Category Archives: Books

Socialism–A Russian’s Story

Published / by Lee Kessler / 1 Comment on Socialism–A Russian’s Story

In 1989, before the fall of the Soviet Union, my late husband surprised me with an all-day, spa-day at the famous Aida Thibiant Med Spa in Beverly Hills.

Having spent so many years of my life in front of a camera in television work, I was not particularly interested in the hair and make-up, manicures and pedicures. But, there was a one-hour facial booked with their esthetician which I looked forward to. The room was private and quiet and a lovely woman in her 30’s was my technician.

Most at that salon did not speak English–they clearly spoke Russian–and it was my guess that somehow Russians were leaving the Soviet Union, and finding their way as refugees perhaps to the United States. But, this woman spoke English quite well, albeit with an accent that forced me to really listen in order to understand.

I don’t believe personally that you should have conversations with people unless you are interested enough to listen and understand them. To me, to do otherwise is disrespectful. Since we had time together, we began to talk.

At first it was obvious that most of the wealthy clients who patronize that salon apparently did not engage in talking with the people who were providing services to them. But, I was neither wealthy, nor elitist, and I decided to talk with her. She warmed up to that, and began to tell me some of her story. We later became friends, and I got to know her family well.

But, that day, she shared a story that I believe is very relevant to ideologies being promoted today. Ism’s like Marxism, Communism, Socialism sound fascinating when one is in the safety of their college classroom, or sitting in a Starbucks waxing poetic. However, Socialism has always had consequences. In the end, it turns into the equal sharing of poverty.

Here is the tender story she shared unabashedly. Her husband had gotten out first, made his way to the United States, and gotten settled in a Russian-filled area of Woodland Hills. He was a mechanic, and was able to get a job with one of his former countrymen. The point is, he had begun.

A while later, he was able successfully to bring his wife and son to America. Keep in mind he had been here long enough to get acclimated to the American way of life, and to an abundance that we take for granted.

When they were joyfully reunited, he began to introduce her to the neighborhood, and made the first stop the local Ralph’s grocery store. We all have some local grocery store chain. It is just a part of the American way of life.

As they entered the store, he secured a cart and headed to the produce section which was straight in front of them. She stopped, frozen, afraid to proceed. When he inquired into her reluctance to go and pick up fruits and vegetables for their dinners, she could not speak.

Almost pushing her closer to a table that was stacked top to bottom with bananas, oranges and apples, she refused to even touch the fruit–let alone take any. She blurted out, “Someone has made a mistake and left all of this fruit out. We must not touch it or we will be arrested.”

Remember, he had been here long enough to have forgotten some of the day-to-day deprivations of life in Moscow. Suddenly he realized what was wrong, and he assured her the fruit was there to be purchased–in whatever quantity she desired. She began to weep, as she gingerly touched the fine fruit.

For, in her life, under the communist regime and the socialist economic system, deprivation was the norm. The citizens of Moscow were obliged to stand in lines blocks long for hours every day, just for the privilege of buying even one banana or orange. All quantities were rationed by the State. And the State did not care if it took half a day just to get into enough lines to acquire sufficient food to feed your family that night.

Her husband was kind. He let her cry, then explained again that this was life in America. There was an abundance of food, a variety of selection, and that although Americans complained about the long lines at the check out counter, her wait would in fact be short. Finally, she understood that everything she saw displayed was available for her. When it got depleted, men and women with carts would come and refill the tables.

She roamed the store that day in wonder at the “fruit on the tree” of the Free Enterprise system. She touched and withdrew. Touched and withdrew. Until she realized something that she had never realized in her 30 plus years in the Soviet Union–she could HAVE.

Her whole life had been lived through scarcity, but here, she could HAVE the American Dream she had heard about. One fruit table in an ordinary food chain had proven to her that what she had heard about on the radio, and had read about surreptitiously, was real.

And so, she found a way to earn a living, and to begin to create a nice life for herself in the United States. She knew she would have to work, and work hard. But, here, at least, she could accomplish and rise according to her own efforts. And, she could eat!

I have never forgotten her. For the simple reality is that the inevitable outcome of those “ism’s” is poverty and deprivation, no matter how hard one works. There are no guarantees here. Our constitutionally protected rights can portend great things however: the right to life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness.

Many of my countrymen today would be wise I think to give some thought to this before they, out of ignorance, throw away the freedom to enterprise. Don’t be bamboozled, my friends. Anyone peddling socialism is conning you, and they will turn on you once you have surrendered power to them. It has always been so.

My Bad–CNN did cover it!

Published / by Lee Kessler / 2 Comments on My Bad–CNN did cover it!

Well, I was wrong. CNN did cover the President’s trip to India. Then all the other media sheep followed them with the exact same coverage.

Of course, CNN did not cover the purpose of the trip in any great depth or analysis. They did not cover the 110,000 excited fans in the arena, nor the reported other 100,000 people lining the streets for the motorcade, except as backdrop for the real story.

The real story according to CNN? The dietary habits of President Donald J. Trump. They decided to belittle and ridicule our President for his eating habits. They were all obsessed with what he was going to eat in India, since he likes steak. And they just couldn’t imagine that he would be able to endure the vegetarian diet that Modi would likely present to him. (Sounds a bit stereotypical to me. But then, no one is accusing these journalists of original thought or observation.)

They even had the ubiquitous “anonymous White House sources” tell them the President rarely even eats a salad. And, ignoring the trade deals, the cementing of an alliance with an ally, the potential securing of the region, they spent their time joking and demeaning.

Can you believe these folks are paid millions? As a former Human Resources and Labor Relations executive, I recommend you send every mean-spirited, shallow person you run into over to CNN to apply for a job.

They should fit right in.

So, there you have it–my official correction of my original inaccurate “reporting.”

A Warning from the Past

Published / by Lee Kessler / 3 Comments on A Warning from the Past

 “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.  Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.  The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. . . .  I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors.” 

Attributed to Thomas Jefferson (June 11, 1807) – Principal author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd, President of the United States from 1801 to 1809

Food for thought for today’s climate: What is “lying by omission?” And then ask yourself how devastating is it to you if the Press omits key facts that would allow you to properly evaluate?

You are the boss. Never forget that. 286 days!! Help is on the way!

Until we talk again.

Lessons I Learned from James and Reba

Published / by Lee Kessler / 4 Comments on Lessons I Learned from James and Reba

This year, I want to begin the new year with lessons I learned from my parents, James and Reba Kessler. Actually, there are two conversations, and one teaching lesson my mother gave to a store keeper regarding me. These three, more than all other conversations, influenced me and how my life has turned out.

I am going to first share them, and then in the coming few Blogs will illustrate each of these as they relate to current events. To me, they are lessons to live by, guideposts on our journey. And I believe they highlight very real truths.

Though I can not remember why my father said this to me, I suspect it had to do with his strict, but honorable, approach to education. As the school administrator, his high standards, and his expectation that they would be adhered to, often made him the brunt of criticism and hostility in our community. Given his size and his demeanor, few dared tackle him directly. But, I was a convenient fallback target.

It was after one of those episodes, while I was bemoaning something hurtful that had been done to me or him, that Dad likely said, “Lee, we do not live this life to be liked. We live it to be effective.” There you have it. A life philosophy. He lived it. I watched him do it. And, I would like to think that in some measure, I have duplicated him.

The second conversation had to do with our government and society’s tendency to mistake sympathy for empathy. Being a compassionate people, we all too often project onto people who are in need that they are victims, and need our help perpetually. Many times that help backfires for the giver and the receiver, as it lowers self-esteem and creates dependency.

Again, I do not remember why my father said this to me. My examination of this, my rumination on it, set me on a course in my own life. Here is what he said, “Lee, anytime you do for someone what they could do, or should do for themselves, you degrade and demean them.”

I will leave you to digest that one a bit, and come back to it in the future.

The third was an experience I had as a small child when my mother took me to the only grocery store in our little town of 900 people. It was a small, family-run business, and the place my mother got our food. I was little– perhaps two years old–walking on my own, but not tall enough to clear the cookie bins that stood on the floor, near the counter and register.

Back then, it was like bulk nuts etc. today. Bulk cookies. You would open the bin, and place as many as you wanted in a bag. Well, as my mother and I came in, I saw the cookies in the bin, and was drawn to the pink ones. Strong enough to open the lid, I did so, reached in, and took a cookie. To me, it seemed they were there for me to take, so I did.

After we finished walking around the store, my mother came to the counter and put down the items she had picked up. The owner rang them up, and my mother said, “And don’t forget the cookie she took.” Now mind you, there was no sign of the cookie now, as I had eaten it while walking around the store. And keep in mind I looked a lot like Shirley Temple–pretty much adorable, with big dimples!

The owner said, “Oh, that’s all right. There’s no charge for the cookie. It’s fine.” From his point of view it was “sampling” or some other type of promotional marketing, or just a nice gesture to a regular customer. But, to my mother it was altogether something different.

Though we had very little money, basically were pretty poor since my dad was putting two sons through college in a private men’s college, and he lived in a house with no insulation in the coldest area of Western New York State–sustaining us on just a small Principal’s salary–my mother responded. I was standing to her left, not tall enough to reach the counter, but I remember this exchange.

“Thank you, but no. I am trying to teach her not to steal. And, in reaching in there without asking you or me, she took something that did not belong to her, and had not been approved for her. It’s a small thing, but I am trying to teach her not to just take things she wants, but that we pay for what we receive. I do not mind that she reached in and grabbed something she wanted. But, I want her to learn that she is to pay for it. We are responsible. We do not take anything that does not belong to us.”

There you have it. Three conversations that started to define my life and vision. I am sure there were many, many conversations I had with one or the other of my parents over the years. And I am sure we covered many important issues. But, for some reason, these are the three I remember.

These are the three I took ownership of. More to come in future Blogs about those three points and the world we live in.

Happy New Year, everyone!

A Christmas Message

Published / by Lee Kessler / 3 Comments on A Christmas Message

As I watched massive demonstrations in Hong Kong again today, and contemplated the struggles all over the world for Man to be free, and to enjoy his freedom to choose his own religion, his own career, create his own family, feed his family, and support the government he wants, I am reminded of one very important message today.

Whether you are a Christian celebrating Christmas, a Jew celebrating Hanukkah, a member of a different religion, or not a member of any religion, there is one thing Christmas I believe should remind us all of here in America.

That is our First Amendment with its freedom of religion. My ancestors I know came here because they were repressed in their own land for the free exercise of their spiritual beliefs. Yours may have come for similar reasons. Or for some of you, yours did not even come here of their own free will.

But, we are all here now. And, over time, great freedoms have been won and passed on to us–including our precious freedom of religion. It is not freedom from religion that our Founders envisioned and protected. They wanted posterity to have the freedom to choose any religion, spiritual foundation, or nothing at all. Even atheists are protected oddly enough through that very amendment. It is a classic case of: To have or not to have, to be or not to be. The choice is ours.

And as long as we mutually agree to uphold that freedom, value it, preserve it, and practice it towards our countrymen, I believe the goal of Peace is attainable.

It is the season of Peace. That state of being is desired everywhere. More important to me is not just Peace. Because you can have Peace by surrendering, allowing yourself to be enslaved. The enslaver then stops the fighting because he has subjugated you.

No, for me, it is Peace with Freedom. And that is my prayer for everyone, everywhere today.

Merry Christmas!