Green Light

45 has been talking this week about increasing restrictions on Green Cards. I heard this on the radio yesterday while driving a family to a refugee assistance organization to fill out their green card applications.

It is difficult to talk about the current US administration and its supporters without resorting to words that many would consider insults. It is hard to respond to their words and actions with patience, let alone love.

My father lived in the US for most of his life. Because he worked at the United Nations, which has a quota of how many citizens from different nations it can employ, he never became a citizen. When he died, he was still here on his Green Card.

When my dad got home from work, he’d drink a Budweiser. On the weekends, he’d fix the car. We’d camp and hike, we’d go to the mall, we’d see movies, we’d eat hot dogs and apple pie. We even had a Chevrolet. We were an American family, and we were happy to be here.

My friends whom I accompanied yesterday are a family of four–the same number of humans as was in my family. The mom and dad go to work. The kids go to school. When they’re all home in the evening, they eat, watch TV, do homework, sort out the bills, and do the same stuff that millions of other people do in this country.

If they were still in Syria, they may be able to do some of these things. Or maybe their workplaces or school are piles of rubble. Electricity is not available in many areas so TV may not be an option.

Or maybe they’d be dead, as many of their friends and families are. Not of natural causes.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with power and fear. Those in power solidify it in part by identifying scapegoats, and those who believe in those in power accept the scapegoats and turn against them with increasing hostility.

What is the solution? Contact Congress and tell our representatives that we believe in the idea of a compassionate, empathic America. We can stand up when we see immigrants being mistreated. We can get involved. None of these is anything any of us haven’t heard before, but the more we repeat it, the more likely that positive change will occur.

#resist Denial

It is amazing how a single exchange in a conversation can change your life. 

A teacher saying “good job” about a project you worked your butt off on, a stranger screaming a racial epithet on a subway, or that special someone saying “I do.” Each of these examples must conjure up something similar in your memories, and you can trace how that one exchange has been a part of directing you to where you are today. 

If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be spending most of my days helping Syrian refugees to make a life for themselves in America… I admit with all due humility that I wouldn’t have been too too surprised, but I would not have believed it if someone predicted the draconian extremes that the American give would try to go to harm these people–let alone succeed in any of them. 

Words Cut

In the eight months I’ve been doing this work, I frequently recall a conversation I had theee years ago. I was serving my first year on the PTA of my children’s K-3 school, and I was the PTA’s representative on the School Leadership Team (SLT). 
PTA members (not just me) expressed concerns over the school partnering with Chick-Fil-A on fundraisers. Our school district is mostly liberal, and many parents did not want any school activities to be associated with a company whose president was openly hostile toward the LGBT community. 

When I brought this up as an agenda item at the SLT meeting, a parent member said, “We don’t want to upset any of our families who share those (CFA’s president’s) beliefs.”

My response may have seemed knee-jerk, but it was not. I carefully considered any possible reactions before I said, “So we don’t want to upset bigots and homophobes?”

Hands flew up with a chorus of “Whoa!” and “There’s no need for insults!”

I did my best to keep my cool as I fired back with, “I am not insulting anyone. I’m just calling it like it is.”

Never Give Up. Never Surrender. 

If the words “bigot,” “racist,” “sexist,” or homophobe hurt someone’s feelings, that does not make that person a victim. The sting of those words is not the same as the stabbing pain that the word “nigger” causes a black person, “chink” for an Asian, “fag” for a gay person, “bitch” for a woman,  or “wetback” for a Mexican. The bigot may deeply believe that the hurt they feel is equivalent, but people of conscience must not allow this belief to persist. 

One’s religious beliefs do not justify bigotry, nor does one’s anger at a minority group’s perceived unfair advantages. 

Sexism, racism, and homophobia are forms of violence. We must call this violence out when we see it, we must persist in labeling it as violence, and we must not allow the perpetrators to turn things around on us. 

We don’t have to use words like “bigot.” There are many ways of attempting to reason with these people, and I applaud those who are able to do so peacefully and lovingly, even when things get ugly. But if we feel the need to point things out so bluntly, we must do so confident in our moral authority.

Many vulnerable humans depend on it. 

#Resist Bigotry

The current regime is growing like a malignant metastatic cancer, threatening to kill democracy with each passing day. 

Resistance is a moral imperative. On today’s agenda: Contact your representatives and tell them to oppose the nomination of the racist Jeff Seasions to the SCOTUS. 

From Aleppo to Atlanta

Over the past month, I have become increasingly involved in helping Syrian refugees to resettle in the Atlanta area. I have been working through a local churchbut also with a loose but increasingly more organized group of neighbors, and on my own–to secure housing, pay bills, fill out paperwork, find transportation, get English tutoring, get children enrolled in school, and so many more necessary tasks just to get families up to a basic standard of living.sign01

Two months ago, an extraordinarily generous realtor offered to allow a mother and daughter from Aleppo to move into a house that she was going to renovate and turn over. She and our group of volunteers assessed the amount of money needed to make the place comfortable, and we set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 to make the necessary repairs and upgrades.

So far, the campaign has raised over $10,000!

I’m sharing my latest campaign update on TubGoat:

I have my phone notifications set to make a cheery alert sound every time this GoFundMe campaign gets a donation. It has made my day, every day for the past two and a half weeks, when my phone chimes again and again–and again!

This group of volunteers and neighbors have raised enough to cover the necessary repairs, and there is probably enough left to cover the utility bills for at least six months. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart! I have witnessed the tears of gratitude from Em Mohamad and Khawla. You have made a huge difference in their lives; you have given them a chance to make it on their own.

There are many other refugee families who have run out of the scant financial assistance provided by the government. Only 10% are fortunate enough to get a church, college organization, or other groups to help them out.

I urge you all to share links of online fundraisers that you find for such families.

Thank you again.