Every morning I read Yahoo news, and occasionally I scan through the comments. Sometimes I'm too lazy to sign in and respond, but sometimes I see something that I just can't ignore.
Reading Yahoo comments is a very disturbing activity to begin with. When I read what people have to say, I'm shocked at the state of humanity and of many Americans in particular, and I begin to worry what my beloved country will look like in 10 years. I also examine myself. Where will I be in 10 years? Will I even want to move back to the U.S.? Will I want my bi-racial, bilingual child to confront the tremendous wall of ignorance that I see reflected in those malicious, vindictive, insensitive voices?
Just for illustration purposes, in the space of this morning I read the following opinions:
That a woman with a headscarf was ejected from a plane after saying on her cell phone "I've got to go," and being misheard as saying "It's a go." In comment, people suggested that she be flung from the plane at 30,000 feet, and that the U.S. such eject her from the country for being "vile crap" from Pakistan, despite the fact that she had been living peacefully in the U.S. for 10 years or more. I've been in Panama for 8 years. How would I feel if someone told me that I was "vile crap" simply for existing or wishing to live in a place other than my birth country? Hating someone for their racial background or their ethnicity is racism, pure and simple. Immigration laws right now may have a grain of truth to them in the need for better regulation, but they are also a reflection of racism. It's a hideous thing that I want no part of.
For an article in which Katie Couric--one of the few women on this earth that has been allowed to make strides in what was once considered a "man's profession"--decided to move on to a different job, a person responded with a sexual slur. The comment implied that the person (male) didn't respect what she did for a living and indicated instead that her only role in life should be sexual. Is this the America that I'm handing down to my daughter? Is this the same country that supported me in my education, my career and in my journey toward becoming a sexual woman? Is this the same country that guarantees equal rights regardless of my gender? How can I not be offended? How can I not be disturbed? Nearly every time there is an article about a successful woman on Yahoo, there are any number of snide, sometimes malicious sexual comments.
In an article about a woman who was ejected from a bus because her child was crying, there were a number of opinions, but all of them judgmental. The bus's own policy states that a crying baby is not "disruptive behavior" and should not be ejected. Problem solved. However, any number of people, without having been present at the situation, called the woman a "failure" as a mother for the fact that her baby was crying in a public place. They insisted that her child was a "brat" and that she needed to "discipline" her child. All of them, apparently, never ever had any problems with their own children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. All of them were perfect angels and saints in public and never needed to cry due to hunger or tiredness. One poster expressed hatred of children in general.
Really? Is there no end to the people that we are willing to hate and judge for no good reason?
My students are reading a short story called "The Interlopers" by Saki. It seems that each time I am reading something with them in class, it suddenly strikes me with some great acknowledgement of truth. Who are we that we allow hatred to influence our lives so much that we feel the need to pepper cyberspace with our own bigoted, hateful, malicious opinions? What a waste of time! If we are writing something, especially in public, why are we not advocating peace, dialogue and understanding?
If we Americans hate women, children and Muslims, among other things, then why would any of us want to live there? I wish that, in enjoying our human rights which are guaranteed to us by the constitution, we were more willing to respect those same human rights of other who are equally supposed to be protected and cared for over law. I'm tired of watching my fellow Americans prey on every single minority that exists--every single group that is vulnerable, that feels powerless. If we as individuals don't stand up for our weakest, most vulnerable groups, then we will find more and more disturbing incidents of harassment occurring. And we then can't complain if our country becomes an exclusive place filled with injustice and abuses.
I still have hope in my country. I still have hope that there are enough people who are capable of loving others and creating communities where families can be supported and encouraged to grow in healthy ways. I still have hope that women will one day be treated fairly in the workplace without any aberrations or harassing comments being made. I still have hope that we will break the boundaries of racism and learn to treat each other with love, compassion and respect.
It feels as though I've been hammered this year with reminders of the fragility of life and the reality of death. I know I'm not the only one who experiences a year of such reminders. You get to a certain age, and it just becomes a series lives cut off for one reason or another like wheat in a field mown over by fate.
My father is now officially a cancer survivor, having undergone an operation on his prostate. Dreams, sudden misreadings of text, facebook status reports are the only external indicators of my unconscious and conscious anxiety. Death becomes all the more real when it comes to a parent, the one who raised you. The one who comforted your tears, took care of you and felt like the strongest person on the earth.
Today I walk into school only to find out that our guidance counselor suffered a heart attack and died. I'm getting so I hesitate to use the word "died" anymore because for many it indicates such a finality.
I've been a Christian all my life, but when I think of death, I don't picture some palatial golden country filled with mansions. When someone dies, I want some concrete answer--something that I can hold in my hand, understanding its properties. I want to reduce death to scientific terms and get to an actual definition.
At this time in my life, I wonder if I'm a Taoist or perhaps a Pantheist, believing more in "mother nature" and her ability to whisper words of wisdom than in the religious symbolism of the Church. It's certainly more comforting to my mind than any litany I've ever heard. For me, it's been more comforting than any Bible verse I've ever read. God forgive me, I am beginning to believe more in Natural Law than in any kind of religious law passed down through the generations. There's something more eternal about it, and unable to be changed by human error. It's not imposed upon anyone; it just is.
I wrote a poem in the writing review. It's just a quick, rough draft, but I think at least it shows where I'm at in terms of emotional processing. While I asked for reviews--I've posted so little on this forum, I felt it necessary to at least contribute something I've written lately. (I've been in a bit of a slow period lately)
If you read this, I don't really need a philosophical lecture, but feedback is welcome. ;-) I'm just thinking out loud right now.
If I ever thought that writing was hard, I most likely would be able to get through the disappointment and the frustration simply by reflecting on how I've managed to do one of the hardest things in the universe (in my opinion). I'm a mommy.
Yeah, I know. On the surface it doesn't seem like much. When people think about the hardship of mommyhood, they simply consider the pain involved in the birthing process. What they fail to recognize is that the birthing process isn't nearly as difficult as raising the child through all of the stages of life.
I've personally come to this realization now that my child is two-and-a-half years old.
Next time I have a bad note from an editor, or a comment that hurts my feelings, I'll just recall the evil stares I receive when my daughter chooses to pitch a fit and throw herself on the floor in a restaurant. When I have writer's block and feel like a loser, I'll just recall how I managed to keep my child occupied for thirty minutes in the doctor's office while I waited for him to finish a cell phone call.
The next time I read a beautifully-written novel and feel pangs of jealousy, I'll recall how I've survived emergency room visits, vomit dripping down my shoulder, getting hit in the eye by a little fist, and never getting to take a bath by myself for a year now.
I'll remember sleeping sideways with one arm crooked under me so that I could accomodate my child on the sofa during the night.
I'll remember crying in the night interrupting my sleep.
I'll remember potty training and presumptuous demands for candy.
I'll remember the last time I went to a movie theatre, which happens next to never.
After that, writing won't feel so bad. Writing will feel like bliss, even if it's painful at times. Writing will feel like an act of the will, an act of the heart, a chance to be someone different for a little while.
And then I'll hug my little girl and forgive her. I'll see her sweet little smile and hear her say "I love you! Give me a hug." And the world will be right again.
In my house, I have books overflowing onto various desks, cubbies, drawers, bookshelves and closets. I just ran across one that I didn't recognize. I must have bought it in a patio sale here in Panama from a family moving away.
It's entitled The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and I have no real idea how it will turn out or what the novel is really all about. However, it has the best 1st chapter I've ever read. If I had been an editor, I would have published this book hands-down.
Hopefully I'm not violating any copyright laws by sharing with you the first paragraph and a few juicy tidbits. I have a feeling it will make many of you go out running to your local bookstore to find this author's book.
"A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price."
The narrator goes on to describe his first editor who gave him his first break as having a "bushy moustache" and having "subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency."
His advice to the narrator? "You have more zeal than good taste, Martin. The disease afflicting you has a name, and that is Grand Guignol: it does to drama what syphilis does to your privates. Getting it might be pleasurable, but from then on it's all downhill."
Separate names with a comma.