Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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It's all too easy to look at the situation in and around Israel and decide that there is simply nothing that can be done. But on second look, it occurs to me that, while Israel has to do something to respond to the constant missile attacks from Gaza, attacking Gaza is probably not the most effective possible move.

After all, it appears that the decision to resume missile attacks was taken, not in Gaza, but by Hamas leaders who are in Syria. Wouldn't a targetted response in Damascus be more to the point? Even if it had to be totally covert, and never acknowledged, taking out the folks who made the decision to end the cease-fire seems like a better approach.

Ruth Anne

Quoting Golda Meir: "We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

and also: "We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle with the Arabs; we have no place to go."


That latter made me think of an ugly little detail in the story: Egypt had fortified its border with machine guns in case any Palestinians wanted to enter.


Not that I feel particularly sorry for the Palestinians as a whole (though for individuals, heartily); the stock in trade of Hamas has been to provoke Israeli reaction/overreaction and then use it to elicit pity and outrage with an ever-ready antisemitic streak. In that respect their own people are cannon fodder for propaganda.


Yeah, here, you see? Ron sent me this link:

December 29, 2008: Several hundred Egyptian border police sealed five breaches in the security wall between Gaza and Egypt. Hamas refused to allow Palestinian wounded to go to Egypt for medical care (which Egypt was ready to provide), while Egyptian border police fired on uninjured Palestinians trying to flee Gaza. Egypt, like most Arab nations, refused to absorb any Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Israeli war of Independence.


In other words: it makes me feel sick because the Israelis are trapped into killing as surely as into being killed. They have to choose between losing their lives or their souls. It's diabolical.


Meekness and fatalism and naïveté once before led to extermination. The Israelis overreact now because they are sure they have to terrify just to survive. But it means, as George Steiner once wrote, becoming like everybody else. Well, perhaps it was merely vanity ever to think we weren't, as Hillel Hankin wrote in a debate on this very subject I posted last year.

Theo Boehm

"We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle with the Arabs; we have no place to go."

As a non-Jew, perhaps I am presuming too much, but I fear there is every real possibility Israel will, in fact, turn out to be the worst catastrophe for the Jews since the Roman Jewish War or the Holocaust.

But there IS a place where people who thought they had no place to go, ultimately went: The United States of America. Hundreds of thousands of Jews from Mitteleuropa came here 100 years ago, as did my Irish, Scottish and Spanish ancestors, all of whom had no place to go, or so they believed.

Perhaps there is something in the Land of Israel that even secular Jews cannot escape, but those seeking a refuge against the almost inevitable day of nuclear attack on the Medinat Yisra'el ought to be freely welcomed to the United States. And anyone who would oppose this can hardly think much of him or herself as an American.


Israel may always have been a terrible idea, but didn't Hitler make it inevitable?


As a kid who was at least semi-Jewish, I was under the impression that Israel was this giant fallout shelter we'd all go to when the next holocaust happened. Not "if;" "when."

Meanwhile, if I asked anybody "can I go to Israel?"

"Oh, no, it's too dangerous!"

Theo Boehm

Sadly, amba, it was so. The terrible, almost unthinkable reality may be that that those who originally opposed the creation of the State of Israel on religious grounds may have been correct: The Messiah has not appeared, and it was a blasphemy against G-d to presume to create a state called "Israel."

No matter what one's belief about the Messiah, or blasphemy, or a state named 'Israel,' it is proving to be potentially the most dangerous piece of real estate on the face of the Earth. The United States has eliminated one potential threat at great cost. But a far worse one is gathering strength, and the United States has extended its might to the utmost its people will support, which is obviously not enough to save the people of Israel from ultimate nuclear attack.

Israel may have seemed a refuge for Jews of the generation of Annie and Melinda, and also my own, growing up in the Cold War, but it is now become an obvious death trap. As several Israeli friends and I agree, the United States now represents the surest hope for the future of the Jewish people. Please come here before it is too late.


I also think it doesn't matter to the country's fate whether the Israelis try to act moderately and fight Hamas's rockets with diplomacy, or whether they go into frenzies of destruction in an attempt to convince Iran that they are too dangerous to attack. The only difference is that if they try to be reasonable, the world will again regard them as schmucks and martyrs, and if they don't, the world will say they had it coming.

The patricidal insanity around the Jews, this sickness infecting the Abrahamic religions, turns out to be the most dangerous cultural development in the history of the Earth, coming from that dangerous piece of real estate.

michael Reynolds

The situation is not materially worse for Israel than it was a few weeks, or months, or years ago. In fact, it's better.

The situation for Palestinians is worse: they've become irretrievably identified with terrorism which is now bound up in the minds of civilized peoples with 9/11, London, Madrid, Mumbai and other places.

Arab rent-a-mobs are yelling but the EU is pretty quiet. The Chinese and Indians are quiet. The people with power in this world don't much mind Israel banging heads in Gaza. The world has other things on its mind and doesn't have time for phony sympathy with Hamas.

Israel remains the regional superpower and the only nuclear power in the ME. Iran may pose a threat down the road, but Hamas does not. So let's not write Israel off just yet.

Theo Boehm

The patricidal insanity infecting the Abrahamic religions may be the most dangerous cultural development in the history of the Earth, but their monotheism may be one of the greatest spiritual insights. The ways of G-d are not our ways, are they?

I want to quote that wonderful piece by Hillel Hankin from the June, 2007 issue of Commentary, you linked above:

Behind their principled affirmation of the Diaspora, whether as a human opportunity to interact with the world and improve it or as a God-imposed chastisement that must be borne patiently, has lain the understanding that Jews in a Jewish state must of necessity become many things that in the Diaspora were left to the Gentile: strutting generals, crooked politicians, mindless bureaucrats, hypocritical diplomats, flag-waving jingoists, provincial intellectuals, parasitic clergymen, bribable policemen, brawling football fans, and above all, millions of ordinary people who stopped dreaming Jewish dreams because they were living the plebeian fulfillment of one of the greatest of them. [...]

It is possible to think of Israel as the psychiatrist’s couch on which the Jewish people has lain down after long centuries of Diaspora life. Israel forces Jews to surrender fantasies and illusions about themselves that have long been part of their character. It has, literally and figuratively, brought the Jewish people down to earth. As is always the case with punctured ego ideals, this is painful. Still, it is liberating to know who you are, however belatedly, even if it is not who you thought you were....

This climb down, to grub among the ordinary nations of this world, has, I think, left the Jewish people with not only a punctured ego, but with a very dangerous and unsupportable practical situation. To hold oneself out as a Chosen People, forced into the exile of the Diaspora, not only had spiritual implications for the role of the Jews, but very down-to-earth ones, too. The Jews were not, of necessity, all gathered together as in days of old, when they could be freed both from Egypt and later taken in Babylonian Captivity as an essentially intact people. The creation of Israel now helps ensure that the Jews may be once more mostly present for their next surprise at the hands of the Almighty, or Iran, or however you may think of His Agency.

Those with little religion save an instinct for survival may want to give Him the slip, and hop on the next airplane for Newark.


Well, I've always felt at home in exile.

michael Reynolds

With all due respect, the psychoanalysis and the poetry are irrelevant to understanding what's happening in Israel and the broader Middle East. The game is power, not poetry.

And again with all due respect, to imagine that the creation of the state of Israel "brought the Jewish people down to earth," is idiotic. From pogrom to holocaust, the Jewish people were already plenty close to the earth. They were in the earth. In big common graves. So stop romanticizing victimhood. There was nothing "special" about watching your kids being bayoneted.

The Jewish people built a nation on someone else's land. Same as we Americans did. Same, for that matter, as every single other people on planet earth from the first sapiens that pushed aside a neanderthal down through Sumerians and Babylonians and Medes and Hittities and on and on and on until long after someone pushes us out of the way.

It's not about God, it's not about the special wonderful way that Jews conveniently die, it's not poetry, it's power. Almost any time you want to really understand politics or geopolitics, follow the power. Everything else is a subset of that.

Donna B.

You have a point about power, Michael. But that's an oversimplification, as well as assuming that romanticizing victimhood is what is meant by bringing the Jewish people "down to earth".

All the events and the social and national trends that led up to the "creation" of Palestine in 1917 came from a variety of desires and differing sources of power. Don't forget betrayal, backstabbing, and intrigue.

Theo Boehm

The power relationships are obvious, crude, and well-known. They hardly bear discussion, except perhaps to speculate on the Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon, and what or who is doing anything about it, and what the Iranians intend, etc., etc. You can find that ad nauseum on half a dozen military sites.

The psychology, the poetry, and, yes, the relationship with G-d, are, in varying degrees, less obvious in their implications, and perhaps more worthy of discussion in this venue. At least they're more interesting to me.

The Jewish people did not vanish into the mists of history, like so many others of their time and place, precisely because of their psychology, their poetry, and their relationship with the Almighty.

I once heard the Dalai Lama make that very point in person, when he was talking about possible models for the long-term survival of the Tibetan people and their culture and religion. The Jews with their "indomitable spirit" and religion, stretching back 4,500 years were a considerable object of admiration for the Dalai Lama, and a practical model for Tibetans, or so he hoped.

How many divisions the Pope may have is not always the right question when considering power relationships among people whose religion has shaped their culture, no matter who has been stabbing whom in the back.


I just worked on an article about the deliberate resurrection of the Hebrew language. It was done by a bunch of labor Zionists who shared with the Russian revolutionaries a zeal to remake man, in this case Jewish man (and woman). They were secular (which made it particularly ironic that they chose the holy language of the Bible to make their 20th century tongue), and they were, on the whole, eager to shed the old identity of the Diaspora and Yiddish, which they considered shameful. They created the ideal of the Israeli, an extraverted, physical, not terribly reflective man and woman of action, as unlike the Diaspora Jew as you coudl be, something out of a Socialist Realist painting. A real recipe for shadow sabotage.

michael Reynolds

The Jewish people did not vanish into the mists of history, like so many others of their time and place, precisely because of their psychology, their poetry, and their relationship with the Almighty.

They didn't vanish into the mists of history because Stalin was pretty good at building tanks and Eisenhower was pretty good at planning invasions. God didn't save the Jews in 1945. Left to God the Jews would have been exterminated.

And again, in 1948, 1967, 1973 the Jews survived because of jets and tanks and riflemen.

In the good old days of the diaspora the Jews survived most often by running away. Or by being ethnically cleansed and finding a new power to shield them. Generally in those cases it was money that saved the Jews. Money that bought protection.

The survival of the Jews is as much myth as history. The Greeks have survived. The Japanese have survived. Last I looked there were quite a few Chinese around. It's not rare that a people or a religion survive.

It's only rare that a people manage to come so close to annihilation so often. The genius of the Jews is less about miraculous survival than about a certain talent for getting themselves into trouble. The Dalai Lama might do himself a favor to consider emulating the Danes rather than the Jews -- setting aside that whole unfortunate Viking period (and the occasional indecisive prince) they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves.


The genius of the Jews is less about miraculous survival than about a certain talent for getting themselves into trouble.

Maybe that's just inaptly phrased, but it does sound like a case of blame the victim. What should the Jews have done differently to keep from being persecuted? Assimilate, stop wearing strange clothes and talking funny languages? Didn't help the German Jews. They were as patriotically, passionately German as it gets.

michael Reynolds

What they (we) should have done is be luckier.

Look, there have been what, a thousand different tribes and peoples over the course of human history? The number isn't important, because whatever the number someone, some group, was going to end up being an outlier. Someone was going to win "most persecuted."

Arguably, the Jews aren't the most persecuted. The most persecuted would no longer be with us. So the Jews are just the most-persecuted-but-still-around. And again, someone was going to win that dubious distinction. It happened to be the Jews. If we weren't around the prize might be held by the Armenians, or Kurds or any number of African tribes.

Of course it's not the fault of the Jews that they are eternally in one kind of trouble or another. It's never the fault of the victims. But romanticizing victimhood, romanticizing the Jew who had to run from the Cossacks (as my great grandparents did) as somehow morally superior or preferable to the Jew who can drive a tank is ghetto-think. It validates and excuses persecution, gives persecution a positive dimension. Like arguing that the Trail of Tears was terrible but, hey, now we have Indian casinos in Oklahioma, and those are great!

The diaspora Jew was a victim-in-waiting. And in that precarious position Jews adapted, and from that adaptation flowed music and poetry. Swell. It's nice that people can write great poetry from Dachau. You know what's even better? Writing poetry from the cockpit of an F-16.

If I may mis-appropriate a line from Patton: "You don't survive by writing poetry, you survive by making the other son-of-a-bitch write poetry."

Tom Strong

I have nothing much to add to this dialogue, except that the whole situation makes me grind my teeth at night, and at odd times during the day.

That said, I'm impressed by the level of discussion here, on all sides, as usual.

Ruth Anne

You know what's even better? Writing poetry from the cockpit of an F-16.

Well. I guess that shtetels it.


Ho ho.

My latest update: I spoke to a friend who thinks the time for talking is past and Israel is now out to destroy Hamas, for all practical purposes; and that many players, including some Arab countries, would be grateful for the favor. Moreover, he says Israel will then train its sights on Hezbollah and say "You're next;" and then, on Iran's nuclear facility-in-progress.

I don't know if he's right that that's the plan. But there's a certain logic to Israel being the one to do the world those favors. It's not that Israelis have nowhere to go. It's that they have nothing to lose.

Ruth Anne

Me and Bobby McGee.


"... didn't Hitler make it inevitable?"

Hitler and tens of millions of non-Jewish Europeans from the Volga to the Bay of Biscay who either actively cooperated with him or were content with the bargain he offered them. Including many of the power structures, intellectuals, and elite classes of nations other than Germany (but also including Germany).

There were notable exceptions worth memorializing. But too few of them.

Which is why I pay no attention to any of the heartfelt anti-sem ..., sorry, anti-Israel rantings that blow from that quarter.


"But romanticizing victimhood, romanticizing the Jew who had to run from the Cossacks (as my great grandparents did) as somehow morally superior or preferable to the Jew who can drive a tank is ghetto-think."

I didn't read any of this in such a way. I don't know much of which i speak- so forgive me... but, the ~morally superior~ ones seem to be pointing the fingers at Israel for defending herself against haphazzardly lobbed missles and for having the hutzpah to do it directly at Hamas. They target weapons caches and Hamas gunmen, from what i gather.

I read on a Conservative blog that if the Muslim ME would put down their guns, bombs, everything aimed at Israel-- Israel would pose no threat in return-- if the opposite were to happen and the onus on Israel to drop their weapons 1st-- they would be blow off the map. When is this ~trouble~ any fault of the Jews? It's the inability of the Muslim factors to recognize Jews as equal that is the beginning of the trouble here.

Amba- i hope your friend is correct and that Israel succeeds in the defense(against the wickedness and snares of the devil). It's unfortunate, but there seems to be no other way of survival for her.

As for being the Chosen of G-d... that isn't decided by the Jews, Michael-- that's a given from G-d, Himself. Your not believing it doesn't undo the given fact of it. All IMhumbleO, btw.

Almighty God

What is with you people leaving the "o" out of my name? Like I don't know you mean God when you write G-d? What am I, God of the short bus?

Hmmm, created the heavens and the earth in six days and yet unable to figure out the missing letter that comes between G and D. I guess that's why I never go on Wheel of Fortune. Could I buy a vowel? I'll buy a "U" Alex! What? No "U?" Uhhhh can I buy an "I?"

You want to show your respect by not using my name? Fine. Then call me Frank. In fact, that is my given name. Frank O. God. The "O" stands for Ohmy. It's Sumerian.


Well, Your e-mail address has You with a nom de plume, Michael Grant.

Almighty God

MIchael Grant, eh? Damn. My divine email must have been hacked. I blame Microsoft.

All-Seeing Master of Time and Space

Personally, I prefer to be addressed as _o_. Fill in the other two letters ad libertam.


James Thurber wrote your biography! The Wonderful O.

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