Memories and lessons learned

Newsworthy

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.

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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

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

usagymnasts

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.


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…


Environmental (non)Protection?

Last week, Gov. Jan Brewer took Arizona out of the Western Climate Initiative set up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in several US states and Canadian provinces.  In a move that really shouldn’t have surprise her opponents nor her supporters, Brewer’s move put business and monetary concerns before the environment.

Former AZ Gov. Janet Napolitano enlisted Arizona’s participation in the initiative in 2008.  The initiative calls on states to “identify, evaluate, and implement emissions trading policies to tackle climate change at a regional level”.

In an article for the Arizona Daily Star, Henry Darwin, director of the Department of Environmental Quality, explained AZ pulled out of the initiative because of the cap and trade system.  The “cap” is the limit of greenhouse gas emissions a company can emit.  “Trade” is the option to trade the excess gas your company emits for the the credits earned by companies that are below their caps.  This way, the maximum amount of gas set for the region remains at or below that limit.

The Grill has been a Tucson staple since the 1920s. They closed their doors for the last time tonight. (Image courtesy of the TucsonSentinel.com)

IN OTHER NEWS:

Some of the best memories I have in Tucson are at The Grill on Congress.  I’ve spent the semester talking about the loss of and dangers to our natural environment, but what about the unnatural environment we make for ourselves?

One of my late night adventures here was the Halloween I was a scientist, another time when I met up with my friend that came home from Jordan to tell her that I was no longer friends with the girl she hated, and another night when my friends from school went out for my gym friend’s birthday.  And I’m pretty sure that each of these times, I had tator tots with The Grill’s awesome pesto dipping sauce!

Just for the hell of it, I decided to drive by the restaurant on Congress Street… I shouldn’t have.  It was a long night at the library and I didn’t get to go by until 1am.  It was a dark and sad memory of fun times in the past…


Local (endangered) wildlife

Maybe most of us can agree that it is tragic to lose a whole species forever due to human carelessness and lack of compassion.  A lack of vision toward the future and the indirect consequences our of political grand-standing is leading to the endangerment of many local wildlife across the border.

Much of this is as a result of the border fence that runs along the US-Mexico border which is inhibiting the migratory patterns of many animal species.  Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security the authority in 2005 to waive 36 laws protecting the environment in order to hasten border wall construction.

The US-Mexico border hosts a multitude of “threatened, endangered, and rare species,” according to an article published by the Center for Biological Diversity.   Some of these borderland animals include the Mexican gray wolf, Sonoran pronghorn, lesser long-nosed bat, cactus ferruginous pygmy owl, and jaguar.

These animals live along the US-Mexico border where there are several national parks and wildlife refuges — Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Big Bend National Park, Coronado National Forest, and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.

The Sonoran Desert covers approximately 120,000 square miles of biodiverse land in Arizona, California, and Mexico.  It is home to more than 100 reptiles, 60 mammals, and 350 birds that are all in danger because of issues involving the border fence as well as mining, over-grazing, and off-road vehicle use, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

To check out some amazing environmental photography, take a look at the International League of Conservation Photographers, specifically their work in Baja California.


Visit to St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic

Today our multimedia class visited a clinic in Nogales, Arizona that serves impoverished children from Mexico. Some of the families have traveled all night to get their children the medical attention they need.

But this clinic is only open once a month. The other 29 or 30 days of the month, St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic is actually St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Doctors, nurses, speech and occupational theraptists, and translators volunteer their time and expertise to help these children who would otherwise have no access to the health care they need.

Last year, St. Andrew’s provided 42 cleft palate and lip surgeries, 37 orthopedic surgeries, and 24 eye surgeries to the children that sought their care. The clinic also provides the children with follow-up care and health and medical necessities such as prostheses, orthotic footwear, much needed medication, eyeglasses, and hearing aids.

Today, I got a chance to meet a little 7 year old boy, Joaquin, who was fitted for new leg braces. He had outgrown his old set, they would not strap around his waist anymore, and came to the clinic with his mother to be fitted for a new set. He was so excited at the chance to show off his new set of braces, he performed a little number for us in his wheelchair!

Then I met Diego, who is only 1 1/2. Diego has down syndrome and was at the nutrition clinic to learn how to properly use a straw. Check out this cutie pie! What an amazing day!!

Little Diego with his mom

 

Teaching Diego how to drink from a straw

 

Such a sweet little boy!

I’ll be working on multiple articles about this trip, so make sure to check out my blog for updates about this wonderful place, the generous people that work here, and the beautiful children that make it so magical!


Spreading a little knowledge…

Check out this awesome, creative classroom!

Last week, I accompanied Tawab Saljuqi on a visit to a high school Literature class out in Marana. Saljuqi was chosen as the Center for Middle East Studies Outreach scholar for 2010-2011 and as part of the deal, he has to give two lectures to the Tucson community about Afghanistan. The class was reading Khaled Hosseini’sThe Kite Runner” and the students were curious and eager to learn more about Afghan culture. Saljuqi prepared a presentation to teach the students a bit about the lives of the average Afghan. Here are some pictures from that trip. I’ll update with more pictures and hopefully a sound slide show soon…

Saljuqi setting up his presentation

Saljuqi goes over critical points in Afghan history