Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Other N Word

A few months ago, my son and his friends took his nerf guns to the playground. A bullish group of kids rounded them up, took the nerf guns and started calling them Nazis. My son came upstairs quite bothered about the incident - and rightfully so. But he also did not completely understand why those children were behaving the way they did, and why they were calling them Nazis. He did not even know what a Nazi was at the time.

"Mom, what is a Nasi?" he asked. The term was so new he didn't understand how to pronounce it correctly.

A Nazi. The other N word. After the first N word, I think this one is also pretty bad. It should be pretty straight forward, but yet I find it complex. Wars always are, but this should be one of the easiest political terms to break down for a curious soon-to-be-fourth-grader.

Not only could he be proud that his great grandfather was in the US Air Force at that time, but he could be sure the Nazis were very bad people. They believed they were better than everyone else, hated Jews - and probably others - and killed many people. The countries known as the Allies came together to defeat them.

Our high level discussion was enough for him at the time, as the bigger, rougher kids on the playground were more a more pressing issue in his world. And frankly, those other kids probably didn't really understand what it meant either. They knew that Nazis were bad. They wanted an excuse to use some cool nerf guns, and to to play out that my son and his friends were the bad guys was their way to do it.

Fast forward to a few months later. Now we see people proudly calling themselves Nazis. Only they are not misunderstanding a word on the playground. They are running around in my country, the one that my son is a citizen of, and most identifies with in his third-cultureness using the word properly in its full context. Nazi. Wearing swastikas and demanding that everyone but them be a lesser citizen. It is shocking and horrifying.

I do not know how to tell my son about this, or why this is happening. How do I explain it to a 9 year old? I can't even get my head around it. I had to check the calendar to make sure I did not time travel.

Fast forward again to Friday morning Facebook scan. One of my black friends I have known since childhood posted on his wall that if you are white and do not stand with him in the fight against racism, you could unfriend him.

I have had this a lot on my mind lately.. and not just since Charleston, but since, gosh, forever - whenever I see a social injustice.

Most of my African American friends are pretty quiet. I am sure they are speaking out in other ways. And I don't think everyone has to overshare their opinions on Facebook either, unless they want to. What is happening right now is pretty unbelievable and outrageous, and I am surprised that more people are not speaking out.

I am a firm believer that complacency is just as bad. And I see so much of it. I keep thinking of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, that said "The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference".

This is what I feel I am observing. No one wants to get involved. No one wants to say anything. "It is happening over there." "Those people are crazy". "Not my circus".

And to some level I get it. Who wants to get engaged in some social media battle about who is right and who is wrong because everyone seems to listen with their political ego rather than listen with their hearts. When there are a million "ya buts" and "but Obama" and "but emails" and "both sides" responses that have nothing to do with the actions of what is happening right now, I get it. But right now, for me, not saying something looks like indifference and that I do not care.

So why the long post then? Because I will say this one time, and I felt it needed some background. This is why I don't do well on Twitter because expressing something so complex should be done in more than 140 characters.

I feel pretty helpless. What can I possibly do from abroad other than write "my" politicians and continue to vote. There is no Facebook post profound enough to express anything that would not have already been said.

But be sure my dear friend, I would absolutely stand up to a crazed racist in any second. I am with you and I stand beside you. I have no idea what it is like to walk in your shoes and what you are feeling as you watch this unfold is probably so much heavier than what I am feeling.

Although I feel pretty helpless, I have decided there is one more thing I can do. The best thing I think I can do is to continue to raise my blond-headed blue eyed child to know what is right and what is wrong. Continue to send him to a school that values kindness and respects everyone there. Continue to teach him to respect all religions. Continue to expose him to the injustices of the world so that when he is older he will be part of the solution instead of a part of the problem, or not indifferent to it.

While his father is from a predominantly Muslim country, he will never really "pay" that price as many Muslims do in the US due to his physical appearance. He is proud of his heritage, but no one ever stops him in an airport because of his skin color or father's origins. Instead, as a Type 1 Diabetic, he gets stopped for juice boxes and wearing a "suspicious" insulin pump that they think is a bomb. I don't share this with you for sympathy, or even empathy. I share this with you so you know the depths that the absurdity runs.

This is no where near the outrage that you have had to endure my friend.

I am not optimistic that all of my countrymen and women are raising their children with open hearts and open minds. This worries me - for my son's future and yours.

However, be sure that I will continue to do my best to counteract the violence and hate that comes from those using the other N word.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Terrace, Dubai

Beyond the grass, across the creek lies a city that was once a desert...

A few weeks ago images for a place called The Terrace started showing up in my Instagram feed. Last weekend I went to check it out and it did not disappoint. 
Equipped with tables, comfortable seating space, coffee, tea and a food truck, you can enjoy these small comforts as you watch one of the most spectacular sunsets in Dubai.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy 2016

2015 closed in a very unexpected way...

We were at home as usual to enjoy the Burj Khalifa fireworks with neighbors. As the world knows, before midnight a fire broke out at one of the landmark hotels near the Burj Khalifa.

While we could not see the building due to other skyscrapers in our line of sight, we could see the flames reflecting off the windows of another building.

Completely confused and unexpected, we were not sure if the typical Dubai new year would continue. We turned off our music, got the kids interested in a movie and sat outside waiting to see what would happen. We were relieved to read that all were evacuated.

Much to our surprise, fireworks went off at midnight. They were beautiful. It was bittersweet as we could see the smoke of the hotel in the background.

As one friend summed up, it was a difficult year for many. Many things happened in the world, and for others many personal changes are happening. What a surreal way to close out 2015.

Several weeks ago my son's Boy Scout troop got a chance to go to the fire station and meet some of the Dubai Civil Defense team. It was impressive, and I learned a lot. In particularly, I learned that they do have plans and the ability to respond to these kinds of things. I certainly wish them well and thank them for containing this to the best of their ability.

No resolutions for me for 2016...  2015 closed with another  reminder that we never know what the future holds and life can change in an instant.

I just want to keep doing more, stay healthy and motivated to make a change in the world - even if a small one. My blog hiatus has been a result of focussing on that in the last few months of 2015.

I hope that 2016 will bring a lot of change. Watch this space.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Chamonix & Mont Blanc

If you haven't seen them yet, some images from my August trip to Chamonix are up. I didn't think I was a mountain person, but I might be now. Beautiful weather, everything outdoors - what a great place to spend the summer!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Realities of Life

It was the second week of second grade.

Things were going well, but it was a sad weekend for the UAE.  As if there was not enough happening on this side of the world, the UAE and some other countries have been clashing with rebels in Yemen. The UAE lost 45 soldiers over that weekend.

This may be the biggest loss of its kind for this 43 year old country - it has been in the several years I have lived here. Officially three days of mourning were observed.

Until now, I have somewhat sheltered my son from the harsh realities of the world. I am very matter of fact with him, but I figure in time he will learn what a challenging place the world is, so let me let him enjoy innocence as long as possible.

The morning after the announcement, he caught a glimpse of a picture in the newspaper I was reading and asked me to go back to it. It was an image of the caskets returning home covered in UAE flags. While we are not citizens, my son was born here and he is quite proud of our residency. He loves the UAE and feels a sense of pride about living here.

He asked me about the picture. I decided it was better he take that step with me than learn it from the playground. So I told him. I explained to him there was a battle in another country and the UAE lost many soldiers.

"How many?" he asked.  When I answered that question his mouth stayed open for a long time as he digested the information. He asked how they died. Unsure how deep to go, I told him it was in a battle and I was not sure.

I went on to explain that this was a very sad day for the UAE and there were three official days of mourning - including 24 hours of classical music or continuous prayer on all radio channels.

Being the curious child that he is, he asked to hear what was on the radio. Our usual morning show we listen to on the way to school was now a continuous stream of classical music.

Thinking he might become too melancholy, I offered to play some music from my phone. "No. It's okay. Leave it." he said.

After several minutes he asked me if the flags would be at half mast.  I hadn't even thought of that, but I told him they probably would be. Sure enough when we arrived at school, all the flags were half mast.

I left school looking at the flags again knowing that this is the day I opened the door to the other part of the world he has yet to be informed about. I barely opened it. It was just a crack, but there are so many things behind that door that we can't hold it closed forever.

.... I wrote the above article the night after this discussion happened, but did not publish it right away.  A few days later, the UAE had another official mourning period. This time not due to a battle, but because Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum lost one of his sons, Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed. May he rest in peace.

My son heard the praying on the radio and asked if it was for the soldiers. When I explained why, he did not ask too many questions this time, but spent more time thinking.... The door ever so slightly cracked a little more.

Flags at half mast in Dubai during the mourning period