On Being Positive Right Now

The other evening, I wandered onto Facebook and followed a conversation that ensued after a friend posted Teen Vogue’s article about Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance.

One person couldn’t take it. They questioned whether they were a bad person for not seeing it as political and, despite my friend’s very even-handed responses, finally went on a bender about how condescending the article is, it isn’t going to change anyone’s mind, and therefore it is pointless because we should all be focusing on empathy and building bridges and unity. They ended with, “this article just broke me.”  At which point, my friend politely gave up.

It was at this point, however, that I lost it. If the article broke them, their rant broke me. I did something that I almost never do. I lit into them. I told them to Shut Up. Yeah, I wrote, “Shut up. Literally, shut up. The people who don’t understand that Lady Gaga’s performance was political have real and actual feelings about wanting my family and friends DEAD. And you know, I fucking build bridges. I work on unity every day. But I don’t necessarily look for it on FB. Is this article going to reach them? No. Is it going to give me a little sliver of dignity? Yeah, it did. This broke you? TOUGH SHIT.”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but some of those words are exact. (My children are shocked.) My friend, in her wisdom, took the post down and we and some others had a saner conversation. And after hours of reflection, I finally realized why I couldn’t stay silent when this person I didn’t know went all sob story on the internet.

Because I had been doing it wrong – just as, I believe my friend’s other friend has misinterpreted these messages, too. I kept seeing posts about how we should stay hopeful. That now is not a time to get angry because that’s just spreading negative energy. Keep our message positive, shit rainbows. No, neither of those posts are bad. Both have good suggestions. The first even talks about what you might do with your anger. It also suggests that if we encounter anger, that we *listen*, because that helps angry people.

Indeed, it does. Curious, is this message getting sent to the folks who literally think my child’s life is worthless?

In any case, that meant I was trying to stay upbeat, be relentlessly positive about what we could achieve and, essentially, stuffing everything else. Can I see the long view? I can. I can see how, in the long term, our world will get a whole lot better and how this shitstorm is exposing pain and suffering that needs to be exposed in order to heal and advance. It is a last, dying gasp of a fading way of life.

I also, however, am a member of a family that is made up of a number of threatened minority groups and not thinking about that is not only irresponsible it is erasure. Every single one of my family members has very real feelings about how threatening this administration is to them – and those feelings are legitimate. While I have talked to my girls about Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” speech at the Democratic Convention because I get tired of hearing of creative ways of ridding the world of this new fascist experiment, I don’t entirely believe in it, either.

I’ve been abused. I know empathy. I’m so damned empathetic I didn’t even realize I’d been raped until almost 20 years later. I do not need to fucking empathize with rapists and abusers. And yes, that is exactly who our current president is. Knowing that there are so damned many people in my country who sympathize with him is not comforting to me. It does not soften me. It tells me that I live in a very dangerous world and that I have to draw extremely clear boundaries if I am to keep myself and my family safe. Because not only will no one else do it, they are not even fucking interested in doing it.

 

Will I practice all the empathy, love, unity, positivity, hopefulness, and whatnotness that is recommended?

Absolutely.

I will love myself enough to know when I need to stop listening to you.
I will love my family enough to know when them letting all their feelings out is more important than an image you feel is important to uphold.
I will be positive that my priority is to my family, not you.
I will be hopeful that you will eventually get a clue.
I will empathize with you. I remember a time when I was just as clueless.

Are you listening?

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Filed under Children, Social Issues

A First Poem

I was looking through my writing journal (okay, okay, one of my journals) to see whether there was something I could simply type in for this week and then get back to what is turning into some very hectic days for me when I came across a page that Youngest had clearly taken the liberty of using.

Without further ado, here is one of – if not the – first poem she has written. At least to my knowledge.

A spis of schrobayrys
And a glow of choclit

Now, if you know how to read emergent writer writing, you’re thinking, “Ooh! Delicious! What evocative ways of describing strawberries and chocolate!” Or some such.

Well, on the opposite page, she wrote:

I like Boorgers.

Seeing as how she is an ethical vegetarian (no, really. since age 5. her decision. Eldest is a committed carnivore.), I’m fairly certain she is not talking about burgers. I mean, maybe she is and she was writing in character. But it just looks so much like boogers to me.

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Some Effects of the Muslim Ban

It started the day after Trump signed the executive order effectively shutting our doors to to immigrants and refugees.

First I saw one of my friends write about her impending PhD ceremony. In her own words:

As many of you know, I defended my PhD last month, it was a happy time. We had planned a family reunion for my graduation ceremony, my parents had not been able to travel to any of my previous ceremonies, so this one was a big one. I heard yesterday’s news of the ban on travel for people from muslim majority countries and its implications slowly began to sink in. My mother left Iran in 1979, on the eve of the overthrow of the Shah, and has never been back, for fear of Iran’s treatment of religious minorities. My uncles and cousins were born in Iran and left decades ago, my aunt and cousins still live in Iran today. In May, when I walk next to my advisor and am hooded as a PhD, my mother will not be here. This administration is telling me that MY MOTHER POSES A DANGER TO THIS COUNTRY. My mother, who grows flowers, pickles the vegetables from her garden, and makes fruit leather with the fruits from her orchard.

I know this friend through the Baha’i Faith, which started in Iran in the 1800s. For my entire life, Iran has had one program or another, sometimes covert sometimes explicit, whose aims have been to eradicate the Baha’is. They have been (and continue to be to this day) imprisoned, refused work, refused education, murdered, abused, had their cemeteries destroyed, their belongings confiscated, and otherwise harrassed. Persepolis is a great place to start to understand some of what Baha’is experience in Iran (it is not specifically about Baha’is, but certainly applies). For many years, Iran has made it very difficult for Baha’is to leave the country. But leave they did, one way or another. Many came to the United States. Essentially, every Iranian Baha’i family I know has a similar story. And now they are villified here, with a claim that they are a threat, despite the fact that no Iranian has ever been involved in a terrorist attack in the United States. Trump’s new executive order effectively stops Iranian Baha’is (and other Iranians from religious minorities) from seeking asylum in the US, even if they had gotten so far in the process as to have tickets to the US in hand.

Seeing my first friend’s story was painful. Then another friend, who has just had his first child shared this: 

My parents left their lives in Iran 37 years ago to escape religious persecution during a turbulent time. They resettled and started new lives here in the US. I was fortunate that I was raised in a country that offered me the opportunity to go to university, to find work, and to practice my faith freely. 

My mother still tells me how rapidly things changed in Iran, of how she left their home in Tehran with the beds perfectly made, never to return. My father, separated from the rest of my family, fled through the hills of Pakistan after being arrested, interrogated and having his passport confiscated. Homes were raided, people were being killed. I’ve known this for a long time, but I never felt my story was American, I never mentioned it in school or told my friends… it never really mattered I thought. Refugees just want to fit in.

It takes weeks like this one to put things in perspective. I looked at my son 2 days ago and seriously pondered for the first time whether this would be a sane place to raise him- would this be a tolerant and welcoming society? Would he have to live in fear I wondered? Would he be labeled? Would he encounter intolerance?

Shortly thereafter, one of my childhood friends shared her family’s story. Her father’s professorship at the university several of my own family members have attended. Her mother’s work with special needs children, winning Educator of the Year in their state. The number of doctors, teachers, bankers, and business owners in her family who have all sought refuge in the US, becoming productive members of society. She writes: If this ban had happened years ago, these are the people that would be shut out. I truly believe America would be less without them. This ban is arbitrary (no Iranian has ever committed a terrorist attack in America) and does not shut out terrorists, it breaks apart families and even forces those undergoing persecution in other countries to remain in danger.

And then another story.

And another. Families living in fear. Will they lose work if they refuse to travel for work? If they do travel, will they be allowed to return? Families ripped apart over night, living a nightmare.

It is horrifying to watch my friends suffer and their families torn apart. A cycle repeating itself – something they thought they had escaped.

If you are left with the common question on the tongues of so many today, “What can I do?” Here are some ideas:

Donate to the ACLU, which has already sued Trump with the result being that immigrants have received a temporary reprieve from this ban (hypothetically anyway).

Donate to the Tahirih Justice Center, which helps women and girls fleeing gender-based violence, and advocates on their behalf with our government, in the courts, and in our community.

If you follow the link for the Tahirih Justice Center, you will be taken to a list of recommended actions – including contacting your legislators and the White House, going to an airport with international flights to show your support for immigrants and refugees, and finally, gettting out into your local community and getting to know the people who live there, embracing the equality of all people across all genders and nationalities. Get to know the stories of the people in your community.

I think of all my friends who have spoken up. They are just a small sampling of what people all over the United States are currently feeling and experiencing. I know that I am scared. I am frustrated, angry and anxiety-ridden. And the administration has yet to directly target me or my family (barely). If this is how I am feeling, then I imagine my friends are feeling at least as vulnerable. And so many more are out there. Reach out. Be kind. Listen. Knowing you are not alone gives hope. Our solidarity is vital.

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Filed under Social Issues