Thank you readers.
Have a Happy New Year 2016 and may all your most cherished wishes come true.
Thank you readers.
Have a Happy New Year 2016 and may all your most cherished wishes come true.
I proudly share with you that my little poem “Muslims Didn’t Invent Terrorism” just made it to Hipmamazine.com. Please stop by to read. Thanks for your support.
HipMama Magazine is an Alternative Parenting Magazine edited by Ariel Gore.
Venezuela’s democratic victory of last night does not mark a trend towards the right. It marks a trend towards sanity, a healthy way out of oppression.
I lived five years in Canada, where citizens enjoy social programs, a robust health system, and an inclusive, tolerant, welcoming, and very liberal society. Nobody in Canada thinks of taking from what you have earned to give it to somebody else. You pay big money in taxes and that’s the extend of the wealth distribution.
If socialism in Venezuela had meant to bring education to the highest priority, tax the rich, develop a strong health system, diversify the economy, stop the rampant corruption, and develop jobs to counteract the need-based crime, I would have supported such system.
What happened in Venezuela in the last 17 years escapes political views and belongs more in the realm of brutality and abuse of power.
It started with incendiary rhetoric, with a change of patriotic symbols, with arming the masses to defend the revolution, with dogmatization of education, with social programs aimed at earning loyalty from the masses not at helping the individual’s personal growth. Then it gained momentum by giving oil for free in exchange of political alliances in the Caribbean region. It became full blown dictatorship with the censorship of media, the imprisonment of opposition leaders, and the torture and killing of thousands of young protesters. Finally, they took away the people’s dignity: lines to buy milk, eggs, and split rice, soap and toilette paper, with a prepaid card on the day of the last number of your id card. I don’t have any respect for that kind of socialism.
True, oil prices are down, but for the first 15 years of this regime, Venezuela enjoyed the highest oil prices in the world history. What did they do with all that money? In 17 years, the so called social programs implemented could have seen fruits already, but the country seems to be falling deeper into an economic abyss with the highest inflation rate in the world.
And if the social programs of education worked so well, why are so many still on the streets, unable to provide for their families. Why has crime only worsened? I not only lost respect but gained repulsion and contempt against the regime, which I refuse to call government.
Today, I celebrate hope because that is the only thing the opposition won last night with the 99 seats in the Legislative Assembly. Hope that the newly elected legislators will advance the economy and restore the dignity of the country. The economy might take generations to restore, but dignity is top priority.
At the meditation group on Friday a woman asked about fear of violence on the streets, the tangible apprehension we carry in our hearts. People die on the streets every weekend, senseless violence. “What do I do with my fear,” she asked.
Week after week, we witness the images of shootings in schools, colleges, abortion clinics, churches and malls across the country, when we sit silently watching the news of another black young person dying by police force. Or more recently, when a white terrorist killed three innocent people in a Planned Parenthood clinic. This fear is domestic, manageable. Yet we do nothing.
The conservatives see those fatalities on the ground as no more than “bad things happened,” as one GOP mentioned in an interview about gun control. The liberals pretend to raise their voices, but not loud enough to annoy anybody, lest they disturb the favorable winds that seem to be blowing their way in this election year. The community declares itself uable of fighting the NRA on their own, and retreats to prayers and social movements that have done nothing but interrupt political speeches and flood the social media with memes.
We allow the lobbyists of fear to dismiss those incidents as either mental illness or racial problems, something that happens to people other than the white mentally healthy, mostly Christian person. However, the signs of a society living in fear have crept under our thin skin. iPhones are ready to capture incidents of police brutality. Colleges and schools all over the country drill their students and staff to respond in cases of armed intruders. Neighbors watch from their windows, looking out for suspects in an effort to keep the violence off their front lawns.
Several weeks ago, a bomb brought down a Russian airplane flying over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The news circled around possible reasons. We didn’t feel threatened. After all, it was a Russian airplane. Then a bomb killed 44 people in Beirut, but American’s hearts didn’t bleed a drop enough to change the lightning color of their buildings. After all, those were Arabs. Then a series of coordinated terrorists attacks in Paris brought the spectacle of fear right to our living rooms via mass and social media. And then our lives changed. America now is driven by fear at mass murder scale.
Growing up in a small town in Venezuela in the 70s and 80s, we read the newspaper with AP translated news of a world in turmoil. During those twenty years, the world saw over eighty wars, in all corners of the globe, including the Malvinas Islands. There were wars between neighboring nations – Iran-Iraq, Tanzania-Uganda, and Lybia-Egypt – civil wars in Sri Lanka, South Yemen, Afghanistan, El Salvador, and Lebanon. There were multinational conflicts like the Lebanon War between Israel, Syria, the PLO and factions of Lebanese fought against each other. And, of course, there was the Vietnam War, a brutal conflict that left US pride wounded and thousands of disabled veterans portrayed in movies as the new evil. Terrorism was rampant in the 80s with hijacked airplanes at the center of it.
In those days, the TV also brought images of young people in Washington D.C. singing, praying, asking to “give peace a chance.” That generation of Americans managed their fear collectively, on the streets, demonstrating and rallying for peace and rejecting the military draft that fed the front lines of the Vietnam War.
Families sat around their TVs watching the evening news and mumbling their comments, usually a muttered thankful prayer for being so far away from those places. Refugees? Oh yes. The entire Americas in the 20th century became a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities by accepting refugees from around the world.
It seems we are living the same situation today, with one major difference. We are not giving Peace a Chance. We have allowed mass and social media into the inner fabric of our lives. We don’t read the news over coffee in the morning, or watch it on TV in the evenings. Rather, a constant bombardment of (mis)information reaches us at every minute, with graphic images of violent events as they happen, insensitive interviews of the victims, faces of bearded men, and the vitriolic comments of the trolls.
The media serves us what we want to receive. How does the media know our interest? Take a guess. Yes, the media gets data from the small hand-held devices we click on obsessively all they long. Each one of our clicks sends data to marketing analysts. Our likes, comments and “follows” determine what we hear and see on the news.
We reacted to Paris attacks in a visceral way. There is something about a Parisian dying in a terrorist attack that moves us in different way from the Beirut victim of a suicide bomber, or the Russian tourists who died in the airplane a week before. We all love Paris. We have been there, or want to go there, or dream of going. Paris symbolizes western culture and civilization, freedom, equality and romance like any other place in the world.
We clicked and clicked. We changed our profile pictures to display the French flag in solidarity with the victims. We showed the media we want to know more about what’s happening in Paris. And we got more. Much more. The week of terror was far from over – brutal attacks in Nigeria, the Israel, and Mali left around 50 casualties; however, we anchored our emotions in the Paris attacks, because it was easier for Americans to identify with the progressive French than with African people.
If the corporate media belonged to peaceful entities concerned with the well-being, and the collective mental health of the audience and true American values of freedom, if the media had our best interest in mind, this singular interest in Paris would have been used to invite us to reflection and solutions for peace in turbulent times. But it does not. These media belong to moguls who serve only the interests of the corporations they govern.
Additionally, this is an election year, and the last thing the media have on their mind is our well-being or collective mental health. The lobbyists of fear, who are also tracking down our interest from digital data, fuel our concerns to promote their agendas, by preying on the strong fear risen from junctures like this.
From pulpits and from political platforms, the lobbyists of fear have asked to close our borders to refugees or immigrants, stigmatize the Other with visible marks, worse yet, round the Other into concentration camps. They have fueled the strong emotions and reactions the fear elicits within us with incendiary discourse, which does nothing to help us deal with fear in a positive way. On the contrary, lobbying fear will only further divide our wonderful country, and radicalize the extremists that exist within us in every religion, ethnicity, and political view. Do not forget that the United States has suffered domestic terrorism carried out mostly by white Christian men.
For those of us suffering from mental disorders, these are difficult times. When an individual feels extreme fear over something that is not happening, or over the possibility of something happening, that fear sends signals to the brain that produce hormones and other chemicals. The person gets sick from fear. It is expressed in anxiety, or pain, or lack of sleep. It can disable the individual.
Any therapist will recommend turning off the media and enjoying the small pleasures of the day away from the scary news. Get out, create a supportive network within your community, engage in productive activities, nurture your soul, and be at peace are common suggestions heard at therapist sessions when the individual is in distress and paralyzed or disabled by fear.
It is no different with a society, only that the brain is our collective consciousness and the reaction does not involve brain chemistry.
Nevertheless, we must deal with this situation collectively. Selfish as it is to say, we must, first of all, be thankful that the events of the last weeks are not happening down the street from us. Although our collective fear might be well founded – it can happen to us anytime – the distance from the current events is our leverage, the foundation from which we can build solutions to contribute to world peace. We are not presently in a terrorist crisis in this country. We do not have to act the part.
What looks like a crisis are the many instances of domestic terror inflected on fellow citizens by extremists within our own society and our shared Christianity. Domestic or foreign, if we were in a terrorist crisis, there is little the regular citizen can do but trust our government and our military forces to protect us. That’s why we elect them and that’s why we should raise our voices to stop the fear mongers and the extremists, from whichever side they come from, for taking over the media. That’s what we can do.
Stop the noise.
What we can do collectively is to live in awareness of the danger that exists. We should also be grateful that we live in a country of abundance able to extend a helping hand to those in need, where we can practice any religion or no religion, express our disagreement with the government, have access to education and healthcare, and enjoy civil liberties. Refugees can’t. That’s why they flee their countries.
Channeling our strong emotions into serving our communities, and contributing our part to stop the stigmatization of the Other, to strengthen the values that make this a great nation are only a few strategies to deal with our collective fear. If we tell ourselves a story were we are the scared victims of extremists, we will believe that narrative. Instead, we should believe we are safe and live as such.
Reach out across ethnic, religion and language barriers in our neighborhood, school, and workplace; build bridges of communication to assure each one of us that we love one another and do not mean harm. Welcome, feed and house the refugee. Capture the gesture with your iPhones and make the images of peace the new meme. Even though all those strategies may sound naïve, although they will not stop a terrorist attack, we rather go through a crisis holding our neighbor’s hand than being scare of him/her. Do not let the lobbyist of fear reach your soul or mind, lest we become the next refugees.
Give Peace a Chance.
Diego is a thirteen-year old young man who leaves in Owasso, OK with his mother and brother. I am proud to be a friend of this beautiful and hardworking family.
A few days ago, Karla Aguirre, Diego’s mother, posted the poem on her Facebook and expressed both her pride and concern for her son.
We Will Come Out as Winners
Hello there again.
Can’t remember how long
has it been.
I hate you
why must you still be here
in my life?
As you try to lure me
in closer & closer
with your scythe,
I hate you
& you make me hate me.
Sadly I’m not
the only who’s stuck in this well.
There are & were many
Why can’t you leave us be?
You are a disease,
As we try to save
the ones who had fallen
into your evil craft
we cannot fit the entire world
into one life raft.
As we try to fight you,
the survivors go out of sight.
As you feed on us,
We give ourselves cuts
Trying to either get
you out of our bloodstream
Or to tell others how we scream.
We try to kill you with pills,
But we end up
simply giving you more kills.
You are a cancer.
sadly there is no cure for you.
And as you kill us,
you say “Right on cue.”
You act as if life is your toy to play.
Your only job in this world
is to make us decay.
When you throw a dart,
You always aim for the heart.
You try to make us put knots around our necks.
You make us drink
so we can become a wreck.
And as we put bullets in our heads,
We keep you fed.
But we will still find
the ones who have caught your plague.
While you are still trying to pull our plugs,
You will lose this cruel game.
& we will come out as the winners.
And then we shall never again
allow ourselves to be your dinner.
Oct. 5, 2015
In this Danse Macabre, Diego plays with the idea of death:
in closer & closer
with your scythe.”
After a few lines, the poem reveals how this young man is coping with depression.
“Why can’t you leave us be
You are a disease
As we try to save…”
I am happy he has found poetry to express the dark ruminations of depression.
Through the poem, he is fighting self-destructive thoughts, and professes his determination to win the battle.
“& we will come out as the winners
And then we shall never again
allow ourselves to be your dinner.”
His poem is a little window into this dark world of mental illness, the daily battle against an enemy that makes us self-destruct.
Leave a comment here to support Diego Fernandez. Invite him to continue writing poetry and develop his craft.
Let me share with you this essay by Jennifer Walker, originally published in Quartz, about Mental Health issues in academia. Honest reflection on the psychological cost of pursuing a PhD.
When the FlatRate Moving arrived on a Thursday morning, I heard the familiar beeping of a truck backing up on my street.
I opened the door to a young man in his early 30s.
“My name is Enrique,” he said extending his hand. “I bring two helpers with me. Are you ready to move?”
“Yes. Please, come in.”
I had packed already, carefully placing my belongings in cardboard boxes, numbering each box, listing the content on the top, and closing it with packing tape.
“These are the kitchen boxes. Each room has a set of boxes placed in a corner. Don’t touch anything else. But if you prefer I can be by your side telling you what you can take or not.”
“It’s not the entire house?” Enrique wanted to know.
“No. It’s just me moving out.”
The moment had arrived. I was leaving my husband of 28 years and was handling the experience effectively, but not for long.
When the small crew finished prepping their work and took the first box out the door, I sat on a chair in a corner and started sobbing.
“No chille, don’t cry,” said Enrique. “We won’t damage anything.”
“I know. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
Enrique left to confer with his helpers. I overheard him saying. “Oye muchachos, ándense con cuidado. La señora no se siente bien.” Guys, be careful. The lady is not feeling well.
When I left Venezuela, I didn’t cry. There was so much going on, I was so overstressed and my emotions were so mixed up that I didn’t cry. When I left Canada for US, I cried hidden from my husband because I didn’t want to ruin his moment of triumph. From Ponca City to Owasso, I didn’t even participate in the move. I was living in a studio, sleeping on a deflated air mattress when the movers arrived. My husband took care of it. From Owasso to Los Angeles, I was happy to leave; excited to go to a place I expected to be more open and accepting of me. Although I am thrilled to move to Oakland and start a new job, this time I have been crying for weeks.
I have reasons to cry. I am not leaving a house. I am leaving home – the man I have loved dearly for nearly three decades. I am leaving not because I despise him or regret the life we shared. I am leaving because I want to love him for the rest of my life.
Kike (Short for Enrique) and his two helpers made efforts to cheer me up. They made small talk, played jokes on each other and even posed for pics when I told them I would write about them.
“Is it just me or do people cry when they move? I asked Kike.
“You’d be surprise how many people cry. The divorcing women cry the most. Once somebody was crying because his dog got sick.” Kike said. “Three out of five times we find people crying. They don’t want to move. People want to stay where they are.”
“I know.” I said. “What do you when people cry. I mean you’ve been nice to me, but have you ever had to step in and comfort somebody?” I wanted to know.
“One has to be careful. Just be quiet and stay out of the radar because upset people take it on us, as if we made them move. I tell Juanito and Walter to be careful, that’s all.” Said Kike.
“Once this guy was upset, and he took it on us. He said he didn’t want any Mexicans. We left. The company called me and said they had talked to the guy and he was going to let us work, but I said, “No. I am not going to do the job. He is a racist.” The thing is you don’t know how people are going to react to the move. It’s unsettling. You are not just moving boxes, you are moving people’s lives.”
That’s true. I thanked Kike, Juanito and Walter for their help and fresh support. I never told them I was getting divorced, but I fit their stereotype. Divorcing women cry the most.
In Oakland, Raul and his son brought my boxes in. Again FlatRate Moving sent a nice, attentive, hard working crew to handle my move. Raul was worried that I didn’t bring a TV with me.
“You are a woman, alone, you need a TV,” he said with a genuine frown on his face.
“No señor. I don’t need a TV. I have plenty of books. Gracias, anyway”
The last thing FlatRate Moving’s workers did for me was to ensemble my bed, the place where I will sleep alone for the first time in 28 years.
Thanks FlatRate Moving for your expedite, efficient and caring service. May all your workers be as helpful as Kike and Raul’s crew. May all your clients be nice to you.
Spanish Translation Follows
Cuando llegó FlatRate Moving un jueves en la mañana, escuché el sonido familiar de un camión retrocediendo en mi calle.
Le abrí la puerta a un hombre joven de alrededor de 30 años.
“Mi nombre es Enrique,” me dijo extendiendo su mano. “Traigo dos ayudantes. ¿Ya está lista para mudarse?”
“Si. Por favor, pase.”
Ya había empacado, colocando cuidadosamente mis pertenencias en cajas de cartón, numerando cada caja, detallando el contenido en la tapa de arriba, y cerrándola con cinta de empacar.
“Estas son las cajas de la cocina. Cada habitación tiene un grupo de cajas colocadas en una esquina. No toque nada más. Si prefiere, me puedo parar a su lado para decirle lo que puede y no puede llevar.”
“No nos llevamos todo,” Enrique quiso saber.
“No. Me mudo yo sola.”
El momento había llegado. Iba a dejar a mi esposo de 28 años y estaba manejando la experiencia efectivamente, pero no sería por mucho tiempo más.
Cuando la pequeña cuadrilla de hombres terminó de preparar su trabajo y sacaron la primera caja por la puerta, me senté en una silla en un rincón y empecé a llorar.
“No chille,” dijo Enrique, “no vamos a quebrarle nada.”
“Lo sé. No tiene nada que ver con ustedes.”
Enrique reunió a sus ayudantes. Le escuché diciendo, “Oye muchachos, ándense con cuidado. La señora no se siente bien.”
Cuando deje Venezuela, no lloré. Estaban pasando muchas cosas. Estaba súper estresada y tenia las emociones tan revueltas que ni siquiera lloré. Cuando salí de Canadá para Estados Unidos, lloré escondida de mi esposo porque no quería arruinarle su momento triunfal. De Ponca City a Owasso, ni siquiera participé en la mudanza. Ya yo vivía en un estudio, durmiendo sobre un colchón de aire desinflado, cuando la mudanza llegó. Mi esposo se encargó. De Owasso a Los Ángeles, estaba contenta de irme, emocionada de ir a un lugar del que esperaba más apertura y aceptación. A pesar de estar entusiasmada de venir a Oakland y empezar un nuevo empleo, esta vez he estado llorando por semanas.
Tengo razones para llorar. No estoy dejando una casa. Estoy dejando mi hogar –el hombre al que he amado profundamente por casi tres décadas. Estoy dejándolo no porque lo odie o me arrepienta de la vida que hemos compartido. Lo estoy dejando porque quiero amarlo por el resto de mi vida.
Kike, (así llaman a Enrique) y sus dos ayudantes se esforzaron por levantarme el ánimo. Hablaban de esto o aquello, se hacían bromas entre ellos e incluso posaron para que les tomara fotos cuando les dije que iba a escribir sobre ellos.
“¿Soy sólo yo o la gente llora en las mudanzas?” le pregunté a Kike.
“Le sorprendería saber cuando gente llora. Las mujeres que se están divorciando lloran más. Una vez alguien se puso a llorar porque se le enfermó el perrito,” dijo Kike. “ Encontramos gente llorando en tres de cada cinco casas. La gente no se quiere mudar. La gente quiere quedarse donde están.”
“Yo se,” le dije. “¿Qué hacen ustedes cuando la gente llora? Quiero decir, ustedes han sido amables conmigo, pero han tenido que hacer algo más para consolar a alguien?” Quise saber.
“Uno tiene que tener mucho cuidado. Estarse quietecito, y pasar desapercibido porque la gente cuando está llorando puede agarrarla contra nosotros, como si nosotros tuviéramos la culpa de la mudanza. Le digo a Juanito y a Walter que tengan cuidado, eso es todo,” dijo Kike.
“Una vez un hombre estaba molesto, y la agarró contra nosotros. Nos dijo que no quería ningún mexicano. Nos fuimos. La compañía me llamó y me dijeron que habían hablado con el hombre y que nos iba a dejar trabajar, pero yo dije que ‘no voy a hacer este trabajo. Él es un racista.” La cosa es que uno no sabe como la gente va a reaccionar a las mudanza. Perturba. Nosotros no estamos mudando solo cajas, estamos mudando la vida de las personas.”
Eso es bien cierto. Agradecí a Kike, Juanito y Walter por su ayuda y su apoyo fresco. Nunca les dije que yo me estaba divorciando, pero encajo en su estereotipo. Las mujeres que se están divorciando son las que más lloran.
En Oakland, Raul y su hijo trajeron mis cajas. Ottra vez FlatRate Moving envió un cuadrilla de hombres amables, atentos y trabajadores. Raúl estaba preocupado porque yo no tenía televisor.
“Usted es una mujer sola, necesita un televisor,” me dijo con una cara de preocupación genuina.
“No señor, no necesito tele. Yo tengo bastante libros. Gracias de todos modos.”
Lo último que hicieron por mi los trabajadores de FlatRate Moving fue armar mi cama, donde dormiré sola por primera vez en 28 años.
Gracias a FlatRate Moving por su servicio expedito, eficiente, y humano. Qué todos sus trabajadores sean tan servicial como los grupos de Kike y Raul. Qué todos sus clientes sean amables con ustedes.
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