Some people have become savvy to asking, “Where are you from?” and now lead off their question with “You’re not a typical…white American, so [what are you/what is your background/etc.” What am I? I am a human being, though I wish I was a unicorn so that I could fart rainbows and poop cotton candy. What is my background? I guess it depends where I’m sitting or standing.
I heard that Archbishop Jose Gomez, the archbishop of the Los Angeles diocese was passed up for Cardinal by Pope Francis, because Pope Francis wanted to bring up some of the "smaller" guys. It would have been easy to appoint Archbishop Jose Gomez, because he runs the largest diocese in the United States, which naturally means having great influence. However, Pope Francis decided to show everyone that the guys covering small diocese, the ones who may go unnoticed, are just as important. You can never forget the "little" people, because they too make up our community.
I don't know how true this is, but it sounds like Pope Francis, and it made me think about the state of our country. There's concern that those being appointed to lead our country will only look out for the big guns. Right after our election someone told me, "Justine, you have nothing to worry about, because none of this is likely to affect you. You're not a minority. You're privileged." My mouth dropped a little and I was deeply offended. I'm American-Asian and I'm a woman. How am I not a minority? I understood what she meant though. But regardless of how any policy directly or indirectly affects me, this is my country, my people, my world. These leaders are supposed to stand up for our values and work for the people. Have we all forgotten what the very first line of the preamble to our Constitution says?
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
I started thinking a lot about these words as our country continues to feel more and more divided. WE are the PEOPLE of this great country. If we are to always works towards a more perfect Union, we cannot reject parts of the union, and parts of the people. Having a difference of opinions is one thing; but taking action that most certainly disturbs domestic tranquility and divides the people is another. If we don't work to support ALL the people of our country, then we are only allowing ourselves to fall greatly and fall far. True, times were different when our founding fathers drafted the Constitution, and many of them may have been racist and slave owners, but the preamble to the Constitution does not refer to any specific kind of people like "We the white male People of the United States." Nor does it say, "We the some People." No, it says, simply, "We the People..." Our founding fathers drafted and implemented the Constitution on behalf of ALL Americans.
I keep repeating those words to myself, and I keep thinking about my friends' families who are affected and would be affected by any sort of ban on Muslim countries. How are "We the People" able to split up families, upstanding American families, because we are driven by fear? Many of my friends' families fled dire and perilous situations, came here, worked hard, and lived out their version of the American dream. They embody the American values our forefathers laid out to protect in the Constitution.
The sad part is, this sort of anti-immigrant attitude is not new to our nation; but we live in a time where we shouldn't have to fight this. It's the Muslims today, it was the Italians, Irish, and Chinese before, who will it be ten or twenty years from now? It should be no one, if we remember our Constitution, if we remember what is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”), and if we remember that refugees are people, too. They're escaping the horrors from which we are trying to protect our country. So, we're on the same side.
How can a nation ever be strong if it preys on its most vulnerable links? If you want to fly, you must lift those who helped build your wings.
BIG LOVE & HUGS
As a child, we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day every year. We learned who we was, what he stood for, memorized a part of his "I Have a Dream" speech, and Lord knows how many times I watched "Selma, Lord, Selma"--in school and at home. This year, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day felt especially important.
Just a few days ago, our current President-elect made yet another offensive and unfounded remark. This time he barked back at Rep.John Lewis, who had questioned the President-elect's legitimacy as President. The President-elect claimed Rep. John Lewis is "all talk, talk, talk -- no action or results." Could he be more wrong? At a time when our country is so deeply divided and seemingly stepping back into certain dark periods of the 20th century, the President-elect's ignorant and immature tweet stings deeply. It made me so angry to think that the person who is about to become my president could be so uninformed and uneducated so as to essentially disregard such a crucial time in our American history...my blood boils. I mean, does the guy even know what the Civil Rights Movement is? It felt to me like he might as well pull a Turkey and deny Bloody Sunday. Clearly, the President-elect did not read up on American history, or pay attention in school, or even watch the movie "Selma."
I don't need to go into everything that Rep. John Lewis has done, especially during the civil rights movement, because the internet has already taken care of that for us, but this MLK Day is bigger than celebrating one man. MLK Day is representative of ALL those who stood for positive change in our country, those who stood up and spoke out for what's right. It's clear we still have a long way to go here, which is why this MLK Day is so important.
As I reflect on what this day really means, I ask myself, what can I do, as an American, to move my country forward? That is something we should all think about. Instead of dividing ourselves, what can we do to move ourselves and our country forward? Because this is one damn, beautiful country we live in, with a vibrant spirit unmatched anywhere else. Let's not lose the American spirit.
BIG LOVE & HUGS
This week a photo of French police enforcing the burkini ban by demanding a woman remove her clothing circulated the worldwide web and caused a lot of conversation over the ridiculousness and insulting imposition that had been placed across 30 French towns. Thankfully, France's highest administrative court ruled that mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis and suspended the ban.
When the idea of this burkini ban first arised, I thought how ludicrious. The fear boiling over in the French people (and a lot of people around the world) is not unfounded, but a anti-Muslim attitude is. Is a burkini ban really the way forward? Is telling a woman what she can and cannot wear whilst enjoying the sun and the waves going to stop terrorism? Of course, it's not about women, it's about religion right? Well in this case, the two are intertwined. I couldn't come close to understanding how they could not see the greater harm they were causing. How could they not see the bigger picture of their actions?
Some of these French towns saw their actions as championing secularity. It's about forcing Muslims to better integrate into French culture. Yet, the burkini was invented to help Muslims integrate, because it allowed them to go swimming and to the beach with their peers and friends. What the ban does is quite the opposite--it would alienate Muslims and that is dangerous. It is dangerous when you alienate any group of people. So much for liberte, egalite, and fraternite.
If I were to go to a French beach should I be banned from wearing my pendants of Mary and Jesus and my own saint, Santa Giustina? In a French public school, yes, this would not be allowed, but a public beach where I'm just looking for a good time and some Vitamin D? What if I wore a bikini that says "I LOVE JESUS"? Or what about the nuns???? Are they going to ask a nun to strip herself of her dress and veil??? Look at this first rule I found noted in a BBC article.
The first rule noted here says "...banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism." Who is to judge what is improper clothes and not respectful of good morals? 50 years ago, women's bikinis used to be measured for being "improperly" short. You know what's not respectful of good morals? Talking back to your parents, cheating, judging someone's looks, talking behind someone's back. You know what else is not respectful of good morals? This burkini ban. Maybe we should force everyone to be nude at the beach, no sacks no snacks, then we can really ensure everyone's safety.
As I went on and on enraged by this ordeal, I read various articles regarding the matter--most denouncing the ban and many showing the arguments in support of it. It's sexist, it's discriminatory, and it promotes Islamaphobia. One woman who supports the ban made an interesting point that made me stop to think. She said she was in support of the ban, because it relieved women who if given the choice would choose not to wear the burkini, and instead of facing the pressures of their families and cultural pressures, could blame it on the ban. Perhaps there are women who would choose not to wear a burkini, or a hijab, or other custom wear, but for being conditioned or pressured to wear them. That's the thing though isn't it? It should be a choice. Not matter what side of the sword you're on, it should be a choice. I have Muslim friends who wear hijabs and Muslim friends who don't wear hijabs, but it's their choice.
In fact, I just recently went to the beach with a Muslim friend and she chooses not to wear a hijab. However, she still believes in and is most comfortable in what she feels is modest clothing. She wore some lose yoga pants and a t-shirt, and we had a blast.
The bottom line is this ban went too far. It's on the same spectrum of wrong as shaming a woman for not sticking to traditional values and dress.
The more we play with fear, the more fear will play with us. May we find a way to grow more tolerant and understanding of each other so that we may build a world that does not teach our children to hate.
BIG LOVE & HUGS