Making America Not So Great

“Despite everything, I really believe that people are really good at heart,” said the late Anne Frank. Frank is best known as the author of the Diary of Anne Frank, an account of her life in hiding during World War II. Non-Jews risked their lives to hide the Franks and another family in a warehouse in Amsterdam from the occupying Nazi’s. In August 1944 the Nazi’s uncovered their hiding place and sent the two families to concentration camps where Frank died before her sixteenth birthday. Frank endured discrimination, fear, hunger, deprivation and finally death from the murderous regime yet she still believed in the goodness of humanity. I find that almost unbelievable yet laudable and inspiring. I look at today’s events in the USA under a president who surrounds himself with neo-Nazi supporters, bigots, feckless politicians and cruel people. I am shocked and repulsed by a president who uses children, fearful and crying, as a bargaining chip to get his much-publicized and useless wall against Mexico, our neighbor, friend, and trading partner. I am perplexed by a president who has little or no knowledge of economic policies yet believes trade wars are winnable. They are not. The last time the USA engaged in trade wars we found ourselves right smack in the midst of the Great Depression. I am angry by a president who said he would balance the budget yet turned around and passed an ill-advised tax cut that caused the largest budget deficit in history. I am sickened by his relentless tirades against immigrants. Two of his three wives are immigrants. The US economy will soon collapse without immigrant labor. I am furious at his treatment of Latino children. He would not subject white children to the same harsh treatment. I personally am impacted by his wicked campaign against the poor. They deem us unworthy. We pay more while his affluent friends and corporations pay less in taxes. I am saddened that our president embraces dictators yet hurls vile insults at our allies. I am perplexed by the GOP, the alleged party of fiscal responsibility, supports a president who spends our tax money like a drunken sailor. I am disgusted by a president who shows no leadership skills, who has no morals or ethics. He is being sued by women for sexual inappropriate behavior and uses his office to shield himself from litigation. I wonder about a president who claims to be Christian yet lies every day. That’s not a Christian value. It’s not a human value. I am disturbed by US Customs and Border Patrol agents who apparently run over US citizens for no good reason. I am fed up with bus drivers who demand that passengers be US citizens to board a bus. What is happening in the USA? There has always been bigotry and intolerance. Look at our history of discrimination against Blacks for example. We interned Japanese citizens during World War II. But it has never been like this. I am 64 years old. I’ve seen a lot. The election of Donald Trump has unleashed an acceptable wave of hatred against immigrants, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Asians, disabled people, gays, etc. It is NOT acceptable. There is something wrong here and it has to change. Donald Trump and his supporters lack a conscience. They are heartless. I want none of them as friends. I pray for them. I pity them. I thank Allah that, for all my faults and sins, I at least know right from wrong. I have decency. I may not always like what goes on around me, but I try to understand it. I do not lash out. I pray for understanding when it’s needed. I contribute to a better world. May Allah make America safe from Donald Trump and those who think he’s doing the right thing. His version of Making America great is pathetic, shameful and worrisome.

 

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Another year, another Ramadan

Ramadan, the holiest Muslim holiday, is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is believed that Ramadan is the month in which Muhammad (PBUH) received the revelations that ultimately become the Quran. A month of fasting from sun up to sun down, Muslim men and women refrain from food, water, smoking and sexual activity. The elderly, sick, nursing mothers, pregnant women and children are not expected to fast. Fasts are broken with family and friends at a meal called the iftar Ramadan is a time of extra prayers, introspection, and charitable acts. It ends with a three-day festival called Eid-al-Fitr. My fourth and most recent Ramadan wasn’t what I expected. I usually attend evening prayers called Taraweeh at the Islamic Center of the East Valley. My perfect attendance records for Taraweeh prayers ended this year due to illness that took three doctor visits to cure. I missed a few nights and left early on others. I was also hit with unexpected news about a rent increase. I thought I was safe from rent increases in HUD (Housing and Urban Development). Not so. HUD Secretary, Ben Carson, says HUD recipients, all of whom are poor like me, should pay more. Living in public housing he says breeds dependency. He also said seniors and disabled people like me would be exempt from increases. He lied. I’ll soon be paying 40% of my meager Social Security in rent. At first, I cried for a week but what can I do? The rest of Ramadan I prayed, read the Quran, performed my usual volunteer work, and attended Taraweeh prayers. I was a guest at a few iftars. I ran into an old friend who invited me twice to her home to spend it with her family. That was a lovely surprise. I spent an afternoon with another friend and her children. Sisters cooked more food for me than I can eat so my freezer is full to the brim. Almost every evening at the Masjid, I greeted sisters I knew. I made new friends too. A sister who I had just met overheard me talking to someone about the HUD rent increases and gave me $50. Wow, I was in tears by her kindness. My family never even sent me a card when I earned a master’s degree. Other strangers have shown similar kindness to me over the years. I thank them for their mercy too. I’ll miss the evenings at Masjid al Salam, a smaller mosque in Chandler with a more intimate setting, and the talks we sisters had. We prayed well together too. I’ll miss Ramadan even though Taraweeh prayers started around the time I usually went to bed. I don’t fast due to a chronic illness, but I have great respect for my sisters and brothers who went all day without food and water, especially here in Phoenix where it’s blistering hot. I’ll miss the closeness I felt with my sisters during Taraweeh prayers. I’ll miss the iftars and the joy everyone felt at this time of year. May Allah bless us all and bring us safely to another Ramadan.

June 12, 1982

June 12, 1982

 

The sun lit up clear blue skies. The temperatures were moderate for mid-June in New York City. I attended the anti-nuclear march with friends from work. The rally drew almost 1 million people of all ages, races, religions and sexes. We marched from mid-town to Central Park to hear speeches about saving ourselves from Armageddon. There was not a single arrest either. It was one of the largest peaceful marches in US history. I have no pictures, just the memory of being there among my fellow Americans concerned about the dangerous escalating arms race between our country and the former USSR. Despite the bombast from politicians nuclear war is unwinnable. Today’s bombs are so much more lethal and destructive than the ones that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. A nuclear war will be the end of all mankind. A bomb will send up a huge dark cloud of toxic ash that will block the sun. Crops will not grow. Our water will be poisoned. Millions of people as well as animals will die after the first blast. Those who survive will be sickened from radiation poisoning. Emergency services will be overwhelmed with casualties. There will be no tomorrow. Don’t kid yourself to think the world is safer with nuclear weapons. No one needs them. Not the USA, not a single country. A nuclear war will be the end of everything we know and love. I pray to Allah that our politicians have the sense to never start the beginning of the end.

What’s going on

What’s going on?

That was a hit song by the late Marvin Gaye in the tumultuous 1960s when the USA was rocked by the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights. Concerned people, mostly youth, flocked to the streets to protest the injustice and cruelty of legalized segregation. Protesters rallied against the futile efforts in Southeast Asia where tens of thousands of soldiers, most of whom were minority men drafted into service, were killed in a war that could not be won. Now we are at another crucial point in history. A failed business man with no appreciable sense of governance, a vulgar vile and immoral personality, and no sense of diplomacy, is president. The USA, once proud and mighty, has drifted towards a dangerous crossroads. The president mocks the free press, the cornerstone of a democracy. He shows no respect for the judiciary, a vital aspect of our democracy. He insults our allies rather than builds trust. He has limited knowledge of economic policies, so business grows, and people have jobs. He lies repeatedly. He surrounds himself with aides who have little or no experience in departments they head. Ben Carson is a perfect example. A former neurosurgeon is now the head of housing and urban development. What I ask is he doing in that ever so critical position? Our state department where employees started out of college with degrees in international studies and worked their way through the ranks has been decimated. It is a shadow of its former self. So are many government agencies such as the EPA, the Justice Department, and Health and Human Services. Furthermore, the USA is a nation of immigrants. Recall if you will that the Native American lived here first. It was not their problem that Europeans faced issues such as famine and religious persecution. Yet the Native Americans lost their land and almost their lives because boat loads of Europeans started to arrive in 1492 and never stopped. The Native Americans, those who survived years of oppression, were shoved onto worthless scraps of land we know as reservations. Now, the Trump administration has the unmitigated gall to restriction legal immigration to a trickle. We have always welcomed those in need. They separate children from mothers who ask for asylum. The feckless Republican party doesn’t have the guts to vote on comprehensive immigration reform as did their predecessor Ronald Reagan, the last one to do so in 1986. We sit by and watch idly as the EPA under Trump’s orders rolls back vital regulations to protect our fragile environment. We sit by as the Trump administration relaxes banking regulations that were enacted to prevent another financial disaster like the 2007 recession that caused massive unemployment and housing losses. We sit by while Trump undoes regulations that protects animals and wildlife. I am sickened by the few nations that support Trump. I am revolted by the Evangelical Christians who think Trump is doing a fine job. I am scared of the growing violence in this country against immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Latinos, etc. by people who think it’s OK now. I am disturbed by the idea that Trump could possibly win re-election. If you support this man and are reading this, I wonder what kind of heart you have.

What’s going on?

What’s going on?

That was a hit song by the late Marvin Gaye in the tumultuous 1960s when the USA was rocked by the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights. Concerned people, mostly youth, flocked to the streets to protest the injustice and cruelty of legalized segregation. Protesters rallied against the futile efforts in Southeast Asia where tens of thousands of soldiers, most of whom were minority men drafted into service, were killed in a war that could not be won. Now we are at another crucial point in history. A failed business man with no appreciable sense of governance, a vulgar vile and immoral personality, and no sense of diplomacy, is president. The USA, once proud and mighty, has drifted towards a dangerous crossroads. The president mocks the free press, the cornerstone of a democracy. He shows no respect for the judiciary, a vital aspect of our democracy. He insults our allies rather than builds trust. He has limited knowledge of economic policies, so business grows, and people have jobs. He lies repeatedly. He surrounds himself with aides who have little or no experience in departments they head. Ben Carson is a perfect example. A former neurosurgeon is now the head of housing and urban development. What I ask is he doing in that ever so critical position? Our state department where employees started out of college with degrees in international studies and worked their way through the ranks has been decimated. It is a shadow of its former self. So are many government agencies such as the EPA, the Justice Department, and Health and Human Services. Furthermore, the USA is a nation of immigrants. Recall if you will that the Native American lived here first. It was not their problem that Europeans faced issues such as famine and religious persecution. Yet the Native Americans lost their land and almost their lives because boat loads of Europeans started to arrive in 1492 and never stopped. The Native Americans, those who survived years of oppression, were shoved onto worthless scraps of land we know as reservations. Now, the Trump administration has the unmitigated gall to restriction legal immigration to a trickle. We have always welcomed those in need. They separate children from mothers who ask for asylum. The feckless Republican party doesn’t have the guts to vote on comprehensive immigration reform as did their predecessor Ronald Reagan, the last one to do so in 1986. We sit by and watch idly as the EPA under Trump’s orders rolls back vital regulations to protect our fragile environment. We sit by as the Trump administration relaxes banking regulations that were enacted to prevent another financial disaster like the 2007 recession that caused massive unemployment and housing losses. We sit by while Trump undoes regulations that protects animals and wildlife. I am sickened by the few nations that support Trump. I am revolted by the Evangelical Christians who think Trump is doing a fine job. I am scared of the growing violence in this country against immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Latinos, etc. by people who think it’s OK now. I am disturbed by the idea that Trump could possibly win re-election. If you support this man and are reading this, I wonder what kind of heart you have.

The Girl from Aleppo

The Girl from Aleppo

I bought this book on a whim at my favorite bookstore, Changing Hands. It’s a story of a Syrian Kurd family who like other Syrians, Muslim and Christian, lived as friends and neighbors until civil war broke out. Sixteen-year old Nujeen, the youngest in a large family, was born with cerebral palsy. Naturally, escaping from the carnage and destruction in Aleppo, a once thriving city, was a challenge. Her older sister Nasrine deserves much of the credit for protecting her as well as pushing her along railroad tracks, rutted trails and through littered roadways. They traveled also by taxi, bus, train and boat until eventually reaching Germany. Read the book for yourself to see how brave these young ladies faced incredible danger, slept outside in the cold, went for days without food and clean clothing. Yet they also encountered kindness from strangers, such as Greeks, Serbians, and Croats who gave them clothing, food and water. There is talk about the sorrow of fellow refugees, professional Syrian men and women who left jobs as doctors, accountants and lawyers now lined up at decrepit refugee centers awaiting scraps of food. Thieves stole money and food from refugees on their journey to safety. Families became separated in the chaos. Sometimes mothers couldn’t find children. So much deprivation caused by years of war and deprivation in Syria, Afghanistan and other countries robbed people of their humanity. Sometimes they rushed ahead of food lines. Other times refugees lied saying they were Syrians hoping to gain asylum in European countries, now overwhelmed by the mass exodus of desperate people. Yet through it all, the two Syrians sisters who the book centers on retained their dignity and sense of self. They eventually rejoined their brothers in Germany and were granted asylum to start new lives. Syria, they said, would always be with them. As I folded clothes in the Helping Hands warehouse today I cried thinking about the lives of the refugees we send our supplies to. What are their lives like in the camps? In the cities and towns from which they flee? And then I think of leaders like Donald Trump who surrounds himself with advisors who advocate war. What has war achieved in Syria? What has it achieved anywhere? Talk of bombing North Korea and Iran scares me. It will accomplish nothing. Absolutely nothing. There’s strength in numbers as evidenced by the Redfored movement. Teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona and other states walked out of schools and went on strike for better pay and improved conditions in the schools. If we want to save our world and I hope we do, we must do the same. Demand that our leaders end this foolish talk of war and start to focus on peace. With Donald Trump as president that won’t be easy. Let’s make sure America that he does NOT get a second term. Give peace a chance but don’t give Donald Trump a second term. We want peace, not war.

 

Remembering Dr. King

Fifty years ago today, April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN. A leader of the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King led marches, protests, and sit-ins to end legalized segregation in the US where it had existed for decades. Jailed, beaten, and threatened with death and bodily harm, Dr. King always insisted on non-violence, turning the other cheek. Hatred was too great a burden to bear so Dr. King chose love. He tried to improve the quality of life for all Americans not just Blacks. He spoke up for the poor. He challenged the government’s unwinnable war in Viet Nam, which drafted mostly poor Black and White young men. His sacrifices were honored with the Nobel Prize in 1964. Dr. King’s loss touched us as a nation. I cried when I watched his funeral on television. His four little children no longer had a daddy. But look at ourselves now long and hard and what we have become. Have we fulfilled Dr. King’s dreams? In some ways yes, in other ways no. Children of all races and religions attend public schools together. Many neighborhoods are integrated. We shop in the same malls, eat in the same restaurants, and play together in public parks. Barack Obama made history becoming the first African American president. There are African American judges, news commentators, lawyers, college professors and doctors. We have come a long way indeed. But then we elected Donald Trump as president, a presidency won on fear, hatred, bitterness, anger, rage and bigotry. I ask how did this happen? Maybe you do too. Dr. King would be disappointed in America today to see the rise in neo-Nazi groups, the resurgence of the dreaded Klu Klux Klan and the staggering increase in hate crimes King was so familiar with. Mosques have burned to the ground. Synagogues have been spray painted with graffiti. Mexicans have been denigrated as rapists and drug lords. Innocent people have been killed or seriously hurt protesting against Mr. Trump and his harsh, cruel policies. This is not a world Dr. King would be proud of. In fact, I think Dr. King would stand up against Donald Trump, the way he battled injustice in the 50s and 60s. Dr. King has been gone for a long time but his legacy and memory live on. Dr. King left us with challenge to fight for social injustice and to battle oppression. Like Dr. King, it is incumbent on good people everywhere, to challenge Donald Trump and his deleterious policies that harm the poor, women, immigrants, Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, Jews, progressives and so many others. America was already great. Dr. King wasn’t afraid and we shouldn’t be either. Be brave my friends. Be strong. Be united. Thank Dr. King for his unwavering devotion to the Civil Rights movement and for the good of humanity. Because of him, we buried the evil Jim Crow. We moved away from the oppression and hatred that smothered the country. There is no going back, only forward. Donald Trump’s era is only temporary. His legacy will be remembered as despair, misery, intolerance and stupidity. One day we can say as Dr. King did in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28,1963, “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” One day and I hope it will be soon, I can say thank you Allah we will be free of Donald Trump and all the grief and misery he brought to America and the world. We will be free at last.