Political Flavors

What To Read To Your Kid During The Trump Administration

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials, Personal Essays, Pregnancy And Motherhood Thinkpieces on January 20th, 2017

My son is still a baby by but I try to read to him every day. He doesn’t understand the words yet but he likes looking at the pictures and hearing my voice. In some ways I’m glad I don’t have to explain Donald Trump to him yet, and my heart goes out to parents who do. When I was a kid I liked topical books like “How My Parents Learned to Eat” and “The Lorax.” My Dad gave me a copy of Jack London’s “The Scab” when I was about ten. And I plan on continuing the tradition of including political books with my own son. Here’s some kids books covering themes that may come up in the net few years:

For Very Little Ones
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
An alphabet board book which covers the A-Z of activism from “Advocate Abolitionist Ally” to “Zapatista of course.” Some people may balk about introducing radical politics to young children. But I love this book. I will unapologetically share my Unitarian Universalist faith with my son, and he’ll be hearing a lot of these words at coffee hour after services, or while I’m playing “Democracy Now!” in the background of a quiet day at home. So why not read him this remarkable book of rhymes about activism?

For Your Budding Feminist
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl
About a year before I had my son, I reviewed this book on Goodreads: “This book is amazing and I want to buy a copy for every child I know.” Children will enjoy learning about historical figures they’ve heard of and those they haven’t. Although it’s written for children, it does not hold back. It begins, “A is for Angela. Angela Davis was born in 1944 in Birmingham Alabama into a neighborhood known as ‘Dynamite Hill’ because a group of racist white men called the Ku Klux Klan often bombed the homes of black families who lived there.”

The authors have also written a sequel “Rad Women Worldwide.”

For The Elementary School Age Peacemaker
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan
This is a simple story of two girls who are best friends, one white and one Arab, but who secretly think each other’s food is gross. You can probably guess what happens next. It’s a sweet story with charming pictures.

If Things Get Really Bad
The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss wrote this during the Cold War, and it’s an unflinching look at the prospect of nuclear war through the eyes of a child. I read it when I was about 11 in 1994. By that time, both the Berlin Wall and the USSR were things of the past. For children who lived through times where the prospect of mutually assured destruction was very real, this book was much more relatable. It’s also a good tool to teach kids about allegory and how literature can simplify real world problems into stories we can talk about.

2016 Link Roundup

Posted in Editorials on December 31st, 2016

I’m still way too pessimistic about America’s descent into fascism to call this post the “Best of” but here’s some things I think you’d like if you missed them, with election stuff kept to a minimum.

If you need a good cry:
What to tell the children

This Letter To Philando Castile From A Schoolchild Gives A New Perspective On His Death

Pat Summitt, Legendary Tennessee Basketball Coach, Dies At 64

Lin-Manuel Miranda Tony Award 2016 – Love is Love is Love

Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks

If you need something to read:
Alt-Right’ Trolls Are Targeting DC’s DIY Music Houses

The Federal Government’s Program to Feed Pregnant Women and Children Is Terrible

Belgian beer culture is intangible cultural heritage: it’s official!

The Planned Parenthood Shooting Survivors Finally Speak Out

WNBA withdraws fines for teams that wore black warmup shirts

NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is atrocious. There’s a simple reason why.

Complaint: Citing Catholic Rules, Doctor Turns Away Bleeding Woman With Dislodged IUD

How betrayal aversion makes anti-vaxxers more afraid of vaccine complications than of disease

Abortion ban linked to dangerous miscarriages at Catholic hospital, report claims

How Fake News Articles Fabricated A Child Trafficking Story And Led To Death Threats For A Pizzeria

If you want to bake a cake that I also baked:
Chocolate Pumpkin Layer Cake

Blueberry zucchini cake with lemon buttercream

Coffee-Chocolate Layer Cake with Mocha-Mascarpone Frosting

If you want to watch a video about a brave man:
“I Refuse to Serve as an Empire Chaplain”: U.S. Army Minister Resigns over Drone Program

If you need good news:
Giant pandas rebound off endangered list

If you need a laugh:
NYC Snowplow Spares Snowman’s Life during Snowmageddon 2016

If you want to follow the most 2016 twitter account of 2016:
Infinite Scream

If you want to listen to a great a podcast that’s been on hiatus and is coming back in January 2017:

My Fave 2016 TV I think you should binge on Netflix:
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Luke Cage

The most 2016 youtube video of 2016:

Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 15: Post Election Analysis With Amanda Marcotte

Posted in Podcast Episodes on December 15th, 2016

Post Election Analysis With Amanda Marcotte

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Listen to episode in browser/Right click to download file

Amanda Marcotte of Salon.com joins us to discuss the results of the general election. This episode was recorded on Sunday November 27, 2016.

Discussed in this episode:

Amanda Marcotte at Salon.

What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class [Harvard Business Review]

Donald Trump’s Supreme Court will be a real threat to labor — and that’s going to hurt the Democrats

Alabama approves right-to-work measure

What Trump Could Mean for Women in Business (and It May Not Be What You Think)

Is Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution over before it even began?

Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee

Progressive Change Campaign Committee

Where Coal Was King, Pa. Voters Hope Trump Rejuvenates Their Economy

Donald Trump’s New York Times Interview: Full Transcript

Slate Star Codex – You Are Still Crying Wolf

Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap.

Asch conformity experiments

Trump is a real threat to women — but it will be tougher to eliminate abortion rights than he thinks


Our theme song is composed by Bridget Ellsworth, check out her sound cloud page!

We’ve joined the Apple affiliate program. If you’re going to sign up for Apple Music, please do so by using this link.

Don’t Let Go Of Free Speech In Trumpland

Posted in Editorials on December 14th, 2016


“If Ivanka were’nt my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”


“Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father . . . ”


“Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?”


“My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall, she’s got the best body.”


“Is it wrong to be more sexually attracted to your own daughter than your wife?”



Hi all —

You will remember the note from John and me a few days ago in which we emphasized that POLITICO journalists are representing the publication at all times and on all platforms, and must present themselves accordingly. We also emphasized that the power of POLITICO comes from our independent reporting and analysis. Gratuitous opinion has no place, anywhere, at any time – not on your Facebook feed, your Twitter feed or any place else. It has absolutely zero value for our readers and should have zero place in our work

Julia Ioffe’s tweet this afternoon about President-elect Trump – currently and understandably racing across social media – is a clear example of the opposite of what we were talking about.

Julia had previously announced she is taking her work to the Atlantic. We have accelerated the close of her POLITICO contributor contract, effective immediately.

We understand how absolutely infuriating it is to have incidents like this tarnish POLITICO and the great work being done across the company. We feel the same, and as such there will be little tolerance for this type of behavior.

Thanks to the vast majority of you who are providing positive examples of the responsible way to engage on social media.

Carrie and John


WAS IT? WAS IT THOUGH? Was it tasteless and offensive to joke about Trump doing what he clearly wants to do? Is it more tasteless and offensive that Trump said those things in the first place or that Iofee wisecracked about them? Or is it only truly tasteless and offensive that she got fired for it while he gets to be President of the United States?

We are in for a hell of a ride people. Do not let yourself be gaslit. Facts still matter. History is real, it really happened, and it matters. Do not fall down the rabbit hole of letting Trump or his supporters or Politico tell you that reality isn’t real.

(Never thought I’d be one of those people signing posts this way, but) RESIST!

Letter Writing Sunday – Support the No Religious Registry Act (H.R. 6382)

Posted in Editorials on November 27th, 2016

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene issued the following press release on November 21:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) introduced the No Religious Registry Act (H.R. 6382) to ensure individuals of all faiths are protected from the establishment of a national religious registry.

“President-elect Donald Trump is breaking his promise to be a President for all Americans by supporting the creation of a Muslim registry. This kind of xenophobic and hateful rhetoric has no place in our government,” DelBene said. “We cannot allow our country to disregard the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution. My bill would prohibit the administration from violating the constitutional rights of Americans because everyone should be treated equally under our laws.”

DelBene’s bill would prohibit the Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security and any United States government official from establishing or utilizing a registry for the purposes of classifying individuals on the basis of religious affiliation. The legislation would cover U.S. nationals, U.S. visa applicants and aliens lawfully present in the United States.

Reps. John Conyers, John Lewis, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Doris Matsui, Steve Cohen, Keith Ellison, Andre Carson and Judy Chu are original cosponsors of the bill.

As Donald Trump’s surrogates and members of his transition team continue to say he will start a Muslim registry, it is important to act on this right now. Even if Donald Trump does not create a Muslim registry, this is a good law to have on the books for posterity.

I’m sending the following letter to my member of Congress:

Please support the No Religious Registry Act (H.R. 6382). No one should have to fear religious persecution in the United States of America.

Next, even though there’s no bill in the Senate yet, I’m going to send this to both of my Senators:

You may have heard of the No Religious Registry Act (H.R. 6382). I urge you to support this bill if and when it comes to the senate and to consider introducing a Senate version of this bill.

How to find your Member of Congress’ contact information.

How to find your Senator’s contact information.

Questions For The Anonymous Millennial Nurse Who Voted For Trump

Posted in Editorials on November 25th, 2016

Let’s just assume this is real. I have some questions.

I’m also a women’s health nurse practitioner and I’ve cared for women of many different religions, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

Do you agree that we should repeal the Affordable Care Act? How would this affect your patients?

Should abortion be illegal? If you do, how would that affect your patients?

The Affordable Care Act has resulted in many women getting IUDs. This may soon be over. Will this be good or bad for women’s health?

I don’t claim to speak for all urban white women who voted for Trump. But I’m sure I’m not alone in my astonishment at the allegations thrown around the social media echo chamber, accusing us of being racist, self-hating misogynists.

How do you think Donald Trump would respond if an employee of his made a substantiated report of being groped by a supervisor?

If you had a daughter and you noticed she was reading an article or watching a news story about Donald Trump admitting to barging in to the Miss Teen USA pageant dressing room to see the girls when they were naked, would you say anything to her about it?

Many of my left-leaning friends don’t see how other people could have valid rational reasons for opposing gay marriage, abortion, or open-border immigration policies, and still be good people. This is not tolerance

What are your valid rational reasons for opposing gay marriage?

I remember feeling I was doing my civic duty just by changing my Facebook profile picture to a Planned Parenthood emblem or the Pride Flag. I was supporting policies I believed were for the greater good—but was able to do this without making any personal sacrifice. I could pat myself on the back and march off to spread awareness, a crusader for social justice and humanism out to convert the infidels. I never asked myself whether the policies I promoted might make some people’s lives quite difficult.

Do you no longer support Planned Parenthood? If not, why?

What is wrong with Gay Pride flags?

How do Planned Parenthood and Gay Pride parades make some peoples lives quite difficult?

Do you think liberals only engage in the kinds of slacktivism you describe?

How would your argument change if you were talking to someone who put a lot more of their time, energy or even safety on the line for their beliefs?

It worries me when social justice warriors swirl their $15 glasses of wine in swanky urban restaurants and talk condescendingly about the backward hatred of rural, working America.

Did you know that Hillary Clinton won all voters making 50K or less and Donald Trump won voters making more than 50K?

Let people say what they will. Shame them publicly for cruel, offensive statements that are inconsistent with American values.

So, we can shame people who make cruel offensive statements that are inconsistent with American values, but we can’t shame people who voted for a man who made cruel and offensive statements that are inconsistent with American values?

Hear No Evil – Trump isn’t really suddenly an Environmentalist

Posted in Editorials on November 23rd, 2016

Have you heard the news?! Donald Trump said he might do something about climate change!

From The New York Times:

On climate change, Mr. Trump refused to repeat his promise to abandon the international climate accord reached last year in Paris, saying, “I’m looking at it very closely.” Despite the recent appointment to his transition team of a fierce critic of the Paris accords, Mr. Trump said that “I have an open mind to it” and that clean air and “crystal clear water” were vitally important.

Not so fast.

Remember that personnel is policy and Donald Trump has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate change denier to oversee the EPA transition team. If he really cared about the environment, he would have appointed someone who actually has a good record on environmental issues. I can think of several Republicans who might be up for the task: Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Christie Todd Whitman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, even Michael Bloomberg would be a good pick.

Over the weeks and months ahead, all kinds of random things are going to come out for Donald Trump’s mouth. Some of them might even sound really good. But before you breathe a sigh of relief, think about whatever he said for two seconds, and ask yourself “How does this measure up against what he has done?” This is so important because most media outlets will not fact check adequately. The original New York Times headline for this story was “Donald Trump says he has ‘An Open Mind’ on Climate Change Accord” and did not mention Ebell’s record of climate change denial, even though it’s incredibly relevant to his statement.

Image Credit: Melanie’s Crafting Spot Cliparts.co

Why I Gave My Son My Husband’s Last Name

Posted in Editorials, Personal Essays, Pregnancy And Motherhood Thinkpieces on November 21st, 2016

Push the button?

Six years ago, when my husband and I got married, I did not change my last name. I’ve written about the subject and discussed it on my podcast, twice. I didn’t see a good reason to change my name – it was a lot of work for no perceived benefit and historically a sexist custom. I did ask my husband if he would like for both of us to hyphenate but he declined, considering the effort that would take. So neither of us changed our names.

“But what about the children?!” people have asked me. I did consider giving our child a hyphenated or double barrelled last name. And if either my husband or I had done that I would have done so in a second. I am fond of saying that in Latin America many people have two last names and no one bats an eyelash. It’s a great custom which preserves both halves of a child’s heritage and I have no aesthetic qualms about it. Unfortunately in the United States many of the people I know with hyphenated last names face a bureaucratic nightmare that neither my husband nor I were willing to face. As we rejected the paperwork and red tape of having two last names in a country where this is seen as an odd choice, I hesitated to give my child a hassle I didn’t want for myself.

There was the option of giving my son my last name as his middle name, a custom I also like. But I preferred to give my son the middle name of my great uncle who was a wonderful man – charming, kind, generous and who maintained his sense of humor and his appetite for candy and scotch sours until the last days of his 95 years.

And so it seems I was giving my son only one last name. It could have been mine. But I chose to give him my husband’s last name alone for several reasons. I think parents who choose to give their children their mother’s last name are doing the hard work of defying a patriarchal custom. And as I will explain, it is work.

There is no logical reason why in the United States and other Western countries we give children only one last name and it’s always their fathers. The reason is our cultural taboo about paternity. We name children after their fathers as a way of signaling paternity. Not counting astronomically rare hospital mix-ups, as a fact of human biology, mothers are certain which children are theirs. And although we could easily replace last names with the paternity tests of modern medicine, they’re just not as salient as a last name.

Imagine two birth announcements:

Ms Mary Smith and Mr John Jones announce the birth of their son, Michael Jones, born October 1, at 12 noon, 8lb 20in


Ms Mary Smith and Mr John Jones announce the birth of their son, Michael Smith, born October 1, at 12 noon, 8lb 20in. A paternity test confirmed that John Jones is Michael’s father.

Doesn’t have quite the ring, eh?

The feminist argument that if a woman carries a child for ~40 weeks and then goes through childbirth and recovery she should name them after herself as a tribute to the work of pregnancy is a very good one.

But it ignores the cultural context in which we live and asks women to push the large red button labeled “PATERNITY TABOO.” People will quickly assume that a child named after their mother was named thusly because their father was absent at the time of birth, or that her current partner is not the biological father. They may even go on to assume that the child was the product of infidelity.

I was more than willing to take any ignorant or sexist comments for not changing my name when I got married. But I’m unwilling to take an action in the name of my feminist ideals which may cause people – however uninformed, or malicious – to reflect poorly on a child who cannot consent to my political action. And I do believe that under the current political climate, giving a child their mother’s last name is a political act. I would also prefer not to be put on the defensive about my fidelity to my husband for the rest of my life. I appreciate that some families are willing to take this on, but I do not want to take on the burden of signifying my resistance to patriarchy in this way. My choice is not feminist. Just angst savingly expedient.

Letter Writing Sunday – Stop Jeff Sessions

Posted in Editorials on November 20th, 2016

You may have heard that the man who may become our next Attorney General was nominated to a Federal Judgeship before but was rejected because of his racist remarks. From Fortune:

During that hearing, Sessions was criticized for joking in the presence of a Civil Rights Division attorney that the Ku Klux Klan was “OK” until he learned they smoked marijuana. He was also said to have called a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and the NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”

This happened in 1986, when I was a toddler. When I heard that Jeff Sessions may become AG, I cringed because I remembered something much more recent. In 2009 when President Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the questions Jeff Sessions asked her during her confirmation hearings were racist, absurd and illogical. He was obsessed with his own misinterpretation of her famous “wise Latina” quotation:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,””

And he battered her about it for a long time. Here’s just a sample of the back and forth:

SOTOMAYOR: I think if my speech is heard outside of the minute and a half that YouTube presents and its full context examined, that it is very clear that I was talking about the policy ramifications of precedent and never talking about appellate judges or courts making the policy that Congress makes.

SESSIONS: Judge, I would just say, I don’t think it’s that clear. I looked at that on tape several times, and I think a person could reasonably believe it meant more than that. But yesterday you spoke about your approach to rendering opinions and said, quote, “I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of the justice system,” and I would agree. But you have previously said this: “I am willing to accept that we who judge must not deny differences resulting from experiences and heritage, but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.” So first, I’d like to know, do you think there’s any circumstance in which a judge should allow their prejudices to impact their decision-making?

SOTOMAYOR: Never their prejudices. I was talking about the very important goal of the justice system is to ensure that the personal biases and prejudices of a judge do not influence the outcome of a case. What I was talking about was the obligation of judges to examine what they’re feeling as they’re adjudicating a case and to ensure that that’s not influencing the outcome. Life experiences have to influence you. We’re not robots to listen to evidence and don’t have feelings. We have to recognize those feelings and put them aside. That’s what my speech was saying…

SESSIONS: Well, Judge …

SOTOMAYOR: … because that’s our job.

SESSIONS: But the statement was, “I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage, but continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.” That’s exactly opposite of what you’re saying, is it not?

SOTOMAYOR: I don’t believe so, Senator, because all I was saying is, because we have feelings and different experiences, we can be led to believe that our experiences are appropriate. We have to be open- minded to accept that they may not be, and that we have to judge always that we’re not letting those things determine the outcome. But there are situations in which some experiences are important in the process of judging, because the law asks us to use those experiences.

SESSIONS: Well, I understand that, but let me just follow up that you say in your statement that you want to do what you can to increase the faith and the impartiality of our system, but isn’t it true this statement suggests that you accept that there may be sympathies, prejudices and opinions that legitimately can influence a judge’s decision? And how can that further faith in the impartiality of the system?

SOTOMAYOR: I think the system is strengthened when judges don’t assume they’re impartial, but when judges test themselves to identify when their emotions are driving a result, or their experience are driving a result and the law is not.

SESSIONS: I agree with that.

But he didn’t really because it went on for another eight pages. [You can read the whole thing here. Start on page 12.] What Senator Sessions was getting at is that Latina women have a race and a gender, but white men do not. That (straight) white (christian) men are the default and do not have a sexuality or a religion that can influence their worldview – but everyone else does.

So what I would like to see from my Senator, Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Minority Leader and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is that he and other Democrats take each of his outrageously racist statements and make him spend an hour or more defending them. If he could question Justice Sotomayor for simply stating that people of different genders and ethnicities have different viewpoints, let’s see what we can do with “The KKK was ok until I heard they get stoned” and “The NAACP is un-American.*” Seriously. Beat the dead horse until it putrefies. Make him sit there for eleven fucking hours like we spent on Benghazi.

And then don’t vote for him.

Here’s the letter I’m sending to Senator Schumer. You should contact your representatives too, especially if you have a senator on the Judiciary Committee.

Dear Senator Schumer,

I am writing to ask you to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. His racist remarks make him unfit for office.

I would also appreciate it if you pressed him to explain what he meant by those remarks during the confirmation hearings.

Thank you,

*The state of Alabama actually banned the NAACP in 1956. Perhaps Senator Sessions would like to defend that action?

“Fighting For What’s Right Is Worth It”

Posted in Editorials on November 17th, 2016

I do not know what the future holds. But I feel like my personality is coming back to me. My optimism, however muted must still be in my heart somewhere. I have not capitulated to nihilism. Not yet. And I know this because of the email exchange I had with a family member last night.


The election has thrown me, as I’m sure you understand.
During the Bush administration, I just kind of stuck my head in the sand.
I know things will suck too much if I do that, so I want to do something to try to help.
I wrote the NRDC to see if they have anything I can volunteer to help with. If they don’t, I’ll donate, but look at other organizations as well.

In thinking about it, it’s seeming pointless. With morons controlling every level, what good is giving to causes that they don’t care about. How can a lobbyist for a cause they don’t care about, change their mind. Short of an organization telling Trump that they will give him a trillion dollars, and make him the first trillionaire, I don’t think anything will stop him from advancing his own business interests.

Am I wrong about that? While sitting and doing nothing is pointless, will donating/volunteering actually get anything done?

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.


Dear DL,

This election has thrown most people who voted. Always remember – Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. We are in the majority.

It’s a real and serious loss. People are grieving the future we thought we were going to have. And to make things worse, most of us were certain Hillary Clinton was going to win. It’s not like 2004 when everyone was uncertain. When you prime the brain for reward and get punishment, it really screws your brain chemistry. So there’s a physiological reason that this hurts so bad.

You asked “will donating/volunteering actually get anything done?”

And the answer is of course YES. Hillary Clinton said it herself in her concession speech, “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

I don’t know what’s going to happen to our country. Donald Trump is somewhere between Michael Bloomberg and Hitler, and looking at his transition team, and the appointments he’s making, he’s certainly not a third way centrist like Bloomberg.

But I was raised by to always try and do good no matter what. I’m going to focus a lot on abortion funds because I still believe they are the best way to help people in need immediately. But there are plenty of other things to do.

The NRDC is a good start. If you are interested in Environmental issues I would also recommend the Sierra Club – they are having a fundraising drive and gearing up for legal battles to come. They also have many local chapters you can get involved with. Also check out 350.org which is explicitly focused on climate change.

The federal government may be lost for a while but that is a reason to focus on state and local government. A good sign that America will not fall to fascism is that dozens of mayors and governors have released statements saying that they will still be sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants and will not waiver on their anti-discrimination policies for racial, ethnic, religious and LGBT minorities. Maybe you know your Congressional Representative and Senators, but what is going on in your town? Do you read your local paper? Now would be a good time to subscribe. Who runs the local government – both at the city and state level? You have a state assembly member and a state senator [Unless you live in Nebraska, then you just have one]. Find out who these people are and write to them frequently.

If you want to know how one person can make a difference, I will spare you the quotes you see on inspirational posters and share with you a true story which I’m stealing from wikipedia:

Chiune Sugihara was the Japanese ambassador to Lithuania during WWII. As the Soviet Union occupied sovereign Lithuania in 1940, many Jewish refugees from Poland as well as Lithuanian Jews tried to acquire exit visas. Without the visas, it was dangerous to travel, yet it was impossible to find countries willing to issue them. Hundreds of refugees came to the Japanese consulate in Kaunas, trying to get a visa to Japan.

At the time, the Japanese government required that visas be issued only to those who had gone through appropriate immigration procedures and had enough funds. Most of the refugees did not fulfill these criteria. Sugihara dutifully contacted the Japanese Foreign Ministry three times for instructions. Each time, the Ministry responded that anybody granted a visa should have a visa to a third destination to exit Japan, with no exceptions. From 18 July to 28 August 1940, aware that applicants were in danger if they stayed behind, Sugihara decided to grant visas on his own. He ignored the requirements and issued ten-day visas to Jews for transit through Japan, in violation of his orders. Given his inferior post and the culture of the Japanese Foreign Service bureaucracy, this was an unusual act of disobedience. He spoke to Soviet officials who agreed to let the Jews travel through the country via the Trans-Siberian Railway at five times the standard ticket price.

Sugihara continued to hand-write visas, reportedly spending 18–20 hours a day on them, producing a normal month’s worth of visas each day, until 4 September, when he had to leave his post before the consulate was closed. By that time he had granted thousands of visas to Jews, many of whom were heads of households and thus permitted to take their families with them. According to witnesses, he was still writing visas while in transit from his hotel and after boarding the train at the Kaunas Railway Station, throwing visas into the crowd of desperate refugees out of the train’s window even as the train pulled out. In final desperation, blank sheets of paper with only the consulate seal and his signature (that could be later written over into a visa) were hurriedly prepared and flung out from the train. As he prepared to depart, he said, “Please forgive me. I cannot write anymore. I wish you the best.”

When he bowed deeply to the people before him, someone exclaimed, “Sugihara. We’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again!” Sugihara himself wondered about official reaction to the thousands of visas he issued. Many years later, he recalled, “No one ever said anything about it. I remember thinking that they probably didn’t realize how many I actually issued.” The total number of Jews saved by Sugihara is in dispute, estimating about 6,000; family visas—which allowed several people to travel on one visa—were also issued, which would account for the much higher figure. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has estimated that Chiune Sugihara issued transit visas for about 6,000 Jews and that around 40,000 descendants of the Jewish refugees are alive today because of his actions.

Things really suck right now, and I can’t tell you if or when they will get better. But anything that you do to help other people or your country in this dark time will help, will make a difference and will be worth it.