Silver lining, a glimpse of hope in finding refuge in our community.

It has been a little over a week since an antiquated electoral college system made a madman President-elect of the most powerful nation in the world. We have gone through all but one stage of grief. There has been tears, grief, anger, protest but no acceptance. How can we accept as our leader someone who has enticed so much hatred? We have gone too far as a nation, as a people, to simply resign ourselves to four years of bigotry, racism, misogyny and intolerance or to put it bluntly, fascism.

In the last 8 days, we have heard of countless accounts of hate crime, violence towards women, people being targeted in places where they are supposed to feel safe, a French restaurant in Brooklyn, a bus, a college campus. For anyone to think that this is just a coincidence is purely delusional. These attacks are a direct consequence of months of Mr Trump directly encouraging his supporters to target certain groups of people, either by his rhetoric or by openly ordering them to do so. There hasn’t been one place where the election results was not a topic.  Medical offices had to put up signs in their waiting rooms reading “Please refrain from talking about politics as this is a place of healing”, people have randomly approached strangers and started conversations. I witnessed a man at a gas station passionately talking to drivers about a potential civil war breaking out on our beautiful land. Facebook and Instagram friends have deleted one another after decades of friendship when suddenly bigotry showed up on feeds the day after the election. To say the least, the mood of our country has been very low.

Ironically enough though, after the initial tears and shock, this outcome has brought a lot of hope and as much as it seems to have us pulled apart, it seems to have brought some of us closer together. Many have turned to social media to voice their opinion and to find comfort in the commonality. For some, it has been the only thing keeping us from depression and despair. Our desire to fight for what is just keeps us from falling apart. In a way, war has the same effect. In times of conflict, our survival mode is instinctive. We tend to work together against one common enemy. Unfortunately for us, our common enemy is our future leader and his bigoted followers. It is indeed worrisome, but we must find refuge in the fact that more people actually voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. She did win the popular vote. What we need to fight is the system, not so much each other. I personally think it is completely acceptable tjusticeo distance ourselves from those who support Trump. I tend to think that this time is too crucial to engage in arguments. People have spoken and if they have decided to support him, there is simply nothing I can say at this point that will change their mind. His supporters just had a huge victory and it is as if they were high, nothing will get through to them. They are simply too elated. We, however, cannot rest. We must prepare, organize, and create enough momentum so that our country fight the possibility of becoming an autocracy.

Thankfully, I have witnessed a lot of peaceful actions from liberals. There has been very little violence compared to what Trump supporters have done. Instead of punching, shoving, insulting people or threatening to burn someone alive because of their beliefs, faith, race or sexual orientation, we have stood up tall and marched together hand in hand to demand change. To me, the most inspiring event happening right now is the protest against the Dakota Pipeline (DAPL). Native Americans have shown us that is possible to protest peacefully and gracefully. They have proved to us, over and over that violence is not the answer and that there is strength in numbers, love, and prayers. I happen to believe that as the NO DAPL movement becomes more mainstream, it is becoming the poster child of peaceful protest. It has inspired so many and, in fact, is now even more important than ever. Our environment is at risk. People, including myself, are terrified of the consequences a Trump presidency will have on our planet.

It is clear to me that the majority of Americans believe in climate change and want a positive, healthy future for their children and generations to come.  It is in our DNA to want to succeed and be happy. Right now, we are feeling threatened by this one man and his posse who have stirred the pot of bigotry and ignorance but it has finally awakened us from our deep sleep of avoidance. We have been forced out of our comfort zone and in a way it is good. We have been energized. Every day that goes by, I feel stronger and come to appreciate things that really matter more. There is so much superficiality in our materialistic world and times like these help us center and focus on the most raw aspects of life. Happiness, peacefulness, respect,humility and integrity are all that seem to essentially matter right now. We are fighting for our rights to live without unjust rules imposed by a few.

My teenager and I often discuss reasons why we are here. Passing on knowledge and wisdom through whatever skills we have is the main one. Helping one another is obviously crucial to our survival and common happiness. There is absolutely nothing more rewarding in this world than carrying each other like Bono would sing in his 1997 U2 song entitled “One”.  Those who do not believe this are simply too distracted by all the shiny things around them! They’ve lost touch with the most basic concept there is. Our world is based on competition too much. Everywhere we turn, someone is trying to beat someone at something, or make more money, or have more than someone else. No one ever competes for less, when in reality, we should strive to have less so we can give more of what really matters, our heart.

I sincerely believe that this time, right now, is the beginning of us focusing more on the heart and less on stuff or status. I have seen so much unity in the midst of all the ugliness. What this election did is just bring everything to the surface. It has always been there. Trump is just the monster who woke it all up. But, remember, every fairy tale or myth has a hero who manages to destroy the monster. A hero usually has a pretty big posse too. I’ve seen or heard about a lot of heroes this week. Students are standing up for their immigrant, gay, black , and Muslim friends, or simply for their peers being attacked for speaking against bigotry. Strangers have taken a stand for those who were unfairly targeted. I think it’s time to shoot a new episode of that What Would You Do? show because I am pretty sure the results would be different. People are awake. They will stand for what is right. No more hiding. No more fear. And at night, or on our lunch break, we can turn to social media and see that we are not alone in this fight. We are ONE and we carry each other. Against HATE.

 

Trump presidency: why we can’t get over it and what we can do.

Like half the country, I have been sad and worried about the outcome of Tuesday’s election. I have also been very busy and wished I could have put pen to paper earlier.

In this essay, I will address a few different things. First, I want to talk about why it is important to act and not get over it like many Trump voters are trying to encourage us to do. I will also discuss President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s reaction to Trump becoming president-elect. But mostly, I want to address the urgency Americans face to organize, reject hate and protect our neighbors from retaliation against their race, sexual orientation, religion or color.

No, we cannot move on, get over it. Trump voters’ claim is that conservatives did not take the streets when President Barack Obama was elected and therefore, we should do the same and accept the outcome. The flaw in this thinking is that these two men could not have more opposite views, and characters. When George W Bush won, many of us were sad and disappointed but we didn’t protest. We did indeed respect the voting process. Even today, most of us respect the voice of the American people even though Trump did not win the electoral vote (just like Bush), we must accept the outcome because it is how the system work. We must work hard to get rid of the electoral college system but today is not the time. We have to follow a process and change the law. What we do not accept is Trump’s hate. What we cannot get over is the anger, the hate, the bigotry, the misogyny, the racism is has enticed. That’s what we need to protest. Just 2 days after the election and there has already been countless reports of hate, from kids verbally assaulting other kids in schools, to white supremacist marching in parades. Muslims, gays, immigrants , people with disability, women, all have been attacked. Kids, Teenagers are terrified that they’re friends or family will be deported. This is just the beginning. Now that Trump has been elected, it is bound to get worse everyday. Friends, who were quiet this whole election, are now coming out and openly post racist posts on social media. Trump has given every bigot and intolerant person in this country a voice. He has given them a pass to act on their feelings, no matter how ethically wrong or illegal they may be. THIS is what we cannot ignore. THIS is why we cannot get over it.

Hillary Clinton and President Obama have a duty to work with Donald Trump. The president must ensure a smooth transition of power. This country’s future and health depends on it. We do not want to fall into another recession or worse. Think of all the hard work the President has achieved in last 8 years. He got us out of the recession Bush left us. He cannot risk things falling apart so he must work with Trump. He must guide him and the more he works with him, the more likely Trump will succeed and even change his views on some issues. Now, I know, we shouldn’t hold our breath but I am trying to address the frustration some people have had towards our President or Secretary Clinton, feeling they gave up too easily. They didn’t give up. They are looking out for us.

It is OUR job to organize and come up with a plan.

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The first thing we need to do is to report everything we witness. Through social media, we must continue to show every hate crime or bullying that happens around us. We must expose why Trump is bad for America. We are all reporters.

The second thing is to remain peaceful and not use violence. Much like NODAPL water protectors. Much like Martin Luther King, we must be willing to fight but peacefully. We must be willing to risk getting arrested but peacefully. We must show that they are abusing their power or spreading hate. Don’t make us look bad, expose THEM. Expose the anti LGBT people. Expose racists. Expose those who target Muslims. Expose those who bully immigrants children. EXPOSE. EXPOSE. EXPOSE. Use Hastags, send photos and videos to your local and national news. Send them to progressive newspapers. You see something, you report it. Because this is a form of national terrorism.

The third thing is to organize. Join every progressive, anti hate group you identify with on Twitter, Facebook, join mailing lists, etc. You need to make sure you stay up to date about what is being done by organizations that already exist. You can google the ACLU for example and join it. You can volunteer. Feeling useful is a great way to fight this awful feeling we are experiencing right now. There is strength in number.

If you are a student under 18 years old, start a club at your school, like Students against Hate and make it grow. Educate each other and discuss issues and go out do what you can but safely. You have social media on your side. In my days, we had student union organizations but we did everything by phone or word of mouth, we didn’t have the tools you guys have these days. It’s much easier to organize and gather these days. Plan on walking out and protest on Inauguration day. Don’t be afraid. Just do it peacefully.

You can also write letters to your local representatives. That’s what they do. They REPRESENT you. Even though we do not have control of either houses, we still have representatives there and they can and will be heard. But we need to hold them accountable.

Support organizations that fight for issues that Donald Trump will try to eradicate. Some of these issues are the environment ( Trump will not follow through with Paris agreement, he thinks global warming is a hoax), Planned Parenthood funding, Women’s right to choose, Immigration reforms (Donald Trump wants to make it illegal for Muslims to enter the country and wants to kick out mostly Latinos), and many more. We need to be activists. This will not be easy and it will get tiring but we need to spend the next 4 years signing petitions, making donations to the right organization, show up at rallies, etc.

I’m planning on creating a list of organizations and people to follow on social media but already you should all go make sure you follow Bernie Sanders, Michael Moore and Dan Rather.

Finally I’d like to address Donald Trump and his lies. Already he is planning on giving a seat at the table to lobbyists in his administration. Remember Trump got where he is by lying, scamming and cheating them and the system. He is NOT looking out for the average American. So we need to be very cautious. Sadly, too often, these kinds of people win before they are brought to justice. It takes courage and persistence to expose who they really are so take heart and do not give up. Find a good support system. We are stronger together. Remember, MLK walk to the bridge. It only worked because they were together, peaceful and because white people woke up and joined them. They became stronger and things changed. This is a pivotal moment in history. We do not want to repeat the bad history. We cannot go back to fascism. We must stop this now before it is too late. Go ask anyone who lived during WWII.

More later.

 

Where are the angels in the City of Angels?

Here I am at home, sitting in my very uncomfortable 15-year-old couch, but warm and happy. I just came back from my job which I am lucky to say I love. A lot of things have changed since I first arrived here in Los Angeles. As I was driving home, I was talking to my family about the short conversation I had just had with a homeless man while I was waiting at the cross walk. I talked to him and gave him some money. He smelled and was obviously in need of help. He was holding a sign that said, “Happy Holidays”. He wasn’t really begging though. But his eyes caught mine and so I started to talk. I asked him if he slept outside and he said yes because there was no room in the shelter but he was waiting from friends in Jamaica to be help him. I asked him what his story was and he said, “oh it’s a long story”. It was my turn to walk and so I talked to him for a few more seconds and then crossed the street. I said, I hope things would turn for the better and wished him a Happy Holiday. He said the same and wished me a Happy New Year. I now regret not staying to talk longer. My family as usual was sweet to me when I told them the story and said I felt bad for him. They said to me, ” At least you were nice and you helped him”. It’s true. Most people pass them on the street and ignore them as if they were trash. I always smile to homeless people and talk to them if I can. Today reminded me of an essay I wrote after being in LA for just 5 months. My husband remembered it. So there it was. I decided I would go home, find what I had written back then, post it and see where I was today. I wanted to see if anything had changed.

So here it is and please read all the way to the end to see my comments about what I feel and think now!

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It’s been almost 5 months since I’ve arrived in this heartless, dysfunctional, delusional city. We came here because we thought it would be better for all of us. We were full of hope that we would fit in here better than where we came from. Perhaps our thought was the illusion. All I can seem to focus on since I have been here is how ugly, mean and sad things are around here. I see the ugliness in people’s face, in their behavior, in the way they drive, talk, and ignore each other. My soul has been aching for 5 months and I am not sure how to make it stop. I came to work one day, very distressed after having experienced a very disturbing chain of event. I attempted to explain to a coworker why my heart was in despair. I told her about the feeling of discomfort and misery I have had since January. She looked at me and said: “I used to be like that too, I used to cry everyday, but after a while I didn’t see it anymore. I don’t hear or see things anymore. It will get better, you will get used to it.” Then I looked at her and said: “if you knew me, you would know that I will never get used to it”. Indeed, I know that it is impossible for me to be numb to what is around me and that is exactly what she was trying to convince me would happen with time. This is the core of all problems. When people first come to this city, they most likely feel the same thing that I have been feeling but they only allow themselves to feel this way for a short amount of time. They become desensitized. Or rather, they desensitize themselves. A good example of this came from another coworker of mine who gave me an advice one day on how to be happy in this city. He told me to create a sort of cocoon, to create my own happiness with my family and just focus on that. Apparently, that’s what he did, and it undoubtedly works for him extremely well. In my opinion, the only way someone is able to live that way, is by desensitizing himself to the point that things don’t look the same anymore, or aren’t even there at all. Or is it that these people have made some kind of mental agreement with themselves that if they let themselves feel, they would lose their sanity or comfort? What has happen to human kind? Humans are “feeling” beings but at the same time, they have the need to protect themselves from what is hostile or unacceptable to them. Humans feel but they are also intelligent. At times, their intelligence takes over their senses and attracts them to selfish behavior. Some would say that the need to create a cocoon for themselves is simply a defense mechanism that every species has. But who says that it is impossible to protect ourselves and at the same time help each other? I, like everyone else in this world, feel the need to protect myself and my family from danger, but I also have this incredible feeling that I was put on this earth to make it better and to help people. I was born with this amazing ability to feel other people’s pain and rejecting this ability would be an insult to who I am and an insult to mankind. I am able to see, hear, taste, smell, touch and feel and yes sometimes, most of the times for the past 5 months, it is very unpleasant but what am I to do about it, just repress all those senses? Don’t get me wrong, I do look away, and walk away from uncomfortable situations, but every time I come out of it disturbed. I cannot just move on or forget about it or block it like my 2 co-workers were able to do. Instead, I go home and wonder how I can go on. How can I witness pain, suffering, chaos and insanity and sometimes evil, and just manage to go on. How can I be surrounded with all this everyday and just ignore it, pass it by and go home to my cocoon everyday? What kind of human would I be? My feelings overcome my intelligence and my ability to block things.

For years now I have been looking for my purpose in life, just like everyone else has. I have been aching inside for a long time. I have this strong feeling of sadness and pain inside of me. I cannot watch the news without feeling personally touched by what I see. So many times, I just want to go help people personally, but I have no plan. When Katrina happened, I sat there watching the horror on TV, crying most of the time. I wanted to scream at the TV and then pack my bags and go help those people. But I couldn’t because of my own family who needed me and because me leaving to help those poor people would jeopardize our financial stability.

When I arrived in LA, the aching feeling resurfaced almost immediately. How can a city have come this far? What happened? How can this be possible here in America? This question sounded so familiar, the same question everyone had been asking for days when Hurricane Katrina happened? People in L.A seem to have lost touch with reality; many have created a life of disillusion for themselves. They live in a fantasy. The entire city seems to be out of touch with the rest of the country. L.A is a selfish, rough, desensitized city and so are many people who live here. I do understand it is a way for them to survive here. A good majority of people come here to follow their dream and in their journey to attain their dream, they simply forget to be sensitive to others. They walk on a straight line and force themselves to not look aside by fear it would destroy them.

Well, just like I was telling my coworker that day, if I do not look, if I let myself be desensitized, I will be destroyed. How can I create a cocoon for myself, go home at night and not be touched by how many homeless people I saw on my way back to my cocoon?

Sometimes, I do envy those who can pass by the ugliness and chaos and just not feel. Sometimes I wish I was numb. Perhaps my life would be easier, perhaps, it would be meaningless. Perhaps, I would have a job that interests me today if I was numb. I have a college degree, I speak 3 languages; everyone was so sure I would have a good job by now that pays well but look at me today. Every job that I have had seem so meaningless to me. Working in a store, working at a hotel, this is not what I want but it’s all I can get. Everyday I wake up with deep sadness and I feel as if I am wasting time. I wish I could use the hours of my precious life, doing something that matters, help people, tell stories of the people who are passed by everyday by those who go home to their cocoon. Sometimes I wish I could start a revolution. I wish I could expose the world’s misery because I do believe that exposing the truth and misery in a major way is the key to re-sensitizing people. Remember during Katrina, how much people were affected by what they saw. How many people donated to the Red Cross, made in kind contributions, drove to New Orleans to help. That is I believe because of the dramatic impact the media had on people. Of course many turned their TV off after a few days but those who didn’t are the ones who made a difference. Those who allowed themselves to bring the tragedy into their home allowed themselves to suffer as well. Accepting the pain and suffering and allowing it into their homes is the first step to become compassionate. Turning off the TV, ignoring the homeless person on the way home, is unfortunately a way of keeping the status quo. As hard as it can be to feel other people’s pain, it makes us better people. It makes us think more and eventually find a way to make life a little more bearable for all of us, not just us as individuals.

Finding my peace will be finding a way to everyday make a difference for someone who is suffering. My heart and soul will not be content until I find a job that lets me be who I am. I wish I could afford to drop my meaningless job and go do what I want to do but the status quo prevents me from doing that right now. I moved to L.A and now I have to settle here and beat the monster. After 5 months of searching for a place to live and hundreds of people denying us because all they rely on is a piece of paper called a credit report, I must have faith that I was brought here to finally find a way to everyday make a difference to the world. My husband, daughter and I have been victims of people’s stereotype, blindness and fear and I truly hope we soon find a place to settle before we find ourselves on the street like nearly 90,000 people in the city.  If we make it here or even if we don’t, it would definitely have made my conviction stronger and will have brought me closer to making a difference. I just hope I find the strength to keep going and I hope one day someone gives me the chance to make a difference at a broader level.

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It’s been almost 7 years since I wrote this. I am still the same person and still believe everything I said. I think what has changed is that I have become stronger from everything I have encountered and found a way to ease the pain I experience by being such a sensitive human being. I am sensitive to pain and suffering. That has not changed. I am a very aware and conscious being. I always side with the less fortunate, the poor, the struggling class, the minorities. I somehow have found a way to deal with my sadness and sometimes anger towards the system. First of all, I am not afraid of speaking my mind. If I see something disturbing, I will denounce it. If I see I can do something, I will do it and encourage other people to do it too. I also decided to volunteer my time. I joined the American Red Cross and did hours of training. So basically, the way for me to deal with the suffering was to be there first hand where suffering was. I am part of the Disaster Team. I stay locally because I do not have the luxury and finances to be dispatched to out-of-state but I am always asked and will go when I can. This gave me more power over my feelings. It gave me purpose.

As I said back then, I always felt like I had a bigger purpose in life, that I needed to help people and so I found a way to do just that and I do whenever I can. I am sort of a good Samaritan in so many ways. I help people stranded on the road, I find myself in weird situations where I end up being the one giving someone CPR, etc. It is quite odd sometimes. I still think it is horrific how many homeless people live in Los Angeles and how a few blocks down, there are stores and shops with products costing an unnecessary arm and a leg.  Social equality has always been important to me and I personally think we do it all wrong in America. I think social equality goes hand in hand with racial equality as well. I think we need to educate our children better in school. We need to bring everything back to basic humanity. Teaching humanity and compassion should be the most important subject and very first thing taught in school. Instead we desensitize our kids. That is a whole different topic which I will gladly discuss.

Caring makes us vulnerable, it’s true but as a society, I think we would definitely benefit from having more caring people. Strength and compassion can go hand in hand. It does not have to be one or the other. Strong caring people can lead and change the world. Real change happens in the heart first. I know it sounds so cliché but “Be the change you want to see in the world” is a good line. If you want to see more happiness and compassion, you need to do be compassionate yourself. Avoidance never leads to anywhere. Just because your little cocoon is comfortable does not mean it is safe. Putting yourself in someone’s shoes will make you realize that there is a lack of understanding and love in this world. I recently watched a documentary called the Human Experience which I highly recommend watching. These two young men went around the world and put themselves in the shoes of many different people, the first ones being homeless people. This taught them so much. It made them better. It transformed them, brought back humility. We all need to feel discomfort and feel pain that others feel, otherwise, we become no better than what we use on a daily basis, ROBOTS.

SOUND OFF