Memories and lessons learned


5 Years Today

Five years ago today, my father died. I’m haunted by his spirit everyday. He is alive in my memories. He is alive in my everlasting love of his soul. Sometimes it’s an absolutely beautiful feeling. Sometimes it’s unbelievably painful. It is all worth it to have been loved by him.

U2 – Tomorrow (click here to watch the video)

This isn’t the original music video for the song. I don’t think there actually is an official music video for ‘Tomorrow’. I just picked a video I thought was interesting. This song is not about war, despite this video. Although you can interpret it to be so. Bono wrote this about his mother, who he loved, who died at her own father’s funeral. The black car outside in the lyrics is a hearse. He just keeps begging her to come back to him tomorrow throughout the whole song. You can hear his heartbreak.

Time doesn’t really take away pain. Time allows you to figure out how to manage it.


My father was a cop

You may know already that my father was a police officer in Afghanistan. What you might not know is that the Police Academy there took 3 years to graduate from, the equivalent of getting a Bachelors degree. That time was spent learning law, criminology, and judo, among many other subjects like the video that ATTN: released this summer on Facebook points out. In his time on the force, he fired his gun only once (during a fire fight with a drug cartel) and he got shot only once (during the war with the Soviet Union).

When I was about 6 years old, I remember asking him why he didn’t become a cop in America. He said he looked into it but he didn’t think the training was good enough for how dangerous it is here. Let me repeat in case you missed that, a man that fled a war said America was too dangerous of a country to be an ill-trained cop.

When I got old enough to really understand what that meant, I realized how true his statement was. For everything we expect cops to do, for every potentially dangerous situation we throw them in, we owe them the proper training to handle those situations without having what seems to be the default answer of “draw my gun and kill him” be their first instinct.

I understand a lot of police fear that the next call they get sent out on could be their last. No one wants that. I don’t want that. But I honestly believe that an officer who is properly AND CONTINUOUSLY trained has more than one weapon at their disposal for most of the situations they find themselves in.

We find ourselves in a situation today where the public is losing or has already lost trust in the police. That’s causing a lot of police to distrust and in turn, fear the community they’re charged to serve. And thus begins a cycle of distrust, fear, and ultimately, violence. Again, I think training is a huge step in breaking that cycle.

I don’t get patriotism


Calm your patriotic ass down. Let me explain.

As a refugee who has made America her home for pretty much my whole life, I do love and appreciate this county. So much so that I became a citizen when I was 18. But as a person who was born in another country, and grew up in a household where we spoke the language of that country, and ate the food of that country, and followed a lot of the customs of that country, I love my birth country too.

Growing up with a foot in both worlds, I never fully felt or understood patriotism for either of my countries. And by that I mean the kind of patriotism that compels people to enlist in their military after a terrorist attack (nothing innately wrong with that; in fact a lot of naturalized citizens do end up serving in the military), or the kind of patriotism where people get upset over someone peacefully protesting during the national anthem. Did we forget that America was founded on protest and rebellion? (Also the genocide of Native Americans, but history is multi-faceted bitch and I don’t have the time to get into that now).

Patriotism has always been just a little bit odd to me. Growing up, I was never “offended” by having to stand for the national anthem or having to recite the pledge of allegiance every morning at school. But I always found it awkward. Am I really pledging allegiance to a flag? Why not to my fellow man? Why not for the grand ideals that America was founded on (even if it did fall way short of the mark, depending on the minority group you belong to).

People are reacting very emotionally about Colin Kaepernick‘s decision to not stand during the national anthem at football games. And a lot of this emotion has to do with one’s sense of patriotism. Many football players and even whole teams have since shown their support for Kaepernick and/or America during the national anthem before their games now.


Miami Dolphins players Arian Foster, Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills, and Jelani Jenkins kneel during the National Anthem prior to Sunday’s game. CREDIT: AP Photo/Stephen Brashear


Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Lauren Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman stand for their national anthem during the medal ceremony for the artistic gymnastics women’s team at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016. Credit: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

A similar controversy happened when American Olympic gymnast, Gabby Douglas didn’t place her hand on her heart during the medals ceremony. Douglas wasn’t trying to make a political or social statement; she thought she was being appropriately respectful. Regardless, some peoples sense of patriotism was entirely offended.

louisckAgain, I don’t get what all the fuss is about. It seems to me, the same people who are quick to comment on how “sensitive” and overly P.C. we’re getting as a society are the same people who are upset over football players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem because they have, what in their experiences and opinions are, legitimate grievances with the anthem itself, police brutality, and how minorities in general are treated in this country.

America is not a perfect country, nor is it the “best” or the “greatest” one. Those are relative terms that, depending on what you’re measuring, can be any country at any point in time. But America is and can continue to be a great country if we as its people can have an open dialogue, regardless of our differences, and make meaningful changes accordingly.

My outlook on patriotism is pretty simple: If you live someplace where you cannot thrive, whatever the reason, move to someplace you can. And for the people you are leaving, hopefully you are staying because you are thriving and not because you are inhibited to leave. And for the people in the places where you are moving to, be kind to your new neighbor. Give them time to learn your language and your customs. Most people do not make the decision to leave their homelands easily. The patriotism you feel for America is the patriotism they feel for their country. And you both have equal ground to stand on when it comes to taking pride in where you’re from. Or if you’re like me, pride in all the places you are from and all the places you still hope to go.

My dad loved to tell stories…

…and like most good fathers out there, he liked to tell you the same ones over and over again.  I’m not sure when it began, but I at some point in my life, I realized I may never hear his stories again. So, I made a conscious effort to ask him for a story whenever I could. Here is my top 10 list of how his most favorite stories began:

1) “In my country, I was Chief of Police…” (this was a good one that scared a lot of boys)

2) “I came to this country [America] with one suitcase!”

3) “In the police academy, my teacher wrote the word “trust” on the board and then quickly crossed it out…”

4) “When I was your age…” (these were typically stories intended on teaching me respect)

5) “Sit down, let me tell you a story…” (these were typically about Afghan history)

6) “Did I ever tell you about the time…” (these stories were typically about his or his family’s athletic prowess)

7) “OK, tell me if you’ve heard this Mullah Nasruddin story already…” (stories of a wise fool – always good for a laugh)

8) “Fart it out.” (not really a story, just some advice to a little kid with an upset tummy)

9) “This one time, at band camp…”   Oh, wait. That’s a different storyteller…
Here’s a good one: Instead of simply answering, “Of course I think you’re pretty!” to his insecure little girl when she asked him if he thought she was pretty, he told me the story of a little baby porcupine who asked his momma if she thought his fur was soft. So the momma porcupine took her paw and ran it over the quills of her child, scratching herself up and said, “You have the softest fur I’ve ever felt!”  I was never really sure how to take that story, but I appreciated the attempt. Thanks, dad.

10) “You can achieve anything with hard work in this country…” That was probably his truest story. He had everything – wealth, material possessions, job prestige, etc – and gave it all up to start over in a new country with his wife and daughter. He put his ego aside and worked manual labor jobs the rest of his life so that we could all be safe and together. We were never as rich as we were in Afghanistan again, but we were certainly wealthy.


I was almost a “Feelings Hooker” …

Therapists are "Feelings Hookers"

Therapists are “Feelings Hookers”

When I was in high school, I remember telling my mom and some of my extended family that I wanted to go into psychiatry. My family laughed and thought it was cute in their usual condescending way and my mom thought it was a lousy idea. But I remember taking a few psychology classes my freshman and sophomore years at Emory and it was as interesting a field as I thought it would be, albeit much harder than I thought it would be, too. I was en route to becoming a Feelings Hooker. But I kept getting pressure from my family to be “a real doctor”, as if a psychiatrist didn’t have to go through medical school and have an “MD” at the end of their name also. Eventually, I got fed up with everyone telling me it was a shitty idea. So, I came up with a shittier one – Sociology, society’s Feelings Hooker. I guess I showed them…  huge-mistake

Happy Mother’s Day, Dad!

My mother and I had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday. We spent the day together, went shopping, had a nice dinner, and I gave her the 3-month membership I bought her to LA fitness so she could use the pool for the summer. She has always loved the water and her arthritis and diabetes affect her knees and feet to a point where she has trouble performing basic tasks, let alone working out. So the pool allows her to stay active and get out of the house.

At dinner, I was telling her about a friend who has 2 small children and whose husband neglected to do something for her on Mother’s Day. My mom got angry for her. “It’s the husband’s job to take care of Mother’s Day while the children are young!,” she would’ve said if her English were better. Then she told me about how dad always came through for her on Mother’s Day, no matter how old I got.

“One Mother’s Day, when we were still living in California,” she said, “you were maybe 4 years old and your dad was working as a janitor at a local theater. He came home after a long shift and he literally opened the door to the apartment, looked in, said hello, and then walked right back out.  I was so confused! ‘What’s going on?,’ I asked myself. I bet he has a little harlot on the side!!”

Like I said before, my mother’s English isn’t this good, so this is how she would’ve told it if she were fluent. At this point in her life, she’s lived half her life in Afghanistan and half in America. Not only is her English broken, but so is her Persian! It’s cute.  But it makes communication tricky. Anyway, on with the story…

“So I grabbed you and we followed your dad to see where he was going. We didn’t have a car then, so we walked everywhere. We walked down the street, making sure your father didn’t see us behind him. We walked for a couple minutes when I realized that he was walking to the local grocery store. ‘Oh, maybe he just went to pickup some food!’

I felt silly and decided we had to go straight back home to make sure I got back before him. Ten minutes after we got home, he came back. He walks in the door and I saw what he went to the grocery store for: he had a bouquet of flowers in his hand for me! He must have forgotten it was Mother’s Day until the last minute and he wanted to make sure I had a gift!”

She told this story with the most beautiful smile on her face. She looked radiant. And it is always wonderful to hear her happy memories of her life with my father. We both miss him dearly.

My dad always told me that he loved me. But he always made sure to remind me that my mother loved me more.


Stop calling it “Entitlement”!

The “Amercian Dream”. What does that even mean anymore? When my dad brought my mother and myself here from Afghanistan, it meant that anyone who worked hard and saved his/her money could make a good, honest life for him/herself. Not anymore. The media and government would have you believe there is a new class category in today’s America called “the working poor.” I would argue that there has always been a working poor, however, there are more of them today than there was yesterday. But we can get into that another time.

When working class people and people living below the poverty line receive money from Social Security, healthcare from Medicare, nutrition from food stamps, and other social welfare benefits, the conservatives and the rich would would have you believe that they are receiving so-called “entitlements”. As in, “How dare those dirty poor people think they are entitled to MY tax dollars??” Let’s be clear, Richie Rich, poor people are responsible for paying Uncle Sam from their meager little check, too.

Define: "Entitlement"

Define: “Entitlement”?

In the latest race to snatch away the entitlements of the working poor, the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections (which probably should be renamed the “House Subcommittee on CEO profit-share Protections”) introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013. Theoretically, it would allow workers to choose between getting overtime pay or being comped with additional time off. Seems like a totally non-evil scheme on the surface, sure. But let’s look at how this plays out in practice:

I get paid on an hourly basis. If you ask me to work 45 hours this week, not only are you legally required to pay me my regular salary, but now you have to add 5 hours of time-and-a-half to my paycheck. You needed the work to get done, but now you’re stuck paying me more money. Money I really needed. Boo-hoo for you.

Now, you’re presented with this option of not having to pay me for that extra 5 hours of work. You still have to pay me my regular salary, because let’s face it, this isn’t a garment factory in Bangladesh, but whatever, you’ll figure a way around that another day. But now you can just say, “Hey, do me this solid and stay another 5 hours and I promise, one day, I’ll let you have 5 hours off of work. Deal?”

I propose that politicians get paid hourly.

I propose that politicians get paid hourly.

It’s a month down the line and your dog is sick. You need to take him to the vet, so you ask your boss, “Remember that extra 5 hours I worked a month ago?”
Boss, “Kind of…”
You, “I need to take my dog to the vet today, so I’ll probably need to use 2 hours of that time today. I’ll be in around 11am.”
Boss, “Actually, today I have to leave early to go to the chiropractor and I need to make sure there is coverage at the front desk. Can it wait until another day?”
You, “Well, I think he got into my secret chocolate stash last night and today he’s been throwing up, he’s lethargic, I really don’t think this can wait…”
Boss, “Yeah, it’s just chocolate. He probably just has a tummy ache. Rub his belly and tell him to walk it off. I’ll see you as usual at 9am. I left a pile of work for you on your desk. Thanks.”

Ok, maybe it doesn’t go down exactly like that, but you get the point. There are a lot of questions surrounding H.R. 1406: whether it is the employer or the employee who gets to decide when that extra time is taken off, under what circumstances, and whether the employee really will get the right to choose between overtime pay or overtime time off.

With the economy the way it is, a lot of employees feel the pressure of keeping the jobs they do have. They are constantly reminded, whether explicitly or not, by their bosses that there are literally hundreds of people lined up for your job if you’re not satisfied with it.

I’m just going to put it out there: Yes, employees are entitled to receive proper compensation for their time, skills, and labor. And yes, I do think taxes are the cost of living in a civilized society. And yes, I do think that when you fall on hard times, one of the benefits of citizenship is that your government helps you out a bit. I’m not talking about buying you a mansion to live in and a Mercedes to drive you there. But I’m talking about providing you with healthcare, food, and safety. Have you been to the projects in any city? If you want to call that an “entitlement”… I don’t know, maybe you just need a new dictionary or something.

Maybe you’re finding it hard to sympathize with me here. I get it. Even the media are having a hard time sympathizing with the poor… although, I’ve got to hand it to them, they sure are trying. Check out all of these sad sacks all bummed out about their taxes going up. How will they ever survive on their meager salaries???

Graphic is from The Wall Street Journal in an article that ran on January 4, 2013.

Graphic is from The Wall Street Journal in an article that ran on January 4, 2013.

Let’s bring this discussion full circle: My dad was making less than $35,000/year when he retired. That was the peak of his salary. The peak. But somehow, he and my mom, who made even less than him, managed to pay their taxes every year, buy a house, buy themselves cars, buy me a car, and pay for my education on their salaries. I never remember them looking as sad as the assholes in this picture who are making between 3 and 10 times what they made!! If you are making $650,000/year and you can’t figure out how to make ends meet, YOU, my friend, are the entitled asshole. Wow, it looks like I may be lacking in some sympathy too…