No Matter How Your Heart is Grieving, if You Keep on Believing…

Standard

It’s hard to be a dreamer sometimes. It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply. Even when I was a little girl, I would get lost in my daydreams and hopes for the future, only to be extremely disappointed to learn that, in fact, there was no such thing as Making Ponies Happy University. The crush of disappointment after a letdown is just as strong as the tingle of anticipation leading up to an event. My pillow was soaked with bitter tears many nights (both as a kid and an adult, I admit.)

Cinderella would have been my favorite Disney Princess when I was little had it not been for Pocahontas.  I fell in love with the Disney film when it was released in 1995, despite the horrifying historical inaccuracies. (I was only four. Give me a break.) All I knew was that Pocahontas was brave and strong, had an awesome raccoon sidekick, and great hair. Plus, John Smith was slightly more involved in her life than Prince Charming was in Cinderella’s. Did you know he only speaks a grand total of 47 words in the film? It’s true. I looked up the script to prove it.

Anyway, despite the disgust I felt toward Prince Charming, I still liked Cinderella, and not just because I would pretend to be her whenever I had chores to do around the house. A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes: this was my motto, and my little girl heart so innocently and completely trusted in her faithful refrain: “In dreams, you will lose your heartache: whatever you wish for, you keep.”

Pure poetry, I told myself, staring with wide-eyed adoration at the TV while hugging my Pocahontas doll.

As I grew older, I turned my attention to books and the magical worlds contained within them, particularly Anne of Green Gables. “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions,” Anne told me. “I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them– that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

She’s completely right, I sighed dreamily, chin in my hand, as I stared out my bedroom window at a world of possibilities.

My dreams slowly evolved and changed as time went on. I gave up my dreams of being a “Ponytologist” when I was informed that it was a word that I had made up and no such job existed, and switched to my goal of being an actress. When my preteen years hit and I struggled with debilitating shyness, my goal became to be a surgeon. Wanting to someday be able to be home with my kids, I set my sights on being a journalist when my college years arrived. It was perfect: I could travel to the Middle East, write, and solve the world’s problems. Fast forward two and a half semesters of writing music advertisements and news articles of invented car crashes, and I switched my major to English faster than you could say, “Inverted pyramid.”

“Why are you changing your major? You’re one of the best students I’ve ever had,” my Media Writing professor mourned when I made my decision.

“Because I really, really, really hate writing this stuff,” I replied.

He blinked. “You do?”

“So much.”

“Oh. Well, if you ever change your mind….”

I compromised by getting a concentration in professional writing so that I could get back into journalism if I should ever want to, and turned my sights on grad school so I can teach someday.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will: “You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll never travel. You’ll never help anyone. You’ll never get accepted to University of Michigan; are you kidding? Do you know their acceptance rate?”

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” ~Cinderella

“It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?” ~Anne Shirley

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” ~Psalm 37:4

Don’t ever give up on your dreams.

IMG_2140IMG_2758IMG_4993IMG_4861IMG_5759IMG_6765

Advertisements

Racism is Exhausting

Standard

I’m a very diverse person. I come from both a Jewish and Christian background and I’m very interested in the Muslim religion and culture. I have been in many different churches of a variety of denominations, Messianic and reform synagogues, and mosques, including the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the third holiest site for Muslims, falling behind Mecca and the Dome of the Rock. I was taught from a young age to always respect people of other religions, cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds, simply because they are fellow human beings and deserve such.

This is why I’m always so taken aback whenever I run across racism, because the color of one’s skin is always the last thing on my mind.

I recently ran across an article that talked about white privilege in America. It claimed, among other things, that white people are born with a backpack of privileges that they have not worked for and do not deserve, but they receive it nevertheless, simply because they are white. This backpack of tools helps them achieve goals that minorities cannot even dream of reaching, the article went on.

I remember reading the article and blinking. Having just received my Bachelor’s Degree with a 3.9 GPA (and a healthy amount of student loans!) I would have loved to have been able to reach into this bag and pull out a treasure so that maybe I wouldn’t have had to work my tuchus off during the past four years. I’d love to possess it now as I attempt to find a good job so that I can pay for grad school in the fall, after taking out (yet another) student loan.

Now, let me be explicitly clear when I say that I understand that, having been able to go to college, receive my degree, study abroad, and go to grad school, I am in a minority. There are people who can only dream of attending college for a semester, let alone for the past four years as I have been able to do. I do not take that for granted for a second.

Having never been a racial minority, I also can’t address the issues they face. Racism is a real and ugly thing; I won’t even attempt to deny that. I can’t (and won’t attempt to) address what minority groups face, but I can say with certainty that I have not accomplished what I have simply because of the color of my skin. To say so about me (or any other white person) is racist, pure and simple.

At my school’s Partnership Dinner in April, I was blessed to have been invited and have the chance to listen to Ben Carson, a man I greatly admire and respect. His autobiography Gifted Hands details how he overcame his troubled youth in inner-city Detroit, growing up to become an incredible neurosurgeon credited as being the first surgeon to successfully separate twins joined at the head.

When asked about what it takes to become successful, his answer was one of the most encouraging answers that I filed away to remember when I become discouraged.

“A person can be born with the world handed to them on a silver platter. They can have every  privilege imaginable, but all of that is pointless if they don’t set goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. Similarly, people who are born with nothing, as I was, can achieve whatever they put their mind to if they work hard enough.”

His answer takes gender out of the equation.

It makes one’s religion a moot point.

It makes ethnicity irrelevant.

One of my professors had probably the best view on this touchy subject. She said, “There are a variety of ethnicities that can and should be appreciated for their beauty, but there is only one race: the human race. Sometimes, we forget that.”

We’re all from the human race. Let’s remember that and extend each other the love, grace, and respect that we all deserve, rather than tearing each other down.

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Standard

I have a love/hate relationship with Sherman Alexie. I adore him because of the talent he possesses. I cringe when I pick up any of his writings because I know I’m about to get punched in the gut. The Long Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is no exception.

Sherman Alexie has a way of storytelling that makes the reader feel as though he/she is in the midst of the situation. He uses matter-of-fact language when describing circumstances that are based on his real life experiences. The tone he sets in his various stories does a good job at conveying the lot of American Indians.

This is especially seen in “That is what it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona.” Victor does not have the money for a plane ticket to Arizona. He is travelling there because his deceased father has a savings account to be claimed. His former friend, Thomas-Builds-the-Fire, offers to lend him the money if Victor will take him along. They arrive to find the trailer, reeking from having contained his father’s dead body for over a week in the Arizona sun. Alexie describes the situation in an almost detached narrative voice that, surprisingly, actually lends more emotion to the story.

Alexie is also proficient at telling sad stories from his community with the absence of a whiny voice. Readers especially notice this when reading, “The Only Traffic Signal on the Reservation Doesn’t Flash Red Anymore.” Alexie sets the stage as he does so frequently and skillfully and the reader is swept up in the story of Julius, a young boy playing basketball on the reservation. Through the voice of Victor, Alexie recounts Julius and his eventual downfall after he gets involved with alcohol. This is a particular strength of Alexie’s; he is able to use his pieces of literature to send the message about the destructive properties of alcohol without appearing preachy or judgmental. Alexie refers to Julius as being a figure of hope for the people on the reservation; Julius was a talented basketball player and wanted to go to college. People thought he could make it, but then he got involved with drinking. He describes it as a huge hurt and disappointment to everyone on the reservation, but no one is surprised because that is what they expect to happen.

That is perhaps the saddest aspect of Alexie and his writings: there is a cycle of helplessness in which the characters find themselves. In “Every Little Hurricane,” Victor recounts how his father was spit on at a bus stop, his mother was forcibly sterilized after he was born, and how his uncles had stashed crackers in their bedroom as children so they could have something to eat. He remembers his father crying on Christmas Eve because there wasn’t any money for presents. He frequently mentions how people on the reservation are stuck in a cycle of drinking and poverty and while some are apathetic about changing, others simply don’t know how. It is all they and the generations before them have known.

One thing to note about many of Alexie’s short stories is that he likes to have his characters regularly employ colorful language. Call me old fashioned, but this bothers me. While it can be argued that explicit language can be appropriate and useful depending on the character or situation, Alexie’s heavy and frequent use of extremely offensive words is a bit over the top. So many instances of vulgar language take away from the other language Alexie uses that is incredibly descriptive and actually cheapens his stories. It distracts from the message he is trying to send in telling them. His stories could be just as (if not more) powerful if the frequency of those words was reduced.

We Don’t Live in Nazi Germany

Standard

My heart is so heavy.

Israel

This is 2014.

iraqi victims

After World War II, we swore, “Never again.”

Graffiti in Rome: Dirty Jews

Graffiti in Rome: Dirty Jews

A rabbi was shot on his way to synagogue in Miami, Florida. Not in Europe or the Middle East: right here in America, guys.

Children in Mosul are being systematically beheaded, simply because they are Christians. (WARNING: this link has extremely graphic photos that reduced me to tears.)

Iraqi Christians 2

 

Isis is “killing every Christian they see”

iraqi children

Hamas violates ceasefire after ceasefire

10559714_832148993474639_7274939128155357142_n

The Iraqi city of Mosul has had a Christian presence for the last 1,700 years. No more; Christians are forced to convert or die. “The houses of Christians were specially marked with the Arabic letter ‘N,’ meaning Christian,” said Nadia Nafik Ishaq.

The Arabic letter N, for Nasarah (Christian) on a Christian home in Mosul.

The Arabic letter N, for Nasarah (Christian) on a Christian home in Mosul.

Sounds vaguely familiar.

Berlin, NS-Boykott gegen jüdische Geschäfte

I was recently accused of having “a heart of stone” that “bleeds only for Israeli dogs” when I mourned the loss of Hadar Goldin, an IDF soldier captured and murdered by Hamas.

Hadar

The truth is that my heart breaks for any group that is harassed by a terrorist organization. The citizens of Gaza are being murdered by the very rockets fired from Hamas. They have shown a complete disregard toward any form of human life.

I weep for the Iraqi Christians.

I weep for Israel.

I weep for the Palestinians in Gaza living under terror.

In the face of such horror, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and bury our heads in the sand. This is the worst thing we can do; evil triumphs when good people do nothing.

This article lists three ways we can be actively involved in helping the Christians in Iraq. I would add two more: stay educated and informed. And pray.

Blessed are the persecuted; blessed are the weak and wounded. This is your song. Stand strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Woman Warrior: Memoir of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

Standard

Maxine Hong Kingston recalls stories from her past and recounts them in her work of creative non-fiction Woman Warrior. Her stories reflect the situations of women within the Chinese culture, as well as Chinese Americans living in the United States during the Chinese Revolution. She discusses explosive topics (particularly when they are paired with women) such as education, fighting, sexism, and family life. She tells stories from her mother’s past and effortlessly blends her autobiography with Chinese folktales in such a way that the reader could misunderstand and believe that it is purely an autobiographical story.

Maxine Hong Kingston opens Women Warrior with a story of her mother telling Kingston as a child to never talk about her aunt. Kingston’s aunt becomes pregnant while her husband is away at war, and Kingston’s mother recounts the story of what happened to her; the village is enraged and ransacks her house. She retreats and gives birth alone, after which she takes the child and jumps into the family well, committing suicide. Kingston ponders this story of the “No Name Woman”; she wonders if her aunt had loved the man, or perhaps if she was forced into the sexual relationship and had no choice in the matter. Kingston frequently talks about women and the gross injustice of the oppression they are required to face.

Kingston goes on to tell the story of the warrior Fa Mu Lan, essentially morphing into the character herself. She describes the training she endures, as well as the skills and intelligence that are needed to withstand the experiences that she does. It is interesting to note that Kingston chooses to tell this story in relation to the story of her aunt; the two women (Fa Mu Lan and her aunt) are so starkly different. While Kingston’s aunt (whose name we never learn because the family is trying to wipe out her memory) gives up rather easily and does not fight, Fa Mu Lan is a committed warrior who does not let her circumstances affect her or her attitude. Fa Mu Lan is brave, strong, and unhindered.

Kingston also highlights racism in her collection of stories. She is disappointed in herself because she cannot stand up to her racist boss, who frequently makes horrifying comments to Kingston. She wishes that she could be like Fa Mu Lan and bravely stand up to her boss, but she is not bold. She expresses her discomfort in whispers and squeaks, after which she is fired. Kingston is very bitter and angry about the racism she faces, and that reflects strongly in the way she describes and refers to Americans and the United States in general.

Kingston’s writings also have a very spiritual nature to them. She frequently refers to stories involving ghosts, spirits, and other paranormal activity. Kingston tells a particularly striking story involving her mother’s educational life, in which she faces and overcomes one of the ghosts that lurk in the halls. It is known as “The Sitting Ghost,” and Kingston’s mother lights buckets of alcohol and oil on fire in order to scare it away. Although it is not an explicitly Christian story, spiritual matters heavily influence Kingston while she is writing Woman Warrior.