Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Representing America During a Trump Presidency

I'm not going to deny that this past year hasn't been difficult; it's still unnerving to think about the impending future of the United States government once Donald Trump is sworn into office, this month, in seventeen days. I'm reminded now of November 9th, the morning after finding out that the politically inevitable had happened. I dreamed that Election night before of high hopes, with the fleeting imaginings of a first female president who would carry on the progress and legacy of President Barack Obama. When I still lay there in bed, about ready to change for my Nature and Assessment/Intervention in Communication Disorders university course, I summoned the courage to tap the side button on my cell phone, and noticed the multiple Facebook Messenger notifications on my homescreen. The messages were from one cousin in Nova Scotia, and another in Newfoundland. Clearly they had kept up with the election results until late the night before - much later than I could stomach. After I had noticed the unexpected swing states turning red, from Ohio to Pennsylvania, I clicked off the television, moved back the bunny ears, turned off my phone, and took an early night shower.

Hillary Rodham Clinton's determination throughout her campaign rang clear through my mind, and I used the essence of that strong will to force myself into believing that all would work out by the time I again checked the election news tomorrow. There was no way someone with that kind of experience and expertise could not have at least an edge against a terrible man like Donald Trump. There was no way that someone who had more respect could lose against a man like him. No way that someone with more decency, more humanity, could lose against him. That was why I was able to drag myself away from the televised results, and not check on them again 'til morning.

Alas, skip forward to my numb drive to university the next morning, where the dim, foggy November morning seemed to mimic the fresh mood cast over my otherwise happy life.

I felt the weight of nearly 62 million other shocked and disappointed Americans, many of whom were also scared of the election's turn out. While I spent the following days in shock, concerned more about myself and the resultant worsening symptoms of my ADD during school season, I didn't share with many others the raw feelings of sorrow and fright for their life and the lives of their family members. I couldn't share this reaction with them because I'm white, because I have a documented American citizenship, because I already have access to birth control, because I'm not Muslim, because I can afford a good education, and because I don't have children who will be exposed to his hateful words and rhetoric for the next four years.

The weight of these feelings remains on my shoulders two months later. It remains pressing down on me as I type on this keyboard. Given the exemptions I listed above, why would I be still personally bothered by Donald Trump's win?

No matter your religious background, you probably believe that we humans are all connected in some way. Muslim faith itself believes that Allah "created man from a clot of blood." Also to the tune of evolution, the science allows that humanity evolved equally - with each human developed to maintain the same range of intelligence, emotions, creativity, etc. The resounding opinion is that we are all from one entity. No matter Donald Trump's own religion, he is of an anomalous opinion that, for instance, women should not have the same rights that men do. He would defund a nation-wide program that allows women the ability to have bodily autonomy - a basic human right. He would punish the woman - not the man who impregnated her - for their abortion. I am still personally bothered his win, because no matter your religious background, there is nothing ethical about a Trump presidency.

For so long I put off digging into the emotions that spill out when I force myself to grasp what Trump's win meant for the opinions of Americans from my friends and family who live abroad. I worried that now my family in Canada and the friends I met during my study abroad would think less of me. I worried about my future travels and how I might by viewed by others I met around the world when I told them I was American.

I want those people to know that Donald Trump does not represent me. And he does not represent the majority of Americans.

I addressed this concern of mine previously on social media, on the morning of November 9th, to be exact, as the initial pained reaction of the news hit, and before the numbness set in. This reaction rings true today, as I recall a moment with a resident at my workplace one month ago.

One month ago at my job in an apartment complex, a distraught resident sat down in front of my desk in the leasing office, and laid down a very emotional speech. After providing me with his rent check, he gave me insight into the life of a Muslim Indian immigrant, living in the American Bible Belt, in the wake of a Trump presidency.

After asking this man, Ali, whether or not he intended to renew his lease with us at the large complex, he told myself and the leasing agent sitting next to me that he could not. He had just had an interview the day prior with the university (where I also attended), where he had hoped to maintain his position as a calculus professor, which would provide him the ability to extend his work visa in the United States. Ali said he went into the interview in very high hopes, with an impressive resume highlighting his doctorate credentials, his experience at the same university, and his friendship and business relationship with the person interviewing him. While he sat in the interview, however, the Muslim man said he spotted the resume for the white man who had interviewed moments before him, along with the few lines detailing the man's experience, and the location of his doctorate program. His resume didn't compare to his, Ali said. Regardless, later that night, the interviewer called Ali to tell him that unfortunately he did not get the job.

Ali told us that this form of discrimination was not new for his time in the southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri area. He said that he had spent his entire university career in the United States and taught there for multiple years, yet now he felt more unwelcome in the country than ever. Ali put in his notice to vacate that day, and he will be returning to India one month after Inauguration Day.

Ali's experience is one of a man who is a legal immigrant, and who has a higher education and teaching degree. He has more privileges than the average Muslim immigrant in America, yet he is not impenetrable to the kind of country Donald Trump wants to see as president.

This is why I finally found the courage to write this post. Ali was a friend of mine, and by my own religion and opinion, he lives as a brother to me, unencumbered by the color of his skin, or the religion he practices. The reality of his experience broke my heart as he sat in front of me to tell me his tale.

I wanted so badly to represent his view of America, but I alone could not.

It takes every citizen collectively in a country to set the example to outsiders that our country is great. Our country is united. Our country is made up of immigrants who welcome to it other immigrants, brothers, and sisters. For those of us who would feel the pain of Ali's and other's discriminatory experiences in this country, I want our spirits to drown out any hate that supporters of this new presidency may bring, so that we together represent the United States of America, as our founding immigrant fathers envisioned.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Introspection and Perspective in Hamlet

During my Shakespeare class today, I thought about what Hamlet assumes he knows at the age of 30, referencing his revelations in the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy. He lists what death can be boiled down to, while in a state of utter melancholy. I think in similar states of mind, we try to make come up with the same answers to life, and arrive at he same end. Which is sad; we're truly more often introspective when life is throwing us shit. I felt similarly the first time I read Hamlet my senior year of high school. Now that I'm reading it in college, as a much happier person, I noticed within this new perspective and state of mind reading it a juxtaposition that makes me realize the importance of perspective and emotion when approaching such philosophy. Thinking about death, and the course of one's life before death, can give fruit to different interpretations based on ANYTHING the person in question is dealing with in their life at the time. Reading Hamlet, and understanding where the character Hamlet is coming from in his revelation during the soliloquy is important. If the reader is skilled in reading a novel from the perspective of the protagonist, feeling the obstacles with him as he goes through them in the rising action, such a pivotal point would be read in the same state of mind the protagonist is in, and the reader would be less likely to project his own state of mind on the character's introspection. Which may be how fiction is meant to be read. It makes the character that much more dynamic, and is probably how most scholars (and, I'm sure, my professor) are able to read the text. However, I read literature with a much more holistic mind set, and I tend to project my own feelings on the situation. I look at the plot and characters too much as an omniscient viewer, by my own fault. For this reason, I read Hamlet's soliloquy with my own state of mind in class today - which made for a very unique interpretation of the text.

What I projected on the interpretation of the "To be or not to be" excerpt was my realization of Hamlet's age, as well as his state of mind, and I thought of my own ever-changing consciousness and moods, as well as my own naive age. Often I feel I've been through so many obstacles and lows in my life that I know everything I need to know about the necessity of them. But I'm not currently thinking about my life as a person on a low. Unlike Hamlet (who's just found out about his father's death, his mother's hasty remarraige to his uncle, and his uncle's murder of his father).

It's just the same as when a person who is for the first time in their life dealt a shitty hand reflects on all the bad times in his or her life, and stews on that idea until their inner reflections are as deep as Hamlet's own existential crisis.

This downward spiral of thoughts in such a fragile state of mind is the kind of thing that carries people into depression, or even suicide (Hamlet obviously exhibits clinical signs of the former). This is why it's so important for people to notice others who  degrade themselves - or speak only of the negative things to occur to them in their life - and comment instead to them on the positive things that have occurred to them. If nothing but to distract them for a bit from this negative spiral of ideas, at least for a moment they would question how bad they truly have it. And this might just save their life.

I write this post not just as a reminder to those reading of their friends and family who suffer depression, but also a wake up call for the importance as to perspective and state of mind when reflecting on characters' or one's own circumstances.

Think about your feelings right now and take them into account - Not everything is as bad as it seems.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The List of "Little Things"

Inspired by a recent video by the vlogbrothers, I decided to write my own list of little things that make me happy every day. I've noticed that these things are what really make me feel satisfied on a daily basis. They are mostly events, not things, which speaks volumes about what I value overall. I spent a few hours making this list. I had to return to it every so often, because I wanted to think about what each "little thing" said about me.

I noticed how much the word "finishing" appeared in my list. I never before realized how much it meant to me to finish things. As someone who suffers from ADD and medicates for it, this made perfect sense. I often get distracted from finishing creative projects, and this is often more detrimental than neglecting to begin a project in the first place. I'll chide myself afterward for having not finished said project. It's entirely counter-productive, but clearly explains why finishing is a "little thing" that means a lot to me.

I encourage anyone who reads this to create your own list of "little things" that mean a lot to you every day. Include as many as you like (I only stopped at 22 because I felt it was a solid list at that point. Plus that's my age and I like to be ironic). Post it on your own blog, or just type it up, print it out and hang it in your office - it could be a great way to remind yourself to enjoy the little things (whatever that means to you) whenever you're stressed or feeling down.

1) Breaking good news to people.
2) Finishing a good book and replacing it back on my bookshelf.
3) Getting so caught up in finishing a project that I lose track of time.
4) Deep conversations with people who share my values and outlook on life.
5) Finishing my coffee in the morning with plenty of time to get ready.
6) Watching my dog play.
7) Playing cards or board games with friends.
8) Long, unexpected phone calls.
9) Finding and correcting grammatical errors in books and textbooks.
10) Smelling a new book.
11) Looking at all the novelty things at Hastings or Barnes & Noble.
12) Watching documentaries.
13) Singing obnoxiously to music in the car with friends.
14) Beginning singing the same lyric simultaneously with a friend, unprompted.
15) Finishing an essay that seemingly ties all ideas together.
16) Finishing a class.
17) Bonfires in the fall.
18) Putting on freshly-cleaned socks.
19) Collapsing on my bed after a long day at work.
20) Showering in winter.
21) Excitement before and during a concert performed by my favorite bands.
22) Finishing an art project.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Lines of Familiarity

The other day taught me to understand my place.
As I walked down Michigan Avenue on a cool summer afternoon,
right of the Lake in Chicago,
I began seeing lines radiating from each passersby.
Some lines intersected,
and continually lines connected.
Above those lines that interwove - obstructing my view of the sparkling lake water -
it was noted the relationships one person had with the next.

Spiralling masses encircled my perimeter at the great Cloud Gate,
yet I'd often find myself entangled in my own twining figure.
I saw myself among so many others in that mirror,
the lines shining in blunt green hues:
luminescent emerald where my fourth cousin stood somewhere under shade
at the Lurie Garden,
and weak pine, branching in cardinal directions across the Promenade,
where stood relatives multiple times removed.

For that day I floated along on my own familiarity with the world.
I did not soon forget the faces of those I passed when I next awoke,
and found that I could no longer see the familial web,
for instead I cherished each person at their core.

In my quiet knowledge I knew my place among everyone
without color,
and for that I loved them all the more.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

New City, New Life

Coming nearer to August 7th, the date I leave for southeastern Missouri to continue my education in speech pathology, I'm jumping out of my skin for the moment I'll offically be living on my own, with only my dogs and plants to care for.

I realize now how much this past year has prepared me for the essentially new life I'll be leading at a new school, for at least two years. Having cared for my great-grandmother since I was 17, and she having passed this February, and my three brothers now moving into my grandmother's in my stead, I'll feel the impact of so much less responsibility. It's almost ironic how much less I'll have to supervise others while I'm on my own, but I'm so excited for that impending change.

I remember countless nights away during my English degree, waiting for the day that'd come when I'd be living on my own with a dog to love and care for, thinking that day was so long away I'd never make it.

Now I'll see that day after sleeping eighteen more times. And I couldn't be happier.

If I could just tell past-me that I was almost there, that I'd make it, supporting myself in every way, with better, more loving dogs than I could have hoped for, she would have been so happy, too.

My dogs, Demi and Kota:

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Independent Women and Dependent Men

Dependency is such a difficult topic. I began this post as a poem, "Dependency Depends," but it got to be too involved, and I wanted to say so much that I scratched it, and began anew here with a bit of a tirade, and a bit of lament - all for those people who depend too much on others.

All my life I've spent surrounded by independent women, their free spirits impeded only by the absolutely wrong kind of men. Those men who call for all their attention, all their praise, all their hard work, and gave back little on their ends. Now this is a post concerning the emotional and spiritual turmoil all this dumps on the lives of those independent women, not including the financial or physical type, as that is another argument altogether (though equally as binding and burdensome).

If you're tiresome to read further, I'll begin now with the worst case this type of man brings on this type of woman. The lazy man pulls down the spirit of that woman. He makes her feel a sense of responsibility for him that should not exist. If he is of the age to marry or date, he's of the age to have a job that provides for himself, and as a result that work should provide for him the confidence necessary to be dependent upon only himself for extensive praise and attention. Instead, the woman is carrying the spiritual and emotional weight of two people - and that's only if their relationship does not include children!

The independent woman cannot be completely free to be herself if she is responsible for a man like this. By default, the dependent man removes her independence.

What's always so striking is whenever my independent friend or family member breaks up with or divorces a completely dependent man; they always spend again what seems like exorbitant amounts of time with friends and family, because they have the freedom then to do so. Their spirits rise, and they're skydiving, or taking big trips they haven't done in awhile, or they're making big, exciting moves they used to talk about, before their relationship began with the wrong kind of man.

I don't want to treat this like it's a topic more gruesome than physical or mental abuse, because it's not, but I feel it's an under-recognized one. More pressingly I feel it's pertinent to me in my life, and so familiar that I believe I have the ability to speak on it with an objective perspective. It is because I am so surrounded by these vicious circle relationships that I do not waste my own time getting into them myself. I see the signs of dependent men very early on, and I don't want others to waste their time making the same mistakes I've seen among my female friends and family members. (That said, I also recognize that this goes both ways, and in a world ideally of sexually equal rights, this argument would go for independent man wrongly dating dependent women).

The following I wrote as a few tentative red flags I've noticed of men who would not be ideal for independent women to date. Disclaimer: these are just general guidelines that follow my advice - they are in no way the end all, be all if a man follows one red flag. Try to read them without hearing Jeff Foxworthy's voice saying, "...you might be a red-neck."

Red Flags:

1) His parents still pay any part of his rent or house payment.
2) He isn't proactive about seeing or helping out with his children.
3) He expects you to be home at a certain time.
4) Expects food to be prepared or brought to him.
5) He has his girlfriend or wife run most errands.
6) He doesn't do yardwork, or clean around his residence (assuming he's physically able), and expects it to be done by someone else, i.e. mother, partner, friend, relative.

Note: All these have some room for people dependent for extenuating reasons.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Just Add Coffee!

Just how you like it
upon which the color depends.
Love it or hate it,
the smell, the look, the taste
often comes and goes with the trends.
Prefer it any time of day
or just when it's mentioned.
That's when I want it,
and that's all you need to say.

"Instant human: just add coffee!"
is the new phrase for our decade.