jews as Black parasites:”

Bear in mind the devastations which Jewish bastardization visits on our nation each day, and consider that this BLOOD POISONING can be removed from our national body only after centuries, if at all.  Consider further how racial disintegration drags down and often destroys the last Aryan values of our German people…THIS CONTAMINATION OF OUR BLOOD, BLINDLY IGNORED BY THOUSANDS OF OUR PEOPLE IS CARRIED OUT SYSTEMATICALLY BY THE JEW TODAY.  SYSTEMATICALLY, THESE BLACK PARASITES OF THE NATION DEFILE OUR INEXPERIENCED YOUNG BLOND GIRLS AND THEREBY DESTROY SOMETHING WHICH CAN NO LONGER BE REPLACED IN THIS WORLD.”

January 11, 2018, Donald Trump in Oval Office Meeting discussing immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries: (as reported in Washington Post, by Josh Dawsey):

Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

From page 325, Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler on Blacks and Jews defiling Germany:

“With Satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in the wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people.  With every means he tries to destroy the racial foundations of the people he has set out to subjugate.  Just as he himself systematically ruins women and girls, he does not shrink back from pulling down the blood barrier for others, even on a large scale.  It was and is Jews who bring the Negroes to the Rhineland, always with the same secret thought and clear aim of RUINING THE HATED WHITE RACE by the necessarily resulting bastardization, throwing it down from its’ cultural and political height, and himself rising to be its’ master…And so, he tries systematically to lower the racial level by a continuous poisoning of individuals.”

THIS is our Jewish Call for Peace, and for Freedom for the Hostages.

All we want for Hanukkah is a ceasefire in the Hamas/Israel War, the release of the Hostages, and an end to to slaughter of civilians in Gaza, on the West Bank, and in Israel.

The Non Profit Quarterly gives a detailed and compelling explanation of our Jewish Call for Peace. As we light the remaining Hanukkah candles over the next few nights, THIS is what we asking.

We light our Hanukkah candles for a ceasefire.



AIDS, Polio & Never Giving Up.

My mother’s birthday and World AIDS Day dovetailed each other for years, until her death at age 92, in 2007.

During her final years, I was grateful to be working for a national HIV/AIDS organization—life-affirming work which required me to travel across country in early December, to spread the message about HIV prevention, treatment & care. An added bonus was getting to celebrate my mother’s birthday with her, in person, each year.

She lived a grace-filled life, battling Polio for all of her existence, raising and diapering four children with “only one good arm,” and preparing homemade pasta for a steady flow of family and friends who traveled miles for her incomparable cooking.  It was remarkable to watch her manipulate the pasta dough, with her one strong hand, as she kneaded it tirelessly on the flour-covered macaroni board.

She rarely complained, loved to play the digital slots with her lightening fast “good hand,” at the casino, and lived with the disease as an example of courage, love, tenacity and compassion for others. No matter how challenging things got, my mother did not know the meaning of giving up—on herself, or on those she loved.

For my mother’s 90th birthday— she got all “dolled up,” in a pink Boa and a “Happy Birthday” tiara to spend the day at the casino with her granddaughters,  my sister Vera, and my brother-in-law Carlo, my mother’s care-givers for the last 14 years of her life, when she was largely confined to a wheelchair.

I was making my World AIDS Day educational trip to Southern California, and, as a gift, brought her an advanced-copy DVD of an HBO-produced story about FDR’s years in Warm Springs, Georgia, which depicted how he tenaciously battled his Polio, and did his physical therapy, day after day, to prevent further deterioration of his paralyzed muscles.

FDR was a hero, and almost a saint, to my mother since her childhood, and like him, she religiously followed her routine of daily physical therapy (coupled with praying on her Rosary Beads) right up until her final days.

As my mother and I watched the HBO film together, she gave a stream of commentary about how she, contracting Polio as an infant in the epidemic of 1915, was put into a Crippled Children’s Home (it’s actual name), and banned from NYC’s public swimming pools for fear she would infect others. 

My mother always considered herself “fortunate” (her favorite word) to not be trapped in an Iron Lung to breath as many other “Polio Kids,” were, and “blessed” to be selected as a New York Times Fresh Air Fund Kid, where she was taken by bus to a special upstate summer camp for poor kids with Polio.

On the ride up to the Catskill Mountains from New York City, my mother remembered passing small-minded, small towns along the way with signs at their entrance that shouted: “No Polio Kids Allowed.”

“It was the same as with AIDS, today” this remarkable Italian woman, than 90 years old,” said. “Some people don’t give you a chance if you have a disease or a disability, but you can never let them get the best of you.”

And, she quickly added,  “It helped to have some powerful advocates like FDR and the March of Dimes.”

For years until the Polio Vaccine was discovered in 1954–some 60 years after the virus was identified–my mother dutifully dealt out her supply of dimes to the March of Dimes, determined to be part of something far bigger than herself.

Her help, she was convinced, would make it possible for medical researchers to find a cure for the disease that had paralyzed her on one side of her body, and spare another child from the same kind of suffering and stigma she endured, from narrow-minded members of her own family, and from a society all too quick to cast aside the disabled.

My mother’s instincts were exactly correct. Millions of others like her, with a strong sense of compassion and social responsibility, contributed hundreds of millions of dimes, and kept the search for a cure for polio on the top of the public’s priority list of public health imperatives for decades to come, when people still believed that medical science could save the world.

“If only people would support a March of Dimes for AIDS,” this 90-year old Italian woman with only a sixth-grade education would say.

“If only you had a fighter like FDR to find a vaccine for AIDS. And if only, you could convince the public that everyone has a responsibility to help each other.” She didn’t mince four-letter words when it came to describing anti-vaxxers.

That was my mother’s time-tested recipe for social responsibility. She clearly saw the connection between Polio and AIDS, between caring and compassion, between love and social action. A devout, progressive Catholic in the tradition of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers Movement, acting to improve the world and help others was the central commandment of her faith.

Giving up was never an option for Margaret Villano; in fact, it was a mortal sin. And each time she lifted her paralyzed arm up with her “good arm”, or carefully guided her “good hand” to put ten dimes in a specially designed giving card, you could feel that her hope, and action, could move the world.