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.




Why I Don’t Always Stand Up to Racism

So I love my job taking care of medically fragile children in schools. I love the hours, the vacations, the fact that I get the same days off as my own kids, and I love the children I take care of. I love the problem solving and the physicality and independence. I feel like I’m doing something positive and worthwhile.

But I have one complaint: one of the schools in which I work is located in a town that has been tried and found guilty of systematically denying housing to people of color.

Needless to say, this town went heavily for the Prez-elect.

In the classroom where I work, most of the kids are being raised in pro-Trump households. These kids are given to saying things like, (and I heard this just last week): “Over the Christmas break I played a blah, blah video game and my team’s name was Trump’s Wall. We were awesome.”

At this point, one aide who knows my family whispered to me, “Did I hear that right?” and I said, “Yes you did.”

But other than that, I kept my mouth shut.

I did not take this child aside and tell him that my own son was taunted at a recent wrestling match with “Build the wall” chants. I did not explain that Trump’s Wall is not something everyone feels equally enthused about. That “the wall” is used to tease brown kids regardless of their citizenship status, and therefore has become a racist meme.

I didn’t speak up because I know I am behind enemy lines, and I need this job, and I like this job and I want to keep this job.

And that, rich white folks, is the reason poorer people of racial and ethnic minorities don’t always correct you when you say something offensive. It’s not because what you said is okay, or because they were okay with it. It’s because they don’t live in the same bubble of safety. So the next time you hear someone getting away with something offensive, or the next time you feel you can’t possibly be racist because no one has ever called you on it, not even your co-workers of color, think again. Maybe no one has called you on it because, like me, they value their paycheck.

And guys, it goes the same for women. Just because they didn’t call you out on your comment, it doesn’t mean they were good with it. It just means they need the job. So stop using other peoples’ silence as an excuse for continued bad behavior.

You all know the difference between right and wrong. Stop pretending you don’t.






Re-reading and Re-thinking Post Election

I went back and re-read some of my blog posts from not very long ago, and I’m feeling enough of a cringe that I considered removing some. But I’ve decided not to, because first of all, almost no one reads my blog. But second of all, the posts show me something about myself at specific points in a pre-Trump year.

Now everything’s changed.

Prior to the election, I actually hoped and nearly believed that despite continued violence and aggressions constantly in the news and in our lives, that we as a nation were on an continuous upward trend. I really love the idea that the arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. So I didn’t want my kids to constantly be thinking about race and racism. I wanted them to have an innocent bubble of a childhood–I wanted them to have what white kids have–the privilege to just be kids.

So yeah, we had conversations about racism, colonialism, white privilege, micro-aggressions etc. But I hoped it would all remain largely theoretical. I hoped it didn’t really touch them. I hoped that at least in the NY area, we’d moved past that.

I had purposely moved us to a neighborhood where my kids look like a lot of other kids so they could just be themselves, not the representative of a culture, not a token, and not a victim of racism. I hated that about my childhood, being the only Arabs in town. When they needed someone to play Yasser Arafat in the school UN, it had to be me. When I did a cooking demo, it had to be tabbouli. And I would never say anything when kids sang “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of “Barbara Ann”. No teachers told them to stop, that it was racist. Because we were at war. And it was okay back then to say, “Bomb them all, let God sort it out.” Even the teachers said things like that.

But my parents had moved us to that town instead of settling on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn because they didn’t want us to be stuck in a Middle Eastern enclave–they wanted us to assimilate because being “American” was the goal.

Everyone does the best they can with their limited knowledge and experience.

And there I go again, being the apologist. It’s my tendency–to try to smooth things over, to try to understand the mistakes of others and forgive them. And as a result I haven’t done  a very good job listening to my kids, because I so, so, so wanted their childhoods to be pain free. I wanted to tell them, “No, the world isn’t that horrible, that racist, that mean-spirited.” I wanted to excuse the racist things they heard as ignorance, or the result of a poor education. I guess I didn’t want to believe that so many people were still really like that.

But now there is hard proof. Yes, so many people are still really like that.

So now I am sorry for the wimpy way I tried to play both sides, tried to keep the peace, tried to wish it all away, tried to believe that the bad things they heard were just small anomalies and weird left-overs and definitely on the way out.

Next time my kids say they think someone or something is racist, I hope I will just listen. I  hope I will ask them how they feel,  hug them, and  listen. I hope I won’t try to smooth the bad feelings away with an apology for the ignorance of the world. But I might make that mistake again and again and again. Because I am a product of this country and I still want to  buy the lie that America is the land of equal opportunity, and our history is a steady upwards march towards justice. I still keep hoping some miracle will happen and this situation will be corrected, that’s how thick my denial is.

And I just want my kids to be happy. The mom in me wants them to believe that hard work and fair play gets the prize, regardless of everything else.

I would really love to hear from some other moms on this.




Caring for Children Post Election


It’s awful when the bullies win, but sometimes they do. A child I love dearly has been dealing with this: the bullies get to do what they do, and it’s up to her to figure out how to take care of herself in spite of it, because there really are no repercussions to their actions, despite the concern and apologetic handwringing of school administrators. (See: When “Victim” Looks Like “Crazy” ).The bullies haven’t done enough to get expelled or suspended. And they laugh at being verbally chastised.

Laws are laws, after all.

It’s awful when the bullies win on a larger  stage, too. Because despite how you feel about the US election, if you are a thinking adult who cares for children, you must recognize in your heart that the language he used was the language of bullies. Calling people “loser” and “pig”, denigrating their differences, interrupting with “Wrong!”, physically menacing, verbally threatening, and a myriad of his other tactics are the tactics of bullies, and we do right to teach our children to avoid behaving that way, because of course we don’t want our children to behave like that, do we?

Or do we?

My children are understandably upset. They’ve only known the Obamas, who, whatever you may say about their policies, have been a scandal-free, positively classy example of good behavior. Also, my son has been taunted at school that he is going to get deported. I have reassured him that his citizenship is full and final and irrevocable.

But  is it? Look what happened to the Jews in WWII, or the Japanese on our own soil.

This is all I want to say about this.

What I really want to do, post election, is take care. Of myself, my children, my clients, my mother, and my community.

Self care so far means sleep, healthy food, a media blackout, classical music in lieu of NPR, and reaching out to friends and family. Stepping up the yoga, meditation, and prayer. Shutting down conversations that make me feel violated. Donating money to causes I care about.

Care for my children looks much the same. I advise them to focus on what they can do to make their lives and futures better. I advise my son, a news junkie, to take a break from it.

I welcome anyone’s thoughts about positive self care after this wounding, ugly election. As a nurse and mom, I want to focus on healing–not finger-pointing, blame, or handwringing angst.

How do you take care of yourself and your own?



Some thoughts on Columbus Day


This morning we got up early because my son was marching in the Columbus Day parade in NYC with his high school band. The band is a source of great pride in our community, and it has won prizes in years past for performances in the parade.

My son, however, had mixed feelings. He loves playing in the band and a trip into the city with his friends is always exciting, but he doesn’t value the holiday. He identifies not only as Latino and Guatemalan, but also as an Indigenous person. His story is his to tell, so I won’t tell it all here, but I will say that the one picture we have of his birth mother shows her wearing the traditional traje of an indigenous group.

Yesterday he asked me what I thought the world would be like if Native People had colonized Europe instead of the other way around. We talked about the possibilities, alternate realities, and the “guns, germs, and steel” reasons for Europe overwhelming the indigenous Americans.

This morning he put on a tee-shirt with Mayan iconography under his band jacket, a necklace with his name in Mayan, and a bracelet he’d gotten at a powwow hosted by the Wampanoag People on Martha’s Vineyard. He loaded his phone with Native American music and dug through the laundry to find his earbuds (he always forgets them in some pants pocket). He chose to wear his nearly waist length hair down. Some of this may have been adolescent posing, but some of it may be personal armor. I handed him a Cliff Bar and made sure he’d brushed his teeth and hair and dropped him off at the high school where the parking lot was rapidly filling up with other teens who look a lot like him.

We ran into a neighbor on the train, and a few other parents from our town on the parade route and settled in to watch. Finally our kids came through, and they were awesome, and we were proud, and then after a quick trip to the Museum of Natural History we sat on the train forever, stalled because of track work after a derailment.

Back home I checked in with my son (who’d traveled back separately with the band on the bus). He was impressed by the protesters—we’d seem them too: Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump outside of Trump tower, a group dogging Governor Cuomo about Indian Point nuclear power plant, and a batch of college students chanting and holding signs that said, “Stop Celebrating Genocide.” My daughter asked what genocide was, and I said something like killing a whole group of people, ethnic, racial, or religious, or killing enough of them to damage their culture, and she said, “Yeah, I see their point.” My son said he thought all the protesters were interesting, but he noticed that most of the parade watchers weren’t really celebrating Columbus, or his “discovery” at all—it was more of a celebration of being Italian.

It was a tiring day, but all in all I felt lucky. Lucky we lived near enough to NYC that my son could participate in a parade that provided so much thought provoking conversation, and lucky that my kids were so perceptive, so smart, and so interested in the world around them.

Daily Prompt: Careful (talking to my kids about racism)

snowboard-663304_1280via Daily Prompt: Careful

I don’t usually use the daily prompts, in part because I don’t get the chance to visit my blog daily. When I have a few moments to write, I’m often working on my next book. But this prompt jibes with what’s on my mind right now.

Lately I’ve found myself advising my children to be careful when they make an assumption about someone else’s racism.

My son, who loves snowboarding, has been looking forward to joining the high school ski club since 6th grade. Finally, he’s old enough. At the first meeting, he noticed that most of the kids were white. He has radar for this: he’s always noticing the ratio of white to brown and whether it reflects the general population of the town, or school, or whatever. He came home pretty keyed up. According to him, a white girl had looked at him and said, “What are you doing here?”

I’ve gotten careful to not jump in with my take. Instead I said, “How did that make you feel?”

“Angry! I was so angry!” He talked about how he was gonna school her–she was gonna feel like a fool when she saw how awesome he was in the terrain park. (He’s been snowboarding since he was 5, and he is awesome.)

“That was so racist!” my son said.

I admitted it was pretty ignorant, and that it might have been racist. Or it might have been classist. Or maybe she assumed he wasn’t into snowboard or skiing because he wasn’t one of the preppy, jock kids. Maybe she just didn’t like him. We talked about how it is true that we don’t see a lot of Latinos on the mountains we go to, in part because there just isn’t a tradition of snow sports in Central and South America, so when people move north, skiing and snowboarding just isn’t on their radar. Maybe that was the reason that girl had made that ignorant comment.

I said I hoped comments like that didn’t keep kids out of the club who could otherwise enjoy doing something their family didn’t traditionally do.

I do wish people were more careful with their casual comments.

Yesterday, I took my daughter shopping for a new mattress at BJs. As we were leaving the store with it, a child asked her mom, “Where did she get the money for a new mattress?”

“That’s so racist!” my daughter said.

“Maybe not. Maybe that kid wants a mattress herself, and her mom just finished saying they couldn’t afford one. So maybe it was more about jealousy, or curiosity.”

I don’t want my kids to always be on the lookout for the racist comment. There are plenty, and they come all the time, in the weirdest places, in the weirdest ways. But I’ve learned it’s nicer to get through your day mostly ignoring the non-threatening ignorance. I could be cut by every stupid comment, or I can let it roll off, and think that it has more to do with that other person’s shortcomings than anything about me, and just get on with my day.

We were watching Zootopia on Netflix, and my kids were pointing out every moment that was about racism, or profiling, or awkward inter-racial relations. A sweet, fat, and probably gay tiger called a bunny “cute”, and she, rather uncomfortably, explained only a bunny can call another bunny “cute”, but other species should avoid that word.

The tiger was mortified and apologetic.

Maybe I am too much of an apologist for the people who say such stupid things, but really, I bet a lot of people, especially kids who haven’t learned any better yet, are like that tiger.





A Few Weird Things

green-pink-2toneIt’s hard to get to the computer these days, and when I do, I want to write my next book. So I don’t blog as much as I’d like, and stuff happens, and I don’t comment on it, and it piles up. So here’s three things I felt like addressing, but didn’t get around to:

  1.  I got that alert on my phone for Ahmad Khan Rahami (the terrorist who planted bombs in NY and NJ) while I was at work. (For those who don’t know, I am a pediatric nurse who accompanies medicalized children to school). None of the other adults around me got it. That night at dinner, I asked my husband if he’d gotten the alert. Nope. Neither had my son. He says to me, “Of course you got it, mom. You’re the Arab in the family. They probably sent it to all the Arabs, because you all know each other.” He meant it as a joke. (He’s 100% Latino). It’s kind of a running gag about the Arabs in our family. There’s a funny story about a friend who I hadn’t seen in decades, walking into a Lebanese restaurant in another state and saying to the owner, “Hey, my best friend’s father was Lebanese.” “Oh really,” says the owner, “What was his name?”  “Salim Chalfoun.” The owner says, “That’s my uncle.” And here’s the kicker–my dad was his uncle.  So that’s the joke–all Arabs are cousins or uncles or whatever, as far as non-Arabs are concerned. But of course we aren’t. And I know the alert got sent to lots of non-Arabs. So why do I always have that weird, sinking feeling every time a terrorist has an Arabic name, as if it has something to do with me? Why do I take that on? I bet white people don’t cringe when a white guy makes the news.
  2. We were eating our typical weekend pancake breakfast, listening to NPR,  when the recording of the wife of Keith Scott pleading with the police to not shoot him came on. I turned the radio off. My son asked why, and I explained that I had heard it yesterday, and it was very upsetting. My son said, “I know what to do if I get stopped by the police.” He stood and showed me how he would place his hands behind his back. I said, “Don’t do that–they might think you’re pulling a gun from your waistband.” He said, “I could do this.” And he demonstrated putting his hands on top of his head. He explained that’s what the kids in school say to do.  I said, “No, also problematic. Put your hands like this.” And I showed him how to hold his hands in the air, fingers spread, so anyone could see he didn’t have a gun.
  3. A few days later I worked a dance with my client who goes to their district school.  The district is 93% white, and one of the wealthiest in our county. The boys wore button down shirts, and Vineyard Vine web belts,  chino shorts, and boat shoes, the girls wore pink and green Lily Pulitzer dresses. They looked like they were ready to go out to dinner in Edgartown. So preppy and clean cut. And they were so well behaved, I thought. Yet they got yelled at by the chaperones, and the lights were turned on so they couldn’t get into any more trouble. My son was fascinated by this. He wanted to know what those preppy kids had done that was so bad. “They were using their phones,” I told him. “They aren’t allowed to have phones at school or at any school functions.” He was incredulous.”Wow. A phone is bad?” “In their school it is,” I said. I didn’t have to point out the difference between their world and ours. My son totally got it.