Fear and Loathing: Ten for Today


September 11, 2016

“I’m sorry, so, so sorry!”

She apologized like this several times over the two-hour class that had begun at 7:20 a.m. that Tuesday in 2001. Her words flew automatically, frantically from her mouth—apologizing. But she might as well have wrung her hands or put her face in her hands, saying she didn’t understand—like the rest of us.

We were stunned. I made them write about it. Some could just lay their heads atop their papers on those small college desk/table units. I was teaching a comp class in the then Home Ec building on campus. It has since changed to Writer’s Row.

The kid from Texas was the first to read. I still imagine him with a cowboy hat on his head, but that could not be true, just too stereotypical. His writing was full of anger and blame. He didn’t say he hated Muslims, but he knew someone had to pay. Something had to be done about who got into the country and how. Fear.

Someone else read. And then she said it again. The young twenty-ish Syrian woman with the hijab, pretty face, stand-out from the first day of class a couple weeks before because of her dark coverings, often full body black and flowing.

She was in tears. She faced the class with pleading in her eyes, distorting her cringed face, tight and angled with panic. Pain. Fear. No, they won’t understand. Saudi Arabians the news plastered over the burning tower images.

Before I left for school that morning, so early that I sleep-walked into the spare room where from 5 to 8 my husband watched the market, I first saw but did not register. Seeing me enter his lair, he pointed to the burning towers on the t.v. and said, “Look at this.” I looked. I then turned to the shower while thinking that it was too early for disaster movies and wasn’t he supposed to be working, anyhow?

When I came back into the room, showered and dressed, he said, “No, look at this. The second tower just blew.” And I looked. My mouth fell open involuntarily though my brain barely comprehended. How could it have happened? Why? How? I had to go teach.

By the third time she said it, I spoke firmly but with a slight chuckle, “Unless you had something to do with it, you don’t have to apologize. Though I understand why you want to.” She quieted.

It wasn’t long afterward, maybe three days after the united great good will of the U.S. turned to the business of blame and retribution. The airstrikes were already in the making. And there at the college, a political science teacher was disciplined, maybe even resigned, after pointing in the direction of a Middle Eastern looking group of students in the 200-seat forum during his lecture about something other than the events of the previous days and boomed, “You, you did it.”

I got the last order of halibut tacos: ten for today

July 19, 2016
 
I’m having trouble. I stayed up too late and ruined my sleep. Those sleep-deprived days hit hardest, most difficult to bear. The world seems scary, like one giant acid trip gone wrong that I cannot come down from, no matter how much I talk myself through it. My feet feel as if I am walking in the bounce house.
 
Morning came too quickly, the doors opening and closing to my bedroom. Communal showers suck. I worked late into the night fixing my article for the new French client, only to awaken to stern reprimand from someone half my age, probably. I did not follow directions, too worried about meeting deadline and not the specifics. Certainly my fault but can we just treat each other kindly? Even editors?
 
Hard pressed to inhabit the Zen of it all, I fought all morning with myself. “This is the life of a writer. This is life. Don’t be afraid of rejection, judgment and criticism.” I had to keep myself from diving over the cliff of “I fucked up.” Forgiveness.
 
My nerves still sore, I taught class, guilty that I wasn’t fresh, alert and sharp, but that turned out to be a lie I told myself. The class discussion meandered through colonialism, prejudice, Black Lives Matter, censorship, profanity, the sub-prime mortgage debacle, the abc’s of finance, medicine, medico-legal ethics, euthanasia, and stories, lots of anecdotes, for a breezy four and a half hours. At least it seemed that way. Summer school. Beautiful students.
 
Rounding out nicely with a particularly grapefruit citrus-tinged IPA and halibut tacos ordered at my local hangout–family members all working (except for dad glued to the t.v.)–this day wanes okay, citing my own research on French proverbs (my maybe rejected assignment)–apres la pluie, le beau temps (Every cloud has a silver lining). I’m about to chomp down on my halibut tacos silver lining. Cheers and Bon appetit! 

Love, don’t hold my hand


Standing in line, wondering if it’s my time, if I’m next.

Horror dominates the mood of this meet-market place. 

How many times have I walked hand in hand with her

strolling in the night along busy streets, on the beach,

arm and arm, not a care what the world around us was?

She once asked me if I were afraid. “Of what?” I asked

then genuinely confused at the context of her asking.

She knew because she was no Johnny Cum Lately like

she found me, days when I thought we were so free to

love anyone, our choice, our lives, nobody’s business.

That was then, before the killing, so now I understand

her hesitance, reticent PDA despite her overwhelming 

urgency to touch me, keep me close and hold my hand.

Now I know how much I never knew what it was like to

clasp your hand to the back of your neck to smother it,

 the burning, piercing glances and hateful lookaways 

and disgust, unknown to me, a judging by appearance, 

though I never hid my femme, wore it loudly just like I 

wear that tremor of hateful contempt-tossed-at-me-

cringe once someone knows my tribe, the most stead-

fastly, longest-standing hated people in all the world.

But since I did not reveal it in my skin nor my love life,

I was freer than those targets who had no choice but to

be who they were, but to love who they loved and to be

fluid bodies delighting, sensating and breathing light

by which we all create our mad comedies and tragedies 

called our civilized, social, contractual, consensual lives. 

Believing I was anyone’s everyone, I was simply wrong. 

I’m noone’s; I’m in between everyone–not any where,

watching the others duck and dodge bigots and bullets. 

 

White Afros

  
Succinct and powerful while not too patronizing, today’s Huffpost article by Zeba Blay entitled “4 ‘Reverse Racism Myths’ that Need to Stop,” dispels four myths, really erroneous convictions that discomfited white people have about an historically discriminated population’s unique struggle. 

She targets this specific population of social media shouters, most probably, who apparently need education I’m guessing from her approach. Her point: To deny that blacks have been systematically shut out of ‘privileges’ white people have enjoyed unfettered by racial discrimination such as education, jobs and safety is to deny history. To believe that all is well is to choose ignorance. 

She begins with distinguishing racism from prejudice or bigotry, which is an important distinction, the former including that systematic exclusion while the latter two may refer to specific instances of hate or preference. But the upshot undergirding all four myths is like it or not, being born white is still hitting the lottery in this country because of its history that to date has not been erased, rectified or reconstituted. 

White people have no standing to complain. And trying to catch up to white society is not privilege. 

But while I respect the author’s opinion about cultural appropriation, white girls wearing Afros, for instance, I disagree that doing so is always unmindful theft or disregard of a people’s cultural strife. Systemitized thinking–labeling and generalizing as a means to exclude–is the core of oppression. While I would not say it is reverse discrimination to object to white afros, I maintain that there is a difference between respectful emulation and mindless appropriation.

Besides, some of us have hair that does nothing else but ‘fro. The seventies were good to me.

  

Published in elephant journal:  what happens when we surrender to yoga

  

Credit: Leslie Alejandro

Even the Supreme Court surrenders to something larger than itself. We all must give in, be a part of the fabric of an order, principle, and/or belief not only for the sake of facilitating justice to those around us but for ourselves–to be the justice. 

Labels define merely to confine. Lately, yoga has been taking a hit in the news. One Congress person dismissed it as religion that he did not want to see endorsed or foisted upon him in our nation’s participation in the celebration of International Yoga Day last week. 

Schools resist implementing yoga classes for a similar anticipated outcry despite the fact that teaching children to listen to their bodies and minds early cannot but be beneficial for adulthood when life speeds up and they, like so many, will lose touch with themselves, feel alienated, ill and angry at “others.”
Yoga is more and less than religion. The responsibility the practice teaches benefits everyone. Please enjoy my essay published in elephant journal on a singular definition of yoga, not exclusively mine, but culled through my experience.

Peace, 

the Gaze