Tag Archives | racism

changes in the heart(land)

Camp Grandma convened this summer at Grandma’s new house in Illinois, just one state over from Indiana, where she used to live. You would be forgiven if you got confused between which state is which, if you were driving on one of the many small farm roads that criss-cross these states: lots of corn and soybeans, the occasional picturesque silo, a cow or two.  I grew up in Illinois and consider my mother’s time in Indiana a minor aberration; in family lore we credit her doorbell ringing and phone-banking with why Indy went blue for Obama in ’08; it went for Romney in ’12, as mom was getting ready to move out of state.

These states are flyover country, as those on the coasts like to call it, or sometimes “the heartland,” usually by a politician trolling for votes or a CEO announcing more manufacturing plant closures.  Why this part of the country is still called “the heartland” I’m not sure. Does America like to pretend it’s still an agrarian country, even though according to the 2010 census, more than 80% of the population lives in cities?  Does it mean that this flown-over swath of land is somehow the pulse of the country?  If so, that means the pulse of the country–my mother’s efforts notwithstanding–beats red: the heartland went mostly Republican in 2012 (although Iowa and Illinois went for Obama).

And I guess the election maps don’t lie: the heartland is home to a host of people who seem hell-bent on out-TeaPartying each other: consider Michelle Bachman, although don’t think too hard about her or your head will explode; or Ohio’s John Kasich, who just signed some of the most restrictive reproductive rights laws in the country; or John Thune from Nebraska, who says that the family is the most basic unit of government (and is against gay marriage, natch). The heart of the country, it seems, beats red with fear of People Who Are Different.

“Different” in this context of course means “people who aren’t exactly like I am and thus must be weird and dangerous and somehow controlled, patrolled, quarantined.”

Sometimes, then, it’s a grim exercise to read the local newspaper out here (although let’s face it, reading any newspaper anywhere these days feels like a pretty grim exercise). Almost daily I think that the world is going to hell in a handbag–and not even a designer handbag, but a cheap handbag, some faux-leather knockoff.

But visiting my mom this time, I’ve seen a tiny glimmer of hope, in a rather unexpected place.

Water balloons.

The other day, out here in Americana-ville, where the trees are big and green and fluffy, and the hiss of the sprinklers competes only with the sounds of birds, my kids dragged a plastic wagon filled with water balloons out to the front yard.  My stepfather, an African American (who voted for Hilary, god love him, in the 2008 primary), orchestrated a massive water balloon battle with my two kids, who call my stepfather Grandpa (and whose biological grandparents come from Chicago…and Karachi and Manila) and the two boys next door, whose gay fathers adopted them from Guatamala, and the six-year old girl across the street whose hair is so short that Caleb spent the entire afternoon thinking that she was a boy.

They played for hours, these kids, moving to hoses and water guns when the water balloon supply ran out; they played without thinking about who had what kind of parent or whose skin was dark brown or light brown or white with freckles; they screamed and laughed and slipped on the wet grass, and they were at home in the heartland.



Continue Reading · on July 18, 2013 in family, Kids, Parenting, Politics, Travel

first the amusement parks…then the world…?

Could a woman be strangled by her hijab, ala Isadora Duncan, who died in 1927 when the long fluttery scarf around her neck floated out of her convertible, tangled around a hubcap and snapped her neck?

Apparently the folks at Rye Playland seem to think so, which is why they ban “headgear” on some of their rides.  Yesterday, this ban resulted in a scuffle and about thirteen people being detained, when several Muslim women were told to remove their hijabs before riding the Dragon Rollercoaster.  A spokesperson for the amusement park said “if someone wears a scarf, it could be a strangling situation.”

The hijab is wrapped tightly around the head, pinned into place, and then draped around the shoulders. Unless it’s coupled with another veil, a hijab rarely comes down as far as the elbow.  So for a “strangling situation” to occur, the pins would have to fly off the woman’s head, the scarf would have to unwind from around her hair but stay wound around her neck–and still have enough length to dangle out of the roller-coaster car and tangle under the wheels.

Seems like kind of a longshot, if you ask me.

I wonder what else might account for this particular ban? Do you think the fact that these women were part of an entire group of Muslims at the park celebrating Eid had anything to do with it? You know, a big group of Them, in one place, dressed all weird in veils and stuff?

Nah…I’m sure that cultural suspicions had nothing to do with the fight, the arrests, or the request to take off the scarf.

Just safety.


thanks to @knickerbockerny for bringing this incident to my attention!

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Continue Reading · on September 1, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Feminism, NYC, Politics

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