Tag Archives: america

Am I blue? (pondering defeat in the midterm elections…)

Am I Blue?

A loaded question, for certain.  I awake with the feeling – a dread – that a major disaster occurred through the night, and a scorched landscape is revealed by the sunrise.  The political landscape, that is.  (OK, I’m being a bit of a drama queen, I admit.)  The midterm election results are simply disappointing at face value, but troubling at a deeper level.  Hopes of a new guard in Texas and Kentucky and elsewhere have proved fruitless, but still remain active, put on the back burner to simmer and allow the flavor to develop fully.  Disappointment in the minority group in Congress that behaved like a bratty child in the midst of a meltdown when it couldn’t have its way has been replaced by trepidation over how recklessly that same group will behave with its shiny new toy, Majority.

So what am I worried about, exactly? I live in New York City, for crying out loud!  We have marriage equality here.  Women have the support here to be masters of their own bodies.  No one has to SELL us on universal healthcare.  Diversity?  We don’t just talk the talk; we walk the walk…and we do it with a sassy groove.  Samba, salsa, merengue, bhangra, Horah, Yoruba…pick your rhythm.  We GET that our city flows smoothly through the toil of immigrant workers; and for that, we are thankful, not resentful.  We respect and revere our cathedrals, temples, synagogues, churches AND our mosques.

freedom tower

My fiancé, Ralph, and I moved to New York City for new jobs, for excitement, for new perspectives. But the political/social/cultural/economic environment here, so markedly different than the Texas model in which we had grown up, KEEPS us here.  Upon our arrival as residents rather than visitors 10 years ago, it felt as if we had been cloaked in comfort, in freedom, in promise – as if we had been handed the last piece of a large and challenging jigsaw puzzle and bestowed the honor of popping it into place.  I’ve had this conversation with many friends who live or have lived here:  New York City is a tough Mother; but she is loving and just.  She won’t spoon-feed you; but she will reveal opportunity and give you the kick in the butt you need to pursue…no matter WHAT shade of human you are.  Living in New York City, our political, social and world views finally felt in alignment with our surroundings.  Local politics, though scattered with a few shady characters right out of film noir, is generally something we worry very little about.  For the most part, in this area of the country, there really IS a “we’re all in this together” attitude.  So when we vote here, it doesn’t have the same excitement as REVOLUTION.  We vote because it is our honor and privilege; but we aren’t changing the face of politics here or upending the apple cart.  Everyone at the polls is pleasant and calm; there are no camera crews filming outside, no electricity in the air.  We smile at one another, with the mutual and unspoken acknowledgment that we are doing our part to make the political process in New York serve EVERYONE.

So why the HELL do I get so worked up at election time? Why all the petitions, the donations, the political PSAs and voting encouragement on the social media stage? Why all the teeth-gritting and politician-exposing and the twitching finger constantly on the verge of hitting UNFRIEND? Because politics isn’t the same in other parts of the country as it is here in New York City; and I worry for those I love who live in those places.  I worry for my sisters and nieces to have control over every decision regarding their bodies and health – EVERY decision.  I worry for my grandson to have the scientific research and funding to combat the serious and chronic disease that picked the lock and unpacked its sorry luggage.  I worry that my niece has the freedom to love whomever she chooses and has the legal support to protect her relationships.  I worry for the right of all the children in my life to have good, well-funded education based on SCIENCE that will prepare them for the world stage.  I worry for the freedom of my loved ones to worship whomever or whatever they wish, or dismiss it altogether – without anyone getting “all up in their (Holy) Kool-Aid” about it.  I worry for the future of my loved ones to be one of prosperity, not indebtedness; one of abundance, not scarcity.  I worry that in the face of government’s shameless trysts with Big Business, the people I love are becoming faceless.  THAT’s why I get so damned worked up at election time.  Am I blue?  Maybe it’s not so much sadness, but rather, the twisting discomfort of worry that troubles me.  That’s it – I want a color for worry.  We have red for rage, yellow for jubilance.  We need one for worry.  Am I blue?  Maybe I’m just dark maroon.

But, alas, Texas, Kentucky, Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, (fill in any state here), I can’t do it for you.  It’s like being in junior high school and knowing your kid sister is getting bullied in elementary school – you’d kick the bully’s ass if you were there, at the same school.  If it were even remotely an option, I would have cast my ballot to vote out of a job your useless Governors and Representatives; but I can’t.  YOU have to vote.  YOU have to make the difference.  YOU have to hold your elected representatives accountable for representing YOU.  YOU have to pay attention to politics.  YOU have to usher in the new guard.  YOUR life depends on it.

rockthevote

So why is it so different here, in this city, this state, this Northeast region? Is it because the memory of immigration is still so fresh, here?  Is the history, the channel to freedom and opportunity, the Great Melting Pot, still alive, here?  Is it because the abolitionists thrived and did their great work in this region?  Is it because the labor movement triumphed here?  Maybe it’s because here, we get to see the beautiful Lady every day, standing strong in the harbor, reminding us:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame. With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

             -Emma Lazarus

102_3537

I love the adoration my little loved ones hold for the Lady. We are determined to turn the wheels of politics in a direction that benefits them.  I hope that by our example, they will remember and honor the Lady’s inscription; that their world views will be driven by compassion and giving, intelligence and respect, honor and honesty.  I hope that they will soon find a government in service to THEM, a true democracy in which THEY drive, THEY benefit, THEY prosper.

IMG_2045

And oh…Am I blue? HELL yes – Democrat blue, tried and true!!

blue

Advertisements

Immigration and America

Immigrantsonboat

A few days ago, my longtime friend, Rodolfo Ramirez, became an American citizen. I was honored to be able to travel by train to New Haven, CT to witness his naturalization ceremony, along with his partner, John, and his dear friends, Maria, Gitte, Marge and Roberto. I have witnessed this wonderful, loving and talented man transition over the years from a young and magnetic coworker in Mexico City, to a wizened, mature and passionate teacher and resident of Connecticut, to a lifelong friend and confidant – and full-fledged citizen of the United States, to boot!

rodolfo-certificate-smile

PhotoEditor1357970366824

The train ride through New England, and the purpose for the journey, awakened the ghosts of the original American patriots who lived, defended and died here. It made me reflective of my own sense of what patriotism feels like, and what role immigration plays in the spirit of national pride.

Upon arrival at the grand, column-flanked steps of New Haven’s US District Court, overlooking the well-manicured and snow-flecked New Haven Green and the stately, brownstone buildings of Yale University beyond,  a sense of formality, tradition and solemnity overwhelmed me. It was intimidating enough for an American-born citizen such as myself; but I can only guess at the magnitude of feeling instilled in those being naturalized today as they scaled these same, daunting steps, heard the clickety-clack of their heels echoing in the hallowed halls, lowered their voices to whispers soft enough that the sound of their racing heartbeats emerged. What must it feel like, the joy and sadness, of renouncing allegiance to your Motherland, but to finally be able to partake of the American Dream?

PhotoEditor1357968356777

As I passed through the metal detectors – a sad sign of the times – and surrendered my “deadly” Blackberry, i-Touch and NYC subway pass to the attending authorities, I marveled at the sheer diversity of ethnicities ahead of me in line, all going through the motions of surrendering their own, “dangerous contraband”.  (Can you tell I’m just slightly peeved by all this threat-of-terrorism brouhaha?!)  Mexicans, Colombians, Russians, Romanians, Indians, Filipinos, Portuguese, Chinese, Jamaicans, Ghanaians – it was so beautiful: the gorgeous, colorful, varied, happy, nervous faces.

As Rodolfo’s equally-nervous-and-excited cheering section, we settled into our row of seats in the soaring, wood-paneled-and-gilded courtroom; and it struck me that our row alone – each of us flanking our dear friend on his special day – were as diverse and varied ethnically as the crowd filing in.  Each one of us has proud, immigrant roots:  Rodolfo and Maria emigrated from Mexico, Roberto from Argentina, Gitte from Denmark.  John’s family emigrated from Portugal; and Marge’s family escaped the great Potato Famine in Ireland.  Some of my ancestors immigrated to Hawaii from Portugal and China, others from New Jersey via England and Ireland.  Even my “kanaka maoli” ancestors, the native Hawaiians, left their original homelands of Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands to establish a life in paradise.

PhotoEditor1357937786856   PhotoEditor1357969340588

One of the things I love most about living in New York City is its thrilling cultural diversity.  I love being able to stand on a street corner and hear dozens of languages spoken all around me.  (Ralph and I love to eavesdrop, trying to identify all the musical, foreign tongues!)  I cherish the ability to have breakfast at a Ukranian deli, lunch at a Tibetan cafe, dinner at a chic, Peruvian hot spot – and then repeat the next day, with 3 completely different cuisines!  I feel fortunate to be able to cheer and clap along with the myriads lining the streets during Manhattan’s parades, celebrating the people and cultures of Puerto Rico, China, Ireland, India, etc.

On May 1, 2006, a year and half after moving to this amazing city, I left the office on my lunch break to attend the “Day without Immigrants” rally in Union Square.  This was a day in which immigrants nationwide didn’t show up for work (attending the rally, instead), to show how much their adopted cities depended on them to function smoothly.  It was a brilliant response to the anti-immigrant sentiment spreading through our nation at the time – a sentiment that concerned and troubled me.  I figured this sentiment had, at its base, a simple and understandable fear of the unknown.  I reflected on my own feelings; and though I had always had an open mind about it, I did find little “specks” of fear and discomfort in myself.

Day Without Immigrants - May 01, 2006, Union Square, New York - Photo by Daniel Alexander

Day Without Immigrants – May 01, 2006, Union Square, New York – Photo by Daniel Alexander

Attending that NYC rally was just what I needed.  Rather than mobs of conniving, opportunistic devils caricatured in political lampoons, here were masses (over 100,000 people) expressing their love for the United States and the American dream, appreciative of opportunity, with a willingness to work their fingers to the bone for little pay, few or no benefits and very little respect – just to be able to make a better life for their children.  I imagine my deeply-revered immigrant ancestors, as well as those of my fellow row-mates in this courtroom (and, quite frankly, all those here today to pledge their allegiance to our country), possessed the same dreams, hopes, determination, self-sacrifice and love for the U.S.

union square

I stood in awe of, and in solidarity with, this triumphant, unstoppable force of humanity.  My fears diminishing, an awakening began in me.  It became clear that this spirit, this influx of determination and drive, this willingness to “make do”, to improvise, to invent, to bring to the table a completely new range of achievements and experiences in overcoming adversity, is what made this country great – and will make it great, again.

My friend, Rodolfo, doesn’t take for granted the benefits, opportunities and privileges now afforded him.  He cannot wait to vote, to serve on a jury, to dive – face first – into the American Pie (one of which, hilariously, Gitte brought to the courthouse as a gift for him!).  He symbolizes the American spirit for me and encourages me to reawaken that spirit in myself.  Thank you, Rodolfo!  I am honored to be your FELLOW American!

rodolfo-group  PhotoEditor1357967602858   PhotoEditor1357968696157