Category Archives: politics

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I’m tired of being tolerant

I’ve been a good little liberal Democrat.

When they go low, I go high.

 

I’m tired of tolerating

Racism, sexism, and bigotry

From the world

My friends…my family

They keep going lower, and lower, and I remain high

 

I’m tired of seeing some

Shocking, offensive meme

From someone I’ve known forever

And letting it go—

Not replying

Because

When they go low, we go high.

 

I’m tired of so many  lies

Being passed as truth.

Even though debunking is easy,

Lies that fit agendas are preferred.

Of course, when they go low, I go high.

 

I hate the direction things are going.

I hate it to my core.

Except for “me too” and times up,”

We are sliding backwards

Down a very slippery slope

And I don’t imagine us rising to our peak again.

When they bring us so low, it’s hard to go high

 

I’m beginning to feel that tolerance

is complicity.

Racists misogynists, and bigots

Are not tolerant of me or my daughters

I can no longer be tolerant.

I will no longer be complicit.

I can no longer tolerate their low.

 

I am a card-carrying, Obama-voting, democrat,

RPCV, Americorps alum, feminist, human rights

activist, well-educated, single-mother

of two beautiful, young women of color.

If you didn’t know that,

You know that now.

I will try to keep going high,

But I will no longer be tolerant.

 

 

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dreamer

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I am an illiterate foreigner.

I come from a country where,

Even though I am degreed and skilled,

I can’t make enough to feed my two children

And keep a roof over our head.

 

I am a teacher.

In many cultures, that is a noble profession.

Treated even higher than

Doctors, lawyers along with CEOs

Since teachers had to teach them.

 

In my native country

Teachers and education

Are no longer respected.

Intelligence and knowledge

Are shunned as “elitism.”

 

So I moved to another country

To take care of my family.

I don’t speak the language.

I can’t read signs or labels.

But I can provide a house and food.

 

But here, no one ever says,

“Go back to your country!”

“Speak our language!”

“Worship only our way!”

“Stop taking our jobs!”

 

Here in China, I am free.

I am living the American Dream.

The same dream being ripped away

From Dreamers and Americans alike.


Some thoughts about immigration

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I have taught about the Immigration Period in America for several years now. I know what the push and pull factors are as to why people immigrate, and I know the various stages that they and their later generations experience after immigration. In fact, I have not only taught this, I have researched this. Last month, however, was the beginning of my first-hand experience. I mean I lived in Thailand before, but it was temporary, and I was only responsible for myself. This is a HUGE jump from that.

Exactly one hundred years ago, from the same month I immigrated, my then seventeen year-old Great-grandmother and her mother boarded the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse with a hundreds of other Bohemians fleeing ethnic cleansing, and took the14 day trip from Bremen, Germany to Ellis Island. She moved to Cleveland because her step-father was here, as was a very large Slovak-Catholic community. She knew eight languages, but English wasn’t one of them. One-hundred years later, I boarded a plane with my two very young daughters, and flew 26 hours to Bangkok and then moved on to Khon Kaen, because I had a teaching position at a university waiting, and friends all around –even in the same city.

I find it so interesting what Americans think of immigration, and how they truly don’t understand it. I find it interesting that they get mad that immigrants are there, that they don’t speak English, that they “take our jobs” (that one always makes me laugh), that they aren’t Christian, and that they wear their clothes and eat their food. I think so many forget that they are products of immigrants.

I had always read that immigrants are the brave risk-takers. That is who almost all of us are descendants of –brave risk-takers. What happened to that? When did we not become accepting of that, and why? It’s not easy to learn another language. Most second generation and third generations Americans don’t know more than one language. Studying 2 years in high school doesn’t count, because you don’t use it daily; you don’t dream in it; it’s not the same.

I picked Thailand because I used to be fluent in Thai. Notice, I said “used to be.” I used to have entire 3-day workshops, in Thai. But after ten years, I find myself asking students, “What the word for ‘see’ again?” No one here gets mad or frustrated with me when I can’t speak Thai. No one says, “Wait, you live and work here, why don’t you speak Thai?” In fact, if I say “hello” or some other phrase, I get praised for what I know. When I taught in America, a lot of my students, who were studying English full-time, would get bothered and harassed for not knowing English.

As far as taking jobs, I can guarantee that no Mexican fruit picker, no Chinese scientist and no Indian doctor is taking any jobs from any Americans. In fact, in the professional world, they have to jump through hoops to have the privilege of working in the U.S. On the other hand, in Asia, being a native-speaker, almost assures you of a teaching position. I don’t know any Americans who come to Asia to be doctors, scientist, or manual laborers. If they did, they would probably get that position easily too. Accountants –maybe not.

Which leads me to an even bigger point. So many Americans want to put these big walls up. Place military and police around our borders to stop people from coming in, and yet, they have become blind to people who are leaving. Foreigners know about the “brain drain.” I had never heard of it. I thought I had this brilliant idea on how to take care of my family. Turns out, 16 of my friends had this idea first. They are all teachers.

So why are so many teachers fleeing to Asia and the Middle-East for jobs? Well, you can live on what you make. As a single mother, and as a highly-evaluated teacher with 20 years experience, I still qualified for government assistance. It’s understood that teachers certainly don’t get into to the field for the money. They don’t expect to drive BMWs, or eat steak everyday. They do expect, and should expect to be able to feed their families and own a car. They shouldn’t have to make a choice between paying for that used car or buying groceries. I’ve had friends with higher qualifications than me, working part time so they could stay in the system, because if they got out of the system, they would have to make those choices. When you need daycare until a child is 12, and 50% of your income goes to that, how do you survive? By the way, contrary to popular belief, it is most often not the single mother’s fault she is a single mother. She is the responsible one trying to take care of her kids and doing what she has to do. Just a reminder there.

But also, in the rest of the world, teachers are highly-respected. I don’t know how or when teachers became the bad guys in America in the past few decades, and specifically in the past year, but that alone is not worth the very little pay you receive. Yes, there are bad teachers. There are bad EVERYTHING. People often forget that. There are bad doctors, engineers, mothers, politicians. There are amazing teachers too. If you close your eyes right now, you can think of that one teacher who just really changed your life. Maybe they showed you something you didn’t think was possible, maybe they explained things in a way you could finally understand, maybe they prompted an epiphany, maybe they inspired you to do something you hadn’t even thought of. You know right now who that teacher is. In fact, you might have more than one. What other profession has that effect on people –that is why the rest of the world respects them so much, as they would their own parents. Oh, wait, we have a problem with that too. Ahh, now I see the connection.

But as for immigrants not “Becoming American,” eating our food, dressing the same, and all of that, many first-generations do. And to a much greater extent than an American would. If I want to find an American here, all I have to do is go to the nearest KFC. They are the ones who ordered mashed potatoes with their chicken. I won’t find them at the corner noodle stand. If I go to their house, I might find soy sauce, but probably not fish sauce. Their eggs will be in the refrigerator with the bread, and the rice cooker will be put away in a cupboard to be used once in a while. (I say this because in Asia, people leave their eggs out, they don’t often eat bread, and the rice cooker is always out and on). And yet the host country residents are usually very interested in what we are eating, how we made it, and can they try.

Nor will I find foreigners wearing silk on Tuesday, denim on Friday, or padded bras on any day. Children will wear uniforms, but foreign children are not expected to have uniform hair cuts like the nationals. In fact, there are a lot of “rules” we just don’t have to follow. There are other “rules” we have to be constantly aware of, so I guess it balances out.

And then Christmas comes around, and you think, “What do you mean I have to work on Christmas?” Christmas is not a holiday in a Buddhist country, just like Eid and Chinese New Years are not holidays in our country. It was a process for our forefathers to create our holidays, and an even bigger process for our mass media outlets to blow them completely out of proportion. America is made up of Eastern Europeans, who, as a culture, think 3 Kings Day is just as important as Christmas, and people from the UK who like Boxing day even more than Christmas. How did those two days get left out? And then when you think that there are more Irish in America than in Ireland, why do they not know that Saint Patrick’s day is quiet saints day that involves going to church and having dinner with your family, not drinking green beer at 5am?

I think the biggest difference is communication. Yes, the world is becoming more globalized and therefore much smaller. But also, with the internet, skype, and cell phones, we can talk to our loved ones anytime. There are no letters that take weeks anymore, there are no final good-byes. My great-grandmother got to go back and visit her home village 62 years after she immigrated. Who was even left? The whole world is becoming Western. Maybe it’s not so bad to try to hold on to your culture a bit before the KFCs take over the world. And maybe it’s not so bad if I try to have the most American house in Khon Kaen.

Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic

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I heard two interesting statistics in separate stories the other day on CNN.  Eighty percent of all of the schools in the country are making big cuts in their staffing for the next school year because of financial problems.  And America has 5113 nuclear weapons.  Where are our priorities?  The government throws all of this money into bombs that can destroy the earth many times over –because obviously one or two are not enough.  Would anyone even be around to press the button on number 5113?

But the bigger question is why we are so quick to cut our education system that is already so poorly funded as it is.  It’s not as if we are Singapore, Hong Kong, or Korea, and we are on top.  We are above Indonesia and Iran, but is that the best we can do?

We never have to vote on war levies or military levies.  We have no choice over what or how much comes out of our income for that, and yet, in an economic depression, we are asked if we can pay more for schools.  Why is it even a question?  Who set the system up this way?

Cutting 10% of the education staff including teachers and administrators (like what is happening in Cleveland, Ohio) hurts everyone.  The teachers are out of jobs, and collecting unemployment and any other assistance they may qualify for.  Their spouses and families, most likely will not have health care.  The teachers who still have jobs, have much more work for that same pay (of course raises are frozen).  And students who are already spilling out of rooms, are even more packed in, meaning a lot less personal attention.  The graduation rate in Cleveland is at 33% percent right now.  How is cutting staff a solution for anything?

There is an experimental charter school in Washington Heights, NYC that has been proving the theory that paying teachers more can make a better school.  They believe that one fabulous teacher is worth more than all the technology and low student numbers you can provide.  So far they are right.  They pay their teachers a starting salary of $125,000 with bonuses.  They work longer days, and have many more responsibilities than an average inner-city, but they are the best of the best.  Eight teachers were finally picked out of 600 resumes.  If you are regarded as part of a dream team, you will rise up to the bar.  We haven’t been able to see the long-term effects yet, but I heard the waiting list for this public school is very long.

So, dear government, could we reassess our priorities, please?  Let’s shift some money around, and focus on our primary education system, because at the risk of sounding cliché, it really is our future.

Educating an American

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“O.k., right, so Marching Season is a 600 year-old tradition,” Ian said as he leaned back on my floor, propping himself up on one elbow because I didn’t have any furniture.  “It’s a huge celebration of the triumphs of war.  We get ready for it for day s in advance.  It’s almost bigger than Christmas.”

I sat in front of him cross-legged, absorbing every word, mostly because I loved to hear him talk.  I loved when he read poetry, or left messages on my voice mail.  But I especially loved when he would sit on the edge of my bed and sing me softly to sleep.  “When we were boys, we would go around the whole village and collect wood, crates and tires, whatever would burn, and build a massive bonfire pile that could reach several stories high.  On an even higher pole, we would fly the Irish flag until it burned, and then everyone would cheer.”

“The next day,” he continued, “on the twelfth, there is a huge parade that goes along the same route it always has for these hundreds of years.  It’s a tradition.  But the Catholics want to stop it altogether.  They have built up neighborhoods on the streets of the march.  They knew the tradition before they moved there, but now they want it stopped.  Sometimes, they even throw stones or bottle bombs at us.”

He leaned back with his fingers entwined behind his head.  “Still, I wouldn’t miss it for the world, which is why I’m taking my holiday on the 10th.  Me da, Lee, Paul, and I will put on our orange and march right up in front like we always have.”

——-

“You know, Claire,” Colm said, “you don’t have to take care of me.  I’m a big boy.”  We had this conversation every time Colm was at my place.  There’s no denying that he’s 6’4” and a strapping young man.  I could never explain my need to take care of him, other than it was my need and not his.  He was the older brother of seven sisters, so maybe sometimes it was nice to have someone take care of him.

“I can’t believe Ian hung those pictures like a right smack in my face.”

“What pictures?”  I asked as I served an Ulster fry to his waiting plate.

“The army photo and the Mason’s Certificate,” Colm replied.  “He knows it offends me.  I’m over every day, but he put them up on the wall.  He wouldn’t like it if I hung a picture of The Pope, now would he?  And he’s so happy to be going home for Marching Season.  Do you know what Marching Season is?  A bunch of Ian Paisley followers rubbing our noses in the fact that our country is separated.  I bet you that our man Ian never told you that he was named after Ian Paisley.”

I shook my head no.

“I’m sure he also never told you that Reverend Paisley’s brother lives right here in Cleveland, but Ian has no interest in finding ghim because he is a Catholic priest.

——-

“We were so poor for so many years.  Me da couldn’t find a job to save his soul.  And then he heard about an opening at Long Kesh prison as a guard.  Some call it ‘The Maze’ You might have heard of it?  Cell Block H?  Where Bobby Sands died?”  Ian explained.  Note to self:  look up Bobby Sands.  “So that’s where me da has worked since I was sixteen.  The IRA has every prison guard on their death list.”  He then went on about how the IRA demanded special rules for their inmates and how they were allowed to wear what they wanted, but that the prisons in Ireland didn’t show the same courtesies to the UVF prisoners.

I had taken him to church because his car broke down, and so he took me to breakfast.  It was surprising to see how similar the service was to the Catholic services I had grown up with.  Was the whole problem really over Mary?  “You just don’t know how dangerous it is.”  Ian said from the other side of the booth.

“But I’m American,” I said incredulously.  I expected to wear it like a superman cape.

“That makes it worse.  You could never understand.  I had a friend who fell in love with a Catholic girl.  He had three warnings by the UVF to break it off, but when he wouldn’t, they came in the middle of the night and shot them in bed together.  And if they hadn’t, I’m sure the IRA would have.  What would they do if they found out you are Catholic?”

“I’m not Catholic.”  I protested.  “I haven’t been Catholic since I was 21.  Do they have a thing against Buddhists?”

“You will never get it.  I don’t understand how you think you can change your religion and who you are just because you chose to.”

——–

And all the night’s magic, seems to whisper and hush… I stepped out onto my balcony to see where the music was coming from.

“Hello, Claire!”

“Hey, Colm!  How are you?”

“Good, good.” He smiled.

“I was just about to watch ‘In the Name of the Father,’ if you’re interested.”  I yelled down.

In a few minutes he was at my door with 3 beers in his hand.  He put two in my refrigerator and one was already open.  As we watch the movie, Colm gave me little side notes, like why everyone was clanging their garbage cans and making so much noise in the beginning.  He said that it was common to hear that warning and everyone would run into their houses and hide.  But when Daniel Day Lewis’ character was being tortured, I looked to him for some kind of explanation, but he was crying.

——-

“I don’t care where we go as long as you wear THIS hat.”  Ian said as he pulled my Victorian straw hat. Off of the nail on my wall.  We went to the usual place –Mullarky’s and we sat at the usual table –the Northern Ireland table.  Colm would talk about being a sheep farmer in the hills of Castlewellan, and Ian would talk about County Atrim and how Bush Mills was practically in his back yard.

The pub band was singing, and we sang right along with them, until they sang a rebel song.  I saw Ian clench his fist so hard his knuckles were white.  Colm looked uneasy.  “If we were at home, that band wouldn’t make it out of here alive.”  Ian whispered in my ear.

I slipped over to the singer during the break and told him that the guys at my table were from Ulster, and apparently that was enough said, because there were no more rebel songs.

And I will play the wild rover no more.

And it’s no, ney, never!

“Right up your kilt!”  We sang in unison, drinks raised.  Ian and Colm’s pints still had the little smiley faces that I drew on the head.

God, Guns, and the Golden Rule.

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What is the connection with being Christian and owning a gun? Most of the VERY Christian people I know own guns –proudly, but I have yet to find the passage in the Bible that says owning a gun is important, having a gun is important, or protecting yourself or your stuff is important. I’ve seen plenty of “Thou shall not kill,” but it doesn’t say “Thou shall not kill unless someone is stealing your TV, or someone is attacking you.” It does however say, “turn the other cheek,” but many people seem to skip over that part. It also says that it is harder for a rich man to get to heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. Why? Because we aren’t supposed to be materialistic. Christianity gives you the idea of heaven as a final, after-life paradise so that death doesn’t seem so scary. And yet, it seems, Christians with guns are afraid of EVERYTHING!

If you are Christian, and you die, the common belief is that “that was your time to go.” God is in charge of these things, and we can’t or shouldn’t get in His way, or try to change it. So then why do some people want the God-like power to end someone’s life? Do they think they are Gods?

But wait! The Bible says, “An eye for an eye.” Yes, it does. So if someone steals your TV, you have every right in Christian thinking to go steal theirs –well except for that “thou shall not steal part.” –Damn! Well, you can always turn the other cheek, but no where, no one in their right mind will think that ANYONE’s life is worth a TV or a wallet. These are Old Testament writings that also included killing an ox if you told a lie, and getting your father drunk and fucking him so that you can have children. It’s in there, so do we just pick and choose?

Or do we go to New Testament writings, and the teachings of Jesus. But as I recall, as he’s being tortured and put to death, he says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” He doesn’t tell his apostles to seek revenge nor is it in their mindset. It’s not a Christian idea. In fact, it’s anti-Christian. Can you imagine Jesus telling his assassins, “I hope you die?” Or what if he was given a sword and fought back. I mean he was in danger for his life and he knew it. He knew that wasn’t in God’s plan. Do you think it is in God’s plan to have anyone kill anyone?

Many people twist ideas and words and call guns, “peacemakers.” I have never understood this. Someone comes into your house, you shoot them, and now you have peace? Do they have peace? What about their family? What about yours? What if you can’t prove it was self-defense, and you get thrown in prison, where’s your peace? Do you sleep more peacefully knowing that there is a gun under your pillow, or do you have nightmares of having to use it?

And statistics show that more people –especially more children –are killed with their own guns, or guns in their houses. That is never what anyone expects, or hopes for, but it is the reality. Where is the peace in that?

The irony is that these same Christians are so against abortion, because in their eyes an unborn fetus has more rights than a living, breathing person with a name, experiences, and memories. If the mother shoots herself in the belly, would it be ok with them? Maybe that’s going too far, but there’s a very huge disconnect that can’t seem to be reconciled. Why, in so many other countries, is abortion not an issue at all, and no one owns guns? Are they backwards or are we?

Maybe Christians feel they are more patriotic and American about it, by following the 2nd Amendment, but the 2nd Amendment was written before we had a standing army. It was written when every man was expected to defend his land from the British, the wild animals –oh, yeah, and the natives. So yes, we have this right, and at the time it was written, it made a lot of sense, but it was also written in the same document that separated church and state, so I ask again, where is the connection?

Desperate statistics

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We all know that politicians and news reporters regurgitate statistics like a frat boy on Sunday morning.  We also know that statistics work for us to push our point or cause, because they are both easily manipulated and easily believed.  So the statistics for unemployment have gone down from 10.2% to 9.7% this month.  What that doesn’t take into account are people who have been out of work for more than six months (and therefore not collecting unemployment), people who have given up looking for a job, or people who are underemployed and therefore way below the poverty level –yet still employed.  If these people were included, I am sure the number would be staggering.

And then there are crime rates.  “Crime has gone down in the cities.”  (We swear!  Please don’t move out)! –The politicians plead.  Ask any police officer if crime has gone down.  What has changed are the definitions.  –Well, that and the number of first-time offenders.  Desperate times create desperate people.  A few weeks ago, a house blew up a few blocks from where I live.  This caused 10 families to be homeless.  The original house was abandoned and foreclosed.  Scavengers had taken all the copper piping out, and the gas company seemed to have forgotten to turn the gas off.  Which I find awfully ironic, because they are so quick to shut the gas off when you’re behind on your payment, but this house hadn’t been lived in over a year.  No one reported that theft, so thefts are down, right?  Actually, these foreclosed homes are often completely gutted from anything of value, but those numbers don’t fit in.

Here’s another, bit more personal example.  Last week, the night of my daughter’s third birthday, someone (or more than one) person broke into our home –while we were sleeping, and robbed us.  I am not going to go through the million “what ifs” that have plagued me for days now.  But the police officer, who arrived in amazing time, explained a few things to us.  We used in a district that they used to fight over because nothing ever happened.  However, according to him, it has gotten really bad, but he added, that it has gotten really bad everywhere.  He lives in a quaint little prestigious suburb and his building has been broken into 3 times recently.  He said they have been overwhelmed with first-time offenders who would never have done something like this, until they couldn’t feed their family.  That’s not who robbed us, but that is a reality.  The ones who got us were well-practiced.  The jails can’t hold all of these people, so the non-violent ones get off lightly, or no time at all.  Here’s the crux.  They won’t classify our type of break-in as aggravated anymore.  We were home.  A few years ago the charge could have been a lot higher –but we don’t want to scare those city-dwellers away, so we don’t have violent or aggressive crimes.

The criminals know the laws probably better than we do.  They know what they can inevitably get away with.  Our visitors took around $500 of electronics (T.V., cell phones, iPod, camera).  They did not take our computer or credit cards.  Why? Because that classifies as identity theft and carries a much stronger charge.  In fact, they took my purse and left all of the cards in my wallet neatly stacked on the kitchen table.  They took things they could sell fast and easy.  With all of these second-hand game and music stores, there aren’t any questions asked and it’s legit.

But, here’s another misnomer.  If we claim it on our renter’s insurance, the premium goes up, and there’s a $500 deductible, so we receive nothing anyway.  Therefore, even insurance companies can’t give accurate statistics, because I am sure so many go unclaimed.

We have gotten eight thousand pieces of advice since this happened, and almost all of them aren’t valid.  “I keep the lights on at night” –so do we.  “I make sure the doors are double locked before I go to bed.”  –They were.  They came in through the bathroom.  “I make sure I have security lights outside.” –We live in an apartment building, it has all of that.  “I would get a dog or a gun.”  This happened to my brother while he was at church on a Sunday morning in broad daylight and they drugged his dogs.  A friend of mine had a gun, but it was also stolen.  I, personally, would rather pay for a nicer, new T.V. than be responsible for anyone’s death.

I’m not looking for advice –given or received.  But the truth needs to come out.  Desperate times create desperate people and this economy is breeding crime on a much larger scale than anyone is really aware of.  And no politician or news reporter is going to tell you otherwise.