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They Can’t Win

A friend asked me last night if I would take a Syrian refugee family into my home. It was not a quick answer but I will explain to you:

  1. Refugee resettlement programs do not ask people to take families into their homes. They ask for help being a local friend, a person to help them maneuver in their new world. To help set up the apartment, which the organization finds, with furniture, which the organization helps find. There is some outlay in money, to buy a list of basic toiletries and some groceries to start the pantry, but for the most part the host’s involvement is time.  Time to teach about the neighborhood and town. Time to teach about the United States and its freedoms, something refugees have not experienced. A commitment to help them become Americanized. How do I know this? I was one of two families that helped a Russian Jewish family settle in West Hartford, Connecticut several decades ago. I saw how the family learned English, got jobs, bought a house, had a new baby. I saw them become almost indistinguishable from the thousands of other residents of our town with one exception: their pride in being New Americans was evident. And they practiced it. They took the time to be informed and involved. They voted and they volunteered on community projects.  Why did they do that? Partly it was in their own nature but it also was something I tried hard to nurture in them.091715-naturalization_PIT4057
  2. I am Jewish. Asking me to take in a Muslim family who comes from a nation that promises to wipe Israel off the face of the earth is a ridiculously senseless question. But I paused, and finally said yes. I would help a family get resettled here. I would teach them not only what being an American is like, but what being a Jew is like. I would teach, as I have learned by going to church with my husband, that we have more commonalities than differences and as soon as we all realize that, peace is possible.god-everywhere
  3. I am Jewish. I know my history. He had no recollection of ever hearing about the St. Louis, a ship full of Jewish German refugees in 1939. Most of the passengers had applied for refugee visasto enter the United States. It was well known what atrocities were happening in Europe. But the ship was turned away and ended up returned to Germany, and the passengers went to the death camps. We Americans have this blood on our hands. We righteously stuck to quotas, ignoring the horrific conditions that the refugees were fleeing. This situation was not unique.  Even children, as Chris Christie declared so vehemently today, were not wanted.
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  5. I asked him questions about his own family’s migration to the United States. What had prompted it (famine) and who had some (a young male adult). He brushed away the similarity to the many young men feeling Syria, saying all of his great-grandfather’s family had died of the famine.  Three-ImmigrantsHe said the current situation shows that Muslim men do not value their families. I told him how my maternal grandfather had left the shetl in what is now Poland and made his way to New York City, earning money as a tailor, and then sending for his sisters within the next few years. I pointed out that many women and children are fleeing. He chose not to respond.

So, my answer to my friend was yes, I would help resettle a Syrian family. That’s what a good American citizen who loves this nation does. That’s what someone who refuses to be terrorized decides to do.  That’s what someone who understands that they have an inherent ability to help teach new ways. That is what someone who is willing to take the time and make the effort to move off my own comfort a bit does to help ease pain and suffering in the world.

Is there potential danger? Oh yes. There are ways to minimize it that people trained to work with immigration and terrorism have experience and expertise to propose. It is beyond the scope of what I personally can do. But I also know this: I have more risk of being hurt or killed by someone angered by my opinion who is home-grown here in the United States, than I have a chance of being hurt or killed by a terrorist.  The angry people in this country who seem to be unable to work to a common goal need some help. That solution is harder than the one dealing with refugees.journey-to-resettlement-in-the-united-states

 

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You Fall For It so Be Careful

1984-frontDid you read Orwell’s 1984?  It has been years since I read it, but something is very much happening in today’s society that called it to mind. And we need to be aware many of us are guilty of falling for it.

George Orwell introduced the concepts of Doublethink and Newspeak. Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and the Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought – that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc – should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.

Today, in America, we definitely have DOUBLESPEAK, what some suggest is a combination of these dystopian concepts.  With Doublespeak, we have gotten used to names of things without realizing they actually are about the opposite of what they seem.

For example, in reaction to the horrible events of 9/11 the United States established the Department of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act was passed. The Patriot Act, in the name of protection, limited numerous personal freedoms we were used to. If you, like me, raised concern, you were also told you were being unpatriotic.  Now, so many years after just about everyone waved the flag in solidarity, we are beginning to get pretty uncomfortable. The Patriot Act comes up for renewal again in 2015. You will not be unpatriotic if you look into the restrictions it will continue and decide enough is enough,so contact your Congressional representatives.  But overall, because the war is not won, society may tell you that you are unpatriotic just because of the name.

tolerance-does-not-mean-tolerating-intoleranceAnother word that seems to have doublespeak usage is “tolerance”. Not too long ago, American society defined it as living peacefully with people who may disagree with you. This grew out of a biblical context of humility before  God and the command to love your neighbor. Now, a large group of American society believes it means concepts are being forced down their throat giving equality to groups who do not deserve that.  Tolerance has become a dirty word for some of our community.

In the last week there has been a new movie called American Sniper and many people are lauding it as a well directed effort by Clint Eastwood commemorating the actions of Navy Seal Chris Kyle.  Texas has declared a Chris Kyle Day and many say he was a hero. I have been watching the comments as they show up on my Facebook feed, first laudatory, then damning, then kickback. So, what’s the problem and the tie-in to doublespeak?

Our society has had a continuing deteriorating war on many levels in the Middle East and against Muslim terrorists who want the world revised to their way of life. We got into one war to chase the man who we were told masterminded the 9/11 attack on the United States. We got into another war to destroy the weapons of mass destruction we were told might be used against us. Any discussion in those days, when I urged people to think carefully about the clarity of that information was turned against me and others as unpatriotic.

We sent our young people to fight there. We hoped to turn those nations around, to instill in the people there a sense of opportunity for democracy and fair treatment. Instead we have more tribal and religious flighting and a overall all consuming hatred of the people as a group. We have become a mirror to what we were trying to fix.

The American Sniper movie is partially appealing because it says things many think-that these are not really people but “damn savages.” It offers a glorification of an extreme skill that traditionally we have not discussed in a laudatory way but anyone who shoots can admire.

The people who are distressed by this movie indicate the book itself includes inaccuracies. They are also concerned that while Chris Kyle saw the world as good versus evil, Clint Eastwood has many shades of partial right and wrong throughout the movie, and the typical proponent is not discussing much of that.blackorwhite

Life is not all good nor all evil. And when you jump on the bandwagon and condemn anyone who raises a different point of view, you are adding to doublespeak.  My questioning the loud support for this movie does not make me unpatriotic. I am a person who is very concerned about the mental state of our military and vets. My questions show I am a citizen of a wonderful country where the right to speak truth clearly and with full understanding is our right and also our obligation.

If you get sucked into something because it appeals to your sense of outrage, take a step back and a deep breath. Do some thinking, not just emoting. THINK. Then speak your truth but remember, there are many experiences out there, so many different viewpoints. When you try to shut them up, you are contributing to making this a nation that is very narrow minded.Imperfection-is-beauty...

 

 

 


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Economic Patriotism

I heard the term “economic patriotism” on NPR a couple of days ago.  The discussion was about how the term was used politically over time but it did not seem to come down to the “man on the street” level.  I can bring it there I think and I also think you can live with it.buy Locala

We are climbing out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Some areas of the country are still feeling pain. Some never really get to fly in good times so their “normal” is lower than other areas’ “good”. Regardless, if your area has some sense of economic development, you perhaps are seeing more signs of business activity, more job openings, more people enjoying going out to the movies, to restaurants and similar optional opportunities for spending.

Whatever your political leanings, you can help the economy in your area become more robust. Each time we shop anywhere we are throwing money into the vast world of business. When you go to the grocery store, for example, and buy your week’s worth of groceries, whether you spend $20 or $200, you are contributing to the world of business.  If you shop at a national or regional chain, like Kroger (some affiliates are Fred Meyer here in Oregon, Kings Sooper in Colorado and Ralph’s in California) or Wal-Mart, very little of  the money you spend there stays in the community. If you shop at a locally owned grocery store (IGA or even one not affiliated with that network) then more of your money stays right in the community. If you shop at your local farmers’ market and buy directly from local food producers, ALL your money stays in the community.shoplocala

That works for other goods and services also. Today I had to go downtown and used the one trip-many errands practice to pick up shampoo in the small local grocery store that has healthy products and also stopped in at the local office supply store for copy paper. I thought afterwards about the price I paid for that paper instead of saving about 50 cents by driving about 4 more miles to Staples. I probably paid a little bit  more than the cost of the gas (in my Prius anyway) but I knew I was saving time. I also was putting money into a locally owned business, a better option for the local economy than the national office supply store chain.

This is economic patriotism. This spending an extra 50 cents to help the local economy can add up to a HUGE difference if each of us would do it.shop mom and pop

When I was in West Virginia and involved with The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington we once figured out in a given week the average expenditure in the market was $15. We also estimated that if 10% of the town’s population would spend that average $15 a week in the market, the return to the farmers would be over a million dollars a year. While The Wild Ramp Market is extremely proud that in the two years of its operation over $400,000 has been given back to local producers, the difference of what has been and what could be is amazing.

It means YOU need to step up. You need to show you want this nation to be healthy. Your buying patterns make a difference. Are you willing to be considered a patriot?  Can you put economic patriotism into practice?shoplocal

Can you switch from consumerism as dictated by advertisements on the television and in magazines to locating and supporting locally made goods. In your area there are people who are passionate about producing high quality goods that would make superb useful items in your home or as gifts. There can be great pride in knowing your purchase can make a huge difference in someone’s economic health.

I’m not talking charity. I’m not talking giving money without getting something of value. I’m talking about buying American made goods. I’m talking about buying locally. Can you be a patriot?