The Violence Is Always Now

Last week I wrote an article for The National about the newly ironic question of “where do you feel safe?” That’s the second question people ask when I tell them where I live, as if Abu Dhabi is some terrifying city “over there.”  But this question in the context of America’s gun insanity, now has to stand on its head.

I was in a movie theater yesterday, watching Ghostbusters (yay, women are funny! and smart! and don’t need a boyfriend to be successful! IMAGINE THAT), and herd of loud teenagers walked in: big kids, unlaced sneakers, yelling and teasing each other.  There was some kerfuffle over who was sitting where, and you know what went through my mind?  “Oh, shit, I hope no one has a gun.”

Yep. Sitting in a movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at 11AM, with my kids and father-in-law, I thought for a split second that maybe we were all going to become statistics.

Ask me again where I feel safe.

And then, the day my column came out, Nice. With the additional irony that when you write the name of the city, it looks like, you know, nice.

Another tragedy–what an empty word–another instance of ideology trumping respect for human life (and god, it’s awful to have to use the word “trump.” We are going to need some synonyms, stat).  More bombs, more death, more loss. Endless loss.

It’s an entire summer of loss, of memorials and funerals and devastation.

The violence seems never to recede, only to accrue; it billows outward, covering everything.

It’s a sunny day in New York City right now, but somehow the light seems very far away.

prayer flags in Bhutan

prayer flags in Bhutan


Continue Reading · 0 on July 16, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Politics, religion, The National, UAE

How do we raise “global citizens” ?

“Global citizen” is a phrase I’m hearing a lot lately. That’s what we’re all supposed to be aiming towards–at least, those of us who didn’t vote for “Brexit” or aren’t in favor of the Trumpian wall.  It’s what is supposed to happen when you move to another country and raise your kids outside their “own” culture (whatever that means); it’s supposed to be what happens to the so-called “third culture kids.”

I have my doubts, sometimes, about whether this global citizenship thing is really possible. That’s what I’m writing out this week in the World Moms Network and you can check it out here. Let me know what you think: is global citizenship possible? And if so, how do we create that mindset?

Continue Reading · 0 on July 6, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Children, Education, growing up, Kids, World Moms Blog

Share a Fridge

Eid mubarak! The long days of Ramadan have passed, and now it’s the time for celebration. We’re in New York already, and still in the hazy fugue-like state of jet lag (compounded by having been in Bangkok ten days ago); I wake up in the middle of the night and am not entirely sure which continent I’m on.  In the Union Square farmer’s market this morning, however, I heard people speaking Arabic as they picked over some gorgeous tomatoes; I expect there are Eid feasts happening all over the city.

Last week in The National I wrote about a great community service endeavor that started, as many great ideas do, with a really simple gesture: a few women in Dubai found an empty fridge, put it in a easily accessible place, ran an extension cord to it, and began stocking it with juice, laban, fresh fruit, and water, for the men who work outside in the steamy days of full summer.

The idea caught on and before you know it, there were “sharing fridges” everywhere. Some of the fridges will be decommissioned after Ramadan, but some of them may stay in place, stocked entirely through volunteer efforts. I wonder if such an idea could ever catch on in the States? Would people honor the idea that the fridges are for those in need, not just any random passerby?  You can read my article here, and check out the Sharing Fridge facebook page here. Could your community support such a project?

Continue Reading · 0 on July 6, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, religion

Techambivalent

Let me say first that I have a bit of an internet obsession. I stay way too connected to faraway friends on Facebook and I am a too frequent visitor to Tom and Lorenzo. My books float through the ether from Amazon and land in my kindle, like Mike Teevee in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but without remaining pocket-sized.

I tell you these things so that you’ll see my tech ambivalence: I love the internet and I am also sure that we’re going to end up (or we already are) utterly co-opted by it, so much so that any complaints about “loss of privacy” are utterly besides the point.

That ambivalence is the subject of this week’s column in The National, which you can read here.

Through a series of coincidences, the great god google recently unearthed some vintage family photos, which is making me feel quite fond of the machine that is eroding my private life (apparently with my permission).

It found me riding a bicycle; I remember both bicycle and dress (red velvety corduroy), but I have no memory of being so dangerously close to flashing people as I pedaled. red_bike_Wilmette

And google also showed me this picture of my younger brother, now a Hollywood bigshot but at the time apparently planning on a career as a landscaper: backyard

If google can find that level of adorableness for you, how can you not love it?

Continue Reading · on June 17, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, tech life, The National

The Color Purple

I read Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple when I was about fourteen, probably too young to understand its full complexity. All I understood was that the world conspired against Celie–and at fourteen, that’s sort of how the world felt to me, too.

With each re-reading of the novel, I saw more: the way that the form–an epistolary novel–drew on centuries of (white, European) literary tradition and challenged it at the same time; the fact that love between women challenged (and eventually dismantled) structures of male power; the joy and power that comes from finding work that matters, whether that work is singing jazz or making pants that fit women.

I’ve taught this novel a few times, and I love listening to students talk about what they discover in the novel, which still resonates, even now, more than thirty years after it was first published.

I was reminded about the novel’s power today, when I watched Jennifer Hudson and the cast of “The Color Purple” pay tribute to Prince, whose album “Purple Rain” came out two years after Walker’s novel.

I’m not alone–I’m one of millions, I suppose–when I say that Prince’s songs were the soundtrack of my youth. At the time, of course, I thought I was very, very adult, singing along to “I Would Die 4U,” or “Raspberry Beret…”  There was childlike joy in the music–the sheer ecstatic pleasure of making something–married to the very adult pleasures of the flesh.

His music floated out of dorm rooms and dance parties when I was at college in the early 1980s. College, for me, was a small women’s college outside of Boston, where The Color Purple was on lots of reading lists: all that female empowerment! On the weekends, the school held “mixers” — ghastly dances that drew men from surrounding colleges. Sometimes men from specific schools would be invited, sometimes men just showed up, but all of the men (okay, most) seemed certain that as inhabitants of a female-only world, we must be starving–nay, near unto death–for the lack of male company.  The standard conversation at a mixer often went something like “hey, how are you, my name is Jeff/Pete/Charlie/Biff…” and then after a few pleasantries, the question: “Is your roommate home?”  And that meant: would you please take me to your dorm room and let me see your little red love machine?

Much to the chagrin of Biff, Charlie, and Pete, we were frequently quite fine, thanks, without the pleasure of their company. Which is not to say that sometimes we didn’t make like darling Nikki and get ourselves a lil’bit of fun, but just as frequently–and often jump-started by Prince–my friends and I would dance towards each other, ignoring Biff’s entreaties. We danced, god did we dance; the boys couldn’t keep up and we didn’t want them to. Prince gave us permission to dance without worrying about what we looked like or who was watching; he gave us permission to move for the sweet pleasure of moving.

I haven’t remembered those dances in a long time. It took Prince’s death to remind me of the freedom we felt as we danced; the music made me feel like I could do anything.

Somewhere in The Color Purple, Celie writes “Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.” Maybe that’s what Prince wanted to do in his music–be loved–but maybe, and more likely, I think he wanted us to remember to love each other–whenever, whomever, and however we wanted, in whatever fleshly and passionate fashion we could find.

Celie also tells us “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  We couldn’t not notice Prince–not just his purple, of course, but the marvel of the creativity that streamed out of him, an amazing gift that I, at least, thought might never end.

Goodnight, sweet Prince. Nothing compares 2U.

 

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Continue Reading · on April 22, 2016 in aging, Feminism, pop culture, sex

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