Thursday, March 9, 2017

Why I bought a cactus that says "I thrive on neglect" on the label...

Hey you, yes you, tugging at your pencil skirt with blurry eyes looking over that memo one last time. I see you and I feel you. It is hard being a woman in your 20s. The media, our parents, facebook, and certain instagram accounts told us that this would be the time of our lives: climbing the corporate ladder, becoming independent and stable, exploring the world around us.

It is the time to be witty and charming and fearless but instead you feel like if you do not have one more cup of coffee your snarkiness level will envelope everyone in a 100 mile radius.  You are really learning what you are up against outside of the safety of your university. You are seeing the glass ceilings, you are making hard choices, you are keeping your chin up when you feel like cowering at the table.

If you are like me your 20s are probably filled with more questions than answers. This is not the time in your life for the nice house and minivan. This is the time in your life for easy mac and thrift stores. For splurging on that gym membership so you can fit into your clothes because you cannot afford to buy new ones. Sometimes you hit roadblocks. Some people tell you that you are young and naive and you do not understand. Others want to know why you aren't jumping at every opportunity saying you should know more than the previous generations.

Some think you are too progressive in your ideology and you do not understand how the world turns. Others think you must be crazy to be so conservative saying you will miss out on the important things in life. The number of places you still want to see in the world is almost as large as the number on your student loan payment. The list of books you need to read is collecting dust on your shelf but your passion to be well rounded keeps nagging at you that you should read at least one chapter tonight even if you have to have one more cup of coffee to make it happen. You cannot get away from the barrage of news updates because you have to be in the loop. You have to know what is happening, not just in your country but in the world-the economist, New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, maybe a few more.  

You do not know how some people can be so ignorant then you look at your diploma and wonder what you even learned in all those classes. You lust for adventure, you crave stability. You feel like you might possibly implode just worrying about yourself yet you demand a more just world for those you have not even met.

If this sounds like you then I think you are doing it right.

For the last few weeks I felt like like I am being crushed by a heavy weight. I have wondered why everything that seemed so bright right out of college now seems so daunting. I have faced setbacks and had some great times. I have laughed until my lungs burned and cried at 8 in the morning because I couldn’t find my bra-and I think that is ok.

I have friends who are figuring it all out; they are married (or getting there), they have a career, and, a few of them, even have children...on purpose. I, on the other hand, have a cactus that I was very attracted to because it said “I thrive on neglect” across the pot and that is the kind of positivity I need in my life right now. I constantly wonder what is wrong with me.

Just recently, almost one full year removed from walking across that stage under the Carolina blue sky, decided what the next step will look like. And that step will take me 3-5 more years and then there will be another step that I cannot see yet. Sometimes that annoys me so badly I want to throw my neglected cactus but I also find it real and raw and that is what I have always wanted, a raw life.

The 3-5 year plan, or heck in my case right now the 3-5 month plan, is perfectly ok. It is a chance for adventure, it is a chance for healing, it is a chance to meet one new person, try one new food, live in one new place, learn one new thing. And it sometimes it SUCKS, ROYALLY, but that is part of the fun too.

Someday when you are eating a fully nutritious diet with plenty of colors on your plate, looking over soccer schedules, work agendas, car payments, and new life insurance policies you might just laugh and call up your friend saying, “Remember that time we ate mac and cheese for a month to make rent and filled up jugs of water from work so we could keep our water bill down?” And, I honestly truly believe, those will be the nights you remember.

So, for now, you are killing it. Even if you do not feel like you are because your 20s are a time of transition. They are saving up all season for one weekend on the ski slopes. They are sleeping in a tent to get to see that concert because you cannot afford a hotel. They are thinking taco bell is a great date night.

So, wear that red lipstick a little too boldly on Friday night, read the memo and extra time before you send it to your boss, cut yourself some slack if you haven't read every Herman Melville novel yet, and let your roaring 20s hear you roar back.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why I insist on calling it a Muslim Ban...36 hours of research later...

            I was not going to write anything about it, mostly because this blog was not meant to be a political commentary. But, when people who claim to be educated individuals insisted on reposting the horrendous National Review Article “Separating Facts From Hysteria” and when people in the church started singing the praises of blocking innocent people for their own safety I could not be quiet any longer. I am not an expert in this but, like any American who holds their rights dear, I did my research and this is my conclusion/information based on hours of reading.

Why do we insist on calling it a Muslim Ban?
            I believe that this is the most pressing question to consider. Many people in the media, academia, political arena, and everyday life insist on calling this a Muslim ban and not a travel ban because that is what the facts point to. From the beginning of his campaign, president Trump insisted he would impose some sort of Muslim ban and this executive order begins to set the stage for that ban to be implemented. In section 5 b of the executive order it states:
Upon the resumption of USRAP admissions, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality.  Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization (Emphasis mine).
The countries exclusively mentioned (however not in the executive order those had to be clarified later) are predominantly Muslim countries. This minority exception opens the doorway for Christians and Yazidis to flee the country but not Muslims fleeing the same kind of oppression and persecution. I would like to remind you that ISIS is just as much an enemy of Islam as it is of America.
            Let’s just take a look at Syria. According to the CIA World Fact book Syria’s religious break down looks like this: “Muslim 87% (official; includes Sunni 74% and Alawi, Ismaili, and Shia 13%), Christian 10% (includes Orthodox, Uniate, and Nestorian), Druze 3%, Jewish (few remaining in Damascus and Aleppo).” When looking at the other countries we see very similar patterns. This means that while some have minority classification needed to escape war, terror, and poverty, the vast majorities in these countries do not.
            It is hard to view this as a travel ban based on safety when it seems to be clearly divided by Muslim vs. everyone else. Not calling this a Muslim ban, as a historian I truly respect pointed out this morning, is like saying the literacy test under Jim Crow in the 40s-60s were not about race. They might not explicitly state they target African Americans but the numbers, the history, and the application does-just like this executive order.

This is for national security:
            Sigh.  I know the idea of jihad is super scary. But the facts just do not point to the necessity of this kind of ban. According to Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, “Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.” ZERO. He goes on to state that “Over the last four decades, 20 out of 3.25 million refugees welcomed to the United States have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on U.S. soil, and only three Americans have been killed in attacks committed by refugees—all by Cuban refugees in the 1970s.” For those of you that hate math that means that in 40 years only .000000006% of refugees admitted to the United States have successfully committed violent crimes.
                  Actually according to a report from the National Consortium for the study of terrorism and the response to terrorism “3,066 Americans have been killed in terrorist attacks from 9/11/2001 through 12/31/2014, including perpetrators and excluding deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.
·      2,961 of these deaths occurred on American soil.
·      2,902 of these deaths occurred during the attacks on September 11, 2001. “
This report means that only 59 deaths occurred in the United States due to terrorism in 13 years with the exception of 9/11. However, none of the 9/11 hijackers were from the selected countries.
            Let’s look at it another way really fast then I promise I will move on. From 1975 to 2015 in the state of North Carolina ALONE had 23,662 murders (none of them in acts of terrorism). That is 23,603 more deaths in ONE state (one small state not even looking at states that have large cities like Chicago or New York) than in all the terrorism acts (excluding 9/11) combined in the same years (Stats on violence in the state of North Carolina from The Disaster Center Crime Index).

Have you forgotten 9/11?
            No, I have not. And neither have the other millions of Americans who agree this is ridiculous. The Cato institute points out that “The 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 men—from Saudi Arabia (15), the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt (1), and Lebanon (1). The incident remains influential in how Americans think about the nature of terrorism; Trump’s executive order cites 9/11 as a prime example of the U.S. visa process catastrophically breaking down.” The countries selected do not make sense. Why are Saudi Arabia and Egypt (both countries Trump has over 11 business deals in) not on this list if he truly cares about safety?
            Just a side note refugees go through a rigorous vetting process before being admitted to the country. If we were going to put our time and resources into anything it would be strengthening the resources at the state departments disposal to improve vetting times/accuracy even though it has already proven pretty good.

“President Obama and congress agreed on these countries:”
            I am sorry but that is not true. First, president Obama has released a statement that this is an egregious violation of the first amendment. Second, these are countries that were deemed “countries of concern.” A country of concern is somewhere an American citizen should not vacation. Why? Because places like Somalia and Syria are what the state department deems as “failed states.” The same reason that Americans should not take a summer vacation to these places is the same reason that refugees are running out of them.

Jihadist are celebrating this:
            Maybe you think I am a bleeding heart liberal but leading conservatives, such as John McCain, have pointed out the dangers of this type of policy. Also, there is a major dissent going around the DOJ claiming that the executive order was hasty, ill advised, and dangerous. These are not people who should just shut up and do their jobs; these are people who have dedicated their lives to understanding the nuances of these issues.
            Senator McCain states: “Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”
            Jihad and ISIS are not dissenting political or religious fractions instead they are extremist ideologies. The war against jihad cannot be fought with brute force-strategy and diplomacy must also be employed. ISIS main tactic is to seduce ambivalent Muslims into the belief that the western world hates Islam and as such hates Allah. By isolating and exacerbating the already growing tensions with careless moves like this the number of ISIS fighters rises.
As pointed out by Joby Warrick on January 29: “Robert Richer, a 35-year CIA veteran and former chief of the agency’s Near East division, said the ban was a “strategic mistake” that could undermine future efforts to recruit spies and collect vital information about terrorists and their plans. How, he asked, can CIA officers persuade Iraqi and Syrian nationals to risk their lives to help the United States?
“This was a win for jihadists and other anti-U.S. forces,” said Richer, the deputy chief of the agency’s Operations Directorate during the George W. Bush administration. “It fuels the belief out there that Americans are anti-Islam. Otherwise, it accomplishes nothing, because the ones we are most concerned about can still get to the United States.””
            So yes, I care very deeply about what ISIS thinks/the power they have. I care that when we send our 18-year-old men and women overseas to fight a war that they have every advantage possible and they are not walking into a slaughterhouse set in motion by the fulfillment of a shallow campaign promise.

“Those people do not want to come here they want to go home”
            This is a true statement in a lot of cases (even if you mean it in a hateful way). Many refugees would prefer to go home but unfortunately most of their homes are not there. Trump has ordered that all foreign treatises and aid not dealing with defense be halted and evaluated. So-we are not going to help them here and we are not going to help them there? Do we just leave them in settlements and compounds to starve? Syrians cannot return to Aleppo right now…sooooo suggestions? Many reports point out that camps and compounds are a breeding ground for extremist ideologies-we cannot just leave people sitting there waiting forever.

This is a pure constitutionalist worst nightmare:
            Just remember that if you begin to make exceptions for the first amendment for you and your followers it can be turned against you with existing precedent in the courts. That is a slippery slope to go down. Even the Southern Baptist Convention has voiced its concerns: We understand the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department, State Department, Department of Defense, and National Security Council legal counsel were not adequately consulted before the implementation of the order. We join with Southern Baptist Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.), who stated, “This executive action has some unintended consequences that were not well thought out.”


I am sure I am missing some major arguments but for now this is what I have to offer the ongoing debate. If you claim to be a Christian you are called to be compassionate towards Muslims, Jews, Greek, Christians, atheist, rich, poor, refugee, citizen, white, black, Asian, Syrian, American, Iranian, everyone.