Monday, February 21, 2022

History matters!

Over winter break, our oldest child was driving past the gas station when a pick-up with a trailer pulled out. The pick-up displayed a flag with profanity against a politician, which is bad enough. Even scarier, the pick-up also displayed a swastika. Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in such displays in our hometown. As a non-Anglican, non-Christian family, we find it downright scary! 

 My husband's dad (as a toddler) and family were imprisoned in their own home, told they were not American because of their Japanese ancestry and Buddhist traditions. Uncles (by marriage) served in the 442nd while their families were under house arrest or imprisoned in internment camps. Many neighbors turned on their Japanese-American neighbors, supported these acts, or turned a blind eye. I've seen my husband pulled off by US airport security, pushed around, and asked, "do you even speak English?" before he could answer, even though they had his US diplomatic passport in hand. He's been repeatedly asked, "no, where are you really from?" until he explains his ancestry. This persists, even after he explains he was born and raised in Idaho, as were his parents. 

Our family has been harassed for being Jewish and told we would go to hell because we do not believe in Jesus. When working at a US Embassy overseas, my husband's language teacher (unaware he was part of a Jewish family) casually told him, "Hitler should've finished the job." We've been called a "Jew" as if it were an insult, as in "you're nothing but a Jew" or "you're just a Jew, and I always knew it" or, "Hey, Jew boy." Our experiences are limited to those experienced by Japanese-American and by Jewish Americans. But, they are enough for us to understand an inkling of the fear and mistrust experienced by other minority communities. 

How can anyone not understand the importance of our children learning about the events that caused this fear and mistrust? A fear and mistrust born out of events that dehumanized so many. A fear and mistrust born out of knowing that so many easily turn a blind eye to this dehumanization. A fear and mistrust of those who continue to harbor hatred and who are increasingly displaying it at an alarming rate. A fear and mistrust of those who proclaim we cannot teach about these acts and their demoralizing and lasting impacts. One must wonder why anyone would not want to learn from these injustices, face them and teach the next generation to do better. Unfortunately, it seems there is a clear reason. 

An overwhelming majority of the same individuals who insist we cannot teach about these injustices also insist that we are a Christian nation instead of an ethnically and religiously diverse one. This Christian nationalism does not want to learn to do better. In fact, Christian nationalists seek to go back to the past and widen the space for dehumanizing ethnic minorities, racial minorities, religious minorities, and the LGBTQI+ community. Contrary to the belief of such nationalists, one does not have to believe America is a Christian nation to be a patriotic American. 

One's patriotism is not dependent upon faith, race, ancestral origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or when or from where one's family originally came to America. Believing one's patriotism is dependent on such things is the most unAmerican belief imaginable. It is ridiculous to expect that individuals from historically-marginalized communities would "get over" their fear and mistrust in an environment that seeks to deny their lived experiences, past and present, individually and communal. How can one learn from failures if they continue to pretend such failures and their resulting harm do not exist? 

 We are patriotic Americans who want the best future possible for our children and our country. That means a country where we recognize our failures, learn from them and commit to doing better. That means we understand that tolerance of minority communities is not enough (though it would be a good start). That means recognizing that our Americanness and patriotism are not dependent upon our faith, race, ancestral origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or when or from where one's family originally came to America. Instead, our Americanness and patriotism depend on our desire to ensure that every American has the equal opportunity to live to their fullest potential without fear of being targeted for hatred and discrimination simply for not being straight, cis, white, and/or Christian.

Here We Go

I stopped using the blog for a very long time, but thinking this may in fact be the better venue for thoughts on the world around us. We are no longer with the US State Department, retired to our home state, our oldest in college, and our youngest in high school. Both my spouse and I are working for our state government, me part-time, him full-time. 

 After years of moving every two-to-three years, we are home. We bought a house last year and are feeling at home and settled in life. We will always miss living in other countries, learning about new peoples and cultures, making friends around the world. But, we do not miss the actual MOVING AT ALL

It is very good to be home. But, we are very concerned with what we are seeing in our country and our communities. I've posted to my Facebook feed some, but feeling like that may not be the best place for these thoughts. So, figured out how to log in to this thing again, and here we go...

Sunday, March 5, 2017

We are American

So, yesterday, an American boy (same boy who has been sending him "Romans") told my oldest son "sometimes I forget you are an American because our beliefs are so different." My son replied, "that is the point of America, we each have the freedom to our own beliefs." Among many other things, the boy insists that supporting our President is our duty as an American, which to him means we are not to question anything our President says or does (of course, somehow the same was not applicable to President Obama). I think the following quote from President Theodore Roosevelt sums it up quite well.

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else. -- President Theodore Roosevelt. The Kansas City Star, 18 May 1918

Monday, January 16, 2017

Faith

I know I am talking about religion a lot lately. It is because I am being confronted by just how pervasive evangelical Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is around me. I have never been in a community before where such beliefs were so insidious. It is the cause of much cognitive dissonance for me as I interact and befriend those who seem like good, nice people and then find my oldest child and I are each being sent Christian scripture (Romans), which leaves us explaining that we don't believe in Jesus and never will. We do not believe in the concept of needing to be saved and never will. It is even doubly troubling when those trying to convert you are your Embassy colleagues, social sponsor, and neighbor wrapped up into one.

I've always believed that being friends with those who have differing views, religions, cultures was a wonderful experience to truly understand each other. And, it always has been. So, I am sussing out my beliefs in a more concentrated way to help me figure out why I find myself uneasy with all of this. Here is where I am at so far.

My Jewish identity is very important to me. Not because of some fear of G-d, but because for millennium my people have been persecuted, killed, or assimilated into near extinction. And, even years after the holocaust, there are fewer Jewish people today (2014, 14.2 million worldwide) than existed in 1939 (16.6 million worldwide). I want to continue to build my people up. These feelings have grown stronger through the years, really taking shape upon the birth of our first child. I want our children to have a Jewish identity and pass that on to their children.

All that being said, I do not believe that whatever higher power exists would be in the form of a corporeal being of some sort. I do not believe the bible is the inerrant word of G-d. In fact, I was taught that the reason we use a hyphen when spelling out G-d is that humans are not possibly capable of capturing the essence of G-d in a word. So, if we cannot capture the essence of G-d in a word, how arrogant must we be to believe that humans could possibly capture this higher power's message, meaning, and full intent in the form of a group of words (a bible). Even if assuming various bibles were based on historical events thousands of years ago, these stories have been passed down from one generation to the next, from one language to the next, with human interpretation and agendas at each step of the process.

Whether the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, the Shruti, or some other text, each bible has a place in its congregation as a guide for family, congregation, and individuals. Still, these guideposts were a product of their times, based on the customs and ideals of the community and political/religious leaders at the time each portion was told, written, translated, and/or re-translated. Far too often, this has resulted in biblical text being used as a weapon against those who believe differently. In my opinion, that is not a valid or appropriate purpose for any biblical text. Bibles should be a guide toward our humanity, not away from it.

So, I find myself asking, "if you don't believe the bible is the inerrant word of G-d, why work on keeping more and more kosher with each passing year? Why work on following the mitzvah more with each passing year?" I think it is because, more than anything, it is about keeping and growing in my Jewish identity and passing that identity on to our children. It is about celebrating, honoring, and educating our children on our customs, stories, and traditions and helping rebuild our community. But, it is never about using our customs, stories, and traditions as a weapon against those who believe differently.

So, where does this leave me in my current situation? I don't really know. I'm still trying to work that out!

Friday, November 11, 2016

I cannot hide from it any longer

I grew up in a very liberal Democrat family. My parents were raised in middle-class (mom) and upper-middle-class (dad) suburban homes. They were both spoiled by their parents. As a married couple, they were a disaster, always taking risks that they could not afford to take. Often we were on food stamps and ended up evicted more times than I can count. I blamed the safety nets and the bail-outs (government and family) for enabling such behavior. I blamed the Democrats.

When I was a teen, my mom put my name on a mall Christmas tree for low-income kids. She suggested the game Clue and a sweater for gift ideas. I had been teased at school for my off-brand and/or ill-fitting hand-me-down clothes or wearing sweats, worn because it is all I had available to me. A mom and her two teen daughters pulled up to our little dingy apartment. Driving in their Volvo, wearing their name-brand clothes, they knocked on our door bearing gifts. They gave me the game "Who Dunnit," a knock-off of Clue, and a sweater from Woolworths. I know I should have been grateful. I tried to be polite, but I was seething inside feeling as if I was a stop on a poverty tour to both pat themselves on the back for "helping" and for the girls to learn a lesson about how lucky they had it. I saw that as the way of the Democrats.

I refused to be a Democrat and instead became a Republican, of the Rockefeller variety, always socially liberal, environmentally concerned, etc. Living overseas in the developing world softened my bitterness in many ways. As the Republican party moved further and further away from anything I could recognize as good for our country, I became an Independent.

I don't want a vision of America based on fear, hypocrisy, and inequality. I have a hard time understanding how anyone can say a candidate using bankruptcy laws to his advantage is a talented businessman and yet, at the same time, complain about the poor taking advantage of "the system." Equality of opportunity regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status has to be the prime objective now. Knowing that objective makes this all very clear about who I can and cannot support.

This is not to say I will not listen or be friends with those who share different opinions. I will not patronize those different from me, nor pretend that these are easy topics where finding common ground is easy. But, I know the direction that I feel is right for me, my family, our community, our country and the world at large. I will live authentically, not hiding from our differences, but working to bring us together to move forward in a positive direction.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Are we the fringe?

We have friends, wonderful beautiful friends, on both sides of the aisle. I have never and never will allow political differences to determine my friendships. If we divide ourselves based on such things how do we ever hope to come together to find common ground and find solutions. I believe that, more often than not, we want a similar ultimate outcome, a better and brighter future and healthier world for our children and generations beyond. However, I will admit to you that right now I am filled with fear. I have never seen today's America as a white Christian nation that simply tolerates differences. But, rather, a nation based on equal footing for each of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. I thought this, at least, was a common ground statement among the majority, except for the fringes.

We look upon our family as a shining example of America. Our children are 100% American, 100% Jewish, with Japanese, Swedish, and Hebrew ancestry; truly the melting pot of America. We thought our family a shining example of the American melting pot, both honoring our ancestry and still being fully part of the American fabric. I am scared to think that such a belief is actually the fringe belief.

And, whether or not Trump truly believes his words, was misquoted, misspoke or anything in between is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that the Alt-right has been emboldened to believe they are the majority, not the fringe. And, that is what scares me most of all.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A new year ahead, an update and a look forward

The year ahead promises many changes. Some much sooner than others.

My old (pre Foreign Service) firm recently offered me some work, as a contractor on an ongoing basis. I would work from home, so the job can move with me.  And, I can work as many or as few hours as I want per week. I will be sent a list of things needing to be done and will let them know what I can do each week. This will allow me to work around my and my family's schedule. The only thing is we have not yet discussed pay. I'm a bit worried of being low-balled. I need to figure out how much is too little. I think I will look at what my salary would be working as an EFM at the Embassy and then use that as the lowest rate I will accept. I don't know though, again working from home on my own schedule is worth a lot. And, the other issue is that this work has nothing to do with my MBA, it is going back to government relations research. I have to figure out a way to meld these two worlds together, otherwise I'm afraid I'm going to have wasted all this time and money on getting a degree I will not use. But, there are certainly worse problems to have. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity. Hopefully, they will offer me more than I could make working at McDonald's in Seattle. ;)

In February, I will start my capstone for my MBA. If I understand correctly, I will be creating a business plan as my capstone project. I don't know any more than that right now though. After that class, I am done and will have my MBA with a concentration in finance. Woohoo! Now to find a way to use it!

This summer, T will have his Bar Mitzvah a week before we move, so he is preparing for that as we speak.  He is involved in TKD and Math/Engineering club, both of which he loves. He is such a techie. With Code Academy, he already learned CSS, HTML, Java, and JQuery. I am so impressed. My little, almost, teenager is about an inch shorter than me at this point, soon he will tower over me, thank goodness. Still, a little bittersweet too.

K is doing Hebrew school, TKD with his brother and decided to join swim team too. I worry it is all too much, but he loves both TKD and swim and couldn't decide between the two. He is a fantastic little swimmer. He's not the fastest or the strongest, but he has such focus! I am so proud of him.

I've been absolutely horrible with going to the gym and have gained way too much weight. S and I go for 30 minute walks almost every day, but clearly it is not enough! I need to dedicate myself to some gym time each day. I have the membership, just not using it. No resolutions, but just going to try a bit better to get there. I want to fit into one of my Marine Ball dresses come next November, so at least there is something to motivate me. That and I just need to get a handle on this weight gain, grrr!

And, yes, this summer we are moving to the Persian Gulf. S will continue on with similar work as he is doing this tour. He does enjoy the topics immensely and it has been a good tour for our family as well. We hope that job/work hour conditions will be similar at our new post, but it sounds like there will be more travel involved, so must admit I am not looking forward to that so much. Still, overall, we are very excited about the new posting, minus some worries about the dog.

Oh, in one other bit of news, I won $45 playing fantasy football. I know NOTHING about football. After draft pick, the Yahoo site said I threw the draft. And, yet, I ended up the winner of the regular season, with a regular season record of 12 wins and 2 loses, then lost in the finals. :( Still, I cannot believe I even made it to the finals. Weird. But, I certainly won't turn down the winnings. :)

We hope everyone had a lovely holiday season and many blessings ahead in the new year!



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Selfishness or love or both

Our beautiful old girl is at least 15 years old. We believe she is part Belgian Malinois (shepherd) and part Portuguese Podengo. We found her on the streets of Portugal in 2001 during our second tour with the State Department. Since that day, she has followed me around like a little kid follows her mommy. And, when I had my oldest child (who is now in jr. high), she followed him around like a protective mamma. We went through a few years of separation anxiety with her, but she has calmed down in her older years. After years and years of seeing we will not abandon her; she trusts in us, believes in us, and believes in our family. She knows that she is a part of us, our family.

This girl traveled with us and/or moved with us from Portugal, to DC, to Senegal, to Oregon, to DC, to East Timor, to Oregon, to DC, to Bulgaria, to Oregon, and to Florida. We were fully expecting to take her with us to the Middle East for what will likely be our last State Department tour.

I took her to the vet to get her prepared, starting the long process with a rabies titer test, which by the way, is astronomically expensive, not because of the actual test, but because of the guaranteed overnight shipping! The vet then tells me that flying a dog her age is likely a death sentence. I was shocked. I know I shouldn't be surprised, yet I was. So I sought the opinions of other foreign service spouses with old dogs.

A few said they took the dog with them, and the flight was harrowing, but their dog made it. Some FS spouses mentioned leaving their dog behind with family. None of our family can take her. Even if we found someone who could take her, I could never leave her behind with someone she doesn't already know and love. We cannot bear the thought of giving her away. I just cannot help but think that losing us would be more painful to her than any plane ride in the long term. Perhaps the truth is that leaving her behind would be more painful to us. Maybe it is selfishness, maybe it is love, maybe it is a little of both. Putting her down is not an option I want to consider, not unless it is because of a health issue that is causing her quality of life to truly suffer.

We keep the preparations going to take her, leaving all options open. She is old, and it shows more and more every day. But it is old dog stuff. I really don't know that she will live until this summer, but then again, she could live another year+. The vet told us that it is incredible she is as old as she is because most shepherds don't live that long. She stays with us, and we stay with her. We made her that promise, I know she doesn't understand our words, but I think she understands our hearts.

Yes, the plane ride will be challenging. We will have an overnight at one of the best airport pet facilities in the world, and that will give her a nice break. But, there are no guarantees. I know. We are keeping all options open. Admittedly, the one I want most is to take her with us. And, I do believe that would be her preference too. Maybe, though, that is just me projecting?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dolphins?

We live one block from a large beautiful bay. In our neighborhood, there is a tiny beach on the bay. We often walk to the beach to watch the sunset and sailboats; it is just so beautiful. Sometimes, we even see dolphins!

About a month ago, we bought some highly rated inflatable kayaks. We are here only one more year and decided spending the money on two pvc two-person kayaks was too expensive, but renting each weekend was also getting expensive. I calculated that if our inflatable kayaks last six times they will more than pay for themselves. More than that is simply cake.

We take our kayaks to our little beach one day each weekend. Last weekend was no different. We got all set-up and as we were putting our boats in the water, we saw two dolphins, or at least we assumed they were dolphins. They swam far ahead pretty quicky, never jumping out of the water. They appeared to work together to corral the fish, each coming in at a 45 degree angle from each other. This was followed by a big commotion in the water, then by a huge flock of birds settling on that area of water. We turned off before reaching that area. 

As we talked more and more, we thought the fins were not actually bent like dolphin fins, though maybe they were? We never saw the animals jump out of the water. And, they actually swam rather straight and fast. Apparently, sometimes smaller bull sharks make their way into our bay. Now, we are wondering???



Wednesday, August 12, 2015

We are not a Christian nation.

I recently joined a friend's conversation about whether or not America is a Christian nation. He had one responder with whom I began a bit of a debate. I don't know what possessed me really. I guess when it comes to this issue, I must admit it is one very personal to me having grown-up as a religious minority in our country, having my kids grow-up as religious minorities, and my husband as well has experienced similar issues coming from his mixed background and being raised in Southern Idaho. So, yes, I do feel the desire to speak out on this issue, for better or worse. . .
Responder: It is no longer a Christian Nation religiously. But it was founded on Judeo Christian principals. That is what makes it a Christian nation. Once we adopt Sharia, it will be a gunsmoke nation.


My response: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. . ."‬

‪Article 11, Treaty of Tripoli, Ratified by the United States June 10, 1797. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/bar1796t.asp‬

‬



Responder: Correct, it was not founded on the Christian Religion, it was founded on the Principals of the morals that come from the Christian Religion. Just as ISIS is founded on the morals of the Radical Islamic Religion, and the old USSR was founded on the Morals of the Atheist (Religion, for want of a better term). A civilization is going to be directed by its moral foundation. Ours was Judeo Christian.

My response: You said "Judeo-Christian" principles. So then, why are we not a Jewish nation by your reasoning? Our founders were also guided by principals based on white male supremacy. So, because of that, would you also say we are a white male supremacist nation?


Responder: Methinks you put too much into the society at the times as deliberate. If you asked Abigail Adams if the society was White Male supremacist you might get a different answer. To judge that society with today's cultural expectations does not do justice to the radical freedoms gleaned at the time. The very fact the our founding fathers moved away from Monarchy to a representative form of government was very radical indeed. Granted, only men could vote. But what was astonishing was that any free man could vote, not just landowners. (We can discuss the Slave issue at another time as that will take pages to devote to the cultural deprivations and antagonistic conflicts aroused by that disaster.)

As for the Judeo in Judeo-Christian, both are based on the same fundamental religious tenets. In fact there is no Christianity without the Jewish ancestry of the religion. There were many Jewish communities in the colonies, especially around New York City. Just as there were Catholic and Protestant sects. The radical ideas that the Freedom of Religion propagated, such as tolerance of other religions, was something not seen before in the colonization of English domains. The Anglican Church was required as the King was the head of that organization... 



My response: You completely missed the point. As a Jewish person, the idea of a Christian nation scares the bejeezus (pun intended) out of me. The fact that you can tout Judeo-Christian principles and then morph that into meaning "Christian nation" only serves to solidify this worry. My point about white male supremacists principles is that our country evolved (I know, evolution is probably not your thing), and continues to evolve (we certainly have further we can go). In the end, "Christian nation" only serves as a tool to disenfranchise non-Christians of our country and that is completely counter to American principles. By the way, thanks for "tolerating" me. Silly me, expecting that religious freedom actually meant more than tolerance. I've said my piece. Peace out!

Responder: So much for a nice conversation. Have a nice day.‬

Perhaps, I crossed a line with my comment about “evolution is probably not your thing,” but the jab (yes, I admit it was a jab) was based on the worry, idea, thought that often those insisting that we call our nation a Christian nation have an agenda and purpose for doing so, including dictating what our public schools can and cannot teach based on the bible. And, my comment regarding tolerance not being the same as religious freedom is getting at my feeling that those calling for the US to be considered a Christian nation are not getting the fundamental difference between tolerating other religions and actually protecting and ensuring that religions in our country are on equal footing under the law. 
As Mr. StoneRabbit said to me after telling him about my conversation above, "not eradicating another is too low a bar for a free society."

I would be curious to hear my reader’s thoughts.