Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Its Okay to say Merry Christmas In Public....

  Christians across the globe are participated in the biggest annual religious observation  by all the different shades in the  Christendom, and the most beautiful part of this for me is, the re emphasizing the core value in the teachings of Jesus Christ ‘PEACE’. Here in  America it is the time for our  cities to be grace in the seasonal colors of  red and green, with beautiful lights adorning our  streets and wreaths hanging in front of homes and businesses.
     This is one of the exceptional times in America when it is okay talk to people you don't know , you walk past a complete stranger and they say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas, depending on where their faith meter is… or if they are for or against the public display of faith. One thing I love about Christmas is the way we all get all hyped up to be nice to each other and reach out to the less fortunate amongst us and it is also what makes me wonder if there is way for us to be like that all year around.  Do we need some sort of religious  faith and community based celebratory reminder? For example the city of Portland pride itself of being one of the few places in this country where students speak more than Ten languages, and our beautiful country also happens to be the most religious diverse country in the recent history of the world, cant we take advantage of all this and make our country and city a better place where every month we ask members of our community from different  faith tradition to  have a short ceremony  in front of city hall and the hall ways of their Highs Schools and for the whole month we can wish each other happy that particular festival or  celebratory , for example in Dec, we can say happy Hanukkah ,Yuletide or  Happy Kwanzaa to every one you walk or pass by  in Portland , they can chose to ignore you or respond. We can be a model for other states and some countries who are fighting against each other.. Merry Christmas , Happy Holiday and Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Are we A Trigger Happy Nation?

   A  few days ago, those of us  watching cable news  were  beyond shock over the news item that disrupted our favorite news shows or day time TV , Whereas the disruption of our daily lives with news items about a gunman or gun-woman in a crowded community space is not surprise to some of us, when it happen to be a space occupied by children, its always twice painful. As a father I can only imagine the pain and hurt that parents whose kids were taking away from them by such acts feel, I don't have any way to measure their pain since my kids are here with me. As an educator, I can only imagine how it feels to  return to a space that have experienced such mayhem and to be able to engage the rest of the young people, I will be tattered to pieces by the time I finish engaging them. I don't even know if I will have the courage to enter that space. It will be a sacred space for me...
    Violence of many formats  have taking center stage of our national identity . Our children especially boys, are bombarded with gun violence as a form of entertainment or education. From their first toy through the video games they play , the music they  listen to, movies and reality shows they watch  on TV in their formative years , the use of gun as a tool that gives you advantage  against your opponent or enemy  have been embedded as a value our society cherished.
      Gun advocates and anti -gun activists always lock horns after terrible incidents happens, each  camp's surrogates make appearances  on our TV and radio political shows to jibe at each other whiles emphasizing their unwillingness to bark down and look at  what we can do to cut down on situations like this.     I don't think  we can totally eliminate incidents like this, but we can do much better preventing recurrence. Our children look up to us to protect them, we look up to the government to put laws in place that protect us and our families. The time to find a lasting solution is now.  We should be able to bring all stake holders( NRA, gun manufactures, sellers, reality show networks and holly wood) under one roof to see how to go about this, Lets do this America… my heart goes to anyone who have ever lost a loved one due  to gun violence.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Are we (America) ready toEmbrace Dark Shadows From Our Past & What is the way forward?

 Exactly one presidential term ago, America had a new tag line to accompany the celebration of a heroic decision by a fearless country, which for the first time   stepped outside its comfort zone  and elected a minority as its president.  It was our attempt to clean our conscious  and move into a  new era in the relationship between us as a nation and one  of the prominent groups in the founding of this country, its our attempt in trying to say to the world, Oh yes we have come a long way, we are grown ups and we are not afraid of our past, we are ready to embrace it and we are doing that the American way with glitter and lights , we even came up with a new  fancy political tag line , ‘Post racial ‘  the only problem is , the tag line is only glossy when printed in the pages of magazines and newspapers,  poetic only when its being used by the many radio and TV commentators, on our air waves……   in reality  there is nothing like post racial America and  the past four years have just proven that school of thought to be right.
    Every thing have a good and a bad side and I also agree that things can get worst before they get better and Obama’s election did just that , research have shown that racial intolerance have increase since then.  Discrimination against blacks have been higher in the past four years than in any recent past. 
Obama's effigy hanged,Goldsboro NC
      We know that presidential campaigns stimulates  people’s emotion, this year's presidential election did more than that, all you need to do is log into YouTube and see what people are saying about the president in terms of his race.  I want to believe in the principles of America again, I want to believe in our constitution again, I want my daughter to grow up in a country where ‘post racial’ really means something not a mere slogan…  Those of us that believe in that need to work and fight for it .
   May be  I am too much of an idealist to even notice that we are not ready yet, we have to find a way and have a nationwide open and honest conversation on how we treated the minorities amongst us and how to create a future of mutual respect for people who are different from us.  Just before I finished writing this entry , a friend of mine in North Carolina posted disturbing photograph of a hanged Obama effigy,  which  makes me feel  like I wanna puke, so much for ‘Post Racial’ politics, Wake Up America, lets vote and save the integrity of this great country…...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A whisper to my Daughter

 Dear Rahmat
     Every family have a tradition that have been passed on from generation to generation, once in a while  a generation alters this tradition to suit ‘the moment’, to the displeasure of surviving members from  the generation before. The worst of all is if a generation have to lay  a long cherished  family tradition to rest because it is not in harmony with current trends or doesn't fit in with the present or will not make sense to the next  generation. Most repetitive  traditions have something in common, either they get misinterpreted or the story behind why and how or sometimes which predecessor kicked it off gets blurred as time goes on. I Know that by now you are wondering why, I , your Baba(dad)  is addressing  you in a public sphere rather than during  our weekly intimate chit -chat . Rahmat its because I am  finding it difficult to come up with how to share this long family  tradition of story telling, especially  my grand mom’s favorite, ‘the tale of the spider who flew on borrowed wings’ .  

      From the age of 3 all children in my grandmothers care sat in a circle to listen to fables, stories, allegories and what have you from the adults in the family and the night always wraps up with my grand mother’s moral tale of the ‘flying spider’. It is a tale that she use to tell us of the dangers of being greedy,ingratitude and lack of compassionate, that story have been in my family for generations to the extent that some people in my family ‘believed’ that it is a true story.. It goes like this

       Long long long time ago, there was an animal village in a far far far away land , and the citizenry of this village are  from many different animal kingdoms, they came together and created the most thriving  village in the middle of nowhere it was a well knitted and every one knows and like their neighbors. Tigers had coffee with the sheep and her family,Lion cubs play alongside deers , the birds and the spider are friends.. Until one day everything changed. A great famine swept around the world, lakes,rivers and even some believed the ocean dried up.  There was a lot of bush fire out breaks and many kingdoms perished, many animals migrated. In this kingdom where every one get along animals shared food , help each other, they even took in some animals from other kingdoms who were running away from the fires that was burning down their settlements.
        Mother bird and father Bird decided to take a risk and fly to see what was out there, they flew for ours until mother bird who was following her husband, spotted a something that look like a small village, she signal him and he circled and landed on on the tree in the middle of this village. Mother and father bird saw a lot of food all over the place , but there was no living being, so they ate and ate and took some home. They shared it with all their neighbors especially the spider and his family since they share walls with the bird family. This continue for several weeks.
   One day spider requested that the Bird family bring him to where the food is so that he will help them bring more to help the village folks, at first they hesitated  , but spider was persistent and convincing.. The bird family gave spider some feathers and took him to the food land.
    One spider told the bird family he was sick and cannot go to the food land with them. The bird couple went by themselves and to their amazement the village look like any other village, they though they may have lost their way so they kept flying for aways and still didn't come across anything. So they decided to go home and trying again the next day. For three days they will fly for several hours without luck. So they decided to ask Spider if he have any food left over from the past, spider said ‘I am sorry I don't have any food….. 
   The next day father bird woke up a the middle of the night and he saw spider flying out of the village towards the direction of the food village.Father bird went back into his house and woke mother bird and the eight kids, they went into hiding until the morning light started streaking in, then they saw spider flying into the village quietly with a bag full of food carried on his back. The bird family rushed out and asked spider where he get the food from. He confessed that he had been going to the food village by himself and asked for forgiveness, the bird family took their feather back and spider was banished from the village for being greedy and selfish.
        Rahmat, this story have been in my family for generations, I will not be able to share it with the same  bravado my grand mom shared it with my mom and myself,even if grand mom shared it with you , you may not have the same imagination when listening to it like me and my mom did.. You will be missing the wish of being able to fly because you are born in an era where flying is not about being on a borrowed wing like the spider, but being able to do things that you want, being able to be whoever you want to be and having the choice to fly with others in an airplane or a private jets or in an individual capsule as was done recently by Felix Baumgartner
Rahmat and her Baba
  On the contrary , unlike my grand mother and my mother whose only hope for me was to take the moral in that story and figure out how to live in a small complicated world, the world they know. I have a much bigger opportunity, to day dream, hope and believe for many opportunities  to come your way . I envisioned you being the first from my lineage to go to space, fly a real airplane (instead of borrowed wings) I  envision you being the first  female  of color  Governor of  the great State of Maine or even the first female of color to lead this great country.. But all of this will be on you just like  my grand mom and mom hope that I will take the moral message   from the repetitive  story to guide and live my life . I also hope you will take this story and widened your possibilities, get education, be involved with the community that you grow in, reach out to people near and far. Be compassionate, for it doesn't matter how bad your situation may be, there will still be others you can stretch and give . Rahmat, I am human and have my  deficiency, but I am sure by now, you know I am  compassionate and fair to others, please be better than me.
If you chose to be  a politician, use compassion in  dealing with your constituents . Don't make money the center of your policy. 

 If you happened to be  a chef,catering or butchering, please do not throw away your left over food, there is always going to be the next door neighbor who is hungry.
You can also be a teacher or  school administrator,  please make sure you listen to what your students have to say and know that all your students may not have the same abilities.
If being  a cleaner is your choice,  do know that, YOU, and no one else have the privilege to make wherever you clean a healthy environment for all.
I envisioned you being a medical doctor, please treat all with fair, irrespective of how they pay you or what insurance policy  they have.
The ability to misuse bestowed authority and  power is always tempting, if you decide to be a law enforcement  officer,  be the most honest and upright  officer you can be.  Be humane to those that break the law irrespective of  their sexual orientation, skin color, the car they drive or political status
   Being  judge is a blessing, if that is what you calling is, please be the most fair of them all.

  Rahmat I can go on endlessly,  counting all the possibilities that is out there for you just because, you were  born in one of the greatest countries in the world, so I  hope you grow up to be a useful and grateful global citizen irrespective of which path your life or Allah takes you .
Your  loving Baba

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bonded by History Detached by Diversity

   I am a news junkie so I listen to the radio a lot , most of the time you will catch  me with the  dial  in  my car radio  firmly locked on NPR or if I am in the mood and in need to being entertain,I may be listening to the Glenn Beck show on WMPG am radio... a couple of weeks ago two news items caught me by surprised, both of them were race related in one the victim died in the second one the victim lived to tell his story. They are both victims of aggressive behavior base on their race..
  The first and the most tragic of the two is the incident involving Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, which as at now (time of writing) have the capability of setting our country on yet another race related debates or  riot, in a scale  not  seen  since the time of the OJ Simpson trial or the Rodney king riot..
     The other incident,  is a story I heard on Glenn Beck  and on his website 'The Blaze' involved a 13 year old boy who was set on fire by two  16 year old black teen boys. They doused him with gasoline and lit it and yelled 'this is what you deserved white boy'.   The kids family are traumatized, his 5 year old sister went and asked  her parent if she will be the next to be set on fire?  Violence of this nature is wrong  we need to speak against it. When are we going to treat each order with respect?
   I think its time for us to stop band aiding our race related issues, America needs to confront its race and class issues not during election campaign season, we can have something like what happened in South Africa or in Sierra Leon.. we need to heal our soul, the soul of America.........
     During the  2008  campaign season, I run into an engaging student from a local college volunteering as a foot soldier for the  Obama '08 campaign, I decided to  play  ' The devils advocate'.  the young man asked me if I was a registered voter when I answered in the affirmative, he went on to ask me if I was  ready to vote for then candidate Obama , I responded and said, first 'I am not a Democrat and why are you campaigning for  Obama any way?  The young man then shifted into his 'campaign  mood' without knowing that I was  role 'playing ', his respond,  ' When he (Obama) becomes the president, racism will end'  I asked him how voting Obama to the white house will  suddenly change something that is ingrained  into our psyche as a people , a country bonded together by history and yet detached from one another by diversity, Our country is the most diverse in the history of the world and yet we are not fully celebrating that diversity in the most positive way possible.How I wish these young man was right and that one of my heroes, the late Emperor  Haillie Selassie  of Ethiopia is wrong when in a speech at the UN, he beautifully painted the picture of what the problem of Race and Class, a speech that have more meaning today than ever, below are excepts from the Speech
Until the philosophy which hold one race
Superior and another inferior
Is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned
Everywhere is war, me say war

That until there are no longer first class
And second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Me say war

That until the basic human rights are equally
Guaranteed to all, without regard to race
Dis a war

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace, world citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion
To be persued, but never attained
Now everywhere is war, war

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Risk will you take to be the 'Drum-Major' of your time

  Iam always excited about January, not because of the resolution that I cant follow through with, or because its a brand new month, its simply because two of my most adore heroes  the Late  Dr Martin Luther King  a civil rights leader and Mohammed Ali,  a sportsman, activist and philanthropist,  both have their birthdays in this wonderful month. Every year i tried to be involved in something that the  two men  had in common. Since Dr King's Birthday comes is a national holiday I will share
Dr King
  This year I reflected on an audio, I stumbled upon a few days ago, it was a sermon Dr King delivered on February 4 1968 two months before his assassination titled, 'The Drum-Major Instinct' in which Dr King, compared our desire to be different and great,  to the role the  lead drummer (Drum-Major) plays in a marching band. Dr king went on to say that we can use that desire to lead and serve others instead of being selfish.   Dr King risked his life for a cause he believed will change the way things were done, he led and fueled the civil rights movement with powerful inspirational speeches quoted with biblical parodies, that led our country to make very significant changes.
Pious Ali, Judith Abdullah & Rev Kenneth Lewis
   Unfortunately the struggle for a change in health care, homelessness, workers right, education is still around  and dogging us , What are you ready to take a risk for,.  What legend do you want to leave behind after you were dead and gone? how many people are you going to inspire, support, lead or put before yourself? The time to act is now, tomorrow might be too late, get up do something in your community, reach out to some one across the globe, support a cause in your community, Town , City , Synagogue,  Church, Mosque, Temple or on the Internet.  There is a lot of marching bands all over the world waiting for you to be their  (  Drum ~Major)... Be, don't wait for the right time..  this is the right time.

Quote of the day:‎'
  "Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." ~  Martin Luther King, Jr

“You lose nothing when fighting for a cause ... In my mind the losers are those who don't have a cause they care about.”  Mohammed Ali