Patriotism or Nationalism

main-qimg-0aa2c79fbc512a6357a8f092dcfdb245

Wow. This has been quite a year, one that’s challenged my faith in my system of government, a beloved system created by brilliant men who thought out most what-if situations and installed checks and balances on absolute power. I love my country. I have never felt that flag-waving was a good expression of this patriotism. Instead, I read, I educate myself, and I vote. I claim my 1st amendment right to speak without fear of reprisal. I worship in a way that is true to my heart.

Like everyone else, I have my ideas about what makes this country great and what makes this country work best for the majority of people. I commit to respecting your difference of opinion and speaking out in a reasoned way against those who disagree with me, which is increasingly hard to do. Though soft in structure, the brain and heart can be incredibly rigid. I am aware that my voice is small in this echo chamber. My 1/325,000,000 of a say in the running of this great country is not worth losing friendships and family relationships over. Still…

I am reeling from the election of Donald Trump. I am flabbergasted by the response to the election by Paul Ryan, who claimed a mandate. I am worried because we have an obstructionist GOP who now have their hands on the reins and have spent the past 240 days not doing their job of even considering Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice. What we are witnessing right now is a party arguably at their worst in recent history making a huge power grab by co-0pting all of our checks and balances. Did the Founding Fathers anticipate this? Did they anticipate the GOP shutting off the security feature on voting machines that would record an image of each ballot as it went through? Did they anticipate the GOP purging the rolls of people they claim are double-registered, thereby depriving many fellow citizens of a voice? Did they anticipate the GOP gerrymandering or manipulating polling places to make it logistically difficult for certain populations of voters to cast a ballot?

There is much more going on in this country than the drama that has made headlines over the past few months. There is a more insidious movement to shut down dissenting voices and to grab power in a way that makes it more difficult for it to change hands again. This should worry us all. I contacted my senator this morning. I will continue to look into what I can do to preserve our democracy in the face of a Trump presidency. What will you do?

Democracy is not a spectator sport.


In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Or 

Advertisements

The Day After

Like many of you, I am waking up in shock. What happened? How could we have a reality TV star for president, a man who has admitted to a propensity for sexual assault, who readily sues anyone who comes in conflict with him, who lies and lies and lies and thinks his supporters are stupid. We have voted in a man who doesn’t understand science, who thinks if he sprays CFCs in a room, they will stay there, who has vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. We have voted a man into the highest office in the land who has said he would torture the families of the people who wish to do us harm, who wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS. We have voted in a man who has talked about using the nuclear option. We have voted in a man who was congratulated by Vladimir Putin.

I am astounded. I wasn’t excited about a Hillary Clinton presidency, and it has nothing at all to do with emails. She’s smug and has made it appear that she deserves this. She has ties to Wall St. She plays the political game too well. She morphs into what she thinks she needs to be to accede. Personally, I wished for a more deserving first woman president, but whatever. I could have lived with her with a modicum of grumbling.

But this?

I am a science-minded, liberal leaning moderate who appreciates the differences that make up the fabric of America. I vote for people who are inclusive to everyone. I vote for people who respect science, who listen to scientists, and unfortunately that does not include Republicans. I want a president who promotes science and engineering, a Congress that will fund space exploration. I want people in power who see the impact we have on our environment and don’t look at it with dollar signs in their eyes. I vote for people who believe in stewardship, in preservation of what we have for the benefit of future generations. Our new president has threatened to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. God help us all.

I believe that the First Amendment of the Constitution, the right to free speech, free press, and freedom of and from religion, supersedes the Second. Religion has meddled way too much in politics. I know my fellow Christians have felt persecuted, and maybe that’s why they rationalize and justify voting for a man twice divorced who makes his living from casinos, a man who hosts beauty pageants of which he has bragged about walking in on contestants who are changing just to get a sophomoric glimpse at what a 10 looks like naked, a man who lies over and over again to suit his purposes. When I ask why, I hear “Pence” and  “Supreme Court.” Seems like a big gamble to me. Our new president elect has threatened to sue and silence the press.  People who are speaking out against him and his ideas are repeatedly harassed and sometimes threatened by his followers. How does that jive with 1A?

I believe in our system of government, and I stand behind the election process, though I couldn’t be more disappointed in the outcome. I think there are dark days ahead. The question is, where do we go from here?

SYW #44

It’s time for another installment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you want to play along, click here. Here are my responses for this week:

What was your favorite subject in school?

My favorite subjects changed over the course of my education. When I was in elementary school, it was reading. Library days were my favorite, and I loved plowing right through the SRA reading kits. When I got to middle school, my favorite subjects became writing and art, partially thanks to a very creative teacher. In high school, I discovered that I loved biology. It was only in college, when I was taking a teaching math course, that I discovered a love for my previously hated subject, math, which goes to show you that anything is possible.

If you could have a servant come to your house every day for two hours, what would you have them do?

  1. Clean the bathrooms. Worst job ever.
  2. Pull the weeds. Seriously, how do they grow so fast? I don’t know if two hours a day would cover it on our little acre plot. (But it would beat the zero hours a day I’m spending on it right now.)
  3. If there is any time left, they could just straighten up, wash dishes, whatever would give me more time to research and write without the burden of these chores hanging over my head.

Where did you live when you were in the third grade of school?  Is it the same place or town you live now?

I lived in a newer suburb of a city. It was a safe place to explore, at least as far as we knew. Who knows what unknown dangers actually lurked around there? I’ve moved around a bit, but still live fairly close to where I grew up. It’s fun to drive back through the neighborhood sometimes and stir up old memories. I have a lot of acquaintances from those days who live mere blocks from where we all grew up. That seems strange to me.

In your opinion, list some places that are great for shopping?

I’m not much of a shopper anymore. My needs are small, and as long as I have coffee, chocolate, and a good book, I can procrastinate any shopping trip. When I go to the mall and don’t find what I like, it’s a frustrating waste of my time. The closest mall is 20 miles away and mostly caters to the high school crowd. I find myself shopping more and more online. That being said, if I’m anywhere near a T.J. Maxx/HomeGoods, you might not see me for a couple of hours. 😉

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I was grateful for a quiet week of my husband being gone hunting.

This week I look forward to seeing a zombie opera that my younger brother co-wrote. He’s now the artistic director of his town’s theater and is excited to be showing off his thus far magnum opus.


As always, thanks to Cee for this fun challenge.

041514-sywbanner

The American Dream

Let’s talk illegal immigration.

Last Saturday, I took the back roads on my way to my destination. I passed through the lands belonging to a farm I worked at during a summer in college. What used to be acres of berries and filberts has seen many improvements. There are now acres of nursery stock, windmills in the blueberries, ponds and sprinkler systems. There were posted notices where the plants had recently been sprayed, and there were a few people working in the field across the road.

I was transported back to those same fields over twenty years ago and my job as row boss/checker. Back then, I spoke a little Spanish, and I relished the chance to practice my skills. In the process, I got to know people, hard working people, old people and young parents who had their preschoolers in the field with them. I saw how they interacted with each other, joking, laughing, caring for one another. There were large extended families and neighbors from the same small town. I felt how kind they were toward me, “la güera.” I was invited to after hours get togethers with the other summer workers and the crew bosses, pizza dinners in town or sitting around a fire with the crew bosses singing Norteño music to the tune of a guitar and accordion. I greeted people with a smile and got a smile in return.

There were occasions where I had to visit the camps that housed the workers. One was newer, cinder block housing, camp style, nothing fancy. People who had been bent over strawberries all day, dusty and sweaty, had cleaned up for a foray into town for supplies or a trip to the bar. Little girls in spotless dresses with hair pulled back tightly into braids that didn’t allow for any flyaways played together while young boys kicked a soccer ball around. There was another housing unit, a derelict old building that many people were crammed into. These were the housing options for these workers. If they started seeing a decrease in income as the season progressed and the harvest declined, some of them sought work elsewhere. When the strawberries were on their way out, blueberries and caneberries were ripening. These folks had to move. The farmer wouldn’t house them if they weren’t working on his farm.

On certain occasions I was asked to go along with people as a translator. On one occasion, I translated for a couple with small children who were looking for an apartment. I called and the owners said they had an open apartment. When we arrived, they very quickly said they couldn’t rent to the couple, that they only rented to students. This was my first encounter with discrimination. Another time I accompanied a young mother to the public clinic to get to the bottom of intense abdominal pain. She expressed hesitation at gowning up for the exam and the doctor turned to me and exasperatedly said something about how she didn’t have a problem spreading her legs for her husband. My decision to open my mind to another person’s experience was enlightening me to the nasty undercurrent that existed in my own world.

There were bad things that went on. I heard about the prostitutes that went to the camps, American girls from the fringe of society. True free market. Supply and demand. Once, I was accosted in the fields by one young man and managed to slip through the bushes before he managed to kiss me. Overall, though, I felt as though I was surrounded by basically good people.

Were the people here illegally? We didn’t know, though it was assumed they were. Were they acting criminally while here? Not in my experience. I saw people who worked hard, who bought American clothes and American products, people who sent money home to take care of families who stayed behind. During that time, their help was needed, so the government and the farmers turned a blind eye. This was common knowledge at the time. In reality, if you had wanted to stem the tide of illegal immigration, placing a hefty fine on the employers might have been the best option. If there were no work to be had, people wouldn’t make the grueling journey. The reward has to outweigh the risk.

I have kept in contact with some of these people. The young man who wanted an apartment just became a citizen last month. I have a smiling picture of him at his citizenship ceremony. He and his family routinely spend their free time at Disneyland. Another woman who worked for years in the fields was recently had a late stage cancerous growth removed, and she had to travel to Mexico to have her health concerns taken seriously. (Some things have not improved.) One gentleman started his own business. Another works for the Department of Agriculture. At least half of their children are seeking military service or post-secondary education. (Many of these parents never attended high school.) All have benefitted from the 1990 Immigration Act introduced by Ted Kennedy and signed into law by the first President Bush.

As I drove by that old farm, I couldn’t help but feel the unfairness of it all. The improvements I saw were due to the backbreaking labor of ordinary people who are being villified today.  One of our candidates would have you think that this subset of our population consists of murderers and rapist sent here by Mexico. What a simplistic world view.

As you consider my words, please enjoy this Republican blast from the past:

Share Your World #37

It’s time for another Share Your World. To play along, click on this link. Here are this weeks questions and my answers:

Have you ever owned a rock, pet rock, or gem that is not jewelry?

I had a pet rock as a kid. I think it was a ladybug, and I may have painted it myself. They were all the rage. Though we don’t have pet rocks now, we have a menagerie of pocket rocks in buckets under the deck, various interesting varieties that we have collected at some point within the past 22 years.

What is your greatest strength or weakness?

My greatest strength is my patience. My weakness is putting my needs aside for others, which often affects my own happiness.

What makes you feel grounded? 

It used to be my little family, but they are scattering to the wind. I’m not feeling particularly grounded these days.

Would you rather never be able to eat warm food or never be able to eat cold food?

I think my days of guilt-free ice cream are over and I’ve never liked popsicles. I do love soup and oatmeal, cookies hot out of the oven, still-warm bread, baked potatoes… If I had to give up one or the other, it would be cold food.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I am very grateful that my son and his fiance came for a visit. My bucket was getting pretty empty and is now overflowing again.

I look forward to a quiet week.

041514-sywbanner

Share Your World #36

It’s time for another installment of Share Your World. If you would like to play along, click on this link.

Here are my answers to this week’s questions:

If you were given a boat or yacht today, what would you name it?  (You can always sell the yacht later)

I’ll take a decent sized sailboat, thank you. (And some sailing lessons, as I’ve never sailed.) I think I might name it Intrepid, and I’d use it to sail around the San Juan Islands of Washington State. I might slip it unassumingly into Roache Harbor among the million dollar yachts if I needed some land under my feet or some ice cream in my belly, but mostly I’d just sail around watching for orcas.

wp-1473184911829.jpg

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best?  (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey) Plus what would the 8th dwarf’s name be? 

Sometimes I’m Bashful, especially when it comes to talking on the phone to someone I don’t know. I’m often Sleepy thanks to ongoing insomnia and sleep deprivation. Curiously enough, I’m also Grumpy at that time. I’m Sneezy after a run. (So annoying!) Ruluctantly I must say that my kids think I’m Dopey. (I can’t wait until they grow out of that stage!) If I were to be that 8th dwarf, I think the name would have to be Bewildered. Life is confusing these days.

Name a song or two which are included on the soundtrack to your life?

I heard the song If You’re Going Through Hell the other day at Bi-Mart and thought what a motivational song it really was for someone going through a tough time. At the same time it reminds me of my country-music loving daughter who is far from home, which is part of why I need a motivational song in the first place. It’s a curious catch 22.

Complete this sentence:  I like watching…

Kids discovering the world. There’s nothing like seeing the world through their eyes.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I’m grateful for my sister who is my lifeline right now. I’m also very grateful for my apple peeler-corer.

I look forward to my son and his fiance visiting from Arizona.


As always, thanks to Cee for this fun challenge!

041514-sywbanner

Share Your World 2016 #35

Welcome to another segment of Cee’s Share Your World. If you would like to play along, click on this link.

List 2 things you have to be happy about? 

  1. Coffee, which gets me up in the morning.
  2. Good books, which unfortunately sometimes lull me to sleep at night. (Current read is Breakfast with Buddha. Have you read it?)

If you could take a photograph, paint a picture or write a story of any place in the world, what and where would it be?

If it was a picture or a painting, I would choose any of our beautiful national parks. The Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point is beautiful. I might try to capture the Grand Tetons reflected in  Jackson Lake. I would love to successfully capture the grandeur and immensity of the Grand Canyon, especially with a lightning strike.

If I were to write a story, I’d pick the bustling, varied city of San Francisco.

Should children be seen and not heard?

We’ve all heard the phrase, out of the mouths of babes. Children have a certain unfiltered wisdom. They’ve not yet learned to cover up, to hide their vulnerabilities.

I mean, who doesn’t love this?

Children, like everyone else, should be seen and heard.

List at least five of your favorite first names.

Other than the names of my loved ones…

  1. Lily
  2. Alex
  3. Olivia
  4. Sarah
  5. Audrey

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

I’m grateful for trees full of apples. Last week was spent canning applesauce and drying the bounty from our rather small Granny Smith apple tree. There are a couple more small trees that need to be harvested. They are recent additions to the property. It will be interesting to see what happens in a few years. I think we might need to invest in a cider press.

I look forward to school/work starting up again. All my best laid plans didn’t pan out over the summer. Too much free time is not a good thing.


Again, thanks to Cee for hosting this fun challenge!

041514-sywbanner

Relativity

Reminiscent of so many other times, we parked the car down the road and started walking toward my brother-in-law’s house at the end of a cul de sac in a quiet residential neighborhood. Only this time as we walked toward the crowded driveway we heard a loud oomph-a-oomph-a.

“Is that a tuba?” I asked my husband. “Did they get a band, or is somebody just practicing?”

He shrugged and seemed to indicate the latter was of greater possibility.

As we walked in the front door we realized it was a band, a family of four, with the father as lead singer, his daughter somberly plucking a bass, an older son holding rhythm on a sousaphone, and the youngest, a boy of around 12, stretching and compressing an accordion while wailing along with his dad. They were joyful and loud. We later found out that the police had already been called by a number of close-set neighbors, and my brother-in-law had been warned to wrap it up by ten.

We congratulated the pair on their anniversary and made our rounds shaking hands and saying hello before sitting down at one of the many tables set up under undulating blue plastic tarps. I looked around. The San Antonio riverwalk had nothing on this festive backyard arrangement. Fluttering under the tarps were paper picado banners, not the plastic kind, but actual tissue paper, cut and strung crisscross across the yard. They spoke of love and attention to detail. The tables were festooned with colorful plastic tablecloths, and each table held a Corona bottle vase graced with a single bright flower.

We weren’t allowed to sit long before being ushered to the lean-to shed, where a man was expertly assembling street tacos. The smells of carne asada and pork al pastor made me remember why I could never become a vegetarian. I demurely ordered one of each of these, and my husband eagerly grabbed a plateful of strange looking tripe tacos. We piled the tacos with fixings of fragrant cilantro, homemade salsa, onions, lime, and then topped the whole plate off with a pile of cactus salad and went back to our seats. I would later go back with gusto for more. I’m a sucker for street tacos.

I set about taking Snapchat pictures to send to my eldest two who now live far from home as if to say, remember this? Remember your heritage? I snapped a picture of my mother-in-law, now in her mid-eighties. We lost my father-in-law a couple of years ago; we try not to take this time for granted. There was a slew of back and forth salutations with lots of love and hugs and well-wishes, but all over the distance that technology provides, a sanitized version of connection, life through a lens. I sent snaps of food and videos of dancing, a framework that made up much of their extended family experiences.

A few people asked where our other kids were. They got our standard answer, “Oh, they don’t want to hang out with us anymore.” In reality, one was off at a wedding at his girlfriend’s house. He had promised her mom he would help set up. The other had run off with his friends for the day. My husband hadn’t given me much of a heads-up about this party, otherwise I would have made sure they were there. Still, our answer stands. The older teens don’t want to have much to do with us anymore. Maybe it’s normal. Maybe.

My husband went off to talk to someone. I watched him gesticulating animatedly from across the yard. I saw that the man he was talking to was leaning in, so it must not have been about work this time. I sat with my mother-in-law in the silence that loud music brings. Conversation in my native language would have been hard; lip-reading in Spanish was nearly impossible. So I observed.

My youngest brother-in-law was twirling his girlfriend around the patio. They would come back sweaty only to hop up again immediately as the band started up with another favorite dance tune. I had picked the only brother out of nine who didn’t like to dance.

An older brother-in-law was holding his grandchildren as his wife talked animatedly across the table with her son’s young girlfriend. The son was busy. His seven-year-old niece was looking up at him with starry-eyed devotion as he led her around the dance floor.

I sat and watched the new generation repeating what we once did, tios dancing with their nieces, people laughing and holding babies, the older generation dancing, dancing, dancing. I thought back to a Christmas party long ago, of my brother-in-law twirling my daughter, then five, around and around the small kitchen. I felt time telescoping in with a crushing sensation and all of a sudden I was squinting back tears as I felt the all-encompassing lonliness of endings, of time past, of the things I held so dear slipping through my fingers. I bit my cheek. Hard. And again. It wouldn’t do to cry right now.

All of a sudden I felt my husband at my side again. He was cracking a lame joke, looking into my face, drawing me out of the abyss. I smiled and went willingly.

We chatted with his mom and brothers and ate cake during the band’s break. My mother-in-law tried to separate her youngest from his beloved beer. My teetotaler husband once again proclaimed his status as the perfect child, while his brother looked at me and said, “He has his vices.”

I nodded.

“Work. Work is his vice.”

I know.

The band started up again. It was 9:45.

“Are you ready to go?” my husband asked. “I don’t want to be here if and when the police show up again.”

I laughed. “I’m ready,” I said.

We rode home in silence, my ears ringing with the residual oomph-a of sousaphone and my heart pinging with the loneliness of solitude.

Acceptance

5219011507_0d9ee30492_z
Photo credit: rebeccagulotta via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Last night I shared great food and company with a group of people, many of whom might fall under the “undocumented” and “illegal” title or have in the past. I don’t know who, and I’d prefer not to know.

As I looked around, I recognized many people. Some work in the farming industry, some in construction, some as hotel maids and groundskeepers. Many started by laboring long hours in the hot sun to provide fresh produce for our tables and a living for both their parents and their children. They save money and pay taxes. They play soccer on the weekends and have family get-togethers where all are welcome, including their American friends and neighbors. They shop at Wal-Mart and The Apple Store and infuse the economy with loads of money. These people are now homeowners with children graduating high school, something many of them were unable to do. Many of these kids are going on to college. Their parents had a dream of a better life – the American dream.

Yet they are the latest scourge in a long line of immigrants.

I thought about Gary Johnson’s approach to immigration. He wants to round everyone up, not to deport them, not to separate families, but to get them work permits and legalize the very valuable contribution to our economy. I looked around and realized that this would make the unacceptable people among them suddenly acceptable to regular Americans. Nothing else would change about them except a legal document. They would continue to do the same jobs, pay the same taxes, eat family dinners, and enjoy their time off. Yet if Donald Trump had his way, some of them would live in fear of being yanked away from all they have known for years, families uprooted, resulting in family and societal instability as well as resentment among this younger generation of Americans.

I once spoke with an undocumented woman whose mother was ill. She had tears in her eyes as she told me how she longed to see her, but to do so risked losing everything she’d worked so hard for. I thought about people I know who have lost parents and have not been able to even return to attend their funeral because to do so would mean being unable to come back to their home, where their children attend school, where they have friends and family, where they are merging into this great melting-pot we call America.

Do these families fly Mexican flags? Sure. Do they do things Mexican style? Absolutely, just like Italian-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and any other hyphenated Americans who came before them. Cultural heritage flows through all of us. I have Swedish and Norwegian roots. They were very strong in my great-grandparents, who spoke the mother tongue. They were strong in my grandparents, but with each successive generation, they meld with the greater American experience. The second generation of these Mexican families speak English and watch a mixture of Spanish and English TV. They eat Lays and Sabritones. They have traded the pulga (Mexican swap meet) for traditional brick and mortar stores. They dance and smile and laugh and love just like anyone else.

Send them all back, you say? How about cultivating a little compassion and respect. Thank the person who cleans your hotel room. She’s putting food on her family’s table. Thank the guy who brought your refrigerator. His son just signed up for the military to fight for his country, our country. Smile at the lady speaking Spanish at Wal-Mart. She’s probably trying her hardest to learn English as she prepares her own children for a better future.

While we’re struggling to fix the broken system of immigration, let’s not feed into the propaganda. Immigration policies change over the years. We have a vibrant, creative, inquisitive and hopeful generation coming up as Americans, and they are making our country a better place.

Who Will Carry the Milk?

I’ll admit it. I was a bit of a lazy child. I was a work-averse, energy-conserving creature when it came to helping out. I would be overcome with a shift of molecular weight changing the gravitational pull of every cell of my body. Suddenly overcoming inertia required extrinsic prodding and much internal groaning.

I remember distinctly hating to carry the milk.

Did I have some strange muscular problem that prohibited me from lifting a cold gallon jug? Not unless all of the hours lounging on my yellow quilt listening to John Denver had turned my biceps to jiggly mush. Oh, how I hated that job!

Mom would pull up in the old Ford station wagon and call us to help. I can feel the urge to roll my eyes at the though of it, at the sheer lead-weight feeling of prying myself from whatever pleasurable experience I was immersed in at the time – drawing, listening to music, reading, dancing. I had to stop and help with the groceries.

As I’ve raised my own brood, I’ve often thought of this. My kids have their moments, but overall they are much more helpful than I was. If I honk when I pull in the driveway, the boys stop what they’re doing and run to help disgorge the Costco bounty from the back of the Subaru. They show their physical prowess by loading up with as many bags and boxes as they can carry. It’s not just the boys. My daughter was the same. I would head back for another load only to find the car empty, and when I headed back to the house, I would find the kids had returned to whatever pleasurable experience I had pulled them away from.

And to my surprise, they’ve never minded carrying the milk.