Thursday, November 17, 2016

metamorphosis

"But that's just the thing," I told him, "you don't exist in a vacuum." And from the bottom of my heart I hope the sentiment resonated.
Whether from a spiritual or secular perspective, we're pretty much balls of energy colliding into each another the universe. You may have heard "people come into your life for a reason"? Well, I'd argue that that's too much a romantic notion. Perhaps we're simply fortunate to be able to connect at all; to grow within and by our relationships; to know that in the space between two human beings we can find support and understanding, hope and love. It's a powerful privilege and responsibility, which makes disregarding it so hurtful.
My roommate hosted a viewing party for 13th—a chillingly powerful documentary by Ava DuVernay—a few weeks ago. The premise was based at the cross-section of slavery, our criminal justice system, and the evolving yet all the while inaccurate and negative characterization of African Americans... mostly by white men in power, and then reiterated by everyone else. Much of the film is disturbing in its familiar truth; and it is so well done. I highly recommend you seek out 13th on Netflix if you haven't already.
As you may be able to infer, I was heartbroken by the presidential election results. Those hateful comments and ignorant policies had been embraced, or worse yet, overlooked; and so much of who I am and what I believe in felt under attack. How, after all this time and progress, did we still live in a world of bigotry, racism, sexism, and bullying? And yet we do. Inequality and resentment are rampant. I imagine it's awfully appealing to find comfort in prejudice. There's just something about having someone else, the Other to blame.
So, what now? Dave Chapelle encouraged us to give him a chance, John Oliver reminded us that accepting our democratic process should not equate to normalizing his behavior, but what I find to be the most encouraging advice is to counteract with more not less support for each another—listen; stay engaged; give more kindness, empathy, time/money to places like Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the International Women's Health Coalition; the NRDC; the International Refugee Assistance Project and IRC; the NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center, and ACLUThe Trevor ProjectMALDEF and American Friends Service Committee; the Anti-Defamation LeagueFacing History and Ourselves. (More to add? Please comments below.)
It has been a lovely fall season (in New York especially—see above!), and Thanksgiving is coming up quickly, and I'm blogging from Europe where I'll soon be visiting my brother and reconnecting with friends. Let us please take stock of our blessings now and exercise our individual agency to promote good in this world through thought and spoken word and movement. It is as much our privilege as it is our responsibility. As far as I can tell, we need each other more than ever before.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

sunday in california

"At first sight, the visitor is surprised not only by the purity of the sky and the ugliness of the dispersed and ostentatious buildings, but also by the city's vaguely Mexican atmosphere, which cannot be captured in words or concepts." That's Los Angeles for ya.
Mind you, these photos are from Northern California, Half Moon Bay, to be exact--because I thought it to be simultaneously romantic and incredibly creepy (Happy Halloween?), what with the pervasive fog and agricultural sprawl and imperious cliffs... but I digress.
I'm writing from Sacramento (where I first delighted in California's fall) and reflecting on my annual visit home (to see autumn in all its glory) and contemplating the frequent "so how's L.A.?"-s I received there. I wish I could tell you (them) I love L.A. Not quite.
But when my Aunt MaryAnn pressed the explanation further, and I mentioned that its the city's very Mexican-ness (as Octavio Paz described above) that makes me love being there, I realized the extent to which that's true. From there we went on to finish two bottles of wine and discuss the disgusting comments Donald Trump has made and inspired towards Mexicans. Apparentlys she's reminded her sons (my cousins) that he might as well be speaking about me, my father, my siblings. A fact that has not been lost on me.
I'm sure I noticed difference as a child, but I didn't understand it; not like I was made to learn later. How could I have possibly known that inner city-dwellers are black, and black men are to be feared, and Muslims are natural terrorists, and Mexicans are to be hunted?!
I ask the facetious question above in agitation to emphasize that what we desperately need, here and now, throughout this country, (Universe), is neither political correctness nor meek tolerance but the acknowledgement of our shared humanity. And a vote.
When I then told my aunt how it felt to grow up monolingual in our Italian-American town where Central American landscapers were "Mexican" and when Latina meant gold jewelry and outspoken sex appeal, she was surprised. She hadn't realized. She couldn't relate.
And of course this would be news. Although I expect each one of us feels the pressure of a world that dictates "what we are" and "what we are not", the sentiment is obviously felt on an individual basis. It can just as likely incite ambition as it can resentment; and understandably so. We are at the same time such resilient and fragile beings. And nearly every morning, when I overhear my neighbor speaking Spanish in a familiar accent from my L.A. home, I'm put at ease.
I'm reminded why immigration policy as well as higher education and reproductive rights are so important to me. We are the products of our experiences, our experiences matter, and so do the issues we're drawn to as a result. Please, again, vote on November 8th.

Monday, September 19, 2016

beautiful british columbia

I'd heard Vancouver is beautiful. I was also told it's expensive, with one of the best qualities of living; that many of its residents are active; that it's home to an outstanding number of cultures, ethnicities, and languages, as well as a visible socioeconomic divide. But, having only ever been to Montreal and Toronto, I still wasn't quite sure what to expect from Canada's westernmost seaport city.
So let me tell you, it is beautiful—and not just because the clouds hang artfully across the not-so-distant mountains and the air is deliciously fresh and the trees are just beginning to change and the water shines clear and bright in the sun; though I did get exceptionally lucky with the weather. My personal experience in Vancouver was made beautiful by the warmth and generosity of the community I'd flown there to work with; a religious organization that raised ~250k to provide care and opportunity for thousands of people they'll likely never meet who've been placed under inconceivable circumstances. A definitive hell yes for humanity.
And if the festival weren't awe-inspiring enough, I also received a great deal of kindness; like the woman who treated me to gelato after she overheard the cashier apologizing that they didn't accept US debit; or the elderly couple with whom I exchanged stories, who remarked at my "beautiful Spanish last name"; or the bartender who made me feel at ease in her Saturday local bar scene; or the airbnb host who gave me ferry tickets to explore the city by waterway; or the places and friends the darling Gillian directed me to.
I enjoyed my time in Vancouver immensely. There's an incomparable sincerity and calmness to the beauty I came to know there; one that isn't acknowledged enough in the daily grind of our stresses and responsibilities. It feels silly—naive even—to say that I crave this kind of evidence, proof that there's goodness in people and strength in our connection to one another and considerable potential in the impact we can have on the world; and yet, to be perfectly honest, I still do. Forever grateful for this past weekend.