A Record of the Times

20170425_183908The other day I ran out of postcard stamps. That meant I’d sent 100 postcards since DJT became president. I’d sent postcards to the man himself (remember the Ides of Trump?), to my members of Congress when their phones were jammed, to Mitch McConnell, to Paul Ryan, and to Republican MOC who deserved thanks for bucking the trend and voting against the health abomination bill passed by the house. The last batch of cards were to Democrats in South Carolina’s 5th District to remind them to vote for Archie Parnell in the upcoming special election.

I’ve been super-busy since DJT crashed into the White House. I’ve gone on 3 marches: The Women’s March, The March for Science, and The People’s Climate March down in DC. With some other ladies in town, we’ve formed an Indivisible Group–and with that comes meetings, and creating agendas, and educating ourselves on all sorts of local issues. We’ve run a member for the local Board of Education (she won), and are running two members for the City Council. That means I’ve attended local Democratic Committee meetings, quickly come up to speed on the issues in our local politics, and now I am walking around with petitions to get a friend on the ballot.

In between all this, I’ve joined Facebook and Twitter, to better keep up with the issues and to communicate with my various new political actions groups and coordinate with other groups in neighboring towns.

Of course there are the daily phone calls (or faxes if the lines are jammed), petitions (probably useless–but I can’t help signing some when they show up in the in-box), Twitter blasts to various officials, Facebook posts to MOCs, and good, old fashioned letters and emails to politicians.

I have no way of knowing what or which of these efforts will make a difference. I do know that I am super-busy. After all, I am a mom with two teens, and I’m mostly doing that by myself (husband travels a lot). I also have a full time job as a nurse, and a side-gig as a writer. So I certainly didn’t want to take all this on. Sometimes I resent how these selfish men in Washington are so incompetent and mean-spirited that I am forced to monitor their messes. It’s mom-work, but on a national level. Instead of coming into the kitchen to discover a mess, I’m watching the news and seeing corruption. Instead of scolding, “Put the milk away when you’re done with it!”, I’m writing about keeping the Paris Accord or Single-Payer Healthcare.

Such are the times, and this is a record of the times.

Appreciation Day!

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really appreciate our town.

Today was High School Staff Appreciation Day. So the PTA moms and I headed over to the  high school with our covered dishes and laid out an amazing spread. I brought stuffed grape leaves and almond cake. There was black beans and rice, lo mein, barbecue ribs, spanakopita, vegetable curry, fried rice, and tons of pasta dishes. Salads, fruit, sandwiches, bagels, pizza, pupusas…we went crazy.

I don’t have to cook tonight–there was so much food.

And the moms were just as varied as the dishes: Indonesian, Japanese, Cuban, Lebanese, Italian, Puerto Rican, El Salvadoran, Guyanese, Jewish…

I can’t understand people who feel threatened by such richness and variety. Recently I read an article in the Atlantic that many who voted for our Orange Overlord really did so out of a sense of “cultural anxiety”.  They felt they were losing their America to foreigners.

Not only do I feel such people are losing out on one of the nicer things in life (new foods! new friends!), but I also know that there never was a time when the world was that pure and that stagnant. Humans have been moving around the planet ever since we walked upright. We marched north from our birthplace in Africa, spread to Asia, and crossed the land bridge into North America back in pre-historic days. We traveled and traded and mixed it up–sometimes for good reasons, like trade along the Silk Road, and sometimes for not good reasons (colonialism, slavery). But we were always migrating and immigrating.

So when, where, and for how long did white Christian America even really exist? I read that there are pockets in the Midwest where people feel they are the “true” Americans, but I put that in quotes because they only got there by displacing the Native Americans and riding railroads built by Chinese and free black men. Nevertheless, they believe they own America.

The Women’s March folks wanted moms to have “daring discussions” with people who believe differently from us in honor of Mother’s Day. I tried. I got into a discussion with a DJT voter about undocumented immigrants. He said anyone here “illegally” should get deported. I asked him whether something had happened to him that made him feel this way. He didn’t come up with anything. I told him I had a different point of view and explained how I felt compassion for people who have committed no other crime than trying to escape violence or poverty. He said, “They aren’t citizens and they should get out of my country.” I gave up, because there was no discussion. Just a whole lot of anger.

I am not going to worry about understanding people like that anymore. I don’t want to understand people who feel threatened by children brought here by parents who wanted a better life for them, papers or no. I don’t need to understand people who feel threatened by refugees fleeing war. People threatened by a diverse bunch of PTA moms feeding a diverse group of school staff a multicultural buffet are never going to make sense to me, if they can’t even explain why they feel that way. I am not ever going to change their minds, or even understand their minds, no matter how many “difficult discussions” we have.

Anyhow, it’s their loss. They’re hoping for the return of a fantasy world that never really existed, and they are very much on the wrong side of history–because humans travel, and fall in love, and mix it up. That’s what we’ve always done, still do, and always will do.

And I guarantee our multiculti feast was better than an all-white, all-Christian buffet any day.

 

 

 

 

 

Firing Bill O’Reilly: a few thoughts from a broken feminist

rts12tlpI felt a sense of righteous vindication upon reading that Fox has let Bill O’Reilly go. I was one of the many women writing letters  by email and on Facebook to companies that advertised on his show. Thanks to the work of women’s rights organizations like ultraviolet and NOWI knew who to write to and what to say. I explained to my children that every small action the resistance takes is making a difference. The pawns are falling: the resignations of Milo Yiannopolous, Roger Ailes, Michael Flynn, the recusements of David Nunes and Jeff Sessions, and Jason Chaffetz deciding not to run in 2018, are all precursors to the eventual, inevitable, downfall of DJT.

We deserve a moment to relish the sense of accomplishment we feel after taking out the trash.

But this morning my daughter and I had a conversation about music. At the moment, she’s into music that denigrates women: “b**tches and h*s” lyrics by men who slap their girlfriends around. I tried to explain to her that she’s internalizing those bad messages, and that it wasn’t healthy.

She wasn’t buying it.

After all, why should she listen to me? I’m a broken feminist. I talk the talk, I even try to walk the walk, but there’s a part of me that’s so deeply damaged, I continue to accept unacceptable behavior from men ALL THE TIME. I still make myself nice, and small, and agreeable, just to fly low under the radar. I have not realized my potential, and it’s likely I never will. I’m like many American women: I’ve been a victim of sexual violence, both attempted and completed. The attempted left a 21-stitch long scar on my right hand; I sliced it open scaling a chainlink fence in a burst of adrenaline to get away from two attackers after my car broke down on the side of the road in Brooklyn. The completed acts left internal scars that despite years of therapy, have not healed. These scars affect my ability to have healthy adult relationships with men, both in work environments and social environments. My workaround is that I limit myself by sticking to female dominant work settings, and I work primarily alone. I don’t ask for promotions or raises because the bosses are male. I’ve tried a few times, but after being shut down I’ve given up.

The resistance is female for a reason. DJT’s voice turns our stomachs. He has the cadence of our predators. He has the same cold, dead eyes. He has their sensibility. That the predator-in-chief is still in his position, despite what he’s admitted to, and what he’s suspected of doing, wounds us and our daughters daily.

I am so proud of our every accomplishment in resisting this juggernaut of sexual predation. And I am so grateful when men, like the Patriots, join us. But I am afraid for my daughter. The end of allowing predatory men in positions of power can’t come soon enough for her or millions of girls like her.

 

 

 

Falafel in the time of Trump

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The other day my co-worker Layla (name changed to protect her privacy), gifted me some homemade falafel mix. If you’ve ever made falafel from scratch, you know this is quite a present. Falafel from dried fava beans is a lot of work. I was definitely touched by this gesture.

Layla is Egyptian, and as the only two MENAs (Middle Eastern North Africans) in an Anglo-Saxon work environment, we’d bonded over food. As we followed the children we were tasked with protecting around the halls and fields of the school, we talked about recipes, ways to preserve the excess mint and cucumbers in our gardens,  and what stores we favored: Super Jordan, Patel Brothers, or Maharaja Farmers Market. When a recently immigrated relative of hers was applying for jobs, I looked over the resume and corrected the English. We complained about our husbands and kids like all moms; she invited me to a festival at her church.

Unfortunately, our relationship became awkward after November 8th. You see, even though Layla is Egyptian, she voted for DJT. The day after the election, she was all smiles and I was shell-shocked. We had a weird exchange. I’d made the assumption that, as a Middle Eastern person, she wouldn’t go for him.

I had this strange experience again with another woman friend. My across-the-street neighbor is a single mom with three daughters. Let’s call her Nataly. She’s an immigrant from Peru, and over the years I’ve given her kids rides to school (she used to leave even earlier than me for work), and we’ve had coffee together. Lately, we’re both so busy we only meet when we are gardening in our front yards, or as it happened after the inauguration, when we are both in the street shoveling snow. I was wearing my pink Women’s March knit hat, and I proudly said, “I went to the Women’s March!” Nataly replied, “Oh, I went to the March for Life.”

Again, cognitive disconnect. I’d made the assumption that as a Latina immigrant, she wouldn’t go for DJT.

I was trying to figure this out with my husband. The two groups DJT demonizes the most are Middle Eastern people and South/Central Americans. And he disrespects women. Yet these women voted for him.

“I guess they’e one-issue voters,” my husband said.  Of course he meant abortion.

I think he may be right. Both women are some form of Catholic. But I think there’s something else. Lately I have been reading about how people who vote conservative really do think differently than people who vote liberal/progressive. These women both come from traditional patriarchal cultures. (As it has been pointed out over and over, DJT is patriarchy on steroids.) They may be more able to tolerate a blow-hard misogynist like DJT as a result.

I could resent the way DJT has inserted himself into every aspect of my life. Even my friendships are tainted by him. Or I could be the better woman and value these women even as I disagree with them. After all, we are going to have to keep living with each other. It is better to share falafel and coffee, to shovel snow and follow children and share rides, than to argue. I will not be able to change their minds with anything I say. But maybe I can be a powerful example of a life lived as feminist. Maybe they will eventually see the error of their votes through no action of mine. Maybe it is the friendships of women that will heal the country when this nightmare ends–and it will, as all nightmares do.

 

To DJT: On International Women’s Day

red-01Dear Mr. President,

Today is International Women’s Day, and I am staying home from work. Not because I took the day off–I don’t really have that luxury. I just got the day off because my employers gave it to me. But I figured I could take the morning and tell you a little about my work, since you Tweet that you “respect” it so much.

For money, I am a pediatric nurse. The children I care for are called “medically fragile”. These are the kids who can’t move anything except their eyes, and maybe one thumb on a good day. These kids have feeding tubes, and wheelchairs, and machines that breathe for them. Their equipment is insanely expensive. Without adequate government-provided healthcare, no family can afford what these kids need. Without adequately funded scientific research, no one can prevent or cure the diseases these children have. And without access to women’s healthcare programs, genetic counseling, and birth control, parents who carry the genes that cause such genetic disorders run the risk of having more than one child with a debilitating disease.

I go to school with these children. They need a special school filled with adaptive technology. Private schools are not required to offer the sort of interventions these children need. Betsy DeVos clearly has a limited understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and her current “confusion”, unless corrected, will strand the kids I care for.

Just as an aside: most of the nurses who do this difficult job are immigrants from the Philippines, Haiti, Jamaica and China. You see, white American-born nurses are the minority in this line of work. Not because immigrants take the jobs away from American-born—but because the American-born don’t want the job. Excuses I’ve heard: “heartbreaking”, “too hard” (the kids and their equipment is heavy—and we carry it from class to class), and “boring”.

Interestingly, though I earn more than FOUR TIMES THE MINIMUM WAGE, my salary cannot support our family. Not because we spend it on country clubs and golf outings. Nope. Our big expenditure is childcare, especially in the summer, when I work and the kids don’t have school. Thank goodness, during the school year, my kids go to a FREE PUBLIC SCHOOL.

Oh, and BTW, my healthcare job doesn’t come with health insurance.

Nursing’s just what I do full time for money. For no pay I’ve written a successful $60,000 grant to build a playground in my underserved neighborhood. The other mothers and I schooled ourselves in the minutiae of playground design, raised even more money, and got a state of the art playground built in less than a year. The kind of thing you wish your tax dollars took care of, but just don’t for some reason.

And when I get home, I care for my two children, cook, clean, garden, chauffeur….you know, that stuff you and Melania hire people to do for you.

Lately, I’ve had another part time job. I have been spending hours in the evening keeping track of and resisting dangerous legislation that threatens my children. Cuts to education funding, inappropriate cabinet appointees, rollbacks on gun safety, and the gutting of environmental protections. You see, as a mom, I don’t want my kids shot by a mentally ill person, poisoned by lead in their drinking water, or suffering a mega-storm, wildfire, or drought brought on by global climate change. I’d like them to grow up in a world with wilderness, and clean air, animals and polar ice caps. Call me crazy.

Well, that’s just a few reasons why my work is important. Now show me you respect it. Protect my children’s free, quality public education. Protect the environment so my kids and grandkids have a decent world to live in. Protect my children’s health.

I dare you.

 

 

 

 

When is a White Person Not a White Person? When She’s an Arab.

maxresdefaultA couple days ago I heard a story on NPR. Apparently, according to the next census, I’ll no longer be a white person. I’ll be MENA (Middle Eastern North African).

I mentioned this to my daughter. She said, “I thought you never were white.”

I explained that legally, I was. 22 years before I was born, Arabs were legally recognized as “white” by the United States of American.

“Yeah, but no one thinks of Arabs as white,” she said. (She’s Latina).

When you look at me, you would probably say, “Hey, that lady is white.” That’s because my mom’s parents were German. I got her coloring.

In the US, to be considered a Native American, instead of a generic white American, you have to be 1/16th Native. That’s one great-grandparent.

Historically, to be black you only needed “one drop” of African blood.

I’m half Arabic. A full 50%. My dad was fully Middle Eastern. An immigrant from Lebanon. Speaking Arabic.  Had an Arabic name: Salim. Grew up in Beirut. Was a tank gunner in the Christian Militia. Had Palestinian friends. Summered in Syria.

I inherited my dad’s nose. He said I looked like his mother, the grandmother I never met because she disowned him when he married my Germanic mom.

I said to a friend, “I don’t even know why this is bothering me. Why would I even want to be white? Especially right now, with all the ugly white supremacy stuff going on.”

My friend, a Jewish woman whose ancestors escaped some Nazi-benighted Eastern European country said, “Because white is safe.”

According to the NPR story, it became necessary to designate Middle Eastern North African peoples as MENA because there were just too many “Some Other Race” people in the last census.

But I can’t help wondering why, when the last census was taken in 2010, President Obama’s administration didn’t find it necessary to take care of that “problem” by designating Arabs as MENA then. Maybe he didn’t think an undesignated “Some Other Race” was such a big deal, being mixed race as he was.

I did some reading. The MENA idea has been kicking around for a while, but this is the first administration to seriously consider it. Congress still has to vote on it in 2018 to make it definite. I wonder which way it will go, and what it will mean.

MENA sounds so benign. I can imagine naming a daughter that, maybe with a different spelling—I assume it’s pronounced “Mee-nah”. It even sounds sort of Arabic.

On a related note: I found it a little troubling to hear about my possible MENA designation on the same weekend I heard about the new VOICE initiative.

VOICE (Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement) is the brainchild of Steve Bannon, voiced by DJT. It’s the latest in his white supremacy government propaganda push, inspired by Hitler’s Jewish Crimes List. Interestingly, the Third Reich started reporting Jewish crime separately from non-Jewish crime after putting in place the Nuremburg Race Laws.

Hmmm…

 

DJT: Revisiting Operation Wetback

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This week the kids and I are up near the Canadian border, and the other night I found myself in conversation with an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent. I mentioned that we lived in a city with lots of mixed status families, and I was concerned about DJT’s crackdown on immigrants. Specifically, what would happen to the children who were citizens if their parents were deported?

Now, I can’t be sure what is policy and what is this particular ICE agent’s opinion, but he said a few things that were troubling.

He said the kids would be deported along with their parents unless they have a close relative with papers who can act as guardian.

He said he could see a situation in which the kids are taken off the school bus and put directly into another bus for deportation.

He said when people are deported, all their property is left behind. They can try to get someone  to claim it for them, but mostly “it just rots”.

He said officials were “emptying beds” in detention centers right now, preparing for the mass deportation order.

He said “The planes are waiting.”

He said, “The model is Operation Wetback.”

But here’s the interesting part: his information on Operation Wetback was based on the myth that particular operation had grown into. Not on its facts.

According to internet myth and this particular ICE agent, “in 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower deported 13 million Mexican Nationals…so WWII and Korean Veterans would have a better chance at jobs. It took 2 Years…” and was a massive success, that Trump will easily repeat.

But, with very little research, I found that Operation Wetback was, in fact, 10 times smaller,  and it was considered a failure by many, and was, without a doubt, a humanitarian crisis. Deportees dropped off in the desert with no water died of heat stroke. “Slave ship” conditions on the boats used to transport deportees resulted in deaths by drowning.

Nevertheless, this agent, a rational, generally nice guy, will carry out whatever repeat of this nightmare DJT orders. As will his fellow agents. Because  it is too much to expect someone who has been groomed to follow orders, who has been chosen because of his ability to do so, would suddenly question authority.

Are we to believe this one agent? (Maybe he’s an outlier–maybe this isn’t going to happen). But if he’s telling the truth, the takeaway is this:

  • If you are in a mixed-status family, make sure you have identified someone in your extended family that your citizen children can go to if you want them to remain in the US.
  • Identify someone who will be able to go into your house and retrieve your belongings and send them to you when you are back in your country of origin.
  • Figure out how you will get your money out of your US bank accounts from a remote location.
  • If you can, get a reputable immigration lawyer now, and get your papers in order now.

 

For those of us that are citizens, we have to consider what we can do to protect our neighbors. I’m afraid the “Muslim Ban” was a dress rehearsal. We responded admirably and put a stop to that nonsense. Nevertheless, Bannon/DJT may push on. Right now, deportations of non-criminal immigrants are ramping up. So we must remain vigilant. And we can not let horror and exhaustion get the best of us. Stay involved. Don’t give up. We are on the right side of history.